Remembering Little Lentil

Yesterday, October 27th, Little Lentil would have been one year old. All the writing, all the painting... everything I've done has been for LL, everything has been for me. In honoring LL and myself and all my feelings of loss, grief, joy, courage and the full spectrum of emotion and living, I'm re-posting one of my first writings about my radical miscarriage, Dream Journal.

Dream Journal

4/1/14 Tues 3:53 pm

I wake up in our bed, weak, so weak. It’s warm in the room. Our curtains are closed but the afternoon sun heats and still gets in. I feel warm and safe and in the heat of our bedroom, the air is full, a wholeness.

I wake up and remember my dreams. In them I tell my family and friends that the baby died. They look like the faces on the Look Kin side, my father’s side, but they are everyone. I’m in their house - Auntie Yuk Moy’s? - with people friendly, happy but some have questions. And some are so frustrated because they didn’t get the email - What’s going on?! Tell me!? So I tell them. We’re looked at with awe and horror.

I bolt awake and realize I forgot to cancel with my Spanish teacher.

I go to the bathroom for peeing and pooping and The Blood. I write this to Billy: Thank you Billy. We’ve been sleeping and I dreamt of telling everyone what happened. Even in my dreams the truth is present. Thank you for thinking of us on this strange and beautiful and horrible day. Much love to you and Savi and Lena - wow, she lights up our hearts. xoxox

Savi called. Barbi left a voice message. I want to call them but I don’t. I don’t feel like talking to anyone right now. I spoke with Rita but she doesn’t understand though she’s trying. Everyone is sharing their love with us the best way they know how. Sometimes, though, it’s more for them than it is for us. Even when we shared our joy of discovery of this baby, it was wonderful love and response but also a reflection of that person and their feelings and who they are.

I know I’m in shock. At this I break down, falling down a crumbled person. And then I’m calm and philosophical. I can’t help it. And I feel very protective of D. This is hitting him very hard - as excited as he was when he found out - and the the opposite. Deep sorrow. I feel it too. I’ve never seen him cry before. He cried and cried. We’re confused. We’re sad. I’m disappointed. You try to anticipate what you’re going to feel - you can try to be prepared for some things but not for everything. That’s not the point. We have no control. We are powerless, but we are also powerful. I found a new person inside of me as this little person was growing, and she was powerful, almost limitless mama/earth/crab powerful. And creative, so creative. A person who does have a green thumb, who loves life and helping things to grow. And making food - baking banana bread (albeit from a Trader Joe’s box but so delicious) and mashed potatoes for the first time. Hungry + fearless + road-rage-filled on her bike, barking at everyone and that felt good. Being honest + open in a way I haven’t been before. Loving my body. She loved her body. Growing out the hairs, reclaiming her hairstyle. Loving this body: curves + curves + belly + boobs + thighs + beautiful. Trusting the inner wise self - she is there, she is alive, she is here. Accepting things. Becoming more patient. Communicating even clearer than before.

I’ve thought a lot about this quote I read on a doula’s website + I think of it now: “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers - strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” - Barbara Katz Rothman

Even though the baby is gone, a tiny little thing that looked like a miniature person, I am still here. This mother is here and she is strong. She is sad and she is strong. Strength is knowing that crying and sharing our sad emotions is ok. I won’t try to “heal” soon. What happens is what happens. As I have throughout this pregnancy, I will listen to my heart, as I am right now, and listen to my inner wise self because she is always there inside of me and she is me. I will know what to do and how to feel and it’s all ok. It’s all ok. It’s all ok.

The Face Box

I moved my art supplies and a makeshift desk into the baby's room so that I can paint while the baby nurses because...

I moved my art supplies and a makeshift desk into the baby's room so that I can paint while the baby nurses because...

Yesterday I woke up and in a sleepy ramble, told D I wanted to watch The Social Network and that I wanted to “friend” Jesse Eisenberg, the actor that plays founder Mark Zuckerberg. You’re weird he said. Did I dream this? Or maybe it’s because I’ve been on the Face Box every single day, all day long since giving birth and before, and a decade before I even met D.

