Holly dazed

Hot chocolate.  Candied apples.  Godivas.  M&Ms. Peppermint mocha.  I've had my share since Thanksgiving.  And now part of me is in a holly daze.  Christmas arrives in four days.  

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, I continue to cry.  I've read the obituary of each child and adult angel.  I've watched the updates as the Newtown community digs deep into their souls to find a new normal.  As my new normal now includes a four-month-old, the Sandy Hook tragedy touches my heart in a way I could never have imagined.  A new mama, I look into my daughter's face, and she peers fiercely into my being. Her wide, innocent brown eyes light up my every day when I pick her up from her night's slumber.  Babbling, she smiles and greets me "good morning."  

How to forge a sense of hope through the holidays in the midst of what has become not just a small town, Rockwell-esque, but international loss?  How to go from mournful shock to a faithful holly daze?

As festivities approach, the meaning of Christmas makes itself known as each Sandy Hook family survives each passing day through the death of their loved ones.  As members of a human community, our task is to continue to grow our hearts for the miracle of every day . . . and share the job of that miracle - Life.  It goes on.  The best way to celebrate the miracle of Life is through authentic interactions with others.  Those around the world have demonstrated the appreciation of precious lives, little miracles, through their outpouring of support.  

The holiday spirit asks us to put the true meaning of Christmas into action because the Christmas spirit is alive not just during Christmastime, but through the entire year.  

May your holly daze be earnest and full of grace as you find quiet time to be intentional.  May your days always be merry and bright.



i listen –
to her breath
to the beat of his heart
to the tap of my foot on the side walk
i listen –
to her coos, her giggles, her smacking lips
to the tone of his voice, to his culinary artistry
we are in the groove
i embrace the rhythm of my soul


My new normal

There’s the new normal following a health scare or loved one’s death.  There’s also the new normal following the birth of a child. Since N.'s birth, I've been struggling a bit with our new normal.  Safe to say I've always been a mid-morning person, my most productive between the hours of 9am to 2pm.  Still a mid-morning person despite the fact that I have to get up first thing early morning – anytime between 3.30-5.30am to attend to N. The latest she’s awoken is 6am.  And when that happens, I’m thankful.  Being at home to see her smile as I pick her up for her first feeding of the day and hear her first giggle has more than made up for whatever wicked morning agony I might momentarily suffer.    

I recently had a few family friends over, including their kids – two toddlers and an infant.  I believe this is what people with children call a "play date."  As we chatted about the challenges of motherhood and our kids, I realized I need to stop putting members of my secret Mother Council on a pedestal.  These are the mamas who inspire me with their parental ways, their super powers to discipline their children effectively, and their extraordinary courage to maintain their sanity (and identity) despite the sometimes madness of child rearing.  The members of my Mother Council are loving and proactive in their daughters' and sons' development and are willing to take a stand at school for what works best for how their kids learn.  To me, they are always composed.  Nothing breaks them, not even when their kids display the worst of meltdowns.  They are well read on the latest parenting techniques, and they know intuitively what to do.  They are naturals, and they've had years of experience. Much more experience than I.

A member of my Mother Council is more than their children. While it's perfectly fine for her to identify strongly (and solely) as a mother, she's more than that. She is a combination of elements - earth, fire, water, and air.  She's an environmentalist who embodies the Mother Earth spirit.  She's also a family woman who supports both her immediate and extended family as well as her local community. In the spirit of a warrior, she's an educator and activist whose fire keeps up with the demands of the most prominent issues that affect humanity.  With intense focus and in the spirit of water, she's a healer, health professional and advocate for alternative medicine.  A yogi and an artist, she embodies the spirit of air and provides insight to the present through her role as a sage and visionary.  

As amazing as these women are, they have their moments, and they can be broken.  They need their time out too. They need to refuel. How? Might be a glass of wine, a weekly yoga/massage session, or a good cry.  Or any other combination.  I haven't yet established a set routine of feel good activities as I'm still grappling with new mamahood.  But for sure, I continue to seek the wisdom of my Mother Council as I navigate through my unfamiliar normal.  


Always thanksgiving

Oh, the holidays. Family has a way of testing our resistance or release of resistance. Maybe it's an unnerving comment or not so subtle criticism.  For me, it's being a first-time mama and letting the elders enjoy my daughter without being frustrated by their judgments on how I complete certain tasks related to N.'s care or how I relate to her.  In those most challenging moments, a prayer of thanksgiving is most appropriate.  

But before that, I say the serenity prayer . . . God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  

As we grow our family through birth and adoption, I am most aware that this first thanksgiving welcomes our three-and-a-half-month-old. We are blessed.  We continue to complete a whole new set of paperwork to keep our adoption application active, and it tests our faith in the process.  Sometimes I am so close to just cutting our losses and being done with it.  But I can't bear the thought when we've been in the process so long and have invested so much emotionally and financially.  We're certainly in no huge rush to have a second child just yet as we are still adjusting to baby N. However, we'd welcome less paperwork.  There's always some change in ICAB's adoption rules.  Or PSB, our agency, throws us some zinger.  When we actually pick up a sibling for N., it will be yet another miracle we will have witnessed.

