All posts by sumeerayounis

Family Pictures – Spring 2018

It seems like the only time I actually hit publish on my posts is when I need to easily share our family pictures. But one day I’ll actually edit the hundreds of other posts I’ve written and I’ll have a good archive of the kids’ early days.

It’s hard to believe that we are already well on our way to welcoming our third baby. This pregnancy has felt like it has gone on forever. And in some ways, I suppose it has. I found out I was pregnant in early 2017 and was both nervous and excited. Nia was still very young but knowing that I wanted another baby at some point, I tried to be positive. That was a short lived pregnancy and before the second month, I miscarried.

After that I did know that I wanted to continue growing our family and luckily we got pregnant again shortly after. When we went to California last spring I was pretty sure I was pregnant but wanted to wait until I got home to test. I feel like too many of my memories over the last 8 years have been complicated by negative pregnancy tests.

After a long flight and wrangling two kids home, we were exhausted and grumpy. After everyone was asleep I took the test and it was positive. The next few weeks, I was really sick – a great sign! Around the 7 week mark, we went to check for a heartbeat because of my history. Although there was no heartbeat, my progesterone levels were high and so the midwives were hopeful. The next two weeks were a game of maybe this is a viable pregnancy, maybe it isn’t.

My progesterone levels went up, up, up into the 100,000s. I even got a call congratulating me from the midwives because they were rising just as they would in a normal pregnancy. I continued to be sick as a dog so hope levels were high as well.

Unfortunately a heartbeat was never found and the midwives consulted with an exacerbated OB who came in and did another ultrasound and said something along the lines of, “There’s no heartbeat, what do you want me to tell her??” as I sat right there and tried to not let my tears overflow. I just nodded and did that ‘what can you do?’ smile. After the OB left, I’m sure I bawled. All these losses blend together at some point.

This was the day before Ramadan 2017 and the silver lining was that I was able to fast for the first time in four years. Unfortunately I hadn’t prepared for it at all! Ultimately, it was a great Ramadan but my miscarriage still hadn’t started by the end. I should have been more worried but since my midwives didn’t seem concerned, I really wasn’t either.

We went to Michigan for Eid and on the day before Eid, my miscarriage began. I expected it to be uneventful as all of my miscarriages so far had been and in the beginning it was. We went back to DC and resumed our regular life.

On a Thursday night I woke up knowing something was wrong. I was bleeding profusely and without too many gorey details we quickly got changed and headed to urgent care.

The first PSA break for this post:

  • I almost stayed home to try to have the miscarriage in the shower because I had read in the internet that it can be hell and you just cry and get through the pain. Do not do this. I really think if I stayed home I could have died.
  • Our first instinct was to go to urgent care. Thank God it was closed and we went to the ER. If you are bleeding profusely, go to an ER!

When we got to the ER it was more clear that something was wrong. They immediately admitted me and the next hour or so was just lots of bleeding and testing. Once in the room we waited for an ultrasound and my pain was still manageable. During the course of waiting I started getting horrible contractions and my pain became increasingly worse. It’s one thing to experience that pain when you are in the process of bringing your child into the world but entirely different as you try to let it go. It was emotionally and physically excruciating.

Again, without going into the gory details, the next couple of hours involved a lot of blood loss and finally an invasive and painful ultrasound by a very cold sonographer.

When the ultrasound finished and I was getting back in the wheelchair I said, I’m going to pass out now, please don’t let me fall on the floor. Apparently I passed out and my body started shaking as the sonographer asked Feraz if this was normal. Argh! Thankfully a nurse was passing by and he rushed over to help. The next thing I remember is being in a crowded room with IVs in my arm, an oxygen mask on my face and someone asking for a history of what happened and someone else asking if I had signed off on receiving a blood transfusion. I was in and out of consciousness and hearing bits of conversation. I remember shaking uncontrollably from being so cold and trying to pull my hand away because they were putting an IV in there. Eventually I came back to and was on fluids and getting a blood transfusion. They were having trouble getting my blood pressure back up and couldn’t move me to SICU until that happened. Eventually I stabilized, they gave me drugs to slow down the bleeding and I was moved to a room.

