segunda-feira, 5 de outubro de 2015

Being a successful failure. Or a failing success?

Hello. Long time to write…I haven't been in the mood with so much going on, the idea of stopping just to write about ME has not been appetizing. But now it is again, because every so often I get the urge to speak out about things, especially things that I feel I can't normally say or tell people, out of shame or just awkwardness. 

Everybody who know me knows that in general, I do pretty well with whatever I set my mind to do. And it all seems to come so "naturally", effortlessly..that is half true, it is easy for me to do lots of things, but the emotional part behind it is everything but. 

Do you know what it's like to be successful failure? It mess that whenever I get something right - I don't think, wow, yes! I think, whew, relief! THIS TIME I GOT LUCKY. AGAIN. It always seems to be a matter of luck. And then the FEAR of being discovered as a failure gets worse and worse with each "success". The bar gets set higher and expectations as well, and the fear of disappointing is so great. And any time something does NOT go so great, I take it really hard because after all, it just confirms what I've been trying so hard to hide - i really am a failure! See? When something doesn't go well, I freak out because to me, it feels like I'm being exposed for the fraud that I feel like. This especially applies to the areas of "I'm not really an adult", "I don't really know English THAT well" and even "I'm not a real American…or I'm not a real Brazilian" - and when I got my degree in Psychology, the idea of being an impostor of a psychologist was so terrifying I absolutely abhorred the idea of practicing that profession. The stakes were way too high for me. 

What is this "fraud" syndrome thing? I've read it is a real thing, as in, lots of people feel this way. "Imposter Syndrome" if I'm not mistaken:

“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” – Tina Fey
“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” – Tina Fey
“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert.  How do these people believe all this about me?  I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.” Dr. Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization
“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented.  I’m really not very good.  It’s all been a big sham.” – Michelle Pfeifer
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this.  I’m a fraud.” – Kate Winslett
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ “ – Maya Angelou


This feeling haunts me, sometimes stronger sometimes almost gone, but always there…It is emotionally draining, one drop of perfectionism at a time, which is not really perfectionism, it's just an attempt to not be discovered. It's really neurotic, totally neurotic - I mean, who are "THEY" and what will they "DISCOVER"?  That I, like everyone else, can make mistakes? That in the back stage of doing "a good job" I actually am an ocean of insecurity? How can anyone take me seriously if they find out how much I doubt myself? 

I guess this is just a beginning for me of discussing the issue, no conclusion of epiphany. Maybe a start of a conversation with all others who feel like this. Do you feel like a successful failure who just gets lucky a lot? How do you deal? How don't you deal? 

segunda-feira, 17 de agosto de 2015

Being pregnant is tough. There.

So, week 10 into pregnancy #2. Many things different, many things the same.
First of all, there is nothing very new about the experience, been there, done that, even if each pregnancy is unique, I feel very calm about it, not researching every single development of every single week, or even caring too much about what week I am in, or my tests, or my doctor's appointments. They are details.
And then, many things are the same. The fatigue, the overwhelming feeling that takes over when I realize I am not in control of my body, or that it is reacting in unpredictable ways. The speed of my weight gain terrorizes me, makes me feel ashamed, like I should be doing everything different, or like I just can't get pregnancy right. It really messes with my self-esteem.
I get resentful a lot of the time. Like, why do I have to deal with all of this and everyone else just gets the cute baby to cuddle in the end? And I'M the one who has to see my body morph, vomit, feel sick, stretch, contract, bleed, have mood swings, lose sleep, leak milk, etc. AND listen to endless comments/advice/cautionary tales/opinions/reprimands/what I should do/what I should't do, it is an invasion, a very very culturally accepted invasion. What is it about pregnancy that says "HEY, I AM A PUBLIC BODY NOW, please feel free to comment!" :(
It makes me VERY protective of my own self. Like it's me against the world. I'm trying hard to work with this feeling, so I don't get too hostile or down on myself, but it's tough. Engrained in my cells. I feel like preserving this baby and myself as much as possible, for once it's out in the world, it gets harder and harder to preserve a baby, especially as they grow and make it a point of getting muddled in the world. That is the whole point, after all, and it's great when it happens, but for now, you are deep in my insides and I hold you close as if holding myself close, for that is the nature of the symbiosis that we are.

