Monday, December 1, 2014

Nouri's Birth Story

I have been a mother for almost one month now. In reality, I feel like I have been Nouri's mother from the day we found out I was pregnant. I have loved her, been proud of her and felt protective of her since then but I have done so with bated breath, too afraid to believe that our modest little dream could come true. On November 5th, with the help of God and the amazing teamwork of the midwives and doctors, I brought Nouri into the world. She came fast and furious. Something like labor started around 10:30 pm and by 3:24 am, she made her entry in delivery room 7 at GW Hospital.

I didn't leave work until 7 pm that day. Although there were no clear signs of labor, I had it in my mind that I needed to get everything sorted for when I would go on leave. I organized my files, cleaned up my desk and tried to tie up any open projects I had. I started the mile walk home, listening to Serial and even went the long way home so I could stop at CVS and get my TDAP shot. When I got to the minute clinic, I asked the lady, is it ok to get this vaccine while you are in labor? She raised her eyebrows and asked, "Are you in labor?" I responded, "I don't know. I have never been in labor before. I might be."

My basis for thinking I was in labor was that the pregnancy had largely been comfortable and now I was feeling pressure and the weight of the baby. I will spare you the other details of why I thought I was in labor.

I had planned to have an unmedicated birth but when I entered GW around 2 am, I was begging for a c-section, for an epidural or whatever they would give to me. I may have very calmly asked for them to kill me. To the midwives credit, they very calmly responded, "That is not an option, but lets think of what else we can do." They said things like "You are in labor now, there is no stopping it. You can do this." To which I responded, (maybe yelled) "I can't! I can't! I can't!" By the time I asked for an epidural, everyone resoundingly agreed.

I may have been acting like a crazy person.

But as they got me set up to get an epidural, we found out that it was already time to push! Soon into pushing, Nouri's heart rate had dropped and it was staying dropped for too long.  The midwives called in the doctors and before we knew it, (I actually didn't know it at the time because my eyes were sealed shut as I focused on pushing) there were 13 people in the room. When the doctor said it was time for a c-section, one angel in the room advocated for me to have some more time to push. At this point, I had returned to being a sane person and I knew I wanted to do everything I could to get my baby out as soon as possible. I used all the energy I had, tried to listen to every instruction that was being given to me and willed for Nouri to be born. And in a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life, Nouri left my body and entered the world. When I was told that she was ok, I felt wave upon wave of gratitude come over me. When she was put on my chest, I felt a love that tried to escape from every pore and envelope my sweet baby. I keep reliving the exact moment she was born and the longer I know her the more precious that moment becomes. That moment becomes encompassed by layers and layers of love and memories.

Afterwards we had found out that my placenta had ruptured and that is what had caused the terrible pain and the extremely fast progression in my labor. I was reminded of that fine line between everything turning out just fine and everything completely falling apart. If we had waited too long to go to the hospital, if the medical team had been less competent, if Nouri hadn't been such a tough baby... it is hard to imagine how shattered our world could have become if things hadn't worked out that night and each time I think of that, I am even more grateful for the privilege of being Nouri's mother.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gender Reveals in a Culture of Gender Preference

Did a simple setup for cutting the cake.

For as long as I can remember I have been having a dream of myself playing in a park. In the dream there is a man and little girl and I can't see their faces. The man has hair like Feraz's. The balckest black, shiny and straight. So does the little girl.

After I got married, the dream came less frequently and by the time we were trying to have a baby, it went away all together. And still, somehow with the stubbornness of a child, I felt there was a promise made in those dreams. As we struggled with infertility and it seemed that the likelihood of having a biological child diminished, there was something in the back of my heart that always hoped that this little girl from my dreams would make her way into our lives.

The day we found out we were pregnant was not ours alone. Both our families knew we would be getting the call from the doctor. I was in the large corner conference room when I got the call. I tried to gauge the tone in the Nurse's "Hello." Something I had done so many times before only to be disappointed moments later. But not this time. My numbers looked good. I was pregnant. I wrote my hcg levels on a small sticky pad. Every other day for the next week, I would receive a call with updated numbers. I wrote each progress report down on another little sticky note. I put them all in my purse. I compared them with other women's numbers on the internet. Did people miscarry after having such high numbers? Could there be twins? I had thought that after the positive pregnancy test, I would be able to relax but I kept hearing stories of early losses. That I shouldn't celebrate until I hit that coveted three month mark.

