Monday, December 27, 2010

The Christmas Weekend

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from our Christmas celebrations this past weekend.  Thanks to my niece Francesca for sharing the wonderful pictures she took during our Christmas Eve family gathering!  As usual, she captured a lot of priceless moments...

one of the very few where Noah's looking at the camera...whew!

happy to have my Mom with us this year...too bad Dad's in CA still

Mommy & Me

It's a good thing I thought of putting nail polish that night!  haha!

Noah with cousin E.

my most FAVORITE of all!!!  What a great moment to capture  :-)))

our Christmas Breakfast...Baked French toast has become part of our tradition and it's Noah's favorite!
We also had ham with Mom's homemade glaze and I made hot chocolate...yummmm....

Noah opening his presents...the MAIN one from Mommy and Daddy this year...his very own Bat Cave!

I hope you all had a wonderful celebration with your loved ones and that it was filled with love and memories to treasure!

God and I have made up.  It was kind of hard to stay mad over Christmas anyway....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Prayer From the Abyss

I had an interesting dream last night.  In my dream I was a doctor and with a group of other doctors, we were advising a couple regarding their troubled pregnancy. They were close to their due date, it seems, and for some reason, they were trying to decide if they should already give birth, though they haven't reached full term yet, or if they should wait it out until they reach full term.  It appeared as if the fetus had some problems or they were anticipating certain abnormalities once the baby was born.  Amidst all the confusion, I remember standing in the middle of the room and with such strong emotions and tears in my eyes I spoke...

'You need to think of it this way...If you decide to give birth now, and find that there was something wrong with your baby, would you not wonder if you could've avoided it by opting to go full term?  That way, even if there was something wrong with your child at birth, you will know in your hearts that you did all that you can, all that was possible and that there was nothing else you could have done to make the situation better.'

I typed that last part in bold letters because in the dream, I said those words in an extremely impassioned way and I woke up feeling as if my chest was about to erupt.  I opened my eyes knowing that the situation in my dream and my personal situation with my recent pregnancy are very different, although somehow there was something about what I said that reverberated with such truth, such insight.  

Forgiveness.  This is the one word that keeps popping in my head.  Have I been quietly and unknowingly simmering in guilt all this time?  Have I been unconsciously blaming myself even though I know, intellectually, that it was not my fault that my child died, or that I'm reproductively challenged?...that there was nothing else I could have done differently?  


And perhaps it is no accident that I had this dream, this jolt, two days before Christmas day.  There is no denying that this year's Christmas will perhaps be the worst for me so far, the most difficult to plow through.  Amidst all the smiles, laughter, the fellowship, the rejoicing, deep down I know I will feel a significant degree of emptiness and yes, even more guilt.  Not just for losing my baby, but guilt over those moments when I feel 'okay', those fleeting moments when I forget my grief and allow myself to go back to the old 'normal'.  

Perhaps the dream is reminding me that in the sea of gifts I find myself in during this time of year, the best gift I can give myself is the gift of forgiveness.  I need to genuinely accept that to forgive is not to forget and erase the memory of what has happened, but to move forward and release myself from the bonds of self-blame and bitterness.  I also need to forgive God and though that sounds blasphemous, it is true for me.  I've been VERY distant from Him and full of resentment and to feel like this is exhausting.  I still don't have a clue as to how to completely move past all this emotional and mental burden but I will tell you this...

I will be attending Christmas Eve mass with one single prayer...that I find hope.  Not because I want to be able to once again expect that my wishes be granted, but to simply have the capacity to believe in better days.  I want to find hope because I need to believe that God has not abandoned me, that life knows what it's doing, where it's taking me, that things make sense, and that I can still be capable of seeing an illuminated world instead of one full of darkness and skepticism.  I need to hope and truly believe that the sense of unending void that has engulfed me is not as powerful as it seems and that it WILL end, eventually.

To the God I am still angry with, to the God I still feel so distant from, I ask that you make known to me your compassion.  I ask that you be there tomorrow and speak to me in a voice I will not be able to deny.  Let me find what I seek.  Let hope find me.

*Image courtesy of,27585&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=picture+of+black+hole&cp=20&qe=cGljdHVyZSBvZiBibGFjayBob2w&qesig=qFYp2vQl-v69qMaNOZPrSg&pkc=AFgZ2tlBj4-yeOiVVMOjdQw4bovAkiJniKZK-vPbm6FGEYJbGrZJWYaa6rEqKeBuJ7y9qiHQEeiOZabaT-C185dQzela-nCvuA&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=7isUTYvWIcbbngfWp-nqDQ&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CCQQsAQwAA&biw=1280&bih=711

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This is NOT a Paid Advertisement

I understand that my recent entries have all been 'dark', so while I'm still trying to push myself back to 'normality' (whether the old one or a new and redefined 'normal'), I would like to just take this opportunity to promote a new and wonderful blog site authored by a friend of mine, Kat N.