Quiet moment
I well up while washing the dishes, one of my few quiet moments of the day, and I can't help but miss my Dad especially with the upcoming holidays.  How I wish he were here to meet N.  Oh, the holidays.  How they have a way of creeping up on us so quickly and awakening our souls.  Whether it's the hours in a day marked by N.'s next feeding or nap or how the calendar pages seem to turn apace on their own, my thanksgiving wish for others -- more quiet moments to awaken your soul. 

Thanksgiving prayer
Fall's breath gives me life
i exhale a smile
my neighbor
greets Sandy's survivors
as they too inhale Fall's breath
blessed are those
the strong in Spirit

[Dropped off some items at our local Storm Relief Donation Center this past weekend. How sobering it was when the volunteer asked us, "Picking up or dropping off?"  Many families just on the opposite side of town along the river were flooded out, their homes totaled by Superstorm Sandy.  If you're in Middlesex County, the Borough of Sayreville has established a Donation Center. Please take donated items to the Gillette Complex located at 287 Cheesesquake Rd., Suites K & L, between the hours of 10AM-2PM and 4-8 PM Mondays-Fridays and 9AM-5PM on the weekends.]



I know I married the right man. A. & I have been through a number of crises in our last nine years together, and he never fails to impress me.  We only stayed with my brother-in-law and his family for a night, and while we are used to spending time with them, watching A. & E. in action during Frankenstorm Sandy made me thankful yet again to have married into the T. family.  I witnessed A. & E.’s protective nature, and it moves me.  

(As a new at-home mama who is fortunate enough to have stopped working outside of the home temporarily, I am fully aware that A. & E. make tremendous efforts to be working dads.  Perhaps we don't credit men enough and their ability to withstand pressures to be employed full-time as well as staunchly involved in their family life.)

Despite our immediate family needs and busy schedules, A. & E. are there for each other, for their families safeguarding and providing.  Chopping down tree branches and gathering twigs for the fireplace, marinating meats and firing up the grill, accompanying each other on a  Home Depot/Walmart run to pick up extra survival gear . . . The T. men are mighty and solid.

It’s not the getting together for birthdays or holidays that mean the most.  It’s the two- or three-hour-long conversations munching around the kitchen table catching up with our nieces and nephew, my brother- and sister-in –law . . . exploring our oldest niece’s college options, learning how our younger niece’s first year of high school fares or what newest creative endeavor our nephew is up to.  Or knowing that I have little fret about leaving N. in E. & W.'s care.  It’s sharing our coming of age experiences with the kids and our new parental /life anxieties with E. and W. Those connections don’t always come easily in families, and I am blessed that we can relate and truly reveal ourselves to E. and W. and that they can (hopefully) do so with us.

Amazing how dire circumstances pointedly remind us what’s most important.  With an almost three-month-old in tow, whom I continue to be in awe of and daily still can’t believe she’s ours, I am overwhelmed by the gift of our Present.  Graced to be alive.  Grateful to share my heart with my partner, my daughter, family and friends. 

Post Sandy, carry on.  Seek Spirit.  Be rooted. 


Jersey Strong

Sandy Hook bridge
We live in the armpit of the armpit and sometimes get flack from fellow Jerseyans for our choice of residence. It's not the wealthiest of Jersey's counties, and we may not have the absolutely best school system.  But we're five minutes from the fishing beaches of Raritan Bay and just a few miles down the road from the pearl of the bayshore where A. & I enjoy spending time on the pier.  We are fortunate to have survived Superstorm Sandy.  Only had to endure a few days without power and heat.  We have family close enough and inland that we were able to spend a night at their home where they had a generator and working fireplace. A. & I might have continued to camp out at home, except with a newborn we were concerned about keeping N. warm. 

Morgan Marina
Whether it's channel NJ-12 or the NJ.com website, devastating images of familiar year-round shore spots like Keyport, Manasquan, and Sandy Hook leave me spooked, and concerns about my hometown Jersey City's recovery flood me.  Bayshore towns such as Laurence Harbor and Union Beach have been hit hard, and their residents are not those with the million-dollar oceanfront homes.  Our community borders these neighborhoods with working class histories in clamming and fisheries.  A.'s fishing piers have been wiped out, and my bayside boardwalk which stretches three plus miles is crumbled.  I watch the news and see fellow Jerseyans weeping at the loss of their homes, their hearts -- their personal belongings muddied and thrown out for the next trash pickup.  Surprisingly not paralyzed, they express their distress and somehow muster up the courage to believe that Sandy will make them stronger because they have survived her rage.