But even at three months, I couldn't celebrate. One women told me about her 20 week scan where they learned the baby's brain was not developing. She had to terminate the pregnancy. So I decided to wait to celebrate. To bond with my baby. To protect myself from that profound feeling of loss. For the meantime the baby would just be an idea like it had been for so many years.

The weekend before the 20 week scan, I felt my nerves building. By the morning of the scan I had my full armor on. As the technician moved from one organ to the next I was too scared to ask if everything was OK. Some time in, I finally managed, "It has a brain right?" She professionally replied that it did.

Watching the image on the ultrasound, it was difficult to reconcile that the picture on the screen was happening inside of me. I looked at the screen and then my belly and still could not comprehend that this little life was inside of me. Eventually the doctor walked in and gave us the all clear. The baby looked good. Did we want to find out the sex? Yes! Yes! To the baby being healthy. Yes! To finding out the sex.

Because we had to share the first happy news on the phone, I wanted to tell the sex of the baby in person. We would be going to Michigan to celebrate Eid and I thought it would be a great opportunity to share the news.  But knowing that it was a girl made me falter. I knew our families were both ecstatic that we were having a baby after wanting it for so long but gender preference is deeply rooted in many cultures throughout the world.

In parts of the world, girls are still buried at birth, girls 'disappear' by the millionsGirls are exploited, girls are valued as less, girls are not safe, girls will face a lifetime of obstacles and even in success, girls will be made to question how and why they attained it.

So, why did I want a girl so badly? Why would I want to celebrate a girl?

Because I was a girl once and I am a woman now. I want to have a chance to guide a daughter, to raise her to be strong, and to be a leader in a world that needs strong women among those at the helm. I love being me. I value being me and for me, personally, a part of this celebration of my person is a celebration of the sex I am. These feelings of self-worth and self-love were the result of hard fought battles for me and I want the chance to pass these lessons on. 

And with these thoughts, I decided to go ahead with the gender reveal party. I trusted that both our families would be ecstatic to celebrate our daughter.

I almost started crying when I cut the cake. Even though I knew what we were having, it felt real and I felt for the first time I was really letting my guard down and allowing myself to celebrate this growing life. We had a great time with the reveal. There was a lot of laughing, happiness and love in that room and that is all I could ever want for any child of mine.

These guys thought I was having a boy.

The girl team.
I was overly excited to cut the cake!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Infertility - A Life in Months

I have tried many times to write about infertility. Where do I start? The part where I thought it was my birthright to be a mother? The part where I held everyone's babies my whole life with the self assuredness that one day I would hold my own? The part about the unbelievable loneliness of not talking about something that is part shame, part grief and part anger? The part where I learned that my value was not defined by whether I could bring life into this world? I am not going to write about all the thoughts that I have about infertility today. I am not going to talk about the three plus year journey, the doctors appointments, the prayers or the Hail Marys. One day I will write about it because it is an important issue to talk about and to destigmatize. It is important for women to know that they are not alone in this.

For now, I just want to share a story I wrote over a year and a half ago. The story is painful and somewhat graphic and that is why I have put it after the jump. It is fiction but it is inspired by feelings and experiences I went through. I am sharing it because I wrote it in a time of extreme sadness and pain and I am here now, standing on the other side of that pain, stronger, more assured and with a faith deepened by it having been tested. I am sharing it for anyone who is struggling themselves. I am especially sharing it for partners and friends who may be having difficulty understanding the roller coaster ride that infertility is. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

2014 Book Challenge

I am a part of a Facebook group that challenges you to read 50 books in an year. I seem to be a little behind but should be able to catch up still. Here is what I have read so far in 2014:

1/50 Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang. A pretty entertaining read about the life of a Chinese hip-hop loving son of immigrant parents trying to find his own way. (Disclaimer: A fair amount of swearing.)

