reassault

July 25, 2017

three months ago i was with a male friend at the pharmacy picking up some meds. i was standing at the counter. he was standing right next to me, shoulder-to-head (i’m a bit shorter). when the pharm tech says, “Sarah” to confirm that the last name matched with the name written on the order, i nodded in my typical i have neither the time nor the energy to engage in the importance of names. my friend’s reaction to the tech completely disregarding my name was to discreetly and very matter-of-fact grab and pinch my ass…i knew that this awkward response was his way of telling me that he wanted me to speak up. but in that instant, i felt anger. it had nothing to do with my name. something sat in my throat. and i couldn’t give it voice.

as we walked through the pharmacy towards the exit, a mixture of emotions resurfaced throughout my body. i didn’t say a word. and he was in his own world. he had no idea what was happening to me. when we got to the car he continued talking about quien-carajo-sabe. i took a deep breath and said, “if you ever grab my ass again, imma’ beat the shit outta’ you.” he laughed lightly and kept talking. completely oblivious to both my body language and my verbal language. i stopped him and said, “no. you really need to listen to me. i mean it. if you ever grab my ass again, imma’ beat the shit outta’ you, Zack” (not his real name).

it landed. i could tell he both listened and saw me. clearly.

in typical victim/survivor behavior i started to explain myself, “it’s not that i think you did it with malice but…” he interrupted me immediately. he was visibly upset with himself and stated that i did not owe him any explanation. instead he apologized for being an “insensitive and privileged-asshole.” he owned his shit. all of it. with every word that came out of his mouth he affirmed what many men ignore and dismiss.

he went on saying that regardless of the fact that he was aware of my sexual abuse history, even if he didn’t know the information he does, his action was completely out of line. i have never given him permission to touch me. i didn’t need to say anything. he was working it out in that very moment. promised to do better every day. he came from his Heart. and a bit of my trust was restored.

last week i went to visit some friends. i have to preface that one of the friends, Carlos (not his real name either) was drunk. upon our arrival the energy was happy. we caught up on how work was going for everyone, how our babies were doing, and the usual talk-time spent with friends to reconnect. we went to spend some time and enjoy a distraction from the intensity that is our current life.

we were discussing breast feeding with another friend who was there. she was sharing her experience with us about breastfeeding her children. when a bursts from Carlos screaming, “teta!” with a ridiculous degree of volume, interrupted our conversation. he decided that he wants to focus his attention on women’s breasts. it was beyond the annoying drunk. and we tried to ignore Carlos until he decided it was ok to touch my partner’s breasts. she immediately responded by saying that if it happened again he would get kicked in the balls.

the energy has shifted significantly. and quickly.

i looked at my wife and said, “let’s go.” our other friend stood up quickly, told him to shut up and invited us to come in to the kitchen to see what he is cooking. we spent some time in there speaking about something he wanted to share regarding his health and we all went back out to the yard. as we stood outside, Carlos comes from behind and grabs my breasts. i turned around, with all the anger and fear that i experience every. fucking. time. someone touches me without consent running through my skin. and said, “every time you do that, you trigger me. you trigger every sexual assault i have experienced. from being molested to being raped. you bring it all to the surface.”

he paused, perplexed in a noticeably sober moment, and says something to the effect of how he can’t understand how he, a person of “confianza” would trigger that in me. i stopped him real fast, “this is not about you. this is not about you. this is NOT about you.” i repeated it multiple times.

i could tell his head was spinning as he tried to process this out loud. he stated how he also grabs so-and-so’s breasts and so-and-so, as if that shit has anything to do with me. i could only listen for so long before thinking this will not be a conversation that i could engage in real talk given his etoh intake… he paused and realized it wasn’t about him but i could tell that something had not quite connected. and a bit of my trust was lost.

i’ve been sitting with all of this. and a day hasn’t passed that i don’t think about it since it happened. my body is holding all of this shit. when these things resurface i just want to beat the shit outta’ the person who triggered and everyone before him. and there are days that i hate that my initial reaction is always to talk and not just go fucking violent. it’s like my need to keep things “peaceful” gets in the way of a more complete expression of my feelings. like fucking him up.

