A love letter.

You are my love letter to life.

I wrote each strand of your DNA inside me, my heart singing: this is for the smell of pavement wet from fire hydrants in August, this is for the way the light comes through the windows in the late afternoon, turning everything gold, this is for the tiny buds of grape hyacinth and how they hang like little bells chiming forth spring, this is for the very first snow and the second and the third when everything is quiet quiet quiet all around and so light and so soft.

That is how I wrote your body into this world.

You are my ode to this existence. The meter of your arms and legs, the syntax of your spine – each vertebra another stanza in all that is beautiful and all that is true, connecting one to the next, one to the next, everything that makes us human.

If I didn’t love the way that my father cries when he watches sappy movies, or the way my sisters’ laughs create a harmony, or the feel of my mother’s hands and the way they look when they do their work, or the way your father stands with his arms akimbo when he pauses, mid-chore in the garden, and takes a quiet breath and looks all around him; if I didn’t love the feeling of sand under my feet or how when the tide runs over them it slips away like silk, or the way rain can make you feel new again, or the way wrinkles on old people make their eyes smile at you when their mouths do, or the way birds roll in clouds of dust and look like they’re dancing – if I didn’t love all this, I couldn’t have made you as I did.

I believe in the power of the moon and the beauty of the stars and the shine from the sun and the ground underfoot and the grass as it grows and the wind as it blows, but more than anything else, I believe in people: in the way they help each other, doing something for nothing, giving something when needed; in the way they love each other and how visible it is in their eyes; in the way they grieve and celebrate and succeed and survive.

Sometimes it is ugly. Sometimes it is hate and not love that makes itself known. Sometimes the pain is unimaginable and the sorrow seems unsurmountable. But then we imagine it and we surmount it and night comes and another day after that. And on, and on, until we are revived.

And that is why I wrote you like a love letter to the world.

You have the stars in your hair and the sun in your eyes and love in your bones and the planet is wild and spinning its circles around and around and you will dance on its spinning and make music with your feet and my life will be bigger, bigger, boundless in the space between your toes and the ground.

I already loved this life when I made you; I prayed while the sweet air washed over my body; thanked the world for existing; but something in me was born when I bore you. A love bigger than I knew before.

I wrote you like a love letter, but then you were received.

And your bearing was the universe’s response.

Your growing is the world singing back to me: I love you, too, I love you, too.

So sweetly, so tenderly, your being: proof that this grand and glorious world loves me back.

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Sad-eyed lady of the green couch.

I came across a series of photos of myself during the third-trimester of my pregnancy tonight and found myself crying hard. It was hard in the moment to fully articulate what it was that I was crying about, but I think I stammered to P. something about the look in my eyes and the loneliness I could see there.

I think just looking back at myself, this collection of photos taken while I sat on my green couch, the one I was on for basically four months straight, brought back a lot of difficult feelings that I don’t think I’ve fully reckoned with. The isolation, the deep depression, the fog I sat in for so long – and those things a byproduct of extreme physical pain that I’m, even now, not recovered from – it’s all so heavy.

So finding those photos tonight, those fragments of a reality I was trapped in and am still trying to find ways to fully escape from, was overwhelming.

There is a peace about those photos, too, though, and I recognize that. A quietness and meditation, just me and baby K. before I even knew who she was, really. And so maybe some of the crying was because of that, too. Missing when she was growing inside me, missing when I didn’t know her face, but knew her heart because it was beating inside me so steady, so sure. She kept me alive during those months.

I don’t know why my body gave out the way it did, and I probably will never know, since the score of doctors and body workers I’ve seen still haven’t been able to give me so much as a good guess as to what happened to me, but I do know that if it had given out like that at any other time but when I was working so hard to grow my baby, I would not have had the strength to make it through.

Photo on 2014-05-05 at 19.28 #2

Now you see it, now you don’t.

From a post I made on Instagram tonight:

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I look back at the thirteen-year-old girl in this photo, this totally normal, average looking girl on the cusp of teenagehood, and I almost can’t remember why she hated herself so much. Where are the giant fat rolls that she thought she had? Where is the hideous chubby face with the double chin and where are the jiggling thunder thighs and the stocky cankles and whatever other insane bodily flaw we’ve invented?

I can’t believe that what I’m seeing, captured for all time with undeniable photographic evidence, is the same person who was looking at herself in the mirror, wondering if someone could magically chop three inches of fat off her thighs.

Because what I see is lovely and awkward and fabulous in her flares and blue-foam platform shoes and sunglasses, totally average and normal and healthy. (If you’re wondering how foam platforms could be considered normal, just remember it was 1998.)

