random thoughts of a tired mind…

I’m tired.

Well, not now, as in now as I speak, or I should say, as I write. I’m just a tired sort of person sometimes. I have a new sort of beast to contend with thanks to MS and that is fatigue. Apparently it’s one of the main symptoms of the disease. I’d guess that if you pulled a random person off the street and said: “Multiple Sclerosis”, the first thing that would pop into their mind is “wheelchair.” But while not most people with MS are (or ever will be) in wheelchairs, most people with MS get TIRED.

MS fatigue is a funny sort of thing. And the odd thing is that I sit writing this late and night and you’d think: “Isn’t she tired?” but no, MS fatigue is unpredictable and comes when you don’t want it to. So yeah, I’d love to be drop dead tired enough and fatigued enough at bedtime to be able to hit the pillow and snooze, but NOOOOO, the MS brain buggers have decided that my fatigue only comes at the peak times of the day like mid-day, or early evening when it’s too freaking early to turn in for the night. So at night, I end up taking half or a third of a sleeping pill in order to sleep because I have insomnia!

I thought of fatigue today because I read a study that looked at how mothers with chronic illness deal with fatigue. Apparently the MS moms tended to deal pretty well with it the study found. I found out from the report that other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (that also predominantly strikes women) cause similar fatigue.

So my mind wanders to a wonderful lady with grown up children who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis most of her adult life. She raised three kids as a stay-at-home mother and battled a horrible horrible disease that leaves her in unbelievable pain. I only know this from looking at how the disease has ravaged her hands and feet–I don’t know this from her because guess what? She never, ever complains about her health. I have sat with her on several occasions and she is the most uncomplaining, patient person I have seen. The only hint that I got of how much she deals with on a daily basis was when I asked how her recovery was from a surgery, and she said, “Thank Allah. I would never wish this disease on my worst enemy.”

I imagine sometimes what bountiful rewards such beautiful people have waiting for them in the next life. There is a wisdom in Allah’s decree. Things go wrong–way wrong, and we are left in the dark, with a seeming blight upon our life. Yet the character of a person can take that test and emerge shining with the noor (light) of patience, forbearance, and humility. I feel ashamed when I look at that sister and think of the times I complained or wept over silly, foolishly small afflictions. So yeah, being tired is not so bad of a thing after all, methinks.

One.

One year has come and gone as in an instant.

It seemed like a few months ago, when, after a day of what seemed like false-alarm random labor pain that I would go to the hospital’s birthing center “just in case” and have Z in the shower half an hour after arriving.

It seems like just yesterday that I realized with a start that she was born on a Saturday, just like her brother, and three days after her 37th week, just like her brother.

It seems like mere seconds ago that I caught her, saw my husband’s teary, exited face saying, “we have a daughter, we have a daughter…” and then walked myself over to lay down with her, never letting her go for a second, Siraj by my side, as we just looked at her, the nurse still laughing that we two had “delivered” this baby before the midwife could even arrive.

Those after-birth moments are pure magic–even the nurse was so exited and congratulatory that my wishes were fulfilled, set long before the birth, that I catch her, keep her close, and attached to the cord as long as we wished.

Z.M.S.

She is named after her father’s paternal grandmother, a woman I wish I could have met, whom I know my husband loved so dearly, and she him, that I could say nothing but “yes, of course” when he proposed we name our first daughter after her.

She–the fact that she was a girl–made the horribly long, nauseating, and sometimes bedrest-bound days of her pregnancy so much more worth it.

Her birthday and my life with MS share the same timeframe, because I first started having symptoms shortly after her birth. I feel sorry for her that her early months were clouded by my own health issues, but it led to her having such a strong relationship with her father. Every time I climbed into an MRI tube or went to physical therapy, there she would be, playing with her baba. Even though she wouldn’t take a bottle and so he could not feed her, they bonded so closely and so well. A blessing in disguise from the lemons of life, indeed!

