Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Achievement Unlocked

One afternoon after coming home from school, my 9 year old son who is a third grader proudly announced, “ I got a perfect score in my exams!” Ever the supportive mom, I immediately exclaimed, “wow!” Proof or no proof, I was not going to rain on his parade. I was just going to ride his hot tamale train and enjoy the ride.  He hurriedly opened his bag and then showed me this:

True enough, there it was.  Written in red ink were the words, “ v. good” and a clearly written, “100%” To say that I was in shock was an understatement. I grabbed the test paper in disbelief just to see if it was true. I scanned the pages just to make sure that everything was correctly checked and sure enough, everything was correctly checked! It was a true blue certified perfect examination paper. I was so proud of my son! He was so pleased with himself and I could see the pride clearly etched on his face. Our hot tamale train of celebration was for real.
I know for most, this is a bit much of an overreaction even for a perfect examination paper. It is more so since the subject in celebration was Physical Education, a very minor subject among all the minor subjects. But in the 5 years that my son has been attending school, this was the first ever perfect score he received whether for quizzes or examinations. This is the first perfect score he has ever received for the first 50 months of education that he has received in his whole life. This is the first!
You see, my son suffered from a speech delay. He said his first word at the age of two which is “no” But from the time of his first word until the time he went to school, all the rest of his other words were just a product of my intelligent guess work. In his mind, he knew the words he wanted to communicate but his speech organs (the mouth, the tongue, the cheeks etc) would not obey his brain to form the correct sounds. He would often resort to showing me pictures or acting out the words so that I could understand him. He sometimes gets so angry and frustrated when I couldn’t correctly guess his intentions.
By the time he attended school for kindergarten 1 at the age of five; his speech proficiency was still that of a two year old. Attending school with that level of speech aptitude was a bloodbath. Not only was he constantly bullied, school work was also extremely difficult for him. His teachers couldn’t understand him so he couldn’t relay questions that he might have had regarding the lessons. Worse, even when he understood the lesson and knew the answers to the questions; he couldn’t communicate them to his peers nor his teachers. School was my son’s living and breathing nightmare.
Things only began to get worse when school lessons progressed to reading. A fun fact about the ability to read is that it is interconnected so intimately with the ability to speak. Learning to read when you don’t know how to speak is like banging your head repeatedly against the wall; it is useless and just hurts a lot. School was an uphill battle for us. It was always a game of catch up and working twice or thrice as hard as everyone else. We were standing on quicksand and it seemed that the more we struggled and fought, the quicker we sank.
We couldn’t afford speech therapy by a certified therapist for the son. The cost is beyond reasonable and my husband’s salary will not be able to cover it. So we opted for D.I.Y. therapies from apps and online help groups from other parents who are in the same situation. I must admit that getting a certified therapist would have expedited my son’s progress at a faster rate and would have saved him from a whole lot of unnecessary heartaches but as with all circumstances, you make the best with what you have.
My son’s official school time starts at 8 in the morning. We would already be there by 6 am doing our speech exercises. During winter, our six in the morning activities involved a flashlight because the sun would not rise yet until an hour after our arrival. If we have free time after the speech exercises, we would try to read books and/or catch up with lessons he misunderstood from the past quarters. Afternoon was reserved for current lessons and current school work. This was our life for 5 whole academic years.
Yet despite our best and exhaustive efforts, progresses were not always visible. When my son would bring home examination papers which needed to be signed, I learned to wait for my husband. I didn’t want my son to see me break down while seeing his scores. He would often get less than 50 percent of the correct answers. I hurt for him because I knew that he understood the lesson quite well. But since he couldn’t read the questions much less understand them, the chances of him getting the answer right were very slim. For all the hard work he does, he deserved more recognition. Yet for quite some time, he never did get them.
Finally when he was eight years old, we made some form of breakthrough. At the beginning of the academic year, he was sporadically reading and completing 5 pages of storybooks. He was still stumbling over a few words and it still took time to read but that, to me, was still quite a progress. By the end of the academic year, I no longer forced him to finish reading at least 5 pages because he was already finishing stories in one sitting. My son could finally and truly read! In terms of practical application to his education, he could also finally and truly read and understand the question from his exam papers. Progress showed in his grades and he was finally passing.
So after almost 5 years of trying and working, he finally got rewarded and recognized for his efforts with a perfect score in one of his exam papers. Never mind that the subject was only Physical Education! It took us 5 years to get there but we finally did it. I was very ecstatic but I think no one is more ecstatic than my 9 year old boy. In fact, his confidence was on an all time high, he even said that one day he will be included in the top ten of his class.
His aspiration at the moment might seem impossible but 5 years ago, talking and reading seemed impossible too, much less get a perfect score on an exam. Give it 5 more years, and he will be able to have another achievement unlocked.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Google and Dying


