Categories
Food For Thought life Societal

The Complexities of Humans

Humans are complex. We are eager to learn and to be innovative. We are relatively self aware. We have a physical body, a curious mind, and a spiritual soul. Our minds have the capacity to store information and experience a wide range of emotions. We can problem solve with complex thinking and emotional understanding, not solely act out of instinct. There’s still a lot we have yet to discover or thoroughly understand about the human body and mind. But one thing’s for sure. Humans are alike and different. We’re all multifaceted, made up of a variety of characteristics and identities.

There are many factors, some chosen some not, who make us into the people we are. I read somewhere once that people are a combination of pieces of everyone they have met and connected with throughout their life. This makes sense when you consider that our brains try to mimic what we see. That’s why we yawn when we see someone else yawn. We pick up phrases and mindsets of the people we are around. Who we surround ourselves with impacts who we are.

Everyone we connect with whether in passing or in a deep relationship, romantic, platonic, familial, or otherwise, can leave lasting impacts on us. Some are subtle scratches, some are deep wounds that take time to heal. Those experiences teach us what it is we like, dislike, want, will accept, and will reject while shaping the way we understand the world and others.

On an individual basis, it can be hard to remember the complexities of humans. We interact with someone and use that as a basis for how we view them. We can fail to see that those moments are only a sliver of who the person is. (Sometimes the moments we have with others are misrepresentations and/or projections). It can be hard to see someone else as a whole person with a past and encounters that make them into who they are. It’s not for everyone to know everything about you, unless you choose for it to be, nor for you to know everything about everyone you encounter. It is something to keep in mind that can help if you have trouble taking things personally.

Just think about yourself for a second. Do you treat everyone in your life exactly the same? Has every person you’ve ever crossed paths with, even for a brief moment, experienced the same you as others do? I mean, that would be seemingly impossible because our moods and mindsets can change daily. Prior events lead to current moments which can lead to a variety of emotions.

For example, different people know different ways to make me laugh. Some people bring out the worst in me, others motivate me. Some are quick to ask me advice and vent about life. Some I can talk about reality tv and anime with. I talk about work with coworkers in a different way than I would a friend, just as I talk about motherhood differently to people who are mothers.

Everyone we connect with affects us differently, even if it feels similar to someone else. Everyone taps into different parts of us. No one has the same exact relationship with you, as you and they have with others, even if you know mutual people from the same environment. When you remember that, you remember that we all probably don’t treat everyone in the same way, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

I saw a post on Twitter one day that asked, when did you start to see your parents as whole people a part from you. And now being a mom it’s something I think about every so often. It’s easy to forget parents experienced so much before their children get here, even if they had them young. Their encounters shape who they are which can shape who their children become and when those children have kids that cycle continues. But as a kid and growing up, it’s easy to only see them as parents. Even when parents speak on the past, their children weren’t there to experience it. Some parents go more in depth than others. Some are still healing from scars their children don’t even know about. And all of this would affect their treatment of their child.

And this isn’t just true about parents. It’s true about everyone we encounter. Everyone, even the most privileged, is going through shit, manageable or not, all the time. How we see others may not truly be who they are and vice versa. Someone being kind to you doesn’t mean they’re kind to others. Reacting poorly in one situation doesn’t automatically make someone a bad person. Sometimes we don’t understand the actions of others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong.

For example, a couple years ago when I was evidently depressed and just in the dumps about life, I didn’t want to do anything or be social. It turned people the wrong way when I would cancel going to an event to work instead. But the thing was, I didn’t mind working because if I had to do something I figured I might as well make money from it. It made me feel productive and distracted all while my brain could turn off. I didn’t feel the need to have to connect or be present at work like I would at a social gathering.

Inside out is one of my favorite Pixar movies. It deals with human emotion and the brain in a playful way as it relates to kids. One of the biggest take aways from the movie is that an event can bring about mixed emotions. Sometimes you’re going to be overwhelmed with emotions but it’s healthier to feel it out than to let it build up. Memories can bring about multiple emotions like happiness and sadness and jealousy and anger etc. All those feelings occur because of different reasons even though the event is the same. Perspective, man.

The same is true with people. We are one person who can do a range of different things. We can tell lies, perform acts of kindness, compliment or be mean to others, blow off the people we love, be closed off, insecure, etc. We can be amazing people who do or say bad things, even to ourselves, from time to time. And the reality is, it is up to other people to decide if they want to deal with us or not. Of course we can apologize, change and grow, but no one has to wait around for us to do so, just as we don’t have to wait for others.

So, what I’m trying to say is that we are complex and imperfect. We have flaws and bad days. We make mistakes. We have many characteristics and identities. Everyone gets a slightly different version of us and that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. We are a compilation of our experiences and the people we meet. We are alike and unique. We are forever changing.

Categories
End of The Year Food For Thought life Self Love and Personal Growth

2021 lessons

In 2021, I celebrated my 2020 wins. I really graduated from college. I really gave birth. I really moved states, back into my childhood home. I really started a new phase of my life.

I spent 2021 raising a newborn for the first time. In 2021, I recovered from childbirth and surgery. I can admit now that I went in and out of postpartum depression. I watched my baby grow and celebrated her first birthday. I started working again for the first time in a year, going back to a company I was working for for years. I then quit said company months later. Then, I started a new full time position elsewhere and was recently told that I am getting promoted. I was hesitant about getting vaccinated, then got vaccinated, then helped out with covid vaccination clinics. I recently got my booster shot. I saw movies in the theater for the first time in a year. I saw family and friends for the first time in (a) year(s).

2021, like every year, had its own ups and downs. I managed to meet some of the goals I set and that is worth celebrating. Every year, I have takeaways. In the last days and beginning of the year, I always reflect. These are the lessons I learned or relearned in 2021.

