Equis with my niece
I still have a hacking cough.
In my bathroom, I hear everything.
Christmas shopping is stressing me out.
My son is feeding himself quietly.
Sometimes depression conquers me at will.
I'm waiting on a changed world.
Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. ~ Native American prayer
For indigenous people, Thanksgiving is more a day of mourning than celebration, for it represents the demise of life as their ancestors knew it. It is important to remember the tragic circumstances of our nation's founding even as we participate in America's traditions.

In spite of the holiday's horrifying origins, I do appreciate the opportunity to spend time with my family and mull over the many blessings I have been endowed with in my lifetime. 

In that vein, I am sharing only five life blessings out of the many I am thankful for:    

1. MY FAMILY. It was hard to spend the first Thanksgiving without my grandfather without wanting to cry. The saying "You don't truly appreciate something until it's gone" is true. I did appreciate my grandfather's presence in my life, but I took that presence for granted. His absence is a reminder to consistently SHOW appreciation for my family by spending time with them, keeping in contact with them via whatever venue necessary and being considerate of them. I often think to myself that I do not know what I would do without my family; and it breaks my heart to think of my mom, dad, sister, grandma, cousins, uncles and aunts not being around. My family has long been a source of support and love for me, and I am thankful for everything they do, the advice they give and the laughter we share.

2. MY SON. Before January of 2010, I blindly believed that I could not have children. When I learned that I was pregnant, I was shocked yet felt numbed by the overwhelming knowledge that my life would dramatically change in the new year; and change it has. Life as a single stay-at-home mother has been exceedingly difficult, but I would never go back and change my decision to keep my beautiful son. He has brought immense joy and laughter into my life and the lives of my family members. Every day he teaches me something new, and I am grateful that he alive, well and growing.

3. MY FRIENDS. I have a handful of friends, and I only talk to a couple consistently; but I am grateful for every single one of them. Whether or not we talk every day or every few months, I am thankful to have had their presence in my life in the past and look forward to spending more quality time with them in the future. I often feel that with my friends I am my most true self, able to be open and honest about the difficulties I face. We share laughter, advice and stories. Each moment with them is an adventure. Never mind the fact that if I need help, they are there to help, without question, every single time.

4. WORDS. I can never underestimate the power of words to work wonders in my life. Books make me laugh and cry and impact my worldview. Newspaper stories have the same effect and make me wonder what I would do if I were in the same position as the "characters" in articles. Magazines give great advice on parenting my son. Blogs allow me to relish the adventures of others' lives and connect with other writers. My own blog gives me the opportunity to share my own stories, to express myself to the world and to harness the therapeutic and social power of writing. Writing and reading are like family members to me: I don't know what I'd do without them.

5. BASIC NECESSITIES. Too often in life, I have spent time thinking about everything I do not have or want more of. However, I must remember that I am blessed with a home even if it is small and I am blessed to have running water even if the sink and bathtub faucets leak and the kitchen sink is consistently clogged. I am grateful to have these basic necessities, and I wish everyone in the world could have the same.

My son has so many teeth!
I may be getting bronchitis again.
Equis insists on feeding himself now.
My house is such a mess!
Baby's sitting in a yogurt puddle.
I miss having time for ceramics.
Stevie Wonder's song "Isn't She Lovely" from the 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life was written to commemorate the birth of his daughter Aisha. You can hear his daughter crying in the opening of the song as well as audio samples of Wonder playing with her throughout. My favorite verses are "I can't believe what God has done/ Through us he's given life to one/ But isn't she lovely made from love."
Britney Spears' song "My Baby" is the final track of her sixth studio album Circus. Spears wrote the song for her two sons Sean Preston and Jayden James. My favorite verses are "I wonder how/ I've lived my life/ 'Cause without you,/ How did I get through/ All of my days, without you."
The song "My Baby You," from Marc Anthony's first English-language album Marc Anthony is dedicated to his daughter Ariana. I love every word of this song, but my favorite part of it is the chorus: "My baby you/ Are the reason I could fly/ And 'cause of you/ I don't have to wonder why/ Baby you/ There's no more just getting by/ You're the reason I feel so alive/ Though these words I sing are true/ They still fail to capture you/ As mere words can only do/ How can I explain that smile/ And how it turns my world around/ Keeping my feet on the ground."
Sheryl Crow's "Lullaby for Wyatt" from her sixth studio album Detours was written for her son Wyatt. My favorite lyrics are "How do I keep you from losing your way/ Hope you'll go out and you'll come back some day."
 "With Arms Wide Open" was written by Scott Stapp when he received news that he was going to be a father and was featured on Creed's album Human Clay. My favorite lyrics are "Well I don't know if I'm ready/ To be the man I have to be/ I take a breath, I take her by my side/ We stand in awe, we've created life."