For a couple of nights, A., N., & I remained at home with hand-cranked radio, LED flashlights, batteries, candles, and our duffle bag full of emergency stocked food (rice, beans, crackers, bread, peanut butter, and jelly). We were the lucky ones.  No water flooded our home as we are above sea level.  We kept N. wrapped up in several layers of blankets and made sure to keep her cozy with our body warmth.  Thank goodness for Neosure formula in powdered form.  We expected a power outage, but not more than a day's worth.  We weren't sure if we could take a hot shower with the loss of electricity.  Figured out we could, and the hot water didn't run out.  We were only 60 percent prepared.  Having to face the decision about whether or not to leave our home in case circumstances worsened was difficult and has made us rethink our emergency precautions in the midst of (natural) disasters.  

Not sure what next spring will look like down the shore.  We look forward to the Jersey shore's comeback.  Superstorm Sandy certainly tested our survival skills, but she didn't break us.  And she won't crush our fellow Jerseyans. Because we are JERSEY STRONG.

Thank you to our friends and family who stayed in touch with us during the hurricane.  Peace, love & light. 


Mother Spirit

On the eve of A.'s grandma's memorial service, once again death reminds me that this life is momentary. I watch N. sleep and want to celebrate all of the little happenings worth toasting to!  Like A. & N.'s healthy hearts, afternoon strolls with N., or mint cookie ice cream.  

In honor of A.'s grandma, Maria Agustin Lopez (b. 12.05.1925 – d. 10.02.2012), who raised him in the Philippines for his first seven years.  

with radiant strength
like the island sun
tulad ng araw sa isla
with the flow of grace
ang daloy ng biyaya
as in an autumn rainfall
she is gone
children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren
bata, inapo, at mahusay na mga inapo
follow her 96 years
beloved Mother Spirit
minamahal Ina Espiritu


Zen and the art of multitasking

My parents raised me to multitask since I was in elementary school -- school, activities, and chores.  Oh yes, and sleep.  That rhythm has continued until now.  As a new mama who recently resigned from her fundraising job in the city to be at home with her newborn daughter for (hopefully) the first year, I've been struggling with the following woes:

  • I'm not stimulating my two-month-old enough. I'm messing her up.  I'm a terrible mother. 
  • I'm not keeping our house tidy enough.
  • I haven't saved enough for me to be home for one year.  I'm putting pressure on my partner to be the sole wage earner.
  • My professional experience may not be enough by the time I'll have to find a job near home.

Instead of worrying about whether or not I'm doing or being enough, I've had to make an effort to include mindfulness on my task list.  In addition to childcare, adoption follow-up, bill payments, dishes, laundry, storage organizing and showering, yoga and walking are absolute musts on the list.  Two months and 10 days since N.'s birth, mindfulness has been on the bottom of the list and yet the most important amidst the blur of sleep deprived days.  I've been trying to 'get back into it' -- trying to commit to my post natal yoga dvd at least two days a week and walks outside when the weather permits.  Doesn't always happen.  Doesn't happen enough.  As yoga has taught me, while I may not be super flexible, at least I can make the effort and just embrace the moment.  

Witting walk
i look down and see her 
nestled peacefully in my chest
i gaze up and see the Sun
shining radiantly above me
my heart as wide as the sky 
warm like autumn's glow
an ordinary instant swaddles me 


Adoption contractions

You might think that adoption isn’t as painful as pregnancy or physical labor. Truth is, it is. Just prior to N.’s surprise birth, we rushed to complete our updated homestudy given the notice that our U.S. immigration approval to adopt a child from the Philippines expires in November. Our agency, Pearl S. Buck (PSB), advised us to do so as we could get it done ahead of the deadline. By the end of September, I mailed in our renewal request for immigration approval along with our updated homestudy (completed in August & mentioned my original due date of 09/13). The response from U.S. Homeland Security?  Because I just gave birth to a child, I need to submit a new updated homestudy.  

Is this a contraction?  

All of this costs, of course – fees that cover the updated homestudy, renewal request application, updated fingerprints, UPS delivery, etc. 

Can't help but feel like PSB has taken advantage of us.  Given PSB's expertise and on their suggestion, we completed our revised homestudy prior to N.'s birth.  Shouldn't they have known that it would be best to submit an udpate after I gave birth?  And now, PSB -- who is no longer licensed to do homestudies in New Jersey (their license expired end of July, and they decided not to renew) -- tells us that we must go to the new homestudy agency to update our homestudy.  

Sure feels like a contraction.  

N. - 10.01.12
Almost makes me want to give up on the adoption process.  But we've been on this journey for the past three years, and I'm not ready to give up.  A. & I always discussed that if we were able, we'd love to have children by birth and adoption.  In my heart, I truly believe our waiting child brought us N., and N. will bring us to our waiting child.

I feel a contraction coming on.   

All I can do is take a deep breath.  And focus.


Release. Accept. Shift.

When I encounter individuals or circumstances that I am unable to accept, it takes me a while to come to terms with the fact that I am coming head onto some kind of resistance . . . or moment of frustration (that lasts too long).  Maybe it's yet another change in the Philippines ICAB's (Inter-Country Adoption Board) adoption procedures or unwarranted advice from a more experienced mom (like my mother) . . . or what seems like uncontrollable crying from my newborn.  Whatever the case, we sometimes have a tendency to resist the person or situation that currently gives us anxiety, doubt, and grief.

