Writings

Gratitude Journal

Why is it that when I sleep soundly, they are restless, yet when they sleep soundly, I’m wide awake?

I’m listening to my daughters’ light snores and even breathing, feeling at peace that they are next to each other, next to me. Several nights I tuck them into their own beds in their own bedroom, only to find them next to me in the middle of the night. But on other nights, like tonight, I do not fight their protests to sleeping in their own beds.

They don’t know this yet, but I need them more than they need me. Even when I do get a night when they let me sleep alone, I curl up to the same side of the bed, make myself small, and miss their small warm bodies sprawled next to me in deep slumber.

Just over two months ago, life was quite different. Parts of it, anyway. There were schedules and routines, timelines and curfews. Planned meals, packed lunches, pre-picked outfits. I only saw my daughters in the mornings for about an hour, and then in the evenings. On weekends there would be a hundred other things scheduled.

Now, we spend every moment together. Mornings, afternoons, evenings, nights, weekends, weekdays, everyday. Weekdays and weekends really have no border between them anymore. Its all the same. Some weeks have been delicious. So many cuddles, laughs, games, fun. Movies and baking and eating and dancing. Planting and walking and colouring. Other weeks have been torture. Sibling rivalry, yelling, crying, stomping, slamming. Needing space, solidarity, sanity.

Meanwhile, the world we’ve shut ourselves out of seems to have fallen into shambles. Sickness and death and panic and disorder. More death. Fear.

We’ve finally started going out again, other than just walking down our street. Driving the car again, although the brakes make sounds now, complaining to me that I waited too long to put them to use again. We wear masks, take shallow breaths and quick steps.

One thing has been constant, though. Our own form of medicine, comfort, cure. Which is our hugs and kisses. So many hugs. So many kisses. Maybe more so than before. Despite what has happened moments before, or what is happening outside our home, we tell each other, “I love you”, we kiss each other. We hug each other, tightly. Sometimes we don’t let go for a long time.

Writings

Not Hiring Single Moms

– “Upper management doesn’t care if you’re a single mother. What they care about is if you’re here, meeting business needs.”

– “I’m not telling this to put you down but you do have the highest number of absences in this office.”

– “Can’t you find a teenager in the neighborhood to watch your kids?”

– “You’ve already used your personal days to tend to your kids. Moving forward, you’ll need to use your vacation days.”

– “Why don’t you go live closer to your parents?”

– “You’ll need to make up the hours you missed when you left the office for your kids.”

– “It doesn’t matter that everyone else here is fresh out of school with no parenting responsibilities, I’m sure they have other responsibilities.”

– “No, we are not able to change your shift schedule.”

Photo courtesy of Tintalee Photography


The popular term ‘working mom’ is a redundant one. Being a mother is a job on it’s own. Annabella asked me about 15 mins ago, “is it hard being a mom?” It is. Of course it is. Being a mom to these two girls though? It’s a dream. Really, it is. I get them to myself for three weeks? Dream.

The quotes above were said to me directly, verbatim, during the times I struggled to be 100% present in the corporate world and 100% present for my children. What I learned was: it isn’t possible.

I often spent my rides on the TTC after having these conversations, sobbing, huddled into myself, wondering if I’d ever stop feeling like a failure. Until one morning I literally could not get out of bed because of the heaviness. I knew if I continued on like this, killing myself to get to an environment surrounded by negativity and uncompassionate behavior, that the light inside of me would burn out.

I chose motherhood. By choosing motherhood it meant also choosing myself. If I am mentally and emotionally unavailable for my children, being there physically is meaningless.

I had to evaluate myself, inside out, head to toe and decide to heal so my daughters can look at me without evaluation and say, “We love you mama. You’re the best.”

Tantrums, tears and tattle tales are rough, however feeling worthless is worse.

Short Stories

Diamonds for Dinner

He’s in the shower.  My mouth and throat are like sandpaper. My hands are clammy. My eyes are stinging. I was up late last night writing my final letter to him. The pounding in my chest is harder than usual. Or is that my head? The baby starts to cry in her high chair. Oh, shit. The cereal. The water has been boiling, what’s wrong with me?

“Mommy’s coming, baby! Here comes your num-num!” I tell her, as I mix the Gerber baby cereal with her little pink spoon.

“Foh me too, mama, foh me too?” my toddler’s voice is suddenly looping around the kitchen. “Of course, sweetie!” I tell her, grabbing another bowl. This stuff smells so good, it reminds me of when my mom used to make cream of wheat for us. The thought of eating now makes me nauseous. I hear the bathroom door open. He’s coming out. I rush out of the kitchen and into the living room, which is also our dining area.

