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#23 2017

Seeing friends  and acquaintances listing all their accomplishments on their social media feeds made me feel inadequate.

Last year started off with me trying to survive being back at work after returning from maternity leave. I was dealing with hormones, missing my baby, an unhealed coxic bone that made the daily commute unbearable, bosses who were worried I was not committed to my job and a president I didn’t vote for. The only thing that helped was vicodin but I was afraid to take it. The last thing I needed was to add addiction to the depression, mourning and post-partum that lurked not so deep inside me.

My mother passed away in November of 2013. She had been battling a metastasized cancer since 2006. In that time, she saw my life fall apart at the hands of an abusive husband, she saw me  leave that relationship, thrive on my own and  meet the man I would marry. She saw me go through a miscarriage and battle infertility. Prior to her dying, I started looking into IVF, crunching the numbers and seeing how unaffordable it was, I was ready to give up.

“Take out a loan, worry about paying it back later, once you have your baby it won’t matter.” She said. But I am practical and instead of taking a loan for IVF, Matt and I took out a mortgage.

Before she died, Mami came to visit, she stayed with my sister in North Hollywood. I should have taken time off from work, spend as much time with her but all I did was spend an afternoon with her at my sister’s house and another one when she came to visit me in the new house. I couldn’t watch her die, I don’t feel guilty about it, I know she understood. It is because of her that I am the way I am.

She left me some money with the specific request that it be used for IVF. In April of 2014, I did my first round. In May, I did the 2nd,  followed by a mock transfer in June to send the tissue from my uterus to a lab at Yale University so they could test the timing of the embryo transfers. The third transfer was in September of 2014, nothing, zero, zilch. My doctor nicknamed me “The Purple Zebra,” because in his years of working with infertile women, he had not seen a case like mine.

On the first anniversary of my mother’s death, there was no baby that I could take comfort in. The money Mami worked so hard to save and leave to me, gone. Nothing to show for my efforts other than weight gain, anxiety and pain. I had been so consumed with the IVF that I did not properly grieve my mother. Grieving meant admitting she was gone. Every time I used the money, I felt she was still here, taking care of me.

I felt Mami’s intervention when my husband switched jobs and his new insurance offered fertility coverage. In 2015, I consulted with a reproductive endocrinologist in NY. Seventeen vials of blood revealed all potential future illnesses and that I most likely had endometriosis, which explained all the back problems that no musculoskeletal doctor or MRI could confirm and the painful periods. My husband’s magical insurance covered what would have been about 15k of lab work.
I was impatient and I asked the NY doctor to put me on a medicated cycle that included blood thinners and steroids in addition to estrogen and progesterone. The doctor agreed but said that if it didn’t work, I had to agree to a laparoscopy to get rid of the endometriosis.

In March of 2015 I got a positive pregnancy test  followed by a miscarriage, bloodier than it should have been at five weeks because of the blood thinners .

Two months later I had the laparoscopy, instead of endometriosis, the doctor found three fibroids hiding behind my organs that were undetectable through a vaginal ultrasound.

I gave birth to my daughter in June of 2016. I thought that once I gave birth to a healthy baby, the depression would go away, instead, I missed my mother immensely. I was grateful that I listened to my OBGYN and had my placenta encapsulated, she said it could help with postpartum depression which I feared.

Whenever I felt the blues come on, I popped a placenta pill. I don’t know if it was a placebo but it worked for the post-partum. It didn’t work for grief, the lingering effects of Infertility PTSD or the anxiety caused by the country’s new president.

***

My mother in law passed away in March. My daughter will grow up without grandmothers, both my grandmothers are still alive. I did not grow up with my grandmothers. I don’t have that connection many people have to their abuelitas, now, my daughter won’t either.

I went on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic in early July. It’s the place I was born, where my first memories with Mami took place. I was hoping to reconnect with a mother that has been dead for four years. As the plane landed on the island, the cabin filled with humidity, the smell of palm trees, ocean and wet soil. Tears I was not expecting suddenly cascaded down my face, gasping noises that took a few breaths to realize were coming from me, I felt Mami’s aura, I knew for those few seconds, she was with me, I could almost touch her. I let her know how grateful I was for everything she had done for me, I thanked her for my daughter, whose due date was on her birthday. I spent the rest of the trip trying to find her. Maybe I shouldn’t have been looking so hard, I should have let whatever it was I needed, find me.