Be flexible

It’s beneficial to have a plan but some things happen out of the blue, regardless of prior planning. It’s just as important to be able to adjust to what life brings as it is to stick to your plans. Also, some deadlines or goals are unrealistic from the start. Sometimes we need more time. Sometimes a goal that was once achievable suddenly won’t be because of new information or life events. Release tight control on how you want things to go. Sometimes those unplanned moments can lead to something bigger and better.

Be realistic

You can do almost anything you set your mind to. Go after what you want. But also, figure out if what you want is realistic for your life. Make sure your desires are workable and not a fantasy. If they are out of reach, make adjustments to make it realistic if it is actually what you are willing to work for. Please note: it is easier to stick to a goal when you are specific, hold yourself accountable daily, and qualify it. In a way, this goes hand in hand with being flexible. It wasn’t until halfway through the year that I realized some of my goals weren’t realistic. Some of this was due to my recovery from surgery, or because of covid and my desire to be extra careful for my daughter, or because of work, or because I simply didn’t want it anymore. Coming to terms with the fact that not all of our goals are realistic is a part of life. It can actually encourage our growth and steer us in the direction of something that is actually attainable.

To do lists are helpful

Writing things down not only can remind you a task needs completing. For me, it seals the desire to do it. It’s a tangible list of what my plans are. Whether it is for a day, a week, a month, to do lists help me manage my time and encourage me to complete what I have in mind. Crossing of an item, no matter how simple, releases some serotonin.

The US is systematically flawed

If you know you know. If you don’t, I won’t be the person to convince you otherwise.

Parenting is a whirlwind

Parenting is different than I thought it would be-not in a bad way. I’ve talked about motherhood in different posts. My biggest takeaway so far is that there is no right way to parent. And as parents, no matter how much we research, we make it all up as we go along. Parenting is a different type of unconditional love. Parenting provides a new perspective for everything.

Forgiveness doesn’t have to lead to anything more

Forgiving a person for harming you is not even necessary or realistic all of the time. I believe you can heal and move on without forgiveness. Maybe one day I’ll feel differently. That being said, you can also forgive someone for what they’ve done to you, without rebuilding or reconnecting with them. People can apologize and you can accept it, but it doesn’t change what has happened. Trust doesn’t automatically restore forgiveness. You can forgive and still be done with them. I did.

All relationships take mutual effort

Relationships are give and take. And when a problem arises, it is not up to only one person to fix it, no matter who is at fault. The effort may not always be equal because our lives demand different things. However, both people should be trying to some extent.

Every relationship is different

I mention this in a separate post too. It touches on the fact that we can know the same people, but have a different view or relationship with them than the with another person, and that is okay. It also means someone being kind to you doesn’t mean they aren’t horrible to someone else.

Meet people where they are

People are who they are. Sometimes they change. Sometimes they don’t. We can’t rely on who we want them to be. We can’t rely on who we think they will be. They are who they are. If we want more out of them, it is up to us to confront them. If they don’t change, it is up to us to accept them and the relationship for what it is, or to move on. We can only control ourselves.

Balance is hard

Being a full time parent and a full time employee has taught me that balance is hard and time moves fast. It’s difficult to find the balance between commuting and working, spending time with my kid and my family, making time for friends, making time for myself and my hobbies, eating, exercising, cleaning, and relaxing. Balance is important. It is also hard. I hope to get a better handle on it in 2022.

Not everything is an excuse

Balancing is hard. Time moves quickly when there is a lot going on. Someone saying they don’t have time is not always an “excuse.” Just because you “have time” or “make the time” doesn’t mean someone else has to as well. I’ve always hated the word excuse anyways, because the word excuse is subjective in nature. A reason to me can be an excuse to you and vice versa. The difference between a reason and an excuse, in a broad sense, is someone validating whether it is a good or bad reason. When it solely involves ourselves, we are the only ones who can truly decide, if our justification is a reason or an excuse.

Overworking (grinding) is not always good

Please rest. Please plan to take a break and to sleep and reset if you can. It’s important. There are health benefits.

People project a lot

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in last year’s end of the year post too, but people project more than I thought. A singular sentence can be thrown out there and people will come up with different conclusions because they are projecting their life experience on it. Please note: some of those experiences are rooted in objective truths- because of things like racism and misogyny and how that impacts every system put into place. Sometimes though, their projection has no merit in the reality because everyone lives different lives. I don’t have to put up with something just because you do and vice versa. You don’t have to approve of some else’s life choices for them to live the life they do. Not referring to politics or laws, not everyone will feel the same way about topics that you do, and it is unfair to project your values and thoughts on to them.

Mindset affects reality

I kind of hate this saying, but it’s true. Your thoughts can shape your reality. Life is hard and it can be hard to control your thoughts. Intrusive thoughts exist. However being negative all the time, even if the situation is negative, will make things worse. This isn’t to say you should always see the brighter side of things either. But again, balance and moderation is important.

Be intentional with your time

Even if what you’re trying to do is waste time, that is still intentional. Life speeds by and you never know what’s going to happen and when. It was a 2021 goal of mine and it led to me being more present.

There is nuance to everything

Most subjects are multidimensional. There are layers to things and in order to have a full understanding, you have to acknowledge and understand each layer. The easiest way for me to explain this would be to compare it to intersectionality. As women, life is different than men’s. But as a black woman, it’s really different than a man’s experience. Different factors influence people’s choices and realities. That’s why some situations may not always be as it is seen on the surface.

2022 is here!

2021 went by so fast; it didn’t even feel like holiday season. 2022 has started and it has already been interesting to say the least. Here’s to hoping that this year will be an improvement from the last. Here’s to the future!

Categories
Food For Thought Kinda not really life Politics

Oh ‘rona: Part II

It’s been a whole seven, eight months since I made the first post about coronavirus. Oh, how much has changed. Not corona though; it is still here. In fact, its gotten even worse in the past seven months and will probably continue to grow in intensity with Thanksgiving passing and Christmas approaching. I have many thoughts regarding this pandemic, the government’s response or lack thereof, and people’s individual responses. So here we are. Another post so I can rant.