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...this is what my actual art desk looks like! The Messy Desk + cat! 

...this is what my actual art desk looks like! The Messy Desk + cat! 

I attended Smith College, one of the original Seven Sisters all women’s colleges, from Summer of 2001 to Spring of 2005. I was accepted into the pre-orientation program, Bridge, for Women of Color before they started allowing caucasian students to be in it. This changed my senior year, the same year I was a Bridge leader/mentor. When I first visited Smith in 2000, they didn’t allow Asian students to be in this program, let alone hapa/multi-racial/multicultural students so things keep changing. If it weren't for Bridge, I'd only have a handful of Smithie friends that are Students of Color because there are that many white students there. As it turned out, the majority of my friends were Jewish. I majored in Studio Art and Women’s Studies and sang with the Glee Club, The Chambers Singers and Groove, the a capella group, of which I'm one of the original members.

I often say that Smith is an institution of complete privilege and luxury but that the students come from all different backgrounds. I was able to attend because I had a very generous financial aid package since I was raised by a single mother, who at times worked three jobs to send me to my various elite private schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights. I also received annual art scholarships from the Unitarian Universalist Association and an annual scholarship from Green Point Bank as well as others. At the same time, although I didn’t have a lot of money, as didn't a lot of Smithies, once you are accepted and enroll at Smith you enter a special club (although we had no sororities). Even if you are a Student of Color and are the token student in class and deal with some form of bigotry every day, we all received some benefit from being enrolled at one of the top women’s colleges in the country with a long history of powerful and influential graduates from Gloria Steinem to Julia Child to Sylvia Plath. So despite all kinds of wonderful and horrible experiences one might have at Smith, you leave with a degree and a network of women all around the world who always have your back.

The co-sleeper/baby stuff caddy and where I nurse - so glamorous I know! 

The co-sleeper/baby stuff caddy and where I nurse - so glamorous I know! 

Why am I writing about my alma mater like this because seriously who cares? Well it goes back to Facebook...the first time I saw “The Social Network” it was surreal. Almost everything they talked about in the movie had happened in real time for me since Zuckerberg’s first beginnings for Facebook started in the Fall of 2003. That was when I started my Junior Year Study Abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka, Japan. For the rest of my time at Smith, including my Senior year, I lived in a “house” called Chapin House in the center of campus, a really nice dorm with beautiful views of the pond, a large living room with a TV and a grand piano, it’s own laundry room, dining room and it’s own kitchen and housekeeping staff. For my work study, I chose to assist the housekeeper which led me to the discovery that with showers and bathrooms, gender, class and ethnicity didn't dictate how gross and dirty you can be. I'm not sure how I ended up in this House - I requested Tyler House where I completed my Smith Summer Science Program when I was thirteen. Chapin was known to be a "nice" (read: white, mostly affluent) house and those that lived here were early acceptance students. I applied to too many colleges because I didn't know who would give me the best financial aid package and got my final decision certified by the midnight deadline (it was between Smith and Hampshire College). Before dropping out, Margaret Mitchell lived at Chapin and the staircase inspired the one in the book and the film “Gone With the Wind” (a little misleading as the staircase was not fancy at all but whatever - HOLLYWOOD!). I too had a LiveJournal and would update the interwebs on my love life and Feelings. I remember “Hot or Not” and even clicked through rating people’s appearance because that’s what you did at 3 in the morning in college. I had active MySpace and Friendster accounts. After Harvard and the other Ivy League schools, Smith also got the exclusive membership to Facebook. I remember when you had to be enrolled at a private college to get invited. And then any college. And then anyone.

These things help: drying rack, changing table, garbage pail. 

These things help: drying rack, changing table, garbage pail. 

Things just get so metta. If it weren’t for Facebook, would you even be reading these words right now? This social network machine is bizarre and twisted and a really false sense of self and how we interact with one another. Besides Candy Crush, Farmville and other evils of the internet, it does connect us. Last year when I made my first post for My Radical Miscarriage Blog, so many people wrote me with their stories of heartbreak surrounding their miscarriage, their stillbirth, their abortion, getting raped and how, sometimes, I was the only one they confided in because I had the courage to share my story.

