I was one of those young people full of piss and vinegar, wanting to find my most authentic identity, make a name for myself, and change the world. And God knows I tried. I abandoned potential careers in scientific research or on Wall Street to travel the world, I settled into a beautiful militarily occupied land, and I wrote and reported what I saw and felt as honestly as I could. I moved to Washington, DC, to try to “change things from the inside,” which basically went nowhere, so instead decided to write a book. I moved to New York to find a publisher and spent years touring with the book all over the US and the world trying to reach people directly, to change a handful of hearts and minds at a time.

Meanwhile I met a wonderful man and got married. In my younger days I thought settling down as a wife and having kids sounded boring and banal, and anti-feminist cliche that didn’t change anything, just perpetuated a lame and unjust status quo. I knew I wanted kids but figured I’d find some jet set way to do it. (Not necessarily “jet set” as in wealthy, but as in dynamic and on the go.)

And yet when I met the man who felt like home to me — possibly the first time I ever truly felt at home — suddenly shooting myself across the world trying to meddle in every damn thing didn’t appeal as much. Instead I found myself ready to feel grounded and satisfied, cultivating my own pocket of the world where I could deepen into myself instead of endlessly broadening, and eventually — when I figure out where I want to stake out some ground and join a community — welcome travelers and visitors as I was welcomed so warmly all over the world.

If there’s one thing I learned on my world travels, it’s that it’s such a common human dream to just have a space to feel peaceful and satisfied, to feel at home and raise a family, to find and cultivate beauty and love and nourishment. So many people all over the world lack that luxury, which makes it all the more precious.

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I’m all for feminism when it means respecting and honoring us all equally, giving us equal opportunities and equal rights regardless of sex or gender. But there’s an ugly strain, built on a foundation of internalized misogyny (which I continue to struggle against), that can dishonor traditionally feminine roles and shame women for not behaving in “man-like” ways and chasing “man-like” pursuits. Men and women both have what are traditionally considered feminine and masculine traits, and until they are all honored, we’re still stuck in a deeply unbalanced world.

Truly, cooking, cleaning, gardening, sewing, decorating… These are not only essential to general well-being, they can also be art. They can be meditation. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found more and more joy in “the simple things,” and I find I can be just as happy in the moment cooking dinner as writing a novel or reading about developmental neuropsychology or learning about Hawking radiation, the mechanism by which black holes can theoretically disintegrate. (RIP, good sir.)

I have no doubt I can find tremendous joy and satisfaction in parenting, even as popular culture frames it as this miserable, harried, undignified Groundhog Day of attempting to wrangle half-wild, ungrateful brats (with an unconvincing grin and assurance that “It’s all worth it” thrown in there somewhere). And even as the “Mommy Wars” portray women as assembling into petty, mutually judgmental camps and insisting everyone else is doing it wrong. (I know these camps form around things like home birth, routine circumcision, breastfeeding, vaccinations, and so on. But I also know there are moms out there who really do support each other and recognize we’re mostly doing our best.)

I have my own opinions, but I try to do my best not to judge, and it’ll be fascinating to see which opinions hold up in the face of the actual reality of parenting an actual child (or two). It truly seems to me like a grand and incredibly consequential adventure. A chance to work hard at work worth doing. A family to love and support and watch as we all grow together.

Yes, world travel was mind- and heart-expanding, writing and publishing a book was a thrill, and learning about the cosmos, exercising the capacities of my left brain, is satisfying and empowering. Educating the public on important issues (or just raising money for a family who needs it) makes me feel like I’m not just a taker of all this bounty, I’m also giving back in some small ways. I don’t think I’ll ever stop traveling, writing, learning, or attempting to contribute.

But contributing to the upbringing of a precious child, nourishing the bodies of your family, making the space we all live in beautiful — these are not small things. They keep the world turning, and they should be honored and dignified as much as any other work and art on the planet. Whether done by a man or a woman.

I think of how Buddhist monasteries treat the work of cooking, tending gardens, sweeping, and cultivating internal space. They treat all of them as pieces of the nirvana of existence, opportunities to open at any moment to the divine unity of reality, our interdependence and interexistence. Nothing is disregarded, nothing is denigrated. The Buddha is at the bottom of the hedgerow.

Why shouldn’t the Buddha be at the kitchen sink, too?

