Monday, 28 January 2019

Abortion is murder?

A law was passed in New York, "safeguarding rights laid out in Roe v. Wade and other court rulings, including a provision permitting late-term abortions when a woman's health is endangered". I believe this is a good thing. I believe this is NOT about "murdering babies".
I am Christian, from an Evangelical background, and I know many of my friends will have a knee-jerk reaction to this. So, please, friends, consider this.
I am a woman. I had two miscarriages, causing me deep emotional pain as well as physical pain. I am now 5 months pregnant and I thank God every day that my baby is alive and healthy so far. My point is, I know how it feels to have a baby grow inside of me.
I cannot believe, not for one second, that any woman would carry a baby in her womb for so long and then suddenly, out of the blue, decide to get rid of it for reasons of convenience. Serious health complications can and do arise later in pregnancy that leave a (heartbroken) woman no other choice but to abort. It's not only her life that can be in danger, it can be a fetus that is not viable. An acquaintance of mine found out during a second-term ultrasound scan that her baby's brain had failed to develop. We are not even talking about a brain problem that would result in severe physical or learning disabilities, but about an issue that would make the baby unable to survive once it is born. The lady had to abort. What else could she do?
Someone on Facebook shared a story about a fetus with an undeveloped heart which was detected late in the pregnancy. The mother was past 24 weeks, carrying a dying baby.
Babies can and do die in the womb for various reasons. What happens when a human dies? The body starts decaying. What happens if dead tissue starts decaying inside a person's (the mother's) body? You die of septic shock. So it is necessary to abort the dead fetus.
Those are the cases that make allowing late-term abortions necessary. I will not rejoice over abortions, but I am aware that in some cases, there is no other choice.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The second time - Chronicles of a miscarriage

The second time, you are prepared.

When you realize you are pregnant, you feel no rejoicing in your soul, only anxiety.

In fact you feel terrified, because you know the odds are real: between 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriages in the first term. It's no longer a theoretical figure, because you've been through this before. It's not theoretical - it's potentially real. 

So you detach yourself emotionally. You say, "OK, I'm pregnant. But this pregnancy may or may not stick". You do not use the term "baby" in your mind. Ever. You dare not speak to the little one or call it loving names. You dare not feel excited. You dare not discuss baby names or look at baby clothes. You subsequently feel guilty for not bonding with it like you did for the first one.

Still, when you see a bright red spot of blood, you downplay it. Sometimes a little bleeding during pregnancy is normal. And this stinging pain in your right side, well, this can happen too and it isn't necessarily bad. Nothing to worry about. Right? You book an appointment with the doctor anyway. Your hormone levels indicate you are pregnant, but you already knew that. Another test is scheduled in a week to see if they are rising as normal.

When you start bleeding again and the swollen-ness of your breasts suddenly decreases, you just know. Even though you were prepared for this, you cry your heart out. And when the second blood test shows levels are dropping, you are not surprised. You resign yourself to the fact that you had a second miscarriage.

This time, it hurts more physically. And you feel angry. "Why is my body doing this to me?" 

There is no answer.

You turn to God and you cry out, "The Lord is my Shepherd... even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me."

But by the grace of God go I.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Living with high-functioning autism: a vlog.


I made this video for a friend who is a 7th grade teacher in the US. She asked me to record a personal testimonial for her class. I figured I might as well share it with a wider audience.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

This small great loss

I have long hesitated to write about this, because it is deeply personal and painful. But it is time.

In early November 2017, I noticed a change in my body that I had never experienced before. My breasts felt bigger and swollen. I have known my breasts since I was 16, and they had never felt like this. My mother had told me years before that she knew she was pregnant, not because of a missed period or morning sickness, but from the way her breasts felt.

My period wasn't due yet, so I had to wait about a week. I woke up very early that Saturday morning, and just couldn't wait anymore: I took a home pregnancy test. It came back positive. I remember climbing back into bed and whispering to my partner, "Are you awake?"

The following week, I booked an appointment with my doctor, and she confirmed I was 6 weeks pregnant. I was overjoyed.

