Gangsta Mittens
Words combined to express thoughts. Pictures displayed to convey emotion. Opening my brain to the world.


The Dictator turned two a few of days ago… TWO… I’m still in awe.  He talks… a lot.  He throws tantrums.  He can be stubborn.  He loves school — he cries when he can’t be there.  He talks about his friends at school.  He loves waffles… He’s a two year old.

He still struggles with weight gain and has some minor developmental issues that he’s working through.  I still struggle with appointments where I feel like i’m being blamed or that there is something more that I should be doing… but mostly things are normal.  And that’s a hard one for me to cope with…

The hardest days are the ones where he does something funny or silly and i want to pick up the phone and ask my mom “did i ever do that?” or when i look at him and i wonder if he looks like a relative that I never met.  It’s hard being a parent without parents… some days i repeat that to myself over and over… “I don’t have parents…”  not to torture myself or bring myself down… just in an effort to accept what has happened. I wish it was different.  When I was born, only one of my grandparents was still alive.  The Dictator had only two when he was born, and now he’s down to one.  I am grateful that he got to spend time with my mother, but most of his memories of her will fade.  She will be the woman in the picture… but i know how much she loved him and I will tell him often.

I’m enjoying him as best I know how.  Still working on my patience.  Still trying to allow him to grow and become independent and self sufficient… still trying to nurture creativity and freedom of expression.  Still aware of the difficult lessons about being a black man in this country that will come when he’s older…

I do my best to make sure he knows how much he is loved.  I do my best to surround him with people who love him as much as we do.  But most of all I do my best to prepare him for a world that will likely be hostile and unkind to him.  I want his foundation to be one of love and support so that when those harsh realities smack him in the face, he has a place to return to. I feel like that’s the most important thing that I can give him. I hope it’s enough.


I went to see a therapist last night… it’s been a LONG time coming.  Life hasn’t been quite “right” since I moved to California last year.  Honestly I’m developing a bit of a love/hate relationship with this place.  I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I spent so long romanticizing what it would be like to live here, or that I just waited so long to do it, but this just isn’t what I envisioned when I thought about living here.

I guess my first bad experience was the summer of 2008 when I worked here for a year.  For so long my biggest fear was that I’d move to california, and my parents would get sick and I’d be nowhere near.  The summer of 2008 my father died.  I tried to convince myself that now that the “worst” had happened and I lived to tell about it, clearly I could handle anything… and then i moved out here, my mom’s health plummeted and now she will also likely pass away while I’m in California.  Add to that the whole premature baby stuff and just the constant stress of steadily rising housing costs… I’m so far out of my comfort zone I just don’t know what to do… and that’s what led me to a therapist.

It was a good session.  I’ve gotten so stressed that my shoulders are tight, my neck hurts… i’m just constantly worked up.  She encouraged me to “embrace” the word “trauma”… To accept that what has happened is indeed traumatic… Essentially to validate all the feelings that I’ve deemed “irrational” and “unacceptable”.  Even as I type it it seems so simple, but i’m just not sure how to (finally) let myself feel something that i’ve been working so hard to suppress for the last year.


Although I can’t confirm, I am almost certain that as a child I was one of those annoying kids that asked “why” incessantly.  No answer ever being good enough, I always wanted to know more… to better understand.  I was always reading something to get more information.  At breakfast I read cereal boxes to figure out the ingredients, and I had questions about those ingredients.  I read the newspaper, i read the dictionary… i just wanted to know more.  I’m still like that in many ways.  I don’t like not knowing things.  I don’t like conversations about things that I don’t know or understand.  When I find myself in those situations I tend to listen obsessively, making mental note of words and phrases that I can later google or research so that I can understand.

When the Dictator was in the hospital I did a ton of research… too much in fact.  The internet is FULL of people telling their story of what their preemie went thru, but usually it’s not accurate… things us parents hear don’t always match up with what the doctor says, and by the time we’re on a message board on the internet it’s twisted and convoluted.  And those who want to offer their support are equally guilty of adding to the problem.  Any message posted under the guise of “my baby is doing X, is that normal?”  is met with exactly 3 types of responses: 1.  That’s TOTALLY normal, my kid did it and s/he’s fine now.  2.  That’s ABSOLUTELY NOT NORMAL, your kid should not be doing that.  3.  Every child is an individual, you should ask your doctor. After a few trips to those sites I decided it was best to use the reference book provided by the NICU and leave it at that.

There was one topic, however, that I was completely unable to research… The biggest “why”… Why did this happen?  8 months later and I still have absolutely positively no idea why the Dictator arrived 16 weeks early… and it eats away at me every. single. day.

In many ways my health improved after I found out i was pregnant.  Of course I made a conscious effort to eat better.  I wasn’t big on exercising, but I walked more.  I stopped drinking.  Never smoked… My blood pressure was the best it’s ever been.  My weight was going down, but the ultrasounds showed that the baby was growing and he was the right size.  Cervix and uterus were fine… No infections.  No diabetes.  No real feelings of stress.  No excessive morning sickness.  No excessive fatigue.  The most “interesting” part of the pregnancy was food aversion.  I hated chicken (which is just ridiculous) and often realized that I hated whatever food I was eating by the time I got halfway thru the meal.  I didn’t scoop kitty litter.  Avoided deli meat.  Passed on sushi.  Drank plenty of water.  Juiced.  Vitamixed.  Took prenatal vitamins.  Slept on my side.  Went to all my appointments… and 16 weeks early… all of that seemed to be for naught.