I hope I can get into a less messy place, but something tells me that pregnancy was never meant to be "clean" or all pink and rosy. But maybe just a little more peace and inner calm?

terça-feira, 20 de janeiro de 2015

Back to School...

My daughter will be starting preschool in four days.
Several strange sensations come and go.

My first-and-so-far-only daughter will be starting preschool and I realize it is the dawn of a whole new chapter in our lives. As simple as preschool seems, I am already inundated by a plethora of school requirements, and I feel like I am the one being evaluated here, the kids are just a distraction while the real test takes place: Can you face school all over again, from the very start? Will you pick the right clothes? Will she have the “right” brand of toothpaste? All these comparisons, taken to the mommy-level.  
I thought this was a done deal when I grabbed my high school graduation, but I see it all coming back in little increments. 
Furthermore, it's a whole new level of parenting choices exposed: the food I send in her snack bag, the shoes I chose for her, the way she deals with separation, with rules, and other adults, other children.
We'll be ok, right?
I am at the least, very, very curious.

Oh my god, what if the teacher is mean?


domingo, 11 de janeiro de 2015

No Rush

No rush, no rush,
Hush, hush!
No rush.
I am tired of the rush, and I promise, after my body came to a screeching halt this weekend, I realized, this is a sign. I might have eaten something that intoxicated me, but it was a sign nonetheless.
What is the rush?
Cherishing the moments with Cora, her view on life, her kisses and silliness, what's the rush? It'll change on its own, so don't wish it away. Let the other stuff fade away into procrastination, into the "I'll do it later", but not my life, her life, the sound of the wind in the trees, the nice feeling of lying on the floor with her watching her fall asleep by herself and her blankie.

sábado, 22 de novembro de 2014

Birth Story Version 1 of ?, Chapter 1 of ?

Taken away to another world, wave after wave

I’m never quite sure if this story is better told in English or in Portuguese. It was almost entirely lived in Portuguese, if there is such a thing, but I know that I am able to express things in English that access parts of me that Portuguese does not. And I am curious, as I have written about this in Portuguese before, but not in English. Thus, I feel my words may surprise even myself. Especially myself.

So all right, another birth story. Another one!  But no, to me it is the only one, the only birth story to come out of my womb and my 10-month-old ovalish belly.

The end of the pregnancy was as gradual as the waxing bump, or so it felt. With an initial series of bumpy, stop-and-go crampy days, then a build-up of doctor’s appointments and serious concerned faces as the “you’ll probably won’t need our next appointment” turned into “well, now I need you to come in every other day”…and the “each birth has it’s own schedule” turned into “why don’t you schedule some acupuncture and let me do this little maneuver here on your cervix?”…And that 41st week dripped by in increments of wait…wait…wait…ping, pong, ping.
41 and 1 day.
41 and 2… 
41 and 2 and half…
Every contraction I felt set all systems into full alert and I had to control my eagerness and joy at the possibility of that being “IT”. But it never was.

41 and 2 and three quarters…

What happens at 42, I wondered, do I explode? Do I implode? Desperation starting taking over me, as the words c-section started to hound my plans for a home birth. “BIG BABY” was another classic.  Perhaps you are diabetic? Let’s just be sure, let’s submit you to 1000 tests which just happen to be your greatest phobia, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. And they were.
BIG BABY, said the ultrasound technician, does your doctor KNOW about this? I would call her right away!
BIG FRICKIN ME, I would retort in my mind, BIG MOM, just suck it up! But no, of course I said nothing.

So then…

41 2 days and 9/10ths….
Plus a brew of chocolate, cinnamon, ginger, and many other things that might sound fine separately and in homeopathic doses, but on this particular Friday evening, was a concoction meant to churn the stomach, taste buds and eventually, my uterus.

