Friendship is a Lonely Road

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As you get older, you will undoubtedly make friends. You are already proving to be quiet the loquacious little lady. Some friends will be fleeting, passing through your life quickly. Others will remain, travelling with you through your life, often in and out for a time. Some will be kind. Some will be cruel. Some friends will break your heart. Why am I writing to you about friendship? I want you to know that friends are important, but that they are not everything. There will be times where you will feel pressured to say or do something, to please someone else. There will be times, when you feel like you need to do things that you know are wrong, hurtful, or unsafe, in order to keep someone in your life.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” JK Rowling

I want you to know what real friendship is, and why it matters. Real friends, are those who care about your health, safety, well being, and about your feelings. Real friends are compassionate, considerate, kind, and listen. This is important, because I don’t just want you to have real friends, I want you to be a real friend as well. A real friend is not someone who agrees with everything you say, but one that is willing to kindly tell you why they don’t agree, and still respect you for making your own decision.

As you grow older, you will be more selective of your friends. The criteria for friendship will change. There will be times, when almost anyone will do… It’s ok to be lonely. Often, as mothers, we sacrifice the time we used to devote to friends, to build a bond and relationship with our littles. There are times though, when you need the support of others to help you cope, help you with your struggles, and help you laugh at the fact that you have no clue what you’re doing. Throughout it all though, the most important thing you can learn, is to be a friend to yourself.

It can be very hard not having friends, but it can also be a blessing. How so? Well, if you know there is one person in the world you can count on, to have your own best interests at heart, to listen to your gut, to know what feels right for you, to push you when you need to be pushed, and reign you in when you need it, then you will never truly be alone. There are times when you will sacrifice friendships for principles that are more important to you. That’s ok, you’ll be stronger for it on the other side. Knowing who you are, and what matters to you most, is the best way you can be a friend to yourself.

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Lessons

When you some day look back on the era that you grew up in, I hope you won’t have to remember the hard lessons that are being learned by everyone in this nation. The world is not a tolerant place right now. I am hoping, that when you’re old enough to read these letters, that our world might be a better place… one where people are treated with respect, and dignity, and valued for the individuals they are, and the contributions they make to our world. In a snap shot, women have been fighting for decades to be seen as equals in the workplace, in the classroom, and in the home. Gays and lesbians have been fighting to have the basic freedoms of safety, marriage, and recognition as equals among their heterosexual peers. Muslims are misunderstood, feared, and sadly, openly hated in many parts of the world right now. African-Americans are struggling to have their voices heard in the national dialog on racism in the justice system. Although racism was legally banned before my first breath was ever taken on this earth, make no mistake, racism is alive and thriving in this nation. The world can often be a very frightening place. Why am I telling you these things? Because the world we live in is fluid, and always changing. Like water in the ocean, we are all connected, and the ebb and flow of the tides of discord are always going to be there. I only hope, that you will do your part to try to leave the world a better place than one you came into.
In 2006, I watched a documentary called Invisible Children. After being so shaken by what I saw, I felt compelled to do something, anything, to make the world a better place. I was tired of the day in and day out of my life. I felt trapped, like I needed to break out, break free of everything I had ever known. I had been so afraid of venturing out on my own, of failing, that I had held myself back from taking meaningful risks. The next day, I applied for the Peace Corps. I didn’t know what to expect. I intentionally avoided reading up too much on what the life of a Peace Corps volunteer was like (in hindsight, I’m glad that I didn’t.) I signed up for two years of my life, not knowing where I would go, or what I’d be doing. Only that I’d be leaving everything and everyone behind to try to make some small difference in this world. I never knew what kind of an impact it would have on my life.
I grew up in a very conservative household. Your grandparents were not religious, but were politically conservative in every way you could imagine. Peace Corps was not on their list of life accomplishments for me. It took courage for me take that leap, and to do something for myself as much as for the strangers I would soon be living among. I don’t regret it for a moment. In the two years that I signed up for, I met my best friends, I met your daddy, and I figured out who I am. I became so independent. I wasn’t afraid or taking meaningful risks anymore. I had learned that putting myself out there, my heart out there, would always be a gamble, but that the rewards were always worth it. I learned how to cook without a cook book. I learned how to use public transportation without fear. I learned how to be comfortable speaking a foreign language in a foreign land, and just how hard it was for those in America doing their best to learn English. I learned how to listen, not just with my ears, but with my heart.
I changed a lot in that time. My political views changed significantly after talking to people about how they saw America. I realized that we had been told how great and wonderful America was our whole lives, and how much people really took for granted. I learned to appreciate what I had, and where I would be able to go back to some day, when others could not follow. I learned that I could be loved by others, if I could love myself first. I learned to respect myself. I learned to value money, and just how much it impacts peoples lives. I learned hard work, both physical and mental. I learned to fail, and to try again. I learned to be patient, persistent, and forgiving. I am not always all of these things, but once you learn something, it is always with you. That is the power of knowledge, that it is always there, you just have to remember the lessons you’ve learned.
So what does this have to do with you? I hope that you will go on to do something important in this world. Either for your family, your community, your country, or your world. A life of service has meaning, purpose, and value. Whatever you choose to do, I hope you too will learn so much about yourself, and the world around you, through meaningful service to others. And in the process, just maybe, you’ll make a difference in someones life.

