Sunday, May 15, 2011

[uncensored]: God Bless the Mothers

As salaam alaikum,

Alhamdulillah, I'm all done with public health school! I'm at home right now, enjoying some time with the family, and avoiding these men from the online dating sites. Yes, avoiding...I've got some live ones who want to talk to me all the time. I don't know what they think this is!


Yesterday, my best friend here who got married a couple of weeks ago came to visit me on Friday! It was great to see her...she said I was the first of her friends that she saw since the wedding. So that was sweet.

She's hilarious...she is so traditionally a newlywed. Unlike these newfangled folks, she actually really really waited until marriage. She's Christian and very personally conservative, and she and her then fiance didn't go very far at all, saving everything for wedding night...which was...not quite what she expected, haha! She's told me that it requires a lot of communication, not beating yourself up if you're not good, and willingness to know that it'll get better with time.

I guess she never thought about it before...hehe. She said it was great waking up next to somebody, but that she was not anticipating morning breath.

She must watch the wrong kind of television shows...a lot of people make fun of morning breath!

Anyway, she's excited now that she has some advice to give another one of our friends who is getting married in May. And I'm like, "What advice? You've been married, what, less than two weeks?"

And then she said proudly, "Twelve days, but the time [friend's] wedding comes, it will almost be a month!"

Haha, she's so innocent, it's funny! And such a newlywed...and so serious about it.

She's like, "I'm really excited for [friend's] wedding. I love marriage--I recommend it to everyone."

Tsk tsk, man! Typical coming from someone who is blessed enough to get married, a newlywed and temporarily blinded to the fact that not everyone is so blessed with a happy marriage or marriage at all. No, I do not recommend marriage to everyone...some people aren't ready, some people will never be ready. I don't recommend that people rush into marriage or marry because, through this venue, you'll be able to have sex.

And I hope that when I'm a newlywed, I don't utter such things!

Anyway, she's also tired, felt a bit nauseated and was peeing frequently. I teased her, like, "Uh-oh!" She was going home to take a pregnancy test, and I haven't heard from her since, so really, it could be anything. I let her borrow my contraceptives book. She really doesn't want to take birth control (and I'm like, okay, well, be prepared to either use condoms or just not have sex, two things that I think may not happen...or, be prepared to be pregnant all the time!), but she's using a method now...

And I woke up the next day and thought, wait a minute...and did some math.

I speculate that she wasn't using her current method for long enough to be protected. Man!

For those who don't know, I am Queen Contraceptive! The type of consult I like the most, no joke, is counseling women and girls on their birth control options. I first did it in the pediatrics clinic with my teenagers...they usually just got Depo Provera. My women usually got the Mirena IUDs...which, after placing a few of those (it's one of my favorite procedures...very satisfying), I know that I'll only get one of those after having my last child, post-partum, while my cervix is more patent...seriously, I placed some in some nulliparas, and that mess seemed painful...

Sorry for the jargon...I'm excited to be back to medical school!

Anyway, so, as Queen Contraceptive, I know a lot about the various contraceptive methods. Right-to-life or pro-choice? I'm pro-women using appropriate family planning methods so they never, ever have to make such a hard decision. I'm also pro-improvements to child welfare services for orphans and maltreated and neglected children, because we're giving children the right-to-what kind of life? Too many right-to-life people no longer care about the baby after it's no longer a fetus, apparently, because those same people endorse a party that jokes about Welfare Queens and wants to cut social programs that support those babies in the name of avoiding socialist policies, so I don't label myself, because it's all bullshit.

I don't usually get political, but I feel like contraception is a very politicized topic...

So as Queen Contraceptive (I keep derailing from the story), that's why I figured if she hadn't had a withdrawal period from her method yet, she didn't start using it in time enough before first intercourse, and so if she's fertile enough, yeah, she really could be pregnant...well, at least it's her year off!

So we'll see.

But I don't know what happened to me yesterday. I wrote this thing on the plane (really smooth plane ride...I was able to write!) that I'll pretty much paraphrase here, but it was from the heart. It happened in two parts. The first part happened when I watched the Surgeon General, Dr. Benjamin, speak last week, realizing that she was a strong, powerful woman doing great work, but she wasn't married, was never married and had no children. I realized that women who have big aspirations like that sometimes forgo marriage and childrearing to get the things they need to done, because men and children zap a lot of your potential energy...

That being said, I indicated that's not what I desired for myself.

The second moment happened in the airport. I was watching this woman, probably in her thirties, wrangling with a toddler who was able to sense when his mother was distracted to take the opportunity to sprint away from the gate. The woman, who was on the phone with a relative about some pressing issue, would cradle the phone on her shoulder, run after the toddler and bring him back, kicking and screaming. She had an older daughter, maybe about 4, who seemed oblivious to this maternal stress and was constantly trying to show her mother stuff that she was doing, commenting on seeing the plane land, things like that. In order to go change her son's diaper, she had to strap him into his little stroller, put on a backpack, wheel luggage, and make sure her daughter was in tow.

At one point, I heard her say, "Maddy, you've already dropped your hippopotamus. I think I'm going to keep it so I don't loose it."

And then the child screeched, "Nooo!"

As all of this transpired, I laughed and shook my head. I imagined a woman like myself, a professional woman who diagnoses patients, who delivers babies, who cares from everyone from infants to the elderly as insha'Allah I will as a family medicine physician...coming home to a willful little tyke who does not understand that he can't simply do what he wants and a little darling who wants to carry her stuffed hippo around with her always, even at the great risk of losing it and against my advice.

And that's when I realized...children are their own little people, just like I'm a big person, with their little desires and their little agendas. A lot of the time, they don't know that they're children, or at the very least, they don't know what their being a child means...that they don't have freedoms yet and why it's important to be told what to do, to be controlled, to be raised. They don't know so much yet but they, like big people, want to do what they want to do.