And so it did. The tightening of the belly started up once more, and once more I had to curb my enthusiasm – be careful, I said to myself, it could be more of the same…but it wasn’t. One after the other. One, after, the other. Little waves. No rhythm though, or regular intervals, but they were there to stay.
Slowly everyone was activated. Husband, check! Doula, check! Midwives, check! The doula/my good friend came over first and would stay till the end. One midwife of the pair came to check up on me and perform one of the maaaaaany checks that would take place over the next X hours.
I can’t even say how much I was dilated (or not dilated), but it is enough to say that I was still in very early labor, and that she would only come back once active labor started, after 4cm. So she left, and I spent that night enjoying my contractions and getting used to that tightening sensation. Finding positions, finding mind-body connections that helped…I learned to zone out completely, give in to the pain, and thus I slept during some intervals, all through the night.
zoning out in early labor

And then, morning came. Light, sunshine, renewed energy. The other midwife came and another dilation check.
Some more progress, small, but it was happening. However, we seemed to have entered the initial stages of active labor, so the midwives took turns staying with us that Saturday, never leaving us alone.  
I did not feel discouraged and felt like rolling up my sleeves and saying, alright, let’s get this started!

And from here on I have really hard time with the timeline. Something like this, ready?
All family and close friends were informed of labor in progress (as I said, my end of pregnancy had become an issue of concern and quite the SUSPENSE topic, when will it be, when will it be?? So there was no one who was not aware that a baby was supposed to be coming out at any moment, THEREFORE, it was impossible to hide the news, as people called and texted).
So Ezequiel spent quite some time updating and tranquilizing people: all is well, labor is progressing, no, no baby yet, all is well, etc, etc, a loop of the same answers.
And then…pain got worse, I remember lots of throwing up during contractions. I remember the taste of vanilla ice cream, I remember straws, I remember honey, I remember the shower, I remember finding perfect positions on the bed, propped up with lots of pillows…I actually liked lying down, even though it’s supposedly one of the worst positions. Being on all fours was unbearable, I remember that too…
And I remember that evening started encroaching and someone asked if I wanted another check…and yes I did!! I felt like I was about to get an A plus after so much hard I lied down and had that horrible check done and…
No change.
No change.
Ok then. That news fell like a ton of bricks, but I did my best to throw the bricks away and remember that time meant nothing, as long as we were well, it meant nothing. 

And the messaging got more intense, the phone calls to my mom, who was beside herself with worry and after a few hours of no updates thought to herself: Well, that MUST mean the baby has been born!! Of course! And so she came over unannounced to the apartment, toting my grandma along for the show. What a disappointment for her to see me still in labor, what a fright and horrible reaction she had…the entire atmosphere of patience and calm and concentration started crumbling.
So now there was that. There were my own concerns, my own process of getting through the contractions, trying to understand what another night in labor meant, and the concerns of the entire world following me via text messages. And my mom. And grandma. Who were now also wedged into the little tiny apartment.

That night I threw up a loooo-ooot, I remember that, but I also got back in the zone and was able to forget everybody there. I didn't want to know about time, time was absolutely relative and irrelevant. I got into my lying down hypnotic state with pillows everywhere and dove into the pain as each contraction took over.


And morning came. Again. This was getting old.
Sun, light, open windows…
one more check…9 cm!
I remember shouting, Hallelujah!!  Yes!
There were even broken waters in the middle of another great heave, gushing with new life.

All motors started running again, enthusiasm took over all who had spent the night dozing on and off on the couch and chairs:
Let’s turn on the incense, put on the red-tinted light bulbs, fill the bathtub for pain relief and possible birth, this is it, this is IT!
Hope! Fully dilated, tub filled!
I was ordered out of the apartment to take a walk. Yes, a walk around the block on a Sunday morning after 2 sleepless nights and an entire day in labor, still having strong contractions, dripping amniotic fluid, hair a mess and a ghastly exhausted look on my face. But off I went, if it was going to help this along, I was going to do it…a very slow and intense walk around the block…in this absurdly ridiculousely bright sunlight I felt had nothing to do with my world at that moment. What was that, sunlight? Sunday morning? I felt like if on another planet completely.

We went back to the apt, and I got in the water, the wonderful, wonderful warm tub of water.
I was told – hey, from here on, you will start to feel the urge to push, go with the flow and do what your body tells you, ok? From now on she needs your help, she can't do it by herself! She’s going to be born!!

Ok, no problem, go with the flow, go with the flow,
And yet…
Where was the flow?
Absolutely no pushing urges.
Ok, that’s ok, it can take a while, they said.
And so some hours went by.
Humm, they said.
Are you sure? No pushing sensations?
Absolutely sure??
Yes…well, ok..maybe? (I really wanted to be feeling something, ANYTHING, it seemed to be very important to them)
They started teaching me about this so-called-urge, push down there, breath and push down…Let’s lie on the bed so that we can watch you do it and see what's going on.

