All posts by Sumeera Younis

Valentine’s Day – 2015

I was just wondering what we have done in the past for Valentine’s Day and when I did a search on this blog here, I was happy to realize that a couple of years back, I did a little recap. So, even though I don’t have all of our Valentine’s days recapped, it was nice to find that quite a few have made their way on here!

This year, our plan was to drive to our friend’s place in Blacksburg and spend some q-time with their family, playing games, cooking, baking, eating and meeting some of their friends. We were really looking forward to it!

About four hours into our drive (which should have been four hours total), we hit really bad weather. We experienced a complete white out and my mind flashed back to the day before Valentine’s Day 2007. I was driving home from law school when I was in a terrible car accident. With Nouri in the car with us, there was no way we could risk continuing to drive. So we inched along the freeway until we came to an exit and Feraz carefully made his way off. We pulled over and searched for a place to stay. We found we were in Lexington Virginia and a sweet bed and breakfast, Abigail Inn, was just a few miles down the road.

When we pulled up, we knew we had made the right decision. The house looked beautiful covered in snow and inside and we were warmly welcomed and showed to our room.  Our hosts recommended dinner at Southern Inn. It was sweet to see all the other couples out celebrating their love. I know Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday, like most holidays we celebrate in the States, but I for one don’t need too much of an excuse to celebrate, and love is something that I am always onboard to get down for.

So, with our sweet little angel in her car seat, we enjoyed a romantic dinner for 3. After we had finished up, our waitress brought us two chocolate covered strawberries, a perfect ending to our night. We drove through the quiet town back to the Inn where we tucked in for the night. Safely out of the snow and cold, we went to sleep with our sweet little family.

The next morning we enjoyed a lovely breakfast with the innkeepers, their daughter and her family and one other couple who was staying for the weekend. We talked about being parents, culture and our lives. The best part of exploring the world is having the chance to meet so many wonderful people.

Nouri’s Birth Story

I have been a mother for almost one month now. In reality, I feel like I have been Nouri’s mother from the day we found out I was pregnant. I have loved her, been proud of her and felt protective of her since then but I have done so with bated breath, too afraid to believe that our modest little dream could come true. On November 5th, with the help of God and the amazing teamwork of the midwives and doctors, I brought Nouri into the world. She came fast and furious. Something like labor started around 10:30 pm and by 3:24 am, she made her entry in delivery room 7 at GW Hospital.

I didn’t leave work until 7 pm that day. Although there were no clear signs of labor, I had it in my mind that I needed to get everything sorted for when I would go on leave. I organized my files, cleaned up my desk and tried to tie up any open projects I had. I started the mile walk home, listening to Serial and even went the long way home so I could stop at CVS and get my TDAP shot. When I got to the minute clinic, I asked the lady, is it ok to get this vaccine while you are in labor? She raised her eyebrows and asked, “Are you in labor?” I responded, “I don’t know. I have never been in labor before. I might be.”

My basis for thinking I was in labor was that the pregnancy had largely been comfortable and now I was feeling pressure and the weight of the baby. I will spare you the other details of why I thought I was in labor.

I had planned to have an unmedicated birth but when I entered GW around 2 am, I was begging for a c-section, for an epidural or whatever they would give to me. I may have very calmly asked for them to kill me. To the midwives credit, they very calmly responded, “That is not an option, but lets think of what else we can do.” They said things like “You are in labor now, there is no stopping it. You can do this.” To which I responded, (maybe yelled) “I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!” By the time I asked for an epidural, everyone resoundingly agreed.

I may have been acting like a crazy person.

But as they got me set up to get an epidural, we found out that it was already time to push! Soon into pushing, Nouri’s heart rate had dropped and it was staying dropped for too long.  The midwives called in the doctors and before we knew it, (I actually didn’t know it at the time because my eyes were sealed shut as I focused on pushing) there were 13 people in the room. When the doctor said it was time for a c-section, one angel in the room advocated for me to have some more time to push. At this point, I had returned to being a sane person and I knew I wanted to do everything I could to get my baby out as soon as possible. I used all the energy I had, tried to listen to every instruction that was being given to me and willed for Nouri to be born. And in a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life, Nouri left my body and entered the world. When I was told that she was ok, I felt wave upon wave of gratitude come over me. When she was put on my chest, I felt a love that tried to escape from every pore and envelope my sweet baby. I keep reliving the exact moment she was born and the longer I know her the more precious that moment becomes. That moment becomes encompassed by layers and layers of love and memories.

Afterwards we had found out that my placenta had ruptured and that is what had caused the terrible pain and the extremely fast progression in my labor. I was reminded of that fine line between everything turning out just fine and everything completely falling apart. If we had waited too long to go to the hospital, if the medical team had been less competent, if Nouri hadn’t been such a tough baby… it is hard to imagine how shattered our world could have become if things hadn’t worked out that night and each time I think of that, I am even more grateful for the privilege of being Nouri’s mother.

