Monday, April 30, 2018

C-Section Awareness Month

April is Cesearian Awareness Month. Raza was born via c-section. I got a lot of comments on how awful c-sections are and very few questions about why this was the route I was taking. 

Two years ago Asghar and I started trying to conceive and were emotionally devastated each month when we knew we had failed yet again. I started getting tested for different things and was labeled as "infertile" for insurance purposes. This was not only humiliating but also emotionally heartbreaking. No one could explain why. And this cold, sterile word had also led me to believe that I would never carry a child. 

Our next option was IVF. It was these fertility experts who very quickly realized that I wasn't "infertile" but was carrying a 12 cm fibroid that was blocking anything from entering my uterus. I was thrilled to have an actual reason! And I was really angry because this should have been detected months ago.  All the medical staff kept asking me, "didn't I feel the pain" but like most women, I just assumed this was a normal part of womanhood. 

The doctors scheduled my Myomectomy (removal of fibroids) within weeks of the diagnosis. And six weeks after the surgery, I was pregnant. The proximity of my pregnancy with my surgery pretty much confirmed that I had to have a c-section because of the high risk of bleeding. I personally didn't care how I would have a baby, I was just elated that I was going to have one. However, others constantly felt the need to remind me that I was missing out on something special. That I needed to get other opinions until I found a doctor who would let me have a natural birth. 

One, I always want the option that keeps both me and the baby healthy. In this case, this was a c-section. Two, while I understand that some women really want a natural birth experience, it shouldn't be assumed that all of us do.  Three, it is somebody else's body and therefore let them make the decision that is best for them.

Because it was scheduled, I got to choose my delivery date. Between Feb 13 and Feb 14, Valentine's day was a no brainer. I was also emotionally, physically and mentally prepared for what was to come because I had time to process what was about to happen and when. Some might feel that I lost out on something really beautiful and special but I don't think I did. 

The experience was beautiful and special for me. Asghar and I made a playlist and it was extremely comforting to hear each and every song as I laid on the operating table. I had my husband beside me, holding my hand while my doctor walked me through what was happening.  Hearing Raza's first cry was the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. And it was made even more special because of the song he chose for his arrival into this world.

The method through which Raza arrived makes no difference to the fact that he is my son and I am his mother. I still get to clean his diapers, feed him, get unsolicited and solicited advice on how to raise my child and questions on when I'll loose my baby weight. Let's remember that we already have plenty of things to fight for as women. We don't need to fight each other, make one another feel like less of a woman because of how we gave birth. We need to celebrate and uplift each other. Each birth is a life changing, sacrificial journey and we need all the help we can get. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Paving The Way

This week’s headlines included:  "Ms. Duckworth, has made history, by becoming the first senator to give birth while in  office."      “Jacinda Ardern will be only the second elected leader to give birth while in office, and the first to go on maternity leave.”

In case you are wondering, the first elected leader to give birth while in office was Pakistan’s late prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. She set the precedent in 1990. I am thankful to these bold leaders for taking a stand and normalizing something that should have been accepted decades ago.  

Motherhood is one of the oldest, most important jobs in the world. Yet, shockingly, it is viewed as a disadvantage because it supposedly means you cant do anything else anymore. Ironically, women are excellent multi-taskers. We run households, juggle calendars, take care of families, work and communities. It’s just what we do. And yet, we have to prove that we can find a balance and are worth the investment. 

More importantly, we have to find the energy every single day to take on this challenge. Senator Duckworth’s daughter, Maile, was allowed on the Senate floor after months of negotiation. Until Wednesday, the rules barred children from coming onto the Senate floor.

I only have two full weeks left before I return to work full time. Maternity leave has been bitter sweet for me. I have loved my time with Raza. And I have also witnessed how alienating the world can be for mothers. Restaurants tell you, no you can’t come with an infant. The fanciest of hotels are not equipped with changing tables. You breastfeed in bathrooms because there is no other option. And to top it off, you receive constant judgement. It is exhausting. But you make it all work (with a lot of help) because your love for your child comes above anything else. 

There are 85 million mothers in the United States. With that large of a number, you’d think the norms would be different.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

When it rains, it pours

Today was my first full day away from Raza. Today was also a jam packed day. Today also served as an important test drive before I leave for Miami on Thursday for three days.

I had a series of meetings that were all important to me and I was determined to make it to all of them. I literally had to be in three places at once! A conference call from 11-12:15, a live event that required setup, catering and opening remarks from 10-1, and another meeting at a different venue from 1-4. Oh and I also had to pump. I got pretty creative and somehow it all worked out. I was a frazzled, frantic mess but apparently it didn’t look like it from the outside.

None of it would have been possible without my mom. She came back to help us for another three weeks. She has been my saving grace. Raza adores her and she is so patient with all of us. I had no worries about leaving him at home because I knew he was with someone who loves him.

I also asked for help. There is no way I could do everything, do it well and remain sane. I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful group of friends. When you ask for help, they show up. And they did just that today. Three of them. In the pouring rain. They helped with registration, lunches and running the microphone for questions. All were last minute requests because things happen and others had to cancel. I could trust them to do the job and do it well and as a result I had fewer things to worry about it on my never ending list of things to do.  

I was also honest. If someone asked how I was doing, I would tell them I am good but frazzled. I am by no means perfect and don’t want to pretend to be. The reality is we all make it work but how we get there is a messy squiggly line. Case and point: I started my day with spit up on my shirt and didn’t even notice it until I had arrived to the first event.

My first event was with 75 eager women who wanted to learn from five all stars on women in leadership. Each panelist was vulnerable and honest about the challenges they faced, the sponsors that helped them, the tribe that celebrated them and most importantly that they could not have done it alone.

It was fitting that this event kicked off my day. It was a much needed reminder that we need to make choices, we need to believe in ourselves and we need to surround ourselves with people that uplift us.

I ended my day with a phone call from one of my mentors. I didn’t know it but I needed this impromptu therapy session. Her advice: life will forever be a balancing act from now on and I need to trust my instincts in deciding what I truly need to do and when it is ok to say no but the guilt will never completely go away and that’s ok.

I am constantly learning about what it means to be a mom. So far I know that mothers make it all work.  They are always frazzled. They harbor endless mom guilt. They multitask. They show up. Even if it rains. My cure for the guilt involved 90 minutes of play time with my munchkin which left me feeling like the luckiest person in the world every time he smiled at me.

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