but my body, it just holds on tight. pero algun día voa’ reventar. i have no idea what that looks like. and that is very frightening to me. for now, i hold. and continue to digest what i should immediately vomit.

in what world can anyone think that just because it’s person of “confianza,” it’s ok to touch another body? every male who violated my body was always a person of “confianza.” the majority of the perpetrators are. this world chooses to ignore that fact repeatedly. they don’t respect female bodies. they don’t care to respect female bodies.

women and girls experience sexual assault every day. multiple times a day.
your daughter.

women and girls experience sexual assault every day. multiple times a day.
tu madre.

women and girls experience sexual assault every day. multiple times a day.
your sister.

women and girls experience sexual assault every day. multiple times a day. in the language used to speak to them or about them. we experience assault in the wandering eyes of someone who looks to undress. we experience assault in the “casual” grabbing of our body parts. we are assaulted with every cat call that makes us lengthen our steps and increase our pace.

i have two baby boys to raise now…they will know their Mamá’s story one day.  They will write a new narrative where informed consent is always a given and bodies are respected.

#52essays2017

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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

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

first letter

April 29, 2017

Diego y Andrés,

you decided to arrive swiftly and gently. you were letting us know pretty early on that you were going to get here a little sooner than expected. and while your Mami and i were looking forward to meeting you, we wanted you to stay in a little longer because well… the longer you stayed in there, the better your chances of surviving this crazy world out here.

but you had other plans. and decided to come in on the 26th day of April in a taurus moon, en caul…

when the doctor said your Mami was dilated to 4cm and that we would be doing a cesarean section, i felt a rush of anxiety and complete fear take over every part of my body. in Mami’s belly you were completed protected. but outside of her body, things would look a lot different for you at this point in your gestational age.

originally they had told us everything was stable… and in the span of three hours, everything shifted. they started telling us all this information about what they were going to do and the resuscitation room and the NICU and all the things that could go in every direction… i couldn’t grasp the information much less process it because in that moment the fear of loosing you was exponential. my ears shut down. every cell in my body was on edge.

they took your Mami to the OR and left me in a room with this paper suit to go over my clothes, a mask and some footsies over my sneakers. i have never perspired more than i have in that outfit. i don’t think more than ten minutes passed between the time they took Mami and the time the nurse came to get me, but i felt like at least three hours had gone by and they hadn’t come to get me. a knock at the door startles me, the nurse says follow me and proceeds to give me all these instructions about sterility and hands at my sides. i entered this sterile, cold room (which i appreciated in that outfit), and Mami was already on the OR table. i sat on a silver stool right behind the curtain and at her head.

she was struggling with anesthetics because they made her awfully nauseous. once that settled, she was a Warrior. she meditated while everything was happening. she took deep breaths and surrendered to trusting that God was present. i know she could sense my anxiety. she looked at me and with complete ease in her voice said, “God didn’t bring us this far to abandon us now. all is well.”

the doctor asked me to stand up and look over the curtain. and there was Diego squirmy and beautiful inside your amniotic sac… you were pure perfection. and then Andrés, two minutes later, same as your brother in your amniotic sac… you were pure perfection (i’ll write to each of you later how rare your births are and their meaning). each of you were taken to the resuscitation room. a nurse came around and said she was ready to escort me into the room. i kissed your mom on the forehead and she said, “go be with our babies.”

when i went into that room, the energy rushed in my body sat in my knees. i bent them a bit and allowed myself to feel the ground beneath me. i felt shaky but sturdy. i took a deep breath and found myself looking at Baby A, mi Diego. as an entire NICU team worked to intubate you and stabilize your very tiny 1 lb 12oz body, you were fearless. and your cry was soft but strong. i turned around to see Baby B, mi Andrés, weighing in at 1 lb 14oz, your cry was musical, a lullaby… and your entire team went through the same motions. i was in awe of your absolute perfection in such small bodies.

you stole my heart in each of your first breaths.

as i write this, i count… you have been alive for approximately 60 hours. we have been Mami and Mamá to two amazing Guerreros. such courage you two have shown already.

this Love i feel for you is unlike any Love i have ever experienced -and this Mamá Loves hard and deep. you fill the spaces were hurt resided. in the miracle of both of you, my heart is healed from any hurt i have ever been exposed to. you are the tiniest biggest Loves of my life.

