Hi Dad,

Been thinking a lot about your last days. It all seems so surreal to me. The thing that is on my mind the most, is what I now realize was the “air hunger” you were suffering through. How I wish you didn’t have to experience that. All these weeks I’ve not been able to put your death certificate away, but today I did it.

I regret not seeing you alive on your very last day. I didn’t know it would be your last; although I knew it would be soon. I regret not being there in your final moments to comfort you, to hold your hand and to tell you once more how much I love you. I wanted you to know you weren’t alone in this.

Memorial Day is coming, so I got a tiny flag for your grave. I wonder if your headstone is in place yet? Your burial flag is protected in a case, but it’s in my closet. I want to have a proper place to display it, so I have plans to do some reorganization here.

On Sunday I took pics of my kids. When I saw them on my PC, it struck me- how much my little guy looks like you sometimes.

I have no idea how to find your siblings, I would like to inform them of your departure.

My big brother found your birth certificate and mailed it to me- it was a surprise, as I don’t think he knew what it was- he just said he had some odd documents he thought I should keep. Funny- grandma’s surnames are not what I thought they were! I better update my ancestry profile!

The last time I saw you, the nurses had made you very comfortable. You weren’t suffering. You were still and quiet, breathing calmly. You were so clean and cared for. They were concerned for your comfort and safety. I really appreciated that. I had no idea that was the last time I would see you.

This whole experience is a reminder of just how precious we all are.

I miss you very much. And I’m sorry.

It’s been 54 days since you left– I thought we would have more time.  We were estranged from each other for 10 years, until the year prior to your departure.  Those last 12 months were difficult, and the last 3 weeks were surreal.

Did you know I was by your side?

Did you know it was me who cleansed your face and your hands?

Did you know I helped you drink when you thirsted for water?

Did you know I guarded your dignity?

Did you know you stopped eating and drinking, when you stopped eating and drinking?

Did you know you were leaving before I told you there was nothing they could do?

Did you know that it broke my heart to tell you that?

Did you know I was never ashamed of you?

Did you know just how much I love you?

Did you know that I would cling to any word you uttered in the end of your days?

Were you scared?

Did you worry?

Did you know I would never forget how you rested in my arms?

Did you miss me?  My kids?

Were  you disappointed with me?

Did you know it didn’t matter that you were 72 and I was 41?  I felt like a helpless child watching you slip away.

I think about you all the time.  I imagine you are whole, unbroken and resting in peace.  It doesn’t stop the tears, but it gives me hope.  When my daughter sings twinkle little star, I can’t listen.  It hurts- and I don’t know why.

For all the things you weren’t, and for all the things you were, I will miss you always.  I will be thankful always, and I will be grateful always.

Brilliant, Admired, and Beloved you are.

RIP Dad.

Today, something caused me to look at my poorly attended blog.  It’s been a year since I’ve posted a word.  Looking back, and re-examining the things I’ve written, I see that my current state of mind has improved, softened and isn’t as harsh or opinionated  I’ve evolved a bit of the past year I  think I am a bit more open minded and I have other more prominent issues on my mind.

The two biggest things in my life right now are:

1) Life after bariatric surgery (I’m 7 months post op)

2) preparing my son (and myself!) for kindergarten (Islamic) 

I’ll expand on this and more later.   I’m typing on my iPad and 

 

 

It was the end of a very long, trying day.   It was time to break the fast, and since I was not fasting- I prepared everything, fed my charming spouse and guests and scampered off to a quiet room for maghrib (sunset prayer).  I was sweaty, tired, stressed out and craving this moment of brief silence to re-center myself.  I could hear the muffled cling and clang of utensil on plate, chuckles and cheer.   The room was dark and cloaked in black I made takbir and paused.  Folding my hands over my chest, I drew in a deep breath- when suddenly  I heard:

“Bismeewah Wahman Waheeeeeeeeem

Hamduweewahee Wabeel  Ameeeeeeen

Wahmann Waheem

Maweekee Yawmee Deeeeeen”

My three year old apparently felt I needed guidance in that moment.  I will never forget it, as long as I live.

Whoa- that doesnt really sound good coming from a Muslim, eh?

Let me explain- I don’t really miss church, I miss the church sub-culture. I’ve been pondering why I don’t attend the mosque these past few years. I can’t stand the chaos. Cant. Stand. It. One. Bit. I should mention in all fairness that I am not able to get there sometimes due to my work schedule too.

The women’s balcony is too noisy. The ladies talk too much. There are small children running everywhere during prayer and during the sermon. Being a mom of a 3.5 year old and a 16 month old, I know that keeping them quiet can be very difficult- but we are the parents and should be in control! If the sermon happens to be interesting and happensto apply to modern times, I won’t hear it because I’ll be too busy preventing my kids from falling down two humongous spiral staircases that flank each side of the balcony.

And then I get annoyed- and I have no right to be. I’m never there, never involved. Shame. On. Me.