I’m blowing on the cereal softly and can see him from the corner of my eye, stepping into the bedroom, and shutting the door. Baby is opening her mouth, waiting for her breakfast. Toddler’s got her eyes fixed on the TV, watching what’s-her-face on Treehouse. Dory? No. Dora. Do you have to explore so loud today, Dora? Shut up!

“Sweetie, remember to eat your breakfast!” I tell her in my trying-to-be-calm-but-not-actually-calm voice. I can’t believe this will be our last time eating breakfast here. My phone buzzes. New message. I turn it over. My throat feels even drier. Do I even have any saliva left? The bedroom door opens. Fuck, he’s coming.

“Yummy, num-num, baby!” I say in my sing-song voice, spoon going in. Baby smiles, cereal all over her little pink gums. Am I really ready for this? Yes. Yes, obviously, you cando this and you willdo this. I hear the jingle of his keys. He’s getting ready to leave.

“Sweetie,” I whisper to toddler, “go say bye to daddy.” She obediently gets up from the mini-table that he built for her, and runs to the den. “Byyyyeeeeeeeeee dadddaaaaaaa!” He’s lifting her up, hugging her. She gives him a kiss. My vision gets a little blurry, but I blink it away. He comes around to kiss baby’s head. As always, I’m invisible. The front door closes, and the lock turns.

I quickly pick up my phone and type: ‘He just left. Come up in ten minutes to be safe.’ Should be enough time so they don’t pass each other in the elevator. I hop over to the bedroom and open the closet door to start grabbing empty bags and see his long-sleeve, collared shirts hanging there. I’m transfixed on them when I hear the lock on the door turning again. Oh no. I scramble back to my chair next to baby and pick up the cereal bowl with trembling hands. He’s back. He marches into the living room.

“Where’s the car seats?” he asks, looking directly at me now.

“Oh,” I manage to say. I never was a good liar. “I brought them up to clean last night. There were milk stains,” I say, trying to maintain eye contact with him. He doesn’t seem convinced. What if he knows? Please just leave.

As if he hears my thoughts, he walks back towards the door without another word. Leaving a trail of fire behind him that I cannot put out. Not this time. I grab my phone again. New message: ‘I’m here. What do I do?’

I respond back: ‘Wait a few minutes. He came back.’ Now I rush over to the window to see his blue Nissan leave the parking lot for the last time.

Trying to remember to breath, I open the front door and look towards the elevators down the corridor. She’s here.

My mom looks terrified. She quickly walks over to our unit, pushing a trolley of empty suitcases. We’re too nervous to even hug each other. Once she’s inside, she hugs and kisses the girls.

“Do you think he’s going to come back again?” she asks me, quietly. I shake my head. “I don’t think so. I hope not. Let’s get going.”

Within a few hours, we’ve managed to pack up the pots and pans, some dishes, all of our clothes, and the girls’ toys and books. I had already packed shoes and other things over the past few weeks and hid the boxes, knowing we wouldn’t have much time today.

“Whey we goin’, mama?” little toddler asks, looking around the condo unit as it quickly gets emptied out. “Just on a little trip,” I tell her, “just us girls!”

“Yay!” she cheers, hugging her stuffy to her chest.

Once the movers have taken the last of the luggage, I sneak into the bedroom and place the letter on the dresser. I take my engagement ring, and then my wedding band, off my finger and place them next to the letter.

“What? You’re not keeping your rings?” mom exclaims.

“No,” I tell her, exhaling for the first time in a long time, “not keeping them.”

I can still hear his voice, slithering into my ear, telling me, “as long as that ring is on your finger, I can do what I want to you.”

Definitely not keeping the rings.

At long last, we are leaving. I look around and exhale again. I’m breathing. I’m actually breathing. As I lock up, I realize that I didn’t get around to cooking dinner. Oh well. He’s got something else waiting for him tonight.

Writings

Bedtime Conversations

Annabella: Mama, are you upset?

Me: No baby, I’m just tired.

Annabella: I really hope you get some rest!

Me: Thanks, Bella! If only there were two of me….(sighs)

Annabella: (eyes wide) Two of you!?

Me: Well, if I could make a clone of myself, I would.

Annabella: (giggling) You can’t do that!

Me: But then I wouldn’t be alone.

Annabella: You’re not alone, mama, you have US.

Me: (heart glowing) I know, my love. I just mean I need another grown up to help me out sometimes.

Annabella: (embracing me tightly) You don’t need anyone but us, mama.

Me: (heart glowing. tightens the embrace. doesn’t let go.)

Writings

Vomit Journal – II

Day 382 of depression, round 5.

I’m sitting on a tall, cold, wooden chair. My feet don’t touch the floor, not even close. I’m facing a very large window, so I can actually see a bit of civilization. The sky is beautifully blue, and the clouds appear to be swimming slowly across it, like watching a snail slide across the pavement.