Her site is called Soccer Mom 4.0 since Kat has four wonderful boys...well, 5 if you count her husband.  Though the site is pretty new, I can honestly say that her entries are a joy to read so go ahead and check it out!

Kat, I'm really happy you decided to put this in place.  You are a gift to the blogging world!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Soul's Winter

I wish there was a better way of saying this, but, my life feels constipated.  

This is what happens when someone like me gets derailed.  You see, I thrive in planning, getting things organized, being able to anticipate every single scenario imaginable and doing everything I can to be prepared for them.  Some people may think that's stressful but the idea of being unprepared and going through my days not knowing what to expect stresses me out more.  That's just who I am.  So...I plan.  I imagine.  I anticipate.  I organize what I can.

But what happens when what you've planned for, imagined and anticipated gets taken away? What happens is ME in its current state...quite lost, suspended, dark, life constipated.  

I was on a track, excitedly anticipating an addition to our family, nesting quite early.  I had plans for our house, rooms to organize, redecorate, renovate.  I had a wardrobe lined up for a belly expected to grow huge.  I had bags of old yet slightly used baby clothes and toys lined up to be transported from the basement shelving to the second floor room.  I was imagining how to place two car seats in our family vehicle, how to do errands with two children in tow, how to go on vacations, where and if it would even be possible in the next three years.  Would our family earnings be enough?  How will I revise our budget?  Maybe I should rethink the placement of our playroom?  Should I get new toys?  What will the new sleeping arrangement be?  

The list went on...

And now it's gone...

Redefining one's life is never easy.  I've done it at least thrice before.  I've had a broken engagement and had my heart broken.  I've had to unexpectedly migrate, be married and have had to give up everything familiar to me.  I became a mother for the first time.  In all these major changes, things very dear to me had to be given up somehow and though there were immeasurable gains, those only came after perspective was applied. My trouble now seems to be that I can't grasp that much needed perspective.  I was reading one of Oprah Winfrey's 'What I Know For Sure' entries and she said that gratitude is necessary for gaining perspective.  Only then, she said, can you begin to feel empowered again, instead of getting weighed down by your pains and woes (not exactly her words, of course).  

I get it.  Believe me, I really, really do.  However, my sense of gratitude these days seems to be overshadowed by this cloud of bitterness and resentment.  The questions in my head linger and though I know these are pointless for I may never arrive at the answers, this fact only further catapults me into a state of meaninglessness.  Neither does it help that God/the Divine and I have reached an impasse.  I've let Him know of my anger and resentment towards Him, but at the same time, I know He's still there looking, watching, hopefully not mocking me.  (Again, this is me talking from a place of darkness so don't pay too much attention).  

Yes, I am thankful for the things I love, for having my loved ones in my life.  I am grateful that they are STILL in my life and that sanity and the sheer will to live would not even be possible if they too were to be taken away.  I know that and that's what keeps me going. However, I am quite convinced that something needs to replace that which was taken away from me in order for me to successfully get myself back on track, or at least, get myself going on a new and equally pleasant track.  That's just logical, isn't it?  You get derailed, the previous road no longer seems plausible, therefore the only way to keep going on your journey is to find an alternate route, hopefully a pleasant one to say the least. I am left with a seemingly unfillable void and I do not want to have to burden anyone else in my world, especially Noah, with the responsibility to fill that in for me. That would be terribly unfair.  As I've learnt in the past, you cannot expect another person to give you something you cannot give yourself and make that as the premise of your relationship.    

I have work to do...for myself.  The trouble is, knowing is undeniably a universe away from doing.  What's worse is that I find that knowing is hardly an efficient impetus for motion. Belief is what I need.  I need to believe that this pain and void will either make sense eventually or that it won't matter to me whether I come to understand this or not. I need to believe that everything will re-align once more in my life; that I will eventually stop hating myself; that I will tire of the anger and bitterness and be able to move on to genuine contentment and peace.  I need to believe that the darkness I'm in now is not meaningless, that life's events are not random and that something rich and worthwhile will come to fruition after the clouds move away.  Though I've somehow rejected the idea of hope, seeing it as merely a pathway to disappointment and suffering, the irony now is that it seems to also be that which my spirit needs.

The questions now are, what will make me believe, where does hope lie ???  

(to be continued)...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Please Hear Me With Love

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  I can only wish the same miracle that made the Virgin Mary pregnant could make me healthily pregnant once again, like I was just three weeks ago.  Sadly though, I've sort of heeded Lenny Kravitz when he sang 'It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over' and decided it's all over.  I decided to have my D&C (dilation and curettage) yesterday, December 7, 2010 and have some closure...somehow.

