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Holy Mother! I’M a Mother!: Reflections on Motherhood Part 1 (Mother’s Day Series)

Holy Mother! I’M a Mother!

Reflections of Motherhood Part 1

(Mother’s Day Series)

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

As a young girl, I was fiercely independent. Unlike my younger sister who secretly misinterpreted “apron strings” as “Siamese twins.” She was on my mother’s hip for a large part of her early years. Unlike me, who was content and unafraid to experience the world on my own. It’s not that I didn’t need my mother—I just didn’t need my mother.

Independent little me. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.

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Later, my ambition, which was sparked not only by my very first “academic award” found in my compassion to “share my crayons” with another child sitting at my table in Junior Kindergarten when I was awarded with The Apple of the Day Award from Miss Sherry, my beloved teacher—was further embedded by my parents’ generous praise of my work and my intelligence.

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I was four.

And every picture that I painted or drew was hung up on the walls of our townhome laundry room, which was on the second floor.

Pictures of a crude, shaky hand: the ever-recognizable yellow-circled sun with straight lines for its rays of light; green scribbles of grass, over-exaggerated stems of tulips of varying colours and sizes (since I had no idea how to draw any other kind of flower); blue clouds, tiny m’s for flying birds, an apple tree with far too many apples and obvious stems; a box house with an attempted roof; and anatomically bare stick people who were taller than my boxed house.

Yes, these were the products of great praise. And so, I kept on drawing. I kept on painting. I kept on reading. And I kept on writing—I kept on.

As I grew, I became a scholarly and serious student, often, if not always at the top of my class. I even graduated as Valedictorian, winning a Brampton Rotary Award of Excellence that drove me to believe I could someday conquer the world (okay, not the world, but maybe a good two or three countries).

Needless to say, my drive for success propelled me into an accepted solitude with a focus only on a strong career and vocation, extravagant travel plans, a nomadic lifestyle, a few adventurous lovers, dependable and like-minded friends, along with a house full of cats (I later found out that I’m anaphylactic to cats and put myself at risk of death in ever being near them!)

(c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

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Marriage or having children were not part of my long-term plans—or even part of a short-term one.

I had nothing against children. Or even men or marriage. I just had other plans. (And we all know how plans usually go…)

My husband and me on our wedding day. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

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I’m not complaining. Some of the best things in life derive from spontaneity and surprise. And poof! I met someone who didn’t make me forget my plans or myself, but helped me acutely remember.

Two years into our marriage, “we made plans” to try for a baby.

The actual stick that changed my life. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

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Unlike some women (and my previous academic success), my pregnancy and that surrounding childbearing was not in any way, “textbook.”

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I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix, a terribly insulting term, which alluded to the idea that my cervix was somehow wilful and unwilling to succeed in its primary function, which is to carry a child. And just as insulting to my very nature, which was not used to being called “incompetent” at anything I had set my mind to.

And so, I carried my child for as long as I could until my firstborn was born too early—the mere size of a pop can, born at six months gestation instead of the anticipated nine.

(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

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That’s how my personal experience of motherhood began. Not the wistful, flowing ebb of sentimentality usually associated with Hallmark cards, perfectly colour-coordinated baby showers, and gushes of congratulatory hugs, handshakes, and bravado cigars. No.

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I had panic and pain when I should have been ethereally glowing. I had Level- Three-priority hospital care with the subjugation of pity, awe, and scientific wonder and study. I had worry, anxiety, and fear—first of labouring, which I had never experienced before, and second, of the potential death of my unborn and then “born-too-early” child.

It was an intensive time of postpartum hormonal change with the heightened stress of death banging on my son’s isolette incubator door. He was 875 grams when he was born. He was fully intubated, depending on the life source of CPAP machines, strong antibiotics, a strict visitation code, a revolving shift of surrogate nurses, and the grace of God.

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I had missed my prenatal classes by two weeks! My son was born before I could attend my first session and so when the accompanying nurse told me to breathe, I didn’t know what the heck she was talking about, nor did I know what it was to enjoy a baby shower.

I had one—an impromptu gathering of my mother, a few of my aunts who had thrown a few gifts into some gift bags, and a buffet of food I didn’t feel like eating because all I could do was worry about whether or not my baby would live or die.

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Dramatic? Yes. True? Absolutely.

And rather than tell you in detail of the four years of frequent hospital visitations, medical appointments, tests, studies, and other forms of my son’s near-death experiences and medical scrutiny—I will say, that we had by no means, any plans to have another child due to the extensive care our son required and the fear of surrendering a second child to a similar fate.

