November is coming up and it's always been rough. One the one hand, it's Prematurity Awareness month. The day before I see images of cute 'trick-or-treaters' and then all of a sudden, my feed is inundated with mamas and pictures of their preemies. I remember it all over again; the NICU, the isolette, the alarms and my two premature babies.
On the other hand, I post my gratitudes as a daily reminder that I am here. They are here. It's helped me over the years but I still second guess the 'why NOT me?' 'why NOT US?' that survivors often wrestle with.
A few weekends ago, I attended the Champions for Change summit and I heard so so so many stories of near misses.
I was lucky.
My OB knew at 26 weeks and told me that my birth plan needed to change.
She knew at 31 weeks that I was not doing my care at home and I needed to be on strict hospital bed rest.
She knew when it was time to deliver Ellie. And because of her, I knew to do my research.
I advocated for myself and knew to seek a high risk pregnancy doc for the second one.
I knew to do my daily blood pressure readings and let the nurses know when it would spike above average.
I knew to pay attention to my body and knew at 34 weeks and change that my headache, my blurry vision and high blood pressure reading meant it was time to go.
And the nurse who triaged me in the emergency room knew to call my doctor and start prepping the labor and delivery room.
Women who knew versus others who didn't know or couldn't have known or choose not to listen.
I was lucky.
And I count my daily thanks.
But that doesn't mean it has gotten easier. I've often heard well intentioned friends and family asking, "why are you not over it? it's been years." How could I get over trauma so easily when I see my trauma daily? When I hold my what-ifs daily? When I take my miracle to her monthly hematologist and wonder was it because of her being premature? Because of my preeclampsia that caused this blood disorder? What did she do to deserve every bruised arm from nurses who can't find her veins?
Was it because of me?
And so the guilt keeps coming back around and around,
But I can change guilt to action
I can change guilt from weighing me down and make it become something. I can funnel my words for change, I've been so inspired about the stories I heard and I know my story can't stop now. Especially, since looking around the room, I never saw another 'me.' I saw so many white women and I wonder why there was so few black women? Why so few latinas? Why not another one of me? Another Filipina.
Where are we in the community of mental health advocates and preeclampsia survivors?
A few projects
So next month is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I'm still converting my novelette into a Christmas themed novella. I started on it a few weeks ago and then my ever so distracted brain decided to put it down and start working on a journal prompt book idea for mamas. Motherhood is tough and we so desperately need community. I want my community to be filled with Filipina mamas navigating mental health challenges, life after diagnosis - be it a preeclampsia diagnosis or postpartum diagnosis. I want community and I want it filled with mamas that look like me.
So I don't exactly know what that looks like.
But I do know that I am lucky to be surrounded by women who do. I just need to get over the guilt and grab some courage and ask questions.
What are you working on friends?
Any other passion you have that you can incorporate writing into?
At the beginning of the year, I set a goal of sending off a piece - whether it be poetry or essay or chapbook length - to at least one magazine, or press a month. Some months I did more than one submission, and I took a break in July for family reasons, November for Nano reasons and while it's still at the beginning of December, I don't foresee sending anything out this month.
Here are my rejections and acceptances for the year.
3 still pending
1 runner up
16 total submissions for the year.
I'm actually quite proud that I stepped out of my comfort zone and jumped in.
My suggestions for you if you plan on doing these are:
1.) make sure you like the magazine/press you're submitting to and
2.) read them! read the emerging poets, the seasoned poets, the type of writing they like, the overall aesthetics of the press
3.) set yourself a goal. I did 1 submission/month because I knew I wouldn't have time for multiple ones.
and finally, BEST OF LUCK to you!! I enjoy reading some pretty powerful words and there are a couple of presses on my list that I will try and try again. I suppose they're what everyone calls "your dream press." Rejections sting....like a LOT. But it's helped me grow and learn. That's the point, right? I haven't figured out what my goals are for next year aside from working on poetry and submitting to my dream presses. One thing is for sure though, I'd like to add "award winning poet" on my bio!
Shoot for the moon.
Write on my friends!
