Being asked the ‘baby question’ by people you don’t know…

This week, my well-meaning internship supervisor asked if me and my husband planned on having children. Naturally, I was uncomfortable with her very personal (and frankly very sensitive) question. I tried to cut the conversation short by saying, “umm…yeah, maybe.” Clearly she did not sense all of my body language saying, “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.” Instead, she asked, “Oh, how old are you? How old is he? Well…you two are still young enough and have some time to figure it out. Are you two still on the fence?” Yet again, I mumbled something and I tried to trail off. The not-so funny thing is, is this woman is 42 without any children. I honestly have no clue, nor do I care why she does not have them. I would never ask her why she doesn’t either because it is none of my business. What makes her question so odd is that she has recounted stories of her close friends who have lost babies both through miscarriage and infant illnesses. So you would think that by now she would know it is impolite to not ask random people about their fertility decisions.

Do not get me wrong, she is generally an easy-going person whom I get along with but I could not help but feel this sense of judgement. Even without her knowing my story. Her question dredged up the all-but-forgotten baby discussion between my partner and I. Admittedly, I am true to my zodiac sign, the Capricorn, because I am a slow-moving, methodical thinker that ponders every decision I make which causes my loved ones to become frustrated and annoyed. (I have no clue why…perhaps procrastination…but I have had like a three-week binge of reading about zodiac signs. In February and March I was consumed with personalities. I’m strange like that.)  Decisions become increasingly difficult when they involve the “big” moments in life such as going to college, choosing a major, applying for jobs, and oh…deciding if and/or when to have a baby.

Tack on the fact that we have already had one unplanned pregnancy that resulted in a late-term loss and this I-like-to-plan-out-my-life lady has nearly lost her mind. It is amazing how much better I feel this April compared to last year but the problem is that I am finally starting to regain control of my life. Unsurprisingly, pregnancy and all of its consequences do not lend itself well to that.

I cannot control whether I will be able to conceive a child within a medically reasonable time-frame (in spite of the fact that I do not nor have I ever had any medical conditions that would suggest otherwise.) I cannot control whether I will have a healthy pregnancy although I can try to care for myself as much as possible before and during. I cannot control the outcome of said pregnancy which is perhaps most frightening to me at the moment. I cannot control how I feel about the possibility of another loss. I cannot control how that will affect my relationship especially with someone who is absolutely sure he wants to have at least one child. I cannot control the way he deals with his desire to have a child versus my indecisiveness. I cannot control the exact amount of time, money, and other resources that will have to be dedicated to this hopefully healthy being. I cannot control if the little being turns out to have a few medical issues even though it would feel so damn unfair. Most importantly, I cannot control the fact that I feel guilty for replacing the girl that I thought would be my one and only child, Marième.

It feels wildly unfair that other people don’t have to choke back tears when someone asks for the eighty-millionth time, “Do you have any children?” or “You would make a good mother.” It makes me feel like crud when people remind me that I (allegedly) have SO much time to have children when I clearly couldn’t even have one in my early twenties! I want to punch people who do not understand how emotionally taxing it is for parents in the baby loss community to even get to a place where they can even begin to think about having a child because they are not so sure if the stars will ever align for them.  And honestly, it does not help when your spouse reminds you that trying to hold off on the discussion until at least thirty years of age might not be so practical in our case as I once thought it was.

In spite of this, I have chosen to find meaning and value in my life, regardless of what happens. I do not want to be consumed with my ability or inability to bring another life into this world that I forget to live and appreciate my own.

And if I am so fortunate–that is what I want my child to know.