I Love you. I Love you.

#52essays2017

unlearn fears

March 7, 2017

when your Mami told me we were pregnant, i went down on my knees. my legs couldn’t support my body’s newfound emotions. i cried. i cried hard. i cried for the 28-other months that i held her while she cried after we read another negative result. i cried for the 28-other months that we either walked into a sterile exam room or met up with Doddie, filled with all the hope of creating a family on our terms. sometimes in the middle of work weeks we’d drive into the city and back on the same day, days in a row, just to try again. i cried for the over thirty injections i gave Mami every night for two-weeks (her abdomen filled with puncture bruises -i tried my best to be the most gentle nurse). i cried for the day we went in for egg retrieval and i sat in the waiting room alone, sending positive energies and calling you forth. i cried for the day when they did the embryo transfer but i was hospitalized the night before and wasn’t able to be there. i cried for the day, ten-years ago when i had a hysterectomy and said farewell to you from my own womb. but i cried mostly because Mami’s heart broke so many times before the day we finally received the good news. i was overwhelmed that the Happiness of You had finally come to heal our broken hearts.

and just as quickly, fear settled in.

how do i unlearn almost 39-years of learned fears? of doctrine and dogma? how can i make sure that i don’t teach you this? will i be a good parent? how can i make sure that you won’t hate anyone? especially me? will lack of biology affect our relationship? will you be bullied at school because you have two moms? will my family see you as one of us? will their religion get in the way of seeing you in all of your beauty? will they see us as a family? and why do i even care about what others think?

the layers run deep.

on december of 2007, Mamá had a hysterectomy. i still remember that day clearly. your Mami and i had not yet met. i seriously thought that the reason i was unable to have my own children was a direct result of a punishment reserved for me for being queer; for not being what the world wanted me to be. and so on that day when they removed the crib that i thought would one day hold you, i became womb-less and actually believed that i was less of a woman because the sum of my parts no longer added to the expected whole woman necessary to bare and raise children.

we have waited a long time for you. every heartbreak along the way has strengthened our Love for you. but before it strengthened us, it broke us into a million shattered pieces. when you Love someone the way i Love your Mami, and you know they want something so wholeheartedly, that every time they don’t get their wish, a piece of your heart experiences necrosis. it dies. it feels unrepairable. and it’s not that i didn’t want it as bad as Mami. it’s that i had already reconciled it in my head that you were no longer a possibility in my body, so i shut that down and hardened my heart. so when Mami and i were ready to start the journey to you, i chose to focus my energies on helping her bring your Light to this world. and each time we received news that we were not pregnant, i witnessed Mami’s pain and i couldn’t place it anywhere but inside of me. i didn’t want her to see my hurt and i felt that i needed to be stronger for her.

when your Mami and i met, one of our first conversations was around raising children. we talked about everything related to this , including and questioning if this was something reserved for “the others.” we struggled with questions around heteronormativity and whether we were trying to assimilate to “them” (as if parenthood is reserved for just one set of people). we struggled with the idea that if we went through with it, we’d have to find an environment where you would be safe and you could thrive and grow, happy and healthy… and safe again.

i feared the church. that place that watched me grow and screamed from the pulpits that i was an abomination. i feared what others said, that our Love was null in front of the eyes of god because “it wasn’t real.” i feared it would show up in places that would affect you and your emotional and spiritual development. i feared you’d hate us, or just hate me because the biology wasn’t there. And well, blood is thick and heavy and it weighs in. but it also flows…

i was immediately on defensive mode thinking that at school you’d be “the weird kids.” i was scared that anyone would harm you, either physically or emotionally. I for sure would catch a case and end up in prison because i already Love you like i have never felt Love before. if anyone even attempts to hurt you i will literally loose my shit. you see, your two little lives, are always be protected by my own and Mami’s as well. you should also know that you are officially covered under the insurance of our Love. that means that no harm will come your way that you are not equipped to handle. that means that you are always protected.