***

Within a few weeks of returning from our vacation, I got bronchitis that took me three months to recover from.  I developed allergic rhinitis; one of the illnesses I was predisposed to based on the blood tests from the reproductive endocrinologist. I spent July through December fighting the fatigue that comes with excessive coughing, sneezing, soreness and the runny, stuffy, itchy nose, caused by the post nasal drip.

My 2017 was spent doing my best not sink into depression. Daily baths with Palo Santo soap, praying, attempting to meditate, weekly hikes and running which I had to stop once I got sick but I plan to get back to it. I also managed to reach my weekly Fitbit steps. These were probably the main reasons why I didn’t go into the dark hole.

I’m not one to make resolutions but I plan to go back to therapy. I don’t have to carry all this pain and manage it on my own. I’m trying to stop being such a control freak and letting some things just be.

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#22 Lessons from my Daughter 

​Yesterday was my daughter’s second swim class. Like the first week, she cried through most of the lesson all while listening to the instructor and doing what she was supposed to do. 

The lady who runs the school commended me for not freaking out. I don’t like it when my child is upset but I know that after a few more lessons she will no longer cry. She loves the water and I am confident she will grow to love swimming. 

She is learning at an early age to persevere, to move through things she may not like, to keep working when she doesn’t want to.

We are both learning and growing.

#21 – Toxic Masculinity Chronicles Part II – Random Thoughts 

Yesterday as I was heading back to work from my lunch break, I was walking behind three white bankers or Masters of the Universe as I like to refer to them. I don’t mind lingering behind groups of people because I like to listen, it’s a hobby that serves my writing and directing. These are my anthropological experiments. They were talking about Puerto Rico so my ears perked up.

“What more do these people want? I’m sick of the negative press Trump is getting for doing his job.”  Said one of them.

I wanted to move away from them but as you expect, the three of them were manspread all over the sidewalk.  I kept telling myself to keep my mouth shut, hold my tongue because today was not the day to tell three men to fuck off.

“And that mayor, some people don’t know their place.” With that, they walked into their glass castle, their building is literally all glass on the outside, and I was left fuming.

I have no problem standing up to or speaking my mind to powerful white men. It’s one of the things I’ve learned to do well because of my job as an Executive Assistant.

After the mass shooting in Vegas, Tom Petty dying, the devastation in Puerto Rico, the so called president being himself, and some family issues that have me a little worried, I did not have the energy to engage with the three Masters of the Universe. I don’t know why it still baffles me when educated people are racist and misogynist. I don’t think the three men would have been expressing their views so freely in the middle of the street if Trump wasn’t in office. It still shocks me and hurts me when I see how much hatred is being put out there.

When I got back to my desk, every news article kept referring to the Vegas shooter as a lone wolf. I hate how the media, the police, the FBI and regular people refer to white terrorists as a lone wolf. This is how repugnant humans get normalized. Wolves don’t come in and attack hundreds of people unprovoked. Wolves are often the hunted either by hunters or farmers. Leave this beautiful animal out of the vernacular when describing white terrorists.

One of the news reports made me laugh; it was a this is so fucking sad, I don’t know what else to do kind of laugh. “Las Vegas gunman (I won’t print his name) enjoyed gambling, country music, lived quiet life before…” I laughed because it reminded me of some of the dating profiles I received when I was on Match.com. I got a lot of guys who had pictures of themselves with guns or rifles, some had the audacity to point their weapon at the camera. The way the media describes this white terrorist reminds me of some of those profiles.

Just when I think things can’t get any worse, I see the president’s visit to Puerto Rico and he’s throwing rolls of paper towels at people!

Stock prices of gun manufacturers go up after mass shootings.  The contraption used to turn semiautomatic weapons into machine guns is called a “bump stock”. The Vegas terrorist used bump stocks became a hot item at gun shops.

#20 – Guilt Chronicles Part II

This is what guilt looks like.

I work full time, my roundtrip commute can range an average of two to three hours. I leave work at 3:00pm and usually pick up my daughter by 4:30pm. When we get home she gets a snack, then play time, another snack, reading/practicing the alphabet and numbers and dinner at 6:30pm. Bath time is at 7:30pm and in bed by 8:30pm. This is our routine Monday – Friday. There’s little room for outside activities. Sometimes we go to the park or for a walk but most of the time, playtime is in the yard. On weekends she usually has music class and we try to do fun things that are not on a schedule. Sometimes it’s the aquarium, the Museum of Natural History or pony rides at an equestrian center not far from the house. There’s also the occasional birthday party or a trip to visit my sister or Matt’s dad.