I wanted it because up until yesterday prior to the procedure, I still hadn't bled.  I had them perform another ultrasound on Monday, December 6, just for my peace of mind and again, I saw my baby in my womb, devoid of any heartbeat.  I no longer wanted to wait for my body to naturally expel my child and thought that ultimately, a D&C would be the best route so I went through it.  I did not break down or anything like that despite the fact that every single nurse I spoke to had to say sorry to me and tried to console me in their own caring ways.  I thought I was going to break down when, as I was being wheeled out of the hospital, I had to be taken through the hallway where the hospital's 'wall of baby footprints' was hanging, displaying the countless babies they've delivered.  This time around, as I left this hospital, there was no beautiful infant in my arms.  The only things I was bringing home with me were my hospital band and the physical pain from the procedure.  Empty arms.  Empty womb.

Things still don't make much sense to me.  I don't think they ever will or at least not anytime soon.  And while I really am appreciative of people's expression of their sympathy and completely understand that they are well-meaning, there are things that seem to make the pain and confusion even worse.  Again, I know that some are only doing their best to console me, comfort me, and I recognize that and am grateful.  However, please don't wonder if I don't respond politely or appropriately to some of the more common things we tend to say to people who are grieving.  

For instance, I do know that my missed abortion/miscarriage is 'nature's way' of taking care of something that would not have survived in the long run.  But that does not take away my pain and sense of inadequacy as a mother in failing to sustain my child, a child who was supposed to live a long, healthy and happy life, longer than mine.  It doesn't keep me from hating my own body for being 'defective', 'abnormal', 'incapable'.  

Then I've been told it's 'God's plan'.  This only makes me picture a God who is capable of such cruelty as to bring me this much pain and anger.  Why did this God make my IVF procedure successful?  Why did this God give me a positive pregnancy and even allowed me to hope, only to take everything away?  Did He change His mind?  Did He think it was entertaining?  Why did He not just make the whole procedure fail since the beginning?  It would have saved us all much trouble, much pain if He truly 'planned this out' pretty well.  Did I do anything disappointing to Him that he suddenly decided to punish me and my unborn child?  

So you see, I'm in a very tight predicament here.  Taking the 'nature's way' route makes everything seem so random and meaningless to me.  While taking the 'God's plan' route makes me think of a cruel God who knows what He's doing and yet still decided to thrust me into the depths of suffering without any explanation, no revelation whatsoever.  Where should I stand?  You tell me.

I've also heard 'It's all for the best'.  Really???  If you were in my place, grieving, feeling like someone bore a hole in your chest and crushed your heart mercilessly, would you be able to have this perspective and make sense of it?  If your own child died, would you readily accept that it was 'for the best'?  Please don't think that these words bring me comfort because in grief, one can only have the short-sightedness brought about by the unending flooding of tears.  

Though there is some consolation in telling me that I now 'have an angel in Heaven watching over me', the truth remains that I was not praying for an angel.  What I wanted so desperately was a child to hold, love, nurture until my dying days and beyond.  In this circumstance, it won't make sense either to tell me that I was given something I had hoped for, instead of something I had wanted and asked for.  This is not the time to make me imagine a God who thinks for me, never listens and misinterprets humans' desires.

When I was first informed of my baby's death, yes, my initial reaction and rationalization was, 'It's okay, at least I already have one'.  But now that the reality of it has truly sunk, the truth of the matter is that having Noah does not make the pain of losing my second child any less.  They are two separate people and I want them both.  I would not have gone through all that I've gone through had I felt that this pregnancy was only a whim or something unnecessary.  I was planning for TWO and no matter how we look at it, we ended up with less, the objective was not met, a dream left unrealized.  That is the only point.  That is the reality.  That is my grief.  

Truly, saying 'I'm sorry', 'I'll be praying for you and your baby', 'I'm here when you need me' are more than enough.  Anyone who has lost a loved one and grieved knows how powerful those words are.  I'm also TRULY appreciative of women (and men) who have shared their own stories with me;  hopeful parents who have gone through a similar experience and though they did not owe it to me to share their lingering pain, they chose to in order to somehow affirm to me that indeed, I am not alone.  That helps tremendously.  Thank You.

Pardon me though if I behave oddly towards certain things common people deem ordinary. These days, I find myself turning away from parents holding two or more children.  Pardon me too if I seem to stare with much envy at your older toddler playing with your younger baby at the grocery store, library, mall, restaurant, doctor's office, church or wherever.  The pangs of desire are still to raw for me to control at times.  Please try to understand if in the months to come, I'm not able to look at baby clothes, toys, diapers or baby furniture.  Most of all, I apologize in advance if I seem less than eager to celebrate with you as your new baby arrives.  Trust that I am happy for you and wishing you the best with all my heart (or what's left of it).  But if I seem lukewarm in my reactions and wishes, just excuse my behaviour and know that I'm still in the process of healing myself.