Difficult Days Lie Ahead

In the midst of a presidential election, the atmosphere in our country is becoming so heated you could cook on it. It’s been a very rosy year, not having to deal with the cold hard reality that racism is real, alive, and as hurtful as ever. We have been so very lucky not to be the brunt of others hatred for such a long time. The comments are few and far between, and usually colored in such a way as to be more passive aggressive than anything else.

Yesterday, I got a wake up call. A complete stranger online said some very horrible, hateful, racist things to me about you. I can not imagine how anyone could say such things about a two year old little girl. You don’t have a mean bone in your body. You don’t even know the word hate. You don’t know what religion is, what culture is, or even have any concept of differences in appearance from one person to another. You take the world at face value, and always with a smile. It’s funny, how we can let one stranger hurt us so much. It’s cliche to say that words don’t hurt, or that you should just let it go because it’s a stranger. From personal experience, I believe words are much more like ghosts, and often haunt us for a long time to come. I can’t tell you not to let things hurt you. I am hurting right now, for the fear, the worry, and the outrage of the type of people who are speaking out against American born Muslims. What I can tell you is this:

Spend your life proving people wrong. The best revenge you can ever have is the satisfaction of being right. Show the world the little girl I know. The loving, honest, and kind little girl you are. Show them the intelligent, bright, funny, confident young woman you will be. Show them the fierce, protective, and vigilant love you have for all of man kind. Because that is the girl you are. Do not ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Dedicate your life to doing good things, good deeds, acts of kindness, and build a lifetime of service to protecting those who need it most. Your father and I have spent a good portion of our lives in the youth development sector. I believe wholeheartedly, more than anything else, that all children deserve the chance to grow up and become great people. We are the sum of all people who touch our lives in any way… both good and bad. Take the hurt, the anger, and the fear, and use it to fuel your passions. Use it to make the world a better place than what it is now.

GAPS Diet and FPIES

We have now been doing the GAPS diet in a slightly modified FPIES version for the last couple weeks. We haven’t noticed a significant difference in your teeth, and have only seen that some of the probiotic foods cause you to break out in hives. We’ve tried lactofermented veggies, as well as a kefir trial. Unfortunately, we’re unsure if the hives are from either of these, or if they are a result of something environmental. In the mean time, a second opinion dentist confirmed what the first said, that dental work would be in your best interest, as you’re too young to just let the teeth go untreated. You’d end up a gummy bear for years waiting for them to regrow, and potentially would damage the nerves and permanent teeth. Surgery has been scheduled for a month from today… in the mean time, we will press on with the GAPS diet the best we can to try to minimize the amount of dental work that needs to be done. IF it works, that could potentially prevent even one or two cavities from needing work, then it was worth the effort. If it doesn’t, then at least we tried. The good news is that FPIES tends to benefit from the GAPS diet as well. We are hoping that a few months on the GAPS diet might help you through some of your up and coming retrials of previously failed foods. Only time will tell. We are so lucky you are such a trooper. It makes me feel so sad every time you ask for a cracker… you keep side eyeing the dehydrated zucchini and butternut squash. I don’t think you believe me when I tell you that they are crackers. You had your 2 year well child check up last week, and you’re weighing in at 29.5 lbs. The exact same weight you’ve been for the last 9 months. We’ve been reassured that as long as you’re still getting taller, that there’s nothing to worry about. Our little Merci isn’t so little anymore!