Almost everything, if not everything, I stated in the first post I still believe. We are living through history. I’ll look back years from now and tell my daughter about what we all can collectively agree is the shit show of 2020. These past seven months in the United States have been a whole mess for a variety of reasons. There’s fear in being unsure of how long it will take to clean all of it up. Let’s focus on the coronavirus part of it though. 

When corona first hit the US and places were starting to close, I felt differently about this whole pandemic. I still thought it was terrible, but I understood why essential businesses were open. I understood why my place of employment was open. I understood people’s concerns of the economy crashing. I understood the hesitation to accept what felt like the world ending because our world was experiencing something most haven’t before. Although I wholeheartedly disagreed with people who didn’t believe it existed, I, like many, didn’t fully understand the severity of it. Regardless, I took it seriously. I only saw one person outside of my job and my household. I wore masks and sanitized frequently. I figured it would be eradicated within a couple of months. I was wrong about corona’s presence diminishing.

According to the CDC website as of November 18th, at 1:07 pm, there have been 11,300,635 cases. There have been 247,834 deaths related to coronavirus. As of December 6th, the number of cases increased to 14.462,527 with 280,135 deaths. That’s about a 3,000,000 increase in cases and over 30,000 deaths in just under three weeks. In one day, about 260,000 more cases were reported along with a little over 2,300 deaths. These are the numbers since the states began reporting in late January. They might be higher. 

Why has this happened? I say there are three main reasons: government response, the spread of misinformation, and people’s personal choices. 

Government Response

At first, I thought Trump was simply unsure of how to handle the whole pandemic thing but would figure it out. When the US found out he actually knew the severity of coronavirus when it was first known to be in the US in January, we learned he chose to do very little to nothing. Mind you, it wasn’t until mid March that coronavirus was established as a national emergency. March, about a month and a half later after it was first established in the US, is when states began to shutdown.

In these past eightish months, Trump told people corona was a hoax, knowing it wasn’t. He went against the advice of and aimed to discredit experts. He refused to wear a mask, and told people he didn’t think it was necessary. He made a pandemic a political chess piece to use in his re-election campaign. It became apparent he, and other members of the government who found time to dabble in the stock market with information of Covid, didn’t and don’t care about the effect of the virus on the country and its citizens. Even after Trump caught it and supposedly recovered, due to the fact he has the best access to doctors and healthcare in the US, he didn’t care. He said it wasn’t that bad and prioritized the economy over people’s lives. He couldn’t admit he was wrong to downplay the pandemic.

Instead of Trump and the government prioritizing citizens, they prioritized money, re-election, and their own self-interests. In these eight months since states began locking down, some in the US have only received $1,200. For a while, some of the unemployed received an additional $600 with their unemployment checks, but that stopped at the end of July. People still remained unemployed due to the pandemic. People were still getting less hours at work. People still had bills to pay and themselves to feed. Other countries’ citizens received more than this and got a handle of the virus.

Some states began slowly reopening some time in May. That’s about two months of a shelter in place order. Not every state required masks at any time during the pandemic. Over time, pretty much everywhere in the US began at least lightly reopening. Let’s face it, eight months is a long time to be stuck in the house. Naturally people were getting restless and when their county began opening up, they also individually eased up on the precautions they had because of a false sense of security. Some traveled between counties and states if they could or needed to, some went to the nail or hair salon, people began eating in restaurants, others started going to the gym and so on. Schools reopened and people went back to work in their offices. Sports decided to risk it all and come back on television and Covid became a normal thing. 

I will say that, for all intents and purposes, for many, shelter in place never completely meant never leaving the house, and understandably so. I am guilty of this as well. Some people cannot work at home. Not everyone was or is able to stop working. People go to work because they have bills to pay; some even have or will work knowing they have coronavirus. Not every state froze rent or bills, and even those that did still expect payments to cover it in the future. People still go out to the grocery store or to pick up food, and understandably so. Ya need to eat. People still take walks or spend time in nature. People still go to the doctor’s office or the hospital. Not everyone has the opportunity to completely stay home. These actions cannot be faulted. Sheltering in place is about not going anywhere you don’t have to be at, social distancing from everyone outside of your household and workplace, and taking necessary precautions in the places you go.

As seven months went on, a sense of “normalcy” came back. People stopped social distancing intensely, if they ever did, whether by force or not, and cases only continued to go up. Now, in December, cases per day are increasing drastically across the country. This week we will probably continue to see a surge in cases because of people who did not social distance for Thanksgiving. People have and are struggling with the decision between staying home for the holidays or traveling/meeting up with their families. Experts are urging people to stay home. The federal government isn’t saying much.

People’s Thoughts and The Spread of Misinformation 

As much as I would love to say we are where we are now with Covid solely because of the government, that’s not true. They set the precedent and the standards, but other factors have influenced this outcome. The spread of misinformation through social media and less than factual news sources as well as a lack of education are playing a role too, though this can also be credited back to Trump.

Nonbelievers and those who are lax about the of the severity of corona like to compare Covid to the flu to support their claim. It’s easier to visualize something that is unknown when you compare it to something that is known. The comparison was meant to exist as a base level understanding, not a full description encompassing every part of Covid. “The flu is not that bad,” or “the death rate for the flu is higher and it’s not a big deal,” are rationales people spread without considering that the flu has been around, has a working vaccine out that enough of the population takes, and the fact that viruses affect everyone differently. They also do not take into account that, for example, one percent of a million is still ten thousand. Applying this math to our population will equal an outrageous amount of people dying from a single source that could have been controllable.