JULY - NO SUBMISSIONS
NOVEMBER - NO SUBMISSIONS
DECEMBER - NO SUBMISSIONS
Not your token
PUBLISHED my first of a couple of chapbook series!
So the other day, I was in a "must get rid of stuff" mood and cleaned out drawers and my kids' closets. I threw away 3 trashbags FULL of broken toys, shredded papers and random, random half eaten pieces of candies.
In this midst of this, I thought about what a memory hoarder I am. I found movie stubbs from 2015 and concert tickets and a few notes on nutritional goals, resolutions and micro poetry.
It was quite literally a load of memories that I had hoarded over the years that I decided was time to let go. I still (God willing) had plenty of time to have more experiences, more memories and whether we like it or not, memories are intangible. No matter how much I hold onto this movie ticket, I will never relive that same moment. Sure, a lot of happiness was associated with this particular movie (my daughter's first time at the movie theatre) but as the years go on and the words to this ticket fades, what will I have? Let's be real here. Nothing but just trash in my hand. But I'll still be able to remember what movie we went to - Big Hero 6 - and the events that happened.
Of course, I have things that I don't know if I'll ever part with, such as their hospital bracelets or what they both wore when they left the NICU. Our memories keep us warm when we need them the most and bring us to our knees when we remember feelings of inadequacy, of helplessness, of gratitude....
In keeping up with this theme, I have decided to completely stop blogging from my site over at tuallaleila.blogspot.com.
That blog site has taken me from post college, marriage, career, motherhood....I couldn't bear to hit delete. I think of it as more of an online diary and God knows I still treasure all my journals.
So the content is still there but I'm determined to do more blogging here.
Start from scratch.
Make more memories.
And this where "Life after the Storm" comes in. At my core, I am passionate about moms, preeclampsia and maternal mental health. I'd like to pursue something in those in the future but for now, I'll be switching and deleting things around here. And I hope its a more seamless transition. I'll be posting my poems here and blog about any of those three subjects. You can still find my faith based posts over on Daughters of the Deep, or if you're so inclined to follow my observations as a "Token Asian," I still contribute over at Echoes of the Struggle blog.
There are places for all my passions. I'm just sorry it took me cleaning up after my memories to realize that I need more organization in all areas of my life.
I always do resolutions. I've been doing this "new year, new you," thing since high school. As I've gotten older, I've come to terms with the fact that resolutions - at least in my case - are unattainable. I stopped doing them altogether when I had children. This mama doesn't need one more thing to add to her pile.
Life does happen even as we plan. However, the only way to help this organized chaos for this anxious mama is to sit down and come up with some semblance of a plan. A few small things that I'd like to accomplish.
In 2017, I only set out to write one book. I didn't plan for it to be a memoir, let alone one riddled with poems. I didn't even plan on being involved in anthologies, but three published my poetry and one is set to publish my novelette.
I don't know if I can even follow up or top this year, but 2018 is looking promising. I've been fortunate to live in a city where the super bowl was hosted, a world series happened right after a hurricane changed our landscapes and leveled neighborhoods. And a few days ago, a winter wonderland to remind us of how random and beautiful life can be.
So my writing friends, what will 2018 look like for you?
In this coming year,
1.) I will do some querying for my upcoming (and work in progress) poetry collection. the Token Asian writes will find a home somewhere.
2.) Submit articles to the Mighty, the Huffington Post, Blessed is She and inCourage.
3.) Submit poems to 12 different publications - 1 poem or 1 publication per month.
4.) Continue to promote and market books; do 2 different things for marketing once a month.
5.) Continue to learn, to engage, to participate in the writers' community:
So as we reach the end of the year, I'd like to thank you friends who have helped shaped my 2017. Get to writing.
And in case I don't have time to write again, have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family. I'll see ya next year!
I drink too much coffee, read too many book, and in between raising miracle babies, I find time to write.
Leila Tualla's books on Goodreads
ratings: 14 (avg rating 4.00)
Storm of Hope: God, Preeclampsia, Depression and me
ratings: 11 (avg rating 4.36)
The Light Leads to Love
ratings: 8 (avg rating 4.50)
We Are Not Alone: An Anthology for Mental Health Awareness
ratings: 2 (avg rating 5.00)