What are you favorite songs created by artists for their children?
"At this age, many toddlers begin to behave unpredictably. Yours may scream at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason, pull the tablecloth (and all the dishes on it) to the floor, or yank the dog's tail despite your firmly telling him not to. Though this may be a trying time for you, remember that your toddler isn't deliberately disobeying you — he's just exploring his surroundings and figuring out how much power he has over you, his environment, and himself. Many of these "destructive" practices will actually help him develop a sense of independence and figure out which types of behavior are acceptable to you and which aren't."
-- "Your 13-month-old's behavior: A stranger among you? Dana Sullivan, Baby Center
It doesn't matter how often I've heard it before, the bang-clank-clack of a plastic shovel, lego or any other hard-as-hell toy bouncing against ceramic tile startles me each time. Meanwhile, Equis cheerfully babbles as he finds the next object to throw to the floor in the never-ending "Scare-the-Crap-Out-of-Mommy-Then-Make-Her-Pick-Everything-Up-So-I-Can-Do-It-Again" game. In fact, my days with Equis are quite repetitive because what else does a baby have to do but sleep, eat and play? Well, he's recently added whine and cry for what seems to be no reason to the list.

It's like Equis is nine months old again, suffering from separation anxiety. Remember how he used to cry hysterically when I stepped behind the shower curtain as if he'd just lost his Mommy? Well, now he does it if I even walk three steps away from him to retrieve the remote. And remember how he would bury his head in my shoulder when a stranger tried to talk to him? Now, he hides his face in his coat. Even as Equis grows and learns independence, he is making it more clear than ever that he needs and wants his Mommy with him all the time; and that realization is incredibly taxing on me.

Furthermore, Equis has become more picky regarding his food choices, and getting him to eat is an arduous task. He has also started waking up several times throughout the night, apparently because he is dreaming. Last but not least, he finds it far less entertaining to hang out in his stroller, desiring instead to stomp around on the floor. I am finding it difficult, yet again, to take showers, wash dishes, clean or eat because Equis no longer likes to play independently or sit quietly for more than five minutes at a time.

I am exhausted. I find myself disappearing to the bathroom a few times a day to clear my head when Equis is having mini temper tantrums. I sit on the toilet cover and take deep breaths then wash my face in an attempt to relax before heading back out to calm my son with my attention. I love that Equis is persistent, energetic and sensitive, I am proud of him for being adventurous and I am grateful that he shows me so much love; but sometimes this Mommy needs a break.
Equis' first work of art, created on an iPad, at 14 months of age, during church service. HOW ADORABLE?!
Some weeks ago, my best friend and Equis' godmother babysat Equis so I could go on a dinner date. She took several cute videos of him playing with her, but I think this video best showcases Equis' raspberry-blowing skills as well as his head shaking game. It also illustrates just how much fun Equis has with his Titi Naima.
Me, tired after delivery, wearing the evil gown.
"JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!" I yell at my mom from my seat on the toilet. Startled, my mother looks up from the watch in her hand. I see her face fall, hurt replacing her look of concentration.

"Please, Mom, I'm just so hot." I feel like the walls of the tiny bathroom are closing in and the small black and white tiles are lifting towards me. There does not seem to be enough air for me to breathe.

