Mortality

When I was young, I saw my parents and my aunts and uncles as these powerful protectors. Strong. As if nothing will break them.

Even when I went off to college, and later on found work, I still saw them that way. Maybe with a few battle scars, worn from toiling, a bit older with a few medical conditions. But still there. Still standing.

Immortal, if you will.

I know, I know. Not one human is immortal.

But that’s how I saw the people who raised me.

Fast forward to May 2017. The 4th of 12 siblings in my father’s family, Auntie Murr, suddenly passed away after a massive heart attack. Less than two months later, the oldest and the matriarch of the family, Auntie Elsa, passed away after battling cancer. Eight months later, on February 9th, the 3rd of the 12, Auntie Aida, passed away in the hospital, after more than a year or two of various medical complications.

These were women who helped raise our families. Along with another aunt, Auntie Baby, they stopped going to school and worked, instead, to send their other siblings to school. They put up a business, which did well in the 80s to early 2000, and sent nieces and nephews to prestigious schools, me and my two siblings, included. Auntie Elsa, Auntie Aida, and Auntie Murr were three of the four pillars of our family. I never considered their mortality because of the strength and fortitude they showed no matter what hardship they faced.

And now I have to realize and accept that the men and women who raised me are human, bound to the reality of humanity – death. My father and mother will pass on. I can’t begin imagining how I would feel when that day comes.

Today, our family mourns another loss. We were expecting she’d go any day, given the many medical complications Auntie Aida had for the last few years, but it’s still heartbreaking nonetheless. I wish I could be with our family back home to mourn. For now, I offer my prayers and a special Mass intention for my Aunt.

You are now at peace, Auntie Aida. Until we meet again.

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Finding my bearings

Less than a week post-partum, I told Ed I felt a bit lost.

This isn’t my first time caring for a newborn. I knew what to expect when I decided to breastfeed again. Still, that fuzziness or darkness, if you will, crept up on me. I couldn’t spend ample time for crocheting without breastfeeding interruptions. I felt weak and helpless while I dealt with tearing and massive hemorrhoids (TMI, I KNOW LOL!) And all I did during those first few days were nurse and change diapers. I couldn’t even play with our oldest, or attend to her needs.

I lost my sense of self and purpose outside of being the primary caregiver to a newborn. My hubs suggested I try to do something outside of newborn care – like binge watch something on Netflix, or anything that doesn’t require too much effort.

Ten days post-partum, I decided to make dinner to feel like myself again. It was just cheeseburgers with fries. I marinated the ground beef, and then slid the patties into the pan after forming them in a bowl (didn’t want to touch raw meat). And the fries were frozen. I didn’t have to slice/chop anything. I was on my feet for more than 30 minutes, sitting down a few minutes while waiting to flip the patties. But, man, did my body protest! If my crotch could talk, it would scream “STOP PLEASE!”

With the renewed pain I felt, I started spiraling again into that feeling of dread and sadness. I wanted to do something to feel like myself again, but making dinner was still too much for me during that time.

Fast forward to three weeks post-partum – my husband is back to work. Thankfully, I could function more than I was able to during the first two weeks after birth. I am able to drive again – a short distance, but I managed to do it without feeling like my crotch was protesting from the effort. I am working on my crochet project. Very slow-going, but I’m glad to be able to do it. And I’m easing back into my meditation schedule, which really helps me relax.

I’m slowly feeling like myself again. I could use more sleep at night, but I’m glad I could nap in the afternoon.

I know this is a fleeting moment – long nights but short years. Cherishing this newborn phase still proves to be difficult. But if there’s one thing I learned from mothering our oldest when she was born, it’s this – No matter how meticulous I plan my maternity leave days, I need to be flexible and adapt according to the circumstances of day-to-day newborn care.

With a headstrong 3-year old, we will find our new normal soon. There’s really nothing else we can do but trust that we will.

Little pockets of heaven

One of the things I learned last year was to put importance on self-care. It’s what helps me produce a strong enough patronus to keep those pesky dementors at bay.

When you’re on a living wage, with a growing family AND aiming to be a home owner soon, the reality of living in America makes it difficult to find the time for self-care. IF your idea of self-care is going out of the house by yourself for a few hours to do whatever it is that you want to do JUST.FOR.YOU.

There were weekends when I’d plan a self-care trip – go for a short drive to Starbucks, buy coffee (or green tea latte), and just sit on one of the bar stools and read a book or crochet. Some weekends go according to plan. But on those particular weekends when things spin out of control at home, I instantly feel myself spiralling out of control, going further and deeper, until I find myself plagued by anxiety and depression. 

The fact that I’m now 32 weeks pregnant and no longer able to fit in the driver seat comfortably makes this 👆 idea of self-care impossible to do. One day, I realized that my idea of self-care suddenly became another weekly goal that was no longer applicable, something that would set me up for failure week after week!

Ironic, isn’t it?? 

I had to reshape my way of thinking in terms of self-care. What was my goal on weekend self-care trips? 

To be ALONE.

So, one Saturday, I found myself asking my husband for a few minutes of time alone in the bath with my new body scrub. No knocking on the bathroom door to ask me questions, no toddler screaming for me.

And it was THE BEST THIRTY MINUTES I COULD ASK FOR.

It was a far cry from a quick drive by myself, but it was a much-needed 30 minutes of alone time to gather myself in one full sweep and come out rejuvenated and, well, literally fresh to conquer another day.

With a second baby coming soon, little pockets of heaven, like this time alone in the bath, is the self-care I know I’ll need.

Mental health

April 7, 2017 – After more than a year of sessions with a psychologist, I “graduated” from psychotherapy. 

