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Archive for October, 2009

funny lens

“Look into the spoon where it caves in, what do you see?” the science instructor asked.

“I see myself, upside down!”

“Upside down! I’m upside down!”

“OK,” the instructor returned, “can you make yourself appear right side up?”

“Stand on my head!!!!!!”

“OK, go ahead and try it and see if it works!”

“NooooOOOOOooooooOOOoooo….!!”

“But if you look on the other side of the spoon, it is right side up!”

“OK, yay, the convex side. But what about on the concave side? Can you make your image right side up??”

After some acrobatics and cacophony, the instructor revealed that if you bring the spoon really, really, really near, you will see your image in the concave “lens” of the spoon right side up again.

I tried, but it did not work. She consented it’s not easy, the focal point is really very, very near.

::

That sense of sorrow I feel, that so often accompanies my joy, I wonder about it.

I wonder if it is because this joy feels like delayed joy; if it is because I wish I could laugh at Ferdinand too, him driving his sisters bonkers. I wonder if this tint of melancholy is because I think of fellow bereaved and their brokenness. I wonder if I feel that tingle of tears coming because we were so close and then it was taken away, and then we got lucky again. Because we could have lost another one.

I also feel this joy is deeper- pure, intense joy, even if sorrow is intimately bounded to it.

Sometimes I think, “I can never experience that kind of unfettered joy again. That kind of innocent joy I used to feel, in my younger days.”

And then I say to myself, “Well, maybe back then you were not feeling joy as it ought to feel, with that residue of sorrow in it.”

“Perhaps feeling pure joy is only possible after intense sorrow.”

“Oh, what nonsense.”

“Perhaps there is no pure joy; only the fools think there is joy and nothing else.”

“Oh stop making things more complicated than it ought to be.”

“Perhaps the enlightened feels joy and its underside of sorrow, but are wise enough to know that afterall, they are pretty much the same…”

“You’re getting weirder by the minute.”

“Isn’t that possible? They know sorrow is there, perhaps not within close scope, but nevertheless is all One.”

“OK, whatever, my brains hurt from this senseless yabber. What does it matter? The world is not going to be a better place because you, er, discovered this nonsense.”

::

I guess it depends on your focal point, your lens. Do you have a take on this?

(BTW, Happy Halloween if you celebrate it. I read the book A Gift for Abuelita that is a story based on Dia de los Muertos and cried me a river and contemplated making a braid for Ferdinand, but just cannot bring myself to do it. Maybe next year.)

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Just read about this interesting exhibition by female Chilean artist  Livia Marin called “Broken Things.” She said:

In this particular show, the figure of something broken is what hinges that relationship: when something breaks it goes out of use, it can be discarded, but it might enter a new phase of signification if its owner has a strong attachment to it. It’s that moment of decision or indecision that interests me and that I try to recreate by building the object as an ambiguous figure. Within this, it is important that I have worked with mass-produced, non-noble objects, whereby things that were not important in the first place achieve a value or significance by the attachments that people form with them.

I just find the images intriguing. It of course reminds me of our collective brokenness. I wonder if you tip me over, what will pour out?

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My dear son Ferdinand,

it is autumn, though where we are that is not easily discernible as the weather seems fickle. The long sleeve’s and sweaters await their turn in boxes, some still with tags attached. As I pulled out some boxes from under our bed to search for clothing I saw a box that belongs to you. Clothing I cannot bear to give away. Tags still attached. Bought for you when I was bearing you within, pondering the size and secretly smiling at the cute pictures I will take of you in overalls and smart sweaters. Tags still attached. Some you would have outgrown by now.

Your little sister Lyra she is growing well and fast. Her second tooth is breaking out and she has taken to yelling back at your older sisters should they chide her (out of exasperation) for emptying out their drawers for the umpteenth time in the same day. She has no interest in her age-appropriate toys, expressing curiosity instead in markers and glue-sticks and stickers. That was a scenario I had imagined many times when you were squirming around in me; now I see a flitting shadow of you when I see Lyra acting out my fantasy of long ago. I miss you, terribly much.

