revelations

I have officially been pregnant 7 months now and this experience has taught me a lot. I learned that while pregnancy is not an illness, it is certainly a condition. It has required monthly and now bi-weekly doctor’s visits. I have been on antibiotics three times and am now on them daily. I have gained 30 lbs over the course of this 7 months. My employer does not offer maternity leave, so I will have to use sick leave and even then I will only be able to do so up to 6 weeks for a natural birth or 8 weeks for a C-section. Any more time I’d like to spend with my new homie after that will be what you all know as vacation time. Fathom that I will not have sick leave left to take him/her to the required infant doctor appointments for many months after birth. And through all of this I have learned that women in the U.S. have little to no control over their reproductive rights and birthing.

This is not about the politics of the day, which has our president offering private companies the option to deny women the option to time their family planning. And this isn’t even about the politicians who ask their mistresses to have abortions, while pretending that pro-life is even a real thing (…because, it is not a real thing! To say you are pro-life, but not pro-social services to help that life throughout its life is bullsh*t. So, yea, it’s not a real thing). This is about the daily micro-aggressions of being a person who is exhausted, heavy, with limited mobility who has tried to navigate self-care and the healthcare system in our nation’s capital.

As everyone who will listen knows by now, since I arrived in DC in June I have seen three different medical practices. They all (somewhat) sucked. I say this because the idea that a patient should see 7-15 doctors in a practice, just so that the random who is on call the day you deliver has the benefit of having seen your face before, is also bullsh*t. This system is geared to the benefit of the doctors, not to you as a parent or a patient. There’s also no continuity of care in that process. How many times have I had to say, “the last time I was here…”? And, frankly, it’s insulting to think that one of the most important moments in a person’s life will be a crap shoot of audience members, treatments, and services.

Oh and the audience is large. No one is comprehensive in their care, by the way. You are expected to have a doula, have taken childbirth classes, done some form of birth breathing or massage class, and attended prenatal yoga or pilates – at the least. God, forbid your doctor/midwife actually discuss labor with you. The discussion isn’t their job, I guess, just the labor itself (which really isn’t about you at all). And there is the expectation that you will be ok with medical students, nurses, and doctors you’ve just met that day seeing you at your most vulnerable. This feels like a sporting event where you are unsure if you will be the referee, an audience member or a contender. It’s simply not up to you. And not even about you.

I have given up on riding the metro at this point, because no one gives up their seats for pregnant ladies. My fingers are too swollen to wear my wedding ring and even one of my doctors gave me the condescending look when asking (despite this having been on my chart) if I was having anyone with me throughout this process. It’s not polite for a pregnant lady to say, “Yes, yabish, the man who fathered this child and married me!” But, I’ve come to accept these looks and judgments of an expectant Black mother. The city is gentrified and I have only come to see brown people at Latinx & Black events. Finding ways to navigate self-care, without a co-pay and ignorant assumptions has been quite a feat in this town. I was the only Black woman in my pilates class, except the instructor, and the Indian girl who was my soul sistah (I don’t think she knew it though) dropped after the 3rd class (obviously she didn’t know if she left me behind). No one else spoke to me throughout the course and perhaps it was for the best.

Maybe because I’m physically less able or maybe because I’m just too tired to play coy, I’ve learned to observe and not react to the assumptions made about me, the family I am creating, and my choices as a woman. I can truly attest to the fact that there is a business to birthing and it hasn’t even pretended to care about my agency as a person. Whether it’s waiting a week to get medical results for an obvious infection, because the web portal wasn’t working (My insurance pays you $400 per visit, you mean to tell me you can’t pick up the phone to call me? #reallysandy?) Politeness does not at all indicate advocacy. And everybody is worried about an impending lawsuit that has absolutely nothing to do with you. And this isn’t just the docs, this includes the otherwise very nice childbirth instructor who said none of her doulas were allowed to do a home birth because of the insurance liability she wasn’t prepared to shoulder as a business owner. Well, thanks, that wasn’t what I was asking, but I guess your business liability is my concern now too… good to know.