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All of this would have sounded like utter nonsense to my younger self, and perhaps that is as it should be. I will never fault kids for being passionate or even for looking down on me and what may look to some like my relative complacency. I will not call them naive or discourage them from pursuing the path that feels most authentic to them at a given time. I believe they truly can help change the world, that their pushing of boundaries gives us all space to change and grow. I love young people for their passion, just as I wouldn’t change a thing about my younth once I wrested (a healthy amount of) control from parents, professors, and expectations.

I will also not fault people for settling down and having families if that is what their heart desires. There is a season for everything. I’ve always tried to follow what makes my heart feel most peaceful, and though there was some mental resistance to settling down with a good man and “popping out babies” (leaving aside, for the moment, the fact that “popping out babies” turned out to be anything but easy for us), I feel more peace now than I have ever felt in my life.

A part of me still wonders if this is complacency. What about all the injustice? What about the people voting like idiots, what about the environment, what about American (corporate- and lobby-sponsored) foreign and domestic policy stomping all over the world?

Well, what about them? They are happening. They are causing untold unnecessary suffering. I tried my best to inject myself into a particular injustice, spent years exhausting myself trying to exert some influence over it, and finally got an inkling of how truly rare it is for one person to change the world. Even when it does seem like one person is making a huge difference, she or he is always standing upon the backs of millions working humbly, locally, in a thousand invisible ways. My ego no longer has any particular desire to be (or appear to be) a hinge upon which the world turns. I’m content to make a difference in unsung, unglamorous ways.

Including (among other things) cooking, cleaning, and raising a child (or two) with a wonderful man by my side. For as long as this bountiful season shall last.

P.S. Heh, March must be mellowing season for me. This just popped up on my Facebook feed from March 17, 2016:

“There’s this notion that growing older means growing dull and complacent. That ceasing the endless aimless searching and striving and dreams of youth means ceasing to be adventurous. That choosing something that fits you and putting your whole self into it—whether it’s a job or a community or art or raising children and helping create a wonderful home—means you’ve given up on miracles, given in and become ordinary.

What I’m learning in my middle age is that it’s not a clean binary like that. You can be a dull and plodding world traveler or a fabulous homemaker whose walks in the evening contain more miracles than the Taj Mahal.”

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Running to Stand Still

One of my mantras of this pregnancy has been “Not complaining, just remarking.” Complaining, I think, implies you wish things were other than they are, and I do not wish that at all! I’m nothing but grateful for how things are going.

Still, I think it’s worth remarking on some realities of pregnancy, just to pass on the info to others about how things may go (though every pregnancy definitely seems unique) and to feel a little solidarity when things aren’t “all sunshine and rainbows, all the time.”

I’ve been extremely lucky, though, in that this pregnancy has been quite easy on the whole. I haven’t even minded it until very recently — until I hit the end of week 38. Suddenly I feel this nervous energy (more physiological than psychological) that I’m just ready. Let’s do this! I’m ready to meet the babe and I’m ready to be done being pregnant. It makes it easy for me to feel irritable if I’m not careful. I don’t know if anything is actually moving or changing or not and I feel a lack of control and a lack of information. Which is fine. I’m not super bothered by it. Just remarking on the feeling.

I’ve also begun to feel mild nausea every now and then. Feels a bit first-trimestery. My lower back has started aching. I’m starting to feel more jabs/pokes to my cervix that feel like little electrical shocks. It’s getting a little harder to breathe, and I’m winded more easily. I took two yoga classes this weekend, which may have been overdoing it, but I’m done with yoga classes for the foreseeable future other than my fave on Youtube.

I’m definitely nesting up a storm, cleaning out drawers and cabinets, stocking up on essential non-perishables like tea and toilet paper, and I’ll get a haircut today because I have no idea when I’ll have the time/motivation again.

Every day I’m like, Should we vacuum again, since we don’t want to scare the baby once he’s here? Or wait a few days? Clean the bathroom now, while it’s easy? The kitchen floor again? Or just let it go until normal floor-cleaning time and figure we can manage it even when there’s a baby? Should I stock up on perishable stuff I’d like to have in labor (like creamy vegan coffee drinks in bottles and homemade Labor-ade*) or wait until labor actually starts and hope I have the motivation to make the Labor-ade and that Whole Foods will be open? (Is caffeine even a good thing in labor? I’ll have to Google that…)

[ETA: My midwife says caffeine is not good in labor because it can speed up the baby’s heart rate and either cause us to dismiss potential genuine problems or — more likely — send us to the hospital unnecessarily. So, no coffee drinks or even tea other than herbal.]