My plant babies all grown up. 

My plant babies all grown up. 

It was emotionally overwhelming for me to read these stories, some from people from high school who I never talked to before and others from my closest friends. Sharing what I was going through with my pregnancy loss felt so intuitive to me, like an obsessive storytelling regurgitation that I didn’t see it as being brave or courageous but that’s what it was and that’s what it is. I can embrace that because my story is my truth.

So to Mark Zuckerberg I simultaneously say fuck you and thank you for making us so dependent on this evil thing called Facebook and for bringing together radical communities to bridge injustices and experiences and truly change this world into the one we want and know it can be.

xo

(*Editor's note* I take back what I said about Mark Zuckerberg - I just read that he and his wife had 3 miscarriages so I'm feeling a lot of compassion towards him today. Also, I "friended" Jesse Eisenberg.) 

My Radical Home Water Birth / My Spirit Walk Through Fire (PART I)

There are many shrines around our home including this one, dedicated to my father, Victor Hong Chu Look Kin. 

There are many shrines around our home including this one, dedicated to my father, Victor Hong Chu Look Kin. 

After having my baby on Friday, July 31st at 5:46am, on the Full Harvest Blue Moon, I get asked a lot, What was giving birth like? Now some people ask and actually really, really want to know. Others are just going through the motions. I have the short and the long answer. The short answer: It’s like a Spirit Walk through fire and hell and when you emerge, you’re a Warrior Mother.

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On Tuesday, July 28th, my “due date”, I got ready to go to PT (physical therapy) for my hands and wrists. For the past 4 months I’ve been swimming increasingly more and more to the point where it was daily, sometimes 7 days a week if not 6 days at our local NYC Recreation Center pool. People come from Queens to swim in this pool, it’s that nice. Well the pool is nice - the locker room is pretty disgusting and falling apart because the city doesn’t put enough money into it. And people steal the rings that hold up the shower curtains and sometimes steal the shower curtains as well! Ruby, who often cleans the bathrooms, told me this. I see her literally every day. She says How are you doing mama? and I tell her. There are other regulars, mostly swimmers, the old Chinese ladies, actually a lot of them are in their 40s and 50s and really what do I know. They swim faster than me even though we're all in the slow lane. I have a lot of swim buddies and some kind of recognition with the life guards. For a while there was Jose who was like a father figure and looked out for me. But when summer started he was sent to supervise the beaches which made me sad. The three times I’ve been to the beach before giving birth, I’ve kept an eye out for him.

So I was swimming because my hands were swollen from the pregnancy and I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as a result. No, I wasn’t typing a lot. I wasn’t doing anything to aggravate my hands - I was just pregnant! Everything below my neck was swollen. So I started swimming to help relieve the pain and reduce the swelling. It worked for a long time until it didn't and then I really, really had to get a PT.

I started seeing Phaeleau at Spear Physical Therapy in mid-June. I went to their location in midtown because they could see me sooner than the one closer to me. I wasn’t planning on continuing there since I had to literally walk up 4.5 flights of stairs to exit the subway but I stayed because of Phaeleau. Phaeleau is the hapa papa bear of the mid-town PT location. He’s the senior staff there and the head hand physical therapist. A native New Yorker, he has a daughter who’s going to start high school in the fall and grows a tomato garden outside of his window in Brooklyn. He’s super friendly as is everyone there - these people really love their job and their coworkers! I’ve never seen it before so it’s such a unique and lovely environment. PTs are talking to each other and their clients and clients talk to other PTs and other clients. There are a lot of conversations going on at once and it’s so fluid. It’s a beautiful thing.