All in all, I lament this moment publicly, because I have found myself feeling isolated in this space. I’ve become accustomed to seeing women and partners in waiting rooms, abuzz with other waiting couples, so excited or scared about giving life that they really do not see how they are being treated more like chattel than people. It seems that people have become resigned to this level of care and have accepted that this is what they deserve. I venture some of this is because in this area, women are having children later in life. Believing their pregnancies some miracle of modern medicine, rather than their own bodies, they assume that they should rely on, defer to, and accept any medical treatment that gets their kids birthed in tact –  regardless of what this means for their own maternal health. But I guess the same could be said for any woman made to feel as disempowered as this entire process intends. We are made to believe that the doc is our biggest asset – not our own bodies and certainly not our mental & emotional well being. Until very recently, I felt alone in the realization that this doesn’t work for me. But, I can’t possibly be the only one.

People seem so excited to have children that the “how” of the matter doesn’t seem to matter much at all. If your employer screws you, it’s ok. If your doctor can’t pronounce your name, that’s normal. If the nurses haven’t read your charts, it’s understandable. And, this is, after all, my observation coming from the privileged position of having a job and excellent health insurance. I can only imagine what it would be like to be even more financially and physically vulnerable. Multiple DC area hospitals closed their maternity wards in the last year and one can only wonder if that was a good thing, considering reported conditions.

I call this piece revelations, because these are experiences I could never have understood before this moment. Being made to feel like an anomaly, demanding crunchy granola, for asking to be seen – truly been seen – as a human giving life has been stressful and draining. I can’t say that I’ve allowed it to be degrading or that I’ve permitted it to be dehumanizing. If that ever happens, trust me, it will be against my will and I will be telling a very different kind of story here. Yet, I have fought with all my might to not have the sour business of birth diminish my own relationship to pregnancy and my body. It has been a journey. I’m sure that I am not alone in this trial and after 7 months, I know this is bigger than me. I am not asking too much.  I am not being rebellious. I am simply stepping into parenthood in the present, rather than in the “after the baby is born” future.

If anyone else out there feels similarly, I simply want you to know that you are not alone, I see you, and you are not asking too much.

My day in the District…

Some would say that I have a tendency to D.C. bash.  Some might be right. But, today I’m going to try to offer a fair and balanced view of our nation’s capitol. Here’s a day in the life, as told by my iphone3 photographs. #vintagetelecom

First, I tried to catch the train. D.C. has always been on the cutting edge when it comes to the metro. They’ll threaten your life if you drink your morning latte on your morning metro commute AND they always have those handy, dandy signs that tell you just when the next train is coming. Imagine my surprise when I reached the platform and found this: 
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I waited for a few minutes with the mob of people on the platform. Turns out that they were doing construction on the Virginia bound platform and trains in both directions were sharing the same track. Luckily, within just a few minutes the train came and the board changed. Mass confusion ensued:

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En route to Dupont Circle, which is on the infamous red line, I had the pleasure of taking a shuttle bus to try to get around Metro Center. Why around? Because, wmata decided to close its busiest station all weekend…IMG_0725

I eventually got off at Dupont Circle and had the pleasure of knowing that if I wanted to buy a pack of Newports at this gas station, I could actually take out $9 whole dollars to make the purchase. Who needs even numbers anyway? IMG_0711

I ate – guacamole – and drank – Diet Coke – at Lauriol Plaza. And honestly, I wish my iphone3 took better pics in the dark, because there were some fashionable folks coming in the door. And everyone knows that I don’t dole out fashion kudos easily. Alas, on the walk back to the train, I stumbled past an institution that I’d heard about in books and on cnn. Who knew that the German Marshall Fund was just blocks away from Dupont Circle? This is one of the perks of living in the epicenter of political power. You learn something new every day!IMG_0709

Since today was quite nice, I figured I’d roam around the city some more and soak in the sun. D.C.’s weather has been having serious mood swings lately. Just think, the temperature today was in the low 50s. Just Monday we had a snow day!
And the streets looked like this:
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Anyways, the snow is behind us, so there’s no better D.C. haunt on a Sunday than the flea market at Eastern Market! Today, I discovered that a Huffington Post Poll named this flea market the 2nd best in the world. I still can’t find the poll to determine which is first or first best or best – however you’d say that. This sign vaguely reminded me of that time that I was in the IGIA Airport and they had a sign that named the airport the 2nd best airline in blah blah blah… you should re-read the post to recollect. (This isn’t the HuffPo poll that this market is mentioned in as 2nd, but here is a recent HuffPo review of world flea markets, in case anybody is interested: http://huff.to/1fiDyXb) IMG_0713