Niagara Falls Anniversary Trip

To celebrate our 11th anniversary we took a trip to Niagara Falls. Before going on the trip we though we would make it an annual adventure since we had such a great time last year. Although this year’s trip had some great highlights including staying at an adorable bed and breakfast, discovering Niagara on the Lake, visiting with our friend CD who we met on the last trip and catching an amazing light show, we are not sure we will be making an annual pilgrimage. But we will definitely be back- we have to take the baby to discover the magic of the falls!
The first few days of the trip were exceptional and we managed to get in some of the highlights I mentioned above.  In the middle of the trip we headed up to see Feraz’s friend in the suburbs of Toronto and we had a great time hanging out with them and spending time with their kids. We were able to get in some time apple picking, going to an animal farm and even spending some time in Toronto itself. 

When we got back to Niagara we arrived to a hotel with no electricity. We were able to cancel our reservation but we had to scramble to find another place to stay. I decided to splurge and get us a nice room at the Sheraton, fully equipped with a jacuzzi! After we checked in, we went to see the falls. I hadn’t realized that there were two Sheratons and I booked us in the one that was a trek from the falls! We finally got to the falls but there was a heavy mist and it was difficult to see anything so we decided to go get something to eat instead. 

We finally managed to wrangle up something to eat and watched people doing karaoke at the place we had gone to for my birthday last year. Pretty exhausted, we decided to head back to our hotel. Unfortunately a downpour started and we got soaked in less than a minute. We ran back to our hotel the best we could (there was a very pregnant woman holding us back a bit) and even were able to laugh about it. It was such a relief to sit in the jacuzzi after that excursion!

The next day we wanted to go to Niagara on the Lake or the botanical gardens but the weather wasn’t cooperating. We went to our favorite crepe place from last year and then decided we should head to the airport. We ended up getting there early only to find that our flight was delayed- again and again. Once we finally were on the plane, we were grounded because of bad weather in DC! We ended up sitting there for hours! Another great activity for a pregnant woman! So, in the end, the trip definitely had its highlights but some of the low points left a bad taste in our mouth! In writing it out, I’m not sure we can really blame Niagara Falls for that- we may have to come again next year after all!

Gender Reveals in a Culture of Gender Preference

Did a simple setup for cutting the cake.

For as long as I can remember I have been having a dream of myself playing in a park. In the dream there is a man and little girl and I can’t see their faces. The man has hair like Feraz’s. The balckest black, shiny and straight. So does the little girl.

After I got married, the dream came less frequently and by the time we were trying to have a baby, it went away all together. And still, somehow with the stubbornness of a child, I felt there was a promise made in those dreams. As we struggled with infertility and it seemed that the likelihood of having a biological child diminished, there was something in the back of my heart that always hoped that this little girl from my dreams would make her way into our lives.
The day we found out we were pregnant was not ours alone. Both our families knew we would be getting the call from the doctor. I was in the large corner conference room when I got the call. I tried to gauge the tone in the Nurse’s “Hello.” Something I had done so many times before only to be disappointed moments later. But not this time. My numbers looked good. I was pregnant. I wrote my hcg levels on a small sticky pad. Every other day for the next week, I would receive a call with updated numbers. I wrote each progress report down on another little sticky note. I put them all in my purse. I compared them with other women’s numbers on the internet. Did people miscarry after having such high numbers? Could there be twins? I had thought that after the positive pregnancy test, I would be able to relax but I kept hearing stories of early losses. That I shouldn’t celebrate until I hit that coveted three month mark.
But even at three months, I couldn’t celebrate. One women told me about her 20 week scan where they learned the baby’s brain was not developing. She had to terminate the pregnancy. So I decided to wait to celebrate. To bond with my baby. To protect myself from that profound feeling of loss. For the meantime the baby would just be an idea like it had been for so many years.
The weekend before the 20 week scan, I felt my nerves building. By the morning of the scan I had my full armor on. As the technician moved from one organ to the next I was too scared to ask if everything was OK. Some time in, I finally managed, “It has a brain right?” She professionally replied that it did.
Watching the image on the ultrasound, it was difficult to reconcile that the picture on the screen was happening inside of me. I looked at the screen and then my belly and still could not comprehend that this little life was inside of me. Eventually the doctor walked in and gave us the all clear. The baby looked good. Did we want to find out the sex? Yes! Yes! To the baby being healthy. Yes! To finding out the sex.
Because we had to share the first happy news on the phone, I wanted to tell the sex of the baby in person. We would be going to Michigan to celebrate Eid and I thought it would be a great opportunity to share the news.  But knowing that it was a girl made me falter. I knew our families were both ecstatic that we were having a baby after wanting it for so long but gender preference is deeply rooted in many cultures throughout the world.
In parts of the world, girls are still buried at birth, girls ‘disappear’ by the millionsGirls are exploited, girls are valued as less, girls are not safe, girls will face a lifetime of obstacles and even in success, girls will be made to question how and why they attained it.
So, why did I want a girl so badly? Why would I want to celebrate a girl?
Because I was a girl once and I am a woman now. I want to have a chance to guide a daughter, to raise her to be strong, and to be a leader in a world that needs strong women among those at the helm. I love being me. I value being me and for me, personally, a part of this celebration of my person is a celebration of the sex I am. These feelings of self-worth and self-love were the result of hard fought battles for me and I want the chance to pass these lessons on. 
And with these thoughts, I decided to go ahead with the gender reveal party. I trusted that both our families would be ecstatic to celebrate our daughter.

