This Is My Country Too.

My skin is brown. If someone saw me and didn’t talk to me, it is very possible they would think that I wasn’t from America.

But fact of life: I am from America. I was born here, I was raised here. I have spent as much time in India as any other given person who has gone on vacation to any other country.

So when people start talking about sending us back to where we came from, I wonder exactly where they think someone like me should go. If they think they could send me back to India, it’d be the same as if they were sent to the country of their ancestry.

I don’t know the systems there. I know how to go on vacation there.

My home is here. Everything is here. If you want to send me back to where I was born, it literally would be about an hour away from where I’m sitting right now.

America is my country. For those of you who can’t seem to get that we are a country of many different ethnicities, get over it.

Being Creative

Almost every Indian can tell you that when you were growing up, you were encouraged to find a career in something stable. The idea was that if you were a doctor, engineer, or accountant, you wouldn’t have to struggle in your life. You were set and financially stable. It makes sense for that message to be passed down. A lot of our parents left their homes to find that stable, successful career. They gave up a lot to make sure their children wouldn’t ever feel like they couldn’t have everything.

But what about that creative side of us? What about those of us who are writers, dancers, artists, and musicians? Do we lock that side of us away?

And what about our souls? If all we do is focus on our left brain jobs, then what happens to our right brain?

I once had a job interview for an accounting position with a company. When I was offered the opportunity to ask the interviewer (who would have been my boss) questions, I asked her what she likes to do in her spare time. I asked her if she had any activities that she was passionate about outside of work. She actually said that she just did accounting and nothing else. Seriously??? I knew right then and there that this wasn’t the place for me. My previous boss supported my passion for dance and the show that we organized. She knew how much it meant to me and that it was good for me emotionally and mentally. Would this new boss have supported this part of me?

I’ve found that if I ignore my creative side for a little bit, it does affect me. There’s a happiness, a positive energy that comes out when I do use my creativity. I need it to balance out the rational, logical side of me. I do thrive on schedules and lists but I need the free-flowing side to make me whole. I’ve found that to be a consistent trait in the people I know. They have their stable jobs and then they are creative on the side. They get the best of both worlds.

What about you? What is your creative outlet?

What’s Your First Reaction? Good Or Bad?

Yesterday, I bought something that I thought a few other people I know might enjoy. When I asked them about it, the first response I received was the fact that what I had bought wasn’t the best and it could have been better.

It was discouraging. When I discussed the reaction with a friend, he mentioned that it wasn’t the first time he had heard a negative reaction coming from an Indian person.

The reaction brought up the question of why so many Indian people do have an automatic negative reaction when you tell them something.

Obviously, not everyone is like this. I know a few people that are amazingly positive. However, I am aware that even I do this to. When someone tells me about something good, my first thought is literally a “But…” statement. Why do I even respond this way? If someone tells me something good, shouldn’t my first reaction be a positive one?

Is it an Indian thing? Are we built to always be bringing others down a notch? Why? Is it insecurity? Do we feel insecure that something good happened to someone else? Do we feel as thought we aren’t up to some standard that we have set for ourselves? Are we comparing ourselves against the person who told us the good news? Is everything a competition?

It really sucks when someone has a negative reaction to you when you achieve something good or thought of something nice to do for someone else. It makes us feel as though it’s not worth doing or not worth sharing. As a community, shouldn’t we be supporting each other? Won’t we achieve more together than separate?

It takes a lot of self-awareness to recognize that you do this. But I think if you do see this pattern in your thoughts and reactions, there is a chance that we can correct this aspect of ourselves.

I am going to try to be more positive towards others. Why not? I have nothing to lose other than my negativity.

My First Baby

Today, I want to share something personal. Really personal. I think it’s important to share this story of mine because when I have told people about it, I usually hear that they have been through something similar. But they don’t usually share this information freely because of the fear of getting judged, of being blamed for something that is out of their control. Today, I want to share this story so that others know that this is more common than you think.

Statistics say that the risk of miscarriage is 1 out of 4.

After we got married, we decided not to wait to get pregnant. We both wanted a kid. We were ready for a kid. And then, one day, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive! We were so excited. I called my doctor and set up an appointment to go in.

It was pretty cool. We went in and saw our little bean on the ultrasound. We saw his or her heart beating. In the spirit of waiting the traditional first trimester though, we decided to wait to tell our families and friends.

