All posts filed under: Family

artwork by Jenny Laden 2018

Unmasked: The Day I Visited Dad in the AIDS Ward

artwork by Jenny Laden 2018 In the hospital lobby they looked at me funny when I told them I was visiting the 3rd floor. I took off my headphones, turned off the Pixies on my CD player, wrapped the cord around it and shoved it into my backpack. In the hallway, the tv’s were showing interviews with Magic Johnson, who’d just told the world he was HIV positive, and Anita Hill, who’d just told a bunch of politicians about how shitty her male boss was and instead of dismissing him, they put him on the Supreme Court. This was my first,  “I’m visiting my super sick parent in the hospital regardless of the fact that I’m only a teenager” hospital visit. They don’t have special passes for visitors like me. Nobody seemed to notice I’m not even voting age.   “I’m here to see my dad, Richard Laden, Room 323.” I said. The woman there didn’t look at me, but acknowledged I was there with a quiet “mmhmm,” and handed me something blue. A mask. Like …

Fvmbe Humor: Honoring My Ancestors with Belly Laughs

In my culture — the Mvskoke (Creek) tribe — humor is a constant. There’s even a certain genre of humor which one of our scholars, Craig Womack, termed “fvmbe humor.” (In Creek, “v” is pronounced like a “u.”) “Fvmbe” means “stink,” and “fvmbe humor” often has to do with the body, though it’s not crass. It is difficult to translate, but we’ve kept the word despite the government’s many attempts to take away our language and culture. Laughing at certain things is almost a marker of belonging. But another marker of belonging is knowing when not to laugh, when not to let suppressed giggles burst out at the wrong time. Especially, in church. My family attends a Mvskoke Baptist church. As is custom in our tribe’s churches, the church house is in the center, and it is surrounded by family “camphouses” — small houses which are usually just a dining room, kitchen, and seating area. Some have a bedroom because some people stay at church from Saturday evening to Sunday night. All of us stay …

Childbirth Is No Place for a Fever — or Fear

“Are you feeling ok?” my ob/gyn asks me. I’ve been in labor for 26 hours with my first child. My water has broken in dramatic fashion and I’m preparing myself to start pushing. “Am I feeling OK?” I ask myself. “What does ‘OK’ even mean in this context?” I am tired in every sense of the word. But I guess I feel OK. She keeps asking, though, and I don’t understand why. “You have a fever of 103.5. Are you sure you’re OK?” I emerge from my epidural haze and finally register what she is saying. I arrived at this hospital fever-free. I had had a normal pregnancy. Actually, it wasn’t normal — it was very easy. No vomiting, minimal nausea. The labor has taken a long time, but that’s not unusual. Now all of a sudden my temperature is rising and alarming everyone around me. This moment in 2009 is the very peak of the swine flu pandemic; by the time it run its course, it will claim nearly 15,000 lives around the world. …

Choosing Calm Over Chaos Made Me Less of an Asshole Mom

(Image: Isabella Giancarlo) For a long time, I couldn’t relate to mother-daughter relationship drama stories. I was way too preoccupied with an operatic level of paternal drama for that. My father’s attentions, and the absence thereof, consumed my childhood. I was too busy being adored, smacked, screamed at, and gaslighted by my dad to have any emotional space left to hate my mom. My own daughter, Amira, was born 11 days after my 30th birthday. Four and a half years later, my son Lev was born. I did the stay-at-home-mom thing for 10 years, throughout my 30s. My job performance was fair. In the “pro” column: I think I gave my kids pretty good advice about how to stand down bullies. “If someone teases you,” I said, “squint real hard, look totally grossed out and say: ‘Ewww…! What’s that green stuff coming out of your nose?!?’” They both say it never came to that, but I know they knew what I was getting at: Don’t dignify shitty behavior. You’re bigger than that. My temper, however, …

A Luminous Photograph with a Story to Tell

It’s a photograph no one else but me could have taken. My mother didn’t take it, that’s for sure. She was great in front of the camera, her rightful place, and pretended — feminine wiles, how quaint — not to understand how to depress the shutter button on a point-and-shoot. My ex-husband was a distracted photographer with an artsy eye that didn’t translate to family photos. Twenty-five years later, no, Philip, I don’t remember whose earlobe that is. But Philip didn’t take it. I’ll describe the image. My daughter, Sophia, is three. Her hair is summer blonde and flows. She is wearing a yellow dress that is now packed in a bin marked “Girls,” in the basement of my building. My father, Tom, is 67. He is tanned and grey and rugged, with a big dad head, square and block-sturdy, the kind of dad head you don’t see much anymore, who knows why, something to do with the internet? Craniums diminish to accommodate next level evolution? I don’t know. Anyway, my father with his big …