As far as education goes, we are learning more about coronavirus as time goes on. Coronavirus is contagious and spread through droplets. You’re more likely to get it when in close contact with people. You can test negative for coronavirus but still have it. Testing negative just means at the time you took the test you did not have it. If you know you were exposed, you should still actively social distance and get tested within 10 days. Tests also aren’t perfect, which is why being mindful of social distancing is important whether you are negative or positive. Being asymptomatic means you won’t develop symptoms, it doesn’t mean you can’t spread the virus. Social distancing is being pushed so hard because you could have it, spread it to others, who spread it to others, who spread it to others etc. and not know, which is why large gatherings are still frowned upon.

It is also easy to forget the strain this disease is putting on hospitals and healthcare workers. Some have left because the experience has been overwhelming and traumatizing. Some have gotten sick caring for others. Most are overworked, risking their health and lives to do their job while the country carelessly makes their jobs harder. Coronavirus has made it seem like the world has stopped, but it evidently has not. People are still hospitalized for non-coronavirus related health concerns. As the number of cases grow, hospitals will not have enough beds for everyone who needs one.

For me, the scariest part about coronavirus is the fact that a severe case can mean being in a hospital for months and potentially dying, but surviving even a more mild case can mean dealing with pre-existing conditions. We do not know all of the long term affects of the virus, because long term hasn’t happened yet. As someone who already has a pre-existing condition, technically two throughout this pandemic because of pregnancy, I would not like to willingly pile on more. The idea of living with brain fog, heart and lung problems, and who knows what else is unappealing to me. I also don’t want to put my baby or my family at risk. I don’t want the people they come in contact with at work or the grocery store to be at risk. I don’t want to put my doctor, the nurses, or a stranger at my doctor’s office at risk. I’m not saying I have been a saint, but it is why I choose to let it affect my daily life. Since I am able to right now, it’s why I stay home unless I can’t.

The nonbelievers spread their beliefs, much as I am now, but rely on the politicization of the virus. Coronavirus was and is bigotedly referred to as the “China virus” as if it that isn’t xenophobic, as if it hasn’t affected every country in the world. As if blaming China for this virus will change the fact that it is here. Like we don’t blame the ocean for hurricanes, why are we blaming a country for a disease? 

Nonbelievers have compared mask mandates to the government stepping on people’s freedoms and the difficulty breathing while wearing masks to unarmed black people dying by the hands of police. Honestly, Covid is a nuisance and wearing a mask is an inconvenience, but if it means protecting people’s lives, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about (aside from the fact some government officials set it up this way). People even claim Covid is a distraction from some hidden agenda and that it is a way for liberals to push universal healthcare. A worldwide health crisis became something to be debated among American politics. It’s a mess.

Nonbelievers and people who don’t want a shutdown again, tend to believe all of this is fearmongering. They tell people to get over it. They say wearing masks makes people sheep as if we don’t follow basic traffic rules everyday because it’s the law. They claim taking precautions are cowardly and say we can’t let this virus run our lives. They push herd immunity and say if you feel unsafe you should take the necessary precautions but fail to realize I or anyone can do everything “right,” but still end up sick because someone else was not being cautious. Some people think coronavirus does not exist or is being hyped up because they haven’t had it or known anyone who has. Some have had coronavirus and gotten better, saying it is overdramatized. Some have it, are dying, and still say coronavirus isn’t real or a big deal. This pandemic has made me realize how selfish we Americans can be in the name “freedom.”

14,000,000, as well as 280,000, are large numbers, so it can create a dissonance, apparently even if you are and, or know someone who is counted into those numbers. Those numbers can seem like “not a big deal” if you want to continue on with your life without regard for anyone else. People have become so desperate to “return back to normal” that they fail to realize they are making living with a pandemic normal. It is something I think about daily because it frustrates and annoys me. There are so many active cases that it’s becoming harder not to get the virus. You can really social distance, sanitize frequently, and wear a mask and still get sick because a coworker, a fellow customer, or an infected employee who needs the money, wasn’t doing the same. It didn’t have to get this bad.

Personal Choices

I’m not gonna lie. Telling people the best way not to catch or spread the virus is social distancing gives of “the safest sex is abstinence” vibes. Naturally, not everyone can be in the house 24/7, only surrounded by their household, especially for over seven months. Isolating can be damaging to mental health, especially if you’ve been doing it since the beginning. However, when you keep in mind the safety of yourself, the people you love, and strangers you encounter, it doesn’t make sense to me why people are so against another, hopefully a more sincere, lockdown. If we’re being honest, most states never had a real lockdown. It leads me to question what people are doing, other than working, that would lead them to be upset about a lockdown.

Even though I am not getting restless with social distancing partly because I live with my family, I understand why people are. I understand the desire to be physically close to loved ones, to travel, to party, and to pretend like the virus doesn’t exist. Some are getting tired of being restricted. Being over it doesn’t mean it’s over though. Being careless with your actions because you want to move on with your life doesn’t free you from putting people at risk. Covid exists and will continue to until we all get it together. It’s easy to excuse your actions when it’s something you want to do. It’s gotten to the point where I and people who are isolating outside of the necessities feel ridiculous because we see people who aren’t. Clearly not everyone is taking the necessary precautions and too many people have thought they have “taken the necessary precautions” but were probably asymptomatic because otherwise cases wouldn’t be getting worse.

Our personal choices have affected and will continue to affect what is happening with the pandemic. How much we decide to learn about coronavirus, what we think about the virus, and how the government, shoutout Mitch McConnell, continues to act will all influence what you and I decide to do. It is unfair that the government prioritized jobs and the economy over everything else. It is fucked up that people are being asked to keep their distance from their friends, parents, grandparents, etc., but are expected to work or not get paid. There are ways to keep a small circle of people you see safely or see family safely, as long as you’re all on the same page and honest about how you are operating during the pandemic. All of this doesn’t change that social distancing and stay at home orders are being advised for a reason. It is just as true to say people catch coronavirus at work as it is to say people catch it during their off times. Pretending like everyone catches coronavirus at work and no one catches coronavirus by meeting up with family and friends or traveling is false. It’s why there have been increases in cases after every maskless Trump rally and after every holiday.