It will take a while and probably longer than I expected.  Some of you might say 'But it wasn't even a real baby yet, so why do you grieve so much?'  It's because it was real.  It was alive.  It was our flesh and blood.  I had seen his/her cells divide, his/heart beating.  I'm also grieving not only for a very young life taken so prematurely, but also for the loss of a future I've so lovingly imagined.  I've seen my baby walking around the house.  I've heard his/her voice, saw his/her round, bald head, touched his/her toes in my mind.  I've seen him/her walking hand in hand with my Noah, seen them playing together, thinking how much this one looks more like me and how beautiful my children are.  I've thought about summer birthday parties and thought we should start improving the appearance of our backyard so I can host my kiddie parties there in July.  I've thought of how much Noah would enjoy his sibling's parties, running around in the summer heat, enjoying perhaps a circus theme or splashing water in various inflatable pools in our backyard.  

There will be no need for any nesting now, even though I've already made space for this child in Noah's existing dresser.  I've imagined which bunk bed to get for my two children in the years to come.  I've thought about where to position the crib this time around and how to rearrange the house.  And now this imagined, deeply-hoped-for world has died.  

I cannot even bear to look at myself in the mirror these days and cannot bear to see and touch my belly.  I had gotten so used to rubbing it lovingly and even talking to it occasionally but now what?...There is nothing in there, no life, no anticipating its growth and full roundedness, no caring for it, no adoring it....nothing.  

So you see, so much has been taken away from me.  It's not just a clump of tissue I never spoke to or even held.  It's an entire life I had so clearly envisioned, hoped and prayed for, a loving dream I was made to taste only to be woken up and thrust into a never-ending nightmare.

Now I'll always just wonder about that second one, my lost child.  Anyone who's gone through it understands....understands that the pain lingers on and on, though the passing years may dull it eventually.  Anyone who's gone through it knows that it's nothing you just 'snap out of' or 'get over'.  Anyone who's gone through it knows that you never ever forget.

*Image courtesy of,5958&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=633&vpy=224&dur=34&hovh=248&hovw=203&tx=99&ty=103&ei=jqz_TMO-F6DtnQfem83kCQ&oei=eKz_TNvvLtT_nAeexJinBw&esq=11&page=11&ndsp=28&ved=1t:429,r:10,s:289&biw=1280&bih=711

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yet Another Day My World Stood Still

It's never good when you go for your ultrasound and the sonographer's face suddenly morphs into uncertainty.  I lay there, feeling anxious myself, and yet still hanging on to every thread of hope.  She said she's having a hard time seeing the baby's heartbeat.  She said she needs an extra pair of eyes.  At that point, I knew.  I was actually dreading today's appointment and just had a strange premonition that there was something wrong. There has been nothing physically abnormal with this pregnancy that would have given me any warning but it was an inexplicable feeling these past days.  Something just did not feel right and though the baby is barely an inch long and therefore movements can't really be felt yet, I just 'felt' as if he/she was not there there was nothing 'alive' in my womb.  That's the closest I can get to describe how I've felt in the past days, which is why I was actually dreading today's ultrasound appointment.  Suffice it to say that I was exceptionally nervous today.  And now I know why.

After a minute or two, the nurse/midwife came in and I watched their faces as they looked at the screen.  I was screaming inside, 'Tell me!!!' but could not seem to find the strength.  After a few more minutes, the nurse finally confirmed it, while touching my knee gently.  God knows what exactly they said.  I'm sure they said 'Sorry Joy' or something to that effect.  All I remember is that I broke down.  I was not hysterical but I felt my insides break into pieces, my chest ready to explode.  Both of the women hugged me and consoled me, after explaining that my baby seemed to have stopped growing at 7weeks.  They also did not detect any heartbeat and showed me the screen to point out that nothing was moving / beating.  

I thought I was prepared for the worst but no one ever is.  I thought it would not hurt as much since I already have one child, but when a dream dies, you die.  Emily or David is no more.  This is it.  Noah will probably not have a sibling anymore.  You can tell me to hope and not give up, but logically speaking, we all know my chances are pretty bleak.  I don't even want to have false hopes anymore.  Let's just be realistic.  And besides, I can't even begin to imagine the possibility of trying to conceive again and face the possibility of another heartbreak.

As with any heartbreak, healing will come.  I am certain of it.  I just don't know when.  And as with any failure, we ought to ask ourselves what we take from the experience in order to move on.  So I'm asking...

Do I call life a treacherous bastard, or a mysterious gift never meant to be fully understood but only accepted, embraced?

Do I give up on hope and deem it useless as it does nothing but pull the rug out from under me, or is hope the ultimate teacher of humility, making me realize that we are all free to experience it while knowing there are no guarantees?

Is it just about my unbearable loss and sense of grief, or also the wonderful presence of a loving husband and son urging me to walk on and rekindle my sense of joy?

Do I accept defeat in this test of faith, or is proof of the Divine's compassionate hands in the countless messages of concern I have received from family and friends all over the world, enveloping me in a cocoon of silent, yet assuring love? 