(*My Labor-ade recipe: Some combination of Concentrace (liquid minerals), Calm (powdered magnesium), coconut water, sea salt, lemon juice, lime juice, ginger, honey, and a drop of iodine supplement.)

Or should I forget about both and just call it good enough that I have cartons of bone broth to drink as well as Honest Tea, Starbursts (which I’ve found are excellent distractions from intense sensations), random organic lollypops (also with nice, intense flavors), Dole fruit cups, peanut protein bars, and coconut yogurt?

My hospital bag is packed, with a list of a few everyday things to grab on the way out. The junk drawer is clean, the tea cabinet is organized, the Pack n Play is set up, we’ve got plenty of mostly second hand newborn clothes sorted and stored, the bookshelf is stripped of non-essential books to make room for 20 or so parenting books (I’m phasing out the pregnancy books), and a package of 8 cloth diaper shells for about $3 each just came in from China to nearly double my stash. I’ve got about 24 unbleached cotton prefolds to go against his skin, though I think we’ll just keep him in disposable diapers until I get out of disposable underwear! I have a decent stash of baby shower disposable diapers to use up anyway.

I have a whole stack of literature I’ve picked up along the way (booklets, pamphlets, etc. on things like labor, breastfeeding, newborn care, and CPR) to re-read when I have a minute, though I’m already occupied with re-reading Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth (one of the first books I read on the subject, months ago, which was so helpful in setting me on a path to trusting my body enough to attempt low-intervention childbirth), and after that I’d like to read The Whole Brain Child, which explores the fascinating subject of developmental neuropsychology. But it’s built on a broader neurological foundation, so part of me wants to read Mindsight again first. And then keep going down the stack.

Meanwhile my novel is still not finished — two and a half more chapters to hone and I’ll have a full decent, readable draft, and part of me wants to get that done before things get crazy around here. But another part is just so ready to get this show on the road and for this being in my belly to be a human we’re getting to know, not just a kicking, rolling idea that we’re anticipating.

So on the one hand I feel like I’m in this never-ending flurry of activity trying to get ready, and on the other hand I feel like the Maytag repair man just waiting around. It’s an interesting space to be in, and it is destined not to last all that long, though whether it’s another hour or another month is anyone’s guess!

Meanwhile it’s the most wonderful time of the year, springing forward into blooming trees, long warm evenings, a green world, and several of my nephews’ birthdays (and a couple of honorary nieces’). Sometimes I feel so happy and expectant yet also wading so blindly into the unknown at some unknown time, the nervous energy gets intense. Nothing to do but ride the waves and be grateful for it all.

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P.S. My doula dropped out recently (nothing to be done, life happens), but she set me up with a lovely woman who is also a great fit, and we’ve enjoyed getting to know her. She’s the one who gave me the hint about using Starbursts to distract from intense sensations. (She had me simulate contractions by putting baggies of ice under my armpits. Chewing on Starbursts — left over from the kiddie grab bags at my baby shower — definitely distracted from it!) Still feeling like I’ll have a great team around me for this. And still excited for labor and childbirth, such an intense and grounding experience. Just hoping all goes reasonably to plan, though if not, the vast majority of contingencies are accounted for and can be dealt with in a safe and timely (though possibly expensive) manner.

See ya soon, buddy!


Ahmed and I both grew up feeling valued primarily for our academic achievement, so you might think we’d be upset not to be able to use our own genetics to create some super smart kid.

There are a couple of reasons we are not. For one thing, intelligence tends to revert to the mean in the next generation. Two “smart” people (here I use this as in “book smart,” or “able to do well on standardized tests,” which is a very limited measure of intelligence anyway) probably have a better shot at a “smart” kid, but certainly no guarantee (and you probably don’t want to put that kind of pressure on a fetus anyway). If you look at the various geniuses throughout history, you’ve rarely heard anything about their kids. (Not that we’re any kind of geniuses, but just as a “for example.”)

More important than that, though, being valued for such a limited measure of even intelligence, much less overall worth, was damaging to us in some ways. For me it led to a sometimes crippling fear of failure as well as a disdain for hard work, since certain things came pretty easy for me, and “things coming easy for me” seemed to be a more important metric than “things I had to work hard for.” Working hard was almost synonymous in my mind with not having much talent. At Stanford, everyone tried to pretend like they didn’t work hard. It was a whole culture of people valued primarily for “achievement” and “natural talent,” and I could see some of my own issues writ large there.

