I visited my parents’ house yesterday. I’ve been grief-stricken again lately about my dad. It’s about two years since it all began. I think there are not only conscious triggers but subconscious ones–a smell, particular weather, my car–that bring it all back. And that make me fear the future…fear for myself, and for my loved ones.

I oscillate between wanting to wrap myself in all my memories like a blanket and never leave, and wanting to get as far away as I can. Home was always my “safe” place–I would go there and be loved, and escape from whatever latest heartbreak, failure, or nastiness had happened. Now home is where my dad died. I don’t know how to feel any more. Maybe it will be good to move someday.

I don’t talk about my dad much, except on here. My husband is not really a sensitive person and I don’t know what I’d say. I’ve been churning with all this angst and grief and yearning and longing, and I just keep it inside me. I said for the first time yesterday that I was feeling a bit depressed and missed my dad. It was kind of a test balloon to see if it was safe to talk. But my husband sort of said “oh okay” and changed the subject. And so I was quiet again.

He didn’t really know my dad too well; we weren’t married very long when all this happened. My dad was a quiet person, too. That’s been hard…not having people to talk to, and just turning things over and over in my mind. I often wish I had a sister. Then I feel upset with myself for wishing because it’s not productive to wish things like that, and I understand how hard it must have been for my parents to raise me with no help and why I don’t have siblings. I don’t want my mom to feel guilty.

My daughter looks just like little me. Seeing her makes me miss my father so much. Not only do I think about what he would be doing with her and how much he would have enjoyed it, but I miss being little myself. I hate how life is a one-way street and I will never experience that time again–never experience being with my father again. I read some article the other day about parenting without parents, and it talked about how women are having kids later and later, and how one factor that nobody thinks about is how much their kids will miss out on by not having grandparents. I did think about this, especially as I never had grandparents. Two were dead and two were on the other side of the world in a time when there was no way of communicating. But despite my best efforts I married late, and my own parents had me late, and the combination means that my dad isn’t here. The article went on to say that those of us who have experienced loss parent differently. That we now know the horrible things that can happen in life and we feel afraid at every turn. That is very true in my case. Come to think of it, I guess it was also true for both of my parents, who experienced untimely losses early. They knew what I didn’t–how fragile life is.

Everything that was born has to die, and everyone has to experience it, and experience loss. It shouldn’t feel so bad; so unfair. But it does. I’m a different person than I was–I feel so bitter about what happened and that my dad is gone–and I feel guilty about feeling bitter too. Many people die much younger than my father did, and in much more prolonged and horrible ways.

In some ways the longer I live and the more I see, the more willing I feel to let go when my time comes. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be very old, with all of your peers already gone, your parents and peers gone, and your own health failing. Dad always said he didn’t want to live too much longer than eighty. I get it now. Wish I could tell him that.



I won’t be able to protect you from the bullies at school.  I won’t be able to stop you from skinning your knees, or stop that jerk from breaking your heart.  If you get cancer, short of taking you to treatment, there is nothing I will be able to do.

All I can say as I push your stroller is that I will care for you better than I care for myself, and that if something happens to you it will be because I couldn’t prevent it, not because I didn’t want to, or didn’t try.  If I hear a gunshot I will lie down over you.  I can’t stop the car from crashing if we are driving–but tumne jab bhi hoegaa, wo mujhe bhi hoga–whatever happens to you will happen to me, too.

I look at your chubby little hands and remember how last year, as per the Hindu duty, I initiated my father’s cremation.  It crosses my mind that if I live to old age, you will be my parent and care for me.  And that with those chubby little hands, one day you too will consign my body to the flames, and visit the funeral home to carry me home in a paper bag, ashes and bones.  It will be a long ride for you.  It is an eerie thought.  I try not to dwell on it.

That is the gravity of what I signed up for, when I created your lives.  My life isn’t about me any more; I had my turn in the sun–and I didn’t even realize it was going on.  Now it is about you.  Being a family, the responsibility for your well-being, and (as someone said) to have my heart live outside my body for the rest of all of our lives.

One year: A letter to my father

It’s been a year since you passed.

I don’t know whether I will ever get to talk to you again.  I spend a lot of time worrying that I won’t, which I know isn’t really a productive use of the years I have left (Serenity Prayer and all).