The pain is still too fresh and though I know which way to go, I also have to be kind to myself and give ample time for the mind, heart and spirit to all connect.  I am fully aware I have no monopoly of this pain, especially this specific kind of pain, and that I am in the company of countless brave women who have treaded this path before me.  Really all I ask for are prayers, time and your patience.  Allow me to vent should anger arise and the pain becomes too unbearable to contain.  Allow me silence and solitude as well, for this is my spirit's way of replenishing its strength.  Most of all, please allow me whatever transformation this experience will bring (or may have already brought on).  I lost my child, my flesh, blood, hope and love.  Change is inevitable.                

Thursday, December 2, 2010


This is just a quick update regarding 'the pointer' story ('Early Training').

I finally approached one of the teachers today and casually asked.  I told her that I always hear about 'the calendar' from my son but didn't really understand how it works since he's told me that he hasn't had his turn yet.  The teacher then informed me that they have the children's names written on cards, not necessarily arranged alphabetically by the way, and they go through the cards when they do the calendar and weather.  As your name gets called for that day, your card will then be placed towards the back of the pile and it goes on and on until everyone has been called.  She said that they did tell the students to wait and that everyone will definitely get their turn.

I reiterated this to Noah and made sure he understood that his turn will come.  Like I said in the previous entry though, this is the part that's easy to fix.  Let's just hope that in time, my son will genuinely feel better and perceive 'better realities', so to speak...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Early Training

It's never good when one wakes up after only three hours of sleep and then stays that way for at least two more hours after.  I wish I can turn off my brain but when you hear something quite disturbing from your child the night before, you're simply destined to stay awake.

Last night, after story time and we were getting ready for bed, I was surprised that Noah was still in the mood for talking.  So I let him.  Oddly, he gave me details of what goes on in school and for the first time, I got a clear idea of what a typical day looks like when he's in school and I was very happy that my son was able to describe everything to me (after 3months of prodding him).  However, there was one part of his story that caused me discomfort, to say the least.  

Hand Pointers
He was talking about 'the pointer'.  As it turns out, there's a portion of the day when the teacher calls on a student, hands to him/her the highly coveted pointer and then the student gets the privilege of pointing at the calendar to show what date/day it is.  I'm not so clear as to how this whole thing goes but the bottom line is that my son is desperate to be able to hold that pointer.  But then he sadly declared to me last night that he has not had his turn yet.  I tried to console him that maybe it's alphabetical and soon, when they reach 'N', he'll have his turn.  At this point, however, he insisted that everyone has had their turn EXCEPT for him.  I highly doubted this and again, convinced him that he could be wrong and that all he needs to do is wait.  And then the clincher happened.  He suddenly declared, "Oh I know why they don't let me have the pointer!....It's 'cos I'm different from my classmates!"

My heart sank.

There was this big, unbearable lump in my chest that wanted to come out.  My brain was racing.  My fingers were itching to rush to either the phone or my laptop to contact the teachers at 10 p.m.  

I was going to explode and it took every fiber in my being to control it and give my son the impression that everything was okay and Mommy was handling this.  All I could do was pray that my baby was not feeling what I was thinking....that which I've always been afraid of and would do everything to shield him from.

I was beyond shocked.  My first response was, What do you mean you're different?, followed by, 'Everyone's different.  You're different from 'B', he's different from 'C', 'C's different from 'Y', and so on and so forth.  We're all different from each other.  Nobody's exactly the same.  The only important thing is that you're a good person, that's all.'

I don't know what Noah was thinking but soon after, he got over it and was ready to move on to another story.  He did not seem sad, offended or broken.  (Unlike his mother who was a mess internally at that point).  I could do nothing but assure him that I'm sure he'll have his turn and promised him that I will be volunteering soon so I can spend a day in his classroom to observe how things are really done.  

I honestly don't know what to think.  I don't want to assume anything negative at this point but again, the Mother Bear button has been activated and the paws are up and ready to strike.  At the same time, I am well aware that I don't want to antagonize the teachers, that I need to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and that solutions or resolutions often surface after much calm rationality.  

I remain optimistic that I will get to the bottom of this soon and find that my son will hold 'the pointer' and have his day.  I know all that can be arranged.  That's the easy part.  What I am most afraid of now is the fact that my son has felt something; that something has surfaced in his consciousness.  I have always known that Noah is a sensitive, receptive person.  That's great!...But that can also be to his detriment.  I mean, how can a three-year old even think those words and mean them in a negative light....that he's deprived of something because he is different???  He could be objectively wrong in thinking that, but is that the point?  Isn't the point that he felt it, perceived it?  That is the part that no one can invalidate.  That's something that can't easily be erased or undone.  One side of me thinks, Well, why would you want to erase it?  It's good for him to know this early that life is not fair and people are neither always treated equally, nor meritocratically.  However, another side thinks,  It doesn't feel right to even partially rob him of his innocence, take away his 'Sesame Street glasses' with which he views the world