I loved to see that vendors I love still have booths and are still doing well. I dropped by the BAMI booth and it was nice to see a friendly face. Though I didn’t buy any new soaps today, I’m now kinda regretting that decision. I also saw a few home decor must haves at Olde Good Things, but I’m often shocked by their sticker prices – especially at the Manhattan store – so I didn’t dare browse too seriously. Anyway, I did nab a whole gaggle of scented diffusers from CandlesbyGeeda.com! I was the lucky buyer-beneficiary of a scented oil that smells like man. Yes, people, man! I’m so excited I could do a dance. IMG_0715

I found two new booths that will become my new regulars. Well, maybe they’re just new to me, which isn’t saying much. But, I loooveeeddddd the goodies I bought from Was Paper. I’m going to tell you what I got, but please hold your horses. Don’t be copy cats and try to have a safari fridge theme in your house too. Get horses or elephant’s butts (yes, she has those too!) or anything else other than my beloved rhino. Consider this a warning…

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was paper

And just as I mustered the will power to walk past this sign and not give in…

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… i found Mirasa! The lovely woman at the booth was already packing up, but she didn’t seem in the least bit perturbed when I started digging through the bib box. I noticed her accent and was so enamored when she said she was from Bombay (only Bombay people call Mumbai Bombay. That’s an insider tip!). I LOVE Bombay! Turns out she came to the U.S. to study at F.I.T. and found her husband. I can relate, since I went to India to work and found my fiance. I told her that I got engaged in front of the Gateway of India in her hometown of Mumbai AND I went to college in NYC too! #smallworld

Honestly, after weeks of feeling disconnected and misunderstood in D.C., this conversation was a light in my lonely heart. It was lovely to find someone who also understood the craziness of the Delhi I left behind – its positives and its negatives. It was really cool to connect with a perfect stranger and to feel so familiar with her personality and her designs.

Bombay has a booming design scene for fashion, housewares, art and more. In fact, since I haven’t been to Helsinki yet, I’d argue that it’s one of the best places to find innovative contemporary design. Alas, underneath a string of baby bibs and onesies, I found that Delhi wasn’t so far away and D.C. might not be so bad after all.

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I pressed on and tried to avoid the rest of the tempting vendors…

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I navigated my way back to the metro…

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I made it back on to the train and decided to stop at Chinatown for a peak around…

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…but it was reaching the doggie’s walking time, so I headed back to the far, far, away land that is Northern Virginia. I left D.C. behind somewhere in the wmata space after Foggy Bottom, before Rosslyn and underneath the Potomac river.

THE END.

On Recognizing the “Devine.”

Tanya Everett is an actor and writer in New York City. Her latest endeavors have included staged readings of her one-act play, A Virgin Christmas, with David Zayas (Dexter). This fall, she will be starring in “Munched,” which will partner with W.O.R.T.H., a nonprofit organization that helps formerly incarcerated women to begin anew. Her website will soon be live for viewing: http://www.tanyaeverett.com

 

Last night, I boarded a Chinatown bus at 8:54 pm in New York City. It had just begun to rain, and the city streets were slick and iridescent. I headed to Lucky Star, only because the bus ratings are marginally less offensive. I settled myself in for an evening of work, but found that the bus seemed to be coming apart at the hinges, and I’d be better off taking a nap. When I awoke, we were already bouncing into South Station. We arrived just before 12:45, so I bounded off the bus, hoping to get to the Red Line before the last train.

After midnight, South Station is tied up like a virgin before her wedding night, so I knew getting home would be more difficult than catching the G train in Brooklyn on a bad day. Downstairs in the station, I asked the guard if the last train had left. His monosyllabic “Yep,” was unconvincing. I figured I’d try my luck and test the waters, so I trotted over to the station. I was let in by another guard to the main terminal and, with another gentleman in tow, bounded down off to the Redline entrance. I asked the MTA employee and her colleague, and they insisted that the last train to Ashmont was coming. I bought a ticket and I headed towards my train.