2/50: The Circle by Dave Eggers. Ok and light read. Eggers portrays the life of Mae, a young twenty something who gets a job at a google-like mega tech company called the Circle. Looks at (not very thoughtfully) the implications of technology's pervasiveness in our society.

3/50: The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family, and War. A great book if you are looking for an accessible history of Pakistan. It is in memoir form but with chapters dedicated to the history of partition, the 1971 war and even details contemporary problems in the country. A bit dense at times but good overall.

3/50: The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family, and War. A great book if you are looking for an accessible history of Pakistan. It is in memoir form but with chapters dedicated to the history of partition, the 1971 war and even details contemporary problems in the country. A bit dense at times but good overall.

4/50: Heaven is Real. Someone left this book in our storage unit. It is the allegedly true story about a boy who has appendicitis and while he is being operated on, he is taken to heaven where he meets Jesus, God and many others. I really liked the book but did have some trouble believing everything in there. It is a quick and easy read.

5/50: Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography by J. G. Ballard. This was ok. Ballard had an intersting life for sure but his story telling is a bit poor and with all the great autobiographies out there, I would give this one a pass.

6/50: The Humanity Project by Jean Thompson. The book follows the life of a group of characters who all turn out to be connected to each other through the central character, Linnea- a girl who survives a school shooting and is coming to terms with her life after that. I didn't care much for the writing early on but do think the author did a good job with the character development. I kept reading because I cared about several of the main characters and wanted to see how they would end up.

7/50: The Outcast by Sadie Jones. I picked this book up at our library book sale this past weekend and read it in just a couple of days. The story draws you in and I found myself picking the book right back up every time I set it down. It is a dark book and has some heavy topics. Definitely not a pick me up but gives a glimpse into the complex secret lives of people.

 8/50 - Snow Falling on Cedars. This was an excellent read. The story follows the murder trial of a fisherman in a tight knit community on a small island. The suspect is a Japanese American and the story unfolds revealing the pasts of many people on the island. REALLY engrossing read- definitely recommend it!

9/50 - The Lowland by Jhuma Lahiri. I loved Interpreter of Maladies but haven't cared as much for her other work. This novel was a good read though. One of the few books I've read where a love story isn't one of the main story arcs. Definitely recommend. Its a good book club read.

10/50: Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin: A great guilty pleasure read. Pretty fluffy and easy to get through.

11/50: Not All Apples are Tarts by Pip Granger: A cute story about a young girl who is a part of a loving found family and works to solve a mystery.

12/50: Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi: Kind of a sad (in more ways than one) story about a man who is unhappy and wants to leave his family.

13/50: The Tenant of Wildfel Hall by Anne Bronte: EXCELLENT book. Hadn't read it in ten years so had a lot of feelings of nostalgia as I was taken into this old time. So many themes are still completely relevant today.

14/50: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth: Excellent book, although graphic at times, that makes me feel excited and empowered about being pregnant and childbirth. 

15/50:Drown by Juno Diaz: Finally got to reading Diaz's debut collection of short stories. The short story is a great art form. Especially good to read for aspiring writers. 

16/50: Flash Boys by Michael Lewis: Excellent expose of high frequency traders and their impact on the financial markets. Would definitely recommend. Accessible to anyone.

17/50:The Fault in Our Stars by Josh Green: A nice easy read about two star crossed teenagers. Yes, I cried.

18/50: Atonement by Ian McEwan: Slow start but good development. Was interesting to see how different people's lives become than what they had imagined they would be.

19/50: Until I Say Goodbye by Susan Spencer-Wendel: Picked this up because I have an aunt who has ASL. Was hoping there would be more about the disease and how to help family members but that was not the point of the book. I liked it ok, would have liked it to have some more depth, even as a personal story.

20/50: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tried reading this two years ago and couldn't get through it. Was better this time. Interesting how a book can be more readable in a different time and space.

21/50: The Moviegoer by Walker Percy: Reading this right by Tender is the Night made me feel a bit tired of bored, unfulfilled privileged men.

22/50: Diaper Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh: Excellent book which helps parents prepare for less diaper reliance in their infants, or even older kids. Resonates a lot with how I was 'trained' as a baby and hope to do it for our baby too.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Baby A's first public appearance

We finally had our 20 week appointment. The long road to motherhood has made me more weary of milestones than excited by them. I started to feel the rumbles in my stomach a few days before the appointment. All this time I had been so worried about whether I would have a boy or girl but when the appointment actually drew near, all I could think about was the brain, the heart, the kidneys and so on. Would the baby be healthy?