I have nerve complaining because I know that Muslims are in the minority, and that these houses of prayer are built by dedicated members of the community who I’m sure made many sacrifices for the good of our Ummah. It just seems like such a hassle to drag two munchkins up a giant staircase, and God help you if you step on your own skirt, if there is traffic or a shoe avalanche (ladies, I know you know what Im talking about). Did I mention that hot air rises? Oh yes, it’s always warm and I am guaranteed to sweat like a beast. But rest assured, there will be a few colossal, jet propelled, industrial fans set at mach 20 which will further prevent me from hearing or keeping my eyelids open.

I spent the first 18 years of my life attending Sunday Mass at our local Roman Catholic parish and I don’t recall my mom having these difficulties. There was seating for all, everyone was quiet and there was minimal fuss. Of course there were oodles of children, and there were rogue giggles and whispers and cries, but it seemed so much less bothersome. (I can’t help but postulate that when children and women have reasonable accommodations in the masjid these problems will become less frequent).

I miss the sermons. For the most part the clergy really tried to connect with everyone, offering something to each parishoner- with no matters of age, status, gender or politics. I left feeling lighter, gentler and more understanding. Sometimes I left inspired. That’s what it is- I miss that feeling of love and inspiration. You know what else I want? To sit by my husband’s side with our children during a lecture or discussion, and be part of the religious experience together.

As stated in my last post, I am continuing to process my thoughts on hijab….I have written this a dozen times, and to my surprise ive discovered it’s like peeling the layers of an onion. My last edit to this draft was back in September. Looking back I see I was in a royal funk. I’m still in hijab and have no desire to remove it 🙂

How awful. I meant it when I said I have no strong desires to increase my endeavors in the area of practicing physical hijab. It may sound stubborn or off-putting; but it is the honest truth. Here I am, in my life, in my reality with questions and internal conflict about covering, modesty and how unfair it feels for the burden to be on me as a woman. Furthermore while I think it is helpful that I am extremely thankful for all the good things in my life, I don’t really believe that minimizing my own issues by comparing them to someone who is worse off is a healthy solution. It may help restore or create a better perspective, but it does not bring me resolve or change. While I will never say never or close the door to increasing my own modesty (even emotionally), I cannot ‘get there’ until I bring myself to a better understanding of my own feelings and where they are coming from. For those of you wondering- my husband has not asked me to cover more, or wear traditional garments or anything like that. Part of this post is triggered by the summer heat and my lack of participation in the things I love, because I can’t tolerate the heat and humidity, or because the environment isn’t hijab friendly. I feel irritable, sticky, dehydrated and worst of all, un-clean. The other part of this post is triggered by fear and insecurity and likely ignorance.

Why did I put hijab on? I wanted to do it for God, and God alone. I do think it has meaningful beauty. I like the tradition. I like the symbolic image and I do believe that being modest is important and required islamically. The problem is I feel it’s unfair and unbalanced even though I know it’s in the Quran and Sunnah and supported by so many scholars- so what does that make me? On the fringe of being a bad Muslim? A picking-and-choosing Muslim? I do not like feeling this way, and I am surprised with myself because I know God is not unjust, unfair or unbalanced. Interestingly, I did not have some of these difficulties until I became a mother, especially to my second child, a baby girl.

I am asked why I question the true purpose of hijab, and still abstain from pork and alcohol. I can’t articulate how agnry that question makes me! For starters I am Muslim and I do my best to live by the laws of God,and Im human! Dietary restrictions are for ALL Muslims, and it’s easy to do. Alhamdilillah I was never a big pork fan nor did I care for alcohol before my conversion.

Wearing a head scarf identifies me as Muslim. Before I became a mother, this had no effect on me. Since having children, I worry for them. I feel vulnerable all the time. Will someone hurt me or say bad things to me in front of my children? Would someone hurt all three of us? My two precious littles depend on me to feel safe, secure and happy. Can my children sense my fear? I hope they never do. I want my children to see me as a positive and strong female role model. Will someone target my husband because of my hijab? Will my children be ostracized? Or bullied? InshaAllah they will not. Im afraid my children will be targeted for being muslim and yet I want them to be secure in this faith that my husband and I truly believe in.

The hijab itself is clumsy. Even after four years of sporting hijabs, I am always surprised when I look in the mirror. I just don’t recognize myself, it doesn’t register. I miss my swinging ponytail and on-the-go routine. I always wear the boring Al-Amira two piece; it limits the amount of readjusting I have to do (every hour instead of every 10 minutes). I have tried, squares, oblongs, Kuwaiti and countless youtube tutorials. I’ve parted my hair in funky ways to create friction so they won’t slip off, I’ve tried under caps- lace, lycra, cotton, polyester and none at all to prevent slippage and nothing works. If I opt for a nice shayla, it looks nice for about an hour, and then the fiddling starts. The pins need readjusting and eventually I have to unravel and re-do. I feel like an un-done and sloppy mess. Having to do this while sweating makes it even more loathsome! The other day I seriously thought I should fashion a chin strap onto my under caps. This has gone way to far!!!

You know, the more I write, the more disorganized and ridiculous this all sounds. I just wish it all made sense, and that I could once again be in my comfort zone. I want to feel like the old, strong me. I want to feel well put together and confident once again. When fall approaches, some of the issues will disappear until next summer, but the others need to be dealt with.