I relive what happened almost every day.  I still cry a lot.  Losing you was really a huge, permanent loss.  Even having a son didn’t make up for it, really.  I feel bad that you didn’t get to meet him.  What if I’d taken your advice–studied medicine, and married earlier?

My husband got his permanent green card.  He is well into his medical residency and will be a doctor soon.

Mom is as she always was.  She misses you a lot.  After you died she said you were the perfect husband for her.

We all miss you so much.  I feel like I live in my head these days, desperately pulling up old memories–of us catching fireflies, of you teaching me how to ride a bike, of us at the park exploring the creek, and at the playground, and in the swimming pool.  I run over and over them in my mind because I’m afraid, so afraid, that I might forget.

I always wanted to leave this city–it’s too hot here some of the year, and too cold the rest of the year, and in between there’s all the traffic and congestion and crime.  But that was when you were alive and well.  Now suddenly I am terrified to leave, because the places where we made memories together is all I have left of you.

There were so many things you wanted to do with me that we never got to do.  To visit your graduate schools, to visit the town in India where you grew up.  You wanted to take my daughter to the playground, and to have her hold your finger and walk like I used to do.  The loose ends hurt.  You would comfort me, and now you can’t.

We were always with you near the end, 24/7.  The day you died and they took you away, and you were finally alone, I was so scared that you would be frightened alone in the van, in the funeral home morgue.  It seems silly now.

All our lives, we almost never went a night without talking.  And now we haven’t talked in so long (your speech went before you died, so it’s been more than a year).  You used to say there was no place like home.  You never liked to stay away from home even a night. You haven’t been home in a year.  I miss you so badly.  Though I guess in a sense, you are home…we all must come from somewhere and we go back there, whether that “there” is some kind of afterlife or just that our atoms are recycled.

I know if there were a way you could come to me and Mom–if there were a way you could talk to me, that you would.  So that you haven’t done it, that you haven’t communicated from where you are (if anywhere at all) must mean it can’t be done.

You used to say you didn’t want to live past 80 and I didn’t understand.  And I was kind of hurt too–didn’t you want to be with me?  Now I do understand.  It’s not nice, old age–being dependent on others (not that I ever minded), feeling your health go.  And kids…they are great, but they are not peers–their well being is a responsibility…I didn’t understand until becoming a parent myself that you must have felt that burden.  I guess I can see why one would ultimately want to be free, or at least not mind being free.  So I guess I agree with you…I don’t want to live past 80 either; it’s a reasonable wish.  But I do wish you’d made it to 80.  Even one more year would have been so different–you’d have seen my son.   I feel so jealous of people my age who have grandparents, let alone parents.  My husband’s family will come and visit over Christmas…he has a dad and I don’t, and it isn’t fair…he has siblings too, and I don’t.

It has sucked not only to lose you but to lose one of the two keepers of my childhood–there are so many memories that now nobody in the universe remembers but me, that I will never really be able to convey to my kids or anyone else.

I don’t know how to end this letter.  I have gone on with my life, as best I know how.  People think I’m fine, but the reality is I don’t really have anyone to talk to about this–I guess Mom’s loss is bigger than mine.

I have gotten used to my empty e-mail inbox, Facebook without your “likes.”  I try not to think too much about how much you would have enjoyed the iPhones we got, or the family WhatsApp groups we made, after you passed.  Or how proud you’d be of me–after you died I got promoted, I lost weight, and I had a son.

But every cell of me misses you.   It comes out of nowhere and beats on me like a stick, and it is hard too because I can’t even think to myself that given time, this too shall pass…I know this grief and the missing will never quite go away.

I miss you.

I miss you.

I miss you.

Online dating: A blast from my past

I was going back over old computer files.  I found this that I wrote six years ago, while living in the boonies.  The “governor” referred to is Mark Sanford–I guess that was going on a the time.  I am now married with two children, in large part because I wised up and moved out of the isolated rural area.

This is to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence.

