For Just Being There

In July last year, Maher bought me an iPhone for our anniversary. My frist ever Smartphone. Of course, I didn’t even open it for a few months. Now I’m hooked.

And then my brother introduced me to WhatsApp while complaining about how people don’t just pick up the phone and call for a few minutes. Instead they chat on this thing for hours on end.

Then last month one of my friends suggested I get it. So here I am now, chatting with my friends around the world, anytime of day or night – and yes, sometimes it’s more of a monologue than dialogue. But they understand, they know I’ve lived on the moon for the last ten years.

I was chatting with some of my friends while my kids were in hospital last week. Sending emails too.

A couple of weeks into the NICU experience in Nov and Dec of 2009, one of the nurses organised a Parent Support Group. After some hesitation, it being our first “support group” and all, Maher and I went. We were only two couples in the English speaking section, and the woman leading the group showed us a day-by-day photo album of her twin boys born there, at 26 weeks gestation. Actually, one of her 6-year-old sons was taking us through the pics himself. His mum openly discussed the challenges her family faced at the NICU and over the following years. Of course, she encouraged us to talk. What struck me was that the other couple had shared their baby’s photos on Facebook. Their naked baby with a ventilator, feeding tubes, bandages, IV’s, the works.

They found love, support, and strength through their network of family and friends.

I, however, was unable to call my own brothers. I almost dialed my closest childhood friend’s number a few times. Even did once, a few days after Rahul was already home. Chatted for a few minutes.

A couple of friends of mine dropped everything that was going on for them in Chengdu and came to see me in HK. I barely even spoke to the one who stayed two weeks. She got to know my mum amd mother-in-law a bit better though.

That’s the way I used to deal with things, and during the NICU time and later, this reflex kicked in more strongly than ever before. I felt that no one could help anyway, and isolating myself was the most efficient way to deal with what was in front of me. It made sense at the time because only parents were allowed into the NICU, and I wanted to savor every moment I had alone with my babies. I was too fragile to handle criticism and questions, stress from others, and least of all pity. And there was no way I would break down. Not then.

But then a few months later, both babies out of the NICU, and home in Chengdu, I relaxed. I started to comment on blogs. (Big step!) Then I started my own. I got a VPN in China, to access Facebook again, right after Zambia won the Africa cup. I couldn’t join the celebrations, not even over FB. That was too much for me to handle!

I tried to create a network of my mum friends via Multicultural Mothering.

When one of my friend’s twins were in the NICU a year ago, I felt the need to be present. He had no problem communicating with me, explaining, and even listening to me. I was impressed. And now while my kids were in the hospital last week that same friend along with others all listened, and shared their own experiences. It made everything more bearable. Others read my endless WhatsApp monologues.

Thanks for the support over the last couple of weeks, for the brainstorming sessions, the connection. For just being there.

When I saw this talk for the first time a couple of years ago, it was perfectly timed then. I immediately forwarded it to an exhaustive list of friends. A few days ago my cousin shared it with me again. It was just what I needed to hear. Again. For my friends – old and new.

Brene Brown on Vulnerability

Reintroducing Myself

I’m Mum of Twins (MoT) Leila and Rahul (L and R), who turned 3 on the 1st of November. They started pre-school a couple of months before their 3rd birthday.

I’ve gone back to teaching some yoga classes.

I’ve never been busier – with figuring out how to get the kids out of the house and to school in the morning, teaching my classes, doing the groceries, cooking, trying to find time for my practice, and then getting them to brush their teeth. Seriously, what’s up with brushing teeth?!

And then there’s  the events now that they’re in school. We need outfits for Halloween, photos for “student of the week”. And then there’s the birthday party.

But. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I think of a couple of mums I’ve met in the last few weeks. One is a full-time working mum of a five-year old and three-year old triplets. The other is also working full-time, with a part-time job on the side, mum of a four-year old and one-and-a-half year old twins.

Wow.

One random, but very important thought for me – I can’t thank the people who are helping me day in and day out.

