Blog Archives

On becoming a parent


This week we celebrated M’s 6 month birthday. Before I was a parent, I never really understood why parents made such a big deal about their babies’ monthly milestones. But now, I get it. I haven’t written much about it, but every month that passes in a baby’s life is such a miracle. It is such a gift to watch a life and a brain develop, literally day by day.

ImageA few years into my marriage, I suddenly woke up one day with the realization that being a wife felt more natural than not being a wife. I realised at that point that though I had been married for a while, it took time for me to grow into the role. Over the last 6 months, I realised that the same can be said of growing into the role of a parent. It is the passage of time that shapes us into the roles we take on in life. We celebrate the traditional milestone celebrations like birthdays, marriages, graduations, etc., but from my experience, it is rare that we have fully entered into those roles on those dates. Rather, we grow into them.  The day I got called to the bar, I didn’t feel like a lawyer, but slowly, over the passage of time, at some point when I wasn’t looking, I became a lawyer. Similarly, the journey into parenthood has been gradual, and is still very much a work in progress. Maybe one day I’ll wake up feeling that it feels more natural to be a parent, than not to be one.

ImageOver the last six months, I have marveled in awe at our little miracle. I have also been stretched and challenged in various directions. Sleep has been hard, yes. But more than that, I feel challenged when I think about the responsibility I now have to raise and shape a PERSON. I can’t help but look ahead to the time when my daughter will display our character traits, good and bad – and most frightening – those I intentionally taught her, and those I didn’t.  More than anything else, I feel the burden (in a positive way) of refining my character so that this new life can be imbibed with the very best character traits that I can offer to her.

Image

On a lighter note, the past six months have also been very fun. Some of my favorite moments have been the first time I heard M laugh (as well as every subsequent time I heard her laugh), the first time she stretched her arms out towards me signalling that she wanted me to pick her up and the time that she stretched one arm out to me and the other out to J, showing that she loved both of us and didn’t want to choose. Other highlights have included bath times, waking up next to her happy self every morning (yes, we co-sleep, that will be for another post), as well her most recent experience trying solids for the first time (a banana, in case you were curious).

Maddie -5 months3

Happy six months, M! We love you 🙂

Advertisements

Waiting…


So baby girl is 4 days late so far, though it feels like so much more since I was told to be ready ahead of the due date.  She did not come early though, and when the due date finally arrived it was pretty anti-climactic.  The last few weeks, but especially the last week were strange. I would wake up every day not knowing if that day would be “the day”. Similarly, I would make plans, not knowing if I would be able to keep them or not.  I suppose we never really know what’s around the corner, but these past few weeks have been especially suspenseful. I have found that in the midst of this, I have started to feel a little more overwhelmed by the world. Reading the news has affected me in a way that it never did before. I really feel like I can’t handle hearing too much news, or too much bad news, at once. This was never a problem for me. I have also found myself overwhelmed by technology and needing to take a lot more breaks from my phone than I used to. I’m not sure if this will be a permanent change, or something that is just temporary during this time, but nonetheless, it has been interesting to observe this change.

More than anything else though, these past few weeks have been strange because they have really been reminding me of the last big event I experienced: the loss of my mother.  In the days and weeks leading up to my mother’s going to heaven I felt many of the same emotions that I have felt lately.  To be clear, those days were amongst the saddest and hardest of my life, while these days are of course amongst the happiest. Nonetheless, it is interesting how the feelings of suspense and uncertainty have presented themselves in the same way in these two polar opposite life events.  In the days leading up to my mom’s passing, I went to bed not knowing if my life would be changing in a major way the next day. My mind could not comprehend how life would possibly go on without my mom and every minute of every day felt so precious. Now, I feel similar emotions, but in the opposite way. Again, I go to bed wondering if I will be meeting my baby girl the next day. And again, my mind is just not able to wrap itself around this life change. Losing a mom and gaining a daughter are just two things that you really cannot imagine until they happen. And even then, they are still both very hard to understand fully.