We had been trying for a baby for a long time, so you can imagine how excited we both felt. It was difficult not to get carried away. My partner expressed that he felt joyful and serene about being a father. We chose a boy's name and a girl's name. I talked to my baby a lot. I called it Peanut. I told them we were so happy they were finally here. I told them about about my partner, about my friends, about my work, about my family. I loved them already.

The following week, I noticed some light spotting, so I called my gynecologist. He reassured me that it was very common, nothing to worry about. So I put that nagging little fear at the back of my mind.

On the Thursday evening, I went to the bathroom. There was a lot of blood in my underwear. I started muttering, "No, no, no, no, no, no" over and over. When I wiped myself, there was something on the paper that wasn't a blot clot. It was no bigger than a grain of rice.

I had seen enough embryo development photographs to know what I was looking at. I knew I had just lost my baby.

I booked an appointment with the gynecologist. He was again very reassuring, saying bleeding does not equal miscarriage, and dismissed what I had seen. "Women always think they see something". There was nothing on the ultrasound, and he still was reassuring - at such an early stage, it's hard to see anything. Better wait for the blood test results. I clung to his words, to hope, but deep down, I knew. And sure enough, my pregnancy hormone levels were dropping dramatically. My gynecologist downplayed it, using words such as "chemical pregnancy", "a small miscarriage", "too early to call it a real pregnancy anyway". Maybe he was trying to be comforting, but it hurt even more to hear my grief dismissed in such a way.

I cried for days. My partner was at loss, because he hadn't felt it all happen in his body. To him, it felt more like another failed attempt. But to me, it was devastating.

The first time a friend of mine referred to my miscarriage as "the loss of your child", I cried with relief. What I had seen that day, no bigger than a grain of rice - my child. I felt my grief was finally acknowledge for what it was.

Weeks passed, then months. I reached what would have been the 12-week mark, the moment when the miscarriage risk is supposed to decrease, the moment most people choose to make the happy announcement. And I cried and cried. I still cry now. I miss my pregnant body. Especially, I struggle with newborns and very small babies. Two of my colleagues recently gave birth and joyfully brought their child to work - I am happy for them, but I simply cannot look at, let alone hold, their baby. I do not know how much longer this will last.

What has amazed me even since is the amount of women who have told me these simple words: "It's happened to me too". My mother, my grandmother, friends, colleagues, refugee ladies. I had never realized it was so common. Between 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 in the first term - but this means nothing until it happens to you, and until you hear your sisters tell you how they suffered the same loss. And yet, not one really talks about it. Everyone tells you how how wonderful it is to carry another life inside you, how amazing it is to be a mother (and stories of how exhausting it is, and how it takes over your life!). But no one warns of you of this terrible grief you are actually quite likely to experience. No one tells you that you might suffer a loss that may be tiny in size, but leaves a huge hole in your heart.

This is why I am writing this. We should not hide it and pretend it never happened, pretend that the baby we started to love never existed at all. We should be able to talk about this and grieve together as sisters.

I put my baby in a small box, to bury in our garden.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Why I went to see Black Panther twice

*Beware:  spoilers*

I was really excited about seeing Black Panther, and when I did, last Monday, I loved it.

I loved the issues it addressed such as, "Should a wealthy country shut itself in to protect its way of life, or should it help others?" It touched my heart for very obvious reasons - after all, I work among refugees.

I felt encouraged to see so many positive, funny, smart, powerful (in the good sense of the term, not in the political sense) Black male AND female characters. I loved seeing those female warriors kicking ass!

I loved seeing what *could* have happened if African countries had been able to benefit from their own natural resources and build national wealth from it, rather than having it robbed from them by colonialists.

I felt moved by the villain's storyline and felt sympathetic to a lot of his grievances (even though I disagreed with his methods to try and put things to rights). He was a very human and relatable character, I thought. And when he said, "the world will be reborn, and this time, WE'll be on top", I felt deeply the pain of a people who have been oppressed, enslaved, exploited and discriminated against, not to mention having seen their resources plundered (including by my own country) - and yet I felt a pang as I thought, "As long as someone is on top, it means someone is at the bottom". And so what the villain wanted to create, no matter what his initial motivations were, was another injustice.

