I get to say I have a 6 month old baby!
That’s it. Those are the feelings!
I get to say I have a 6 month old baby!
That’s it. Those are the feelings!
It has been a tough week. Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. 2020 is truly robbing us of everything. It has been particularly hard to deal with her loss, as I also heard about a friend’s father who died without either of his children by his side. That really hurt, as that could easily have been my mother. What is even harder is the constant negative narrative around us. We are in the election year in the United States and that has always been an ugly horrible time. Families break, friendships are lost and the society fractures just a little more each time. This year the stakes are very high. It is going to be a bloodbath.
The partisanship, finger point, blaming is at heightened levels. Things are so bad at the moment, that a physician I have come to like and respect was full of sorrow and anger at the passing of RBG. Sorrow because it is a herculean loss especially for women who enjoy equal rights in this country. Anger because she felt that our current state of mess is somehow RBG’s fault. She should have resigned when the time was right so we wouldn’t be in this current mess were her exact words.
Okay! Deep breath!
She may have a point. I don’t know the entire history of events. What I do recall is that President Obama didn’t have the Senate backing to put his nominee Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court. What I recall is that this country chose to put Trump in charge of the Executive Office instead of Hilary Clinton (woman) and even if Hilary Clinton was elected president, not having the Senate majority we would have had vacancies. Even if RBG resigned during Clinton’s term which is what she publicly said she would do, Clinton would not have filled her seat- as you know Democrats don’t have the Senate. Trump’s Republican party was able to get Anthony Kennedy to resign to fill his seat with Kavannaugh.
We aren’t where we are today because a woman of RBG’s stature refused to resign a well earned seat on the table. We are here because of years of systematic work by the Republican Party, strong push back and policies. We are here because a Democratic President could not gather enough support in a Republican Senate when he had almost a year of his presidency left. We are here because the Democrats didn’t flip the senate in 2016. We are here because Democrats didn’t want to support a woman president. She wasn’t left enough- they preferred Bernie Sanders so she got no support even from the registered Democrats. Those very Democrats will support Joe Biden this year. Perhaps its is something about being a white male president?
At the end of the day, your placing blame on a woman for the current state of affairs is the very bigotry, RBG fought against. You have a voice and a platform because of her work. You are just not man enough to accept that you aren’t comfortable with a woman on the table.
Okay! Deep breath!
Perhaps she does have a point. The question really should be, where do we go from here? The sentiment really should be, thank you RBG- rest in power! The narrative really should be- why do I find it easier to blame a woman and not question my sexism? The point of reflection should be, how do I make this world more inclusive and better for my future generations so that they don’t find themselves in the same boat?
Perhaps the real question is do we all need a reset?
You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Today, this moment is asking a lot out of us.
I can actually end the post right here. The above statement in itself is a million feelings, gazillion experiences and a bazillion tears, insecurities, and fears.
Today, no one is spared of the pandemic and everything that has come with it. Fatigue is the word that comes to mind. Everyone is feeling some kind of fatigue. In this climate we are all being asked to give a little extra. Little more of kindness, compassion, understanding, patience, grace.
This is an especially hard time for first time mothers. The support every new parents needs and deserves just doesn’t exist and so it becomes even more important that we have each other’s back.
Despite knowing all of this if you find it hard to be empathetic to someone else, please know that it is okay. We can’t always identify with someone else’s struggles despite our best efforts. That is okay. Especially today it is okay.
I follow a clinician researcher on social media. She is a first time mom like me and her child is only one week apart from mine. I admire her for her success in her clinical and research work. I have to often remind myself while she is a great role model, she is also a native of the United States with very different exposures and opportunities. While she creates a good bench mark for us aspiring clinician researches, she already had a lead even before she started. Her parents live close to her and she has her entire support system a stone throw away from her. She has often complained of her circumstances and how she is truly struggling given the current climate. I want to empathize with her. I trust that things are tough.
But, I have none of what she does. So the empathy is hard to come by. I am not surprised by my reaction, but I am disappointed. I know I have to try harder to at least acknowledge her confessed postpartum depression. As a woman, first time mom, doctor I should be more sympathetic towards her but I struggle. Her grant writing, breastfeeding, Peloton riding self invokes no sympathy from me.
Has COVID truly got the better of me? Or am I just an empty cup at the moment?
One of the things we grieve the most after pregnancy loss, are the possibility of a future with our child. Subconsciously we make plans and envision a future with our unborn child even if we don’t verbalize the dreams we have. Those dreams for the future are a strong motivation to work towards a desirable future.