all of these fears, my little big Loves, are just fears based on my upbringing. this world will try to teach you things that you will need to unlearn real quick. i will do my absolute best to make sure you don’t learn those lessons that come from a place of other people’s void or ignorance.

the truth is always in Love.

this world you’re coming into is pretty scary nut beautiful. and it is going to try so fucking hard to show you otherwise. this world will want to make you think you are something other than Loved. some will never see us as Family, some will want to make you think you don’t belong here or you are something different than your peers but i will raise you to know and understand that you are perfect, whole, and complete as you are.

you come from a deeper Love. you come from a place of Hope and Faith. you come from Fight and Struggle. you come from Joy and Peace. your existence is powerful beyond measure. your existence is a revolution all its own. ignore the noise of other people’s fears projected on our lives.

we are Familia. punto.

when your mother told me we were pregnant, i went down on my knees and an overwhelming gratitude filled my entire body. you became not one but two heart beating reminders that fears dissipate when i surrender to Love..

 

#52essays2017

 

saturday mornings

January 28, 2017

Saturday mornings smelled like pancakes and mistolín at our place. The record player only played boleros. The kind that had you pausing between cleaning and grabbing whatever was near you that you could turn into a microphone and sing at the top of your lungs: “Dueño de ti, dueño de nada…no soy yo, ese a quien tu le dices mi dueño…” My mother lived a lot of those songs. She would sing them like she wrote them.

“Los sabados son de limpieza y oficio,” Mami would say. As she wrapped her hair in a pañuelo, rolled up her pant legs, and slipped on her chancletas.

Saturday morning my brothers and I would wake up to the sound of Mami talking to her plants as she watered them. She’d have a couple of boxes of cereal sitting on the kitchen table with bowls and spoons. We’d serve ourselves a bowl of conflei’ con leche and sat our little nalgas in the living room floor. She’d make pancakes and eggs. Manny, David, and I would sit and watch our morning cartoon marathon.

While we did that, Mami floated around. Sometimes she was in her room, other times she’d sit and watch TV with us. She’d start writing a list of what needed to get done. And she would start cleaning her room. At 10am we knew we had to shut the TV off and start picking up our rooms.

Mami only knew how to deep clean. There was no half-ass cleaning. You either cleaned the shit outta’ something or you didn’t. She cleaned everything and she enjoyed it. She liked to move things around and make things pretty. She played with colors and themes and figurines. She would reorganize closets and drawers, change bed sheets and bathroom curtains. Mami could’ve ran a business on cleaning and organizing. My mother would make our tenement apartment feel like a 5th Avenue suite.

Once the house was clean, we had to run errands: from the cashiers check place to Con Edison to paying the guy at la bodega who let you take fiaó, she had a running To-Do-List. The routine was important for her. It kept her feeling grounded.

We’d get on the train and head to downtown Manhattan. My little feet running alongside her long strides; I held her hand tightly. She’d look at us and smile. And that is how she confirmed what we always hoped would happen at the end of errands. We knew she was going to take us to our favorite place. Our anticipation and excitement grew exponentially. We were three kids: 11, 10, and 6-years-old, so our excited energy was pretty intense.

Mami would stretch dollars just so she could take us to Playland. This was one of our all-time favorite treats. She would give us each $5 to play .25 arcade games. That was 20 games each. For my brothers, that lasted much longer than for me. But it wasplayland-rgb-1985-copy the look on Mami’s face that made me happiest. Because for her, in that moment, she was responsible for the happiness and well-being of three little lives. And in that instance, on that particular Saturday, she didn’t feel like she couldn’t provide. She didn’t feel like she didn’t have enough. No. In that moment, as our smiles grew our faces, we gave her the happiness and peacefulness of a perfect day.

Saturday morning… José José is belting El Triste and I start to clean and understand in a different light why my mother cleaned the way she did while she listened to these songs. There was some soul-cleansing happening at the same time she dusted and mopped. I’ll make sure to find a way to treat myself at the end of this day… I’ll find a way to paint smiles on the faces of others.

#52essays2017