Sounds of Online Dating, my new dear friend
Your algorithm ran again
You searched within a hundred miles of here
You turned up dudes who last logged in last year
My “Five Daily Matches” are all active in the NRA
But that’s OK
I’ll just keep sighing and hitting “not interested”

My inbox brought me yesterday
A married guy who wrote to say
He felt that I was his one soulmate
He’d make a great governor candidate
But hon, I’m not gonna hike down <em>that</em> Appalachian Trail
Filed under “FAIL”
I’ll just keep sighing and hitting “not interested”

So today’s fan mail–let’s see…
First dude is nice, but sixty-three
Number Two? His profile smiles at me
But he can’t relocate from Tennessee
And the third fella writes that he hasn’t done much time
Just petty crime
I think it’s time
to pick up polka.

My (second) birth story

I gave birth four days ago (37w3d) at 10:48 a.m. I had begun working from home that week (37 weeks).  I normally work from home Monday and Friday anyway, so actually the extra days at home were Tuesday and Wednesday. I thought maybe I should go to work physically for our weekly meeting on Wednesday, but I was feeling very tired and I decided not to chance it.  I had been losing my mucus plug over the previous several days, and I wasn’t sure what it meant.

My doula texted me that she was going out of town Thursday through Sunday to see her mother in law, and was that okay with me?  I didn’t really know how to answer. Obviously with me being full term I wished she would stay, but it could be another three or four weeks and I could hardly hold her hostage that long.

I’d had my 36 week cervical check the previous Friday.  My normal doctor was on leave due to a death in the family.  The substitute doctor told me I was neither dilated nor effaced, just a bit soft, and that my cervix was very far back.  Basically, no sign of anything.  She gave me a GBS swab and I had a great deal of pain urinating the rest of the day.  I’m not sure how competent she was, and am glad I didn’t get her in labor.

I had an MFM appointment on Tuesday, which I had gone to with my mom.  I had a biophysical profile where I saw the baby on ultrasound and was scheduled for a growth scan the following week.  I told the doctor I was losing my plug, and she said “that’s OK.  You’re 37 weeks–you’re allowed to lose the plug.”  I asked her what it meant and she said “it might mean you are going into labor soon–or it might not.  We’ll make an appointment for next week and I’ll see you–maybe!”

On Wednesday, my doula texted me that she was back, which was a relief.  I tried very hard to finish all my work for work but I had a lot of phone meetings that took up much of the day, and I was feeling physically and mentally fatigued.   I took an hour walk on the treadmill and talked to my old PhD colleague.

That night, there was a lot more blood.  I woke my husband up at 11 p.m. warning him that something was up and I believed I was dilating quickly.  I was anxious and went to bed around 2 a.m.

Thursday I woke up around 5 a.m. with a stopped-up nose, needing to pee and feeling hungry. After trying my best to unblock my nose, I think I went downstairs and ate some cashews.  I began to feel really uncomfortable, like I was having bad menstrual cramps.  I woke my husband up and told him I was in pain. We called the doula around 6 a.m. or so.  She said she was on her way to work, but could leave work any time.  She also told me–inexplicably–that what I was having did not sound like real labor, and to call her back in four hours with an update.  That it sounded like Braxton-Hicks and false labor, that might progress into real labor or might stop.

My husband told her I was having contractions about 8 minutes apart, average length 35-40 seconds.  He was frustrated with me as he was trying to time the contractions and I was just in awful pain and didn’t care about the timing.  I sat down around 7:30 to send some final e-mails for work.  By this time I was in a ton of pain and starting to snap at my poor husband and swear a bit, which did not happen last time until I had been in labor for many, many hours.  The doula told me to hydrate a lot and eat lightly. I told her I was going to try a nap but it hurt too much and was moving fast.

My husband said he thought we should just call the doctor and I said go for it.  The nurse said to go to the hospital for a check.  I did not resist or disagree at all.  I guess I recognized by that point that I was in labor and that I was progressing quickly. At that point the doula told me she could not find backup at work, would be unable to come and check me, and suggested I call the doctor on call.  She would definitely come by tonight, she said.  I’d have a baby by tonight, I said to myself, and realized that I was going to go it alone without the doula. I tried taking a shower (I wanted to wash my hair and shave my legs so I wouldn’t be embarrassed when the entire world stuck their hands in me under bright light) but I also remembered from the birth class that water might make labor hurt less.  I found instead that the shower did not take the pain away and it was annoying to be wet.  I measured my blood glucose and got 105 instead of the 80’s it had been in lately.  This was unusual and was more confirmation for me that it was probably time.