In that time, we went to a family wedding and a few weddings for friends. It was this exciting little secret we had. We couldn’t wait for the day, however, when we could tell the world.

The next appointment came up about a month later. I was so nervous. I had this feeling but I didn’t know if it was because I was just overly paranoid or if something had changed. I kept monitoring my pregnancy symptoms to see if I was feeling nauseous enough or if I was tired enough. I just knew I needed to see my little bean again and make sure that he or she was doing well.

As soon as the doctor looked at the ultrasound though, I knew. She took a while to tell us anything. Then, finally, she told us that the baby hadn’t grown past 6 weeks, when it should have been closer to 10 weeks. She couldn’t see the heart beating anymore.

My heart dropped. I started crying. I was lucky that my doctor was incredibly supportive and just hugged me and said it was okay, that this didn’t mean I wouldn’t have a child later on. She had mentioned she herself had had a couple of miscarriages. My husband and I were just in shock for a bit. Everything we were dreaming of just crashed.

It all seemed so surreal. We were scheduled to go back next week to confirm that it wasn’t just slow development, that the baby wasn’t alive anymore. I spent that whole evening and night crying in my husband’s arms. I spent my time googling everything I could think of where the doctor could be wrong. I just wanted to know that my baby was going to be okay.

We went back the week after. We had had a week to research and hope but went in with very low expectations. The diagnosis was reconfirmed. My doctor set up one more appointment with a specialist to get a second opinion. We saw that specialist that afternoon. That doctor checked and double-checked everything. And she confirmed one more time that I had had a missed miscarriage.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, a missed miscarriage is where women can experience a miscarriage without knowing it. A missed miscarriage is when embryonic death has occurred but there is not any expulsion of the embryo. It is not known why this occurs. Signs of this would be a loss of pregnancy symptoms and the absence of fetal heart tones found on an ultrasound. 

We decided to wait one more week before performing a D&C which is minor surgery to remove the fetus. Unfortunately, my body didn’t recognize that my baby wasn’t alive.

I went to a family friend’s wedding in this time. I couldn’t really enjoy it. I was miserable. All I could think of was that my baby, my first child, was inside of me, not living anymore. I kept thinking that I knew that 3 other friends of mine were pregnant. I was the 1 in 4 that had had a miscarriage.

A week later, I saw my doctor one more time. She checked everything again and scheduled my D&C. It was a quick procedure and I was back at work within 2 days. Physically, my body handled it well. Emotionally though, I was still having issues.

We went on a trip a few days later and even though I tried to put my best face forward, this loss kept hitting me. I knew it was not my fault. I did nothing wrong. I had been taking care of myself and my baby. So many things go through your head though. All of the what-ifs and if I had onlys keep recurring over and over again.

I had a really hard time for the next few months. My body still had to go through recovery and that limited what I could do physically. I still saw a therapist for my emotional recovery. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of looking at the positive and to keep thinking that everything happens for a reason. It takes a lot of hoping for a brighter future.

In our South Asian culture especially, blame is often placed on the mother for having a miscarriage as if it’s her fault. Any doctor will tell you that these abnormal chromosomal miscarriages are not preventable. They happen and there’s nothing we can do about it. I wanted to share what I had been through so others that have been through it as well know that it’s not their fault. 1 in 4 is a really high percentage.

Eventually, my doctor gave me the green light to try to get pregnant again. I am now a proud mother of a little girl. I can’t say it was easy though. I worried through almost the entire pregnancy. Every time we went in for a doctor’s appointment, I held my breath. I didn’t feel comfortable until she was safely in my arms.

Even with our beautiful baby here with us now, we will never forget our first child.

A Tale of A Turban

I recently have taken a part in a movement called 1000 Speak For Compassion. It involves flooding the blogging community with stories of compassion. I think it’s important that we continue to see how compassion helps us rise past the struggles and keeps us moving in a positive direction.

This month’s theme is writing about Building From Bullying. I was lucky enough to not have to ever really deal with bullying but I have heard stories about what my husband went through as a child. I wanted to share one.

My husband moved to the US from Punjab in 1994. As a Sikh boy, he wore a turban. Now, we hear of stories today where children (and adults) who wear turbans are being bullied and harassed. And that’s today when we have so much access to information and knowledge to know that wearing a turban is just a part of their religion and culture. We know that wearing a turban shouldn’t have a negative connotation to it. And yet, as we see through social media and the news, it often still does.