Babies have such soft, smooth skin. Val says the best part is the back of the neck, oh-so-soft, while Sophia thinks baby’s toes are the best place to nuzzle one’s nose in. I remember running my fingers over your smooth cheeks. The skin on your fingers were so wrinkled, as they had not a chance to be fattened up by breast-milk and lengthy periods of deep slumber. I still recall, touching your soft cheeks and telling your father, “He is so perfect!” and asking, how could you have died? Sometimes I think, your lifetime with us was but a flash, everything condensed and intense. We watched you change, fast. Before your father left the hospital to fetch your sisters to come see you, he requested for the nurses to bring a supply of saline solution and cotton pads, and asked that I keep dabbing your skin with them, to keep your skin hydrated, so your sisters will see you in the best shape possible.

There was not much I could do for you, our time with you so short. So periodically, I dabbed your skin all over. It was a see-saw battle with time, with the powerful and brutal force of life and nature. They take, as they are entitled, and I replenish, dabbing gently and with diligence. But I knew, I could not win. I had to give over to the greater forces, let you go.

You allowed me to witness, in sped-up time lapse, how one ages, how life drains away, how a body dries up. No, it was not a pretty sight, but there is a bizarre beauty in it all, to understand it all by seeing it so clearly, nothing embellished. Texture altered, color changed. No illusions as to what I faced and what I faced ahead. That was a big lesson and I am still trying to make sense of it all.

She is a fast crawler now, and is on the brink of cruising. Still, she comes to me often, to cuddle and be carried, and for snuggles. Can I tell you how I lust for those moments of skin-to-skin contact? For the luxurious sensation of the weight of her body against my bosom? Can I tell you how it makes me tear up to feel her body mold into mine with total abandon and trust? I wish I had those unique moments with you. I will never forget that choke in my throat as I sat in the rocking chair, you bundled up against my chest, as I sang you songs that I sing to all my children. I sang them all, the baby favorites, the few tunes I remember by heart. I stole those moments of peace, shared them with you, before I gave you up to the journey you had chosen to take. Every time I have her skin-to-skin, I remember how your small body felt against mine, that slightly coarse blanket rubbing against me, your little face peering out from beneath all that cloth. I never forget that face.

Lyra she babbles, her voice floating inundulating through the house. In protest she yelps back at her sisters for trying to remove her from the things she finds truly fun. Every time she opens her mouth, I prick my ears up to listen closely, trying to find an echo of you. Trying to figure out the shape your voice would have made in the air, bursts of vocal fireworks that quickly fades. Sometimes I listen, with intent and curiosity, as other little boys talk, and I guess, will Ferdinand sound like that? Wouldyou have said “ma-ma” or “da-da” in a drawl, in a voice thick with honey-sweetness? I wonder, my child, I wonder so… …

Sometimes, as she peers out from behind a door and grins widely, I cannot help but think, “Who are you, and where do you come from?” I cannot believe she was once that fuzzy image I saw on the ultra-sound machine, so many times. Was that really her? I cannot connect, to be honest. They seem like two very different things. And I also wonder, that fuzzy image we saw of you, stored on a CD, in the depths of your father’s haphazard folders, where is it now? Where are you? Everywhere, and nowhere. Here, yet not here; sometimes, it seems, never here.

Last Saturday your sister Sophia had an art workshop at a gallery and I accompanied her since your father had to go with Val elsewhere. The gallery had an exhibition on Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It was a very poignant exhibition. I contemplated for a few minutes, to buy that sugar-skull kit and to work on that with your sisters. But I did not, I just could not see myself doing that. I love the idea behind the festival, celebrating the beloved departed, remembering them with joy. But what stories do I have to tell your sisters? One of the exhibits was made “in honor of children who passed before their time” and I stood for a long time looking over that exhibit, allowing the waves of sadness to wash over me, again and again, listening and giving in to the tides of grief. Sheets of cloth with words printed on them were folded up, to signify a story that could no longer be read, because the book was closed. It was impossible to make out the words and that made me cry, because sometimes I feel the barrier between you and me is not merely that of a veil, cloth-thin, even if sometimes you are so close in my heart. There were little baby figures, little shoes, little sweaters. There was a box with the words “papa said it was not the right time” printed on it. And it made me wonder if you thought it was not the right time for you. Maybe. Perhaps. I guess I will never know, and I think it has to be that. Or perhaps, Earth is not where you want to be. I can understand, it’s quite a mess here.

