Why Don’t We Talk About It?

I met someone who was telling me about her journey to have her children. She was open about it which she mentioned was unusual for an Indian person.

She wasn’t wrong.

Why don’t we talk about it? I’m not just talking about things like miscarriages and infertility but also other things that we think are embarrassing or that we will be judged for in the Indian society.

Why should we be embarrassed? So many people go through things such as depression, therapy, divorce, miscarriages, in vitro fertilization, difficult births, and having a hard time adjusting to being a parent. The list goes on and on.

Why shouldn’t we talk about it? I’ve personally been through quite a few of these things and I try to be open about it because if my experiences can help one other person see that it’s normal to feel like this or go through this and it helps them figure out how to make themselves feel better, then it’s worth it.

We keep worrying about being judged by our community or society but seriously, what the hell? Who cares if some aunty talks about the fact that you had trouble getting pregnant? I promise you a fair number of the generation before us also had the same problems. So why do they believe that not looking like the “perfect” person is a bad thing?

As I said in Emotional Awareness- Yes, It’s A Real Thing, mental health is important. And as a South Asian Indian, we hide from our feelings. We try to play off that everything is always okay. Everything is not always okay. And most of us probably understand that even though we don’t share it. It’s a good thing to be able to recognize when you aren’t okay because recognizing that is a step to helping yourself.

It’s okay to not be happy 100% of the time. It’s okay to go through things. It’s okay to have physical and emotional health problems. And talking about it gives you a chance to finding a solution. It also gives you a chance to find a support system to lean on. None of these things makes you a worse person. None of them make you a weak person. Acknowledge and own what you are going through. Once you do, no one else’s judgment matters.

So let’s talk about it.

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.

That Auntie!

I go to a dance class every Saturday. It is run by an Indian woman that’s probably around my mom’s age. Almost all of her students are about the same age. I actually have a great time in this class because anytime I’m around dance, I’m at ease.

A new lady showed up at the last class I went to. Our teacher told her I was Gujarati because apparently, that lady (who was South Indian, Tamil to be more specific) knew how to speak Gujarati. Then, my teacher asked if I understood Gujarati. Before I could even answer, the other lady said “No. Most of that generation can’t.” I immediately jumped on that because, in reality, most of the people I know can speak their parents’ native language. At the very least, they understand it.

I think what bothered me was that the lady assumed I didn’t know anything. She started testing me. Now Gujarati is my second language. If you start putting me under pressure to speak, of course, I’m not going to be as good as I would be in English. She asked me a second question later and I was able to recover and prove that I knew my own language.

Seriously though? Why was I being challenged like it was wrong if I didn’t know Gujarati? I really wonder if her children understood her native language. Why would she assume that I didn’t? She had met me for the first time. For all she knew, I had just came to America recently with English as my second language.

I don’t get it. Being judged just based on my appearance or whatever she was judging me on was not appreciated.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Just because I’m American doesn’t mean I’m not Indian. I wish Indian people would stop treating me that way.

Fair and Lovely

My husband found this article and thought it would be a good topic since this whole Miss America being Indian thing has generated a lot of controversy due to racist comments by ignorant people. 

Please read this before proceeding: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/asha-rangappa/miss-america-and-the-indian-beauty-myth_b_3941524.html

I like what this writer says in terms of America recognizing that true beauty really has nothing to do with the color of our skin. The fact that a darker skinned Indian woman born and raised in America won really shows how much it doesn’t matter. 

But this is just one aspect of what is being judged. Here is my issue. I’m brown. There’s no getting around it. I’m not dark, I’m not light. I’m just brown. But I also have super curly hair and curves and definitely do not weigh 110 lbs or less. So where is the discussion on the rest of that? 

When I was 18, I remember telling a friend of mine that guys only check out girls with straight hair. At this time, straighteners were just starting to get popular. It wasn’t common yet. And to be honest, I really felt this way. I felt that every guy I came across went for the straight haired, super thin Indian girl. And I can’t say that I didn’t join this crowd. When I was 21, I layered my hair and started wearing it straight on a regular basis. It’s not until recently that I actually realized that I loved my curly hair and it was something that non-Indian people tend to pay a lot of money to get. 

The reason I bring this up is because many Indian girls do not have straight hair. So why aren’t we proud of that being a part of who we are? 

Another aspect of this contest that I’m having issues with is that every single girl is usually under a certain weight. I’m all for healthy. But I’ve always been curvy regardless and even when I was at my lowest weight, I never looked like the women in a beauty pageant. 

Let’s talk about old Indian cinema. The woman in it had big fluffy hair and fantastic curves and held up her own. I’m waiting for that to come back into style. But what happened now? Everyone has perfect hair all the time and these super perfect bodies (“Perfect” is all an opinion as well). So how much of that is America’s influence on Indian’s cinema? 

I guess my point is that while I applaud the Miss America pageant for stepping out of its box and choosing someone who is truly American regardless of her ethnicity, I still have issues with the ideal look that a “beautiful” woman should have. And I think that India has been influenced by America in terms of what that ideal look is. 

When the winner is someone that I can fully relate to, I will feel like things have changed. Here is to one stepping stone at a time. 

Barely An Accountant

So I’m pretty sure that most Indian parents out there dreamed that their child was going to grow up and be a doctor or if not that,  at least an engineer.  I didn’t realize that my profession as an accountant didn’t really count in the eyes of the community.  Not until I had heard someone say that I was barely an accountant. 