The wind is blowing the leaves on the branches of the trees quite forcefully, but it isn’t cold. I walked all the way here, so I know. Even with the wind, the sun felt warm on my back. I feel content about this, because I truly despise winter. Summer is almost over and soon it will be fall, and everything will be cold again. At least right now there are still colourful flowers in bloom. The leaves are still bright green. Nothing is fading yet.

I was fading for a while. A long while.

There was a generous sprinkling of magic over the summer which lifted me out of that heavy fog. Surrounding myself with family members, keeping a busy schedule, not allowing myself to stop. Always on the go. I was present. I was there for everything. I took my daughters everywhere I could. They have the photos to prove it.

Most importantly, I opened myself up to someone. After almost four years of solitude, I lifted myself up out of that dark hole and into a bit of light. And once I had a taste of that light, I began to soak it up. Every ounce of it. It was like coming out of years of underground hiding and finally feeling the rays of the sun again. Thinking, was it always this bright?

For almost a year, I’ve been kept myself wrapped in silence. In my own cocoon, only I wasn’t anticipating a butterfly transformation. One day, I decided to risk it. Break out of the cocoon and maybe, just maybe, I’ll survive out there.

I did it. I survived the summer out of my cocoon. I was a butterfly. I had wings. Every weekend, I opened myself up a little bit more than the last. I wasn’t numb anymore. There was feeling inside of me, all over me. In my veins, on my skin, in the strands of my hair.

Today is the first Saturday in many that I am alone. I sat on the futon. I wrapped myself up. I listened to the silence. Until all I could hear was the thumping of my heart under my fuzzy, pink robe. I needed to get out. So, I put on some clothes, brushed my teeth, placed my fuchsia ear buds in my ears, slung my floral bag across my back, looked at myself in the mirror, sighed loudly, and headed out.

So here I am. Avoiding silence and loneliness. Desperate for human contact, for voices other than the one in my head. The one that keeps telling me, “the light is going out, Taneet. It’s not going to last.”

Sometimes I believe all the noise in the world wouldn’t drown out that evil voice.

Three weeks ago, I looked at my reflection in the steamy mirror, got really close to it (I didn’t have my eyeglasses on) and said, “everything is fine. You are okay. Everything will be okay.” I said it out loud. I felt silly. But I did it. I figured maybe the voice coming out of my mouth will shut down the voice between my ears.

But it’s back. Or maybe it just never went away.

My hands were trembling earlier. Maybe because of my anxiety, maybe because of the meds. I just needed to get away from myself.

What would I hear if I could jump into this coffee cup? Would it only be the swirling and the swooshing of the warm liquid? Would I drown and blend into the sweetness, with only the powdered grains of cinnamon melting their way into me? Would it be silence?

Or —

Would someone place a lid on the cup? Taking away any hope of light? Making me go under? Unable to resurface?

My hands are trembling again. Its starting to get cold.

Short Stories

Blue

I’m screaming. I can see his face in front of me; lips blue, skin gone a pale yellowish. Like it would fall off his bones if I touched it. His eyes are wide open, but he doesn’t see me. He’s dead.

I wake up with a jolt, gasping for air. My throat is parched and my forehead is wet. As I slowly lift the comforter from my legs, I see a figure in the doorway, standing still, watching me.

“Mama?” a voice comes from the shadows, “are you okay?” it’s asking. I realize it’s the sweet voice of my six year old daughter. “Mama is okay,” I tell her, “just a bad dream.”

“Oh, I’m sorry mama,” she says hugging me. She looks up and asks, “Would you like some water?”

I kiss her forehead. What would I do without my little angels? My four year old daughter is still sleeping, surprisingly. “Thank you, sweetheart. But you should get back to bed, before your sister wakes up,” I respond, our arms still wrapped around each other.

“Okay,” she complies. “Good night, mama. I hope you dream about unicorns!”

I wish I could dream about unicorns, I think, as I make my way to the kitchen. I need cold water. And some Advil. My head is pounding. I’m leaning against the counter staring at the prescription bottles lined up. I pick up the Wellbutrin and open it. I pour the little blue pills into the palm of my hands. Such a beautiful blue. Reminds me of the ocean in Cuba. The water looks so blue, it almost seems fake. My mind is taking me back, lost in my reverie, to that day. That horrible, terrifying day.

*

We were sitting on the beach, the most beautiful one I had ever seen. Light and deep blue waves hugged each other, melting into that stellar crystal blue. The sand was velvety soft, a creamy white. The girls were in plain view, one jumping into the waves and the other with her little blue bucket, collecting the porcelain-like seashells. It was all so delicious. I was savoring every moment.