5 things I am looking forward to this spring/summer

  1. Starting my first “real” job. I am super excited to officially enter the workforce. Sure, I have worked in retail and served as a teaching assistant for university-level courses (along with a variety of other campus positions) but this will be my first ‘adult’ job. In the past, I have expressed my disinterest in pursuing a career in academia so it certainly does not come as a surprise that I cannot wait to get out.  I will not miss the competitive nature of academia even in moments where competition makes absolutely no sense. I will not miss the verbally-abusive, self-absorbed, out-of-touch, and rapidly aging faculty members that hasten the department’s imminent death. I will not miss spending countless hours working on papers that are barely read before being graded and placed atop another stack of professionally irrelevant work. Most of all, I will not miss the low pay for quality services that teaching assistants provide. (Meanwhile faculty members make bogus amounts of coins for classes that really their TA has put together with less time and fewer resources.) But…I digress. I look forward to cultivating new skills and gaining practical work experience in the non-profit world because this sort of environment not only brings me joy but allows me to make meaningful connections with human beings again. Yes, this is the complete opposite of discussing my theoretical framework and research methodology for hours on end.
  2. Moving into a new place. For the past year and a half we have lived in a shabby, dimly-lit 2 bedroom apartment with a landlord who is friendly but clearly gives zero effs about the state of his property. Fortunately we have found a place that is a bit larger, has PLENTY of natural light, and only slightly more expensive. Additionally, there are not any bad memories associated with this place so it will be a nice fresh start for me, my husband, and our dog. We can bond over decorating and making our place a home. Best of all, I finally feel comfortable inviting my family to visit from out-of-state.
  3. Welcoming my sister and nephew. Speaking of family, my sib and her son are coming to visit us in June and I am more than excited. Although life has dealt us an interesting set of cards, our relationship has matured in ways that we could never have anticipated. It will be nice to add new energy into our home for a week and to take them on a tour around our humble, but not-so-bad city.
  4. Visiting the rest of my family in my hometown. Last summer I spent time with my grandfather, adopted grandmother, sister, and nephew. Everyone else I avoided like the plague because….well, my reasons. Anyways, this will be the first time that I am seeing friends and the rest of my family in two years so…[insert a dramatic drumroll] it is long overdue.
  5. Embracing all life has to offer. In the past year, I have really worked on shifting my perspective and becoming a better person in general. Don’t worry–I am still a skeptic. However, I have learned to let life happen and to enjoy every moment of my current reality. I look forward to what this next season has to offer. Cheers to spring and summer 2017!

The stages of letting “it” go…

And when it’s over…truly let it be over.

Do not linger on, waiting for the words that will never be said

Do not linger on, aching for the wounds that might never be healed

You will analyze and at times justify their mistakes

but they are theirs and theirs alone.

It has no bearing on your worthiness.

It has no bearing on your purpose.

Your actions will never change the core of their being.

You may be the most dedicated, empathetic creature

on this Earth

and if they do not respect and appreciate you,

it will amount to nothing.

You will grow to hate yourself for allowing them

to take advantage of your patience,

of your strength,

of your generosity.

And one day you will have enough.

You will hastily grab everything in sight

and throw it in your bag.

Rushing out the door,

determined to no longer beg for love.

But once you reach your destination

and carefully begin to unpack,

you will see bits and pieces from your former life.

And you will cling to them,

because it is all you know.

How can you give that up?

You tell yourself you will throw it away as soon as…

but “as soon as” never arrives.

You stare at these items from time to time,

remembering its place of origin,

remembering the promises said upon receiving them,

remembering the feeling of hope.

And it will be these memories

that you fear losing.

You will hold on as tightly as you can,

even as they slip through your fingertips,

wishing to be set free.

And when this happens,

do not linger on.

Just let it be.

 

When you are in a “word rut”…

I have been in a word rut. Yet there are so many things that I want to say  have to say but my brain is exhausted from the draining work of grad school, particularly thesis writing. For months, I have been writing and then rewriting a blog post which I will soon release. But for now–I’m just not ready.

Until then, I offer you prose/poems by Q. Gibson and Nayyirah Waheed that have given me the tools to begin to write about this current chapter of my life.

Q. Gibson

“Losing someone or something you love isn’t always a loss. The pain teaches you how to go on, how to look up, and how to survive moments where you may have very well believed you’d never breathe past your last breath together. And whether that last breath is bedside, or bottled in a kiss, or spat into a raging midnight air–you realize in time your lungs grow accustomed to surviving these types of losses. You learn to breathe on your own more clearly and lightly. Darling, you learn. And that in itself is never a loss.”

“Some wounds do heal if you stop picking at the surface.”

Nayyirah Waheed

I have lost millions and millions

of words to fear.

tell me that is not violence

–the deaths

It was

I

who held you

when you wanted someone else

–treason

he said,

‘my absence is strong and warm.

it will hold

you.

it will teach you how to miss.

how to be without.

and

how to survive anyway.’

-how my father raised me

So if you haven’t already guessed it, my mysterious post will be about romantic love and familial love, specifically about my most recent ex and my father. I am also planning to write Mom’s Lessons in Love No. 4  sometime this month or next. I know that I left it at a bit of a cliffhanger last year but that period of my life is still difficult to talk about, let alone write. So we shall see.

Until the next time,

D

Self preservation a.k.a when the personal meets the political….

Last year when I was going through arguably the worst year of my life, the world outside of me felt so quiet, so unbothered by my troubles, so content with moving forward

Inside, I crumbled and clawed to get out of bed, to shower, to leave the house, to speak, to smile

And though some felt sorry for me, the Earth still continued to spin on its axis, babies were born, and milestones were completed

Meanwhile…

I was seething with anger, waiting impatiently to release it on the next passerby,

angry that my life had turned out the way it did,

hurt that no one  else’s life came to a screeching halt like mine,

and helpless in the face of my new reality.