She was my comfort baby, along with her brother of course. When I would feel discouraged at my own health and well-being, when I would wonder what on earth was happening to me, I would just look at her, look at her brother and think–ah, but I have this!

IMG_7134She gives me strength, even as I will count my years with this disease by her years, it is a reminder of why I fight it every day. My mental battle is won when I look at her, look at her brother, and think, “I will be well for you two.”

I love the fact that as her early months passed, she became crazy over her brother. I love that spark of connection that exists between them two alone, and pray that it lasts like that forever.

I love that she has the best father a child could ask for, and the best brother a sister could ask for.

I love, I love, I love, and I thank Allah for the love we have, for it is what makes us human–“Whoever does not show mercy, shall not be shown mercy” (hadith).

I pray that we are blessed with a long life together, as a family, and that Allah brings us all closer to Him, and reunites us in Jannah, Aameen.

back to blogging…for now

I’ve been MIA from this place for so long. I now am no longer only “Abdullah’s mama” any more, I am the proud and grateful mama to Zaynab as well. The kids are now close to 3 and 1 year old, and our lives are still on the move as Siraj finds his niche as a new J.D., and I attempt to stay focused on my studies online with the AlHuda Institute.

My latest mama-project is providing brain-food for Abdullah by way of focusing on Qur’an memorization (and understanding!), learning Allah’s names, reading and loving learning. He’d love to go to school, but we have yet to settle down somewhere and we’re still trying to figure out how that will fit in with his Qur’an memorization.

Since Zaynab’s birth I have been battling an array of bizarre neurological symptoms which, after about 7 months of baffling everyone was finally diagnosed as Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS for short). This new beast is sort of like my third child (the black sheep of the family as it were)–always there, reminding me of its presence at the most inopportune times. Minus the love and cuddles of course (insert wan smile here). Fortunately I am doing rather well with it right now and have suffered only negligible residual damage from the attacks over the last few months. Al-Hamdulillah. I mention it because it’s become a massive part of my life, shaping my identity itself. How ironic too that my MS places me further down on the “road less traveled”, away from those fortunate enough to consider themselves “normal.” And yet… it seems that every where we turn, chronic disease afflicts so many that illness has become the new healthy, abnormal the new normal.

I don’t make any point of hiding my MS or pretending it doesn’t exist, and so I know it will come up here and there in these pages (makes a nice thing to vent about, ya know). So rather than blanching with terror if my disease comes up in petty conversation, I rather enjoy making a bit of dark humor out of it. Like if I forget something I’ll joke that perhaps a few neurons just died off or something… When I was first diagnosed I was like, okay now, I gotta go to a support group and learn the secret handshake! As sucky of a disease that MS is, it fortunately doesn’t suck too bad for me (yet!) so I am thankful for that. And I get enjoyment, actually, by keeping up with all the latest MS news and research (I’m a geek through and through, in sickness and in health!).

So–that’s basically in a nutshell, what occupies my time these days–Abdullah, Zaynab, AlHuda classes, MS… in that order I suppose 🙂 Once we settle down I hope to get back to teaching part time from home, which I had been doing until Siraj graduated.

We’ll see how much time these kids give me for my writing, but for now I thought I’d come back to this little nook of mine and spruce it up!

mama’s milk rocks!

and here’s 10 reasons why:

  1. The Qur’an: It describes a complete nursing period as 2 years (although extended nursing beyond that is permissible according to the scholars of fiqh). Thus, a mama gets reward from Allah for nursing!
  2. It’s free: ’nuff said.
  3. Sheer laziness: I hardly remember to pack Abdullah’s diapers when we go out, much less milk bottles. And did I mention that I hate doing dishes?
  4. Nutrition? No worries: it’s a multivitamin, power protein shake, and extra energy boost all in one. When toddlers start eating less and becoming more picky about food (often after age one) sometimes Pediasure is recommended…but if you are nursing, you’ve got free Pediasure minus the crapola in there, and always available straight at the tap!
  5. Adapts to baby: After the first year of life, breastmilk increases up to about 50% in fat content! Another great reason to keep at it after that first year.
  6. Booboo cures: When Abdullah gets a knock on the head (from falling of course, not from us 😉 ) I tell him that I’m going to give him “dudu dava”, or milky medicine. A couple of gulps down the line and the booboo is forgotten!
  7. Tantrums: Abdullah’s not at this stage yet but I hear from others that nursing makes a great distraction for a todder in the throes of a raging tantrum.
  8. Bonding time: These days Abdullah thinks he’s too cool for babyish cuddling. He wants to just give a hug and run, or a peck on our cheeks before he squirms out of grasp to run off to his toys or jump around. He doesn’t even like to be carried in a sling for too long anymore. That leaves nursing as pretty much the only remaining cuddle/bonding tool at my disposal.
  9. Sick-time cures: Mama’s milk has got electrolytes galore for rehydrating sick babies. And it’s a great nasal decongestant (spray it up the nose) for stuffy noses.
  10. Distraction: Keeps baby still for medical procedures, nail cuttings, anything uncomfortable and irritating (I found this quite handy during a recent middle of the night ER visit). 

is this overprotective?

After finally finishing the Car Seat Safety 101 post, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps a person might read that and think, “All this nit-picking is overprotectiveness” especially when it comes to things like extended rearfacing and harnesses, and booster use for “older” kids. I think the almost laissez-faire attitude that most people have about car safety is perhaps a throwback from the teenage years when it was “uncool” to wear a seatbelt.

And of course no one wants to come off as that worrywart, overcareful, hovering parent who is constantly tagging behind little Johnny to wipe every drip from his nose and kiss every miniscule boo-boo.

I don’t buy that, honestly. I have the choice to get in the car and buckle up or not. I know the risk of traveling in a high speed hunk of metal and no, I really don’t want to end up ejected onto the sidewalk. So I buckle up. My kid doesn’t have the luxury of this decision making process, ya know? So until he’s living in his own house with his own car, he’s going to have to deal with his car seat warrior mamabear. ‘Cause at the end of the day, I and his father will be bearing the lifelong burden of responsibility of what should happen to him should our car crash.

The ironic thing is that I’m actually rather less protective than average otherwise. Like when he was younger and the toy he was slobbering on dropped on the sidewalk, my mom would pick it up and give it to me, not him. “It fell, it’s dirty.” I on the other hand would be like, “Eh, no worries,” wipe it on my hijab and give it back to him. Eww, gross, I know. Or I’d let him crawl around on the grass with nothing but a t-shirt and diaper on so he’d muss about in the dirt with his hands, pull out plants, and his pudgy little knees would get all dirt caked and grass streaked. C’mon, life doesn’t get any better than this!

As he gets older I’m sure he’s going to do daredevil stunts in the living room, he’ll probably strap on his gear and play tackle football and I know that my heart will drop to my stomach with that one. But being his father’s son I’m sure he’ll be out there running the ball and taking the hits, but that’s part of being a kid.

But there’s one thing where I will be protective, even overprotective if necessary, and that’s in the car. Because car accidents won’t stop just because I’m a bit inattentive about his seat, the laws of physics will not cease to be just because he screams his head off every time we strap him up, and because at the end of the day, accidents simply do happen. Hmm, maybe I am insanely overprotective. But this mama bear doesn’t mind one bit.

Car Seat Safety 101

“Tie your camel and put your trust in God.”

–Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), to a bedouin who was about to leave his camel untethered

* * * *

Child passenger safety–it is a subject that I am pretty passionate about, so let’s cut to the chase:

  • Motor vehicle injuries are the number 1 cause of death among children in the US.
  • In 2005, there were 1,451 car accident deaths in children under 14 and about 203,000 injuries. That’s about 4 deaths and 556 injuries a day (Source:CDC)

The tragedy is that many of these deaths are preventable. Ask any ER physician working in a busy hospital, or any policeman who deals with traffic deaths, and they will tell you how many of these dead and injured children were either not in car seats or were in improperly installed seats.

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