What to do? Pause.

quiet my heart so that i may
release resistance
accept the present as it is 
shift my thoughts so that i might 
enjoy the gift of the moment

What more to do?  Keep trying.


My treasures

When folks know you're bringing a child into the home, the only advice they offer is mostly complaining about the lack of sleep, lack of time, or the financial burden of raising kids . . .how grueling it is to wake up in the wee hours of the night to feed a newborn or how trying it is to wrestle with a terrible toddler or rebellious teenager.  They say things like, "You'll see how hard it is" (and no doubt, it is definitely hard!) or "Wait until they're fifteen!"  They don't mention often enough the contentment of simple, precious moments such as . . . 

-- when N. shifts her body until she's in the middle of my chest, so that she can listen to my heartbeat just like when she was in the NICU, and we had skin-to-skin time.
-- when I gaze into my little sea monkey's round face that was so thin and hollow at birth and I feel how heavy she's grown in just a month and a half, and I see how the title of Miss Moonpie 2012 (thanks to Auntie K. for the reference) really does befit her.
-- even though she can't see quite yet, when her focus is on me as I cradle her, she smiles and I notice the dimple in her left cheek.
-- when I fit her into the Moby carrier, and we can actually get out the door for a short stroll around the neighborhood.
-- when I tell her cousins that she will respectfully call them Ate/Manang or Kuya/Manong, and they are excited to have an affectionate designation themselves.
-- the 'life has come full circle' look on Lola's, Lelang's, Apong's, Grandma's and Grandpa's faces as they rush to grab her from her bassinet.
-- when N. nestles into the crook of my arm as I go through my repertoire that consists of Rutgers songs, Broadway showtunes, Ilocano and Tagalog melodies, and '60s through the '80s pop and she finally falls asleep.
-- when I'm up with N. during her early morning feeding, and I sing Elvis' My Way (also Dad's theme song) as my eyes well up because I know my Dad would have been thrilled to meet her.

These are indeed my Life's treasures.


Turn, turn, turn

To everything - turn, turn, turn / There is a season - turn, turn, turn / And a time for every purpose under heaven ~The Byrds

N. is six weeks old.  After working in the city for the past 18 years, I officially submitted my resignation last Friday, effective October 5th, so that I can spend the first year with N.  This weekend marks the fall equinox.  It's definitely a time for reflection as another life change invites me to dig deep and trust that I'm meant to be where I am at this moment in time.  

Hormones aside, the transition to life with baby has left me not only sleep deprived, but also anxious about what the future holds.  I turn to my partner, A., for his emotional and financial support.  I am well aware that I will not be contributing financially to our household income for the next year, and I feel super guilty about it . . . despite the fact that we've run the numbers and planned for this special time.  No doubt a year goes by fast.  Still I wonder, Will I be able to find a future position that suits my family needs?  Can I find an opportunity close to home?  

A. recently asked me, Did you think you would be where you are ten years ago?  Certainly not.  Back then, I was sure I'd never marry and live in my one-bedroom apartment with my bulldog, Daffodil (who doesn't exist), and continue to work in the city.  Funny how life works out.  And ten years from now?  Who knows? 

I turn to the Present.  I remind myself to focus on the now.  Savor each day, moment by moment.  

Six weeks since N.'s birth, I notice that my relationships are changing -- with colleagues, family, and friends.  I have a new found respect for parents.  I always promised myself that I would not become one of those women who becomes obsessed with only their offspring and their family life.  But sometimes there's little time for anything else amidst the childcare and task mastery.  And if there is a spare minute or two, I'm lucky to just close my eyes or take a shower!  

I turn to my Mother Council, a privileged intimate group of friends to whom I often seek support and wisdom on various concerns.  I am blessed to be close to these women who model the kind of mama I hope to grow into.  With multiple demands, they remain down-to-earth and close to those who matter, including the relationships they nurture with their friends.  I also turn to my women confidantes who choose not to be mothers, and they, too, with their multitasking stay connected.  The women in my life are courageous and inspire me through their very being. 

The reality as I used to know it -- just A. and me, hours spent commuting back and forth to work, funding requests and proposal deadlines -- has definitely shifted.  A. & I have waited a long time for N. to join us.  I turn to N., and she has changed my life in ways I only imagined for so long.  

Admittedly what I don't do often enough is . . . turn to Spirit, who has brought me thus far.  What I must remember is . . . turn, turn, turn to the Divine especially as the season of autumn allows me to pause and cherish my time with N. 



Sunday's firsts.  At one month old, N. experienced her first sniff of the bay.  After being cooped up at home, the bay full of peanut bunker amidst a perfectly sunny sky brought me ecstasy.  Ah, the present.  