Yes, before my little girl turned one, I finally admitted to needing help and sought it. I never thought I would need it. I was too proud. And it didn’t help that there’s this stigma on mental health concerns.

I don’t talk about it, but I am very glad I took that first step of admitting I needed professional help. It was the best decision I made for myself.

During my sessions, my therapist helped me navigate my inner thoughts/voice using the method called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Basically, it’s a mental tool that helps me sort through all the thoughts that go through my mind in the speed of light. It helps me slow down and pinpoint what triggers the thoughts/ideas that I am not good enough to be my daughter’s mother and/or husband’s wife, which, in turn, helps me rationalize in my own mind that I AM good enough.

The therapy sessions, and also the constant practice I did on my own, helped me figure out where this idea of not being good enough and where this need to be the perfect mother and wife came from. It was primarily cultural – that as wife and mother I NEED to make dinner no matter what; I NEED to be the one taking care of my kids; I NEED to serve the family; I NEED to keep the house clean and organized, because the appearance of the house (and everything else) reflects on the mother/wife.

Yeah, in an ideal world – or at least in a house where parents are able to afford to pay for househelp – that’s doable.

But those standards I set for myself based on what my culture dictates are not attainable in our current set up. It’s just not. And if these standards are so high, I’m setting myself up for failure. 

Every. Single. Day.

And so my therapy revolved around changing my mindset on being a mother and wife. Even though I graduated from the therapy sessions in April 2017, I’m still dealing with the constant nagging in the back of my mind. As what my therapist reminded me – self-care and mindfulness exercise is something I need to do on a daily basis. No matter what. It’s something I learned in Oct 2016, when I thought I was fully cured and found myself spiralling out of control again.

This is the first time I ever put my mental health struggles out in the open. Why am I doing it now? I want women, especially new mothers, to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Help is available when you need it. You can get help. And it is OKAY to need help. 

I wish you all the best as you navigate your way through those murky thoughts. I pray that you will find the best help for you. 

Two Write Love On Her Arms has great resources – https://twloha.com/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available on the web https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or on the phone 1-800-273-8255.

If you live in NYC, the city has a mental health hotline 1-888-NYC-WELL (692-9355), and a text line – Send WELL to 65173. They are also available on the web https://nycwell.cityofnewyork.us/en/

And, like physical emergencies/danger, you may call 911 for immediate assistance on mental health concerns/issues.

When playtime becomes my mirror

One day, I found our daughter playing with her dolls – Cherry (the panda dressed in cherry blossoms robe), Kiko (the monkey), Bunny (obviously a rabbit lol!), and Sweetpea (the other panda holding a heart, which was my gift to her papa when we were still in a long distance relationship).

She arranged her friends in one line, seated next to one another on the sofa. Then she took one of her cups and let them drink water. I could hear her sternly say “sit!” and “dink!” (translation: drink).

And just like that, Isla’s playtime became an opportunity for some self-reflection. I know I’m just trying to discipline Isla, especially during mealtimes, but I don’t want to sound that strict, the way Isla was to her friends at playtime.

Finding that balance is really difficult. There are SO MANY parenting books available for me (I’ve read a couple of the gentle parenting books of L.R. Knost). In the end, it all comes down to how I want to parent my child, what fits our dynamics and my child’s personality. I know there’s no one-size-fits-all concept for parenting. Along the way, I’m hoping to find the balance to being a parent and my daughter’s friend.

Here’s to hoping!

And here’s to more playtimes that become a mirror to my parenting ways.

The worst is over!

I’m not pregnant anymore, and I feel relieved. I’m no longer carrying a blighted ovum (aka an empty pregnancy sac). I thought expelling a blighted ovum would be like getting my period, only more cramping and more bleeding. I didn’t expect to:

1) Cry and writhe in pain from cramps that come and go every 6-10minutes, as if I’m in labor.

2) Feel sore, as if I intentionally pushed something out (I didn’t. My body just expelled the thing by itself with every “contraction”).

3) Feel light-headed from dehydration after (maybe) 2hrs of intense bleeding. (I ate a banana and finished 1L water after the 2-hr ordeal).

4) See the actual semi-solid 3-month contents of my uterus which, by the way, won’t fit in a huge coffee cup/cereal bowl because it will overflow! (Yes, gross – the reality of miscarriages!)

5) To feel weak the next day. And, with the best of luck, still feel cramps! (But thank God it’s no longer as intense as the night before)

I want to say that the worst is over. I believe the entire contents were expelled. As of this writing, I’m no longer bleeding as intensely as Tuesday night. But I do know I have to see my doctor to make sure I don’t need surgery. Hopefully I won’t need it.

I’m pregnant! (Technically)

By all accounts, I’m pregnant. But I’m carrying a blighted ovum.

What does it mean?

It means the sac inside my womb has no embryo. No fetus. No baby.

Strange, huh? But according to my doctor, it’s not an unusual occurrence.

I’ve been carrying an empty sac for 3 months now. So, technically, I’m 3 months pregnant. But Ed and I know that (literally) nothing alive will come out of my pregnancy. My body will get rid of it naturally. And, based on the frequency of abdominal cramps I’m having, it will happen soon. It’s just going to be like getting my period, only heavier and may be more uncomfortable because of the cramps.

It’s easier to talk about it now that last month. And, for some reason, when I found out that what I’m carrying has a name, it was easier to fully accept. I don’t know why.

I’ve been trying to get back to my usual physical activities. There’s no treadmill at home, but there’s a Gazelle. I ride it for about an hour while watching a Korean drama (Descendants of the Sun). Being active helps me feel like myself, and the Kdrama is a welcome distraction from the cramping and the knowledge that I’m carrying a blighted ovum.

I’m really hoping it comes out soon. The sooner it’s gone, the better for my psyche.