And though they are small, at some point they learn to run fast and from a young age they can scream loudly.

I looked at that mother and I admired her no differently than I've admired nearly each mother I've seen around, especially those with more than one little one. That is a shitload of work.

I just watched this video my mother made when she was pregnant with me, so pre-mom days, back when she was a social worker at the University of Michigan, talking about what it is like to be a professional woman of color. We then looked at a video from 1990, which would be one year after my brother's diagnosis and right before my mother left her job. The professional woman who was talking about submitting a proposal and considering her own promotion was now dressing her daughter in Halloween costumes, engaging five-year-old banter and most importantly, wrestling with my 3-year-old, willful, hyperactive brother with autism.

One part of the video captures it all. My parents were putting up our little artificial Christmas tree, and I'm walking around with my pudgy self (at five) trying to help. It was me who instituted the practice of Christmas in my house three years prior when I offered to move out of the house to have my own apartment so I could have a Christmas tree. Anyway, I was trying to help, and asking my parents if I was doing things right...I was asking a lot of questions and looking for affirmation, and I was being ignored.

Meanwhile, my brother loudly comes in, flapping and doing his characteristic sound effect, here approximated as "IIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE," and my parents turn their attention to him, asking him what he's doing, trying to get him to do something he didn't want to do, trying to redirect him. Meanwhile, I continue trying to help and ask questions. Eventually, I decorate myself in the tinsel and ask my mother, "Do I look pretty or what?" And my mother gave a half-hearted response, to which I replied, "Thank YOU!" I was a smart kid...even then I perceived that I was being ignored and tried hard to get that attention. After the tree was set up, my brother (who would not be fully potty trained until 8 years old) needed his diaper changed. It was apparently a big load, as my mother counted herself having used 6 baby wipes, as my brother tried to escape the changing station on the floor. He was all cleaned up, but before my mother could get the pull-up on him (because he was already too big for diapers, and my mother would struggle to find pull-ups the correct size for years), he stood up, naked, and started playing with the tree again. My mother protested, and he ignored. She finally got the pull up on him, pulled up his pants, and he resumed playing like nothing had happened.

At the end of that, my mother gathered the two of us, telling us it was time for salat...

Hahahahahahaha! Welcome to my childhood!

But from a professional woman talking about her joy of social work, a woman who never wanted to have kids, to a woman who is changing the diaper of a three-year-old, who will change diapers for five more years. I mean, to this day, my brother, at 24, still calls his feces "good jobs" sometimes because we called them that for years because...can you imagine what a relief it is to not have to change diapers or clean soiled underwear after 8 years? Subhan'Allah!

So Heaven is at the foot of mothers, huh? Heaven is at my mother's feet, then, insha'Allah.

So yesterday, I had a epiphany, if you will. I was just sitting there in the terminal, and I suddenly thought, "Nothing means anything [in this world]." And for the first time in my life, I began feeling like the thing that I had always wanted, the thing that I thought would be the biggest part of me, marriage and childrearing, was maybe not something I wanted anymore. Not because it was a lot of work (because it is, and I've always recognized it), but because people fool themselves about love.

Yes, love exists, but falling in love, someone finding you, laughing across a crowded room, dropping out of the sky and into your's all smoke and mirrors, trickery. I think people count too much on romanticism and this imagery, and when the regular day-to-day realities of union kick in, people want to bail because it can't mean anything if that love as before isn't there...

So I guess, in that respect, I recognized that I'm not going to force myself to relate to a man that I don't feel like relating to. This online business has shown me, once again, lest for the upteenth time I don't realize it, that I'm not unattractive. As a matter of fact, at any given time, several men of different races and ethnicities will be very interested in me because, as one said, "I am a spectacular person." And I'm like, why thankee.

But I'm flattered and then annoyed/overwhelmed with the attention. People wanting to call me all the time. I'm like, aaahhh! I don't have time for this, clearly...I told you I have exams and papers!

But I'm not going to settle for someone who is not on the same spiritual plane as me, or settle for someone who I am not attracted to just because they are attracted to me. And I know what I'm attracted to now...I can't usually put it into words. I have a type, but it's not a physical type, save for the fact that I like men who are taller than me. But it's more of a Renaissance Man type thing (not the movie, if there is one...I don't pay attention to these things)...but a man that is good at a lot of things. I also like boisterous social butterflies or quiet non-brooders.

So, for example, one of the guys is multilingual, has lived in tons of places in the continent, and has this awesome, generic West African-British accent with Igbo overtones. And he introduced me to music! And he knows Elis Regina and Djavan! AWESOME!

But wow, I've digressed.

Anyway, if someone like that guy doesn't come along, I'm not forcing myself into a relationship like one-size-fits-all when it doesn't. In the end, I need someone who is going into it for the sake of and with the constant guidance of God, no matter what religion he calls himself, because it was my Muslim uncle who precipitously divorced his wife for no real reason...the religious label in the end means little these days, I'm finding.

As I said, nothing means anything in this world.

These guys trying to call me, calling me spectacular, wanting to get to know me...that doesn't mean shit. They're just words. The proof is in the pudding, and actions speak louder than words, if I may use two hackneyed terms that I found especially true in my last relationship.

So it may be that I continue to reject every man that crosses my path. Oh well. I trust my judgment. But I no longer want marriage or burst. I would love to have children, but not at the cost of bringing them up in any sort of instability. So, alhamdulillah, that's where I have arrived!

But seriously, God bless the mothers! My age-mates talk about childbearing like you get to play with a cute baby and that's it. I realize that I don't realize, even with what I saw my mother doing, how much work it will be and is...

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