Baby Shower 2.0: Celebrating My Transgender Son’s New Identity

The blue jellybeans were assembled in pint-sized mason jars on my kitchen table. My husband was about to head to the store to pick up the balloon bouquet while I put finishing touches on the decorations. The kids and I had made a batch of homemade chocolate ice cream, and the giant, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie was frosted in blue with our son’s new name: Max Grayson. “It’s A Boy!” read the banner across the wall and on the sign in the front yard. We were thrilled to welcome so many excited guests to our home for “Baby Shower 2.0.” We had already thrown our child a baby shower back in 2008, back when we named him Mary Grace and thought he was our daughter. Our son is nine years old now and has been telling us he is a boy since he was two. Once we were able to finally recognize that he was transgender — a process that was neither fast nor easy — and then took the steps necessary to officially …

Why I Changed My Son’s Last Name to Mine

When I married David Adelson, I never seriously considered changing my name to Adelson any more than I ever seriously considered changing my name to Duchovny, or Gosling. Caveat: For a little while, maybe because I was super-stoked to be married — and super-confident that 20 years of professional feminism made my creds otherwise clear — I tacked “Adelson” on after Harris in non-professional settings. But “Lynn Harris Adelson” didn’t stick. I STILL LOVED MY HUSBAND, but after the thank-you notes were sent, it started to grate. I’d been a journalist and author forever — and though it was EXTREMELY IRRITATING to be constantly confused with the late bestselling author E. Lynn Harris, whose books best-sold way more than mine — I was not about to touch my byline. Plus, feminism! “Harris” wasn’t going anywhere. Then came our daughter, Bess. We considered “Bess Harris” for about five minutes, two and a half of which were spent thinking, “That’s a lot of S’s,” and two and a half of which were spent noting that both names …

Oh Ottawa: Reflecting on a Canadian Life Left Behind

If Belle from Beauty and the Beast were 40 today, would she still be living happily ever after or would she have second thoughts about leaving her provincial life? Would she still identify with that life at all? Growing up in Ottawa, Canada, I suppose in some ways I was a modern-day Belle leading the proverbial provincial life*. The grass is green, and there’s lots of it – in the summer months at any rate. With the federal government headquartered in the nation’s capital, the job market is robust and typically weathers market downturns well. There’s access to good schools and, of course, universal healthcare. At home, we indulged in many popular American imports. Our family tuned in to ALF and laughed at Steve Urkel’s silly jokes, my dad received a hero’s homecoming when he signed up for a Jumbo Video membership (Canada’s answer to Blockbuster) and surprised us with a copy of the newly-released Batman movie, and in the 10th grade I became completely obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera when a touring …

When My 4-Year-Old Punched Another Kid, I Became That Mom

So. My kid punched a kid. Let’s just start there. It happened at preschool, on an unassuming, every-day kind of a day. But at pick-up, the teacher slid next to me on the sectioned colored rug and delicately started in, “…so, your son was a little off today…” What’s that? She then unveiled my son’s litany of attacks that day: a shove, a push to the cement and the whopper finale of three sucker punches to the ribs of his classmate. Oh. Oh, God… When she asked him why he did it, he stared blankly into space and said, “For no reason”. Quick backstory on my kid: He’s a hyper dude — but not a violent one. His body goes before his brain, and sometimes it’s a struggle to calm him or focus him or get him to put on his shoes (putonyourshoeswillyoujustputonyourshoesyourshoesrightthere…), but he is usually a keep-his-hands-to-himself kind of a kid. Until today. The teacher excused herself to talk to the parents picking up their wounded children. “So, Jasper was pushed…Markus was shoved…Michael was punched …

Their Father’s Daughters: Four Sisters Come Together to Say Goodbye

I am the eldest of four girls, a number that felt ever-so-slightly obscene. Like, couldn’t we have stopped at three? But no, we couldn’t, because numbers 3 and 4 were identical twins. Prior to their conception, Mom had read an article about how to conceive a boy. She followed it to the letter: eat this; do that; have sex at this time of the month; stand on your head and clap three times, chant a Tibetan prayer, who knows what it said? I never read it. But I have always wondered how many other babies born in 1972 have that article to thank for either their twins or their vaginas. Each sister, in our own time, were supposed to have been named Jeffrey Scott. Instead we were Deborah Elizabeth, Jennifer Robin, Laura Suzanne, and Julie Michelle. We literally used up all the innocuous girl names. When my eldest was born, 21 years ago, my dad rushed into the hospital room to meet his first grandchild. “I don’t believe it!” he said. He ripped open the …

