Laurita Dianita

Reflections and art on the topics of public health, social justice, and love

Archive for the ‘long-lasting relationships’ tag

A different telling of Rio’s birth

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I know I already wrote Rio’s birth story and shared it here. I wrote it as clearly and honestly as I could, with all of the relevant factual details, the small collection of photos that my globally-published photojournalist friend Ash was able to get me right away, and an attempt to be even-handed in its telling even though I felt heartbroken.

This is a different telling of it. 

I am telling it differently now because I now have all of Ash’s photos from which to choose, and I also now have license to share that the reason for my heartbreak was Oscar and the end of our marriage. We are going through a dissolution of marriage currently (in as collaborative and child-development-focused a way as possible). Though our relationship had been troubled for a long time, the night before the birth was particularly difficult. This was why I birthed through an ocean of grief.

In this version, then, I am visually telling the story (thanks to the gift of Ash’s photo-documentation) with a focus on what really matters to me from the birth. I am telling it with a focus on the narrative that strengthens me, the memory of it that reminds of me of my own fierce will. Most of all, I am telling it with a focus on what provided me the resilience I needed to cross that ocean of grief to meet my baby: the women in my life, the women in that room. They are the fountain from which I drew my resilience. When I had no tranquility and peace inside myself, I absorbed theirs. When I felt defeated, I concentrated on their love and belief. The faces and hands and voices of my mom and Jen are the way I want to remember this birth. Suki hugging me, Deb pressing the hot pack to my back, the quiet presence of Ash and of my sister, the sunlight from the window, the calm female voice singing “Ra Ma Da Sa” from Jen’s phone, the colors of my robe, the blue and purple of Jen’s hair, the tickly feeling of my mom’s gentle fingers, the love I spoke to Rio as I pushed him out, the way I reached down to feel him crown and to pull him to my chest, the sweet way Ida greeted her baby brother with a kiss. These are the things I want to remember. These are the elements that I am choosing to carry with me from this birth, to sustain me in this hard road ahead.

What I have learned in the last six months is that resilience is an active process. It requires choices in every moment to draw on the strengths around us, and it requires that there is something good around us and inside us that we can draw on. These women were my pillars and my lifeboats, and I wanted to tell the birth story again, with a dedication to them.

The collection of photos does begin and end with Oscar, though, because this pregnancy did begin with him, and because the birth ended with him. That is, we will be co-parenting together for the rest of our lives. The kids are ours. The moment of birth is brief; the process of parenting is life-long, and he will always be there, dedicated to our children alongside me, even as we craft separate lives.

But the birth, the birth I want to remember, is not about him at all. This is the story I want to tell.

[Please note that some photos are NSFW…unless you work in the birthing field, that is.]

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All photos by Ash Adams

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December 3rd, 2016 at 10:17 pm

Week 32

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I recommend you look at these pictures while listening to the song in the Youtube video link. That's how we took them.

I determined last night that my uterus is too big or maybe baby is just in too funny a position for me to continue with Zumba. But I am determined to still have fun however I can, even though my body is limited in a way it has never been before. So I was happy when Oscar proposed this morning that we do an obnoxiously-colorful photoshoot with his retro backdrop/lighting and that we accompany it with fun music. I threw on my workout clothes from the previous night and we got down to the Pointer Sisters. I am happy about all the little ways that mi amor reminds me to have levity and grateful for how much we laugh together.

P.S. This is another left-handed drawing. I think they all will be from here on out. And yes, the legs are disproportionately long. That’s because I drew how baby feels rather than focusing on anatomic accuracy. Baby feels like a mess of knees and feet that are constantly protruding out of or changing the shape of the right side of my belly and waist. The other night I sang to baby to encourage her/him to move so we could try to distinguish body parts as they surfaced inside my skin. Seriously, baby thinks my uterus is a 24-7 dance studio or something.

P.P. S. This is my dad’s singlet from college at UNLV, where he went to undergrad on a running scholarship.