We introduced N. to our fave brunch spot, Lenora's, where she met Tia Lenora and Tio Jose. Having suspected something was wrong, Lenora wondered why we'd canceled my 40th birthday soiree last month.  Enchanted by N., she fawned over her new 'niece.'  We ordered our usual paninis - Tuscany for A. and Turkey and Chipotle for me.  

Since N. has been home the past two weeks, we've been sponge bathing her. In celebration of her one month birthday, N. had her first bath in the kitchen sink with the support of the Blooming Bath sunflower.  Quick and traumatic.  Hopefully, it'll get better.

Such simple firsts made my weekend.  I need nothing more but encounter life's abundance through the newborn senses of N.      


For Nayla Bay

the possibility of you
inspired by winter's tidings and gracious deeds
summer encouraged you 
to make your entrance into the universe oversoon
may pag-ibig at liwanag (with love & light) 
you were my 40th birthday celebration
Spirit fancied you for us
and we name you --
Nayla means "I love you"

(Nayla pronounced ny-luh)


Day 21 of parenthood

Blessed, exhausted, and overwhelmed.  A.'s back to work after his three-week leave taking care of N. and me at the hospital.  We are fortunate that N. spent only two weeks in the NICU.  Her only issue was that she was small. Otherwise, she has been breathing on her own since she was born.  N. & I are finally home as the three of us get to know each other with Lola's (grandma's) support this first week (though I have no doubt that Lola wouldn't mind helping out as much as possible as she can't seem to  put N. down).  

Relationships between mothers and daughters vary for numerous reasons. The interpersonal dynamics can be significantly on or off or a combination. It's been a while since my mom and I have been under the same roof, and I've always been a fiercely independent one since I was a young girl.  I've actually been having a difficult time accepting Mom's help when I'm so accustomed to doing everything on my own. It's no wonder why some mothers have a superwoman complex.  And now, amidst the stresses of being a new mama, crazy hormones, and lack of sleep, I have my moments of remembering to appreciate my mom's desire to assist us during this milestone.  As needed, she's been more than willing to cook, fold laundry, feed and change N. . . . . and she wants to because N. is her first and only granddaughter.  I can only wonder what kind of crazy I will bring to N.'s life when she's older.

Life has changed.  I'm on late night duty with N.  Mom cares for her during the day, while I sleep into the late morning and attend to tasks for the day.  I'm supposed to nap in the afternoon, but it's hard when I have a running list of to-dos that need to be checked off, and Mom and I are interchangeably taking care of N.  A. will arrive home from work, have a snack, go up to take a nap, followed by quality time with N.  I find myself eating dinner alone and napping by late night when A. wakes from his evening respite.  Then I'm back on duty come N.'s late night feeding.

Ongoing concerns such as immediate doctors' appointments (N.'s, A's. and mine), future back-to-work plans, and N.'s most pressing needs -- not to mention the random emotional moments I experience while breast pumping and dumping (because I'm currently on blood pressure meds and can't give N. breast milk).  

Oh, the madness
On the periphery of deadlines is having to update our immigration paperwork for the adoption process -- have to get that done by the end of September. After speaking with an adoption resource, who shared that she too became pregnant in the middle of their adoption journey from China (whose timeframe is much longer than the Philippines), I am more convinced we are where we're meant to be.  Two biological kids later, a third by adoption and in the process of adopting a second from China, D. shared what an absolute blessing it's been to grow their family both by birth & adoption.  Yes, we are where we're meant to be.  Things will work out as they're supposed to. 

And lingering in and out of my mind is the fact that my Dad isn't here to meet N. Sure, if I believe his spirit lives on, he somehow knows and probably played a pretty critical role in bringing N. to us wherever he is.  Tomorrow is his four-year death anniversary.   

Need meditation.  It's necessary to my daily survival and connecting to myself. Breathing in, I feel calm.  Breathing out, I feel relaxed. May I be safe from inner & outer harm. May I  be happy & peaceful. May I be strong & healthy. May I take care of myself with joy.  

A. & I have so much gratitude for the team of specialists who cared for N. and me throughout the pregnancy as well as the nurses and doctors on staff during labor and delivery.  A most heartfelt thank you to all of our friends & family who visited at the hospital, left messages and sent treats, as they share in our delight at N.'s arrival into the world.


Welcome to the universe

The universe gifted us with our newborn daughter, N., the eve of my 40th birthday.  She was born on 08/08/12, 12.09am, 3.1lbs.  A premie, N. remains in NICU until she gains weight.  Thankfully, she came out screaming via emergency c-section and has been breathing on her own since then.  Other than an ivy feeding tube, she is hooked up to no other connections.  Doctors are hopeful that she'll outgrow her heart murmur which is common among premies.  And today, she is a week old. 

What was a routine weekly appointment with the specialist on Tuesday, August 7 quickly turned into cause for concern with multiple doctors leaving messages and telling us to get to Labor & Delivery (L&D) as quickly as possible since my blood work and 24-urine hour tests indicated dangerous results.  I would deliver that day.  I'd just packed a hospital bag the night before.  A. & I wrapped up what we could in 30 minutes at home and headed for L&D at the hospital where we were not expecting to give birth.  But knowing that the teaching hospital had a NICU, there was no question about delivering there.      