I couldn’t see my husband anywhere, which was even better. It was only the first day of our first-ever family vacation, and he was already being a complete nightmare. I was regretting inviting him on this trip, being well acquainted with his alcoholism, which is why I had taken my daughters away from him two years ago. But everyone deserves second chances, and I wanted more than anything to give our children memories of us being a family together. Memories that would stay with them forever.

There he was. I spotted him walking towards me, dragging his feet in the sand, and holding two cups. He set them down next to his lounge chair. I guess he realized I was glaring at him and he said, “Oh, did you want a drink?” Of course – both drinks were for him. God, it was still morning. He had barely eaten since we left for the airport the day before. I turned my attention to my girls, getting up from my chair. Their blue and pink bathing suits covered in sand. I wouldn’t let him ruin this for us.

Later, that evening, the girls and I got dolled up, deciding we would roam around the resort and take some family photos before dinner. We put on our cute dresses, I even wore make-up and opted for contact lenses instead of my oversized glasses. The maid had left pretty red flowers on the bed, butterfly flower or Mariposa, I think they were called. We placed them in our hair, tucking them securely behind our ears.

While doing a final check to make sure I was camera-ready, I saw my husband’s face in the mirror. I thought he was looking at me, and decided to do a little twirl for him.

“Doesn’t mommy look pretty, daddy? You look so pretty!” our eldest exclaimed. But he didn’t respond. He had a blank look in his eyes and his mouth looked like a bulldog’s – a very exaggerated upside down smile. He was sitting in front of us, but he wasn’t really there. I remembered he hadn’t eaten much of lunch, similar to breakfast, and dinner the night before. There was more rum in him than anything else.

“Are you okay?” I asked him. Again, he didn’t respond. He just slowly nodded his head. I sighed, and we all made our way out of the air conditioned room. We walked down the humid hallway towards the stairs leading out of the blue bungalow. Our eldest was in front of us, and our youngest next to me, holding my hand. Their daddy was close behind us, and I could see him from the corner of my right eye. As we descended down the stairs, he seemed to be doing a twirl of his own, a much bigger one. Turning around, like he was letting the warm breeze move him in a different direction. Did he look up at the blue sky? I called his name, but he didn’t respond.

He collapsed on to the concrete. I screamed his name.

“Daddy!!” the girls cried, “daddy, daddy!!”

His entire body was curling in, convulsing. His arms, hands and fingers folding in towards his body. His face was contorted; mouth slack on one side. I fell to my knees in shock, screaming his name. What was happening? An unfamiliar sound was coming from his lips, which were now turning blue. Pain. He was in pain. Foam bubbled and trailed down the side of his mouth.

Seizure. Seizure.

“He’s having a seizure!” I yelled, but no one was around us. The sound of our daughters’ sobs filled my ears. “HELP!” I yelled to the sky, “Someone, please help!”

An older couple walking by, down the path, heard my screams. He can’t die, I thought, as I stared at his blue lips. My husband. The father of our children. Our girls. They’ll be devastated. Don’t you dare die on me, asshole! Better to have a drunk father than a dead one.

But his face grew paler, and lips more blue. I felt my heart go from beating wildly, to stopping altogether. There were people around me now. Someone brought a blue square pillow out and placed it gently under his head. The voices around me were muffled.

Suddenly, I was having flashbacks of my father, laying on the bathroom floor, unconscious, with his vomit flowing over the tiles. My mother yelling into the phone, “you thought he doesn’t drink? Come take a look at your drunken son!”

“Ma’am? Ma’am?” a man was talking to me. What was happening? Where were my daughters?

“I’m a policeman, I’m Canadian. I’m here to help. What happened?” he asked me. I shook my head, the words choking me. “I… I don’t know. He fell. He started to seizure.”

“Is he epileptic? Has this happened before?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

I could see blood in my husband’s mouth. He must have bitten his tongue. His eyes were moving. But he wasn’t seeing me or anyone else. The Canadian man was talking to him. There were two staff members of the resort talking to each other. There were people behind me. But where were my babies?

“Senorita? There is an ambulance coming. They will take him to the hospital. You will need to bring your passports, please. Don’t worry, everything will be fine,” one of the employees was saying.

My daughters.

I got up and looked around. I saw my eldest standing at the top of the stairs, hiding, and crying. My little one was sitting in the lap of a woman I didn’t know. She had a little girl sitting next to her too. Her daughter, I assumed.

I climbed up to them, legs like jelly, extending my arms. “Come here, sweetie,” I said to my eldest, “daddy is okay, he’s okay.” I wiped her tears, and looked at my younger daughter, who was expressionless at this point. She looked comfortable in the woman’s lap.

“They’re taking daddy to the hospital now to check his ouchie,” I told both my girls.

The woman introduced herself to me, and told me she was staying in the same bungalow as us, with her husband and two daughters as well. They were also from Ontario. Fate.