Bur lo and behold Queen Irony has come to save the day –the world has (finally) erupted in protest,

in anger, in fear, hurt, and cries for justice

And this time am finding my peace and I am beginning to understand how to exist in this new space that I inhabit. (P.S: The Baby Loss Community has wonderful, compassionate people but let’s be honest–NO ONE wants to belong. Seriously.)

I am not as fearful about my future as I was in the past.

I am bruised but not broken.

I am disappointed but refuse to get caught up in an endless self-blame game.

You should know a new day has arrived when me–a politically-opinionated lady decides to put my car temporary  on cruise control in hopes of enjoying the-scenery-that-is-my-life.

No, I’m not writing this to say, “I’m giving up and phoning it in for at least the next four years.”

No, actually for once this is me saying, “I’m finally learning to cope regardless of what is happening to me internally or externally. I realize that my sanity and my life in general depends on my ability to come to terms with myself and others.”

It’s easier said than done but I know it will be okay. Trust me, I have been through worse.

Sleepless nights….

Sleepless nights awaken the writer in me
I suddenly remember a million stories that have yet to be told,

A million questions that have yet to be asked,

A million moments that have yet passed.

Sleepless nights remind me that I am human

And I have regrets, feelings of hopelessness, and an uncertain future.

Sleepless nights take me on a journey through a past that is too dark and depressing to be relived in the light of the sun.

Sleepless nights transports me to the early hours of January 4th, 2010 when I received my sister’s call with the news that  my mother was gone.

My dad didn’t want to tell me but when he did I just wanted…

I just wanted the earth’s heart to stop beating. I wanted to sink so fast as the snow, once drifting, now cascading…all about me.

I wanted to ask questions that I knew there would never be answers to.

What happened? What happened?

It wasn’t just Lupus. No, it was the life she didn’t live. See, what took her was the lifestyle she couldn’t live without: the fast life. The men who entered and exited our “home” with the highs and lows of her chronic illness and various mental afflictions. All that…she could not give up.

Yet she told me that she had so many sleepless nights…wondering how she was going to pay the bills with her (mismanaged) money, if she was going to survive, how many dreams had been left unfulfilled, what to do with her children, and if (I will insert a little imagination into my self-aware mother’s mind) she finally “ruined” us like her mother “ruined” her children.

Sleepless nights frequently called my mother with its usual questions and suggestions: why don’t you focus more on your girls? Maybe you should slow down and figure out how to get yourself out of this mess and how to stay out for good. Don’t you want to live long enough to see your girls get older? Make  decisions that will improve your overall health.

And tonight, as I squint to finish this post, determined to beat my bedtime blues and finally enjoy a restful sleep, I think: what separates me from her? Maybe I have finally become my mother. Maybe I am doomed to repeat her mistakes.

But Morning peeks through my window and says: Wake up.

And then…I remember.

There is still time.

(Almost) Quarter-Life Crisis…

As I have said before, I do not create new year’s resolutions. However, my birthday falls right at the beginning of the year (January 3rd) so I spend ample time thinking about my life.

This past year has been difficult for so many reasons such as my spouse’s underemployment situation, grieving the loss of my baby after an unexpected pregnancy, the anniversary of my daughter’s birth/death, starting to finally grieve the loss of my mother, or contemplating dropping out graduate school (and when I finally decided to leave….but eventually stayed), the death of my childhood dog, not to mention, my spouse was involved in a car accident two weeks ago by  world’s most non-remorseful driver. Fortunately he was physically fine (albeit stunned) and as these things go, our car was totaled.So we spent this past week scrambling to find a suitable used car.

And yet, here I am. On ‘the other side’ alive and trying to be well. Perhaps the best thing that happened this year is my spouse found a stable job that he enjoys. However, I still have many unanswered questions that disrupt my sleep. Some of them include:

Will I find the motivation to write this thesis that I am no longer (maybe I never was) interested in by May? Will I ever be in a place where I can just  enjoy my life? Where am I going to live after I graduate? How the hell will I ever pay back my student loans from undergrad? Will I be able to afford to live moderately well while paying student loans and whatnot? Will I find a job that puts me on the path to a rewarding career?

All of this has led me to believe that I am having a quarter-life crisis. In my mind, this period is when you start to realize, “Oh, shit. I really am an adult.” Sure, I pay my bills on time every month without a problem but adulthood consists of more than just ‘bills’. (Young-ish) adulthood means taking a right onto the “it’s your own decisions, so deal with it” exit.

No excuses, all of your screw-ups are truly your own. Everyone is watching, so roll the die, and play the game of Life. I bet you can guess where this is going?

This year, my focus is on cementing the foundation for my career while continuing to practice self-love/ self-care. I hope to make myself proud.

Cheers to year 24 and figuring out this stage of my life!