Growing up, I never had access to basic healthcare. If you are sick, you have to grin it or bear it. In the case of my mother’s methodology, you have to swallow whole garlic gloves and bear it. Believe me; I swallowed a lot of garlics in my young childhood years.

So as an adult, it was a natural progression for me to take medical advice with a lot of grain of salt most especially since I survived much of your every normal list of childhood maladies without any medical intervention. I had mumps, measles, chickenpox, undiagnosed acute respiratory illness etc. My mother also did not think that it was prudent to have me vaccinated at the nearest health center. So I basically survived your basic laundry list of common children’s diseases via the natural prowess of my immune system and sadly with whole cloves of garlic.

Thus as a grown up, I became a medical student from the university of Google. I do acknowledged that doctors worked their way through 10 years of medical study and I will never in any way equate to their storage of knowledge and wisdom.  Also, in case I do need emergency medical surgery where my guts and blood are already spilling on the pavement, my best bet will still be a medically certified doctor. However, beyond that, I do feel biased towards my life experience of having never needed a doctor while growing up. Plus I was partially raised to question almost everything in life which unfortunately includes medical advice. Whenever I go to the doctor, I always needed to know more than what the doctor is saying. For every one sentence that my doctor advised, I needed a whole essay. To write the essay, I asked Dr. Google to fill in the blanks.

Dr, google never failed me. We were the best of friends for a very long period of time. At least for the last ten years, he/she has held my hand over every cold and flu and tummy aches.  He/she was my medical Genie of wonders…………..until recently.

My Dr. Google metamorphosed to become my official book of nightmares. 

It all began around the first trimester of my second pregnancy. I had few incidents of minor spottings or bleedings. The circumference of the bleeding was very minor, hardly the size of a decent one dirham coin and mostly opaque in consistency. But I wanted to make sure that this was indeed harmless and that I need not worry. Of course, I immediately consulted my trusty Dr. Google.

At first everything was fine. Most pregnancy sites about first trimester spotting reassured me that this was normal. I had all the checks in their laundry list of what consists a normal first trimester bleeding: brown colour, insignificant volume, and most importantly absence of any pelvic pains or labour like symptoms. I should have stopped right there and then but my insatiable need to be thorough pushed me to read even the comment sections of the articles.

Then the horror began.

One mother who, by definition, had a normal and harmless bleeding still lost her baby after the 4th month.  There was no heavy bleeding, the spotting was brown and there were no pelvic pain. Yet after she went to the doctor for her ultrasound, she found out that she had already miscarried the baby. Another mother who was also told not to worry ended up in the emergency room because her harmless bleeding was in fact a symptom of ectopic pregnancy. Another mother also discovered that after 8 weeks, her previous harmless spotting was in fact an indication of an empty sac growing in her uterus.

This list of horror stories went on and on and on and on and on. It seemed to me that everybody who had a harmless first trimester bleeding ended in Greek tragedy. All the unborn babies died and nobody seemed to have survived. Then there was the blow by blow description of the bleeding that happened afterwards the miscarriage. I felt weak at the knees.  According to Mr. Google and his army of commentators, there was no hope for me and I am most definitely going to miscarry. I almost felt that the bleeding and miscarriage would immediately begin right there and then while I was reading the article.

For the remainder of my first trimester, Dr. Google made me walk around on eggshells while holding a very active bomb. I felt genuinely scared. Aside from the fact that I was already exhausted from the excessive vomiting, nausea and lack of appetite; the fear of negative possibilities wore me down even further. I was henny penny waiting for the sky to fall down on her. Fortunately, the doomsayers were wrong and my first trimester went by without any untoward incident.