I spent so many years following just utterly hating myself. Scrutinizing everything about my body; agonizing over every detail: the stretch marks on my boobs, the flab around my biceps, the amount of fat that would smush out the to sides when I bent my knees. I hated everything about myself. And recently something has occurred to me: it’s because I thought I was supposed to.

I thought I was supposed to hate myself because I wasn’t super skinny, or didn’t have long legs or an Audrey Hepburn neck or shiny straight hair. I thought this, was convinced of it, actually, for most of my life. And I got fatter, I think, because of it.

And then, sometime in my mid-to-late twenties, I started to realize I didn’t hate myself. I actually kind of liked myself, even. “Okay, Saadia, you’re always going to be a little fat, but you’ve got that hourglass thing going for ya, and also who cares?” started to become my tune. But I didn’t totally believe it until – cue dramatic “we knew it was coming” music – until I became a mother. And my body was shit during pregnancy, but damn did it still grow an incredible baby. And my body was shit right up til labor, but then – damn, it was gold. It was miraculous. It was all strength and beauty and holy hell am I in awe when I think back on all that it was then.

And now this body has a daughter. A little girl who might be lanky like her daddy or chubby like her mama, or something totally her own. And I want her to feel nothing but love for the warm tiny machine that holds her soul. I want her to feel inspired by every nerve ending and blood vessel and hair follicle. She inspires me, and my body, once hated, now inspires me to. My body brought her body, every cell of it, into this world.

So I don’t really give a shit anymore if my ass is wide or my stomach is flabby, because this body is mine. It holds all my secrets, all my wishes, all my loves. It’s mine. And it doesn’t belong to anyone else.

I just wish I had known that when I was an adorable thirteen-year-old. I wish I hadn’t waited so long for someone to tell me I could love myself. I wish I could have just done it.

Arcade Games

Long after we should be asleep, her hands are like arcade game claws, grasping for my hands, clutching the air with determined desire but a lack of precision.

We play like this for quite some time, and I lament the fact that it’s been two days since I last snipped her razor-like baby talons. I never knew baby nails grew so fast. Her grip is so strong these days, and she’s gotten less robotic in her movements, despite the fact that her arms reach out for me, all angles and starts-and-stops, still. Yet somewhere in the last few days she’s begun to sway her arms, rather than drop them; to wait to grab the prize with her long fingers, fixing her eyes for a moment, before making the dive.

Sometime, so quietly, so without circumstance – she changed again.

  

The Healing Presence: An Epic Birth Story, Part Two

As I write, I keep being reminded of the e.e. cummings poem that begins,

since feeling is first

who pays attention

to the syntax of things

will never wholly kiss you

Somehow it resonates with me when I think of trying to capture my birth experience. There were so many words unspoken during my labor because feeling was always first (and last, and everything in between), and yet there are so many words here. I fear that no matter how hard I try, they will never kiss you. Here I am, trying anyway. Continue reading

The Healing Presence: An Epic Birth Story, Part One

Having a labor that initiates itself 5 days before you actually meet your baby makes it hard to remember everything as it happened. First, there are too many days and so much waiting that it becomes difficult to remember how you filled your time. And second, by the time you actually meet your baby, you are so tired from working for so long, that it is difficult to remember the details. The things you keep replaying over and over again are the feeling of that final push, knowing you will see your baby in just a moment; the feeling of baby on your chest; that feeling of “it’s finally over” paired with “this has just begun” that leaves you bereft of speech. The rest is blurred in a haze of too many hours, coming back to you in images and sensations. Or, that’s what it was like for me. But that’s the end of the story, so where to begin?

Kiran’s birth story doesn’t begin with water breaking, contractions starting, or anything physical.  Her true birth story would have to encompass all of Patrick and my story – our relationship, how we met, the last ten years of our lives; all the stops and starts along the way. Those stops and starts sent deep reverberations into how Kiran came to us. But her story also goes beyond that to how we got to be where we are. It includes our parents’ stories, our grandparents’ stories – stories of courtships, migration, things lost and things found. Without those things – the love letters Patrick and I wrote to each other from different states, different continents; the choices our families made to come to New York, leave New York – without those stories, how would Kiran have come to be? Her birth is tied to that history irrefutably. My heart is full thinking of how Patrick and I will tell Kiran all of those stories big and little, weaving the fables of our family for the rest of her life. But those stories are for another time. So I will instead find the thread of how Kiran began to come into this world, how she slowly, slowly, slowly descended, and how hard she and I worked for each other. That is the story I will tell. And I will tell it for Kiran.

 

There’s more to the story…