In the end, I know my son will be fine.  I still believe that parents are given children they are meant to have, children whose personalities they can (for the most part) nurture.  What confronts me now is the fear, pain and frustration knowing that this is only the beginning.  To believe otherwise will be totally naive of me and will only rob me of the opportunity to equip my child as best I can.  I would bleed for him if I could, but realistically, I can only bleed with him.  I can shield him with every power I have but that would only disempower him.  Though I will always be a mother to him whose primal sense of protectiveness can never wane, I'm afraid all I can really say to the world is





Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Folly


I tried being Buddhist once, you know, just to understand how it is to live a life free of expectations, devoid of wanting things to be a certain way.  Well, here I am, still very much a struggling Catholic, one from whom you'll rarely see glimpses of the Buddha.  

This is one of those things I find extremely difficult to practice.  Buddhists believe in the four noble truths.  To put it simply, they say that (1) life is full of pain and suffering; (2) that suffering has a cause and that is wanting, expecting; (3) that we can put an end to suffering and that is by letting go of our attachment to our expectations, our attachment to results and our desires of how things should be; and (4) that there is a path to ending suffering and essentially, meditation or mindfulness is key; this promotes living in the moment and acceptance among other things. 

Doesn't it make so much sense??  I know it, my heart recognizes the truth in it, my spirit desires nothing but to live it, but my mind is proving to be more stubborn as I had expected.  Old, established brain synapses do die hard...for better or worse, I'm afraid.

I know that was quite a long introduction for my simple admission that I had a crappy early afternoon, after I picked my son up from pre-school.  I drove to the school with a heart full of love and joy, with imaginary birds singing around me while petals magically fell from the sky.  I had just left another doctor's appointment and everything was looking great on my ultrasound and when I left that office, they had to have me sign my release form so that they can transition me now to my regular OB.  It was bittersweet as I have nothing but praise for this medical office and the receptionist who has known me since my first IVF cycle in 2006 even gave me a hug and I told her I will miss them all.  Like I said, I was full of positivity and felt so blessed to the bone.

And then I stepped in my son's school building and waited in the reception area until the teacher summoned us, parents, to approach the classroom door for a quick 'parent-teacher talk' and to pick up our kids.  As I stood there waiting, my mind, my stubborn, psychotic, most-definitely-non-Buddhist mind, began to race...

Do some of the parents already know each other?  Am I getting left out as a parent as I don't really interact with them or bother to chit-chat?  More importantly, is my son getting left out?  Is he making friends at all?  How does he compare to his peers?  Is he doing fairly well?  Do his teachers think he's smart or not?  Do his teachers like him?  Does my son have good manners?  Is he likeable?  Oh I hope he's not socially inept.  I hope he makes friends.  I hope he's not invisible to his teachers.  I hope he's not seen as 'challenging' in class.  I hope he shines in school.    He needs to shine in school.  He needs to do well.  He has to excel.

I know I can go on and on but I know you get the picture.  From innocent questions of a parent wondering, I swung to the other extreme end of the pendulum into the universe of frustration.  As soon as I walked out of the school building with Noah, I found my exasperation mounting.  I was badgering Noah for answers, totally forgetting that I was talking to a 3-year old who can't really tell 'yesterday' from 'last night', let alone enumerate to me in detail what transpired in school a few hours ago, complete with a full account of a who-did-or-said-what-to-whom type.  Just like that, I went from being a big pile of love to feeling like a pile of crap, trying to understand why it appeared as if I was taking something out on my own son.  Poor little thing.  He was probably wondering why Mommy was feeling so angry and frustrated with him.  First I kept asking him about what happened today in school, in full detail, and then I shifted to asking him if he practices good manners in school and getting mad at him for being so shy.

I reached home in a really bad mood, one because of my frustrations with my son, and two, because of my frustration with my self.  I knew I was being irrational.  I knew I was being unfair.  After I took a few breaths and stepped back (mentally), it was clear I was doing what every parent should NOT do and something I even vowed never to do...make one's child feel less than he really is, less loved, less embraced.

I was getting eaten up by my expectations of how my child should turn out...sociable, likeable, intelligent, academically inclined, well-mannered and all those things that make parents proud.  But at this age, at least at this time, I see that my son has a tendency to be painfully shy.  We teach him how to respond to strangers and practice good manners but he doesn't always succeed.  Even when other kids wave and greet him, sometimes he just stares back or worse, looks away.  At times he responds properly to other people but I get frustrated with the inconsistency.  

I think he's a smart kid.  When we talk to him at home and we do activities, we see intelligence.  But will he eventually perform well academically?  I don't know.  I get nervous about this a lot of times.  And what if he doesn't?  I know I will find this difficult to deal with as I grew up busting my a** in school for approximately 20 years!  And then when I start thinking and feeling this way, I get consumed with guilt...guilt for not being open to whatever my child will become and fearing that I may not love him the way I should, that is, unconditionally.