I am rambling now, and I ought to sleep. But of late, perhaps due to the turning season, my heart has felt heavy and I think of you more than usual, and I want you to know that. I want you to also know that we love you much and miss you. I wish you could come jump on fallen leaves with your sisters.

Love always,

mama

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(postscript)

Some days I think, This gotta stop.

All these scattered thoughts that stream out of my brain, and my heart, that I want to pin down, in intricate and exquisite designs, across the journal of my life, for vanity’s sake, so my children and grandchildren can look through my journal and marvel over my gorgeous words, experiences and thoughts.

But no, the words fall in crumbles around my feet, get stepped on, dragged around, and, lost.

Of course after posting Lyra’ birth story I thought of some things I could have touched on. Those details that make the icing of it all. The deep breathing, the leaning into and onto loved ones, the air, the stream of sun-dust through the window… and a myriad other details. The ferocious hunger, the slant of light, the sounds, the smell of tender new life interlaced with grief.

All these, over. I cannot pull them back into focus and describe in detail, fill in every pixel of information. That’s ok, I just have to let it go. Maybe one day I will have time to sit down in a rocking chair, hot chamomille-rose tea in cupped in my wrinkled and coarse palms, to re-savor every little moment in my life. Maybe. One day. Who knows?

++

One thing I did not address in my previous post that I wanted to, was the regret of not having a homebirth. Or perhaps, the not-exactly-having-a-regret-of-having-a-homebirth. Yes, I had this dream vision of a water home-birth out in the backyard, amongst trees, when pregnant with Ferdinand. I wildly wanted that to happen, but it did not. With Lyra, I know that vision will not happen, but I still wanted to have a calm, beautiful birth. It was not exactly calm, since I was one yelping banshee, and I am pretty certain all of us present at her birth had our hearts leaping wildly and banging crazily against our chests, so nothing was calm about her birth. But it was beautiful. It was bloody, sweaty, quivering and wild, but beautiful.

I decided to leave out the discussion of home- versus hospital birth in my post, because I felt it was no longer important. It need not be one or the other, with one being superior. As my girls sometimes demand, “Why do we have to choose?” Exactly, why not have chocolate AND vanilla AND strawberry AND mango AND pineapple AND sprinkles AND whipped cream?

It would have been lovely to have real, flckering candles and not that LED tealight. It would be nice to watch the birds flit and observe the leaves sway while I try to push out a baby, instead of manoveuring around the straps and needles and tubes. But ultimately, what really and truly mattered was what I did and who was with me, and where my mind and my heart were. When I think of her birth story now, the details of whether there were candles or not faded into the unimportant background, what jumped to the fore-front was how my entire being was quivering and over-powered by love and a respect for life and death, how the temptation to grip was so strong in the face of fear and surrender (leaning into the power of fear, with screeching winds whipping your face, was truly a transformational experience), and how she was born into a net weaved of love and intense anticipation.

So, I decided that discussion of one or the other was meaningless. Let there be choices, bold choices.

(And by the way, while I finish up this post, I realized Kate had touched on this topic and wrote a powerful and magnificent post on it, read it here.)

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(Deep breath, now. For

this

is

an

ultra

super

long

post

Brevity: Not. My. Forte.)

+++

As the mercury makes its slow descend, we here in the valley of the sun are all squirming with excitement. Stretching, we wiggle our fingers and toes, ready to spread out in the warm sun and cool breeze. Park days are back in business again and every weekend is crammed with events and activities of all sorts as everyone rushes to take advantage of the (finally) cool weather. There’s glee in the air, anticipation and the feeling that life is going to be good again.

Me? I lumber. Like a bear I push my snout along the ground, sniffing. I want to fill up with food, growl, find a cave and sleep. Because it is time to rest.

It’s funny how I feel this instinct, for someone who has grown up in the tropics and spent so many years there.

Perhaps I am connecting with that rising spiral of melancholy in me. The season is turning. Wafts of chill weave through our days and evenings and all around are signs of farewell– Is that leaf trembling to break free, to return to Earth’s embrace yet again? As I flip through the calendar, the pending onslaught of the holiday season, the jingle bells, the ho-ho-ho’s, the cheer and jolly-holly and the glittery holiday dresses and the potential of social occasions makes me want to crawl under a rock. I love my friends but I am also a hopeless anti-social freak. The holidays tire me out. The red, green, gold and silver merchandise, already populating the stores in looming numbers, makes me nauseous. I want to be in a little hut in the woods.

