Born: December 10, 2016 at 5:19pm. This little girl has brought a whole new element of sweetness and joy to our family. Asher and Bennett are totally smitten with her. Asher is constantly remarking about how cute she is and he keeps seeking reassurance that we are in fact going to keep her. Bennett is always showering her in the tiniest little kisses and stroking her head and softly shushing her whenever she becomes unsettled. They both rush to her side and try to soothe her every time she cries. I think she is about the luckiest little girl around to have such loving and doting siblings. Birth story to come.
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to have children. I wanted at least three children and at least one of each sex. After we had Asher and got our boy, we were really hoping for a little girl and we feel incredibly blessed to have received Bennett.
I’ve always been a feminist. I’ve always fiercely believed in and advocated for the equality of men and women. I’ve hated gender stereotyping and pigeon holing. I’ve done my best to raise my son without any such gendered expectations imposed upon him. I’ve taught him that there is no such thing as boy or girl colors, rather there are only colors. His favorite color is currently bright pink and while, I hate the color pink I’m happy that he loves it and hope he is never made to feel like he shouldn’t. I try and let him choose his preferences when there is an opportunity to so as not to have my deeply ingrained, society influenced, gendered views influence him.
However since having a daughter, which, I admit hasn’t even been a month, I’ve been appalled to notice that I’ve been thinking about her future mainly in terms of her physical appearance. I keep hoping that she’ll be beautiful and imagining what she’ll look like as though beauty is the most important thing a woman can aspire to. This isn’t me! So, where is it coming from?!
As a woman, I am not above society’s influence. I feel constant pressure to conform to societal expectations of beauty for women, even though I know that my value is SO much more than that.
I have never once thought about how I hope Asher will grow up to be a good looking man, so why do I now find myself hoping that Bennett will grow up to be a good looking woman? It’s shallow and makes me incredibly uncomfortable to confront this part of myself but how can I hope to change and raise children that are better than me if I am unwilling to closely examine and work on my short comings?
I’d like to think that I hope she’s beautiful because that will make life easier for her in a world where woman are already disadvantaged, but I’m sure that isn’t all of it.
I honestly care most about the depth of her character (and Asher’s too for that matter) rather than the way she looks, and yet I find myself dwelling on the latter. I need to practice thought catching. I don’t want anyone to ever make her feel that her self-worth is mainly skin deep, but especially not her own mother. I want to empower her to be confident, to believe in herself, to value service to humanity, to have an outward facing orientation, to dream big and to be driven to chase those dreams. In order for those to happen, I have to lead by example to the best of my abilities and that means constantly working and striving to improve.
Bringing Bennett into this world is the single hardest thing I have been through to date. And honestly, this surprised me.
You see, when I was pregnant with Asher, I felt like I was the poster child for pregnancy. I LOVED being pregnant, I didn’t have any morning sickness and the bigger I got the more comfortable I felt. In fact, I had never felt more beautiful.
Being pregnant with Bennett, was a whole different story. While, I readily admit that compared to what some women go through what I experienced was a walk in the park. Still after such a wonderful and easy first pregnancy I found this one much more challenging. The day I turned 6 weeks pregnant, I threw up twice and then was queasy for several weeks after that, in addition to experiencing strong food aversions. I was so tired, but since I had a super active toddler on my hands, sleep was not something I was able to get enough of, and the little I did get was terrible. I suffered from insomnia and charlie horses, not to mention I would wake up hourly to pee. And my skin! Oh my skin was terrible. My face broke out (which hadn’t even happened to me during puberty) and I had patches of dry flaky skin that just no amount of moisturizing or exfoliating could tackle.
I felt fragile, and uncomfortable nearly the whole pregnancy, so I was hoping for an early delivery. I was more than ready to get this baby out. She had other plans. At 40 weeks exactly I had a bloody show and I got excited thinking that this might be the start of labour, but my due date came and went and the days creeped by. I was becoming increasingly more and more impatient and I felt pressured by everyone to have this baby already. Several nights I had contractions that were fairly consistent for an hour or so and then would simply stop. I was quickly losing all confidence that I had any idea at all what my body was doing.
At 41 weeks I had a None Stress Test (NST) (which I found incredibly stressful), but it turned out that while my fluid levels were on the low side the baby was doing fine. I was only 2 centimeters dilated and about 50% effaced so my midwife stripped my membranes in the hopes of getting things moving and sent me home with instructions to come back in 5 days for another NST if I hadn’t had my baby by then.
So I went home feeling dejected. A part of me was really hoping that they would discover that the baby needed to come out right then and that I’d be induced. The bloody show that I had been having fairly consistently for a week already, picked up and the rest of the day I felt pretty achy. My mom and I went to the mall that evening and walked around but I was becoming increasing more uncomfortable so we headed home. I went to bed around 10:30pm thinking that this could be the night and I woke up at 11:30pm with contractions. I began timing them like I had done several times before during the past week and found that while they were fairly mild/moderate they were pretty consistent and close together. By about 2am the contractions, while still pretty mild were coming 2-3 minutes apart, so I decided to call my midwives to let them know what was going on. After speaking to the midwife on call, Alex, we decided that I should probably head into the hospital since this was my second baby and things could turn a corner quickly. I woke up Raf, finished packing up a few things into my hospital bag, informed my parents and off we went. I was fairly sure that we would be sent right back home, since my contractions were so mild.