Unfortunately my bleeding didn’t slow down and I needed another blood transfusion and eventually I was taken in for a D&C. It wasn’t until I was getting the anesthesia that I cried. I was so tired and they had to intubate me which was more scary to me than the D&C.

When I came to, I felt so much better. The pain and bleeding were gone. I did feel like I was having a heart attack and they did an EKG but my guess is it was just anxiety from everything that happened.

Second PSA stop:

  • Get the D&C much sooner than later if you know the pregnancy is not viable!
  • Be a squeaky wheel! If you feel something is wrong, keep articulating it until someone listens or explains to you in detail why you shouldn’t be concerned.

And just like that it was over. I was discharged shortly after and with bruised arms and bandaids I went home and got to see the girls before they went to sleep.

Part of me doesn’t want to share this story juxtaposed with the pictures below. It is sad and uncomfortable and I kind of want to forget it happened. But it is the narrative of so many women. Conception, pregnancy and childbirth are harrowing experiences for so many of us.

Before I entered this world I had no idea of the many complexities of creating a family and the fact that most women have some sort of trauma associated with bringing life into this world. For someone who is struggling to start a family or has dealt with loss, scrolling past pictures of families and round bellies can be painful. We don’t talk about the hard parts for so many reasons. The shame of what has happened, the taboo surrounding any talk of women’s bodies and the discomfort of remembering. But sharing stories and pain is also healing. It humanizes both ourselves and the person we are sharing with. Without the dark periods, most of our narratives are not sincere or complete.

And so, the next chapter. A few months later, in early November, we found out we were expecting again. Again, I was both nervous and excited. Probably also a bit terrified this go around.

As this pregnancy winds down I can’t help but reflect of the last 8 years and what my body has endured and what it has accomplished. I am so grateful for our girls and God willing, their baby brother. I pray that I am making the right choices for our family and that this baby comes into this world in good health, peacefully and uneventfully. I pray that we all find peace in the stories we have lived and are living. I ask that you join me in these prayers. Ameen.

Family Photos 2017

Last year we missed our chance to get pictures with Blue Lily because we had just had Nia a few months before and were preparing for our Dubai trip but this year I remembered to book! Since they were in town on Feraz’s birthday, I thought it would be a fun morning activity. Feraz noted that it was probably more a gift for me but I still think it was a great birthday morning! We got to spend time walking around Georgetown, grabbed some lunch and enjoyed some time by the waterfront. All before nap time! Here are some of my favorite shots. Love my little family, Alhumduhlillah!

And then there were 4.

My friend Sanwaree came over and snapped some pictures of our family last Sunday afternoon and we are obsessed! She did such a great job capturing little snippets of our life and especially Nouri’s personality. Having this chronicle of an afternoon is such a gift.

