End of an era

I feel a huge sense of relief and a ton of positivity this week. Where do I even start?

Obviously there was the inauguration. I have never been a political junkie. My parents came from a country where there was a military coup during their lifetime, all books with dissenting political ideas were burned at their universities, and friends and acquaintances were taken from their homes in the middle of the night and murdered for having dissenting political opinions. Because of these reasons, my parents were always largely apolitical. We never put out yard signs, protested as a family, or watched States of the Union, inaugurations, etc. I myself have adopted some of this trepidation around openly expressing political opinions – especially in my role as doctor. We are so divided as a country that it seems so loaded to me to bring up politics or, more commonly, to respond to a patient’s comment on politics. But lately, due largely to the impact of social media, I have begun to wonder how much of my reticence to discuss politics comes from a place of privilege. I’m an immigrant who has been a citizen of this country for decades longer than I’ve lived outside of the country. I’m White passing, gender normative, heterosexual, educated, financially comfortable. So I have been trying to step outside of my comfort zone to be more vocal in order to advocate for others. And also, to be honest, because the events of the past four years have been disturbing beyond words – so, so, so much worse than anything I could have ever envisioned in November of 2016.

But now, there is hope. And yesterday, I sat with my two older kids and replayed some of the performances and speeches from the inauguration. The kids celebrated it at school. And I breathed a sigh of relief that my older children, now 4 and 6, would have memories of a President who is decent, humble, honorable and a good human being.

Second: this is my last week before heading back to work. I have a lot of mixed emotions regarding this. I think: this is the last time I will ever have an infant. The last time I will ever hold someone for every nap during the day. The last time I will ever spend so many hours per day, every day, every week, with one of my children. I feel a sense of nostalgia about this moment, but not necessarily sadness. As my husband likes to joke, we have done this four times – and that’s plenty! I am also looking forward to this next phase of my children growing into adults. I already see changes in my 6 year old – bigger worries, harder questions, the ability to read and digest actual novels (he is currently reading the second Harry Potter book). He is losing some of his child-like innocence.

To be honest, being home with four children 6 and under is a lot. As I always say: being a stay-at-home parent is MUCH harder than being a working parent. Yes, work is demanding. Yes, it adds a full-time job on top of full-time responsibility. But work allows you to tap into the essence of who you are. A lot is lost in motherhood – hobbies, memories of who we were pre-children, meaning outside of these small humans. For me, working is a way to hold onto a crucial component of who I am. I’m able to have adult conversations, use my analytical mind, help others in ways that are tangible, eat lunch, go to the bathroom alone, have uninterrupted thoughts, etc. I’m very much looking forward to that. But, in addition to missing the baby snuggles and extra quality time with my kids, there are two things I will miss dearly: (1) flexibility – the ability to make every last-minute school engagement without thinking about it, the ability to attend to a child’s needs 24/7 with no other obligations, the ability to run an errand for the home every day of the week, the ability to pick the kids up when they are not feeling well without having to cancel clinic, the ability to quarantine for 2 weeks without being disruptive and (2) mental space. I have been thinking about this one a lot. For a variety of reasons, I was feeling pretty burnt out before going on maternity leave. Not working has off-loaded work stress from my life (that sounds pretty obvious but it’s true!). I don’t have to worry about having a difficult conversation with a colleague, feeling disrespected by administrators, challenging patient cases. It’s hard for me to leave work at work – to compartmentalize it – especially when I have the ability to be connected 24/7 and also when I do split my workday to make time for pick-up, kids’ activities, etc. I see sick patients and I worry about how they do, and it is impossible for me to turn that off at 5pm. So I am going to see how to compartmentalize the things that I can – non-clinical work – while also feeling relieved that I have dissociated from the more toxic work environment I was previously in.

Third: I received the second COVID vaccine. I am so so relieved by this. I will, of course, continue to use PPE at work and masks when out in public, but I feel so much better knowing that I will be somewhat protected against COVID, especially when seeing positive patients or those who are being evaluated for active disease. My parents have both received one dose of their respective vaccines (they work in healthcare) and my brother and parents-in-law recently recovered from COVID, so I am hoping this all means that we can have some sort of reunion later this year.

Finally, I have restarted on of my favorite past times: reading. I am on my fifth novel this month and have been working to actively carve out time to read each day. Of course, this will be somewhat compromised when I start working, but I am hoping to keep at least 50% of this reading productivity. Reading brings back such great memories for me of reading during childhood and I think it’s so important for the kids to see me reading as well. It has also provided some much needed escapism during a year that has afforded such few opportunities for activities that remind us of normalcy.

Here’s to the end of one era and the beginning of an even better one.