Of course, my mother got nervous once more and paced back and forth in search of “WHAT SHOULD BE DONE”  and what “WAS NOT BEING DONE”. She panicked, basically, and the midwives were panicking because there was this person questioning their every move and my labor was not progressing in a form they were familiar with. Nothing was going as they expected, but since I was still ok, and the baby was still ok, we were moving on (despite my mother wanting me to go the hospital ASAP. I don't blame her…but it made it tougher).  

Now the IV-part.
They explained:
Hey, look, you’ve been in labor a long time, we’re afraid your uterus might stop contracting due to exhaustion, we better be safe and hook you up to Pitocin just to get things moving along again (my time in the tub had seemed to slow everything down).

IV? Panic inside me, but hey, if this is what it takes, here we go, I am not going to be a baby and be afraid at this point, or show my fear.

The contractions came in little block formations, uniform, one after the other, like punches to my soul.
Punch, punch, punch, no time to breathe.
With each one I was coached: Breath! Push! Down! Push! More! There! Breath! Oh – no, not like that! You’re not doing it right! The frustration was palpable, doubt filling the room. 

And that lasted a while until I got fed up and exasperated, how could I be doing it WRONG if it was something that supposedly was an URGE, something that would take over me so strongly that no earthly force would be able to stop me? Shouldn't it all be natural?
Where was the urge? And I began doubting the whole process.
The IV was unhooked, I needed to rest, and everyone needed to regroup. Anxious midwives huddled in corners talking, avoiding my mother who paced back and forth in her anger and concern.
I went to the bathroom, where Ezequiel tried to give me a pep talk, about how much I wanted this, about how much we were close (we were able to see her head during the pushing, but it always scooted back up again when I was done). He started saying how I was being influenced by my mother and blablabla, Everything everyone said from there on had become one big drone.
One flat sound against a flat wall of me not being able to hear myself anymore.
There’s no shame in going to the hospital
Are you sure you don’t want to try the IV again?
You’re so close! Don’t give up!
You can’t do this anymore, you’ve done all you could
I cried on the toilet, sad, pathetically drenched in sweat, naked and completely tired of caring who saw what or what I looked like. I felt like the apt had been divided into sides and I was on the verge of making one side win and the other one lose.
So fed up.  
I wanted it to be over.
I wanted it to be over.
Game over.

Meekly I said – hospital.
I was met with resistance, I think one of the midwives almost started crying, Frustrated, confused, mad?
Hospital please. I need this to be over.
I got in the car, feeling nothing at all, numb. I sipped on my Gatorade and had absolutely no concerns about feeling contractions in the car, as I knew it was over. And in fact, it was. No more contractions came.
Quick summary of hospital:
My OBGYN came, so nice, so kind, such a relief amidst all those worried and tired people who had seen me throw up too many times and had stuck their hands inside me too many times.
Are you sure, Maya, this is what you want? We can try Pitocin again.
I was adamant, I was desperate, we would NOT try that again, it was absolute agony.
But even so, I think the nurses put it in as protocol (??) and as soon as I felt the contractions I started shouting like a 2 year old – DESPERATE!! No, no, no, no, what is this?! No, no, take it off, take it off!! I had lost all self-respect.

And it was off.
And I was gowned.
And I was injected with anesthesia….sweeeeeet anesthesia. I melted into the inevitable and the relief. Someone take care of it now, I am done. I put it all in your hands, sweet lady doctor.
Baby coming out in less than 5 minutes, being shown to me, me saying “she’s real??” and then baby gone. Me gone. I started shaking, I started bleeding, I was in whole new world.

Hours later I stabilized. Hours shaking and watching the world from my horizontal viewpoint, watching Ezequiel pace back and forth with Cora tightly wrapped in hospital blankets (that’s right, we forgot to pack for the hospital, we had NOTHING). Grateful I didn’t have to hold her. I just wanted to lie there and never have to do anything ever again. Much less think about the fact that there was a baby to care for now. That was completely un-thinkable at that point.
Immediately after birth
Eventually we went up to the room, and that was the start of a whole ‘nother story. Breastfeeding began, blood transfusions took place, pain, pain pain and terrible c-section sensation when getting up, sitting up, lying down, going to the bathroom, uuughhhH!!)\

Our days at the hospital were pretty much me and this face…exhausted.
One day I’ll get to chapter 2, as I know the ending has left many questions and a sense of sadness, but it was sad for me, as well as abrupt -

- so nothing more appropriate.