A sensation of hollowness fills my heart. Memories surge and tears well up. I miss him. Terribly much.

++
+++

Yesterday I was at the hospital again. It was funny to be back again after nine months. It was almost like a circle was completed. Lyra was born here, and this time we are back to hang cranes in honor and remembrance of Ferdinand. The day before and that morning I felt a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat. So I was really thankful to have some support, moral and physical. Two other families joined us and we had a beautiful morning spreading out the painted rocks in the River of Hope and hanging up the cranes. It went smoother than I had expected- the ribbons needed no extension. When we needed a longer ladder and nurse Vicki went to borrow one from the maintenance guy he said due to liability issues he would have to be the one on the ladder. Still, he pulled down some branches so the kids could participate in hanging, and there were many lower, accessible branches for them to hang the cranes. It just felt so wonderful. I wish the pictures had turned out better. I am going to take a photography class coz I need to do better with my picture-taking, but here they are:

The garden prior:

15

14

Putting up the cranes ( every single soul there helped, I cannot tell you how heart-warming it was to see the kids participating):

13

12

And the garden after:

10

1

16

Not part of the garden but the memorial ceremony extends outside of the garden onto a lawn are with some trees so we hung some cranes there too:

7

The kids had pictures taken before a tree:

5

(kiddo in-front found a cool-looking bug and re-located it in the plastic box that held some painted rocks…)

6

A crane against the light:

11

And pictures of the painted rocks in the dry river bed:

9

(The kids -and moms- in our homeschool group painted some rocks too.)

3

2

17

4

The red rock in the picture above was painted by C, who lost her sweet baby girl Betty Sue, in May this year. C was there to help with the cranes and we both wore necklaces in memory of our babies. Over the months I have slowly gotten to know C better and I am so glad for the opportunity– I like her a lot. Anyways, the story here is that she set her rock down and one of the kids set down a rock next to hers. That rock was sent by Melka from the lowlands. She had painted a star in honor of Ferdinand and wrote in the local language the words “star voyager”. What a beautiful and moving coincidence that these two rocks are set together!

I’m kinda glad that this is done with. It had taken so long, as nurse Vicki commented. I saw some hospital staff stopped to look when the cranes were being hung, and their expressions spoke of… amazement and wonder. The garden was indeed transformed, and even if one day the cranes are going to be faded or ravaged by the rain, they were at least once beautiful, and we had warm memories of hanging them up.

++
+++

Today she is nine months. I think it’s time I compile the notes and tell her birth story.

Her birth was my re-birth. All those months I hid away from the light. (Remember seeds need the dark soil to encourage sprouting?) Fear chewed and hope fought her way in. It was hard, and yet when I surrendered it was easy. Still, I would not have been able to have done it alone. I thank my family, my friends- including you, denizens of the Internet, who had walked along. You have no idea what all those words and support meant to me.

About a month before her arrival, I wrote these to the two women who would be supporting me at Lyra’s birth:

I get flashbacks, yes. Intense, heart-wrenching. But I think it is because the closer the time comes for this new little soul to arrive, the more intense my need to grieve and mourn for Ferdinand. Because it cannot be more glaring how this new life is the result of a tender one lost. Whatever the connections, whatever the Mystery within, the questions and answers, I will never know, probably not for a long time, so I try to accept, and not expect. I accept the pain of the memories, and I accept the gratitude of this time, this opportunity to do it again, to try again to bring a new life to this realm. I accept the long labor I may have; I accept all the pain and discomfort as my body gives way and open up. I accept the flabbiness, the looseness, the lack of control over everything. I accept achy breasts and tired arms. I accept warm pee and smelly poop. I accept midnight wailings and untimely spit-up’s. I accept joyous exhaustion. I accept overwhelming grief, all over, once again, after this new little one has arrive. I accept my heart bursting open. I accept brokenness.

Fear finds me, for sure. The unknown of what may happen haunts me. But there is no other way but to lurch forward into that mysterious darkness. They say, Jump! and then you will see the safety net beneath. So, I jump. No other way, and no turning back.

And four days before her birth I wrote:

I have no more fears. I think so. I can tell you I am prepared for her birth, as much as for her death. Not because Ferdinand died, but because, I know she, only she has sole privy to the choice that she is going to make. She is not going to come alive because I want her to, because I so desperately need her to. I do not own her, never did and never will. I trust, all trembling, to the road ahead of me that I have to walk. I trust, i surrender. I will be strong, yet yielding.

