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!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Anniversary Weekend - 11 Years!

This past weekend Feraz and I celebrated 11 years of marriage! We usually plan a big trip but since we didn't know how the pregnancy would be, we didn't want to commit to a big trip. Luckily, the pregnancy has been easy peasy so we decided we would have a nice local anniversary weekend.

First off- presents! A few weeks ago when we were going to bed, Feraz groaned and complained life is so hard. I laughed because, in my opinion, our life is so easy. Seeing that he was serious, I asked him what made life so hard. He said, "There are so many dishes to do and the lamp is so far away from the bed." Every night when we are done chatting, Feraz has to lean all the way across our king sized bed to turn off the lamp. I thought these were fair points and decided to do something about them. The next morning, I woke up early and did all the dishes we had from some party or the other.

The second part of the solution was his spoof anniversary present. Initially I was going to get him a clap on clap off switch but I thought it would be jarring to hear loud clapping right before going to bed. Instead, I got him a super switch wireless remote. Let me tell you. This thing is AMAZING. We just keep it right by us and turn on and off the light as we please. 

Even though we hadn't planned on doing a big trip, I knew Feraz was itching to go somewhere so for his anniversary present I planned a trip for us to Niagara Falls and Toronto in a few weeks. We went to the falls for my birthday last year and Feraz has been talking about wanting to go back ever since. Feraz was SO pumped when I gave him his little story card. I love that we still celebrate birthday, anniversaries and other occasions with so much love. It keeps the magic of love alive.

On our actual anniversary day, we started with some drinks from our new Nespresso makes and some almond pistachio croissants from the farmers market by my work.

It was such a beautiful morning. I loved sitting in our family room and seeing the reflection of the disco ball everywhere. Its the little things!

We packed our snacks, sandwiches and good attitudes and headed up to Catoctin Park in northern Maryland. The park was nice but neither of us expected the hike to be so intense. At almost seven months pregnant, people on the trail kept stopping us to tell us we were doing a great job. A group of older women were also hiking and each time we saw them on the trail, they would say: "If you can do it, so can we!!" Funnily enough, I was thinking the exact same thing! 

When we got to the summit, it was a bit disappointing. We sat down, ate our snacks and had a good laugh about how lame the view was, especially considering all the effort. But still, this hike was the highlight of our anniversary weekend. Five or ten years ago, we (read I) would have probably been in a really bad mood because the hike wasn't spectacular and we had to sit through a long drive to get there. Life has taught us to go with the flow and to enjoy whatever the situation is. We both had a great day, despite the setbacks and despite the hike being twice as long and twice as hard as we were prepared for. What I remember most of this day is the smiles and the laughter. Feraz pushing me up a steep incline as we both cracked up at the sight of us.

On the way home from the hike we stopped by a low key restaurant called Woodlands for some South Indian food. It was pretty good and quite honestly, anything would have tasted amazing after our excursion! The restaurant was in a strip mall which had a south american bakery which we visited after our linner. I definitely recommend going to both if you are ever in the area. 

To finish up our weekend we went to our guilty pleasure, Max Brenner. We are obsessed with this place but only go if there is a special occasion to keep ourselves from becoming giant sugar balls. So- 11 years have come and gone and they have been beautiful. I can't believe that the next time we will be celebrating our anniversary, it will be with our sweet little daughter! 

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.

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