So, in 1994, when we did not have this much access to information, of course, my husband was bullied for wearing a turban. He was the only Sikh male out of the 3 Indian people attending his school. The only reference that people had to Indian people was Apu from The Simpsons.

He would have to deal with name-calling with names such as “Towel Head” and “Diaper Head”. He would be asked if he rubbed his head, would a genie come out of it (he thought this point was pretty cool but was disappointed when it didn’t work)?

Kids would follow him around and talk to him in the “Apu” accent. They would tell him to go back where he came from. There was one kid in his Physical Education class that would sit behind him and constantly try to take off his turban from the bottom. This kid would steal his clothes from his gym locker and block him from going somewhere.

The teacher would notice and apologize but it didn’t always stop the harassment.

And it’s not that my husband wouldn’t want to defend himself. He thought about punching the kid that was bothering him. In the end, it wasn’t worth it to him because he reminded himself that his end goal was getting an education. His parents had worked really hard to move to America from India for him to get a good education and have success in life. Getting into a fight would only be a distraction.

It got so bad that when lunch periods happened, he decided he would rather go stand in a quiet, empty area of the school for 30 minutes rather than be in the cafeteria with the other kids. It turned out that this empty quiet area existed because there was a computer lab in that hallway. And even though my husband wasn’t a part of that particular class, the teacher let him come in during his lunch period and play around on the computers.

My husband used the opportunities and developed his interest in computers. Today, he is a software engineer with his own successful business.

He didn’t let the bullying become bigger than he was. He was also lucky that the bullying wasn’t to the point of being seriously physically and emotionally abused.

Eventually, the bullying did stop. Once the children realized that he was smart and they needed his help, they stopped being disrespectful based on his looks. Even the kid that would bother him in his physical education class came to him for help with a computer project.

The compassion that the computer teacher showed him by letting him just be a part of the computer lab helped drive him on his path to success. During those 30 minutes each day, he found something that he really loved to do. It kept his focus on the good and kept him moving towards his ultimate goal.

We can only hope that others who face bullies today know how to focus inward and find something that gives them confidence. We hope that they have the courage to move past it and have the support to thrive beyond the bullies. We hope that there is someone to show them compassion when they need it.

Why Do We Stop Trusting Doctors When It Comes To Vaccinating?

Today, I’m done. I keep reading arguments back and forth about vaccinations and I can’t handle it anymore. I can’t read another argument on why a parent should not vaccinate.

Honestly, I’m sad. I’m sad that in this day and age, we take something so wonderful for granted. I’m the first generation born in America. This means that my parents came from India. My spouse also was born and raised in India. We have gone back there quite a few times and you can see the devastation of people who can’t afford the vaccines of all of these preventable diseases. Some of the things that have been wiped out in America (or have been until recently) are still around in developing countries like India.

Why do some people take these medicines for granted? This American medical and scientific community has done so much for the people of this country and there are those that sit there and accuse them of conspiracies and putting our health at risk. This is the same medical community that has helped my grandfather to keep going at the current age of 93 while living with bladder cancer. This is the same scientific community that has found a drug that helps control my seizures on a daily basis.

I’m not saying don’t do research on something. When I was pregnant and figuring out what the risks were to continue my medication to my child and also the risks of breastfeeding her as well, I researched. Yes, I Googled. But then, I did what everyone should be doing. I went and asked my doctors. I consulted 3 different doctors: my neurologist, my obgyn, and my baby’s future pediatrician. Basically, 3 different people that had medical degrees. 2 of them had over 30 years of experience practicing medicine. I trusted them.

I’m in a few mommy groups on Facebook. And I continuously hear stories of so many babies born early or the mother having some problem during pregnancy or the baby spending some time in the NICU due to problems at birth. Guess who was there for all of that? Doctors. They are the ones who protected and cared for your child. They are the ones we literally trust with our lives when we give birth. We have to trust our doctor especially during labor when things can change in a second.

I needed a blood transfusion 2 days after I gave birth. My blood count dropped 2 days in a row even though I didn’t show it (I was completely asymptomatic). I didn’t like the idea of it. I didn’t want it. But I got it. All because my obgyn who knew my history of epilepsy thought it would be safer for me to get my blood count up. She didn’t want me to risk having a seizure with a newborn in the house. She didn’t want me to go home and have to come back to the hospital. And even though it wasn’t my first option of solutions, I did it because she was the one with a medical degree and I trusted her.