And I will tell you another secret. I am not so much prepared for the pain of childbirth. No.
I let go that it has to be painful. I let go of its names and labels.
I will just experience all that it is. Its whereabouts, its depths and width and breadth and sensation, but I shall not empower it by naming it. I will not ignore it either. Just let it be.
And I believe it can even be easy, joyful, ecstatic. Maybe, who knows? I will take it all, as it comes.

Fear and courage came in waves, much like labor contractions. Then there came the struggle of whether I should go in for an induction.

I remember the last time I went in for monitoring her heartrate spiked and stayed elevated for a good twenty minutes. That was unusual and made us very anxious. I still remember R saying, “I think we oughta get her out earlier. Maybe tonight.” But our midwife assured us that what transpired was normal (who freakin’ believe in “normal” after your baby has died?) and that in any case- the lesson of not-being-in-control being driven home to us- they have no beds for induction for the next two nights.

I had a cervical check that day and did not stop bleeding. By late afternoon I was concerned enough to call our midwife and was asked to go to triage.

After two hours we were sent home. The bleeding was not “usual”, the nurse said, but then the heartbeat was there. *shrug* What else is there to do but to wait to exhale with relief, or for the world to collapse once again? The nail called The-Lesson-of-No-Control was being driven deeper into our heads.

But wait– they will have a bed for us, two nights later. Come in around midnight, they said. Lovely. Now we get to plan. Ha.

The plan is to use a cervical gel to get things going. To nudge the body along, to coax it to yield the ripe baby. There will be three applications. After each application, I was to lay supine for an hour, trying not to pee. Then I will get up and walk for 45 minutes. Then I get checked again to see what wonders the gel had created.

We were both tired when we arrived. Sleep weighed heavy on our eyelids. Despite being excited, nervous, scared and nearly insane, we were very sleepy.

First application: nothing happened. Her movements actually slowed down, she wanted to sleep too; it’s midnight for goodness sake!

Second application: still nothing. We both started to doze off. Nurse was sure third time will work! If not, said she, you go home.

Third application: for the entire hour when I was laying down, NOTHING happened. R and I looked at each other, disappointed. I started to draft in my head what I will post on my blog and what to say in my email to all my friends who have been chewing on their fingers and toes. R said he was starting to welcome the notion of beng horizontal in our own bed.

Before sending us out on our walk for the final time, the nurse said, “Just go for 30 minutes.” In other words: get ready to go home and come back again two days later.

Sighing, we stepped out of triage. I stopped in-front of that wall that had tiles with baby names on it. Babies who had died. I could not help noticing there were a few last names that repeated themselves. Then the contractions started to kick in. It was about six in the morning. We were cold, tired and hungry, but the baby was ready for some action right about now.

I could not walk properly anymore, pounded with contractions. Had to remember to breathe. I thought I was going into a panic. What is going on? Is this for real?

Thirty minutes later, we dragged ourselves back to triage, looking like we just returned from a Halloween party- both of us with dark circles and bags under our eyes, haggard and doubled over, me with blood stains on my hospital gown. I headed straight to the bed to curl myself into a ball while R informed the nurse that “it seems like something is happening now.”

After about an hour of latching onto the bedrail in writhing pain, they finally moved us out to triage to a room. I think by then we had called Leigh and Mani, the two most wonderful, fabulous support, ever. Mani was at Ferdinand’s birth and I knew I needed her to be there for Lyra’s. She is my calm-my-heart pill. Leigh, is the valley’s doula-diva and a sweet friend. She was going to drive for an hour and drag a water tub for me to relax in. I will not get my water-birth but at least I get to labor in water- or so it was planned.

Pressure, pressure, pressure. I tried to remember to breathe, to relax, to not yell. They poked me to run antibiotics as I was Strep-B positive. And something else. I was not comfortable and I remember thinking to myself, it’s still a long ways ahead, she’ll probably be here tonight.

Mani arrived first, then Leigh. Only to be ignored by me. I had to focus, my back was about to break and I needed to pee but everything had to stop for me to breathe through the ramming contractions. My midwife Janice came in. I love her. She is confident, motherly and has a sense of humor that I liked. Janice asked the nurse a few questions and nurse told her I was probably about 8cm dilated. Janice checked and then she looked at us and said, “She’s complete!”