All this to say that because of my work schedule, I never went to a Mommy and Me class or a swimming class with Hudson. I am grateful that I was on maternity leave for seven months even though I’m still catching up financially from the loss of income, it was well worth it.

We are lucky to have friends and family with swimming pools. Hudson loves the water and I feel bad that I haven’t taken her to a weekly swim class. Most of these classes are during the work week and I don’t want to manipulate our weekend with another activity on top of the music class.

I usually take a weekend day to clean the house, do laundry and cook for the week. So to alleviate my guilt, I found a swim class that meets on Friday afternoons at 5:40pm. It’s a private class meaning it’s four times more expensive than the parent/child lessons. We are starting next week. I am not a good swimmer because the only lessons I ever took were as an adult. I don’t want my daughter to miss out on a potentially lifesaving skill because I have to work and can’t take her.

My husband drops Hudson off at daycare in the mornings, or at school as I like to call it. He has a long commute too and gets home around 7:00pm. He is sad to be missing her swim lessons but doesn’t feel guilty about it. He misses out on things that Hudson and I do, like when my boss is traveling and I leave work early, we go to the aquarium or the beach. He hates missing out on things but guilt doesn’t bog him down the way it does for me. I am getting better, it helps when I see how independent, smart, vivacious and loving my daughter is.

#19 – Guilt Chronicles

This is what guilt looks like.

Last Sunday, my daughter began a new semester of music class. She has been going since she was six months old. In the class, parents and their children sit in a circle and we sing songs, play musical instruments and dance, all lead by a wonderful music teacher.

When we pulled into the parking lot, my daughter was squealing. Her little squeals are a sure sign of her love for whatever or whoever she is squealing at. I am greeted with this happy squeal when I pick her up from school, her school teacher gets greeted with the same squeal as does her father when he gets home.

When we got to music class, she was running around, being very vocal and loud. I did not once tell her to be quiet but I stayed on top of her because there were a lot of new babies in the class. She would run up to the babies but never touched them nor was she threatening. However, I am Dominican and my first thought was about el que dira, what will people say?

There was a kid last semester who had to be dismissed from the class because he made other kids feel unsafe. The class is mixed age, from babies to five years old. The little boy was three. He was being a typical three year old but his mother never disciplined him. He threw a drum at a baby that luckily the baby’s father blocked with his hand. He would trip kids, hug too tight or hug without permission and played rough. The child’s mother was spoken to several times and my husband and I judged, I think everyone judged.  It wasn’t the kid that bothered me but how his mother laughed off his behavior, was dismissive of people’s concern about the safety of their children and never once told him to behave.  It was hard to enjoy the class when you have to be on guard. When he threw a triangle across the room, his mother was asked to leave. I felt bad for the little boy and even for his mom. The triangle is made of steel and could have sent someone to the hospital. I try not to judge people’s parenting style but like I said, I am Dominican and that mother’s behavior does not fly with me.

My daughter was in no way harmful or made anyone feel unsafe but in my opinion she was disruptive. My husband thought she was being cute which made me fume. He suggested that if I felt so terrible about Hudson’s behavior in the class, I should email the teacher letting her know how I felt.  I was annoyed that he couldn’t see how his child’s behavior could possible be experienced as troublesome by other parents. Then again, my husband is white and not concerned with el que dira.

I don’t think there was anything to discipline because what was I going to say to Hudson? Be quiet or stay still? I am not about to start making my daughter feel self-conscious or giving her complejos that will follow her into adulthood. I enrolled her in music class so she can be creative and express herself.

And that’s when the guilt crept in. I had been too busy during the week trying to win a Fitbit challenge with some east coast friends. Instead of letting my daughter run and play in the yard like I usually do, I contained her in the stroller so I could get my 15k-20k per day.  Was it my fault that she was so hyper at the end of the week? This was not normal behavior for her but it set me off, blaming myself for her needing to run around the class.

I’m trying to be better, to chuck her behavior to a fifteen month old being a fifteen month old. This week I will let her run in the park and see how she does in music class at the end of the week.