We arrived at L&D Room 8 around noon.  I was not prepared for the next twelve hours as doctors made tremendous efforts to bring my extremely high blood pressure down, which was the major cause for concern.  They informed us that the solution to preeclampsia was delivery.  A. & I learned that doctors were not immediately suggesting a C-section, but would induce me with two individual drugs, cervidil and petocin, in the hopes of a vaginal delivery - those were the next grueling 12 hours in the midst of my anxiety and panic as I was doped up on magnesium sulfate.  Doctors descended upon me like blackhawks at the slightest indication of the baby's lowered heart rate or the instability of my blood pressure.  While I was contracting on my own and reached 2cm dilation, the induction drugs were frightfully lowering the baby's heart rate and by 11pm, it was finally decided that I would undergo an emergency C-section.  

I've never been in the hospital before, nor have I had any kind of major surgery other than having my wisdom teeth pulled out.  While the first two trimesters of my pregnancy were uneventful, being high risk due to my advanced maternal age clearly took over in the last trimester.  

Having to go on leave unexpectedly as of July 13, two months before my due date of September 13 and giving birth at 35 weeks, I realize how much my quality of life has suffered by working in the city since my twenties. So not worth my health.  To think, I'd planned on working through August 16.  Not sure how I would have managed my 12-hour days and 1.5-hour commute one-way during my last trimester.  No doubt women do it.  So eye-opening how a moment of crisis or change brings such clarity to what matters most in life.  A. & I never expected to conceive a child after some years of trying on and off along with various stressful life events.  Nothing has come easy, and God doesn't give us what we can't handle.   

A. & I have been blessed by N., our little miracle.  Be the Light.   

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.


Pulsing in prayer

It has been a most difficult third trimester what with concerns around hypertension, an underweight baby (medical term: poor fetal growth), and non-stress fetal monitoring. I have a doctor's appointment almost every day of the week -- weekly scheduled appointments with my ob/gyn, hypertension specialist, fetal medicine specialist, acupuncturist, and fetal monitoring at the hospital,  as I remember to be thankful for a team of medical professionals who are managing my and baby's health.  And in the midst of it all, I'm supposed to be on home rest and relax as much as possible.  Yeah right.

While I have been cautiously excited to be pregnant, I am also a woman who has always been hyper aware of her body.  No twinge or change in my body goes unnoticed or unexamined.  My most significant anxiety around being pregnant has been -- How will I handle the physical changes in my body? Will I be able to manage the discomfort? Even with all of the reading I've done addressing my fears around pregnancy and childbirth, I so dislike having no control over my body. Blessedly one of my oldest and dearest friends, E., a nurse as well as a doula in training, has been of immense comfort and has offered to support A. and me in our journey through childbirth.   

Admittedly with all the worries, A. recently reminded me that perhaps we'd forgotten about trusting in Spirit. Nothing has come easy to us, so why should we expect otherwise? What with A.'s heart, Dad's cancer, our adoption process, particular family relationships . . . While we've been making tremendous efforts to meditate, prayer has its role too -- knowing that Spirit is with us.  Clearly we need to have confidence in prayer and believe that a greater Life Force intervenes.  That's why we are here. That's why we are grateful for this 'Milagro' in our lives.  In addition to pulsing with gratitude, we must remember to also pulse in prayer. 


Summer: in utero

i am the light of my soul
you are the light of your soul
may summer's sun shine upon you 
all love surround you 
and the pure light within you 
guide your way on 


Forced resting (nesting)

I've been under house rest since last week due to pregnancy induced hypertension as I head into my third trimester. Had to see my doctor and a specialist which has made the last few days even more anxiety ridden than usual.   Trying to avoid preeclampsia/toxemia and get my blood pressure down to a consistent reasonable reading.  Still can't believe we've made it this far.  And in the midst of having to suddenly not deal with work deadlines and an exhausting commute in the oppressive heat . . . I now realize how draining it has been for me to be out of our home for 12 plus hours a day, pregnant and walking from Port Authority to work in Chelsea and back to PA . . . I've had to make sure that we get our adoption paperwork updated in time for U.S. immigration to avoid any lapse as we continue with our adoption journey while waiting for September's 'Milagro.'  Been reading and catching up on movies.  Finally outlined the ocean waves with painter's tape for our under-the-sea theme in M.'s room while trying to just take it easy.  I suppose this is part of what folks might call 'nesting' in addition to all the purging we've been doing, making donation runs to Goodwill, and trying to organize the office and nursery in preparation for our unexpected miracle.  