n and n 1
Nouri is obsessed with her baby sister. In the mornings, she jumps into our bed to tickle her and pull on her ear. When I pick her up from daycare, she runs to Nia’s side of the car to say hello to her. If Nia is crying, Nouri runs and shows her a toy or book and if she keeps crying, Nouri starts to cry as well.
nia 1
Nia is at that great age when you can lay her on the couch and there is no fear of her rolling over or going anywhere! The second time around, you realize how fast that moment goes and how sweet and helpless they are.
nia 2
We love wrapping Nia up in my scarves and clothes. Having something I have worn helps her feel like I am holding her. She is wrapped in my nursing cover here. The rug is the same one my brother has. We saw it at his place and I was obsessed.
nia 3
Feraz is an expert at wrapping babies. At the hospital, the nurse commented on how well Nia was wrapped and couldn’t believe Feraz had done it.
nouri 1
We should probably get a runner for these stairs. Whenever it is time for bed, Nouri peeks through the bannister and says “Bye-bye! Dhafiz!” As soon as she hears Feraz running her bath upstairs, she starts excitedly climbing up.
nouri 2
Nouri loves being “outchide!”. She is always getting her shoes out and begging us to put them on so she can go play outside. She already knows the way to the park herself and will head in that direction as soon as we head out. There is our little blue Fit which we brought both the girls home in. It will be a little sad to see it go for… a minivan!
mom and babies 2
To get our outside time in before Papa comes home, I wear Nia and usually let Nouri walk along. We spend a lot of time on our cul de sac going round and round. Having two has felt so much more balanced for me.
nouri 3
Since we try to keep toys to a real minimum in our house, Nouri is constantly using whatever is around to play with. These cushions get a lot of use and Nouri loves climbing up on the sofas and jumping around.
nouri 4
Mealtime is a cornerstone of our day. I love Nouri’s highchair and all the memories that are associated with it. I still remember when she picked up her first foods and smashed them on her face because she wasn’t quite sure where her mouth was. This picture also does a great job of capturing her bowl haircut which I think is a right of passage for all children.
nouri 5
This is what happens when you try to get your kid to smile and say cheese. I take pictures of Nouri every day and I have to be careful that she doesn’t start to hate them! All of this is so fleeting and I hate the idea of not having these moments to look back on. It’s a fine balance between capturing the memories and being present for them as well.
nouri 6
Whenever people ask us why we have a disco ball in the living room, I answer because some blogger said it adds whimsy to your space. She was so right! I love it and hope we get around to hanging it up so it twirls and we can instantly transform our living room into a disco whenever we feel like it.
nouri 7
Life is a party. I think we spend over half our days at home on these sofas. Will be good to see how well they hold up after a year. So far we have had them for eight months. Because you know, the best time to buy nice new sofas is when you have young children.
nouri 8
Kids these days. Even without any screen time, she is picking up the ubiquity of phones and technology.
nouri 10
Nouri used to always watch me on the yoga ball when I was pregnant and now uses any round object as a ball herself. Here she is getting up from her disco ball chair.
nouri 11
Nouri playing with the new toy Dadi brought her. Nouri loves to ‘color’ and this should be a good way to keep crayons and markers at bay. At least for now.
nouri and mom 1
My baby and my baby’s baby. And a disco ball. See above.
nouri and papa 2
Nouri loves to swaddle her dolls. Paying close attention as she learns to use the miracle blanket from the master himself.
the scene
Goodnight.

13 Years

Athletes train for years, waking up early, maintaining strict diets and painstaking physical regimes for the possibility of a moment of glory. Physicians, lawyers, artists all spend countless hours on their crafts for that moment where they save a life, break a big case or create a piece of work that will touch people for hundreds of years to come.

Marriage is something like all of that too. There is work, refining, learning and adjusting. But there are moments that are so profound and so incredible, that is makes all of the difficulties easily worth it. There are the great moments together, moving to a new country, traveling the world, reaching milestones or welcoming a new life. And there are the greater moments, talking about insecurities and fears in the dark at night, having breakfast we made together in the garden, picking out groceries, singing together in the car, talking about our past and our future. There is an easy feeling. Like sitting besides a creek in the middle of nowhere and a light breeze is in the air. And that moment is, for a little while, all that exists. The years have taught me that love can be as calm and still as that feeling and it is a lesson I am grateful for.

Happy anniversary, saathi. Let’s take a walk down memory lane.

Year 1 - Michigan
Year One
Year 2
Year Two
year 3-canada
Year Three
Year 4 - Baltimore
Year Four
Year 5 - Turkey
Year Five
Year - Spain
Year Six
Year 7 2
Year Seven
Year 8
Year Eight
Year 9 - Wales
Year Nine
Year 10 Ecuador
Year Ten
Year 11
Year Eleven
family pic 1
Year Twelve

Has Fiction Ruined Love?

The Financial Times recently published a piece on how fiction has ruined love and I wanted to take a moment to write about why I think the article is utter crap.

The author uses selective bias to highlight films and books that talk about just one stage of love and if you were to look at just those examples and not be a free-thinking person, then I guess literature could ‘ruin’ love for you. I think the quote that people would not have fallen in love had they not heard of such a thing is ridiculous. Love is such a primal thing, from the love a parent has for a child to the first flickering of love we feel as children and adolescents. And although our culture and environment helps to shape our conception of love, I would need to a read a stronger argument that it is art that primarily shapes how we love before subscribing to it.