I happen to enjoy Marvel movies immensely. I wasn’t a comic book reader when young, but movies have been a different story. It was a huge effort to convince my husband to go watch the Black Panther with me. He isn’t much of a movie fan let alone ” fantasy movies” as he calls them.
As a foreign medical graduate, I’ve had to work much harder than an average American medical graduate to get to where I am. I knew I would have to play by the rules laid down by the powers to be and I decided I would play that game. However representation matters. It matters a great deal in helping create a level playing field, especially in academic medicine- I can write pages about this and perhaps I will.
More importantly being in Public Health in the United States, I see the impact of systemic discrimination and the effects of playing by the rules laid down by the privileged. There is no recognition for your struggles and no reward for your successes. There is no level playing field and no matter how much you elevate yourself, you are never at the zenith of your possibilities.
When Black Panther was released, it was very easy to see it would be a cultural phenomenon. Black Panther was more than a Marvel movie to me. It was about representation, it was about strong women characters, it was about respecting and acknowledging the oldest continent on the planet. It was about elevating people from Africa. It was about glamorizing science.
Even though I don’t fully comprehend what the African American diaspora deals with on a daily basis, as an immigrant, as a minority and a woman in academic medicine- Black Panther was a must see to me. My husband argued that I was helping Marvel and Disney make money, but he came with me anyway. I told him , he didn’t want to regret missing out on one of most important films of our lifetime.
When I was pregnant, I would often dream of taking my child to watch the Marvel movies and introduce my child to the world of super heroes. We all need something to believe in and what better than to show my child that people other than white people can do great deeds, be leaders and be super heroes.
As a medical professional in Public Health losing a young man at 43 to colon cancer (a disease when detected early can have good results) was disturbing and disappointing. As a mother who wants to raise her child showing him, his possibilities are endless, it was soul shattering. The loss of Chadwick Boseman, King T’Challa, was nothing short of a shattered dream, I had for my child.
My husband and I have spent the weekend watching and listening to videos of Chadwick Boseman’s interviews and speeches. He was indeed a marvel, a superhero, a decent man and an inspiration to all of us, on screen and off screen. I know in time, we will all move on from this grief. I do however want to take this moment to acknowledge that representation matters. Little children dressing in Black Panther costumes is more than being cute on Halloween, it is about normalizing expectations. Black Panther was bigger than a blockbuster movie- It was a cultural phenomenon we may only appreciate in the years to come.
Do it and do it often. People don’t get recognition enough, but when they do it does wonders for their morale!
At a recent faculty retreat being conducted online via zoom, people were asked to talk about things that helped them through the worst weeks of the COVID pandemic. BACKGROUND: Our patients are high risk patients- we have lost many 100s in the last few months-burnout is real. This event was to boost morale.
A very unexpected person said ” Not all was bad, we had a miracle baby born to one of our strongest/bravest faculty who did so in the only week that the hospital was not allowing partners. She was alone but she did it. She is still alone with no help/family at home but she is back at work and a true team player. I tell myself, if she can do this, so can I. She has given me the much needed strength to survive this pandemic”
It took me a hot second to realize they were talking about me and my birth story. Yes I have stories to share, but never thought that we could be giving any one the much needed encouragement, we all need these days. I also didn’t think that anyone can fathom what my husband and I have been through this pandemic and what it is still taking out of us to keep ourselves sane. We have just about made it and we hope to continue to do so.
I am happy and grateful and have been on cloud 9 for a few days now. The shout out was a real morale booster. But most importantly it was a great reminder that a pat on the back can do wonders and right now we can all do with one. After all we are surviving these crazy times.
So from me to you-You are amazing my friend!
Is real and excruciating.
Let’s take a step back. I decided to work from home a few months into my pregnancy as this pregnancy was very intense and involved. We wanted to give this one the best chance we could. Given our past experiences, working from home felt like a viable option. It was easy when the baby was inside the belly. As the reality of a baby started to sink in, I wished that I could quit work altogether and raise our child. It would be the greatest achievement and honor of my life.
That is what I thought then.
Just when our baby was about to be born, a good opportunity presented itself. An opportunity that I didn’t want to lose. I knew it would cut into my maternity leave but I didn’t want to let it go. After a brief discussion with my husband I jumped on it. I saw this opportunity as a stepping stone into my future plans and success.