OK, that pump crazily pumping water into the tub was shut off. Janice asked for her birth equipment, got changed and everyone got into place. I said I needed to pee and Janice would NOT allow me to go to the toilet. “The baby is going to come out into the toilet!” Do it here, on the bed, she told me.

“I can’t!” I said gently yelled back.

“Yes, you can, just do it, I’ll hold a towel under you.”

Holy cow, say what you may but I absolutely do not possess the talent to pee while everyone is watching me. I tried, but I could not.

I tried to get comfortable, I wanted to squat or kneel. With every contraction I was told to push, but suddenly I was quiet. I felt still. I wanted to wait for her to come on her own.

“It is OK, her heartbeat is strong, it is ok,” Janice assured me, and I felt my tears surged. I needed to hear that even though I could not believe in that totally. I realized that in that moment, I was in a bubble that had brought me back to Ferdinand’s birth. I was birthing again, and perhaps another dead baby. Janice’s words brought me back to the present.

The kneeling position did not work. I tried to push to break the waters but it was not happening. Janice offered to break my waters and I agreed, in great relief. I needed help. With my first birth I was furious that they even dared suggest they break my waters- I wanted everything to happen by itself. But this time, I accepted that I needed help and was only grateful that it was offered.

The fluid was clear, and as Janice reported, all was fine, all was good. “The baby is ready,” she said.

All the while, Mani and Leigh and R were doing all they could to help me be comfortable. The room was dimmed and the atmosphere was just intimate and sacred. I felt that Ferdinand was close by, waiting, his hand and Lyra’s, entwined.

As the contractions started again I started to push and it was just hard! My heart was burning with anticipation, love and desire; it wanted to leap out of my throat. I closed my eyes. “How long will this take?” I wondered. It was a little after nine. Only about two hours since contractions kicked in.

Crowning. I reached down and touched her head, moist, warm and sticky. That gotta be real. I asked in my head, “Are you doing ok? Are you ready to meet the world?”

And then I lost all control and started to scream- I cannot do this! I was just a screaming banshee. Forget grace! I was tired, in pain and everyone was trying to help me, bless their hearts, but I was just screaming in their ears– I cannot!!

But that all changed when I heard Janice say, “OK, no crying now, and no more whining. The baby’s shoulder is stuck. You need to push now and help her get out.”

That did it. That lit the fire under my butt in my belly and it was time to give all that I’ve got. With one warrior cry after another I pushed, my heart racing, and unknowingly, my entire being was praying, pleading, “Please, be safe. Please, be born alive and well.”

And, not long after, she was unstuck and born. She cried. And I cried too.And I think everyone else cried. No dry eyes in the room, as they say.

Finally, she was born. And laid on me. She was so warm and her face was all scrunched up. It was a rough ride and she was not holding back her complaints. She looked so much like Ferdinand. Time and space did not seem to make sense. I felt I had given birth to Ferdinand all over again, but this time he was alive and screaming.

But no, it was not him, it was Lyra, our sweet, sweet darling baby whom we had waited months for. I held her, close, gentle yet tight, and I smelled her, that sweet smell of birth, of life. About that time, I felt Ferdinand leave the room, his job done.

That was my fastest and most intense birth ever, and I am grateful for that. I do not believe that cervical gel worked. I think Lyra just decided she was ready to get out, and get out fast. And I am glad for that. I am so glad. Welcome, baby.

BS2

First day of your life, and pouting in your sleep.

BS3

Being kissed by your sisters.

++

The two days at the hospital after the birth all I knew was fatigue. And disbelief. I was elated, boosted by birth hormones, but I was also shrouded by disbelief. It was only when we brought her home that she felt real. And it was only when I saw her in our house that brought me deep sorrow, for not having Ferdinand. My joy will also contain a wisp of sorrow, a feeling I am getting used to. When strangers coo over Lyra I wish I can talk to them about Ferdinand, but I did not want her to be shadowed, so I just remember him in my heart silently, and every time I feel his hand over my heart, whispering, “I know, I know.” Every time I would wish that Ferdinand would have received that delightful attention too, but I have to remind myself that as a parent, one of the most important things to remember is: what you want may not be what your child want. We are connected, but also separate, each with his destiny to be fulfilled.

