All posts filed under: Columns

When Race, Culture, and Dinner Collide | Marion Ruybalid

“Mom, can we please go to the Indian restaurant for my birthday dinner?” my daughter Ellianna begged. Turning twelve had awakened a desire to experience her Bangladeshi side. “We’ll see,” I said. My husband Tim smiled at me. I tried to smile back, but I felt sweat pooling in the palms of my hands. I had dreaded this moment because going there would reveal that, as a Bangladeshi adopted woman raised by white British parents in the United States, I knew very little about my own culture.  My parents told me stories about their life in Dhaka. My dad worked for Save the Children helping starving mothers and their children. My mom enjoyed white female privileges. At dinner parties, the men and the women would culturally be separate, but my mom ate with the men. Their lifestyle was more comfortable than the one they would have had in England. They had a Hindu cook and Muslim gardener. If my parents requested chicken for dinner, they would work together  to protect the Hindu cook’s religious practices. …

Breaking Cycles | Lenée Voss

Content note: depression, suicidality, self-harm, sexual trauma Ever since I was about seven or eight years old, I’ve struggled with being present in my own body. To such an extent that I developed dermatillomania, or skin picking disorder (SPD). I experienced sexual trauma at an early age and have struggled to be in my body consistently since childhood. In clinical terms, this means I frequently experience dissociation, which is a detachment from my body and/or my emotions. Dissociation isn’t something you can control unless you know its symptoms, associated behaviors, and outcomes. Imagine being a little “spacy,” talkative kid who moves ahead in most of her schoolwork so she can daydream during class. Think about what it might feel like as an anxious, bright kid with performance anxiety, to be in such distress that you hurt yourself to bring yourself back down to earth. That’s what I carry. Every day. To carry trauma and not connect it your behavior, memory, or self-image falls under the category of what Ruth King, M.A. calls the mind/body split …

Birth On My Birthday | Marion Ruybalid

“Where ever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions and your spirit for the rest of your life.” (Ina May Gaskin) At my first midwife appointment for my seventh child, I laughed at the very suggestion that my baby would be born on my birthday. My due date was June 20 and my birthday was June 22. None of my babies made it to their due dates.  Being adopted made the concept of my Birthday something that forced me to remember that my birth mother did not keep me. I think that was why I avoided the due date for this pregnancy and told myself that my baby was actually due around June 15. It was not until twenty weeks that my pregnancy began to feel strange. I would try to sleep on my left side and around 3 AM panic would hit me. Some Braxton Hicks contractions forced my eyes open. My body would freeze on its side with my legs crossed as if that would stop a baby from …

Traces of My Birth Dad

I was sitting in my living room with my husband Tim, and both of his parents Mark and Lynne watching Jim Gaffigan tell his joke called Four Kids. A section of the joke stood out to me. When he talked about the male contribution to babies he said, “I helped too for like five seconds doing the one thing I think about twenty-four hours a day.” Mark and Tim chuckled. My husband Tim and his parents all looked clearly related. When I met Tim’s mother Lynne, I was picking her up from the airport and driving her to a class she was taking. We had never met. She and I planned the entire thing over the internet. How will I know who you are? I look a lot like Timothy, but I have strawberry blonde shoulder length hair. I could not imagine picking out a woman from a crowd by a few familiar facial features. I am not sure why I had not made a sign with her name on it like limo drivers, but …

The Transfer of Pregnancy Wisdom

My midwife Carol had long white hair with black streaks. She wore dangling earrings with glittery stones and a toe ring. Appointments were held at her house, where walking down the driveway was a therapeutic experience. Her husband had created an amazing garden and filled it with everything that could possibly grow in the Pacific Northwest. The apple trees had branches that looked like twisted umbrella wires. The largest kale plants that I had ever seen were growing in a tidy row next to zucchinis. The front door opened directly into her kitchen, where there were often fresh eggs for sale on her maple kitchen table. My family made its way to the living room at the back of the house. It felt like an old-fashioned parlor. Often, appointments could be held in this room because there would be plenty of space for children to play, but she also had a small office with an examining table. My first appointment was a strange experience. I felt out of place sitting on a piece of furniture …