We got to the hospital at 3am and Alex checked me and found that I was only 4 centimeters dilated, but that was enough to keep me at the hospital. So, feeling discouraged that this wasn’t going to be a quick labour I settled in for the long haul. Now that I knew this was actually labour I kind of felt like maybe I was a labour rock star. I was totally in control during every contraction. When I felt one coming on, I’d just breathe through it gently. There was no wailing or screaming or crying. It was peaceful, calm, serene. I labored in the shower, on the exercise ball, leaning over the bed and in a birth chair. The whole time I was thinking to myself, ‘this is going to take forever, these contractions aren’t strong enough to be doing anything.’ I kept thinking about how tired I was and how easy it would be to just get an epidural and go to sleep until it was time to push at which point I told Raf that I felt like I may crack and ask for an epidural and that he was to talk me off the ledge. Unless I was adamantly insistent, he was not to allow me to get one. He protested but finally agreed.
At around 6am I got into the birth tub. About 30 minutes later I was told by my nurse, Gabby that Alex thought I was entering transition. I remember thinking, ‘that’s odd because my contractions are still only moderate and isn’t transition the hardest part of labour?’ No sooner had I expressed this sentiment aloud than the next contraction hit me like a ton of bricks. A few more of those and I was begging for drugs and writhing about in the birth tub. All serenity had gone out the window. My student midwife, Michelle, suggested that I get out of the tub and have Alex check my dilation before making any decisions. I felt this was reasonable so I got out and Alex checked me, only to announce that I was 6 cm dilated. ONLY 6!
GIVE ME DRUGS!!!
I was a mess. I was crying and panicky. As each contraction ended I cowered in anticipation of the next, yet there was no escape. I later described it to my Dad like I was standing in front of a stampede of horses and I knew I would be trampled but I couldn’t move, I just had to stand there knowing it would happen, over and over and over.
Alex let me know that she heard my request for drugs, but that she thought I only had 2 or so more hours, which to me felt like she was telling me I would be stuck in this misery for the rest of my life. I kept saying that I couldn’t do it, to which everyone would reply, that I was doing it, which only served to have me scream that I DIDN’T WANT TO DO IT!! Alex suggested I return to laboring in the shower, so I made my way to the bathroom.
I first labored on the toilet for a while, when my body began bearing down on it’s own. After what happened in my labour with Asher I was deathly afraid of my cervix swelling, but I couldn’t prevent my body from pushing. I was reaching a point of total terror. I was utterly and completely terrified of the
torture pain. I finally got up to walk the 3 feet to the shower, when a massive contraction hit. I immediately dropped to my hands and knees on the bathroom floor.
I needed drugs! I clung to this thought like a life raft, it was the only thing I could really think about. Alex told me I was doing great and that I was still in control of my contractions. No sooner has she said that, than I lost all control with the next one. My breathing was erratic, I started to bite Raf and probably would have come away with a chunk of his arm, before I remembered miraculously that I needed to relax my jaw. My body was still bearing down and at this point my water broke (although, I didn’t know it at the time). I began insisting on an epidural. Alex called the anesthesiologist, but said she wanted to check my dilation again while we waited for him to arrive. I made my way back to the bed and she checked me and then promptly announced that I was fully dilated and it was time to push. I went from 6 cm to 10 cm in 20 minutes. I had passed the point of getting an epidural.
So I pushed with every ounce of strength that I had. I’m pretty sure I nearly crushed Rafaan’s fingers, I was gripping them so hard. I had no thought of meeting my baby, only of getting the pain to end. Tears streamed down my face, I was in total and complete agony but after 4 or 5 contractions I reached down and pulled my tiny perfect baby onto my belly.
Bennett Rose Anvari was born on February 27th at 7:25am after 8 hours of labor, weighing in at exactly 7 pounds and measuring 20.5 inches long. Just like her brother before her, she rocked her Apgar test, scoring 9 and 9!
I wish I could say that any thought of the pain of labour immediately vanished when I laid eyes on my daughter, but it didn’t. I felt utterly traumatized and in shock. I was pretty shaken up. While Rafaan cried tears of joy at meeting our little girl, all I could do was shake and sob over what I had just endured as they sewed up my small first degree tear. I slowly came around and was able to marvel at my little girl and what I had just done to bring her here, but it took me a good two days to no longer feel traumatized by the experience. It was rough to say the least, though I can honestly say I’d do it again and I definitely still want to have more children. I am proud of myself for having a completely natural, drug free labour, because ultimately that’s the best and safest thing for both mother and baby (barring any complications). Another one of my midwives told me the next morning that what I experienced she refers to as “transition trash talk.” I’m so thankful to Wisdom Midwifery and the GWU Hospital labor and delivery staff for assisting me and helping me have a natural labour, despite everything I said to the contrary at the time.