A trying week

It is nearly 11pm on Friday night, of one of the most exhausting weeks we have had. We began a retrial of one of your suspected food allergies last week, and everything has gone down hill from there…

Eczema patches, vomiting, mucous, and a whole host of other nasty symptoms. On top of all of this, you had your first dentist appointment this week. It didn’t go well at all. The dentist says you have 4 cavities that need to be fixed, and is recommending an extremely drastic procedure. Daddy and I have talked it over extensively, and will be seeking a second opinion. Your dentist believes that you should be put under general anesthesia for a 30 min dental procedure. The lasting impact of anesthesia on toddlers is significant. The risk is too high at this young of an age. We understand he’s trying to be extra cautious with your medical condition, but to the point where he’s putting you at risk in other ways. Many parents in this day and age do not hesitate to obey every order a doctor or dentist gives them. We are not such parents. I just hope that the second opinion goes well, and that we can find a dentist who will recommend either an in office procedure or a plan to maintain your dental health as is (without it getting any worse) until you lose your baby teeth naturally. Only time will tell. In the mean time, we are seriously looking into the GAPS diet, or some form of it similar to that recommended by Dr. Weston Price for how to reverse tooth decay. We knew that you would face nutritional deficit issues growing up on such a restrictive diet. I just didn’t know FPIES would not even allow your teeth to exist for a full  year before it claimed them as it’s victims. No one ever warns us the extent to which we will go to keep our children safe from permanent and lasting damage. Our world is about to be upended once again, and our diets changed once again, in order to fight the damage that FPIES is doing.

In the mean time, I just want to hold you and tell you I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t stop the lack of calcium in your body, or the diet high in phytic acid that lead to your tooth decay at such a young age. I feel immensely guilty, and sincerely wish that someone would have told me what I know now, a year ago.

This Day In History

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Man has reason, discrimination and free-will such as it is. The brute has no such thing. It is not a free agent, and knows no distinction between virtue and vice, good and evil. Man, being a free agent, knows these distinctions, and when he follows his higher nature, shows himself far superior to the brute, but when he follows his baser nature can show himself lower then the brute.  ~Mahatma Gandhi

You will come to know that your family is a loving one. We support peaceful, loving actions, that are inclusive and uplifting for our fellow human beings. Today, only a few hours ago, the Supreme Court of the United States made a landmark decision to support same sex marriage. You will never know a world where it was not legal. You will never know what it was like to grow up in a time where the media, public, and courts, all deemed it appropriate to discriminate the right to love someone legally. This country has grown and shifted so much in the past few decades. The world itself has shifted so much in my lifetime, and in your grandmothers lifetime. You will study this age in history books, and think of it as archaic. You are still so little, that I have no clue who or what you will become in this life. My hope, is that this day in history, will make your world a little more peaceful and loving.

On The Day You Were Born…

As of Wednesday evening (April 24th), we still had no signs or symptoms of labor. With two days before my due date, I was starting to feel like you would never come. My midwife had suggested that since I hadn’t lost my mucus plug or had any cramps or other symptoms, that I could try to stimulate a few contractions by doing acupuncture. So on Thursday after work, I stopped in to make an appointment. However, the acupuncturist was free right then, so I said sure, why not now? I spent an hour having acupuncture done, and it felt good. He put needles in my ankles and hands, I had a couple braxton hicks contractions as usual, but nothing more while in the office or at home. I figured it was at least worth a shot.