I almost started crying when I cut the cake. Even though I knew what we were having, it felt real and I felt for the first time I was really letting my guard down and allowing myself to celebrate this growing life. We had a great time with the reveal. There was a lot of laughing, happiness and love in that room and that is all I could ever want for any child of mine.

These guys thought I was having a boy.

The girl team.
I was overly excited to cut the cake!

Anniversary Weekend – 11 Years!

This past weekend Feraz and I celebrated 11 years of marriage! We usually plan a big trip but since we didn’t know how the pregnancy would be, we didn’t want to commit to a big trip. Luckily, the pregnancy has been easy peasy so we decided we would have a nice local anniversary weekend.
First off- presents! A few weeks ago when we were going to bed, Feraz groaned and complained life is so hard. I laughed because, in my opinion, our life is so easy. Seeing that he was serious, I asked him what made life so hard. He said, “There are so many dishes to do and the lamp is so far away from the bed.” Every night when we are done chatting, Feraz has to lean all the way across our king sized bed to turn off the lamp. I thought these were fair points and decided to do something about them. The next morning, I woke up early and did all the dishes we had from some party or the other.
The second part of the solution was his spoof anniversary present. Initially I was going to get him a clap on clap off switch but I thought it would be jarring to hear loud clapping right before going to bed. Instead, I got him a super switch wireless remote. Let me tell you. This thing is AMAZING. We just keep it right by us and turn on and off the light as we please. 
Even though we hadn’t planned on doing a big trip, I knew Feraz was itching to go somewhere so for his anniversary present I planned a trip for us to Niagara Falls and Toronto in a few weeks. We went to the falls for my birthday last year and Feraz has been talking about wanting to go back ever since. Feraz was SO pumped when I gave him his little story card. I love that we still celebrate birthday, anniversaries and other occasions with so much love. It keeps the magic of love alive.
On our actual anniversary day, we started with some drinks from our new Nespresso makes and some almond pistachio croissants from the farmers market by my work.
It was such a beautiful morning. I loved sitting in our family room and seeing the reflection of the disco ball everywhere. Its the little things!
We packed our snacks, sandwiches and good attitudes and headed up to Catoctin Park in northern Maryland. The park was nice but neither of us expected the hike to be so intense. At almost seven months pregnant, people on the trail kept stopping us to tell us we were doing a great job. A group of older women were also hiking and each time we saw them on the trail, they would say: “If you can do it, so can we!!” Funnily enough, I was thinking the exact same thing! 
When we got to the summit, it was a bit disappointing. We sat down, ate our snacks and had a good laugh about how lame the view was, especially considering all the effort. But still, this hike was the highlight of our anniversary weekend. Five or ten years ago, we (read I) would have probably been in a really bad mood because the hike wasn’t spectacular and we had to sit through a long drive to get there. Life has taught us to go with the flow and to enjoy whatever the situation is. We both had a great day, despite the setbacks and despite the hike being twice as long and twice as hard as we were prepared for. What I remember most of this day is the smiles and the laughter. Feraz pushing me up a steep incline as we both cracked up at the sight of us.
On the way home from the hike we stopped by a low key restaurant called Woodlands for some South Indian food. It was pretty good and quite honestly, anything would have tasted amazing after our excursion! The restaurant was in a strip mall which had a south american bakery which we visited after our linner. I definitely recommend going to both if you are ever in the area. 
To finish up our weekend we went to our guilty pleasure, Max Brenner. We are obsessed with this place but only go if there is a special occasion to keep ourselves from becoming giant sugar balls. So- 11 years have come and gone and they have been beautiful. I can’t believe that the next time we will be celebrating our anniversary, it will be with our sweet little daughter!