One stage of love is certainly domesticity but to say that stage must lack passion, excitement, deep bonding and much more is ridiculous. If that were the case, wouldn’t everyone just be running around having affairs or just be terribly miserable? Certainly, both of those scenarios exist, but to think that must be the norm is terribly pessimistic.

The author uses Emma Bovary as an example of someone who has high expectations of love, and then feels burdened and disappointed by the mundaness of domestic life. But the things he describes are all really great things. To be able to cook with your spouse and eat delicious meals together. To talk about your day and reflect on the life you are building together, to experience the miracle of bringing children into the world and then see them grow up. These things can all evoke passion, excitement and deep bonding.

I don’t buy that romance does not exist inherently in modern domestic life. It is dangerous to buy into this line of thinking because then we settle for unhappiness in our lives. Maybe I am delusional but I am incredibly happy in my domestic life. I’m not saying this from a point of defensiveness or of bragging but because I’m sick of hearing the counter culture lie that as we get married or have families that life becomes this oppressive burden without hope or adventure.

To the extent that capitalism is at odds with romanticism, that is a result of our personal choices. There are many studies that show that people who make $75,000 an year reach a peak of happiness that comes from money and beyond that more money does not equate to more happiness. I think most of us can easily find jobs that we make that much money for a reasonable work/life balance. Getting 5-7 hours with your family every evening is plenty of time to enjoy leisurely meals, go on walks, have meaningful conversations and form a deep bond. Or even to sit by waterfalls, if that is your thing.

This presumption that to participate in a capitalist society means being destined to a fate of worrying about petty work issues and work dramas is offensive to our autonomy. We get to decide what careers we pursue, what jobs we take, the types of people we work with and so forth. To say we are destined to misery through our jobs is ridiculous. Sure, if you want to be the CEO of X company or big shot lawyer/doctor/businessmen, etc., you probably will have to make a lot of sacrifices and deal with a lot of crap. But the hope would be that if you value that thing so much, then you value it more than the things you are sacrificing for it. If you don’t value it more than meaningful social relationships, family life or free time, then you should probably pursue another life course. To the extent that you don’t pursue another life course, it is not because of what you read in a book, or what your community expects of you but because of a shortcoming in yourself that you have to own up to. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that you are destined to this life of misery when you are making all the choices that lead you down that road. I feel the great defect of people in my generation is that they are not willing to own up to the choices they make and the consequences they lead to. If you are too cowardly or too lazy to live the life and create the life you want, then you have to take accountability for your own unhappiness or dissatisfaction.

The author notes that when the relationship really begins, the film or novel ends. That is because he is just giving examples of films and novels that depict one stage of love or relationships. That beginning, lust filled stage, which I think is a wonderful stage and I hope everyone gets to experience it. But to want that indefinitely seems so immature and one dimensional. Don’t you want to evolve in a relationship so it is not all discovering but also knowing? Knowing a person’s history, likes and dislikes? Knowing that you have carved a path together?

The author talks about children being missing from stories and then goes on to describe having children as something that puts couples under “unbearable strain”. Although that is a whole different post, I take great offense to this narrative that having children is a great burden that makes people miserable. Certainly, I know many miserable parents, but many of them have no one to blame but themselves for this misery. Whether it was not stopping to have an honest discussion with themselves or their partners about whether they really wanted to take on the great responsibility of being parents or once having children, if they are raising them with awareness and intention.

The example in Before Sunrise is something many of us who have traveled have experienced. You meet someone briefly and the connection can be intense and meaningful and sometimes even goes back to your regular life. It is a wonderful thing and I have many lifelong friends from such interactions. At the same time, you couldn’t and wouldn’t want to live your life at that heightened level of connection all the time. Like with nature, with human interactions, we need an ebb an flow.

Ultimately, love and life are two precious things and to the extent that we want to point the finger of blame on them being ruined, we can only point it ourselves. We are the architects of our happiness… or unhappiness. To say otherwise is disingenuous and self-destructive.