“I’m happy to watch your girls for you,” she was saying. She asked another woman, who was also watching the scene unfold, for a pen and paper. She must have been the one who brought the pillow. Her room was likely close by, because she appeared a moment later with a pen and paper, as requested.

The woman holding my baby wrote her information down. Full name, phone number, room number. She said she would keep them entertained and taken care of while I accompanied my husband to the hospital.

After grabbing our passports and all of the cash we brought with us, I promised my daughters we would be back soon, and ran to the ambulance where they were taking my husband. The butterfly flowers were left on the concrete, soon to shrivel up.

The ambulance ride was nauseating. The stretcher he was resting on was moving around, the wheels weren’t locked. My heart was in my throat, thinking he was going to go flying out of the back doors at any moment. The paramedic focused on sticking what appeared to be ECG wires to my husband’s chest.

When we finally arrived, they transferred him into a wheelchair and brought him inside. It wasn’t exactly a hospital. It was a very quiet clinic, eerily quiet. No patients waiting anywhere. My eyes adjusted to the dim lighting inside, taking in the blue walls and high ceilings.

The room they brought him into was completely white. It was like being in a very large sugar cube. Only one bed, one chair, a sink, a few machines, and an IV drip.

I noticed when he was on the bed that my husband had soiled his shorts. It must have happened during the seizure. The same paramedic from the ambulance was inserting the IV needle into his arm, who also happened to be wearing completely white. He could have camouflaged right into the walls. Another man walked into the room, wearing regular clothes. He introduced himself as the doctor and began asking the required questions. His English was not very good and I was afraid he didn’t know what a seizure was. The extent of my Spanish was “hola”, “no habla espanol”, “per favore”, “gracias”, and “agua.” So I had to explain the seizure using actions. I wanted badly to just get the hell out of there and be with my daughters, but it didn’t look like that would be happening any time soon.

The doctor needed a urine test. They couldn’t take him off the bed, so he had to piss into a glass jar, right in front of me. I looked away. I remembered one of my co-workers snapping a poster on Snapchat from her doctor’s office, showing what healthy urine should look like. Clear. A little yellow is okay; just means you should be drinking more water.

His urine was dark brown.

I didn’t need a doctor to tell me he was severely dehydrated. All alcohol, no water. But he told me anyway, and also advised we would be there for at least another three hours. He left the room, saying he would return shortly.

We were alone in the room.

He looked up at me from the bed. I stood opposite him, my arms folded. Most people say when they see their loved ones in a hospital bed, that they look small. But he didn’t. He looked too tall and too skinny. I saw something else, too. His eyes were full of fear.

“What happened?” he asked me.

I took a deep breath and replied, “You had a seizure.”

“No I didn’t,” he scoffed. Of course. Mr. Denial was here now. He had always been in denial about his drinking. Why would it stop here?

Since there was never any winning with him, I knew there was no point in arguing.

“There are witnesses,” I simply said, “including our daughters.”

His large brown eyes grew even larger. I daresay he looked remorseful for a moment, but looking at him in his fragile condition only enraged me.

“You could have at least drank some fucking water,” I hissed.

He lowered his eyes, peering at the IV and then looked back up.

“I’m sorry,” he said. I didn’t know whether to embrace him or slap him. All I could say back was, “I thought you were dead.” My nose tingled, the lump rose higher into my throat, and when I felt the tears emerging, I left the room.

I walked into what appeared to be an office, where a nurse or receptionist was sitting at a desk. I asked her if it was possible to contact our resort so I could check in on my children. She was kind and eager to help out. I watched her dial the phone number, her long fingernails pressing down on each button. She tried many times, but wasn’t able to get through to them. I wished for some cold water to run over my dry throat and splash over my sweaty body. I needed to know if they were okay. I had never left them alone with anyone, except their teachers at school, let alone strangers in a foreign country.

A shrill ringing cut into my thoughts. The woman answered the phone and immediately handed it to me. It wasn’t my daughters, but it was one of the resort staff letting me know my children were fine. I finally exhaled. I don’t know how long I was holding my breath.

I walked around the empty clinic, not wanting to see that drunkard’s face. It was a mistake, I told myself, a huge mistake bringing him along. This was my fault. I should have come alone with the girls. When they think of their first family trip, this is what they’ll remember.

After getting several litres of water into his system, he was released and advised to not drink any alcohol for a few days. Only food and water.

“Of course,” he obligingly responded to the doctor, but I knew better. He couldn’t go a day without it. And I wasn’t going to stick around with my daughters to see how it played out.

That night, back at the blue bungalow, as he lay in his bed, and the girls and I in ours, I made a decision. It was over. Our marriage was over. Who was I kidding – we weren’t a family. I was foolish to think we could become one in seven magical days, with the Caribbean Sea at our feet.