My babysitter had arrived at 7:45 a.m.  She and the baby were downstairs.  I headed downstairs in a ton of pain, trying not to let my baby #1 see me groaning, and ate two eggs (stupid gestational diabetes).

Unlike with my last labor, I was feeling a bit of nausea. My husband stopped to drink his bowl of cereal with coffee in it (weird habit of his) and I snapped at him for going so slowly.  We went to pick my mom up but I was prepared for a five hours of pushing ordeal like last time, and I told her she might want to rest up and come later.  She said no, she was coming now.

Last time I was scared to go to the hospital in case it was fake labor.  This time I knew it was real but I dreaded being in pain and having to sit in the waiting room.  That is exactly what happened; the paperwork and all took forever.  There was a not-too-pregnant lady there on a stretcher who had just been in a car accident.  She was there with two EMTs who were looking at me sympathetically.  There was another African-American lady there with her mom.  Her mom said she’d been having contractions since the previous day, but she didn’t seem in any pain and seemed sort of dazed.

As soon as the admission paperwork was complete (I had preregistered but they make you do some paperwork anyway) I went to the farthest corner of the waiting room. Finally a lovely motherly tech  (probably the same one as last time) came with a wheelchair and took both me and the quiet lady to triage.  The other woman was able to walk, but I tried and had to stop.  I ended up in the wheelchair.  The nurse tried to tell me her name and I had a contraction and didn’t hear.  She told me to sit on the exam table and I told her it was hard to sit due to the pressure.  She said that was all the more reason I needed a check.  I was moaning a lot and the “rooms” were separated only by curtains–I’m sure I scared some women!  She did the cervical check and announced that I was 8 cm.  I said “Oh God.”  I knew I was dilated but I’d expected 6 like last time.  She asked me if I wanted an epidural and I asked how much worse it was going to get.  “You’re in the thick of it now,” she said.  I think there was a second nurse now.  She tried to introduce herself and I didn’t pay attention and the two nurses laughed knowingly and said “she’s like, whatever” or something.  It was weird and annoying to hear myself talked about in the third person and I also didn’t like that they thought it was normal and/or funny that I was in so much pain.

I knew labor was almost over at this point but I said I wanted drugs anyway, because I was afraid of how much longer things would last, how the pushing would feel, and I was afraid not to have any doula support or know Lamaze.  I felt very disappointed in myself for giving in.  I think at that point the nurse said they would try to give me an epidural but there might not be time.  She asked if I could walk and I said no, so they wheeled the whole bed to the delivery room.  My husband said that he helped–I guess they were really short on staff.  My husband tried calling my mom in the waiting room outside (only one person is allowed in triage) but her ringer was off.  He went to get her.

The nurses told me they had no staff to do a bed to bed transfer so I’d have to get up.  I got up and got on the L&D bed.  For whatever reason, they put up the side rails.  I laid there and moaned and screamed.  I remember saying “help me.”  I think then my mom and husband arrived.   The nurse asked me when my contractions had started and I said/yelped 5 a.m.  Someone radioed the hospital OB to be prepared, since s/he was on the premises and it was possible that my OB would not make it in time.  Talk about being scared–I had no doula, I was in labor weeks before I had expected to be, I had no anesthesia, and now my doctor might or might not show up.  They started an IV and mercifully used the blood from the needle stick to check my blood glucose, so that I never actually had a finger stick.  They told me my glucose was slightly elevated but nothing terrible.

To add yet another fun wrinkle, I was told that I was GBS positive, which had my OB’s office bothered to call and tell me, I would have gotten to the hospital even faster than I did.  Being GBS+ meant that ideally I was supposed to receive an antibiotic drip for four hours before delivery, but it was going to be more like four minutes.  I was told that baby would have some extra blood work afterwards to be sure he was not infected.  The nurses were all talking like I was about to deliver (which I was) and things were barreling ahead like a runaway truck–it scared me that there were no brakes on this thing, there would be no break, this was really it.

My husband asked them to give me ice chips, and they did.

I laid there screaming, writhing, and doing whatever, with an increasing feeling that I was going to pee myself–and then BOOM my water broke with an audible explosion.  The warm bath was a welcome relief.  I remember someone saying “rupture.”  My mom tells me the doctor had arrived at this point.  I just remember looking between my legs and seeing him and being relieved.  The nurse cleaned me off. I think I yelled “I need to push.” At that point I had another cervical check and I screamed bloody murder.  The nurse took her sweet time, ignored my screaming, and felt up my cervix very well before saying something about I was 10 cm with something-or-other lip and reporting that I was ready to push.