Us choosing to wear a mask or argue about it, meeting up with people because with think it’s safe versus going without, traveling across the state or country when we don’t have to, going to parties, the club, the bars or wherever just because it’s open, and accidently mass gathering in public places when we want to get out of the house, will all have an affect how much longer this pandemic goes on. We individually are not necessarily the cause of where we are with Covid in the US, but we are individually either hindering the progress or helping it. Are you willingly choosing to live with a pandemic or are you choosing to help flatten the curve?

My Final Thoughts

In the time I drafted this to December 4th, my mom got exposed to Covid and spent Thanksgiving quarantined alone in her room in case she caught it. She runs a community health care clinic and got exposed by someone else who works there. That person recently had a family reunion and that’s where they contracted it. They didn’t know they had it so continued to work up until finding out. This is what I mean when I say someone can socially distance and still get sick because of someone else’s actions.

We’re fortunate because that person was showing enough symptoms to know something was off. We’re fortunate because that person got tested. We’re fortunate because my mom and that person were both wearing masks when they carpooled. My mom thankfully tested negative. Masks do make a difference. Our own choices do matter.

I wish those who run the country would understand how interconnected this all is. The economy cannot improve without the stability of the people who live here. We, the people, make the economy grow and I only mention this because the economy seems to be of utmost importance to them. If that’s the case, then people are also important! We are important! Supporting us through stimulus checks, paying us to stay home, and paying small businesses to help them stay afloat, will ultimately benefit the country more than it will harm it. The idea that “handouts” or “helping us” is stupid because the government and its officials are meant to serve us, the people, not corporations. Getting control of the virus to lessen the load on hospitals, to keep businesses open, and to allow people to return safely back to work, will benefit the country more than pretending it doesn’t exist and attempting to continue on. The health crisis, the economy, and government leadership are all interconnected and help shape how we as a society will get through this. It does start with us, but the government needs to get it together too. Their lack of support and guidance is the main reason we are in the position we are in today.

There’s been so much on my mind regarding Covid and I’m not even sure this encompasses it all. Seeing people’s selfishness and inability to emphasize or even sympathize with others has been disheartening. Hopefully, this will be my last post about Covid, but the way this has been going it probably won’t be.

Categories
Food For Thought life Pregnancy

Let’s Talk About: Pregnancy

Pregnancy is bittersweet. Overall, pregnancy is beautiful. It’s a surreal, life changing experience. Sex can really create a whole ‘nother organism by chance with time. A sperm and an egg really turns into a cluster of cells that becomes a fetus and is born into a baby. Overall, pregnancy is awe-inspiring. Day by day though? Let’s talk about it.

What I have to say about pregnancy is solely based on my experience. Everyone experiences pregnancy differently. Each pregnancy is typically different than another, though there are common symptoms. One person will most likely have a different pregnancy experience with each pregnancy they have. I always say it and I always will say, being pregnant has made me more passionately pro-choice. I say pregnancy is bittersweet because, while I love feeling my baby move and hearing her heartbeat at the doctor’s is relaxing, the entire process is exhausting.

I don’t think pregnancy is talked about enough with transparency, when it comes down to the symptoms, feelings, and overall journey. It is about a whole nine-month process that takes up a person’s life, yet the details of it are barely discussed. Maybe it is because I haven’t seen someone’s journey firsthand. Maybe it is because pregnancy can be a personal thing and not everyone wants to talk about the details. Maybe it is because some people have nothing to say about it and walk through pregnancy like a breeze. Maybe it’s because we’re expected to be grateful to be able to create and carry a baby full term. I want to talk about my pregnancy journey, raw and unfiltered, as a 22/23 year old black woman living in a pandemic. And no, it’s nothing like it’s portrayed on tv.

We can start at the beginning, when I first found out I was pregnant. Looking back, a lot of the signs were there. I just wasn’t looking for them. My breasts weren’t sore but they did look bigger to me, which I didn’t question. My sense of smell was slightly stronger. I had the cravings that I normally wanted during my period. I consistently had a very weird metallic type taste in my mouth that wouldn’t go away, even after brushing my teeth. I thought I had gotten a sinus infection because I was getting headaches, my ears were popping, and my nose was a little stuffy. Because Covid is a thing, I was getting temperature checks pretty much every day before work, and my temperature, which is usually around 94-96 degrees was reaching 98 degrees. I felt gassy regularly. I was told I was glowing. I was unexplainably tired all of the time and felt a tightness in my stomach. I noticed my uterus pouch bulging a little, but didn’t think to question why. All of this happened within the first couple weeks of pregnancy.

Technically, I have a healthy pregnancy. I don’t have preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. My blood pressure is typically at a good rate. I’m not gaining too little weight or too much weight too fast. I have yet to have leg cramps or worry about blood clots. The baby moves and is growing where she is supposed to. In this way, I am lucky and thankful. I do see the doctor every two weeks though and have since I started going, which is more often than most people who are pregnant.

My pregnancy experience encompasses the unique experience that I have an autoimmune disease. The biggest hardship has been the flare-ups from the disease. My version of it is considered moderate to severe and is linked closely with my hormones, which pregnancy has a big effect on. The flare ups have made me relatively immobile and put me in an intense amount of pain or un-comfortability for days at a time. I used to give myself a shot in the thigh every week for it. With pregnancy, I could no longer be on the medication, and I was already behind doses when I found out the exciting news. My doctors gave me at least three different antibiotics to try instead and none of them were as effective as the shot I was taking before. It has taken a while for the most recent prescription to help ease my symptoms. The disease had gotten the worst it had ever been during pregnancy, and now, eight months later at the end of my pregnancy, is the most comfortable I have been in regards to flare ups. I spent a good 75%-80% of my pregnancy in pain or uncomfortable and probably 10% of that crying my eyes out solely because of this wretched disorder that maybe one day I’ll explain. It has gotten easier as the pregnancy went on, and with my third trimester it has whined down, but damn it has been rough.