A Millennial Who Cannot Afford to Participate in the Experience Economy…

Today a fellow graduate student informed me that she is spending three weeks in an expensive European city during winter break. I must admit, while I am Team Go You!, I started to question if I have been making poor financial decisions that do not allow me to do the same things.

To be fair, I know that I am not the stereotypical Millennial who throws caution to the wind in the name of ‘experience’. It is just not a part of my personality. Yes, I enjoy travelling for the same reasons that most people do and no, I do not have a compulsive shopping habit that I need to curb either. I simply just do not feel that I am in a position to make such large purchases. Even with a monthly budget!

So when people ask me for the umpteenth time, “Where are you going for winter break?” I sigh.

I sigh because I know that my answer is not going to be enough to satisfy the unquenchable wanderlust of my peers. I sigh because I do not want to make excuses for focusing on my priorities. None of which currently include jet-setting around the world and taking Snapchat/Instagram photos.

I get it—it is the holidays so while some people return home, others “winter” in tropical islands. But for people like me: we take weekend trips without sacrificing savings, paying bills, and other life essentials. Maybe I just was not meant for the YOLO (you only live once) lifestyle, but who cares? We all have to stay in the lane that works best for us. Luckily in this lane, I can still enjoy all of my peers’ stories of adventure.

So tomorrow, according to plan, we are headed to Montreal to celebrate our first year of marriage (and our puppy’s first birthday Dec 10th but obviously she is not coming with us, haha. Bonus points for this not being a mourn-cation like last year!) Technically, I am still involved in the ‘experience economy’ but it is certainly not as glamorous or without consequences as social media would have you believe.

I say this all to say: if you cannot afford to participate in certain ‘experiences’, it is a-okay. It does not mean that you are doing something wrong or that others are doing something right. You are just having different…experiences. 🙂

For an interesting look at the changing economy, see this Harvard Business Review article that was written in 1998 and how advertisers are finding millennials to be ‘trailblazers’ for new consumption habits across demographics. Pretty interesting stuff.

To my beloved childhood dog, Emperor Li…

Eleven and a half years ago, my mother brought home a little wrinkly creature. At first I thought he was ugly but the moment I held him, he fell asleep and the rest is history. Today he died. So in honor of his life I thought I would share some memories with him:

When I had no friends and everyone ignored me, you were always there with a wet nose and a kiss.

When I needed fresh air, you forced me out of the apartment and begged for walks around the neighborhood.

When Mom’s husband tried to attack me, you always stood in the way willing to sacrifice your life in a way that neither of my parents would.

When Mom died, I cried a thousand rivers of tears in your fur and you closed your weary eyes in solidarity for the sick lady who always fed you Twizzlers. 

When Dad drank so much that he became hostile, you made me feel safe. Like it was just me and you against the world.

Together, we made it through constant chaos, barely getting enough sleep or space to heal our wounds. And we survived and at the half mark of your life (in a new space), you began to thrive.

Emp, my dear wrinkly little Sharpei, you were the best protector that any scared twelve-year old girl could wish for. So although my heart hurts, I take comfort in knowing that you are finally free.

Here’s to you, my first best fur friend.

P.S. Tell Mom I said hello.

Knowing I’m okay without the material things…

Remember last year when my spouse was underemployed/didn’t have steady employment and I was having anxiety attacks practically every other day? 
Well fast forward to this year and things are looking up. He has a full time job and is even  working overtime until Christmas!

 I am incredibly proud of the progress he has made especially because I know it was not easy. Giving up his dream career and working two part-time jobs this summer to secure a bright (albeit different) future for himself and by default us, has only added to the respect I have for him. 

Naturally the best thing that has happened is having leftover money to throw into savings (Note: Being able to save is really a luxury. If you grew up in amongst working class folk like myself, you are all to familiar with how often it ebbs more than flows).

 Yes, I said savings because we never know what the future holds. I graduate next May and I am already having weekly anxiety attacks about my prospects at employment. Add the fact that I’ll have to start paying off my student loans and we end up practically at square one. But…it’s okay. 

Why?

Well…I appreciate the magic of a skein of yarn and a crochet hook. I enjoy taking my dog for a walk around the neighborhood and breathing clean, fresh air. I look forward to cleaning the house so I can have an extra excuse to crank up my music and dance my heart out and I find the simplest joy in sharing a home-cooked meal at the table with my spouse, no phones, no tv, just us. 

And anyways, life is simple when you realize that the things you buy: won’t make you whole if you’re broken, won’t bring them back if you’re in mourning, and won’t erase the struggle if you’re fighting for your life one mental illness at a time. 

Although there are costs to this life, I choose to make peace with myself and journey towards the land of Hope (that is if she still has room for this Cynical Gal). 🤔