At the bottom of the stairs was a lone woman. She asked me “Is there a train coming tonight?” I said, “There should be.” She insisted on checking, so she rode back up the escalator, and received the same answer I had received just minutes before. She then proceeded to hoist her suitcase back down to the platform for a second round of waiting, this time more patiently and less nervously.

With nothing left to do but take a watch and wait approach, we struck up a conversation. We had gone to neighboring high schools. She was in town from Oakland for her mother’s 80th birthday; I, for my grandmother’s 75th. We both dance and write plays. Both of our families are the clingy types that insist that when we visit we spend every waking moment in their presence, kissing babies and washing dishes. I secretly hoped she’d have some insight as how to CHANGE that predicament, but we were too similar for that to be a realistic expectation. Her mother is Jamaican and set in her ways. My grandmother is of Ukranian and Polish descent, hence as stubborn as the day is long. It seemed like no coincidence that she and I met on that platform in that moment. Perhaps we both needed the good vibes of someone similar, but different, to remind us that we were on the right track – and I don’t just mean in the T station.

I saw a light in her eyes that shone from faith, perseverance, and experience. She mentioned more than once how much she enjoyed my energy. When the train finally arrived, a man in a Red Sox cap mustered the nerve to interrupt our vigorous chatting. He stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Excuse me, miss, I don’t mean to bother you, but I was just tellin’ him, you have star-quality.” From the looks of ‘him,’ they didn’t even know each other. But I was pleased by the content of this interruption, so I asked his name. “It’s Devine.” “Huh? I’m sorry, can you say that again?” asked like a bumbling fool, unworthy of his compliment. “Devine. It’s spelled with an ‘E’ though.” He went on to tell me that I had something that caught his eye and that he told a complete stranger about it.  It may have just been a pick up, but for me in that moment, I had the sense that this second encounter with this second stranger was also no fluke. It could have been a lack of sleep, but finding a new friend from the other side of the country and meeting a Bostonian with the name of a demi-God felt like exactly what I needed in that moment.

Admittedly, I have a tendency to attract all kinds of people, celebrities and homeless vagrants alike. My roommate thinks it’s hysterical, because I make a new acquaintance daily – even the kind some people don’t want to meet in a lifetime. I believe it all stems from my grandmother. See, Linda (my grandmother) turned seventy-five that night, while I was chatting it up on the train platform. Oddly enough, she has spent my entire lifetime paving the way for me to have choice encounters just like these. She’s the one to speak to strangers on the subway at one in the morning. She’s the courageous, go-getter that never stops, despite limited means. She has always been ferocious and fearless. She is an avid believer that you can accomplish anything with a “glass half full” outlook on life.

Sometimes it is hard to keep her outlook handy in my own life. Lately, I’ve been struggling to find my voice as an artist, to create value in my work. And the weight of these burdens can sometimes undermine my grandma given optimism. What’s worse is that I find myself struggling against what is simply the natural order of things, begging winter to be spring (faster), asking lean years to become fat years (sooner), demanding that life slow down now so that I can catch up and grow at my own pace.

I have been known to ask for too much, but I have also been known to deliver great things. My own flare on grandma’s wisdom is that when preparedness meets timing, and a little bit of grace, all things are possible. But we wouldn’t be human if, every now and again, we failed to recognize that we are perfect in our imperfections. We forget that the very things that seem like character flaws are our most interesting characteristics. As an actor and a writer, I constantly mine for unique character traits. I’ve come to celebrate the triumph of the hero over her toughest opponent: herself.

As I rushed towards home that night, I was reminded that all the world’s a stage and it’s about time that I applied some of this leeway I give to my scripted protagonists to lil ole’ me, the girl that makes besties with late night commuters. The conversations on that platform reminded me that my inherited positivity is what attracts people, and that my own darkness is what makes me human. I was reminded to enjoy the discoveries along the journey, not just the destination. And there’s something simply perfect about celebrating my own divinity in the wee hours, at the crack of dawn, on the day the earth welcomed the source of my greatest gifts. Don’t think my grandma doesn’t make me repay the favor. Did I mention that August is her birthday MONTH??