#18 – Gratitude

Hudson9.25.17My daughter will be sixteen months next week. After trying relentlessly since 2013 to get pregnant, I gave birth in 2016. It took a Reproductive Endocrinologist here in Los Angeles, a Reproductive Immunologist from New York and his Reproductive Surgeon who removed three large cysts that were undetectable with an ultrasound to get me pregnant on my fifth round of IVF. I have chronicled some of my infertility journey here and in a lot of my unpublished writing.

I found my pregnancy and now motherhood, hard to believe.  That after all the struggles, physically and emotionally, I had a healthy pregnancy, an easy delivery and a super easy baby. Even through teething, Hudson has been a delight. I expected that pregnancy and motherhood would be a lot harder. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy but based on how I’ve seen family and friends struggle, I was preparing for all the bad things and none of the joy that came with pregnancy and now motherhood. I am still in awe, and sometimes feel that I’m in one of those dreams where you win the lotto and it feels so real but then you wake up and you’re not a millionaire about to quit your job and start a do-gooding foundation.

Every morning I set my alarm clock thirty minutes earlier than the time I need to wake up. My daughter still sleeps with us. She wraps herself around my right arm, using my upper arm as a pillow, I spoon her to sleep and in the middle of the night she ends up closer to Matt. When my alarm goes off and I wake up next to my husband and baby, I give THANKS to God, the Universe and all the forces that made this happen. I say a prayer of gratitude and smell my daughter’s hair, giving her light kisses while I hold my partner’s hand. I do this for about twenty minutes every morning.

Starting my day with gratitude has lessened my anxieties about family, motherhood and life in general, I think it’s why my daughter is so easy going. It’s not to say that I don’t stress about things, or that my daughter doesn’t test my patience at times.  My strategy has always been to prepare for the worst case scenario but as I’ve gotten older, I realize that my worst case scenarios rarely come to fruition. I’ve learned to breathe through the chaos of life and enjoy the chaotic moments.

 

#17 – Microaggression Chronicles

A few times a week, I like to go on a walk before I start my work day. Yesterday, I went on a hike. I told my boss I was going to be in by 9:00am. All the stars aligned and I got to work at 8:15am. I decided to go on a short walk. I went into the residential side of Westwood, where beautiful gardens and high rises on Wilshire Boulevard. surround multi-million dollar homes.

I said good morning to a woman walking her dog. She looked at me up and down. I looked at myself to see what she found so offensive.  I had showered and changed into my work clothes at the gym, so I was more than presentable in my Ann Taylor dress and Banana Republic flats. I looked at her and said “have a nice day” and kept on walking.

“Excuse me” she said, I turned back.

“What house do you work at?” I looked around me to make sure she was talking to me.

The woman, probably in her fifties, was walking a small, fluffy white poodle.   Her black velour track suit, over styled hair and heavy jewelry was suffocating.

“I don’t work in a house.” I said. She took her bedazzled phone out of her gold fanny pack.

“Then, what are you doing around here?” She asked, with slight Persian accent.

“I’m taking a walk before I go to work” I said deciding to engage her and not let her ruin my day.

“You just said you don’t work in a house” she said, raising one of her stenciled eyebrows.

Her bracelets jingled as she pulled the leash back. The little poodle was trying to get away, his little paws tapping the pavement as he tried to get his owner to move.

I point to my office building. “I work there, on the twenty second floor, do you work in one of these houses?” I asked.

She gulped a large chunk of air, almost choking, her eyes opened so wide they almost bulged out of their sockets.

“I don’t work, I live around here. I’m part of the neighborhood watch group.” She said, her coral lipstick spread over her front teeth.

“Oh, I thought you were the dog walker.” I said, smiling.  “I’m also part of my neighborhood watch group and it is problematic when my neighbors profile and make assumptions about people out for a walk.”

She interrupted me. “You thought I was a dog walker? Do I look like a dog walker?” I knew I would piss her off but this was telenovela worthy melodrama.

“Well, you are walking and you have a dog, my mistake. Have a nice day.” I said, patting myself on the back for making her clutch the chunky rhinestones of her fat necklace.

My smugness was short lived when I thought about what had transpired and how different that encounter could have been for someone else. I decided to have fun at this woman’s expense because I could; I was light skinned enough, well dressed enough, legal enough, educated enough and I belonged enough.

I don’t take things like my job, my family, my health, my home or my friends for granted but I sometimes forget how much privilege I have.