I think the experience of loosing my mother has made the pregnancy journey that much more interesting because I feel like I am experiencing it all over again — but in reverse.  In the first instance, I slowly said goodbye to the most influential person in my life, as well as to the role in life that I played as her daughter. I slowly learned to adapt to life without her physically here. And now, in the second instance, through this pregnancy, I slowly started preparing to meet a person who will soon play a very central part in my life, and when she arrives, I will learn to adapt to a life with her physically here. Again, I will need to learn to adapt to a whole new role in life; that of a mother.

The circle of life kind of amazes me.

Remembering Mom – 1 year anniversary


Today marks one year since my mom’s soul left this world and entered another. A lot of people have been asking me how I feel so here are a few of my thoughts:

In a lot of ways, today feels no different than any other day. I think of my mom daily. In fact, I think about her several times a day, and as I told my husband not too long ago, I feel as though she is a constant background to my thoughts. She is always on my mind, whether I am thinking about something in specific or whether I am just missing her presence. I plan on writing a separate post on the things I learned about how to support someone through grief, and one thing that I will include, is that you never need to worry about bringing up someone’s loss for fear of “reminding them” and making them sad. When you lose someone special, they are always on your mind, whether people bring up the topic or not.

At the same time, today does feel like a special day to me. And that’s because it marks the day my life changed in a very big way. In the same way that my birthday and the birthdays of my friends and family will always be special days, February 4th will now forever be special to us, and will be a day that we will always set apart to collectively and intentionally remember mom. I tried to think about what my mom would want us to do today, and all I could really think was that she would want us to spend time together as a family, strengthening our relationships. This is one wish that she spoke of often during her last few years, and one that I plan to honour.

In my culture, as in many others, the first year is the official “grieving period”. It doesn’t mean that the grieving ends after a year, but just that the first year is a very special one. We hold a commemoration 40 days after the day of death, and then another one on the one year mark. There is even a special saying that you say to those grieving on the days of those commemorations. Translated to English it means “May you continue to live and remember”. I think that is a beautiful saying, and in general, I have found these cultural traditions to be a huge help throughout this first year when everything seems new and foreign and nothing else really makes sense. Sometimes, it’s nice to have some guidelines that take a little bit of pressure of decision making.

In this last year, I also struggled between finding the balance between grieving and going on with my life. Does grieving mean that you are not supposed to feel any joy? Or should I think that mom would want us to continue to be happy and go on with our lives as much as possible? I struggled with this question a few times over the course of this year: on my 30th birthday, at Christmas, and just recently, when I learned my husband and I were expecting a new baby(!). The answer hasn’t been fully answered in my mind, but I have learned that it is impossible to stay in a permanent state of grief. Even if you try, life passes by, other people get sick and pass on, and if you don’t move beyond yourself and your sadness, you will regret celebrating all the joys that life does bring our way. You will also regret honouring the life that is around you, because it too will one day end, and you will have been too busy stuck in your own little world. So – with that, I’ve strived to find a sense of balance between grieving my mother’s loss and trying to enjoy the life around me at the same time. It’s a tough balance I tell you.

Finally, one thing that has brought me peace this entire year has been the thought that a person’s memory really does not end with their earthly death. My mother has truly left us with so much. She has planted in me more than I could describe here, and it brings me so much comfort to know that that will never die.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, and for being along on this journey with me.

Mom’s lentil soup (also known as ‘Ads’)


My non Middle-Eastern friends often ask me how to make typical Middle-Eastern dishes.  While I am no expert at this, I am slowly picking up the art of Middle Eastern cooking, and I am always happy to share what I learn.  This recipe come straight from my Mama.  Growing up, we would often eat ‘Ads’ (pronounced ‘Atz’) during Coptic fasting season (in which we were to abstain from all animal products, and basically become vegan for a certain period of time).  While I still associate ‘ads’ with fasting, I have come to make this soup often simply because it is healthy, tasty, filling and easy to make. Hope you enjoy as much as I do!

