whatever you’d like

May 25, 2017

we always thought we were gonna’ have a girl. La Nena. we had picked her name out much quicker than the boys’. so when we learned that we were having two boys something shifted. there was a sadness. i can’t deny that. not that i wasn’t happy to have whatever we were getting, just that i wanted a girl because well, i’m a girl. and i wanted to raise a strong girl. independent. luchadora. bad ass. rockstar. queen. bruja. that was gonna’ be our girl, Luna was her name…

“it’s two boys,” said the radiologist as she pointed to it’s genitals and typed the word “boy” with an arrow pointing directly at its penis. that was when i had “that” moment. the one where shit gets real real. we have to raise two boys… two boys. who have two moms. who happen to be Latinxs. who happen to be queer. in a world that seems to be tearing at the seams. in a world that just on your genitals alone have placed an exaggerated, ridiculous amount of expectations on you that are unrealistic and just dumb. fucking stoopid’.

i’ve been guilty of some of those expectations. it’s the environment i grew up in. that “boys will be boys” bullshit. i’m working on changing that every day. so i am already thinking about a few things. if you are indeed cisgendered males, know that i have no clue whatsoever about your body parts except what i know from my education as a nurse and the few, often negative encounters with male bodies i may have had. but i trust that you are here to teach me a thing or two. i also believe you’re here to heal me around some of those not-so-pleasant experiences.

it’s not at all about your body but, because of your body society will make you think you have to “act a certain way.” please pay no attention to the distractors from Self Love. your body is simply your vessel. the temple in which your soul resides in this time and space.

discover the many parts of you. pink is for everyone. you can play with dolls. you can dance. you can cry. you can have long hair. you can paint your nails. you can wear whatever you’d like (though trust that i will check you before you walk out the door and make adjustments if needed. porque utede’ no pueden ta’ andando’ por ahi como loco tampoco). you don’t have to be strong. you don’t have to know about cars or sports. you can throw out the trash AND you can do the dishes.

you have brown skin. your names will be mispronounced. this has so many implications, most of them terrifying, so please be mindful of all of your actions because even your inactions are bound to set something in motion. usually, that motion is against you. stand firm in who you are. especially in moments of injustice.

you have two moms. so you also got that. which we think is pretty cool. and someone may have a thing to say about that. pero tu los mandas pal’ carajo and keep it moving. do not waste your time arguing with mojones que no cojen cabeza. i do promise you that you will have very positive male role models around you. and you will know that it takes a village and Our Village is beautiful and big and strong and they Love you.

we have so much to learn from each other. and i will do my best to be my best self for you both. and i promise you that i will honor and respect whatever you discover about yourself along the way,  i will encourage and provide all the support i can. and my only expectation of you is that you be your genuine Selves, wherever you may stand. there will be no boxes to put you in. you are perfectly made.

still, imma’ raise two bad asses. two brujos. two conjurers of justice. two respectful humans. two luchadores.

you are the painters of your canvass. i will be your easel.

#52weeks2017

paper clips

May 12, 2017

i’m thinking in numbers every day. which is saying a lot because i’ve had a very difficult relationship with numbers my entire life. but numbers now have taken the place of words. it’s day 15. they’re hovering around 740g. yes, that’s grams. to give you an idea, one gram is about the weight of a paper clip. my babies weigh about 740 paper clips. the next time you’re in your place of work find a box of them. they usually come in quantities of 100. hold eight of those boxes in your hand… there, you just held my babies.

they are both eating 9mls every two hours. the breast milk is now fortified and they have added some calories to assist with weight gain. one of them had 3 spit ups but nothing major. he just prefers breastmilk alone. but we need more grams on them. they need to grow.

they had a mother’s day tea group talk at the NICU yesterday. most of us look like zombies. we all look like we’re staring into something somewhere between a fog and sand storm. i felt that particular way about us for sure. it was nice to meet other folks who are experiencing similar circumstances. today, a volunteer photographer took pictures of us with the boys. we should be getting them soon. soon… that’s another interesting word. that place makes a mockery of time. you don’t even feel it when you’re there. time stops in that place.

they are just over two weeks old. 15 days and almost 8 hours exactly. they’ve had their share of moments where they forget to breathe. but they get nudged gently and get reminders from the nurses. hey you, you gotta’ inhale or exhale. but one has to follow the other, i imagine them saying. when they get “nudged” they call it “stim,” short for stimulation. they’ll tap the bottom of their feet with their hands. move them a bit. they explain that the babies forget because of their prematurity.

doctor neonatologist also reminds us that the babies are doing what they should be doing… if, they were still in utero. they wouldn’t have to necessarily breathe because it was being done for them. so we’re really at 28 weeks and 1 day, gestational. many things are still waiting to develop or are developing slowly. their brain circuits are not yet sending the messages because they haven’t matured. it’s mostly neurological. something about the myelin sheath (if you can recall A&P).

they have me thinking a lot about breathing. how often do we live holding in our breaths? for me, these days feel like that is all i’m doing. i’m in a constant inhale. sometimes during the day, to let out some of the air, i find myself putting my feet to the ground. when i need to feel that moment, i literally make a conscious decision to focus on my feet and how they feel beneath me. i need to Live those few seconds. i become aware of place and pay attention to my breaths. i inhale deeply and imagine alveolis expanding in their tiny lungs, branches filling up, expansion. i exhale and imagine their lungs doing the work smoothly. breathe in the good, breathe out the bad.

the normal respiratory rate for newborns is 30-50 times per minute. the normal breathing rate for you and i is about 12-20 per minute. so my babies have to breathe a lot. and that’s a lot of work for a preemie. it’s hard to take deeper breaths too. it’s no different for me either. i find  myself living outside that normal rate when matters of the heart are raw. and this is the most i’ve ever felt rawness like i do in this moment. i feel so fucking vulnerable. it’s like i am walking with my skin inside out.

my biggest exhale comes that moment i get to the NICU and see my Sons. the second i can touch them. and read to them. or sing some silly made up song Mami and i come up with because our canciones de cuna list is super short. that instant when the nurses let them out of the isolettes and onto the center of my chest, i exhale from the depths of my fears.

breathing is so basic, isn’t it?