If only I can be very Buddhist about this whole thing.  If only I can practice mindfulness and just be in the moment with my son, seeing him for who he is, loving him however he turns out, respecting and embracing fully his flawed essence.  If only I can detach myself from expectations I have unconsciously and inadvertently set for my child, and just release him to orbit however and wherever life takes him.  

I'm pretty sure the Buddhists are not advocating a life devoid of any direction or goal.  I believe it's not the expectations themselves that cause suffering but the conditions those expectations impose upon others.  It's the attachment to ideas of how things should be, attachment to specific results that causes not only heartaches but scars relationships.  

Every parent wants only the best for their children.  That is only natural.  But it needs to be recognized that wanting the best for someone is different from controlling them or living their lives for them.  When our children came to our lives, they did not ask to be brought to this earth.  They came as gifts to us and there is an unspoken contract that no matter what we end up with, no matter what we are given, they need only one thing and that is to be loved...with as much purity as we are each capable of, no strings, no conditions...just real unadulterated LOVE.

Noah may grow up even more painfully shy than me.  Or he may blossom to be more like his father capable of facing anyone and everyone.  He may excel in school...or not.  He may pursue a career that is not as conventional as my personal preferences.  He may just pursue a trajectory so unexpected that my aged mind may find it impossible to understand.  But what I need to always remind myself is that understanding is not a prerequisite for loving.  And loving always produces beautiful results, sometimes for both parties, and sometimes for one party alone.  Either way, love is never futile.  I hope we can all find peace in that truth.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Personal Superheroes

I finally saw 'Waiting for Superman' this past weekend.  For those who are not familiar with this film, it's a documentary that discusses the education crisis (particularly the failures of public education) in the United States.  

It's quite a disturbing film, especially for a parent like myself who is now beginning to consider our options for educating our child.  It made me think of the countless children, not only here in the United States, but all over the world, who are motivated to get an education and who have ambitions in life, but are stifled by the adult the failures of the institutions that are supposed to look after their welfare, their futures.  The film could not have been clearer in its message that something needs to be done and that we know what steps to take.  Sadly, politics, vested interests and the unwillingness to change a system that is obsolete and ineffective are getting in our way.

I can't help but be grateful for the quality education that I was privileged enough to have access to all throughout my life.  I am aware that not everyone in the world is as lucky as I am and I am cognizant of this every waking moment of my life.  I am also grateful for having amazing mentors who had the dedication to teach, genuinely teach, and see the value in their chosen profession.

I am reminded of some key persons in my whole education experience...people who, in my view, truly made a significant difference in my life.  These are mentors who shared what they knew, shared their hearts and beings, and showed their passion for shaping their students' minds.

Mrs. 3rd grade Science teacher.  She sparked my interest in science, especially in studying the solar system. All my life, I've been deeply passionate about the Universe, Astronomy, Astro- and Quantum Physics, and although these are very difficult areas to comprehend (especially the last two disciplines), my passion for them are enough for me to try to understand as much as I could.  I cannot, for instance, watch any science shows featuring Stephen Hawking, or some of the other theoretical physicists discussing the Universe without getting so turned on, close to the brink of getting cerebrally orgasmic (for lack of a way of describing the awe and excitement I feel).  I think I owe much of this attitude to Mrs. Dimen who made it all so interesting for me at such an early age.

Mrs. Romero...4th year high school Creative Writing teacher.  We had this project or activity called 'The Journal' where we each had a notebook for our personal reflections on topics chosen by our teacher.  I absolutely enjoyed it.  I know some of my classmates loathed it, but I suppose at that stage and age, there was already a budding writer inside me.  I did not always write excellent pieces and I admit that there were times I felt I was trying too hard.  But I always looked forward to Mrs. Romero's comments after she read our entries.  Her comments were always thoughtful and mostly encouraging.  She would comment both on the technical aspect of our writing, as well as give insights into our personalities as reflected by our journal entries.  At that time, it was very important for me to do well, to please her and to prove myself.  Like I said, I know I did not always succeed but it was from this person, this teacher that I first learned that I had some talent in writing...that it was one of the things I can do well.  In one of her assessments, she wrote: "Very good!  Quite reflective!  How about honing your writing skills, Joy? There's a promise in you...Good luck!"

Maybe she wrote a similar comment to the others as well.  But I wish I can tell her now how much that comment meant and means to me!  I still have that class notebook with me until now and I refuse to throw it out.  It will always remind me how important writing has always been to me and how someone took the time to not only teach me the basic skills but also made sure I knew the strengths I can build upon.