Sigh.

God, please show me the way, and make me an awesome example for my children, Ameen.

I drafted this post about 6 months ago.  I have since begun to come to terms with my issues.  However petty they may seem to others (and honestly, I look back and realize how fortunate I am to have been pregnant and birth healthy babies)- they were really significant to me and my mothering experience.  I’m happy to report that both of my children are well nourished, happy and healthy Thanks Be to God.

Ohhh I swore I wouldn’t complain or lament, but I need to get this off my chest.

Breastfeeding has been the  number one biggest challenge and epic disappointment for me in my 38 years of life.   When I was expecting my son, and even before he was conceived, I dreamed of having our very own baby and wondered how magical and fulfilling it would be to nurse him after his birth.  I fantasized I was glowing with joy as I peacefully nursed him in my rocking chair while my husband admired us and was in awe with  how capable and beautiful I was. 

So very not the case.

At 39 weeks and after a failed induction I had an unplanned c-section which was followed by wicked mood swings and disastrous attempts at breastfeeding.   Even after we arrived home, baby never latched on, not once- despite all of the different advice, books, contraptions and  numerous lactation consultants— my body failed again.  I couldn’t deliver him naturally and show my husband how strong as was, and  I couldn’t even nourish him.   I was defective and ugly and there wasnt anything anyone could have said to make me feel better.   I just cried, and cried.  And cried and cried.  Then I cried some more.  Did I mention how wicked I was?  This went on for 6 weeks, and I started to worry!  Friends would visit and ask if I was nursing, and it would bring anxiety and stress.   They would all give me advice, and sometimes husbands would chime in!  A simple little question would trigger so many negative feelings, and when those moments came when some of my friends would nurse their babies in front me,  anxiety would fill my chest and throat, and I would become unfocused and nervous.  It was awful.  (Gladly, that doesn’t happen anymore).  Clearly this was not normal, and for reasons I could not and still cannot understand, my breastfeeding experience has a profound  affect on me.  

I had a repeat c-section last summer, but delivered at a different hospital.  I was allowed to have my daughter in recovery; they allowed me to attempt nursing right away, and encouraged breastfeeding.    I was better prepared this time and I expected to have difficulty nursing.  She did latch intermittently and effectively two or three  times.   Those brief moments were so beautiful and I will never forget them.  I was also more relaxed because I knew what to expect- and that allowed me to be more present during her birth and helped me to cherish the not-so-perfect moments.  There was one nurse, who taught me the best way to get her latched on my last day, and I will always think she was brilliant and in-tune with her skills and patients and patience! 

Once we were home, it became a little more difficult.  She would not latch, I was in pain, exhausted, crying all the time and my 2-year-old son became a beast that detested his sister instantaneously.  I was chained to my Medela pump day and night, and it was not doing anything for my self-esteem.   I was able to partially breast feed, and partially bottle feed, and after such a rotten experience the first time, I took it!

With both children, I ended up supplementing with formula and my body stopped producing milk when they were 4 months old (note: I also returned to work at this time).  I never felt that I made that much milk to begin with, but I could not let go.   I never experienced the ‘engorgement’ that most new moms talk about.   What slays me is my daughter became a champion latcher by the time she was eight weeks old, but I was not producing enough to nurse her exclusively, despite heroic attempts to increase my supply.   I began to resent pumping and having her latch constantly so my body would produce more.   It was mechanical and cold- and guess what?  It didn’t work.

I am so thankful to God that my children are healthy, born without complications and that we have the means to provide them with everything they need.   Alhamdulillah.  When I snuggle  Tiny Girl in my arms with her bottle, I get warm fuzzies when she looks up at me.  I relish the way formula drips from the corner of her mouth to her little stinky neck.  My heart flutters when I see her chubby little fingers wrapped around mine and I am satisfied that her nutritional needs are being met and that she is thriving.    Contrary to some fo the breastfeeding dictators I’ve encountered, they didn’t sleep through the night (damn!), they weren’t/arent overweight, did not/do not suffer from gastrointestinal plight or constipation plus they seemed to enjoy it. 

There is such an emphasis on ‘breast is best’, and all I could think about amid the struggles was “if I lived in an impoverished nation would my children be malnourished or die?”

One of the worst parts about all this, is that I took time away from myself  being a new mother for the first time and enjoying it.  I took time away from myself to relish every second with my first-born.   I was so enveloped in my nursing failure that I think it inhibited some of the natural bonding tendencies.  I would do anything to go back in time, and hold him as a new infant, and tell him how much he was loved, before he was conceived rather than agonize over each feeding and wondering if I was meant to be a mother.   Those feelings began to disappear when I returned to work because I was so busy, I didn’t have time for non-essential thoughts and literally made the best of every second I had with him.  My nursing experience with my daughter wasn’t as severe as my first and I generally had an easier time in all aspects of parenting her.

–Yet as I sit here and write this, unsuccessful breastfeeding has left me feeling inadequate, less feminine, less accomplished and guilty.  Despite my primal instinct to nurse my children, I failed.  I want these nagging feelings to disappear.