My post frequency has reduced to “extremely infrequent”. I pondered dropping the blog altogether, but it’s something I have enjoyed. It made me think and express myself. And it connected me to family, old friends, and I’ve new friends I’m sure to keep regardless of the blog.

I’m hoping this is a temporary low.

Yogaholic

It was when Maher and I lived in Lebanon that I started to attend yoga classes on a regular basis. It went from 1 session a week, to 3, then 5, and eventually up to 7 or 8.

I started at the Sivananda Centre, two doors down from my flat in Gemmayze. It was interesting, and gave my knees and ankles a break; it seemed to strengthen and balance out the damage that my other physical activities were causing. But the Sivananda didn’t manage to captivate my wandering, hyper-active mind and body.

A few months later, I heard about a 4 day Jivamukti workshop hosted at the Sivananda Centre. It was taught by a couple of teachers from New York. I managed to get into the last session. The room was packed. The yoga was HARD. Halfway through the two hours, my clothes were soaked in sweat. The teachers talked about alignment, the flow of breath and movement. We did related postures in sequences that reminded me of dance; and played with some of the wilder poses. I was challenged. And immediately hooked.

It turned out that the woman who organised the workshop was one of their students, and that she’d just moved back to Beirut from NY. So that’s how I met Dani Abisaab. One of my first teachers. It took me a few more months to get to one of her classes, but once I did, I stalked her around Beirut. She beamed me a smile every time I entered the room. I was welcome in her space. I focused on every word she said, and I paced my countless after-class questions so as not to annoy her! She was never phased. Always calm. Under control. I was sure she could hear my mad inner thoughts screaming and running around.

Much later, Dani started a Sunday evening class at the Sivananda Centre. Of course, I was there every weekend.

My Mondays were no longer as daunting as they’d been all my life.

That’s when on some days of the week, I took 2 classes a day. I kept up with some Sivananda, and even some Ashtanga Vinyasa with different teachers.

When I left Lebanon at the beginning of 2006, to join Maher who’d already moved to China a few months prior, I made a pit stop in Mysore. By then I’d already decided to focus on Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.

Dani’s challenging, well-prepared, interesting and informative Vinyasa classes were a solid base both for that, and for my Teacher Training later that year.

After years of being out of touch, we’ve recently discovered each others blogs. Check out hers: Yogaholic. http://danielleabisaab.blog.com

While she is back in NY attending yet another Teacher Training, she’s kindly hosting one of my posts: “Jet-Lagged in Montreal”. http://danielleabisaab.blog.com/2012/01/18/jet-lagged-in-montreal-2/

They got WordPress

Along with FaceBook, YouTube, Blogspot and others, WordPress has been blocked for users in China.

Tonight, I found a proxy that got me here. So far I stayed out of the game of catch between the internet users and the Chinese internet censors by dropping off the FaceBook world; I couldn’t be bothered to find the latest proxy, the one that the authorities didn’t know about yet.

I’m too much into this blogging thing to do the same this time. I’ll do my best to find the proxy, keep up with it and then move on when necessary.

There will probably be more days between activity on the site than usual, either until I travel or things lighten up. These kinds of blocks can last a few days if there are temporary tensions somewhere in the country, or years as with FaceBook and the rest.

Here’s to freedom of expression regardless of government controlled censorship; and here’s to the hope that there will be real moves towards that freedom. And we’ll have access in a few day again;)

Me…start a blog?

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.
Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites can’t be accessed in China.
After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.
A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.
So went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.
The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.
I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.
I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.
One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.
Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all of four of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.
Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me. a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.
There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy ( http://hdydi.com/2008/03/02/one-baby-envy/ ). Others complained about the silly questions (  http://multiples.about.com/od/familyissues/tp/aatpquestions.htm) they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.
Sometimes the comments were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.
I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny babies in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.
I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.
But, we were together again, the four of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R ‘s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.
A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.
Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly me stays up to blog.
In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post ( http://hdydi.com/2008/04/05/product-review-double-strollers/) that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.
There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.
So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water, some of time at least.
So now I have the occasion to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.
These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.
The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course.
It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter, “When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.”