“Mommy, are you crying?” my four year old whispered, lifting her head in the darkness.

“No,” I whispered back, through sobs.

I closed my eyes, and saw his face. Dead. Blue lips.

I didn’t sleep.

*

                I’m scooping the blue pills from my palm back into their bottle. See you guys tomorrow, I tell them. I check on the girls in their beds. Still asleep. I wonder if he is sleeping. Dead or alive? If he is alive, we wouldn’t know. I guess a drunk father isn’t better than a dead one. It’s the same to us. It’s not that beautiful smile that I see at night, the one I remember from our wedding. Not his warm eyes I see, looking down at me, while we dance. All I see when I close my eyes are the blue lips on his shriveled corpse.

Writings

Vomit Journal

Day 261 of depression, round 5.

I’ve moved from one side of the couch to the other side. It makes the charger plug for the laptop come out though. So I might switch back to the other side.

There’s laundry on the futon, not sure if its clean. Another heap of it on the carpet. And more in the washroom. But there’s an entire hurricane of clothes in the bedroom.

How much Netflix have I watched today? I’ve lost count.

The coffee table is covered with scattered items; DVDs, toys, crayola markers, Nutella jar and spoon, water bottle, dirty plate, ice cream sandwich wrapper, etc.

Toys everywhere. Why did I buy all these toys? Where can I put them all? Sometimes I want to throw everything away.

I wept today. Wailed, actually, quite loudly. Haven’t done that in a while. Stood in the middle of the kitchen, wiping my face repeatedly, lifting up my eyeglasses, wipe, more tears, wipe, more tears, wipe, now the tissue is soaked.

My ex-husband called me. Cried more.

I’ve been forgetting to take my medication this week. Hence all the tears today. When I take them consistently, I’m a little bit numb to all the feelings.

It felt good to cry. I feel lighter.

Pain weighs a lot. It’s no wonder my muscles are always aching.

Headaches, migraines, stomachaches.

They told me emotional pain and physiological pain are connected. I guess they’re right.

I’m so tired. I’m exhausted. I’m so tired in fact, that I’m tired of being tired.

There are days I wish I could sleep and not wake up until my body is normal and my brain is new. But then I get so much anxiety about oversleeping, I get dizzy and sweaty and that tiny lump in my neck starts throbbing.

I’ve gained weight.

In my first few rounds of depression I actually lost weight. Down to about 90 lbs. All bones.

Now I can’t even find my bones in all this blubber. My daughter constantly asks me if there’s a baby in my tummy. But she doesn’t know that I’d had to have sexed someone first, which hasn’t happened in ages.

That’s because I have no love life. I’m alone. Aside from my daughters of course, but that’s a different type of love.

My eyeballs hurt. Guess they’re sore from the crying.

My therapist tells me I’m not delusional or abusive or a neglectful mother, so that’s something. But I know I’m not enough.

They deserve better.

A lot of people my age are making a shit ton of money.  They’re successful. They have their own custom built homes. Luxury cars. They take a shit ton of vacations too. Their kids have their own rooms. Happy families.

Me? I’m drowning in debt. I live in a one bedroom basement apartment that I’m renting with my two children. I listen to the well-off family above me walk across their vast living room and hear them rustling around the kitchen every morning; the blender whirs and the kids are running down the stairs, and there are two parents and a nanny. And their home is immaculately clean. I’ve seen it.

I’m a liar. I lie to people. I smile. I radiate. I hug and laugh and plan parties for my daughters. I suck.

I’m a sicko.

Someone’s knocking at the door. Oh. No, that’s just my migraine kicking in the side of my skull. I got nervous for a second; how can I let anyone in to this mess?

(Photo taken in 2005 during round 2 of my depression)

 

Birth Stories

Annabella Christina

420795_10100654072176400_875528799_n

Annabella’s due date was March 3, 2012. Since it was clear she was not coming out to meet us on that day, my husband and I went to a first birthday party for the son of one of our co-workers. The only thing I could fit into was a purple maternity dress.

The physical weight of the baby on my body was almost unbearable. The nesting period was over, and I really just wanted her out of me. I was becoming more and more irritable with everyone around me, and eventually stopped responding to, “OMG you’re ready to pop!” (It just about took all the energy I had to not pop them in the nose).

Finally, my OBGYN decided it was time to be induced. On the evening of Saturday March 10th, my husband and I went to the hospital to get the ball rolling. Later that night, when we were in bed, the contractions started up. I knew it was the real deal and not just Braxton Hicks, because they didn’t stop. I took a look at the crib one last time before leaving for the hospital, my heart full of hope, that the next time I’d be looking at my baby in there.

Since daddy to-be was still half asleep/liquored up, my father in-law drove us to the hospital. He comforted me while I focused on breathing, and told his son to get me into a wheelchair and up to the maternity ward, while he parked the car.