By my 4th month of pregnancy, I went back to my OB-GYNE for my check up and ultrasound. The baby looked good on the monitor and showcased a very strong heartbeat. The size was healthy and true to form for a fetus on its 4th month. The whole family was very happy because the baby seemed to have surpassed all the previously presented negative possibilities by Dr. Google. My OB-GYNE seemed very pleased herself and she went on to write down my prescribed prenatal vitamins for the coming month.

But just at the very end of the consultation, she told me that I have a low lying placenta. I was aghast. My whole body deflated from the positive energy of the past few minutes. I was familiar with low lying placenta. According to my previous “research” on google, a low lying placenta is a prelude to placenta previa. It was in fact the last thing I ever wanted for my pregnancy. Placenta previa cannot be prevented nor cured and all you can do is wait, pray and hope that it will resolve. If you are the type of person who craves some sort of control over your life, this was definitely pure torture.

Unable to calm my nerves, I immediately asked Dr. Google about placenta previa as soon as I reached the comforts of my own home. None of the articles seemed promising. They all echoed the sentiments of my OB-GYNE. Time was really the only thing that can resolve the issue and I just have to wait. Finding no answers, I reached out to the comment sections. Wisdom from the experience of other moms who went to the same ordeal might shed some light and hope.

I should have just kept my eyes on the main article.

The comment section was filled with blood stained gore. You could literally feel the blood seeping out from the monitor to drench out your whole consciousness.

There were women after women who bled. Some bled at 5 months. Some bled at 7 months. Some bled a little. Some bled a lot. Some reached the home run of 9 months only to die bleeding while giving birth. Some gave birth successfully only to become a vegetable. Some survived but lost their uterus and all the hormones that came with having a uterus. Some went through an emergency C-section to save the baby. The main article about placenta previa has mentioned incidences of placenta resolution but it seemed to me that from the personal experience of other women, everybody just bled or died!

I was very scared. A hole opened up below me and I fell down towards an abyss. I kept falling and falling and falling. I wanted to gain back the reigns of control over my pregnancy. I don’t want to be the hapless damsel in distress who just waited. I decided to seek out support groups for placenta previa in Facebook.  If there are other people who could help me, finding legitimate placenta previa survivors might be the way to go.

In the first group I found, their most recent post was of condolence towards a fellow member who just died that day from placenta previa. I cried. This was the icing from the cake of horrors in the realm of google search.

Since that fateful day, I have severed ties with Dr. Google. My husband and I decided that the best way to go about my pregnancy is to know less about it. Ignorance is bliss. In my case, it is also peace of mind and a life lived without fear.  Compared to placenta previa, Google might just kill me sooner with a heart attack.

And nobody wants an epitaph that reads, “ killed by Google”!







Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ryan Reynolds and Fidelity

Last night I dreamt that Ryan Reynolds and I were married and expecting a child. Sorry Blake Lively. Oh and sorry husband.

The scenario was post-apocalyptic. We were inside a mall that had a lot of people running around, apparently afraid of something. I tried looking for zombies because zombies and post-apocalyptic are like bacon and eggs but there was none. So I guess the people in my dreams were just a special kind of stupid. So in the middle of this undefined chaos, Ryan and I was a married couple. To be honest, I was a little bit disconcerted and certainly very awestruck. All my insecurities leaked into my unconscious and I kept thinking, “Why did this handsome and sexy piece of eye candy marry me?” I was basically drooling in my sleep over this great fortune (again sorry husband!).

He seemed genuinely caring and loving towards me but my hopes were not pretty high. I firmly believe in the stereotype that yummy men strays and reality has not been very contrary to my bias so far. It must be pretty hard to say no the temptation of having a ton of women falling right into your lap effortlessly. So my logical self did not place much hopes in the Mr. Ryan Reynolds from my dream either.

So around 5 minutes into our married life, He told me that he needed to go to another part of the mall for just a few minutes. I felt a stab of suspicion. I knew that he was going to cheat on me. But not wanting to be too clingy, because I presupposed that yummy men don’t want clingy wives, I said okay quite cheerily. I eventually followed him after a decent amount of dream time. When I reached Ryan Reynolds, he was quite shockingly alone. There was no other girl. There was no other someone. I might in fact be wrong about yummy men and he might in fact be a very loyal dream husband to yours truly.