So after we go through all of this, why do we suddenly start questioning everything when vaccination time comes around? Why do people need delayed vaccination schedules or even worse, want to opt out of them completely? Why do people suddenly believe that this wonderful medical community that has literally helped them bring a life into this world in the safest way possible is now trying to harm their child?

I feel sorry for all of the children of those people who don’t believe in vaccinations. They are not only at risk of catching completely preventable diseases but there’s a chance that they will be socially outcasted for a decision they have no control over. I don’t want my child around someone who could risk her health. At least, once she’s vaccinated, I don’t have to worry as much. But how are these children who aren’t vaccinated going to travel? How are they going to be as safe as mine is when these diseases do make an appearance from another country? We are a global community in a world that is only becoming smaller.

I just wish these people who don’t believe in vaccinations knew how lucky they are. A country like India could do so much with the vaccination doses that are refused here. It’s pathetic that, with so much medicine at their fingertips, they take it all for granted.

I’m done. The anti-vaccination arguments are ridiculous. I just hope people gain some common sense and appreciate what they have before it’s too late.

Why Do Indians Try To Change The Way Our Babies Look?

I’ve mentioned that I’m a part of a few different mommy groups on Facebook, one of them being an Indian mommy group. There are so many great things about being a part of that group because you get to share ideas and things you’ve done and get help from others when you have questions.

But there is one big thing that drives me crazy every time I see it posted. There are Indian moms who ask how they can change the appearance of their child.

Here are examples of what I’m talking about (my version of examples since I don’t want to copy and paste things that are confidential to the group):

–My child was born with curly hair. If I shave it, will it come back straight? How can I      make it look better?

–My child in a month old and has hair on her face. How can I get rid of it?

–Will an oil massage help lighten my child’s skin?

And this goes on and on and on.

Why? Why are we trying to change the way our babies look? We criticize and try to change these children that are born after everything we go through to have them. We go through so much to get pregnant and then the stress of the pregnancy itself. These child are born perfect. Every single one of them. How can we judge the looks of someone so small and innocent?

And why do we think certain qualities are bad? Why is darker skin bad? Why is curly hair bad? I have curly hair and I love it. I know a girl who has darker skin than I do and she is one of the most beautiful, talented, and smarter girls I know.

Our goal in raising our child is so they grow up with great values and culture and become amazing adults. And yet, as newborns, we sit and criticize how they look. How are these kids supposed to develop good self-esteem and confidence with this type of parental attitude?

We are trying to get our babies to fit society’s standards of beauty. But here’s the problem. Society’s standards of beauty are wrong. Beauty shouldn’t be judged on one or two different physical characteristics. So if we try to change our children, what are we telling them? The only way to change what society considers beautiful is to believe that our children are beautiful just the way they are and teach them that.

I know I want my child to be confident in who she is as a person. I personally went through an ugly duckling phase when I was in school but I made it through. I think it actually made me a more grounded person because I haven’t relied on my looks at any point in my life. I had to learn to be social and to be able to relate to people around me.

I hope mothers will start appreciating their children for who they are and not what they look like. I hope they will start focusing more on how to raise their children and not how to improve their looks. I hope that these children will learn that your physical appearance has nothing to do with how beautiful you really are.

We Indians Need To Learn How To Be More Compassionate

I had a hard time writing about this topic: compassion. I just wasn’t sure what I could write about. I wasn’t even sure if I knew anything about this topic at all. I even looked up what compassion means so I could figure out what to write about. The problem is I tend to be more empathetic and can see that more clearly. But Webster’s said that empathy was not the same as compassion.

So, 3 days after the deadline, I finally realized what I could write about.

I’m a South Asian Indian born and raised in America. I come from a background where we tend to judge each other quicker than we show compassion. If something doesn’t go right or something bad happens, it somehow had to be that person’s fault. They did something that caused that bad thing to happen. I had a friend once tell me that when she told her mother about her miscarriage, her mother’s first words to her were “What did you do?”.

We, as a community, also don’t speak about so much that is happening around us. Things that require compassion are being hidden and causing emotional havoc in our lives, things like broken engagements, broken marriages, emotional abuse, physical abuse, miscarriages, infertility, depression, suicidal thoughts.