For the past couple of weeks before I went into labor I had to reduce my bi-weekly appt to once a week, a Monday or Tuesday, because it was just so crazy hard for me to get there. And because I’m so cheap (read: thrifty!!) I refused to take a cab until I did. I had my session and it was good. Another PT whose been there every time recently took the course to tape up people’s arms so I worked with him as well. He had asked when I was due and at this point I just knowingly would say Soon. It’s like that scene in Beetlejuice. Lydia asks what his name is and he says Oh I can’t tell you that because then you’ll tell your friends and I have to show up at the mall and sign autographs and shit. You feel me? I said Soon because otherwise I’d have to deal with bull shit comments like Any minute now! which I actually used to say until it was actually really true. Or Any day now! Or (in an elevator I accidently pushed another button in addition to the ground floor button) Don’t go into labor! So, it’s Soon. But to this PT I whispered, Don’t tell anyone but I’m due today. I explained why I was being so private and he totally got it. He also asked the other question that people just ask, I’ve asked!, but which is really unempathetic and insensitive: Is this your first? I said No, I had a miscarriage last April but this is my first rainbow baby. He totally got it and didn’t get weirded out that I just told him that a baby died in my tummy. This was such a refreshing reaction considering that 25% of all births result in miscarriage (or more). I always have fun at PT and this was another great appointment.

I took a cab home and when I got inside the apartment I felt different. Like really subtle tiny differences. I’ve been having Braxton Hicks rushes (read: contractions) for like 2-3 months but it wasn’t that. This felt like tiny, miniscule cramps in my tummy, like more body feelings in some more places than before. Moments after getting home, I transformed our bedroom, with its one ocean blue accent wall peppered with my watercolors, into a space of complete mediation. I covered up the mirror, the table with the fish tank on it and the bookcase. Every surface had a Venus of Willendorf/Animal/Mama Earth shrine on it with plants, candles, my hand held goddess sculptures I made in ceramics class, incense, lavender, shells. It was so peaceful and beautiful. After I set this up, I began to doubt myself - Am I in labor? I feel like I have so many days before. But I knew I would know instinctively and if I had done this to our bedroom it must be true. Uncertainty, however, is what pregnancy is all about.

Tuesday, July 28th at 4pm, the very earliest of changes were felt in my body signaling the beginning of early labor. The following day, I gave a tour of how I set up our bedroom to prepare for my home water (natural) birth.

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Stay tuned for Part II!

xo

 

Therapy Tuesdays and the 12th Anniversary of my Father's Death

Dad as mattress with Dawn, Orleans, Cape Cod, early '84

Dad as mattress with Dawn, Orleans, Cape Cod, early '84

For the past 6 weeks, Danny and I have been attending a bereavement group for pregnancy loss. Although it was my idea to attend, going every week has been so difficult for me and I'm relieved that today is the last day of the program. Tuesdays is also when I have my own personal therapy. And today is also the 12th anniversary of my father's death.

July has been a strange and difficult month for me despite all the fun things that have happened. I celebrated turning 32 with a party, something I haven't done in a decade, went on camping trips and to friends' birthday parties. I go to these gatherings, these fun things and I say hello to people, to my friends, but I don't feel like myself. I'm a numbed version of me. I say I'm ok but I'm not. I've been feeling the pain of death.

Often July 29th passes and I don't realize it has but this month I've thought about it almost every day. I wanted to make a ghost bike for my dad - paint a bike white in his memory and chain it near to where he was killed with a note, with flowers. I really thought I was going to do it this year. But once more it's not happening and I feel I've failed his memory again. I've been crying all day and yesterday too. Death is so hard. I don't know if I'll ever get the hang of it.

Last night when I was sitting in my hot shower, sobbing and letting go, I told myself, after the session tonight, I'm going to ride over to where he was killed on his bicycle, on 34th St and Dyer Avenue, killed by a city bus and a truck, and light candles for him, say something, do something. My hope is that after today I can find some release, at least for this year, at least for this summer. All this loss is ripping me apart and I feel so broken all the time. His death is apart of me. Little Lentil's death is apart of me and everyone else that I've ever lost. And I am still here. And I am still alive. How do you live after death? I ask myself so many questions and I tell myself, Yes today is going to be a hard day. That is the truth and it is my truth.

A quote that I have on the wall above my bed, that I remind myself frequently is this:

"Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles." - Charlie Chapman

Please remember my father, Victor Look Kin, on this sad day of remembrance.