6 years, 10 weeks, 4 days

This weekend, my oldest turned 6.

This week marked 10 weeks since our youngest was born. I need a name for him on here, maybe Baby A? We have already exhausted X, Y and Z!

Today is 4 days after the election was called for Biden/Harris.

So many milestones. So much change. All within a week.

  1. Our oldest, Baby X, now Child X I guess, has crossed over into a new era. He has lost his baby features. He is aware and cognizant of the world. He is losing some of his innocence – has questions about death and dying, understands that people are not always nice, rolls his eyes when annoyed, has started to notice that there are topics out there that we have not yet touched on as parents, topics that he will need to figure out these next few years. He is independent. He can shower alone, get dressed on his own, read – in fact, he is an avid reader, gobbling up books left and right. He is in kindergarten and, according to his teacher, a “model student” and a “model child”. He received a compassion award at his E-ssembly a few weeks ago. He is responsible, athletic, energetic, loving. We are so proud of him for being himself. Having a 6 year old makes me realize more than ever that the writing is on the wall – the years are short is not just a cliche. In the span of one more 6 year run he’ll be on the brink of adolescence, and more of his world will be a secret to us. Whereas now he tells us every thought that he has, once day he will hide some of those thoughts from us. In 6 more years he will be about to graduate high school, likely off to college. He is our rule follower, our anxious one, the most mature. I hope he always knows how much he was wanted – how his dad and I weren’t sure if he would ever be born, and how excited we were when he came to be. He taught us everything about parenting. Our lives are definitively divided up into before his birth and after his birth. After his birth, we were never the same again – in a good way.
  2. As time races on, our littlest one, Baby A, is growing by leaps and bounds. I am holding on tightly to these days, especially in light of my oldest becoming a child. He lives in the sling. We are always holding him close and at night we alternate holding him close (I am typing this while he sleeps on me while my husband sleeps in the bedroom). One day I will write out his birth story, but the important message here is that he was born healthy and I did well also, without complications. We made it to the hospital. No one got COVID. It always amazes me how small and defenseless newborns are. They can’t hold their heads up, they can’t do anything but cry and try to find a boob. His brothers love him to pieces – always trying to hold him and kiss him and “cawwy” him. I am always so nervous that he will get sick – breathing a sigh of relief after month one and exhaling more fully after we cross the 3 month mark (we are at 2 months now, 10 weeks to be precise). Like most of our children, he is a terrible sleeper. He prefers to sleep being held, on someone’s chest or, interestingly with this one – snuggled up in my armpit. We hired a night nurse for the first 8 weeks. After her last day we asked her to help us out 2 additional weekends but now we are on our own. It felt like it was time to move on. She was incredibly helpful but also wasn’t working towards trying to get him to sleep in a bassinet (she held him all night long) and we thought it was best to try to figure things out on our own. He pretty early on started doing a longer stretch first thing at night (usually 3-4 hours, something like 9pm-1am) and then a bit of a shorter stretch before morning. Now, the nights are a blur of him being in and out of bed with me. Sometimes my husband stays up a few hours in a row and watches us sleep while he plays video games, or brings him into the playroom to watch TV. Other nights, I’m on my own, trying to get him into the Snoo throughout the night, or sleeping as safely as possible with him in bed. He started smiling early, and by month 2 was definitely smiling at everyone. He outgrew his newborn clothes in ~6 wks. He rolled over from tummy to back a few times in month 2. At 9 weeks, he started trying to use his arms and hands. He has an adorable asymmetric smile, which I love. I wonder what his personality is like, how he will fit into our family.
  3. Finally, the election. I have to be honest, though I started this on 11/11, it is now 11/16. Where do the days go!? I am so relieved about the results of this election. I was devastated when DJT won in 2016. I couldn’t sleep, was up most of the night with a huge sense of dread. But I remember thinking (and writing) that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe he would rise to the occasion, maybe the people I knew who voted for him knew something that I did not. Well, I was wrong. The past 4 years have been a nightmare. When Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won, I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. We sadly now have this whole “unwilling to concede” situation, but I am looking forward to the day when we have an actual leader who will take COVID-19 seriously, who will respect women as well as Black and Brown communities, who will not promote violence and white supremacy, who is not merely a charlatan.

So many milestones these days. These days are passing us by.

Election Daze

One week ago today, I was feeling pretty confident that we as a country would soon elect our first female president.

On Tuesday, November 8th, I attended an Election Day playdate with my littles. I had voted by mail a few weeks prior and did not have to visit a polling place. I watched polling updates pop up on my newsfeed – “I Voted” pins, “I’m With Her” t-shirts, etc.