Once we arrived at Labour/Delivery, I was greeted by a nurse who looked at me and spat, “why are you in a wheelchair?” Now, there are several creative ways I could have answered her, like, “maybe because I’m in labour, you miserable piece of crap!” However, as always, I bit my tongue and stood up out of the wheelchair, and followed her into one of the patient rooms, where I was ordered to change into a gown and walk the halls.

I was scared shitless, trying to remember all of the stages of labour from the prenatal class we took, and the different ways to breathe and bounce and stretch and be massaged during those excruciating squeezes in the middle of my body. It would have been bit more helpful and calming of an experience if the nurses weren’t so bloody rude. (Etobicoke General Hospital y’all).

When my water finally broke during the hall-walking, I was told to lay on the bed while they checked the baby and my vitals. Things were moving slowly but surely, and so far everything was fine.

I called my cousin and asked her to bring my grandmother to the hospital (my mom was in India at the time) to help keep me calm, since my husband looked pretty helpless. Soon, in the room with me were; 1) nurses, 2) husband, 3) father in-law, 4) grandmother, 5) cousin. After some time, they were eating pizza right in front of me, and I wondered where the hell my cup of ice was. Then there was a Tim Horton’s run, and I was ready to kick someone in the face.

After about 14 hours, crying from the severeness of the contractions, my husband said, “get the epidural, come on; you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.” So, I listened. The contractions were so sharp, slicing and squeezing and knocking the wind out of me, I knew it was time for the giant needle in my spine.

I was asked to sit up in the bed, and “curl my back like a cat, nice and round.” No joke, this is what I was told to do, in the middle of my contractions, while asking myself if I really wanted to be stabbed in the back. I tried my very best to “curl” my back for them, and in the needle went. Directly into my spine. I can still feel the fluid rushing in and spreading across my back. (My spine was sore for a very long time after having the baby).

Shortly after, I was in a state of bliss. Laying down in the bed, not feeling a thing. The nurses were the ones to tell me when I was having a contraction. More visitors came and went; mother in-law, cousins, sister, aunt. For a time it was a bit of a blur. At this point, I had no idea that I had blown up into a water balloon; my face, arms, legs, everything was HUGE. Everyone there was kind enough to not mention it, I only realized when I saw the photos afterward. For most of my life, I’ve been fairly petite, even throughout the pregnancy, so it was hilarious to see myself all puffed up.

6IyzF9DA

It had been a full 24 hours, and I had only dilated 2 centimeters. I was told my baby’s heart rate was going down because she was heading down the magical canal, but had no way of getting out that way. I was devastated. Beyond devastated. When the doctor asked me to sign the paper titled “Cesarean Section”, my dreams of pushing my baby out and placed on my chest, just like in the movies, were shattered. I wanted desperately to have a natural birth. I felt that I had failed; my first job as a mother, I couldn’t even do. My body had failed me. I cried and cried, but I signed the form.

A nurse came in and rubbed off my nail polish, took my wedding/engagement rings, my karas (Sikh bracelets) and off we went to the Operating Room. I was given anesthesia and the doctor pinched me a few times here and there to make sure I was numb. I could see my husband dressed in scrubs in my peripheral. The curtain was up and the cutting had commenced. I tried to remember again, from our prenatal classes, how many layers they were cutting through. I looked up at the ceiling and could see a blurry reflection of the operation. All I remember seeing is a fuck-ton of blood so I decided not to look up. I looked to my sides; both arms were tied down. It was a horrible feeling. They were taking my baby out of me, and I was just strapped down, helpless, with nothing to do but wait.

Felt like forever, before I heard the crying.

“It’s a girl!” The doctor told us, and I smiled. Yes. I knew it. I could feel it throughout the pregnancy that there was a little girl in there, but we didn’t end up confirming the gender. I didn’t want to know. There are very few genuine surprises in life, and this was one of them. I remember one of my co-workers once condescendingly telling me that when she found out the gender of her baby, her excitement grew ten-fold and she was able to connect with her. I respectfully disagreed. I didn’t care to know my child’s sex. All I cared about was that he or she was healthy. I also stayed away from the pinks verses blue baby clothes thing. I kept all our colours neutral; lots of greens and yellows and whites. Anyway. We had a girl.

When I saw her for the first time, I wanted to dance and jump and scream, but I could barely even turn my head to look at her. My husband held her close to my face so I could kiss her.

We were taken to a private room, once I was all stitched up, and once I was able to sit up in the bed, they brought my newborn baby to me.

“Are you bottle feeding or breastfeeding?” one of the nurses asked.

“Breastfeeding,” I answered.