But as all dreams go, my dream plot took a bizarre twist. Out of nowhere, two hotel bedchamber maids appeared and started cleaning that area of the mall. Then they approached and told me that they heard the voice of a crying woman inside one of the purple luggage. They suspected that there was a woman inside. Although it was quite crazy to suspect that a woman would be inside a luggage especially since it was the size of a hand carry, I immediately opened it. Voila! Inside indeed was a crying and very naked woman. Ryan Reynolds was quite shocked! Apparently he was having some good times with this naked woman and then asked her to hide inside one of the luggage when he heard the good wife coming. He would have gotten away with the cheating if not for the two nosy hotel bedchamber maids who decided to meddle.

Although it was just a dream, I was truly furious and heartbroken. I was pregnant and married to a guy who just blatantly cheated on me. Although he was Ryan Reynolds, that reality alone was not enough to compensate for the gut wrenching mess. I was faced with the certainty of being married and having a child with a guy who may or may not be serial cheater. Can I live with the possibility of having a lifelong series of heartbreaks?

So I ran away. But before I did, I asked him, “Why did you even marry me if you want to sleep around with other women anyways?” He just stood there speechless. That wench of a guy did not even follow and apologize to me. I took refuge in one of the rooms that, of course, just illogically appeared somewhere.  I laid down on top of the unkempt bed and plopped in the middle of what seemed to be a mountain of blankets.  I wanted to cry my heart out and come up with a decision. Should I leave Ryan Reynolds even though I was pregnant and married to him? Or should I just stay since I was already pregnant and married to him? What bothered me was the possibility that this might not be a one-time thing that I had to endure. Of course, the reality of not being truly loved also hurt a lot.

But before I could continue with my melodrama, the walls of the room started whispering and the mountain of blankets began softly quivering. As luck would have it, I not only have a cheating husband, I also took refuge in a room that turned out to be haunted! I tried vainly to ignore the whispers that seemed to grow louder by the second and the blankets that moved more wildly around me. I was heartbroken and in the middle of a real life crisis, as real as any life crisis can be in a dream, and no ghost was about to scare me. But I guess ghosts were scarier than a broken heart so I sped right out of the room.

Out in the open, I found myself in the middle of a busy highway. I was already feeling lonely and greatly spooked from my haunted room encounter. Spurred by the loneliness and fright, I decided to forgive Ryan Reynolds and go back to him. But as all dreams go, when you begin to look for someone, chances are, you won’t find them. This is quite similar to running furiously away from monsters in your dream and not being able to go anywhere. Fortunately, I was able to run into some old high school classmates who taught me how to find people using the people gps tracking device which I didn’t know I was carrying! I zoomed in to Ryan Reynolds and proceeded to walk towards him.

The people gps tracking device led me to a baby store where I saw one black guy who was busy looking for baby stuff. He was the same guy who was labelled as Ryan Reynolds on my device. He turned around and I saw Kanye West. My Ryan Reynolds dream husband morphed into Kanye West.

The morning alarm clock rang and I woke up from my bizarre dream.

I was still pregnant but I was glad to wake up and be married to a guy who may not be Ryan Reynolds but who will not break my heart. For more than 12 years, my boyfriend turned husband has always been faithful and honoured his marriage vows to the tee. I was glad that all the rollercoaster of hurt, betrayal and fear of not being loved were just a dream.

But I know of women whose lives are the exact replica of my Ryan Reynolds nightmare, except without the hunkiness of Ryan Reynolds. These women are married to men who don’t even have 1/16th of Ryan Reynold’s looks but yet feel that they are God’s gifts to womankind and that although married; they feel that they have the divine obligation to sow their wild oats. Every day these women wrestle with the decision of staying or leaving, of loving or hating, of enduring or giving up. Although my life experience of betrayal was only limited to a dream scenario, I can honestly say that choices are not as black and white when you already married and much more when you have kids.