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December 3rd, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Advice I’ve Gotten on the Eve of my Marriage

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wedding invite:

My wedding to mi querido amor, Oscar Avellaneda, is in 3 ½ weeks. In about 2 weeks I am officiating the wedding of my two good friends, Garret and Mystie. In light of these VERY serious events, I have been asking for relationship/marriage advice from everyone I know who has been happily married for a long time—my parents, colleagues, Garrett’s stepmom, my boss, whomever, and from those who are divorced as well. I also ask it of my best friend who has been with her wife for 6 happy years now. Here is some of the advice I’ve gotten:

1.) You are responsible for your happiness. Take care of your own happiness.

-everyone I’ve asked

My mom adds, “Your partner can only fulfil, I don’t know, maybe 50% of your needs. Of course they have to be the most important needs, and then there are some needs you can’t get outside of the marriage, like sex. But you have to find ways to fulfil your own needs. You have to take care of yourself.”

2.) Let your partner be him/herself and you be yourself.

– Connie at work, many more people

3.) “Commitment is what drives the engine, not love.”

-Garrett’s stepmom, Amy

4.) The secret to a good, long-lasting marriage? Hard work and every once in a while  a good therapist.

-my mom

5.) Don’t sweep things under the rug. They won’t go away; they will fester and grow.

-my mom

6.) Let your partner grow and learn their lessons at their own pace.

-Jessica Laura

6.) Touch each other a lot. Gentle, loving touch bonds people and diffuses anger.

-my dad

7.) You choose your partner to be your primary healer because there are some lessons and types of healing you can do only with them. There are lessons to be learned from the difficulties. Take the time and have the faith to learn them.

-Doris, our LCSW

8.) Have fun together.

-Doris & Oscar’s sister, Erika.

So, commitment and work.

Honesty and communication.

Patience and compassion.

Nurturing one another and yourself.

Acceptance. Acceptance. Acceptance.

I presume that’s why Jessica Laura and her wife Julia said, in their marriage vows, “I surrender myself to who you really are.” Because as hard as it can be, you have to be willing to do that, to truly accept, to surrender your hang-ups and fears to that true acceptance.

I am willing, but I will need the support of teachers and friends to know how to do that at all times. I guess that’s why we get married in communities of loved ones.

For that support, for this advice.

I am counting on your help, community.

Thank you for all you’ve already done.

And Oscar, I can’t wait. I am so excited.

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June 21st, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I love my parents because…

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(photo by Oscar Avellaneda)

In kindergarten, Ms. Clutz asked us to write an “I love my mother because…” paper with a drawing for Mother’s Day. In the big open space on top of that newsprint paper with the lines, I drew a ferris wheel and wrote: “I love my mother because shez gona tak me to the Dixn May Fare,” or some such partially-invented spelling. (Oh how I wish I had the paper with me to scan and post here!) When I found this piece of writing as a wisened 5th grader, I thought, “How shallow I was! I thought love was just about her doing little things for me!”

But tonight, I began a little list in my head of reasons I loved my parents, and they were all small things like that. Of course I love them for big, giant reasons—reasons as big as the lessons and patterns of my life, reasons like the way they’ve helped form my character as a strong woman with integrity or the way they accept me. But I find that little things are powerful in themselves, and powerful as symbols of something larger.

So here goes a very short list of the little reasons that came into my head tonight.

I love my parents because:

  • We share fruit and cheese from Costco. One of us goes to Costco and then we split up the food and the receipts. They have the money to buy excess fruit & such, but they don’t like to waste. And they know that I hate to waste food and loathe spending more money than I need to, so they agree to sharing food from Costco runs, as inconvenient as it may be. It’s kind of cute and communitarian of them.
  • My dad helped me move furniture on Friday night even with his thumb in a brace. Half-way through, I fed him green curry which he said looked like second-hand food, but smelled good. We ate in silence as he read, with rapt attention, this book I have on foods from the African diaspora. Then we carried more furniture, using my shawl as a sling to make up for the un-opposability of his thumb. My dad, and both my parents, are so tough and adaptable, so curious, and ready all the time with wry, sometimes caustic, sometimes obscene humor.
  • My mom and I just went and saw “The Kids are All Right” and then talked about it over beer and dinner. To me, the message of the film was about how marriage is hard and it takes work and you can’t let problems pile up without addressing them consciously and compassionately. It was a message shared poignantly in the film. But I was grateful that it was also a message I grew up hearing, grew up understanding from my parents. I love them for demonstrating that you can’t sweep problems under the rug and that the work of love is worth it.
  • I love them for being reticent with their support when I was in the wrong relationships and generous with it now. I love my dad’s enthusiasm for making beer (“Hoppiness is Wedded Bliss Brown Ale,” as he has already named it) and black currant wine for Oscar and my wedding and my mom’s eagerness to help cash in miles to get me to Bogotá to see my amor.