“Good,” she said. And my baby was finally placed on my chest. She latched on to me right away and stayed there for about twenty minutes. It was exhilarating. I didn’t even know if I was doing it right. The milk didn’t actually come in for another two days (I woke up to a completely soaked shirt, and deformed breasts), so for now she was only getting colostrum.

bgPXRoSg

Unfortunately, she lost almost 10% of her baby weight, so I was forced to tape down an extremely thin tube to my chest, across my breast, and the other end was inside a ready-to-feed bottle of formula. This way, the baby would be breast feeding and getting formula at the same time. It was incredibly stressful. My back and neck tensed up as I held her to my breast, my eye glasses kept sliding down my nose, and the nursing pillow was sitting directly on my c-section incision.

We were in the hospital from Saturday night until Thursday. With the help of a lactation specialist, and when my milk finally did come in, I was able to get my baby back to her birth weight. It was an amazing accomplishment for me. (She was 7 pounds at birth). I had to keep a breastfeeding journal recording the times I fed her and the duration, etc. until baby and I developed a full routine. It was a lot of work. But so worth it. Seeing her drink my milk was so, so rewarding and I felt so fortunate to be able to breastfeed. My sister and I were both formula-fed babies, so I didn’t have anything against formula, but since the birth didn’t go as planned, I wanted at least my plan to breastfeed to be a success. And it was.

The day we brought Annabella home, the sun was shining so bright; it felt like a warm Spring day. It didn’t feel like March at all. The water-weight was out of me, but my heart was full of love and pride, my breasts were filled with milk, and tears spilled over my cheeks. I was full. I was complete.

NLtyIXkw

Writings

Everything and Nothing

She looked directly into her husband’s eyes and asked him, “what do you do for our children?”

“Enough”, he answered, taking a sip of his brownish drink, the ice clinking together as he brought the glass to his lips.

She took a deep breath, remembering the many times he criticized her while she stayed home on maternity leave to care for their baby. The many times he came home after work to find her still in her pajamas, hair unwashed, smelling of spit-up milk, sleep deprived, and accused her of being lazy. She remembered how he told her she is “getting paid to do nothing” post-partum, and how he walked past the baby and straight to the couch. She remembered the look on his face, pure disgust, when she showed him the pregnancy test she had taken, proving they were going to have a second child. How he told her, “this isn’t gonna happen.”

But it did happen. He couldn’t stop it from happening. Even though he took great pleasure in moments that led to it happening.

She felt the heat rising from inside her chest, into her cheeks, into her brain.

“I do everything for them”, she said to him, her voice quiet but laced with contempt.

“No”, he responded, “if you do everything, that means I do nothing.”

Her mind raced, as she thought of all the things she did, day in and day out, night after night.

Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, diaper changing, walking around all night to sooth their crying baby, bath time, reading books, playing down on the floor, balancing a cranky baby while cooking or doing laundry, going for walks with the stroller (and later, a double stroller), buying new clothes every few months, making baby food, cleaning baby food, ensuring they get all their vaccinations, dealing with illnesses and doctors appointments, picking up their prescriptions, arranging play dates, finding a suitable daycare. Then, as they grew up, making sure their children got into good schools, attending all the parent-teacher interviews, all the school performances, taking them to birthday parties, planning their own birthday parties, paying for school trips, chaperoning school trips, paying for extracurricular activities, arranging music lessons and swimming lessons and never missing a recital or performance, taking all their photos and making photo albums, arranging for family dinners and get togethers so their children got to know both sides of the family, reading books every night and helping with homework. Wiping their tears, cuddling them, sleeping with them, waking up in the middle of the night when one of them has a bad dream, massaging their legs when they have growing pains, giving them medicines to fight fevers, taking time off work to care for them, fighting with the bus company when the school bus was late, making daycare payments, making dentist appointments, finding the warmest winter jackets and hats and mittens and neck warmers and snow pants, taking them to the movies, taking them out to eat, packing their school lunches at 5am, playing with them, taking them to the park, building snowmen with them, breaking up the sibling rivalries, scrubbing their vomit out of the carpet, having dance time in the kitchen, scrapbooking their artwork, taking them to the library, being silly with them, being serious with them, answering all of their questions, teaching them how to become good people, how to treat others with kindness…oh the list went on.

She knew there was so much more. And there would continue to be more. She smiled to herself as she watched him drink.

Let him think what he wants. I’m the one making memories while it all passes him by. He does nothing. He has nothing. I have all of the moments of magic and wonder. Moments he missed out on and will never again have the opportunity to experience.

She took pleasure in knowing that one day their children would come to the same conclusion she had. She watched him drink, wanting to throw it in his face. But she wouldn’t. She gets the memories. He gets misery. That’s his own punishment.

“Mama!” she heard her children call, “mama we need you!”

She exhaled, drawing away from him, turning her back on him, leaving him alone with his drink.