I’ve been able to work around these issues in various ways. I have most certainly worked hard at times in my life, and I’ve gone for lots of things that I knew would make me happier, or would be more enlightening, even if there was a greater chance of “failure” — things that weren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse of “natural talent” or were not in line with what society seems to value. But other times I’ve dragged my feet or shied away from hard work with no guarantees, and that’s not a good recipe for life.

Now I have a better understanding that work (which we can take credit for) is a much better metric than talent (which we can take no credit for), and valuing kids for talent as opposed to good faith effort can be a recipe for dysfunction, as well as just being contrary to common sense. After all, natural talent shouldn’t be praised any more than eye color or skin color. It’s just what you’re born with. It’s what you do with what you’re born with that really matters.

It should go without saying, but you don’t need to be good at standardized tests to be a tremendous asset to the human race. We all have gifts, we all have drives and abilities, and we should value what makes our kids satisfied and happy, what helps them contribute to the world in their own special way, more than what looks good on a college application.

My sister has taught at private schools in the Bay Area, and she has seen the incredible dysfunction that can result from parents pressuring their kids to out-achieve their peers in the interest of obtaining admission to prestigious universities. I’m so glad that kind of pressure was never a part of my life (my wish to go halfway across the country for college was my own, and my mom actually opposed it!) and will not be a part of the lives of my children. If being a barista makes them happy, if they want to be rangers at national parks, whatever — I’m all for it, as long as it comes from deep inside.

I can’t wait to see what this little guy will bring to the world. It’s such a humbling honor to think of being a steward to a human life. I hope so much that I can do well by him. I’ll work hard at it, that’s for sure.

Full Term!

37 weeks. We made it. From here on out, it’s gravy. He can come whenever he likes. I can (mostly) relax. Aaaaaahhhh…..

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Pic is from 30 weeks, but it’s what I have on hand. I’m way too lazy to attempt a selfie right now, after shattering a full bottle of juice on the kitchen floor this morning and then going on a multi-hour house cleaning tear, including under the fridge — all with help from Ahmed, who’s the best.

And now it’s like… OK, buddy. You’ve had your fun in the tum. Now let’s get cracking! I want to see your little face! And also see my toes again…

Of course, when I was born, I was three weeks late, so revenge may be upon me… I may have another six weeks to go…

Honestly, for real, he can take all the time he needs. We are just so anxious to meet him. Everything is ready for the star of the show, and five years is a long time to wait for a boy’s debut…

Oh wait, where’s my head? Ahmed took some pics of me this morning to celebrate. He said I couldn’t share it on Facebook, but this isn’t Facebook, so… Here ya go 😉

Icing on the Cake… actually Frosting…

My gift to Ahmed — from scratch with no mixer. (I made the frosting, too.) Used half peanut butter, half raspberry jam to bind the two layers. A chocolate cake is my gift to him every year (his gift to me is taking me out to dinner at the restaurant of my choice), but this is the first time I tried to make one without a pre-made mix or store-bought frosting. Turned out pretty good 🙂

Happy Birthday to the one I love!



Ahmed didn’t even bother to slice it, just went at it with a fork. So I did the same. Here’s hoping all the butter in the buttercream frosting helps ease it through my poor overstretched digestive system…

P.S. Saw midwife again on Feb 28 (Ahmed’s birthday) and things are still on track. I’m up around 152 or 153 pounds, still kind of on a plateau. Just eating healthy and assuming it’s good enough!

36 weeks

36 weeks today. Used to be considered full-term, but they’ve changed it to 37 weeks. Still. Pretty thrilled to hit this milestone. Never knew if I’d see the day.

Barring complications, I now have a green light to give birth in a birth center instead of a hospital. Can’t wait to meet our little kicking chunk…

From now on, I’m up to weekly visits with the midwife, and on Friday I had lost two pounds from two weeks earlier. I’m currently at 151.6, a net gain of 26.6. The midwife didn’t seem concerned. Apparently plateauing in the third trimester is pretty common. Maybe the baby’s fat is starting to displace amniotic fluid. And while I’m eating plenty, I can’t eat as much at a sitting as I used to, and maybe snacks aren’t quite making up the difference. (Or I might have just been dehydrated on Friday — I tend to run a million errands on days when I have the car and don’t take care of myself as well as usual.)

Ah, well. As long as he seems healthy!

But it’s so weird that he’s still so theoretical. I feel him kick and stuff, but for all I know it’s a raccoon in there. It’ll be so surreal to see him as a full-fledged brand new human being… Our sweet son, whom we’ll really start getting to know soon, finally.

Life feels so bright, honestly, it makes this cynical American almost afraid, because times this good never last forever, and you never know when they will end or how.