Mom’s Lentil Soup (adz):

Ingredients:

1 cup red (which are really orange) lentils

3 cups water

1 small yellow onion (cut in quarters)

2 cloves of garlic

1 carrot cut into small pieces

A few sticks of celery cut into small pieces (optional)

Salt, pepper and cumin to taste

1/2 – 1 lemon

Combine all ingredients (except for the lemon) together in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes (or until carrots are soft).
Using a blender, or food processor, purée the mixture to desired consistency (you can add water if you find the soup to be too thick).  Add freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste and enjoy.

Community


Shortly after my mom passed away, I came across this blog post that someone I knew had written about my mom – and about my broader community in Toronto.  Since that time, I have been wanting to share it with you.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of community in the past few years.  I haven’t looked into it, but I bet there are a million studies out there discussing the popular idea and oft quoted proverb that it takes “a village to raise a child”.  I know it is true because I am a product of it.  As I’ve mentioned before, I always find it so difficult to decide what city to live in. Each one I’ve lived has its own unique features that I love.  I must say though that one thing that constantly draws me back to where I grew up, is the wonderful extended family that has developed around me over the years.  I was reminded of this the week my mom passed away when my family and I were so blessed to have been surrounded by so much love.  Anyhow, please enjoy your read, written by a lovely woman who a few months before me lost her wonderful mom as well.

mothers

I am sure some of you will be able to relate to the kind of extended family i am about to describe. My parents immigrated from Egypt in the late 60s with a handful of other Coptic Egyptians. It was not long after that they along with a priest from Egypt formed the first Coptic Orthodox Church in North America…meeting in a small chapel on the second floor of a church that is still nestled behind the Eaton Center in downtown Toronto. Slowly more friends and families immigrated and congregated…and so, by the time I was born in the late 70s I was born into a community that was tightly knit by its roots of the home they left, the experience of immigration to North America and by their deep faith.

I was born into an extended family that knew me from the moment i came to be until this moment today. Going to church every Sunday throughout my upbringing i would see the same familiar faces, bond with the same friends i had since before i was consciousness of my own being and sense the many people loving me and watching over me and caring for me. Although i have been absent from Toronto throughout much of my 20s and into my 30s these connections were always there and this family would always care for me in my absence. They knew when i was overseas teaching in Southeast Asia, they knew when i was working in Yemen, they knew when I was living out East and through conversation with my parents were always thinking of and loving me.
The gift of this community and family is that it meant there were so many mother mothering each child. So many caring, smart, intuitive, passionate, warm mothers looking out for this flock of Egyptian youth making their way through an upbringing quite different than their own. We were all so lucky to have these moms lovings us in all directions…innately enveloping us.

And so, another such mother, just like my mom, passed away this weekend. It is not that i spoke with her very often but i knew she loved me and cared for me and always asked about me. She visited us in the hospital frequently when mom was sick. And she too has daughters who adore her because there is nothing not to adore. And she too has a congregation of children who grew up with her love wrapped round them.

It is the nature of life. It is inevitable. Our mothers are being taken. And it is juxtaposed by new mothers being given. Many of my Egyptian friends have children but it is only in the past couple of years and particularly this last year and in the coming months that so many of my dear friends from all different nooks of my life have become or are to become mothers. It is such an amazing time to see these sisters of mine become transformed…to see them born as moms.

And so, as always it is strange to feel as though i am watching something unfold beyond myself, beyond any of us. To see this great shift in life take form, where it feels as though changes are being made in order for new spaces to be created, where one things is making room for another without particular question or reason or qualifying manner as good or bad but rather simply being.

And so, much gratitude to mothers for all they have done and all they will do. To the moms that have mothered for so long and to those that are in their first moments. What a precious gift to be a mom and to be mothered be it by one or many.

Picture of the Week – A Life Well Lived


This week’s picture is particularly near and dear to my heart…

ImageSix days ago the world lost a very precious soul…my mother’s.  In the coming days and weeks I’ll be posting a few thoughts on this topic as well as some of my mom’s favorite recipes.  My hope is that this will allow me to reflect on my mother’s life, while also allowing you to share in her memory. xx

Today is August 15th…


…and I am celebrating the birthday of a very special lady – my mom! Happy birthday Mama!