Just to end with something beautiful, this was the last day at the hospital, ready to go. 

terça-feira, 2 de setembro de 2014

Good Enough

There are days where I have to recruit myself to be nice. Something along the lines of, "Hey, come on, be nice to her, say three nice things to her, I think she deserves a break, some mercy from her own self, don't you think?"

Like I said to my therapist yesterday, I write ten things on my daily to-do list, get 20 things done, then it's 11pm and I put 5 more just to top it off, actually thinking it's possible, or that I am an endless well of energy and resources. No matter the 25 items on the list, I end the day feeling like I'm lacking, still feeling like it's never enough, like I'm pursuing some sort of incredibly elusive white rabbit.

There's no use making a list of everything that got done today in the effort of making me feel good about myself, it's something that's happening in a place unaffected by lists and their rationale. A place that just looks at distorted images in the mirror and crazy never-ending demands and expectations.

So out of another place, that which makes me realize how tired I really am, I choose to have a bit more mercy and lay off the never-ending lists.
For tonight, I am enough. I am enough. I do enough, I try enough, I am good enough. And really, there is no enough, that is the real trap and error in thinking. Good night.

segunda-feira, 30 de junho de 2014

Field notes on a bilingual Cora

Lots of people are curious about raising Cora bilingual and find it "sooo cute" when she spits out her interwoven dialect. Here are some notes of how this process has been unfolding, for those who are interested: 

She’s turning bilingual before our eyes. It used to be she would only say one name for an object – in whichever language she caught onto first – so she would say “pé” but not “foot” and “shoe” but not “sapato” that sorta thing. But this last week I’ve been noticing her “duplicating” her words, so she’s been saying “grande” as well as “big”- in other words, somewhere in her brain, she has understood that these two words have the same meaning, but work in different systems. I also notice her switch her language when interacting with me and when I change what language I address her in. It’s pretty interesting. There’s a whole system in her brain that is activated and calls up English or Portuguese. However, there are still “holes” in each language which she covers up by activating the same word in the other language. In other words, we’ve got a whole tower of Babel situation going on here, and depending on who’s around her, they do not understand one darn thing. But I do. I understand it all and am so in love with watching language blooming for her, and I LOVE being fluent in Cora. 
She started calling me Mommy, where before she only called me Mamãe. That was a complete heart-melting moment for me. It’s interchangeable, but I wonder if she’s transitioning to Mommy, because I call myself Mommy when I talk to her. We’ll see!
More loose examples:
Mamãe graaaande, Cuncun, baby!  She say’s “baby” to mean “little”. Hehe. Cute or what?
She’s saying “happy” too, except it’s Appy, because the H sound is not coming out yet, so that also means that, in Portuguese, she says ATO for “rato”
She says “yes” like “ice”, but more like “eeeesss!!””

Oh, and the best one yet – she’s using “has” – like, Cuncun has teddy! Before she only said “Cuncun tem” And verbs are starting to gain a past tense too…she’ll say “biu”’for abriu, or “pegou” “trouxe”…In English she’s not using that many verbs yet (just has, fall, up and down in the sense of go up and go down, and the beginnings of an "is" before adjectives) so I don't really know yet. But she was using the possessive s before, but she sorta stopped doing that. Where do these things disappear to? 
And it's the darndest thing the things she picks up on and how they pop up maaaany days later - I had no idea she had noticed or understood something, and then she goes and uses it spontaneously, I was not actively trying to teach it to her. I can't think of an example right now, but it happens al the time. Oh, "boat" is an example, I think I mentioned it once in a book, not giving it much thought because, hey, it's not like we see boats around our house here, so I thought she wouldn't be able to grasp the concept…but then we went to a place near the lake and she keeps repeating something I can't understand, until FINALLY i get it - BOAT!! She's saying boat and frantically pointing it out! 
Every day brings about so many new words and funny new phrases and combinations of languages, that I'm taking it for granted, stopped seeing how amazing that is. I try to always remember and register some of the more noteworthy examples, or just plain cuteness.