Honoring the Women in My Maternal Battalion

Technically, my godmother is some white lady. Those three words are literally all I know about her: some, white, lady. And it took some digging for me to even get that little bit of information from my parents. At first, I sent my mom a text message that simply asked, “Who is my godmother?” Her reply: “I can’t remember. Curtis will remember.” So, I called my dad (Curtis) and he said, “I don’t think you have one. I don’t think your mother believed in godmothers.” Then, of course, I called my mom to verify my dad’s theory. And, of course, she disagreed. “That’s not true,” she said. “You have a godmother. Your godmother is some white lady who your father knew when we lived in Baltimore.” [pullquote]Just because we grown-ups don’t need legal guardians doesn’t mean we don’t still need support from people who are more grown-up than we are and who can step in when our parents cannot be there.[/pullquote] I considered calling my father back with the new “some white lady” clue to …

This Is What the American Dream Actually Looks Like

My late father-in-law was an immigrant. He was also one of the most American guys I ever met — if you believe that what defines our national character is a willingness to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, a love of family and community, a thirst for knowledge and, of course, a really green lawn. Boen Tong — known as “Tong” or “BT” to his wife and friends, “Dad” and “Grandpa” to his kids and grandkids and “Tom” to the slightly deaf old Jewish ladies with whom he played bridge in his later years — was born in Indonesia in 1919. He spent his childhood working in the family batik business, pedaling his bike through the Javanese jungle to pick up the beautifully dyed cloth for which Indonesia is known. He spoke Malay and Javanese, but when his parents sent him to study at Dutch schools, Dutch became the first of four foreign languages in which he would eventually become fluent. By age 19, BT showed signs of grit and determination that would put a …

When The Only Trump Supporter You Know Is Your Dad

I know several people who can say “I don’t know anyone who voted for Trump.” And I don’t necessarily consider that a good thing nor a badge of honor (nor would I if someone told me they don’t know anyone who voted for Hillary). I just know that I’m not one of those people who can say they don’t know anyone who voted for Trump because I do know someone: My father. Yes, I’m still talking to him. Yes, I’ve heard the endless entreaties of “You should stop talking to him!” No, it’s not that easy. I’ve turned around, dissected and diagramed his reasons for voting the way he did, and I still don’t understand any of them. We share a gene pool, the same body type, the same skin and hair color and even the same missing adult incisors that never grew in. We share a similar sense of humor. But we don’t share the same political beliefs — particularly the belief that your vote should be cast to help advance the greater good, …

Sister, Sister: I’m a Black Woman with a White Sister

When people ask if I have brothers and sisters, I don’t know where to begin. Do I say, I’m an only child, the youngest of seven or the seventh of nine? In fact, all these answers are true. I’m my mother’s only child and the youngest of my father’s seven biological children. But if we’re talking the order in which my father’s children entered his life, then I’m not the last. When my parents divorced, my father remarried and I inherited two step-siblings. Still, however I go about answering the “Do you have brothers and sisters?” question, I always get to this part: I am a black woman with a white sister. Her name is Amy. People would come to my old Harlem apartment see her photo on my bookshelf, the one where I’m standing next to her on her wedding day, and they’d ask, “Who’s that?” But I would never just say, “My sister.” I knew that I must follow up with an abridged version of my family history, saying something like, “My parents divorced …

I’m 50 and I Can’t Remember Jack Shit

When I was a kid, super memory was my superpower. I was the youngest in my nuclear family, the second-to-youngest in my extended family, and I was regarded as a rememberer-in-chief by all my relatives. Trip to the grocery store? “Nancy, we need apples, tomatoes and cereal,” Mom would say, and I’d reel off the list to her until it was all in the cart. “Nancy, what was the restaurant where we ate in the Adirondacks?” Aunt Margaret would ask, and I’d answer, “Keyes Pancake House” before the question was out of her mouth. People marveled. “You never forget anything.” It was easy, this remembering of things. What was the big deal? I’d think to myself, with all the self-awareness a nine-year-old girl could muster. Later, when I was teenager and perfecting random cruelty directed at my mother, I’d openly mock her for her inability to remember things. “Did I see that movie? Did I like it?” I’d taunt her, after she’d ask me just those questions about some film I’d mentioned. How could someone …