I have to admit, it's been quite a mindshift to cut myself off from work at least until mid-week when the doctors provide their opinions on how to proceed the rest of my pregnancy, which may mean taking leave a month earlier than I'd planned.  I am super aware that my priority is the health of this baby as well as my own before any pressing funding deadlines.  A. & I have gotten into many-a-spirited discussion about when it would be appropriate for me to stop working.  Constantly worried since we found out we were pregnant in January, A. would have preferred if I stopped working in June.  Not that I'm the ambitious type, though I certainly want to hold my own careerwise and financially.  I continue to wrestle with the anticipation of being a working mama.  After reading Anne-Marie Slaughter's article, Why Women Still Can't Have It All, I am coming to terms with the fact that it's perfectly fine to have more than one career, wherein my professional experiences amount to a series of stairways that lead in various directions.  Who knows what graces miracles bring in the future? 

A. & I have certainly waited a long time to be parents. And we're told, these first years go so quickly.  While planning is particularly important, so is trusting in the Divine that things will work out fine.  A. has been so supportive through our pregnancy adventure as he has worked so lovingly to take care of us as Chef, Launderer, Garbage Man, Home Organizer and so much more.  I remain in awe of what an amazing life partner and blessing A. is to me.  More than once, he has told me, S., you don't always have to be the fierce woman warrior.  

No, I don't.  


Meditation revolution

Day 1 of Yoga Journal's Meditation Revolution.  And golly do I need it!  I was wound up this past weekend. You'd think with three adoption homestudy visits in less than three years, a fourth one wouldn't bother A. & me as much.  Yet, it did.  We weren't anxious about the visit itself.  But the social worker's visit left us a  bit miffed given that we had to pay an updated homestudy fee, and the woman was in our home for all of 30 minutes.  Go figure. It is what it is.  We just have to do what we have to do to maintain our immigration status and keep our adoption paperwork updated.  Just super frustrating what the U.S. and Philippine governments make us do to remain in waiting mode for our child in the Philippines.  

In the midst of work deadlines, preparing for maternity leave.  Oh yes, and we're purging at home, making donations to Goodwill  as we organize what will be 'Milagro's' room. 

So I signed up for 28 days of daily meditation.  My intention is to be a part of a transformation that leaves folks feeling a little happier and freer (myself included).  My intention is for those in the world to be filled with pleasant thoughts.  A. joined me in tonight's 10-minute meditation.  As we listened to Sally Kempton's guided meditation, I felt my breath shift.  Took me a while, too, to shift myself into a comfortable sitting position.  Once I'd settled in, felt myself relax, and Sally's voice began to soothe my frenzied mind.  Before I knew it, the meditation bell chimed, and we were done.  

Even a short 10-minute meditation has the power to revolutionize what seemed like a manic Monday into a simply sweet night. 


30 weeks

Heading into 30 weeks.  Still can't believe we've made it this far.  The anxiety is starting to overwhelm me.  As July rounds the corner, spinning plates are up in the air -- work deadlines, adoption immigration and homestudy updates, AND we're having a baby.

There.  I finally said it.  We're having a baby.  So different from -- We're waiting for the three-to-five-year-old who's been growing in our hearts for the past three years.  No doubt a preschooler has their own challenges.  As our home begins to fill with baby gear generously inherited from family members, the anticipation of an infant fills us with worry and joy simultaneously.

A. & I were blessed to celebrate our anniversary/babymoon last weekend at a most relaxing b&b down the shore at Avon.  Though much too short a getaway, we are thankful to have had the time to sit back, reflect, and enjoy tasty brunchfare oceanside on a wraparound porch in a most familiar location -- right next to A.'s favorite fishing jetty.

My morning strolls enveloped me in a quelled peacefulness as I waded mindfully in the ocean waves.  Nothing much matters except everyday miracles:  A., the man who is my love(R), the baby who continues to grow inside of me, the gift abroad whom we continue to wait for and who waits for us, & the Light that inspires us to . . . take a deep breath, & take in the moment.


Our fathers who are in heaven

Dedicated to those who miss their fathers --

our fathers who are in heaven
we honor your names
and emulate your positive ways of being
as we continue to carry on life's lessons 
you have passed down to us
your Spirit remains with us
counsel us from Bliss Beyond
and lead us into veritable bechance


Inspired by fallen embers

our unborn child
our waiting child
both falling embers
in the depths of
nocturnal midnight blue
i gaze for guidance
up above
our thoughts are with
our unborn and
waiting miracles
moons of our lives
the lulling hush of
fallen embers surrounds us


Navigating the universe

In the midst of awaiting "Milagro's" arrival, I find myself pleading with the Universe, asking why the Universe presents us with certain challenges.

Adoption update: Spoke with our agency (PSB) today. In short, U.S. Immigration requires that we keep our paperwork (homestudies, criminal and medical clearances, financials) updated for the next three years to keep our dossier current and avoid a lapse.  Otherwise, if we don't - it'll be like starting completing over as if we never did any adoption paperwork at all.  This is very different from what we were told initially -- Go on hold after the baby's born, and three years from now, renew your paperwork when it's time to get back into it.  You will not have lost your place in the adoption process. 

Apparently, U.S. government bureaucracy rules. 

