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She Exists

By Roya Chalaki

Honourable Mention

My daughter turned five this year on February 20th, 2021.

It was the first time among all her other birthdays that I had a strong desire to have another child. I did think about it a few months ago when my friend, who has a son a few months older than my daughter, told me that she was pregnant. That was a shock to me.

We had many similar experiences after immigrating to Canada from Iran at around the same time. We first bonded when I was pregnant. I met her at a New Year party in our building; she was holding her son. After that, we spent lots of time together watching our kids grow. But still, regardless of all those similarities, we were very different in how we experienced those years.

While I was pregnant, I grieved deeply my mom who passed away a few months before. I was in such a dark place that at times I was fearing maybe all these heavy emotions would affect my child both mentally and physically. Thankfully, she was born healthy with lots of black hair.

I had huge pain for several hours and pushed hard to bring her to life. During the first few hours when the doctor came to check and asked me if I wanted an epidural, I said, “No thank you!”, since I heard it might affect the kid and good moms don’t do that!

And then the pain hit so bad, I couldn’t breathe. When the nurses suggested using the laughing gas, I accepted but then I felt much worse. They took me to have a shower. I sobbed so hard through that pain. It was as though all the crying I should have done when my mom died was happening in that moment.

Later when the doctor came back, I begged her for an epidural! And anything after that went much smoother. After a horrific night, it was such a relief to see her born healthy and beautiful.

When my daughter was nine-month-old, I decided to go to work. We were new immigrants and even though I didn’t feel that much ready to go back to work, I couldn’t let this opportunity to work in my own profession pass. I knew it could take months to find a job in my field of studies. So, I had to go back to work.

I wasn’t ready but I was extremely hopeful for a good change. But, unlike my expectations for a good start in my career and new life, this job turned out to be a nightmare that was comparable to the traumas I had before. I was so ready for a nice, welcoming workplace, but it was a team of people trying so hard to prove each other wrong. The experience I had there was the worst I could ever imagine, and my shattered self became even more affected by this unpleasant environment. After a year and a half, I have lost my job, with some relief but also with the need to prove myself. I was struggling to recover and to feel useful and talented again.

I had to attend workshops to get ready for interviews, have more realistic expectations of the workplace and improve my own soft skills as well. Interview questions were hard to respond to as I didn’t feel good about myself anymore. I had to disguise my still boiling feelings about my previous job. It took me about a year to get another job, but I was better equipped then and my expectations. were more realistic

I started to feel empowered and more in control but then COVID-19 hit. That was another challenge. Working from home and trying to balance a demanding job and my daughter’s needs was very difficult. I felt broken again. It took me several months, a few anxiety attacks, and lots of talking with my coach before starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It was around that time that my friend mentioned her pregnancy. That is when I realized how much I was in a survival mode all those past years. I started to feel jealous and disappointed about what I had to go through all those years compared to my friend. She didn’t have to go to work; she was always by her child and her husband had the most flexible job and could help her out all those years.

But through COVID, I learned to respect my feelings, acknowledge them, and let them vanish by themselves. But this is easier said than done. I was persistent, educated myself, and learned to work with my emotions.

And one day, I had an aha moment, I saw the connection. I got such relief.

We were standing in our living room, getting prepared to leave the house and my daughter as always was busy, excited and not easily cooperating.

Then she called me as always: “Mommy!”. I turned to her and that was the moment I didn’t hear her, but I saw her standing there looking at me with her cute black eyes. Suddenly, I realized, “Oh my God! She Exists!”

Unexpectedly, that was such a huge relief. As if I never witnessed the true extent of her existence up to that moment. Her strong and powerful existence. Something that another child could not make it less or more significant. She was there with full force of life.

Later I started to find answers. I realized that it was as if I took a deep breath in when we put my mom in the grave back home that I held till I pushed my daughter out into life in the hospital. Then I took another deep breath in when I went to work, and I held it until that aha moment, until I realized the full force of existence and that was the answer to everything.

Now going on forty years old soon, I might decide to have another child or I might not, and both are OK.

I know I already gave birth to a beautiful existence, and nothing can make it less valuable.

I know even a single birth is an amazing experience that I can cherish, love and be endlessly happy with it.

About Roya

Roya Chalaki immigrated to Canada from Iran in 2015. Throughout her life, she has been an avid learner and a passionate reader. Roya is a mother and works as a software developer.

More moving birth stories

Meet all the winners of the Birth Story Writing Contest 2021 here and their stories. You can also read the 2020 and 2019 winning birth stories.

Did you miss the Birth Sharing Circle? Listen to some of the 2021 finalists telling or reading their own birth stories. Also, don't miss the introduction by Karen Lawford who talks about maternity care and Indigenous communities, and the musical performance by Kim June-Johnson. A truly beautiful and moving event.

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