The Mazel Tov Slap: The Jewish Tradition You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

(Graphic: Kat Borosky/TueNight.com, Photo: Niekverlaan/Pixabay.com) When I told my mother I got my period for the very first time, she slapped me across the face and shouted, “Mazel Tov!” It wasn’t a punishment slap — more like the way you’d slap a person who fainted, or something out of the Marx Brothers — and it didn’t feel violent. I don’t remember the moment in great detail, and I don’t remember it as something terrible that happened to me. I mostly remember knowing that it was part of long-standing tradition from shtetl times, passed down from Jewish mother to Jewish daughter, the purpose (supposedly) being to bring the color back to your face (because it’s all draining out through your vagina now!). It’s possible I even knew it was coming, that it was something we discussed in advance — probably with all of my female relatives! — as I eagerly awaited the big day. And yes, I so desperately wanted my period, because at 14, it felt like ALL OF MY FRIENDS had theirs, and I was on …

Making Room for an Older, Adopted Son

When you renovate a home, you tear down walls, gut rooms, rip out old pipes and wires. You empty out to rebuild and refill it. When you renovate a family, you push, stretch, pull and shift, too. You push past fears of it “not being the right time” or of you “not having enough money.” You stretch your thinking about the structure of your family and where everyone will fit in with a new addition. You stretch the shape of your heart to fit a new child into it, one that didn’t come from inside of you but is placed with you. You shift the space within your mind, your heart and your home to make room. “I want a baby brother,” my 9-year-old daughter told me for the umpteenth time. My “bio” daughter, or “biological daughter,” as she would soon be known, was eager for a sibling and no amount of “Mommy can’t have any more babies” satisfied her want. And then one day, something shifted. “I want a baby brother,” she said. And …

The Season of Giving In

I’m just going to come out and say it: I am not doing well. I am spent. I am drained. And now we are entering the season of giving? Ladies, I don’t know about you, but I am tapped out. I’m a mom of two boys, two and four years old. They are brilliant little crazed monkey lunatics. My heart is on my sleeve and in my throat every minute of the day. It’s exhausting. Strangers see my tight face in the grocery store as my boys have a screaming match in aisle 9 and offer me, “These are the days! You don’t want to miss them!” Seriously? Cause I gotta tell ya, if I ever have a moment to myself, I am daydreaming about dropping them both off at a highly-rated Charter school with after-hour yoga care while I, I don’t know, take a hike or finish reading a paragraph in a magazine or simply do the dishes without someone clinging to my leg or wiping their nose on my jeans. I’m also gut-wrenchingly …

The Life and Death of Roses

There is a dead rose in a vase on our dining room table. “It needs more water, Mommy,” says my eight-year-old daughter. “It’s dead,” says my husband, looking up from his breakfast. “What can we do?” asks my daughter. “Throw it out,” says my husband, who goes back to eating. “No, I don’t want it to be dead!” My daughter looks at me pleadingly, and I feel another gentle lecture coming on about life and death and dead flowers being a natural part of the whole process. * * * The first time I realized that there was something dying inside of me was in my mid-40s, in the checkout line at the wine section of my grocery store. When I got up to the counter to pay, I looked up at the attractive young man at the cash register and smiled. Then he called me “Ma’am.” My age was staring me in the face, in the blank look of an attractive, young man who was simply taking my money, unmoved by my smile. I …

Teaching Your Children Empathy: 15 Resources for Parents and Guardians

The 2016 presidential election made one thing clear: Empathy is sorely lacking in our society. Empathy, like racism, sexism, prejudice and bigotry, is learned at home. Here is a short list of ways you can teach your child to love, respect and value those who do not look or act like her.  1. Go beyond a play date. It’s easy to look inclusive when meeting at a neutral location but actually take an interest in your child’s ethnically or religiously diverse classmates. Hang out at their home or in their neighborhood and see how they live. More from Urban Moms NYC.  2. Be a good sport. Talk with your children about what a good sportsman looks like. More from KidsHealth.org. 3. Go help someone. The holiday season is around the corner. Invite a neighbor or classmate over for dinner. Deliver meals to boys and girls clubs, senior living facilities, then stay and engage with them. Show your kids how to shine their light on others. More from Volunteer Match. 4. Failure is your friend. It builds character, teaches humility and resilience. Encourage your child to make mistakes. More from Business …