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As the technician scanned from one organ to another, I just watched with my breath held. I was too scared to ask her if everything was ok. I searched her face for signs of problems but it was blank. Finally I asked, it has a brain, that's good, right? And she assured me that things were looking fine.

The US soccer team could have used this kicker in their game that day.
That moment was as good as when I found I was pregnant. With continued 'cautious optimism', baby A is half way in it's journey to being in our arms. Praying for a safe and uneventful entry into this beautiful world.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

This will be our year (inshaAllah)

Feraz and I have a song, a story and some news we would like to share with you. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

California 2014 - Meeting Raja Jr.!

We finally were able to head out to California to meet the newest addition to our family. We were so excited to see Raji, my brother and Val to get some California sunshine. 

The first day we went out to SF, there was a ton of fog and we didn't get to see much of the bridge. But we did go into the city and eat at Chutney, which was amazing.

We had better luck with the bridge the next day. It was perfectly clear and great weather to take a walk.

I have wanted to see the redwoods for as long as I can remember. We got to see them both in Muir Woods and Big Sur. Both trips include many windy roads!

On our way home from Muir Woods we stopped in Sausalito for lunch. It was such a charming little town and I wish we had some more time to explore it.

Val made us some amazing Thai food. How I wish those guys lived closer so I could indulge in more amazing food and Raji/family time!

The best part of the Big Sur trip was stopping at scenic view points and walking around and enjoying the solitude. And running man.

Big Sur Bakery was a bit of a let down in selection but we both loved what we got so would still recommend it for a place for a snack break. Just don't go there looking for lunch like we did!


We stopped for a rest at the Henry Miller library which was so sweet and peaceful. I wouldn't miss this even if I wasn't married to a librarian.

We saw some amazing redwoods. Much better than Muir Woods.

I can't wait until we have the opportunity to spend at least a few months in the West Coast. We will put our kids in the RV and discover so much beauty. Putting a family in a closed vehicle for months can only end well, right?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Snow Days

Even though my work never has snow days, the beauty of Ferazhaving them is that I get to come home to some delicious dinners!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Valentine's Day - Michigan Trip

To me there are few things more romantic that Valentine's Day in Michigan. I was excited to be getting in the night before and to have a full day in Michigan to celebrate with my number one squeeze but mother nature did not cooperate with my plans. My flight was canceled because of a DC 'snowstorm" and rescheduled for the following evening. Luckily I was still able to get to Detroit in time to meet my valentine to go to our favorite restaurant together.

I remember pulling up so many times to this sign and enjoying endless delicious and fun dinners with friends and the cute guy below.

And he popped the question! Romance.

We spent the next day seeing our good friends and their adorable kids, catching up Feraz's aunt and family and attending the aqiqah of our Michigan moved to DC moved back to Michigan friend's little son. I love it when there is a big event when we go back because we get to see so many of our friends in one go.

The next day we headed to my parent's place. Unfortunately, it was snowing and we saw about twenty cars being towed on the hour and a half drive. I will never understand why people drive so fast in slick weather conditions. All was good once we arrived to my parent's house. My sister came over and we all had lunch together. After that my mom, Feraz and I went to the mall where I finally bought a wedding band ten years later. Happy Valentine's Day to me! That evening lots of our family came over and the rest of the Shelby trip was spent catching up with relatives and relaxing.

On Monday, we headed back to Canton and on the way we visited our Michigan moved to DC moved back to Michigan friends. They just bought a new house and its incredible to see what the same amount of money can get you in Michigan compared to DC. I will never get over the sticker shock of prices for homes in DC.

I was supposed to head back to DC that night but my flight was cancelled again. I was pretty annoyed by this knowing that my morning flight would probably get cancelled because there was snow in the overnight forecast and sure enough it did. We both eventually got back on a Tuesday evening flight just in time to meet our friend David who was in town from Paris. We had some good times catching up with him over the always classy Dominos dinner! 
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