That evening, we turned the TV on earlier than usual (we keep it off when the babies are up) to check on the early results. Clinton and Trump were fairly even early on, but Trump soon took the lead. Once the babies were asleep, it became obvious that Trump was galloping ahead. Why were all of these states turning red!?

Let me preface this by saying that I have not always voted for the Democratic presidential candidate. And I should also mention that I am not the most politically involved. Other than voting in the national election and staying loosely up-to-date with the news, I am not very government-focused. This election, however, changed things. I noticed it around me as well – people who were not generally fired up about politics were suddenly fired up about politics (and yet not enough people were fired up as only half of our nation voted).

There seemed to be a lot on the line: outright prejudice against minorities, raging misogyny, a reversal of the social justice progress made over the last 8 years (and I say this despite having voted for Romney in 2012). This would also be our chance to elect the first female president – what a remarkable model for the young girls of our nation!

And yet.

And yet those states kept turning red. The mood of the night turned sour. Trump was declared President-Elect. Clinton conceded. Was this real life?

I felt gutted. I couldn’t sleep. I was nauseous. It was a terrible, terrible night.

Five days later, the disappointment is still palpable. Waves of horror, fear, and anxiety will wash over me periodically throughout the day, and the next second I will go on with business as usual. I find it difficult to eloquently express my thoughts, but here they are:

  1. I know people who voted for Trump. They are decent, intelligent, and compassionate humans. They are all white (although he did receive almost 1/3 of the Latino vote, if my sources are correct). I don’t know how they were able to ignore the racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic comments he made when they voted. In saying those words (despite whether he truly believes them), he has given voice to the hatred that has always divided this nation. I worry about the repercussions – about the violence that will ensue. I am wary of the media reports, but I know people who have personally experienced verbal assaults, and this causes me much anxiety. I believe the only reason these people were able to choose policy/dislike of Clinton/desire for change over blatant discrimination is that they are white. They will never be the target of this discrimination, and so it becomes a non-issue. As for the women, I truly don’t understand how they could have voted for him (especially over a female candidate who so championed women’s rights). But I respect that we all have differences in opinions and welcome open dialogue with Trump supporters. I also hope that he will continue to (as he did today) condone any hate exhibited by his supporters. (And I also believe that anti-Trump protests should be peaceful.)
  2. I am sad that our first viable female candidate lost. I know that Clinton came with baggage, and was also campaigning after two terms of a Democratic president. Yet I can only imagine the elation I would have felt at having a Madam President. What a beacon of accomplishment for so many young women in the world – a true symbol that anything is within reach! Instead, a highly qualified female candidate who did her homework and knew the ropes lost to a highly unqualified male who had more braggadocio than substance. In other words, this was a great example of what women face every day in the world. We have to work harder than men but be well-groomed, perfect, and likable, in order to command lesser respect. And other women will still choose the male candidate because you weren’t [insert any adjective here] enough. Women are terrible at supporting other women! It is a sad state of gender affairs in this country.
  3. We are fortunate to have freedom of speech in the USA. In other countries, if the candidate you were not in favor of won, you would be better off not writing opinion pieces about how his win was a disaster for your country, or ridiculing his hair/word choice/artificial skin tone. We are fortunate to be able to voice our opinions and to not suffer retribution. I hope that this does not change under the Trump administration. It is so important to the democracy we so value.
  4. We need to come together. I know this strikes a nerve for both sides. There is deep-seated resentment here, but we must try to unite. No, I don’t expect blacks to embrace the KKK, or “Build the Wall!” enthusiasts to suddenly welcome Mexicans, but I do believe that middle-of-the-road supporters for both sides can and should come together. We can now see what the division of these past few years has done to our country.
  5. Finally, note to self: we need to be more politically aware. One of my AP history teachers in high school would always remind us of a famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin after the signing of the U.S. Constitution. He was asked: “What have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” and he responded: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” His point was that our freedom – our republic – was something that we would have to fight for continuously. After this election, it has become evident that we are not fighting for it. We are taking it for granted because things are (mostly) good in this country. But that will no longer be true if we continue on this course of allowing others to make decisions for us.

Less than one week after an upsetting election, I am feeling a bit more hopeful about Trump’s presidency. I hope that he will do the “right thing” and unite the people of the United States. I hope that he will take his role as president seriously, and that he will not embarrass us in the eyes of the world. I hope that he will be respectful of each citizen of this nation, protect their rights, and also protect the environment we live in. These are lofty goals, and I can’t say that he’s trending in the right direction, but we must give him a chance. I hope he proves all of us doubters wrong – for the sake of this country and its people. And I trust that my friends who voted for Trump saw something in him that I missed. They have good judgment and I cling to that for a glimmer of hope.