#52essays2017

forty-three

May 5, 2017

Note: before you read this, look at time (watch, phone, whatever). stare at it, without any interruption for one full minute. listen to your breathing. be mindful of the noises you hear. remember that as you read this.

i am hyper aware to almost every minute of the day. these days it all seems to move in slow motion and it all blends just to make it feel as if i am looking from the outside at myself. i can literally feel my skin. i can feel the hairs in my arms when the wind blows. i feel my heart in my chest.

anytime my phone rings, my heart sinks. i look at the number. a knot plays twister on my throat. my vocal chords utter a dry hello and i listen, “This is Dr. so-and-so… the babies are okay…” as he went on to tell me about medical students who will be observing today and he was requesting permission for them to see the babies. the exhale my body releases in that precise moment comes from a depth i have never known.

i think about them constantly. i find myself looking at the ten billion pictures i’ve taken already or recalling how i’ve changed their diapers and saline-gauze-cleaned my babies. i’ve taken their temperatures, i’ve weighed their bodies, all while my hands are inside this incubator that’s perfectly warm and humid. i shake my hands briskly to warm them up. today, the humidity setting went down. now we’re counting down the days whem we can both hold them to our bodies.

i wash my hands every time i walk onto the unit. at the bedside, i hand sanitize like i wanna’ kill even my own flora just to keep my kids well. no germs on my babies, i think to myself. i have been sitting by their incubator-side for eight days now. i write to each of them. i tell them about any slight setbacks and all the small victories they’ve achieved so far. i update them on each other. i tell them about my day. then my Wife and i go together to each of them. we read and sing, we pray, we chant… ellos piden la bendicion y nosotras se la damos.

our babies are magical miracles. a micro perfection of fragility and strength.

for the most part, we get our updates from the nurses. unless there’s a new finding or change that warrants a conversation with the provider. as much as we like them, we would prefer not to have to speak with them.

the nurses tell us that the babies communicate with each other. “when one’s alarms go off, the brother likes to show him up,” they say smiling. i smile and think that my babies are experts in energy shifts already. that is the essence of their Light, a radiant energy that when combined with ours, forms a perfect balance in our lives. we love being with them. and they Love us. when we’re together, their measured markers improve. come to think of it… it’s probably the time during the day when i am taking the most breaths and feeling the most at ease.

i find myself with a heightened emotions. my senses are on high alert and the seconds seem eternal between minutes. i cannot hold an hour in a glass when my hands shake.

i am relearning how to breathe. i breathe in their gentle ease. my babies do it so much better than i do. i stare at them long enough to count the rise and fall of their chests: forty-three times in a minute.

cuarenta-y-tres respiraciones en un minuto. and i’m just trying to exhale after saying hello.

#52essays2017

day 5

May 1, 2017

we were discharged from the hospital yesterday. it was a very long day. we left our hearts on a NNICU unit. i’m trying to wrap my head around the next few months. adjusting to this sort of in-between worlds. i find myself trying to create a balance between all the emotions my body is experiencing. the mind is a traitor when the heart feels weak. but you already make me stronger.

i am learning to navigate a life that feels like i walk on a tight-rope daily, no net or catch ropes. the core of me must strengthen in this new role.

walking out of here without you is the hardest walk i have ever had to take. but you have so much growing to do my little big Loves. and so i need you to know and understand two very important lessons right now.

first, you have each other. you are just a few feet away. let that Love that is inherently yours and yours only through your shared experience be a guiding Light, especially when your Mommas are not present. feel each other’s energies and know that life has blessed you with a first mate. that is a beautiful thing.

second, you will always be protected by our Love. this means that our Love for you is so immense that it will keep you safe. Mami and i are standing firm in our Faith that your stay there will be one of the smoothest, most amazing and speedy growth in premature babies that place has ever witnessed. remember that you are Miracles. you are divine intervention. you are wonderful. you are my children and have by nature inherited a protective order.

i am always thinking of you. i wear wristbands that state that i am a newborn guardian. and guard you i will. even when you cannot see me, you can always feel my Love. listen to and pay attention to your heart beats closely. it is there that you will find the Love your Mami and i have for each other. a Love that is gentle but strong. a Love that is patient. that Love will be the one you carry for your lifetime. in your hearts you will also find the Love we have for you. this new Love transcends all the others. this Love required expansion. it required a stretching of heart muscles and an increase in blood flow. my heart strings are pulled towards you constantly.

we will be there every day to remind you that you are not alone. we will call your nurses to check in often throughout the day. candles have been lit in so many places around the world for you. the village is praying, chanting, meditating, and sending positive thoughts to each of you constantly. you have so many people who Love you that have never met you. but that’s the thing with Love, it doesn’t need to know to feel. Love is a constant action. Love like breath is always moving in and out. in and out. Love, like breath oxygenates cells.

inhale and exhale my beautiful children. grow and strengthen in Love and courage.

and while we are apart, let my Love hold you close. your beautiful Lights are shining in this world and the clarity of each of you is radiant.

i Love you deeply Diego y Andrés.

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#52essays2017