She stands still in the doorway. Calmly, she reminds me, "Xiomara, I need to time the contractions so we know when to go to the hospital."

"THEY NEVER END!" I cry out. My mom stalks away to call Bellevue again, and the midwife tells her, for the second time, to just bring me in. Reluctantly, I make my way out of the apartment and into the elevator. Once inside the car, however, I forbid my dad to move because I feel like I have to poop again. I go back upstairs as quickly as my belly will allow me to; yet, I find no relief in the bathroom. The pains in my sides and back simply worsen. (I now know that's because the "need to poop" feeling was really a "need to deliver a baby" feeling.)

This time, after climbing into the car, I break my rule and refuse to fasten my seatbelt. "Please don't let us get into an accident," I pray as I place myself on all fours in the back seat, arching my back and groaning unintelligibly for mercy. On Delancey Street, my best friend calls, having seen my text about my water breaking. "Mom, please," I whisper, as I hand the phone to her. I have only enough strength to focus on getting through the tormenting moments of constriction. Every red light angers me. Every car that takes too long to turn before us makes me want to tear my hair out.

We finally pull up in front of the hospital, and my mom and I begin the long walk through its wide hallways towards the Labor & Delivery Ward. Clutching at my belly, I moan with every step forward; and it isn't until we've walked the equivalent of five city blocks that a staff member says, "She needs a wheelchair. Somebody should really get her a wheelchair!"

I manage a weak smile and an, "It's okay," before continuing on my way. In my head, I'm saying, "What's the point? I've walked all this way already. I can't stand around, in pain, waiting for someone to bring me a wheelchair now. I've only got another block to walk before getting to the next security guard."

It seems to take years for the elevator to come, and I gratefully step into it when it does. Unfortunately, it's seven in the morning, and person after person dressed in scrubs or a white coat gets into the elevator behind me. I want to scream at them, "HURRY UP! HURRY UP! Can't you see I'm about to have a baby? Stop pressing every damn button before the 9th floor!" Instead, I watch a woman's eyes widen in surprise as I slump against the wall and slide, knees bent, to the floor. Sweating, I hold the bottom of my belly. I try to take deep breaths. It does not matter how hurriedly the other passengers exit the elevator; I feel suffocated in the crowd of people, and I groan under the weight of the oppressive air. The door finally opens on my floor.

Another block to walk. A third security guard to nod at. Locked double doors to pass through. A row of staff members to hand my purple and white Pregnancy Passport over to. I want my mom with me, but they make her go back through the double doors and into the waiting room. I'm on my own. In the examination room, a nurse commands me to take off my clothes. With difficulty, I peel off the maternity tank top and shorts and ask if I can just stay naked. "No, no, Miss." the nurse shakes her head.

"Please, I'm so hot," I beg.

"You need to wear the gown," she insists. "It's probably going to be a while before you deliver. You can't be naked all that time." She then makes me put a striped band around my belly to hold the baby's heart monitor in place. The tightness of the itchy, not-so-stretchy band only worsens the dolores, and the open-backed gown feels coarse against my skin. While I lay on the bed, waiting for the doctor, I pull my wet hair up into a messy bun and try to enclose it in my hair clip. I hear the clip crack before I feel it. Angry, I throw the broken clip towards the garbage can and miss, almost hitting the doctor as she comes in.

"Okay, let's check you," she says as she snaps on blue gloves. I spread my knees apart as far as they will go and hold my breath as her fingers press into me. "You're 9 centimeters," I hear her say before her head reappears between my legs. "You're going to have this baby now!" she exclaims, with a look of clear astonishment shooting across her face. "It's too late for medicine. Are you ready?"

I nod my head and smile, too tired to say, "I didn't want meds anyway," and "NOW can I get this horrendous gown off of me?"

What are your memories of childbirth and labor?


Broken Waters: Equis' Birth Part One

The Delivery: Equis' Birth Part Three