But as Khalil Gibran said, “Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?”

So I’m bucking the American trend and allowing myself to feel sated and happy for as long as these sweet salad days last.

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The Promised Land

I probably shouldn’t speak too soon, but even now, at 35 and a half weeks, I feel like I’m in some magical fairy land I never knew if I’d reach. A semi-mythical place that only the steadfast and the very lucky may enter. It still feels surreal — and sometimes fragile, like it could still evaporate at any moment — that my belly is big and there’s a strong, stretching, kicking baby in it. It’s not science fiction after all.

Finally, finally, life feels light and fresh and like it should be. It was horrible for so many years feeling like the most important person in our life was missing, all the time. We knew we’d never give up, we just weren’t sure how or when we’d get here. So glad we went ahead with a donor embryo instead of continuing to beat our heads against IVF (which works beautifully for some people, but not for us at all).

A part of me is sad I could never fully be happy in the moment as long as we were struggling. I had good moments, but I was not Zen about it as much as I would have liked. I was struggling to get out from under dark clouds all the time. But now it’s effortless sun. There’s a big part of me that believes we should be able to find happiness at all times. It shouldn’t be so circumstantial. The universe is majestic at all times, and we are a worthy part of it at all times.

But my need to be a mother was absolutely overwhelming. I’ve never experienced anything like it. And I’m so glad that day seems to be coming so soon now.

Worth it? So much more than worth it. Not even close.

Baby boy gave me a minor scare on Monday, though, when I woke up to feel his little head pushing up toward my left ribs. He had flipped breech! I could almost feel our best-laid birth plans going up in smoke and dreaded even more money draining out of our slowly-rebuilding reserves if we were forced to go the hospital route.

But I went about my day and did a couple of forward-leaning inversions, and by afternoon he was butts-up again. I guess he still has a bit of room to explore and wanted to go on a little excursion. (He also gets hiccups pretty often, which is a surprisingly strong sensation.)

We might still end up in the hospital for a variety of reasons, and that will be fine, but it seems like it’ll be a nicer in a place that’s so much more intimate, and I’m so much more free (and that we’ve already figured out how to pay for).

I did recently use to find a coupon that saved me $17 on my three-month levothyroxine prescription. I probably never would have heard of this “Fairy God Website” if not for California Conceptions (it saved me hundred and hundreds of dollars on FET meds), so hey, small victories!

Meanwhile I’ve been so in love with food I have to stop myself from (a) eating and eating until I’m completely miserable and (b) annoying Facebook with my excitement about whatever meal I’m eating. Ahmed made moussaka yesterday, enough for three days, and it’s heaven to even think about.

Turkey sandwiches with BBQ chips, omelettes, burritos, potatoes, coconut yogurt with fruit and granola, cream of wheat with peanut butter, bananas, blueberries, chocolate chips, cinnamon, and pumpkin seeds… and Girl Scout Cookies every now and then… Food is so freaking amazing! Yet I only have so much room in my squished digestive tract, and if I overdo it, it is truly grim. *wistful sigh* But with a good breakfast, lunch, early dinner, and 10pm snack, I make it through the day somehow 😉

We also bought a shelf (only $40, though we bought 6 bins for $10 each since Ahmed didn’t like the cluttered look) to organize our mountain of baby stuff. It holds cloth and disposable diapers, cloth and disposable wipes, burp cloths, blankets, bedding, books, bibs, baby carriers, changing pads and liners, diaper bags, hats, socks, swaddle blankets, and some toys and accessories with room to spare. Booyah.


The only things left to organize are clothes (we have two huge bins full of mostly used and a few new items in various sizes), feeding supplies (which should be minimal if all goes well), and bathroom/medical supplies (which will live in the bathroom and medicine cabinet). We plan on getting some over-the-door organizers for the things we’ll access on an hourly basis, and I have a small set of drawers I can empty out into a box if needed. Nice to see how well things can come together and not feel too crowded even in a small space.

We’ve also been gifted a gently used crib by my aunt and uncle, which we’ll have delivered as soon as baby boy outgrows his bassinet. There are a dozen or so things left on my registry that I want to get (mostly small things), and I can nab them with a couple extra days of freelance editing.

Baby-proofing will be its own adventure, but we have several months to go before he’s mobile, so that’s one thing I’m letting slide for now.

I’m sure all this stuff is only fascinating to mothers-to-be, but I’m having way too much fun with it. Just can’t wait ’til the star of the show is here ❤