Sometimes babies are premature because there is an issue with their development… but besides being wayyyy too early, there wasn’t anything really “wrong” with the Dictator.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t have challenges while he was in the NICU or that he won’t have health issues in life.  I just mean that as far as anyone could tell he was developing normally.  At 20 weeks we did that major ultrasound where they count arms, legs, look at vital organ development, etc.  Everything was on track.  Even when he was born he was the right size and weight for his stage of development.  While these things are somewhat reassuring, they all lead me further away from the answer to my question… why?

I admit that I get preoccupied with it.  On “good” days I delve deep into the internet, reading medical studies from Ireland and trying to make sense of medical terminology that would require at least 3 more years of school for me to truly understand.  On “bad” days I find reasons to blame myself.  I developed a “habit” of sipping LITERALLY a drop – a single drop – of beer if the husband was drinking, i’d blame it on that.  I craved and indulged in spicy foods.  Clearly that was a factor.  There was that two week stretch where I just had to drink kool-aid… that can’t be good for a baby.  Maybe i walked too much…  Maybe the ferry ride was too intense… Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to eat chicken?  more veggies? less tea? inhaling the neighbors weed smoke? too close to the cat… carried too many grocery bags… jinxed it when i mailed out the baby shower invites… fell asleep on the sofa on my back that one time… not enough sleep… I can ashamedly admit that I have seriously considered each of these things as reasons why *I* caused this child to be born early… And it’s likely none of these things.  Hell… it’s definitely not at least 98% of these things… and yet… a part of me knows that i will always, in some way, blame myself for this.

Any delay in development… setback… anything “different” about the Dictator is, in my mind, my fault.  The other day we went for a checkup for his high blood pressure…it was finally down… before I could even breathe that sigh of relief, grandma spoke up and explained to the doctor that it was because she was in town… that devastated me… Rational me knows that that is the dumbest shit ever.  That’s what grandparents do.. Take credit for the good, blame parents for the bad… and really, that’s NOT what makes one’s BP go down… but it confirmed what my mind was telling me… *I* was the source of the problem… incapable of “fixing” what was wrong with my child… another thing that I had done wrong… another time I had failed him.

It’s not easy to live with that pressure.  It’s even harder when half your brain is telling the other half how ridiculous it’s being. I try to see those moments for what they are and not let it become problematic, but it’s a terrible feeling to think that I could be the cause of someone’s pain or hardship… especially someone that I brought into existence… it’s a dark place to be sometimes.  I fight to see the light though.  I focus on the light as much as I can.


14 weeks later…

The Dictator came home on his due date… and it was both the scariest and best day of this journey.  I purposely stalled all day so that we could head home during the evening shift.  We had a million amazing nurses, but the evening shift nurses have a special place in my heart so i knew i couldn’t leave without them getting to say goodbye to the little one.  He went home at about 6lbs 6oz.  and today we’re up to about 10lbs 5oz.  We all wish he was gaining weight a little more quickly, but he’s moving forward slowly but surely.  He’s had some ups and downs, and it’s been terribly frustrating to watch the progress of babies born around the time of his due date, but I’m doing my best to be supportive and patient with his growth.

Although he’s moving at a steady pace, things around him seem to be moving at lightening speed.  His grandma is moving out to help take care of him because I will be returning to work in a couple weeks.  I have such mixed emotions about this.  I am so glad to have something (else) to do all day and to use my brain in other ways, but I will definitely miss the constant interaction with him.  I love to help him and to see him make progress so it’s going to be strange to only see him in the evenings.  I’ve already decided that I’m going to play the lottery regularly so that I can maybe someday just work part time because I want to.

It’s been almost a year since the husband moved out here and honestly time has flown by.  Pretty much half of that year has been spent worrying about and taking care of the Dictator, but I’ve learned a ton.  That being said, I’m hoping for a fairly uneventful 2015.


5 days until Christmas… 10 days until my birthday… and (hopefully) 2-3 weeks before the Dictator heads home.  Honestly, I still don’t believe it.  When I’m being honest with myself I see the hurdles and obstacles that he has yet to overcome.  Some days I imagine that he will just suddenly turn a corner and figure it all out.  But on more realistic days I have to acknowledge that the damage to his lungs is indeed a real thing and it will likely take more time than I’d like to heal.

Either way, this part of the journey will be behind us soon.  We’ve gotten the crib, the car seat will be purchased this weekend… We’re getting the house ready bit by bit… There’s a sense of urgency, relief, joy and fear, all packed into one.. Honestly it feels weird to be looking forward to this.  It’s kind of like law school (that’s a ridiculous analogy i know)… but it’s like you spend all this time studying and trying to understand all these cases.  you have exams along the way, but even after you “graduate” you still have this huge high stakes test waiting for you before you can really truly celebrate.  So while i’m anxious for the Dictator to “graduate” and come home, the big test is when we’re here with him 24 hours a day, figuring things out on our own… you know like “normal” parents.

I’m still working on how i will maintain my identity when it comes to life with the Dictator.  I’m searching high and low for a job that will allow me to truly be fulfilled on a professional level because that’s a huge deal for me.  I’m finally getting back to looking to the future.  After spending months just focusing on the day to day, it’s been nice to finally start to try to open myself back up.  In so many ways this part of our life is just beginning, but there is so much other stuff that I am ready to put behind me and be done with.