One woman I know is already in her late 40’s. She is married to a guy who according to my husband has been unfaithful from the day they were married or maybe even from the beginning of the relationship. The guy, who in my opinion is complete douche, considers his conquests as badges of honours. He will often regale his friends and friends of his wife with stories of unfaithfulness, completely disregarding his wife’s reputation and feelings. Everyone from his circle and his wife’s circle know that he is a douchebag because the evidence comes straight from his mouth. He had mistresses, tryst with household help and his most favourite indulgence is regular paid companionship. When I look at his wife, I only see the look of defeat and sometimes brokenness. I often wonder why she stayed so long and yet I completely understand why she did.

Sometimes, love, packaged with marriage, is really just a complicated thing.


P.S.  I do not, in any way, find Ryan Reynolds attractive during my conscious waking hours. I prefer dorky hot men like joseph Gordon Levitt, Justin Long, Jake Gyllenhaal and my super duper mega crush to the moon and back, James McAvoy.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pregnant Suprises

Around 9 years ago when I found out I was pregnant with my first born, I was left in what one may call a state of shock. For one, I only took the pregnancy test because this was my monthly prank towards my husband. I never really expected to be pregnant. Every month I’d buy a pregnancy kit just to stress him out with the possibility of conception. My prank was so old and so reused that eventually he’d just roll his eyes and then proceed to ignore my drama. But this one time was different. When two pink lines appeared, all I could do was tell my husband with a voice hardly above a whisper that the result was positive. Then we both sat down in silence for what seemed like forever, unable to process our new reality.
It was not that we hated kids. In fact, I was very good with them and so was my husband. But I felt 26 was too young to be pregnant when our original plan was to start a family when I was well above the age of 30. Our career was just beginning especially mine since I was just so recently promoted and we planned on building our Millions first. We couldn’t handle the fact that our carefully planned life was about to be disrupted and, heaven forbid, destroyed by an unknown. It was very terrifying especially since I knew of parents who couldn’t even go to the bathroom when they wanted and needed much less plan a life. I truly felt I was being punished.
But our son turned out to be the love of our lives. He was a decision we never consciously made but turned out to be our best non-decision. No money or career on earth will ever amount to the joy he brings to our lives.
Fast forward 9 years after. The year 2016 was supposed to be our year of great abs and great athletic feats. We planned on taking daily 5 km family walks to practice our endurance. We were going to eat clean and finally be the leanest we could possibly be. We were going to rip our bodies with planking and push ups. Lastly at the very end of 2016, we were supposed to walk from Sharjah to Dubai as a final test of our achieved athleticisms. 2016, according to our very carefully laid out plan, was our year of the sexy.
But God, in his infinite wisdom has other plans. Around the middle of 2016 during the month of August, I conceived. I found out exactly a month later.

You’d think by now that after 9 years of motherhood and having experienced the joy of children that I’d be more joyful or at the very least more accepting of the situation. I had no career to lose having spent the last 9 years as a full time housewife and I no longer have any delusions and aspirations of building my millions. Having another baby after 9 years was in fact a natural progression of having a family.

But unfortunately, some things never really change. I spent the first two days of my post positive pregnancy test drowning in tears. I alternated between crying hysterically and silently sobbing uncontrollably. When I felt like there were no more tears to shed, I would still find my eyes tearing up with unshed grief. Yes, instead of joy, I was awash with grief. I mourned the loss of my possibilities. I was already 35 and I thought this was the year when I can finally begin as me. I love my son to bits and the last 9 years were the greatest symphony of memories but on a personal level, I felt loss. I wanted to do something with my life beyond motherhood and I thought that the age of 35 was now or never. The positive pregnancy result was like a slam on the face by a door which I thought was finally open. 

Currently, I’m already on my 20th week or 5th month of pregnancy. I have already come to terms, in fact even with joy and excitement, that I’m going to be a mother the second time around. It was hard at first to come around to the idea since I had a very difficult first trimester. It was challenging to be positive and brave when you are retching every 5 minutes from every imaginable and imagined smell. I couldn’t see the silver lining from the fog of nausea and daze of exhaustion. But eventually love wins. The unconditional love of the husband to her constantly angry and miserable pregnant wife wins. The love of a son to a grumpy mother who locks herself inside the protection of her smell free room wins. The love of a family to adjust to the every whims and wishes of an illogical pregnant mother and wife wins. Then eventually, my family’s love and my love over our unborn baby win.

And sometimes, it is a wonderful thing when God gives you the thing you want the most when you are not brave enough to ask for it.