As I look back, I practically got no maternity leave. Every non baby related moment I was staying up to work and build on this new opportunity. I am happy I did it, but I also know it took away time from my newborn, rest, me time, or time that I could have spent catching up with my previous life.
I decided to go back to work a few weeks before I needed to for personal and professional reasons. I wasn’t mentally, physically or emotionally ready but I knew it was the right thing for my family. I would often think of my mom who was a working mom, as a reminder that women can do more than one thing in their life and be successful at each endeavor.
My mom has had an amazing career. She is my closest and biggest role model. When I am feeling defeated, I think of her. How she did it all? Wife, mother, student, teacher- appearing to have it all together on the personal as well as professional front.
I don’t have it all together. More days than I’d like to admit I feel like I am failing terribly. I don’t want to give up my career. I have worked very hard to get here. I also wonder what conversations will I have with my child? How will I tell him that I gave up a career I had spent years to build to raise him. What message would I be giving him? Give up when things get tough? People can only do one thing at a time? His mom “used” to be a doctor? I don’t know what effect that will have on him, on me? Will I resent that decision? Will I end up resenting my child who I once thought I could drop everything for.
So I step up my game. Do the best I can to expand my capacity to work, to be mum and keep my sanity. I rope in some help to try and do it all. Not a single day has gone by when I haven’t envied moms who had the option to be mum and wear that hat at their own discretion. Every time I go back to my son after a hard day’s work- I get the biggest smile. Instead of celebrating that recognition, it breaks my heart to have missed an entire day in his life.
In my head I never win. I am never good at anything. I am not a 100% good mom neither am I a 100% career driven. I constantly feel guilty about giving the other attention. I am constantly battling mom guilt.
Motherhood is lonely.
How you ask, when you have an actual child for company?
Let’s start there. For the first 2-3 months, the newborn child cannot see beyond a few feet. Experts say, they can only see in high contrast. Think black and white. They don’t have reactionary emotion capability. By that I mean, they don’t know to smile at you if you smiled at them. The first 2/3 months they continue to be a demanding idea. Except they are no longer in your womb, you can actually see them. You care for them, 24/7 and you don’t as much as get a smile in return. It is called the 4th trimester for a reason.
The congratulations and celebrations end in about a week after the birth of your baby. The calls, messages and people stop after a while. Mostly it is because people think you need to be left alone to navigate this novelty in your life. Perhaps they don’t identify with you anymore, or simply because they have moved on. No matter why, you find yourself alone.
Of course there are grand parents. In our case two grand moms. Both of whom are physically very far away. That hasn’t stopped them from scrutinizing our every move, giving us unsolicited advise and showering as much love as they possibly can via regular Facetime or Whatsapp calls. While we are very grateful for the strong female influence our son will be honored to experience, we are constantly reminded of the chasm that exists in the way we were raised and our hopes for our child. Therein lies the long drawn battle with the grandparents that every parent has taken on. Making this a precarious relationship
And finally the camaraderie. Other moms. They are supposed to be your new best friends in this world of parenting. Each mom has her unique parenting style so by design you are left alone to navigate this already complicated and unforgiving new status of parenthood. While it has been nice to find solidarity and support, the underlying current of comparison, complaints and competition has not been lost on me. Moms don’t always make nice new friends.
All of this while wondering if you still have a partner or just another parent who happens to share your bed and your space. The conversations change, energy diminishes and priorities are focused on survival. You have the best parent in your partner that you could hope for but sometimes you wonder if you have lost your partner in the process.
Right now motherhood feels lonely.
Is also a parent.
Oh fun fact isn’t it? After we let the family know that we have delivered a baby, everyone and I mean everyone without any exceptions asked me how I would manage the baby alone in the midst of this pandemic. I wasn’t alone. The baby wasn’t alone. The baby and I had the baby’s dad.
We wanted to have a few weeks by ourselves without visitors or over enthusiastic grandmothers. We wanted to take some time to recognize, process, learn about our new normal. We wanted to take some time to define our new roles in life and learn to be parents. Both of us needed the time to make those changes within ourselves with our new baby. We both wanted to put our best foot forward to be new, older parents. We didn’t think we wanted anyone to be around us the first few weeks.
Of course the joke is on us. Our baby will be 4 months next week and he hasn’t had any visitors. Not even our local friends. With the daily news getting even worse, I don’t think I am looking forward to any visitors anyway.