The funny thing is that I’m the one with a standard degree in my family.  My siblings and even my cousins did much more interesting things that just accounting.  I’m a little jealous that my degree is so boring.  

So let’s talk about the standards and expectations that the Indian community has.  If you’re a doctor,  you’ve made it. If you marry a doctor, you have also made it. Now if you are both doctors,  you both are pretty much royalty.  

I’m assuming that this mentality that the generations above us have of becoming a doctor has to do with two things : financial stability and status in the community. I have even heard people in our generation talk about the fact that if someone is a doctor (or if you marry one),  that person has it made. 

 It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you might actually love what you do. The people I know that are doctors have this passion for their respective specialties. They work pretty damn hard at it too.  

Now let’s talk about the rest of us.  The accountants, the lawyers, the business people, the journalists, the artists, etc. Are we now considered unsuccessful? When people meet us, do they look down on us because we didn’t want to become doctors? What is so wrong about following a different passion?  

In past posts, I’ve talked about making something you love into a financially stable career.  What if you did that already?  I honestly think that as long as a person has ambition for something and can support themselves,  they can do anything they want in the world. And I think people have stopped caring what the community thinks regarding this. Otherwise,  we wouldn’t have had such a range of professions out there now.  

The question really is whether or not we will get respect for what we have chosen to do with our lives.  

Do You Follow the Herd?

Most of us are sheep as one of my friend likes to say.  We do what everyone else wants to do whether it’s what we want or not. We do it whether it’s the right thing to do. We do it because if we don’t do it,  we will be judged, or made fun of, or just not as cool. 

I went to a bachelorette party a few years ago. The emails sent to us provided us with instructions on the usual information. One of the things we had to do was book the flight to Las Vegas.  I’m a chicken when it comes to flying even though I will do it if necessary. Vegas, being a 3 hour drive, didn’t seem necessary to me. I’m also stingy (at the time I was unemployed so I was stingier than normal).  So I told the person in charge of planning that I will be driving myself there.  She asked me for weeks if I was sure.  Anyways, so when I finally got there a few hours later than the people who took a plane,  some of those girls told me that if they had known I was driving, they would have come with me. Apparently, the organizer didn’t mention to them I was driving and no one asked. They just assumed everyone was flying. They followed what they were given instructions to do. 

Now I know this isn’t a life or death situation. It doesn’t change the course of history or help our community at all. My point is sometimes it’s just worth challenging what you are being told or what you know. If we don’t raise our hands and ask the question, there is a chance that nobody else will either. 

We all have thoughts. One thing that drives me crazy is when people pretend that they don’t. Something I believe in strongly is that if there are two people or more working on something together, the best product will come out of that partnership because the crap will get questioned,  more ideas will get shared, and only the best stuff will be approved by both. That only works as long as both people share what they are thinking and don’t just agree to everything that one person says.

Trust me.  If you’re thinking something,  there’s a pretty good chance there are others thinking it too.  So speak up. Maybe you will be judged by the masses.  But does that matter? The masses are the people just following what  they were told to do anyways. Maybe you won’t be as cool or people will make fun of you.  I’ve definitely made some decisions in my life that have caused gossip and rumors.  Haven’t we all? 

But maybe,  for once,  you will get what you want instead of what someone else wanted.  Doesn’t that make it worth taking a chance?  

The Rank

I would like to introduce an idea that I call “The Rank”. Most of us have been a part of this in some way.

I learned about “The Rank” in high school (actually, I probably saw it in junior high but in high school is when I started calling it “The Rank”.). It’s basically the category you fall into when someone wants to hang out. There are 4 categories, at least in my book:

1) The cool guys

2) The not-so-cool guys

3) The cool girls

4) The not-so-cool girls

Guess which category I fell into? Definitely #4. Which meant that when I was at a party or a social gathering of some sort, other girls would go hang out with #1-3 before I was graced with their presence.

I’m pretty sure this exists in some form today as well. I’m in my 30s but I definitely feel like there are people still out there that judge you based on who they think you are socially and hang out with you based on that. I don’t know what number I count as anymore but I think I definitely care less.

So why does “The Rank” exist? Is it because we want to up our social standing by association? If I hang out with someone of the opposite sex who is “cool”, will it make me “cool” too? Maybe yet again, we are talking about validation. Validation that proves that we are important because the better people want to hang out with me, whatever better means. My own importance gives me a reason for being here on this earth.

I definitely am more discriminating in my friendships now but occasionally, someone sneaks by me. I believe that they will be a good friend and we manage to maintain that friendship until someone “cooler” or more worthy comes along and that person disappears, never to be heard of again. It happens. The worst is when they don’t even realize that they are doing that. It’s possible that we are all doing this in some form without realizing it.

How do we tear down “The Rank”? In American society, you’re told to be nice to the nerds and geeks in high school because they will end up being your boss one day. How do we address this in our society where it’s not necessarily our nerdiness that put us in category #4 but something else entirely? What is it about us that categorizes us to begin with? How do we stop people from judging us without even knowing us?

In addition to that, what the hell are we being judged on anyways? Especially in our 30s. Is it how much money we make, how we have maintained ourselves, what our spouse does (or if we even have a spouse)? I actually find it interesting that this ranking still does somewhat exist at this age. What deems me worthy to be able to hang out with you?