The nausea is the second hardest part about my pregnancy. Some women are blessed not to experience nausea at all. For some, the nausea goes away by the second or third trimester. Mine has lasted throughout my entire pregnancy and it is accompanied by vomiting. Though my doctor hasn’t explicitly told me I have hyperemesis gravidarum, I think it’s fair to say I have that, which is extreme morning sickness. In the beginning I couldn’t even keep down water. Some days I still can’t. Anything I ate I would throw up; for at least two weeks I barely ate anything at all. The smell of food and coffee at my job made me nauseous. I spent so much time in the bathroom and my disease was increasing in intensity, it was best for me to go on a leave of absence.

Throwing up everyday turned into throwing up a couple times a week. There was maybe a month or two where I was vomit-free and that was because of medication. Now, around 33 weeks the nausea has come back. All the vomiting has led to a little blood in my throw up from time to time. Throughout this pregnancy, I have been on at least three different antacids and if memory serves, two different nausea medications. Pregnancy is the first, and only time, I had to get an IV to resupply the nutrients in my blood. That happened recently in my last trimester and I proceeded to throw up in the hospital as well.

There are also other little symptoms that come with pregnancy that I had no idea about until I experienced it. Heartburn is a big one for me, and is also a source of where my nausea comes from. Back pain is the obvious one most people know of. I get headaches more often. Sometimes, not very often, my nipples have been sore. I see un-concerning floaters in my vision from time to time. I’m out of breath easier and towards the end of my pregnancy can really feel my baby applying pressure, which affects the way I move, sit, lie down, and get up.

My heart rate randomly speeds up and is noticeably faster because a pregnant body is working twice as hard. During pregnancy, your joints loosen and your center of balance is different than before. Your feet and hands can swell, it can be hard to sleep, and towards the end, you really do have to pee all the time, which doesn’t help when it is hard to sleep. There is also this thing called sciatica, which is nerve pain in the hips, that was aroused in me for about a month. The constipation that comes with pregnancy can also be annoying depending on the severity. I have luckily only had one really hard morning. UTIs and other vaginal infections are also easier to catch. I am hot literally all the time, even when it’s freezing outside. I’ve been a different type of tired throughout most of my pregnancy. I’m sure there are other little symptoms that pregnancy brings that I can’t remember or haven’t experienced, at least yet. If you’re reading this and are pregnant, contact your doctor for any symptom concerns. Some are signs of bigger issues, they just haven’t proven to be for me.

Those are all the physical aspects of pregnancy that I can remember I’ve been experiencing. There are also the mental and emotional sides too. Pregnancy brain is really a thing. Sometimes, I just can’t think. The emotional rollercoaster that comes with hormone changes hasn’t been as dramatic for me as people claim it to be. Still, things that wouldn’t normally make me cry have made me cry to the point I question why I’m crying. I get agitated easier. Some days I’m just sad for no real reason.

In the beginning, I struggled with if I even wanted to continue with this unplanned pregnancy for months. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made and it will probably be the most fulfilling. In general, I have anxiety. Being pregnant, especially pregnant in a pandemic, has brought about more anxiety with it. I have worried about all the things that can go wrong during pregnancy and delivery. You honestly never really know what will happen until the baby is born. I have worried about catching Covid, about when it will end, and what it and its effects will morph into when my daughter is older. I worry about the racist, sexist, problematic world I am bringing a child into. I worry about if she is healthy and whether or not I will be okay and survive during childbirth, especially as a black woman. I worry about being neglected by doctors and if there are or will be obvious signs that something is not right that will be missed. I worry about being a statistic and being further stereotyped and about what life will look like when she’s here. I worry about the “dad” popping up in a couple years and having to deal with him. I worry if I can’t feel her move enough or if she is moving too much. I worry that the doctor won’t be able to find her heartbeat. I worry about sudden infant death and the newness of everything that comes with caring for a newborn. And this is all just on the top of my head. Literally anything there is to worry about regarding pregnancy and motherhood, I have worried about it as some point.

Being pregnant during Covid is also a different experience because I am taking Covid seriously. I was immunocompromised before pregnancy; now I’m further immunocompromised. Being on leave of absence, being high risk and acting high risk means I rarely leave the house or see anyone outside of my household and doctors. Few people have really seen my pregnancy bump develop. No one has really felt her move, partly because she tends to stop when anyone tries to feel. Every appointment I have, I have to attend by myself because visitors can’t come in. When I give birth, only one person is allowed in the hospital with me. It is nice to avoid the unsolicited advice and comments from strangers, but pregnancy during Covid is a different experience. I have no base comparison so who knows what else I’m missing out on.

Because of the stage I am in my life and because of Covid, I have chosen to isolate from others. As selfish as it sounds, not reaching out to others often, if at all, has given me space to focus on myself and the start of a new chapter. I haven’t avoided anyone, but I also haven’t engaged much with anyone who didn’t reach out to me first. For me specifically, isolating was a necessary step for growing and educating myself, though it may not be for anyone else, especially since pregnancy is essentially a waiting period. I’ve been waiting what feels like lifetimes for my daughter’s arrival. I’ve been waiting to be able to start working again.