There was a lot of the nurses telling me how well I was doing, which seemed weird as I wasn’t doing much of anything; my body was doing its thing and I was just along for the scary ride.  I remember my hair being sweaty and lying on my left side in the fetal position, hanging onto the bed rails. They did something to the bed and said “grab your legs” and I said “I can’t” and the doctor said “there’s no can’t now.” The nurse told me “we have your legs–just push.”  She had one leg and my husband had the other.  My mom said she was rubbing my leg but I have no memory.  I screamed that I needed a break and couldn’t push yet but they told me no, I had to push on the next contraction.  The contraction began and I started moaning hysterically.  I was panic breathing and they told me to breathe in my nose and out my mouth, but my nose was sort of clogged up so I couldn’t breathe that well.  On the first push I couldn’t keep my legs open well and the nurse told me sternly that I was closing my pelvis off and needed to let my leg drop.  The nurse was pretty awful and told me “X, open your eyes!  Look at me.  Focus.  You can have this baby out in one (?) push but you need to focus.” I pushed.  It burned badly and I guess that was the ring of fire–I’d felt it last time too, despite my epidural.  They told me the head was delivered.  The doctor said something about the cord (turns out it was a nuchal cord) and told me to stop pushing, which I did.  My husband said the aggressive nurse yelled “CORD!”

The OB did something (my husband tells me he pulled on the cord a little and used the slack to unwind it) and then told me to give a little push.  I did.  The baby’s shoulders were out.  Third push and that was it.  The baby was wiped down and put skin to skin with me.  The feeling of a warm squealing baby on one’s chest–I’ll always remember it. Baby was out after the third push and put on my stomach.  He seemed smaller than my last as he was earlier, though really they were the same weight and almost the same height.

It seemed a long time before the OB cut the cord, asking my husband if it were OK with him (yes).  OB asked if he wanted to take a photo.  There was a little wait and then I think he tugged on the cord (yuck) and I delivered the placenta, which was a non-event.  The OB told me I had a borderline first/second degree tear and that we’d call it a second.  He warned me there was a needle coming (Lidocaine) and that it would hurt.  It did but wasn’t too bad.  After giving the Lidocaine some time to kick in he sewed for a long time, and I asked him how many stitches.  He said it was one long stitch, kind of like a shoelace; there was only one thread.  I think the needle went in about ten times though.  He did not wear a face shield.

There was blood everywhere and it had somehow gotten on my arm (I saw in the video that they accidentally brushed me with bloody clothes).  The doctor said he’d try to keep the needle in the numbed region, but at least once I felt the full stitch and it hurt.  The OB asked my husband “you aren’t videotaping this, are you?”  My husband said “no–taking a photo of the placenta” (gross, but as part of his job he dissects them on a daily basis.) That was that–the OB reassured my husband  that he had only ever known two GBS infected babies and that strangely, they were not born to infected moms.  We said we were glad he made it to the birth and he laughed and said there were probably some angry women in the office right now (which doesn’t make a great deal of sense as he was on call–though come to think of it, with my last birth the OB also called in the office at the last minute to say she would not make her 8:30 appointment).  He said he’d leave now and give us privacy to do whatever we wanted.

After lots of screaming during the delivery, I was quiet in the aftermath.   My mom said I looked great, but I could see on the video later that I was still frightened and upset.  The nurse did my charts, which she said she didn’t have time to do beforehand since I delivered so quickly.  I asked her if I had a precipitous labor and she said no–if I started at 5 a.m. and delivered at 10:48 that it wasn’t quite fast enough to be called precipitous.  I was disappointed and relieved.  They weighed and measured the baby.  I was given an unmemorable meal which as I remember included mashed butternut squash, milk, and some carrots.

They kept me in the delivery room for two hours before it was time to move.  The IVs were all still in me, including the antibiotics I think.  My husband asked if they were still necessary and if not if they could be turned off–I’m not sure whether they were.  I was given two bags of Pitocin which lasted for hours and hours until long after I had moved rooms.  I think it caused me to swell up a lot–when I came home from the hospital I had only lost the baby weight whereas I should also have lost the weight of the placenta, amniotic fluid, etc.  It definitely caused some very painful postpartum contractions.