It became apparent very early on that among the Indian family, the roles of a father are considered to be very limited. Oh he must help you change diapers is the extent to which people’s imagination could take them when I would tell them, my husband is taking care of us. I breastfed and cleaned the baby. I took my own shower and ensured I got adequate sleep the first two weeks of my return from the hospital. Now if anyone knows what else goes into taking care of a newborn, a household, not to mention in the middle of a pandemic- my husband was doing it all.
I have thanked him several times for being amazing. His response to that has always been, “You would have done the same for me, I am in this just as much as you are” He is absolutely right. Except for being a food source for our baby, he is and does everything else. As he should, as is his right.
Why aren’t men doing more as fathers? Why does the society not expect them to? What are the expectation we are laying down on them? How much is enough? These are all very nuanced questions.
I was told, oh let the dad help you if he wants to, men are funny like that. While very good advise, I was dealing with a different insecurity- what if my husband was better at everything than I am? Well he is and it makes us all better for it.
My child has a second parent he so deserves!
We trialed a nanny yesterday. Words I never thought I’d say. I am of the day care camp. Had it not been for the pandemic and the fact that day care centers are closed, a nanny would not have been an option for me at all.
It took all of a minute for my 15 week old boy to adjust to her. He had a look of I don’t know who you are and didn’t want to drink milk out of the bottle from her. For maybe a minute. She asked me if he was a good feeder and I said yes! So far he has done really well.
I went on to tell her that she is the first human being to hold him and feed him apart from his parents. Even before I could complete my sentence, the little champ was half way through his feed. A success for her; a small twinge of insecurity for me.
I noticed how she held him, how comfortable he looked on her shoulder. She started to sign him a song albeit in French. Singing to him is something I haven’t yet done but hoped to. He didn’t seem to mind the singing. I left them alone to take my next call. I could hear her playing with him. When I checked back he was already fast asleep- fed, clean, burped, content.
I felt grateful. I also felt very sad. My boy who has only been with and touched by his parents took very well to this absolute stranger. A stranger even to me.
The nanny and I chatted while she effortlessly put away his books, sheets, bottles. She fondly remembered the previous child she took care of. Everything was in reference to this child. I could sense how much she misses her. She talked of other children she has taken care of. I sensed a slight bit of sadness in her reminiscing.
She has no family of her own. If I didn’t know, I could have been fooled into believing she is talking of her own children. She said she knows it’s supposed to be a job, but you do get attached to the children you take care of. I can understand, I’ve only known my boy for 15 weeks and I will do anything for him. I know his cries, his faces, his every move. I wonder if she knows them too for the children she has taken care of.
Will my child know the difference between a nanny and his mother, is a question I kept thinking of while she was at home. I then wondered how she was dealing with her loss. She does everything I do for my child and sometimes more. She has promised to take care of him just like he were her own. His comfort in her arms convinced me that she will be gentle and loving just as we have. Then how does she deal with being mom but not mom?
I am officially “that” person. You know that person really well. That person has entered a new phase in their life and you no longer recognize this person. Or that person.
Having had a child very late in life, I have had enough time to experience most of my friends enter the next phases of their life. It requires an immense amount of patience and determination to maneuver relationships and expectations from said people. We have all given our best to adjust to the new normal. Lateness, cancellations, crying baby in the background and the non-stop conversations about this new baby.
Many times we wonder, how can someone only a few weeks, months or years old even consume our otherwise rational friend and where is the old rock star we were friends with in the first place? We miss the old normal and many times the new normal isn’t sustainable. We have all been there. We have lost some friends in the process. We have even promised ourselves to never become “that” person.
Then one day you have a child of your own. This little bundle who is a 100% dependent on you for its own survival. You obsess over feeds and diapers, and mere survival. You record every change which happens at lightening speed the first year of life as your baby grows. You know the baby is helpless and very dependent and so you give it your best. No sleep, no rest, no food or morning coffee, no routines, no old self and so many times no friends left at the end.
It is an isolating experience. You want to be understanding of your friend’s animosity towards you- you know you have changed, even if you are fighting as hard as you can to hold on to your old self. There is no old self- there is a new you. You are a parent. New responsibilities with new priorities. Every time you have the slightest chance of a getaway to be your old self- your old life isn’t waiting for you as they have moved on from you.
So you find new friends. Those that understand the life of dirty diapers and sleepless nights. The camaraderie feels kind and welcome. And ever so often you look back and realize- I am now that person.