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Mother of One: The Fertility Choice That Changed My Life

I got married late compared to others I know. At 34, after several rejected proposals and broken engagements, it was finally time. We both wanted children, and, after a year or so, we began trying to conceive. I’d always thought I’d be a mother of three. Before I ever wanted to get married, I wanted to be a mom and three was the magic number in my head. We came up with first and middle names for both boys and girls. We quickly agreed on a boy name: Daniel Patrick*. The others took discussion. We settled on Zoe June and Luke Bradford. Thus began our four-year conception journey — and it was terrible. As a young woman, I was sick with ulcerative colitis and, after five years of illness, underwent a multi-stage, major surgery that left me with an abdomen full of scar tissue. As a result, nothing worked to get us pregnant. We went from “not trying” to “trying” to “charting and temping” to fertility doctors. We threw more money, time and science at …

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Learning About Bravery from My 10-Year-Old Daughter

I watch my daughter come out of a long, twisting water slide, arms thrown out triumphantly, eyes and mouth wide open, soaring for a moment through space before crashing into the pool with a loud splash. We are on a two-week family road trip and are at a hotel pool. She turned 10 just a few days into the journey. And she is brave. I’m afraid of water slides and afraid of this one. I marvel at how one moment, my daughter can be fearless, climbing to the top of a water slide and jumping into it without a second thought, laughing all the way down and going back up and down again. Then the next moment, she wants to be held, comforted and protected. At one truck stop on the trip, she strides into the convenience store, insisting that she can go to the restroom on her own. My eyes dart vigilantly about as I try not to follow her too closely, try to give her a wide enough berth so she doesn’t feel …

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Like Mother, Like Daughter — When it Comes to Tattoos

I present for your entertainment the brief but painful tale of my foray into the world of body modification, and how my seventy-three-year-old mother managed to both steal my thunder and make me feel like a privileged little shit. I got my tattoo later in life, some time around age 41 or 42. It was something that I’d wanted to do for years, but in all that time I had never been capable of settling on an image. There were three basic concepts that scrolled through my mind’s eye, and each one felt powerful, personal and perfect. But three tattoos were two too many for me, and committing to that one-and-only and forever-and-ever was harder — I admit it — than it was to commit to my second husband. I suppose it was because I’d already lived through the pain of divorce, but I’d never experienced anything like laser surgery. The images were simple ones: A ginkgo leaf. A dragonfly. A horseshoe crab. Each represented a time and place in my life and each spoke …

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Death of a Salesman’s Samples

Back when I was growing up, we didn’t call it clutter. Or hoarding. It was just “the basement,” and most people thought of it as our subterranean treasure cave. When relatives came over for holidays or my friends visited for play dates, they’d be delighted to be invited downstairs. They’d make their way down the matted, pastel-colored rainbow steps to the lower level of our New Jersey ranch house. This was where my salesman father stacked his towers of cardboard sample cartons. My father would ceremoniously open one of these boxes with a utility knife. The thick strapping tape unfurled and revealed a mind-boggling array of wholesale items wrapped in brown butcher paper. He sold miniature antique dollhouse furniture. Cloisonné jewelry from Taiwan – necklaces with miniature scaled fish in every color. Almost everything came by the gross, which was not gross at all but, rather, the magic number 144 – a dozen dozen. My friends and I dove into grosses of faux birthstone rings, a dollar a dozen. They winked on our fingers, glass …

I’m The Embarrassing Parent I Never Wanted To Be

You know the look. The I-can’t-believe-you-just-did-that look. The one that makes you feel like no matter how tiny your infraction, your teenager will forever remember this embarrassing moment. The problem is, it’s challenging for me to refrain from breaking into song-and-car-dance when Uptown Funk (or even Funky Cold Medina) comes on the radio. It doesn’t matter if a friend of my 15-year-old daughter’s is in the car, a random cute boy is biking by, or we are at a stoplight with a car full of her peers right next to us — this type of music gets into my soul and beckons me. Yes, I have officially become the embarrassing mom. [pullquote]Anytime my daughter catches a glimpse of this boy on our way to or from school, she reaches over, holds my arm down so I won’t attempt a wave, and says, “Don’t even think about offering him a ride, Mom!”[/pullquote] It’s a legacy. Growing up with my dad was like being in a room with Rodney Dangerfield— loud red overcoat, green and red plaid …