There is also the whole gaining weight to support your baby thing. Pregnancy will be the most I have ever weighed. As someone who has always had her weight commented on, from when I was a fat child to when I was proportioning out to when I was losing weight, there was a time during this pregnancy when it was triggering to have my weight checked often and to explain my eating habits, especially when I was having trouble keeping food down in the first place. For the most part I got used to it, but there are still those days. For example, the IV caused me to gain five pounds in two weeks, and I was petrified up until my ob told me that my weight looked good and that I probably was dehydrated before the IV. Also statistically most people who are pregnant gain more then they’re “supposed” to. I find it a little arbitrary and though it is necessary it is tracked because excessive or too little weight gain can lead to other problems, I do think being super strict about it is a product of society. There is so much going on in your body and mind when your pregnant. Worrying about weight when it isn’t part of a bigger issue will only cause further stress.

Pregnancy in itself can also be a lonely experience, but not because you’re alone. Some know right away what their next step is after a positive pregnancy test is. I didn’t. When you are unsure, it is difficult to talk about making the choice to continue a pregnancy with people who have never been pregnant and struggled with the choice themselves. People understandably project what they would do or their concerns onto you when it is not their life being affected. At first, it was hard and strange to hear “Congratulations,” when the initial excitement that I could actually have kids of my own was taken away from me, when I didn’t feel like I had a choice, when I was being pressured into a decision that didn’t align with what my gut said, when I was unsure about having and coping with an abortion, and when I was overall confused about what I wanted. It can be hard to talk about pregnancy with people who aren’t currently or have never been pregnant because they can’t have a real understanding of it. And honestly, who really wants to hear about the nitty gritty of the experience in a casual conversation? Even with support, and even with someone I am close to being pregnant, there were times when pregnancy was alienating for me.

Being transparent about how pregnancy can be hard and tiring is not something people want or expect to hear. It can sound like a lot of complaining about a beautiful journey that not everyone who wants to gets to experience. People want to talk about food cravings, your growing baby bump, and names for the baby. (I crave a lot of sweets by the way, to the point that they show up in my dreams. I haven’t craved anything I usually don’t like, but sometimes I have craved something, taken a bite, and become disgusted. I also can’t eat some things I like such as spicy food.)

The conversations around pregnancy are usually light and full of excitement. After all, it is an exciting time! All I can think about is seeing my baby and what she’ll look like when she cries and laughs. I just think it’s important to be able to say “pregnancy is beautiful and I am excited for my daughter’s entrance into the world” as well as “fetuses and babies in the womb are basically parasites” without it being controversial, simply because parasite has a negative connotation and because, often times, continuing with a pregnancy is a choice. Also because, by definition, that’s what they are.

Continuing with or ending a pregnancy is a personal choice to be made by the person carrying the baby and should be treated as such by the other party involved, society and law. Even though I didn’t feel comfortable with it this pregnancy, we’re pro-abortion over here, especially because for about nine months, during pregnancy, your body isn’t yours. Your body will neglect you to encourage the growth of the eventual baby. You have to watch what you eat, drink, take vitamins, and ride out all of the symptoms to encourage the healthy development of the fetus . For almost a year. And then after that you are responsible for your baby in every way basically for the rest of your life if you aren’t putting the baby up for adoption and if you’re a considerate parent.

I didn’t research anything about pregnancy until I experienced symptoms and wanted to know if they were normal. There is so much that comes with pregnancy. Pregnancy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for everyone who experiences it and I don’t think it should be portrayed that way. I decided to share my experience to normalize the hard and irritating parts of it. The truth is, pregnancy, just like life, has it’s good days and bad days. My pregnancy in itself has been good, but the side effects, most noticeably the hormone changes, have triggered other symptoms inside my body that’s not fun to deal with, especially on top of the other common pregnancy symptoms. It would be a lie to say some days haven’t been really hard. I am happy I continued with this pregnancy because after experiencing all of this I don’t know if I want to do it again. It’s made me consider if I really want more children, (which I do but like damn at what cost).

I say pregnancy is worth it, simply because of my mindset behind having children, which is different than the norm, because I’ve always wanted to be a mom and because I made the choice on my own to continue with my pregnancy. I am thankful for this experience. Pregnancy itself has already changed who I am and helped me grow as a person. I will also say I am over it. I have been ready to give birth and hold her in my arms for months. I am ready to eat what I want when I want without worrying about if it’s safe for the baby or throwing up. I am ready to be back on medication I know works. I am ready to stop throwing up and am ready to start becoming nimble and mobile again.

Few tell you the hardships of pregnancy. Maybe they’re focused on the prize at the end of the race. And though the rainbow is beautiful at the end of the storm, it doesn’t change the fact there was a whole storm you managed through to get there. The storm makes me more appreciative. The prize makes it worth it.

Categories
Children Food For Thought life Pregnancy

The Mindset Behind Having Children

A friend texted me the other day regarding my last blog post, which talked about my pregnancy and my decision to keep the, now baby, growing inside of me. She told me that she also envisioned herself having a kid, without the father or a partner by her side. That for some reason, she pictures herself pregnant with her belly out and that’s it.

Texting with her about her thoughts and sharing mine made me think more about how society expects people to have children and to have them a certain way. We’re lowkey taught that babies come out of love and out of marriage. I mean, we were singing on the playground “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.” Most people do not envision having children until they are married. And I get it because we are taught that. I get it because children are looked at as two people’s legacies. I get it, because the idea of marriage brings about an idea of stability, which is important for babies and children growing up. With marriage, one can assume you would have someone to make decisions with, to lean on, and to help take care of and raise the children. Regardless of my understanding of this thinking, I think society needs to shift its mindset behind it.

For one, not every person with a uterus wants to have children. That, like most ideas regarding children and marriage, comes from a traditional way of thinking. Women were expected to stay home, raise a family, and take care of their husbands back in the day. Hell, some men still expect that now, whether they are aware of it or not, when it is not reality. It should’ve never been the reality, but you know, misogyny. Women are people with their own goals, feelings, thoughts, and lives. Surprise, surprise. Some people with uteruses do not see babies or raising children fitting into their life plan. What’s the problem with that?