4

Lyra’s recent pic.

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Name it

Oh, you sweet souls who left such lovely comments on my previous post… bless your hearts! Thank you for your thoughtful replies, which put me to shame, as I have been phenomenally crappy with comments of late.

On the other hand… I know there will be people (including people related to me) who gasp (secretly) in horror and wonder why I even dared to write that, to expose this dark side and reveal all the imperfections to the maximum degree?

Well, I struggled. I contemplated struggling with this issue in the dark, secret, and unknown. No one needs to know this freaking thing, really. I wondered if one day the issue will just resolve itself, and birds will sing again and white clouds flutter by and all is good and shiny.

But the thing is also this, I found that when I write about, or talk about a problem, it makes it smaller. Often, after I have sent a message to a parenting list about the hair-pulling issues I’ve been having with my children, I begin to see the whole thing from a great distance, and realize that it’s all A-OK. No big deal. Nothing that love and patience, compassion and respect cannot solve. (Throw in chocolate-something and shaking your booty to some funky songs and it just gets ever more fabulous.)

It’s kinda like meditation. As I write or talk about it, I no longer have to stifle it and try to suffocate it and hide it somewhere. I take it out, bring it up to the light and take a good look at it, its texture, its features, its bumps and edges. I bring it to my ear, shake it and listen to the sounds it makes. I hold it in my hands and ponder its weight, its size and shape. I bring it to my nose and give it a long sniff. I acknowledge its presence, and then like watching the breath, and witnessing the rise and fall of a thought, I can let it go. It may come back again, and so the process will be repeated.

So that was why I wrote that private, personal… stuff. I hope you were not shocked, appalled or revolted. (Whatever. Really.)

And also, to me, writing it out is akin to saying its name loud. And this to me is a ritual of exorcism. — If I dare say its name, loud, it won’t dare to hurt me. If I shout out its name, proving that I am in the know, it will sizzle into smoke with a ghastly screech and when the sun rises, it will just evaporate with the dew and be gone.

That’s how I cope and how I deal. How about you? Would you care to shake out your skeletons and make them quiver?

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Self-hatred. When I read of how, once, when the Dalai Lama was at some psychology conference and the presenter was going on about a self-hatred study, His Holiness became deeply puzzled and sought clarification with his translator. When confirmed that indeed the presenter was talking about self-hatred, His Holiness asked, “But why would anyone hate himself?!”

That is a very good question, and the answer depends on who you are.

For some, this body, this vessel of blood, flesh, bones, intestines, pus, veins and all, is all we’ve got. There is no exchange or refund policy on this thing, this thing that we call our body, this thing that forms a big part of our identity.

I never imagined I would experience this self-hatred.

I almost want to whisper that, put the previous sentence in ultra-tiny print so no one sees it. So no one knows of this dirty little secret of mine.

How could I even feel self-hatred?!

**

Up till today, almost nine months after Lyra was born, I still get people asking me, “Are you pregnant?”; or, “So when are you due?”

I know, you are probably thinking something along the lines of Is it really that bad?

Well, I guess it is that bad, and it also depends on how well my posture was and how hard I was sucking in my tummy.

Initially, I just got upset with the other party, that… that… that idiotic, harebrained, insensitive imbecile whose butt looks really ginormous herself anyways! But over time, shame started to creep in, and pretty soon that built up to some form of self-hatred, and then, yes, self-hatred.

And, hypocrisy.

Talking to my girls, I harp on inner beauty, of character and strong morals and noble principles. The body? It is not important how you look, and they chorus with me- “so long as you are healthy!”

In the sixty-second privacy I enjoy after a shower, I focus on mentally lashing out at myself. I pull at the flabby pot hanging out in-front of me, I wince, I frown, and I spit and hiss at myself. Loser! other people are back to their size 4 jeans 3 weeks after their third birth, but look at you, you are DISGUSTING.You need to get a grip! Lose weight! You have a wardrobe full of clothes you can’t freaking get yourself into! Stop finding yourself excuses and starve yourself or something! You oughta feel really embarrassed at how you bloody look like these days… …

And I sometimes just wanna grab a knife and stab into that fat, and I imagine what oozes out will be revolting yellow fat, mixed with angry red blood, shame, guilt, and screaming sizzles of self-hatred.