It upsets me that these are things that so many of us have gone through but yet, we still worry about telling the person next to us in fear that they will judge us. We aren’t able to share what we have really been through.

I have personally been through a few of these things. When I had, I completely disappeared from our community’s social scene. The only time I felt I deserved to be back in it is when I had done something indisputably good to make up for a few of the “bad” things I had done or been through. I couldn’t hold my head up around them until I had finally achieved something that our community could be proud of and say “Yes, I know that woman”.

Why should I feel ashamed for my circumstances in life? Why should I feel like everyone is talking about me behind my back? Why should I have to worry about being judged for making decisions to make my life better?

So my call is to the South Asian Indian community today. Be compassionate. Stop letting others feel like they will be judged for going through hard times in life. Not a single one of us is better than another. We will be stronger as a community if we help each other instead of tearing each other down. Share what you personally have gone through because I can guarantee you that the person next to you has gone through something that’s been life changing and difficult as well.

I was inspired to write this by #1000Speak. Compassion is something that I believe in but don’t see often enough.

Check out the other stories of compassion.

The Vaccination Debate Seems To Be A First-World Problem

Yesterday, as I was scrolling through yet another debate about vaccination versus no vaccination in one of my mommy groups on Facebook, it hit me that I keep reading about this debate only in this particular group. I’m in 2 mommy groups on Facebook. One is Indian mommies only and one is a general group of mommies from all cultures.

Now while I usually turn to the general group of mommies for advice because we are all raising children within the same environment and are exposed to the same things, it seems as though this is the one place I can’t take seriously when it comes to this debate. The group with Indian mommies only seems to discuss how to deal with the vaccinations but not whether to take them or not.

I don’t know numbers and I don’t know if this is a general truth. This is only what I’ve observed. But it seems to me that not vaccinating your children is a first world problem.

Is it because most of us Indian people are either first generation in America or first generation born in America? Is it because we are still aware of how many advantages we have with medicine living here?

It seems as though people are taking vaccines for granted here. Until whatever disease become so widespread and affects so many unvaccinated people, it seems as though we are going to sit in the middle of this debate. I hate the idea that children have to go through these sicknesses that could be preventable in order to make the point that vaccines work.

We only have to visit India once to see illness that we don’t see in America anymore. So when we have the option, why would we allow our child to be exposed to that risk? When we know all it takes is one shot to protect our child, why wouldn’t we get it done?

Is it that people in America now have too much information at their fingertips? That our celebrity culture influences us more than it should? That we look for scandal and conspiracy wherever we go? Why can’t we just trust in the medical and scientific community?

Or is it that people questioning the vaccines because they are so easily available? Maybe people would fight for the vaccines more if it were a limited resource.

I don’t know the answers to why people don’t just get their kids vaccinated. All I do know is that a lot of us younger generation Indian parents seem to have more faith in medicine than a lot of our non-Indian counterparts.

Dowry

So, yes, it still exists in India. One of the drivers we met in India told us that he was working as hard as he was because he had three daughters that still needed to get married. That means that not only does he have to pay for the cost of the wedding (which will be over-extravagant and way beyond the family’s means) but he has to give the groom’s family a variety of gifts.

The official definition of dowry according to Google is the property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage. In India, as far as I know (and you can correct me if I’m wrong), the groom’s side asks for a bunch of things from the bride’s family as part of the requirement to marry her. Yup, that’s right. The bride’s family is required to give him all sorts of stuff in order to marry her. Now you tell me how that makes you feel if you’re a woman.

My mother-in-law told me the other day that the ratio of men to women in India is now 6:1. That means there are so many more men than women there. Women are valuable and in high demand. So why and how the dowry system still exist? And I know it does because I’ve heard accounts of people dealing with a situation where the demands of the groom’s family are getting out of hand.

My big question is what if that driver invested the money he was saving for his daughters’ weddings into their education instead? Wouldn’t that then provide these girls of a way to become independent and financially support themselves? They wouldn’t need to marry unless they wanted to. They wouldn’t need a husband to take care of them. They could choose a partner based on mutual respect and equality.

Is that even a possibility? Could you imagine what would happen if so many more women were able to take care of themselves?

If these women could get an education and financially support themselves, would they have the confidence to refuse to marry someone who was asking for a dowry?