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But, you know how plans go.

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And so, five years later, we put our faith into the possibility of having another baby…

Now, I have a seven-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter!

M & M, my two “kidsters!” (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

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What’s the moral of the story?

There isn’t one—but, it is my story. And that of my children. And in reflecting back, Mother’s Day isn’t a day to merely celebrate what it is to be a mother—but also to celebrate the children themselves who have made us so.

I know I will most likely be receiving a similar drawing to the one I drew as a child, on Sunday from my kids. The crude and shaky lines will most likely inscribe,

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mama! I love you!”

And yes, I will most likely post it our fridge door.

The yellow-circled sun will most likely be replaced with the steel mask of Iron Man and the straight lines will become its rays of light-beam weaponry. The green scribbles of grass will most likely be the bludgeoning green of Hulk, while the over-exaggerated stems of tulips will become the varying colours and sizes of enemy ships. The blue clouds will stand as Captain America’s shield and the tiny m’s of flying birds will most likely become boomerang discs.  The apple tree will stand firm as the tree from Black Panther’s forest. And the boxed house with an attempted roof will most likely become a testament to the Superhero Squad’s secret headquarters!

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And of course, the anatomically bare stick people—will now include two more!

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How do you celebrate your children as a mother?

If you’re not a mother, how do you celebrate the children who are in your life?

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Asian Heritage Month Blog Event: Mad for Manga!

Asian Heritage Month Blog Event:

Mad for Manga!

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

From time to time, I enter giveaway contests on other blogs. Wait, no. Strike that. In the past, I’ve been pretty obsessive when it comes to contests, but since I’ve become busier, my contest entries have slowed down to a moderate pace.

That said, I did receive a winning of a box full of books. And included inside was my very first owned form of manga, Dracula Everlasting.

And silly me, do you know what I thought? I looked at the cover and its binding on the right-hand side and said to myself,

“That’s why he didn’t want this…the publisher got the binding wrong!”

The anal-retentive control freak side of my personality clawed out and thought,

“How the heck am I supposed to showcase this on my bookshelf? It’s freakin’ backwards!”

Like I said, silly, silly, ignorant me.

Later did I realize that the book was not indeed backwards, but that my thinking was. It was manga! And my first experience with it.

The term manga is the Japanese word for “comics/cartoons” and used outside Japan to specifically refer to comics originally published in Japan that conform to a style that dates back to the late 19th century.

In Japan, people of all ages read manga! I can easily agree with this because at a recent visit to my local library, both my seven-year-old son and myself were excitedly perusing the manga section! But, because it was my son, I conceded and let him borrow titles that I had wanted for myself! These are the titles I picked up:

(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

Manga’s surprising range of genres include:

  • action-adventure
  • romance
  • sports
  • drama
  • comedy
  • sci-fi
  • fantasy
  • mystery
  • horror

Here are some of the titles from the library I’m now enjoying:

The Saiunkoku Series: Books 1-6

(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

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Manga is typically printed in black-and-white, although some full-colour manga exist. In Japan, manga is usually serialized in large manga magazines. If the series is successful, collected chapters may be republished in paperback books called tankōbon.

Traditionally, manga stories flow from top to bottom and from right to left. Some publishers of translated manga keep to this original format. Other publishers mirror the pages horizontally before printing the translation, changing the reading direction to a more “Western” left to right, so as not to confuse foreign readers. This practice is known as “flipping.” For the most part, criticism suggests that flipping goes against the original intentions of the creator.

Reading manga.

A manga artist is called a mangaka.

Click on the photo for more details on Hagio Moto, one of the pioneering mangakas.

Hagio Moto, one of the manga artists credited with pioneering the shoujo manga (girl’s manga), josei manga (manga for ladies) and shounen-ai (boy’s love, stories involving romantic relationships between males).

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Here’s a clip of Hagio Moto drawing a manga sketch at Fantagraphics booth, Comic-Con 2010:

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Other manga-influenced comics also exist in other parts of the world:

  • Taiwan  – manhua
  • South Korea – manhwa
  • Hong Kong, China – manhua
  • France – la nouvelle manga, bande dessinée (drawn strip)
  • United States – Amerimanga, world manga, or original English-language manga (OEL manga)

Here’s a video clip about a manga artist from China publishing his work in Japan:

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 Don’t you just love manga? I’m mad about it now! What manga titles or book series do you love to read and/or collect?

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