**

For the past months I have ordered a ton of exercise DVD’s but had no time to really work on them. I think inside I secretly do not believe in them, and seeing the skinny instructors-with-six-packs effortlessly moving their lithe bodies while mewing at me to follow along just drove me insane. I became distracted, thinking they must sustain themselves on a diet of carrot peels and brown rice husks.

I’ve stood in-front of the diet-books shelf at our local library. Eat no fat. Some fat. The good fats, the bad fats. How to not eat carbs. The low-carb bible. Eat raw. Go vegan. And I suspect none of those work, at least not for everyone, or not for very long.

Then I found some new-agey diet books on A.ma.zon. The only diet is forgiveness and love. Inner Peace diet. Diet for the earth and all that stuff.

Hmph. That got me thinking.

**

It was not just the fat rolls that bother me. It’s my body. As I talked to R the other night (not after some weeks of pestering from him that I need to find time to exercise more regularly, or to go jogging, which he swears is the answer to a skinny belly…) we remembered together that it was not a problem for me to lose weight after #1 was born. With #2 it took longer but the excess weight took care of itself over time.

It was just a different story after Ferdinand died.

I never lost that belly. Even now.

Maybe I should go for an MRI, R said, concerned. Better make sure nothing is wrong.

I just feel my body is out of harmony, and is protesting my emotions, amongst other things.

Sometimes I listen to it. Like when I was creeping back downstairs after everyone is in bed to exercise. I was so tired and my body was screaming. It yelled at me that night is for rest, repair and rejuvenation, not jumping jacks and crunches. I stopped. I was too fatigued out.

Other times all I had was grievances for my body. Starting back from Ferdinand’s death. My body failed. How could I not know that he had died? If it was a viral infection why did my body not protect him first, why did it not alert me that something gravely wrong was going on? The grief, the anger, the sorrow, the indignity. They all boiled, simmered, stewed, bubbled and fermented.

**

I’ve decided it is time to just accept everything. Life is not meant to be perfect. No, actually it is perfect, it just IS. I’ve just gotta accept it and stop taking it personally like everything is against me and that the world oughta revolve around me. I want to feel more compassion, foremost for myself, every single little shit I have been through… and then, let it all go. There is no need to hold on. Transform. Learn. Move on.

I’ve only got this life, this lifetime, this body. Size 16 or Size 8, it is mine and only mine. I came upon this earth in this vessel, borrowed, and at the end of my life, I will not take it along with me. It will be left behind, useless, after sustaining me for so long. For growing me, for bringing me to many places and experiences. For bearing me my children. For affording me intimacy with those I love. For showing me this big, beautiful, fantastic and sometimes absurd world. For allowing me to smell all aromas, the stinks and the fragrances. For the pleasure of taste it had brought me; and the ecstasy of hearing the lusty cries of my babies (but one). I have strong legs, I love to walk, feel the earth beneath me, I will walk with you to the end of the world. I have strong arms that work. I have scars, I have fat, I have bones, I have hair, I am me.

I will take good care of it, honor it as I borrow it to fulfil my brief residency on this earth. I will stop swearing at it, and instead be grateful that I have a vessel. I will stop being a hypocrite and walk my talk to my girls.

Love it or hate it, it’s all I’ve got, and I choose to love it. It will not be a passionate affair, it’s going to be kinda langarous I think, for a change of heart overnight is not what I am accustomed to, but at least we’ll go in the right direction (generally).

I accept me: Thank you for all you’ve done, sorry for all I’ve done.

I guess I will still be sucking in my tummy when needed but at least I am going to be chuckling when I do that. (I think.)

**

To be joyful in the universe is a brave and reckless act.
The courage for joy springs not from the certainty of human experience, but the surprise. Our astonishment at being loved, our bold willingness to love in return- these wonders promise the possibility of joyfulness, no matter how often and how harshly love seems to be lost.
Therefore, despite the world’s sorrows, we give thanks for our loves, for our joys and for the continued courage to be happily surprised.
~ Molly Fumia

Each day of human life contains joy and anger, pain and pleasure, darkness and light, growth and decay. Each moment is etched with nature’s great design- do not try to deny or oppose the cosmic order of things. Always try to be in communion with heaven and earth; then the world will appear in its true light.
~ Morihei Ueshiba

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