Ms. homeroom teacher during my high school senior year.  She was also our Home Economics teacher and I will always remember two things about her.  She further reinforced my love for food and cooking and I wouldn't be who I am now without that!  The other thing is that more than just being a homeroom teacher, she became a real friend and guardian to all of us.  She was like an older sister to us and yet maintained her authority.  She was a dedicated shepherd who clearly took her job seriously and gave it a 110% when it came to looking after her students' well-being.  Towards the end of the school year, I had become quite close to her and would have to admit that she (together with another faculty member, Ms. Quintos) was a strong influence in my choice of a university to attend for college.  I will always be grateful for all the guidance she gave me.  She could have done much less because she was certainly not obliged to do more.  Yet she was one who chose to consistently give more and that always inspired me when I myself became a teacher in the university.

Ms. Quintos...fourth-year high school English teacher.  Yes I owe it to her that I was able to read and appreciate classics such as Dante Alighieri's 'Inferno', and Hermann Hesse's 'Siddhartha'.  But more than her impressive teaching competence and apparent intelligence, what I also remember learning most from her is her dedication to social justice.  If I were to choose just one remarkable learning from this person, one valuable influence that struck me the most and stuck with me for life, it would have to be her teaching us that we are no better than anyone else in the world, but merely different.  On our yearbook, she wrote, "As you are your own person, do not allow people to trample on your dignity and in return never degrade the personhood of another.  Everyone deserves to be truly recognized, accepted and respected in this life."  

Social consciousness, service to others and fighting for social justice are things Ms. Quintos embodied and truly tried to pass on to us, her students.  I will forever be grateful for that.

Dr. Manuel Social Psychology professor during my undergraduate and graduate years at the University of the Philippines, Diliman.  Doc Boni, as everyone fondly calls this man, is someone very down-to-earth and caring.  He was very good in teaching and highlighting the practical aspects of the concepts he discussed in class.  I would have to also say that it struck me that he was someone who took pride in being able to teach his students about life, living with others, and surviving in the world.  

I will never forget one thing he shared in class one day.  It has always stuck with me and it was something I tried passing on to my own students as well (with proper acknowledgement, of course!).  We were most likely discussing the concept of Impression Management at that time and as a practical translation, he uttered these words:  "It's very important to be cute...But after five minutes, you have to be competent."  It made so much sense and sounded so witty that I've always wished I had come up with that one myself!  

Dr. Joy Natividad...undergraduate thesis adviser, too many credentials to even enumerate, great mentor and colleague and friend.  I've had the pleasure and privilege of being this woman's student as well as being part of a research team she headed years ago.  One thing to note is that when you are with this woman, YOU...WILL...LEARN.  She trained me in data processing and statistical analysis and one of my regrets is that leaving the academe shortened my opportunity to learn more from her through the years.  I can still remember the rush I would feel every time we would look at some research data together and try to explain the social behavior or reality behind the numbers/ statistics.  There's nothing quite like it when you know you're about to make an important contribution in your field of study and you have a great mind right there beside you to validate what you've discovered.  And you won't help but respect this woman even more because despite her brilliance and countless accolades, she remains humble and willing to share her knowledge to those willing to learn.  

Believe it or not, she also trained my writing.  I've always had the inclination to be verbose and she never tolerated that. Academic writing, especially scientific papers, had to be precise, clear and gracefully direct to the point.  She taught me that.  She taught me the art of editing my thoughts.  She made sure I learnt that less is more.  

Dr. Clarisse Rubio...last but certainly not the least; true friend and another great mind, mentor and colleague.  She became my professor in graduate school and I remember enrolling in multiple classes under her but in each and every class I took with her, I learned the most important thing of all.  I learned how to think.  That I believe is one, if not, the most important thing one can ever teach another.  I learned what she called 'cognitive mapping', being forced to organize the mental clutter and having the ability to present your ideas concisely and clearly.  This process sounds easier than it actually is, believe me.  It was not something I instantly, easily and painlessly learnt.  It took a lot of practice but it was all worth it...worth the countless objective criticism and humbling evaluations.  The ability to organize ideas, theories, concepts and analyze them so that you can possibly improve on them or articulate them in an even clearer way, or perhaps come up with another original idea or category, is something you can own.  It's not merely an idea that someone else can copy or steal from you, but a skill you can carry with you and translate regardless of the field you are in.  That is priceless!

I had so many other great teachers in my life and to all of them, I say THANK YOU.  It's very tempting to say that most of those who truly made a dent were from the University but that would not be very accurate or fair to say.  I believe that my high school and college experiences worked hand-in-hand in building both my intellect and my character.  One without the other will not equip you enough for the world.  Like I've already said, I will always feel gratitude for the quality of education and educators I was exposed to.  But I will continue to hope and help work for a world where QUALITY education is not merely a privilege but a right for all.  Our children deserve so much more than what our current world is offering them.  

What about you?  Do you feel you are one of the lucky ones?  Who are some of your most remarkable teachers and how have they changed your lives?