In retrospect I think the reason I had such a hard time, was because I had lost confidence in knowing what my body was doing. I didn’t trust myself or my body and labour is such a mental battle in addition to a physical one, that not being in the right head space really had a huge negative impact on how I was able to handle the pain. I also needed to be pulled out of my head more. The first 7 hours were so easy that I don’t think Raf (despite his best efforts) was really prepared to coach me through the last hour like I really needed. Those are two things we definitely need to work on and prepare for next time.
We are so proud to be the parents to not only our beautiful little pistol of a son, Asher, but now to our sweet and cuddly perfection of a daughter, Bennett. We couldn’t have asked for a better addition to our family!
Born: February 27, 2015 at 7:25am. We are over the moon and settling into being a family of 4!! Birth story to follow, but here’s a look at our precious bundle, and don’t you just love the look of pride on Asher’s face in that second picture?! He is totally rocking the big brother thing and is constantly wanting to hug AND kiss the Bennett, never just one, always both. Be still my heart.
Becoming a mom has made me so deeply thankful for my own parents. They are rock stars in my book. I wrote them a letter a few months ago, letting them know how I feel and I share part of it with you all now, to honor the amazing man that is my father and in the hopes of inspiring you to do the same for your own Dads.
While I myself will never be a father, becoming a parent has given me a new found appreciation for you as my dad. You were faced with sacrificing for us in a very different way than mom. You had to sacrifice time with us in order to provide for us and to support us financially. I know now what a burden that must have been for you. I know, I for one never once thanked you for that sacrifice. I know there were times when money must have been tight and you could have easily taken up a job in the private sector or opened up your own practice, but instead you chose to instill in us the value of service. This is something that I am deeply grateful for. Not only were you being of service and doing something you enjoyed but you also came home on your lunch breaks just to be with us. I know a lot of people who can say they never really saw their fathers growing up because of how busy they were and I am so thankful that I am not one of those people. You played an active role in our childhoods. It also fell to you to be the main disciplinarian in the family, which I’m sure is something you must have hated. Thank you for raising us to be responsible and accountable for our actions. You may have had to be the enforcer but you were also able to make us laugh in a way no one else could. I’m the first to admit that I’m a daddy’s girl. I love that I share many of your traits and it made me so happy when grandpa used to tell me that I was the most like you. Our similarities also meant that I wasn’t always the easiest person for you to deal with and I want to tell you how thankful I am to you for walking the line between allowing me to be me while also giving me boundaries and for raising me to the best version of myself. You are the best Dad I could ever ask for. I feel so blessed to be your daughter. I can’t thank you enough for all the life lessons you have taught me and for all the sacrifices you made and still make for us. I will always need you. You are my rock.
I am now and always will be, a Daddy’s girl. I love you.
Happy Father’s Day!
Becoming a mom has made me so deeply thankful for my own parents. They are rock stars in my book. I wrote them a letter a few weeks ago, letting them know how I feel and I share part of it with you all now, to honor the amazing woman that is my mother and in the hopes of inspiring you to do the same for your own mothers.
As I am now a mother myself, I realize profoundly all the sacrifices you made for us. Being a mother is the single hardest thing I have ever done. It is a thankless job and greatly under valued by society at large, which is something I am struggling with and I’m sure you struggled with. Perhaps there were times when you even felt that Dad took what you did for granted, I know I feel that way about Raf sometimes. Being a mother is wonderful but also challenging, deeply rewarding, but also lonely, and the most wonderful experience but also incredibly testing. As mothers we are faced with two very difficult decisions: to work on our careers or to work at raising our children and to do both means to sacrifice something from each. I know now what you gave up for us. You gave up finding and pursuing your passion. Not only did you do that, but then you went on to do something that you disliked immensely, which was to home school us and we both know that I didn’t make it easy. You spent 8 years homeschooling me and giving me the educational building blocks for all my future scholastic achievements. I have my MPH today, because of the sacrifices you made. Beyond, the sacrifices you made for me to ensure that I was educated you were also an excellent example for me. You did (and still do) so much for us and never made us feel bad about it, you never reminded us of all you gave up for us and you were incredibly patient. You allowed us to be free to explore, to fall down, and to make our own mistakes, while probably worrying about us the whole time. I know, I don’t tell you as often as I should, but I’m so deeply blessed and grateful that I have you as a mother. I need you more than I say or show. I couldn’t have asked for a better mom. I know we’re very different in many ways, but I like to think that I got many of my strengths as a mom from you. I’m so sorry it has taken me 28 years to tell you how much I appreciate you, because I do, now more than ever. You are the kindest, gentlest, sweetest, most loving woman I know and I feel so proud that I get to call you mom. You are a hero. You are my hero.
I miss you every. single. day. I love you!