When My Perfect Dinner Caused a Nervous Breakdown

I believe I have suffered two nervous breakdowns in my life. The first was the day my mom dropped me off at college. You mean I’m staying here?!? The thought of that much freedom, that far from home, made me woozy. My more recent breakdown came in the weeks after my second child was born. You mean we have to keep them BOTH alive? Somehow the responsibility didn’t feel like it had doubled — it had exploded into millions of tiny needs, each of which was wriggling away from me no matter how hard I tried to contain them, like the magic green seeds in James and the Giant Peach. I know we actually had it very good. I had an involved husband who wanted to help out. We had money to hire a sitter. Both kids were healthy. It’s just that it felt like there was so very much to do, all of it essential. Breastfeeding. And naps. And vaccinations that I wanted to space out so as not to expose either of my …

I’m Incredibly Nearsighted but My Hindsight is 20/20

I did it again last week. We reach the moment in my son’s annual physical where the pediatrician checks his vision, and I instinctively held my breath. He’s turning nine, and his brother is now 12, and neither one needs glasses yet. But odds are it’s only a matter of time. My husband was just nine when a pair of glasses first was perched on his nose by a cheerful optometrist. We’re both ridiculously nearsighted. I was turning 10 when I got my glasses, just weeks into the fall semester at a new school where I had no friends yet. I can still picture the school nurse checking my eyes and ears, then handing me a folded slip of paper. “Take this note to your mother,” she said. “Tell her you needed glasses.” “What??” I wanted to scream. “I’m the new kid! I don’t know anybody yet! Now I’m going to be the new kid with glasses!” But I said nothing. She’d already moved on to the next kid in line, and my fate was …

14 Things Only a Person With a Tough Name Would Understand

1. I grew up with a tough name. Siobhan Adcock. Look at it. There’s almost no part of that name that’s not sort-of a pain in the ass. 2. People don’t tend to remember it, and when they do, they can’t pronounce it. Siobhan is an Irish name — it means Jane, or Joan, or Joanne, or if you’re feeling like a sparkly unicorn fairy, “sea foam blowing off the waves.” My father told me (incorrectly as it turns out) that it means “Queen of the Emerald Isles.” He and my mother had heard of it by way of Siobhan McKenna, the famous Irish stage actress who was in Dr. Zhivago. (But not the famously beautiful actress who was in Dr. Zhivago. And also not the second-most beautiful actress in Dr. Zhivago. The other one.) 3. My father’s name, by the way, was Dick. They don’t really name kids that anymore. Especially with a last name like Adcock. Dick Adcock, Jr. Because his father’s name was also Richard. So when my dad was growing up, there was …

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Non-Traumatic Motherhood: A Non-Traumatic Manual

I come at life like a blunt instrument. I throw myself head first into whatever is coming and ask questions later. This strategy has had mixed success — sometimes it’s exhausting, sometimes frustrating, but mostly it has forced me to move forward, no matter what. It’s a pattern that has been hardened and rewarded through some pretty rough years, but I’ll get to that. Professionally, I’m a proud civic-tech nerd, veteran of Obama ’08 and founding tech director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (yes, the one with Elizabeth Warren – another blunt instrument). Personally, I’ve moved cross-country several times in my life, most recently after leaving my awesome CFPB gig to get married. Then we up and moved to London, where I threw myself into a new city, job and life. The ad hoc, impulse, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants life was working for me. Until I got pregnant. MOTHER? FUCK! You can’t be a blunt instrument with a baby. Those things are delicate. But then again, people have been having kids for centuries, right? I married a …

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My Daughter, Our Amazing Grace

I have always had an extremely irregular menstrual cycle, and a few years before I married, an endocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital had told me that I would never get pregnant on my own. So after my husband and I had been married for a year and a half, and we were starting to think about having a baby, I made an appointment with a fertility acupuncturist as the first step in what I imagined would be a long process: February 16, 2002. But on Valentine’s Day, my husband’s father, John, was diagnosed with a rare and deadly disease, cardiac amyloidosis, which has a grim prognosis: it was likely he would be dead within a year or two. The next morning, still in shock from the news, I grudgingly did the pregnancy test for the fertility acupuncturist. It turned out I never saw the acupuncturist because that morning I saw two lines instead. And that afternoon, we told my father-in-law that I was pregnant. I had been against telling him (I was nervous and still …