The next morning (April 25th), I woke up for work, went to the rest room, and when I was leaving the bathroom, I felt like I peed myself a bit. So I sat back down, and nothing more came out. I figured you were so big by this point, that it was likely just your head pushing on my bladder, and that I should just carry on. I cleaned up again, and went to the bedroom. Two steps into the bedroom, I felt it again; and this time when I looked down, a trail of bloody water was trickling down my leg. I yelled to Daddy that I think my water is breaking and hurried back to the bathroom (we had brand new cream colored carpet in the new apartment, so I managed to get back on the vinyl bathroom floor before it reached the floor). Sure enough, by the time I was in the bathroom, I had a nice little pool of bloody water on the floor. I asked Daddy, and he said we should call my midwife since I wasn’t sure it was my water. It was 6:05am on Thursday when this happened.

We called our midwife Marie, and she had me sit down on the toilet, and at this point, my mucus plug started to come out, and I had a little bloody show, but no contractions. She said to stay home, and to call her if anything started to happen, and that if she didn’t hear from me, she’d call back and check with me soon. She said that this was a good sign that labor would begin within the next 48 hours, but that it also put a time clock on things since infection can set in with premature rupture of the membranes. After hanging up the phone, Daddy and I continued about our morning, only I was wearing heavy overnight pads just in case a gush would come. I called in to work and let them know I wouldn’t be coming in since my water had broken and labor would likely begin soon. I sent a message to my doula Katie, and let her know that things were starting to move.

After an hour more of nothing happening other than a little more water leaking, I had Daddy go to work, promising him that I would call if anything happened or changed. After he left, I got on the over sized yoga ball in our living room, and I tried everything I could to get things rolling. I did the Miles Circut (a series of positions for laboring) and tried walking up and down the stairs to the mail box and back. Nothing. By 11am, I had a grand total of one very mild contraction that I could tell of. My doula Katie came over and spent some time with me that morning, helping with positions, talking about our game plan for labor. Nothing was really going on. So my midwife asked if I could come in at 3 to get checked out. By that time, I’d only had 2 contractions total. They took my blood so we could get a baseline for infection, and sent me back home to wait it out. I couldn’t have a cervical check to find out if I was dilated or effaced, as they were trying to avoid any infection being introduced. By that evening I was anxious that things hadn’t moved along, but went to bed hoping things would pick up.

At 2:03am on Friday morning, I woke up to my first real contraction. I started timing them in the dark by the light of the glowing red alarm clock, and at this point they were about 12-15 min apart, and lasted that way for a few hours. I woke Daddy up when they got to 8 min apart, and notified both my midwife and doula by text. By the time Daddy had to go to work, they were still 7-8 min apart. He works only 20 min from home, so I told him I’d call if they changed even by one minute. So he hesitantly went to work. At 7:15 am my doula came over and spent some more time with me while I practiced a series of relaxation techniques, did the Mile Circuit again, practiced a few new positions that would help open up the pelvis and bounced on the labor ball. But the contractions were spacing out. They were sporadic now at anywhere from 6-15 min apart. I was getting a bit disappointed that we were going backwards, but our doula helped me just focus on staying relaxed and distracted while my body did what it needed to do.

After my doula left, my midwife asked me to come in again at 1:30pm. I called Farid and asked him to come home, telling him that things had stalled, and that I didn’t want to drive while in early labor. He was home fast. When we got to the appointment, my midwife took my blood work again, and gave us a list of things to buy just in case we had to do a home birth. We had initially planned to give birth at the local birthing inn, and to attempt a water birth. We had to talk about back up plans, since the clock had moved considerably since my water broke, the birthing center likely wouldn’t let us birth there if I wasn’t in active labor by midnight. I did not want a hospital birth, and was seriously worried that it had now been 31 hours since my water had broken, with very little progression of contractions. My midwife was also worried, so she asked me to pick up some castor oil to do a milk shake with and hopefully the castor oil would help kick my contractions into higher gear. She instructed me to pick an icecream flavor that I wasn’t particularly fond of, as I would likely never want to eat that flavor again after doing the milkshakes. Little did I know then, that she was right. More than two years later, and I still haven’t touched Ben and Jerry’s Red Velvet Icecream since that night.

After we left, we got the supplies we would need for a home birth “just in case,” and jokingly said we’d keep the receipt and return them later… um yeah, totally didn’t think we’d need all of them. But we bought them anyway. When we got home, contractions were still at about 15 minutes apart, and not coming regularly.