I loved how, when Jabari leader M'Baku is offered the chance to take the Black Panther's power by taking the Heart-Shaped Herb, he chooses to help T'Challa instead, when he could so easily grab power for himself.

And especially, I loved hearing the king of Wakanda's speech to the United Nations at the end:

Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We can not. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.

So I decided to take African asylum seekers to see it as a treat.

And then the debate begun as one of my colleagues argued that only taking African people see it was unfair. Well, yes and no. We are organizing special activities on Women's Day, for example... and you could argue that's unfair. But the reason we do it it to do something nice for people who have been oppressed one way or another. I thought this movie was uplifting and positive for the African community. We ended up going with 14 African people of both sexes (from Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Angola, Senegal), one Iraqi guy and a young Albanian girl. They loved the film. They giggled when T'Challa freezes upon seeing his ex-girlfriend Nakia. They roared with laughter when Shuri points to T'Challa's sandals, asking, "What are those???" They loved it when Agent Ross tries some whitesplaining on M'Baku, the Jabari leader, who proceeds to silence him by barking at him, together with his guards. They even applauded when the movie ended.

On the way back, I was driving the van and I remained silent. I could have told them why I took them to see this film. I could have told them what I loved about it, what my favourite moments were. But I decided not to. Because it was their film, their moment. I wanted to give them ownership of it and not rob it from them by putting my white words and emotions on their experience.

So I listened to them chat excitedly about it, discussing which countries and tribes inspired the costumes. And then, one of the guys said, "That was good." His friend approved, "Yeah, that was good". And in that moment, I felt filled with joy, as when two other guys came up to me before going back to their rooms, saying, "Thank you for taking us. It was your idea, thank you."


Friday, 22 September 2017

Voices of refugees: "I was so scared"

"My name is Amal*. I am 13. When I grow up, I would like to be a singer, like David Bowie. I love David Bowie. I cried when he died.

In my country, some people wanted to marry me to an old man. So my family decided to go to a place where girls are not forced to marry. My Dad went first because he thought it would be easier to make us come to Europe. Only, when he got there, he saw that it would take too long. So he contacted my Mom and told her to use the rest of our money to escape with my sister Farah* and me. 

At some point the smuggler pushed me in a car, but Mom and Farah didn't get in with me and I cried out after them. The man told me not to worry, that they were in another car and that they would rejoin us once we passed the border.

He lied. He just left them behind, and after that I was on my own for the rest of the journey. I was so scared. But eventually, my Dad found me thanks to a missing persons service here in Europe, and they sent me to the camp where he was staying.

I go to school now. I think about my Mom and Farah every day. I hope they could hide because Farah is old enough to be married as well now. I wish they could come here too but it's impossible. It makes me cry a lot.

I never want to get married, ever."

(*names changed to protect privacy)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Wake up.

I have been saying for a while now that the rise of fascism worries me. When I say this, friends and relatives look at with a patronizing smile and I can tell they think I'm over-reacting.

Yet, recent events show that there is real cause for concern. What happened in Charleston is a prime example. A Christian author who came as part of a counter protest writes this:

"Many came dressed in white shirts and khaki pants, reminding me of office workers or WalMart employees. Many wore helmets and carried hand-made shields. They looked like they came expecting to fight, threaten, and intimidate. Some came in paramilitary garb, heavily armed."

In the US, White supremacists are uniting in an organized way, expressing their ideas proudly, and coming to demonstrations armed and ready to fight. In Europe, they are openly declaring themselves; they organize boot camps to train; and raise funds to launch a boat whose sole purpose is to send refugees back where they came from.

I you wonder what you would have done during the rise of Nazism in Germany, YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT NOW. 

Are you looking for scapegoats for everything you feel is wrong in today's society? In the 1930s, it was Jews, today it's refugees, Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics, oh and Jews too for good measure. 

Are you just living your lives in indifference? Do you shrug it off or turn a blind eye?

Or do you speak out, do you extend to hand of friendship to people who are different to you, do you educate yourself?

If you care about people's lives, if you strive to love and accept people no matter where they come from, please wake up. This is happening.

WAKE UP. Fascism is on the rise and human lives are at stake. Wake up.