The nurse did my charts, which she told me she didn’t have time to do beforehand since I delivered so quickly.  I had to sign a bunch of forms which made no sense after having delivered, like one agreeing to a blood transfusion if necessary and one stating that I would not videotape the delivery.

The nurse who had been a drill sergeant during my delivery was now all nice and smiley. They weighed and measured the baby.  I was given an unmemorable meal which as I remember included mashed butternut squash, milk, and some carrots.  I wasn’t sure I should eat normally after so many weeks on a gestational diabetes diet.  They kept me in the delivery room for two hours before it was time to move.  I sent my  mom to go eat lunch before the cafeteria closed. After my two hours were up I was able to get up and get in a wheelchair.  They wheeled me into Room 3B17 and I got up and got into bed.  The nurse helped me use the bathroom.  The next two days of postpartum were a blur of nurses, heel sticks for the baby, etc.  Baby’s glucose was pretty good despite my GD and we did not have to give him formula or send him to the NICU. We came home two days later.  I am proud to have survived an unmedicated birth.  I made it without our doula or any training in breathing.

The joy of having a son has indeed erased some of the pain of not having a father.  My dad would have said something jokingly about the circle of life.  I miss him, and life goes on.

PS–The doula met with me postpartum just to say hello.  She gave me a full refund, which was very kind of her.  I guess I didn’t really need her at the birth, and I am happy to have made a friend.

A short update

I had a nightmare a few nights ago where I was reliving the worst moments of my dad’s cancer treatment.  And in the middle of it I woke up and the quote I mentioned previously came into my head–“I might never forget, but I need not always remember.”  I reminded myself that the middle of the night on a workday was not the time I needed to relive all that awfulness.  And miraculously, I was able to go back to sleep and slept for the rest of the night. Physically, I am feeling increasingly uncomfortable.  My nose is really stopped up and I don’t know if it’s allergies (due to spring), a slight cold, or if this is the onset of the horrible pregnancy congestion I had last time during the third trimester, and I need to start nose steroids.  I’m really trying to delay starting them as long as possible.  I don’t like the side effects and I don’t think you are supposed to use them for a long time–and I have 20 more weeks to go. At age 36 my husband is still a first-year medical resident and it’s been nine months now.  I really, really am beginning to resent that he is never home and I am stuck doing my job (which pays our bills, as his entire salary is going into childcare) on top of the job of 1.8 parents, while I have pregnancy fatigue.  I have no free time to care for myself, write, or do any of the things I loved.  There is no way out of this mess in the foreseeable future.  It’s not like he can change jobs or something.  I really just want to relax and focus on me and my job for a bit.

Difficult tasks

My dad had a life insurance policy.  He paid the premium, every pay period.  I’m sure he paid more over time than the policy was worth.  Actually it’s the same policy I have.  I remember when he filled out the “beneficiaries” form, him saying 90% would go to my mom and 10% to me.  We joked about it.  At the time his death was probably 20 years away.  I never thought this day would actually come. A few months ago, my mom and I received letters saying we were his beneficiaries.  And we had to fill out a form and mail it back to cash the policy in.  My mom did it, and got her check.  I just couldn’t.  let the envelope sit, and sit, and sit.  Finally I opened it.  The letter began “we are sorry for your loss”–and somehow, curiously, that little touch of humanity made me feel so much better.  I filled the form out today.  I still have to mail it. It all made me very sad.  I still remember like yesterday us joking about the 90% and 10%.  I don’t want any money.  I just want to see my dad with his grandbabies. Yesterday was the third anniversary of my great-uncle’s death.  He lived to be 93 and met his great grandchildren.  My family’s WhatsApp group is blowing up with tributes, etc.  I wonder what it would have been like to have my dad until he was 93, until I was older myself. My boss’s dad died a couple of weeks ago.  She’s my age.  It really brought back a lot of bad memories.  He had a nice death though; he never suffered with dementia or indignities or the loss of independence, and it was over in an instant.  After seeing my dad I didn’t think a “good” death was possible.  I wish he had one, but I guess death is as random and often as unfair as life is.