No one ever tells you what a caster oil milkshake does. I wish I had known what to prepare for. I took my first castor oil milkshake at 3pm. Nothing happened. I took my second at 4pm. Nothing happened. They tasted awful. Imagine drinking a milkshake made with baby oil in it. That’s what it felt like going down. I had to drink three of them over a three hour period. My mom showed up while we were in the process of waiting. At 4:45pm, I called my midwife just before the third dose, and told her that I hadn’t had any additional contractions, no speed up, and didn’t have even an upset stomach yet. She said go ahead with the third dose at 5pm and that they would likely kick in soon.

After hanging up, I vomited violently within 4 minutes… both of the first doses. I called back the midwife, she said to stay in the restroom and call when contractions started to pick up. She also said to wait until 6pm for my stomach to rest from the vomiting and take the third dose. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but did it anyway. After the third dose, contractions were still about 15 min apart. Within a few minutes, I started feeling really sick. Then it started. I didn’t realize that the violent stomach cramping I was having from the milkshakes/vomiting were actually kicking my body into full blown contractions. I went to lay down, and vomited again into a bowl that my mother was nice enough to hold for me. At this point, the contractions started to pick up, strong and heavy. They were now 10 minutes apart. Within 2-3 contractions, we jumped to 7 min apart, and Daddy called both the midwife and my doula. Both said they were on their way. Daddy and Grandma started doing back rubs, foot rubs, and helping with as much relaxation techniques as possible. The contractions were starting to feel very intense and painful. My lower back was hurting and the pain from vomiting so hard had made the capillaries in my face burst. I looked bruised from the intensity of the vomiting.

Just before my midwife got there, I got to the point where I felt like I was starting to panic and that the castor oil had done something bad. I worried that the castor oil had done something to hurt my baby, and that the pain I was feeling meant something was wrong. I said “I change my mind, I want to go to the hospital” thinking that something was going wrong and that my baby was in danger. Grandma and Daddy reassured me that our midwife would be there in minutes and we’d talk to her and make sure that nothing was wrong, and if it was they would take me to the hospital.

At this point, nothing they did was helping me to feel better. I couldn’t get comfortable in any position, and the contractions were coming one right after another, about every 2-3 minutes, lasting a minute or longer each time… with only a few seconds in between, it felt like the castor oil had done something horrid to me. When our midwife arrived at 7pm, she did an internal exam, and informed me that we were not going to make it to the birthing center, and that it looks like she’d need to go to her car for the emergency kit, since I was fully dilated and the baby was visible… it was time to push already! The pain I had been feeling was me going through transition. I immediately felt relieved and was excited that this was transition and knew this was going to be it! My entire outlook changed knowing my baby was ok, and I started to feel more calm and determined.

They ran a bath for me, and got the bedroom ready, laying surgical pads on the bed. Katie arrived at 7:15pm, and with everyone’s help I got into the tub, and by the time I got in, I could already feel the urge to push. My doula arrived in time, as she started to help me with the techniques we practiced for staying focused on positive pushing. I was getting a lot of great positive reinforcement, and everyone was so supportive. I was able to start pushing just after 7:30pm. The midwife’s assistant Rebecca showed up at about this time.

I would wait to push when I felt the urge, like waiting for waves to wash over me. After pushing in the bath tub for about an hour, I was making ok progress. It felt great to push! I never imagined it would feel so good. Eventually my back and hips started to hurt since our bath tub was so small, so we switched to sitting on the toilet while they dried me off and gave my legs a break by using gravity. After 3 rounds of pushing, we moved to the bedroom. You were born with 2.5 hours of pushing naturally with the contractions in the same bed you were made in. No tearing, no drugs at all. I couldn’t believe I had pushed so long and hard for someone so small. You were just a pretty little girl who looked just like your daddy, with an impressively full head of hair.

You were born at 10:13pm, 7 lbs, 6 oz, 18.5 inches long. I couldn’t have imagined a better experience even a home birth wasn’t expected! 20 hours intermittent labor (4 hours of real active labor), and 40 hours from when my water broke!

Delivery Date and Time: 4/26/13, 10:13 PM

Estimated Due Date: 4/26/13