Of course, note that keeping our paperwork current requires all kinds of time, approvals, AND fees every 15 months for the next three years.  

This is where prayer and meditation come in handy.  In my deepest prayers, I offer gratitude for our life and reach out to the Universe with questions and petitions for help, patience and understanding as to why the adoption process is so wrought with red tape.  And in my meditation, I listen intently to the possibility of the Universe as it speaks for itself, responds to my questions, and sits with me in its silent way. 

thank you for this breath
thank you for this inhale
thank you for this exhale

thank you for the emotions
thank you for the joys, tears and sorrows
thank you for the richness

thank you for the abundance that is, the plenty that is given
thank you for the so many experiences 

thank you for the Life that thrives under my heart
thank you for the Life that flourishes within my heart
may we be peaceful and at ease
as we navigate the Universe


Everything happens for a reason

Sometimes death happens in threes.  Last week, A. & I attended two evening wakes for Tita L. followed by her funeral. We also learned of cousins V. and A.'s beloved grandmother's death in Brazil, and this afternoon, we attended the wake of Tito C.'s brother. Those who have recently experienced the loss of a loved one are all in A.'s extended family. 

In the midst of both sadness and celebration of their lives as some family members shared intimate details of their loved ones' light and true nature, one can't help but try to make sense of Life.

In addition to death, the daily pressures of work deadlines along with an understaffed fundraising department as well as the anticipation of maternity leave in August and what would be my Dad's 73rd birthday tomorrow are not so subtle warnings to breathe and take it one moment at a time.

A. and I were thankful to accept family friends', G. & C.'s, invitation to celebrate their younger son's first birthday and christening with them today, especially after what has seemed like an emotionally challenging couple of weeks.  Z. happens to share the same birthday as Dad - June 4. Admittedly, it is such a comfort to experience something so promising as opposed to all of the somberness generally associated with death. 

Why is it that most Filipino Catholic wakes are full of sorrow and take place in dimly lit funeral homes that feel like a dungeon?  Why isn't it more practiced to have such events in a garden courtyard flanked by flowers, plants, trees and a soothing fountain that are more of a celebratory sendoff or in some Christian circles, more of a homecoming or rebirth?

Z.'s festivities were in the form of a casual pool party with old family friends whom I've known since I was about 4 years old, Jersey City friends who knew my parents.  Visiting especially with G. and C. always leaves A. and me extremely thankful for the opportunity to connect with them.  Truly grounded and authentic in their ways of being, it is quite enchanting to be in their Light.  C.'s centeredness exudes, and it's more than her being a yogi.  Being in her presence is a most welcome and heartening gift.  Thank you once again for the invitation to celebrate with you, G., C., V. and Z.!

After a brief rain shower, I peeked through their kitchen window and witnessed the sun breaking through the clouds. For a few seconds, I could think of nothing except . . . Certain moments make sense.  Sometimes we have to chuckle at the chaos, smile through the tears, and remind ourselves that everything happens for a reason.  


Revisiting death

It has been an extremely emotionally exhausting weekend as we attended two nights of Tita L.'s wake and yesterday's funeral.  Not only emotional, it has also been comforting to truly know how Tita L. is finally at peace, and so is her family.  We witnessed how much her husband, Tito R., loved her as he shared stories of their courtship and marriage, and we could see how relieved he was to finally let his wife go after such a long (non) existence.  While painful to think of what's ahead without the love of your life, Tito R. has had the past seven years to come to terms without the love of his life as he has devoted every waking moment to her care.  Wishing Tito R. much comfort and serenity in the months ahead. 

At one moment during the funeral, I couldn't help but reflect on my Dad's journey.  I am so thankful that he was able to die on his own terms.   With Father's Day upcoming in a few weeks, I wanted to re-post a previous entry that honors my Dad. (<<< Please click on the link.)

No doubt Tita L.'s heart will continue to live in those to whom she gave so much of herself.  To life beyond.


Flutters, hiccups and kicks - oh my!

Earlier on, it felt like light layers of skin unfolding from deep within. Weeks later, flutters turned into occasional pokes.  More frequent pokes, I realize now, are hiccups.  And every so often I feel like our little "Milagro" (miracle) is aiming for a GOOOOOAAAALLLL!

I catch myself in the moment of trying to figure out if it's Milagro's elbow or knee I feel nudging under my breast as s/he stretches. I am awed that I can actually sense a tiny rump twist and turn, trying to find a comfortable position, just as I engage in a deep twist yoga/meditation practice. 

The sacredness of life
Sadly, we received word today that A.'s aunt died after almost seven years of living in a physically and mentally incapacitated state. A diabetic, she'd had open heart surgery and suffered multiple strokes thereafter leaving her bedridden and on a feeding tube.   Now she is finally at peace . . . and so is her family.

 I am reminded once again how sacred life is. As I revere the growing life inside of me, my wish for Tita L.'s soul . . . 
May she be in the tranquil presence of Spirit
May her open and generous heart live in others
May those around her know the light of her true nature
May they be transformed by her warmth