And on the topic of tradition, let me just mention real quick that people, mainly women, weren’t really supposed to have sex outside of marriage. Doing so would strip them of their “purity.” They would become “whores” and “harlots,” unwanted by a man they could’ve married for soiling their name. Back then, marriage was a woman’s main role. The concept of virginity was just another attempt by men, and upheld socially by both men and women, to control women and their actions because of their “inferiority.” Effects of this still exist today, including but not limited to, the concept of slut shaming, for example.

There’s still the pushing of people, mainly woman, to just get married and have children already. For why, though? Why rush them into lifelong commitments with a partner or with children? Why rush married people into having children? What if they can’t have or afford children? What is societies need of focusing and controlling other people’s lives?

Don’t get me wrong, I still envision getting married and having more kids one day. Even though it is a want, it isn’t a need. As I said in that previous post, I have always wanted to be a mother more than a wife. Over the years, I began to view children, for what they are: people who come about because of sex. I grew out of the mindset that children were products of love or a relationship. Yes, consensual sex sometimes occurs out of love, but that is not the reality for everyone. Yes, consensual marriage tends to come out of love, and married people tend to have sex, but in the long term some marriages lead to divorce. Some people fall out of love. Some people begin loving someone else. I didn’t and don’t want to feel stuck to someone solely because of another person, even if it is our child. I didn’t and don’t want to stay in a relationship because of a child. I don’t want to rush a relationship because of a child. It’s why I didn’t move in with my baby’s “father” when he suggested it after we found out I was pregnant. I don’t want to have an abortion if I feel ready and am able to raise a child, even if the other person isn’t on board. And ultimately I didn’t have an abortion because I didn’t want one, could adjust my life to raise a child, and I don’t view children as products of a relationship or of love.

When I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to co-parent, especially because I was worried about having a boy. Co-parenting simply put, is two people raising a child together who are not in a serious romantic relationship. From my viewpoint, boys tend to take not having a father around more personally than girls; I only say this because, when girls grow up, they tend to understand the situation because of their own interactions with men. Co-parenting can be just as productive as a married couple or a couple in a relationship raising a child together. What matters is that kids feel loved, understood, and supported. What matters is that both parties are mature, can communicate effectively, are on the same page, and support one another. These concepts can be achieved, challenging, or seemingly impossible while co-parenting. It can be achieved, challenging, or seemingly impossible in marriages and among couples in relationships. Living under the same roof makes raising children easier, but it’s not necessary, especially if you give your child the tools to understand the situation without judgement when they’re older. Why can’t someone choose a specific person to co-parent with? Why can’t two people who know they want children do so platonically without judgement?

As time went on, I realized, with this person, I didn’t want to co-parent. I wanted it because society says children need both parents to thrive. I wanted it because he said he would be there. I wanted it because society looks at people who stray away from tradition differently. Though she may not be the only one, for now at least, she’ll be a girl without a father on Father’s Day. I wanted it because growing up, at least for now, my daughter will think something is missing because society will continuously tell her that, even if she doesn’t feel that way at first.

I changed my mind about co-parenting because I realized the tools I stated earlier that are needed for it to be successful aren’t there. He also isn’t ready for the responsibility, regardless of what he told himself in the beginning. Forcing that to work would only harm her more in the long run. Regardless of what the laws say, regardless of what society says, having both parents in a child’s life is not always the best option, even in non extreme circumstances. People who think their parents should get divorced can understand this. People who have seen children used as pawns or ways for parents to feel control and power can understand this. People who get along with one parent and not the other can understand this. The knowledge of this, however, will not change how a child feels about it growing up, but hopefully with honest communication and the tools needed for understanding, they will come to understand and accept it, without it affecting them negatively.

Another example, to wrap this up, I was watching Insecure on HBO by Issa Rae months ago. I was around two months pregnant. Spoiler alert, one of the side characters ends up pregnant. Of course she’s pregnant by the man the protagonist is trying to get back together with. She tells him she’s pregnant, tells him she was ready to have a baby, and tells him he doesn’t have to help. After all of that, when the episode aired, people were commenting on Twitter that her choice was selfish. That is was weird she was ready to have a child with a man she wasn’t in a relationship with when she had gotten an abortion in a previous, more serious, relationship. That she was messing up his current relationship because she knew he would stick around to help her with the baby.

All of the blame regarding the situation went to her and people questioned her intentions, but no one said anything about the man who got her pregnant. No one said that he should be around because he is also responsible for her pregnancy. No one thought it could work out successfully through co-parenting and the protagonist being understanding of the awkward but workable situation. The new season isn’t out, so it’s unclear what her intentions actually are. Still the fact people’s first response was that she was having the baby to trap him is ridiculous. I’m not saying people don’t do that. I’m saying that we are so conditioned to view children as products of a relationship and of love that even when a fictional woman chooses to keep a baby, even if it means she will be a single mom, people assume it’s to keep a man close by. People are pro-choice when it comes to having an abortion, and rightly so, but when it comes to choosing to have a baby with or without the partner present, then people start acting weird, calling the decision selfish. I can’t tell you how much guilt I was made to feel for making the decision that was best for me.

I always pictured having my first child without a partner. Although I was content with it when it was just an idea, and I am content with it as my reality, it does not change how society views it. It doesn’t change the few people who were surprised I said I was going to continue with the pregnancy, even though the relationship wasn’t serious. It can be hard to ignore the stigma around single moms, especially black ones. It doesn’t change people’s thoughts that a woman would have a child just to keep a man around. It can be hard not to feel a type of way when people say on social media that women should “choose better men” or “not open their legs for bums.” And tell me how a lack of responsibility on the man’s part leads to judgement of a woman?

All of this just made me think, what’s wrong with a person with a uterus choosing to have a child alone? Why must it be a product of a relationship or of love? Why would it be more acceptable if I chose to have a baby for and with a man versus for myself?