There’s more, there’s always more, and it’s good to stop and note it at times. My kindergarten self, as egocentric as I may have been at five years old, recognized love in the little things, and wrote it down.

(Left, at a District K forum with legislators. My photo.)

(Right, playing Pictionary on Christmas 2009. Photo by Oscar Avellaneda)

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August 1st, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Staying.

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On last weekend’s “This American Life,” which was actually an old show, the theme was “Somewhere Out There.” It was about finding the one. There was a great story about a young white American man named Eric doing an exchange in China and singing Chinese opera. He fell for a musician there named Yuen Yuen, lost touch with her when he came back to the states, and then, years later, upon returning to China, tried against all odds to find her in Beijing with very few leads. It was a fairytale story of how they found one another and came to be in love. But then it became less fairytale like–she came to the US on a fiancé visa, so they had to get marry sooner than they were ready to. It was rough for a few years. They had to rely on their falling in love story to convince themselves they were worth the work, that their relationship was too magical to let end. But they got through it…and this is the quote at the end of that story that made me bawl when I heard it and choke up later when I recounted it to my own amor:

Narrator: The story of how they met began to feel less and less important. And they didn’t talk about it as much. Now, they have a different story.

Eric: Which is the story of struggle and pain that we, uh, sort of passed through and fought through and overcame. And, y’know, that’s a story that you don’t tell in public. Because no one ever asks, “How did you two stay together?” Everyone always asks, “How did you two meet?”

I love this quote. I love this lesson. I love stories of how people stay together. I guess that’s why I love cheesy Brad Paisley country songs–because they’re about his wife; they’re about pregnancy and daily life. They’re about staying in love.  I’ve seen enough in my little 27 years to know that a lot of the  falling in love songs and movies don’t last long, that they don’t just live happily ever after.  I think we do children a great disservice when the majority of their stories end with only the beginning of the beauty and work of real relationships. (Side note: we also do them a great disservice with the myth that everyone already knows how to have sex so you don’t have to talk about it. I hate that one.)

We all need help holding our relationships–with partners, with friends, colleagues, sisters and brothers and parents–together. We all need help communicating and giving and negotiating respect. We need more stories about this. So thank you, This American Life, for that brief and beautiful articulation and I hope that we create space for more such stories.

p.s. My parents have been together for 30.5 years. Oscar’s parents have been together for about that long. Another family I grew up with, the Blouws, have been together 40-some years. I have access to some stories.

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February 6th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

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the essay I mean to write on love

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mom and dad cd cover(A collage I made for the cover of my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary mix CD of love songs)

I have been meaning, for the last few weeks, to sit down and write an essay of some sort about love. I’ve been writing it in my head as I drive, and saying, “Once I finish Christmas presents and this program plan and this research summary and lesson planning for the math unit in the after school program, then I’ll sit down and write the essay.” But I haven’t finished anything except Christmas presents, and I may be forgetting the words that I intended for the subject.

When I write this essay, it will be about mature love. It will talk about how fluttery dramatic and unreal love songs don’t move me, but songs about families and long-term loves do.  My best friend and her wife’s wedding vows did. Old couples do. It will talk about the way I’ve learned to love more maturely and how relationships are about so much more than that love rush and those emotions and the hasty commitments that might arise from taking emotions as enough. It might reveal the way that Oscar and I show our love for one another lately by talking about house design and interior decoration and what we mean by it is, “I am committed to building a life with you.” It’ll be way more eloquent than this.

I’ll write it and I hope you’ll read it. In the meanwhile, it is Oscar’s last 10 days in our shared city, and then he takes off on his bike journey from Bellingham, WA to his home city of Bogotá, Colombia (check out the trip site: www.quehubo.info). I won’t see him again until April or so, so our mature love will be put to all sorts of tests. And I have faith in it.

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January 3rd, 2010 at 9:14 pm

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