Thursday, April 28, 2016

First letter to my daughter Aditi

My dear Aditi,

How are you, my little Kung Fu master? You have been in Mama's belly for more than 20 weeks now, we are half way there to meet you. Where should I start? I have so much to tell you.

After we got to know you were a girl, your Papa and Fua Lipi picked the name for you. We wanted a powerful goddess name, because we didn't want your name to be any less than Shiva, your brother's. Thus here it is, the female Hindu goddess Aditi. According to Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world, "Aditi is Mother of the Universe, the Primal Being. Aditi is all the Heaven, Aditi is the space, Aditi is Mother, Father and Children. Aditi is all the Gods and Goddesses, Aditi is the five bases of creation. Aditi is all that has been and all that will take birth."(Rig Veda 1.89.10) Aditi is the one who creates each every living in the planet. One uncle joked on your Papa "Shiva is on the job of destruction, Aditi on the job of creation, what a match of siblings, no wonder your work specialized on strategy!"

We didn't get to know your gender on the scheduled 20th week ultrasound, we were informed 10 days earlier, due to an advanced DNA test. The DNA test is called Cell-free fetal DNA test, it estimates the risk of about 6 genetic mutations, base on baby's DNA, which is circulating freely in mother's blood stream. Because it directly investigates the fetal DNA, test accuracy is as high as 99%. The reason we did this test was because my 2nd trimester California screening (a mother's blood test on 16th week) for Down Syndrome showed a risk not that high, but higher than my age group (1/470). The fetal DNA test is a follow up option and non-invasive, when our doctor suggested it, we immediately took it. Before the DNA test was first available in 2013, if California screening showed a Down Syndrome high risk, which is bigger than 1/250 for women under 35 years old, mothers were usually recommended to do an invasive diagnostic test, to find out for sure. During the invasive test, a needle would be inserted into mother's womb to fetch some amniotic fluid which contains fetal DNA. This kind of tests cause a risk of miscarriage on later pregnancy (1/100) due to infection.

With a risk like 1/470 (1 out of 470 mothers with the same blood condition) for having a Down Syndrome baby, we would definitely be hesitant to take an invasive test to find out more, because there is a chance for losing the baby later on. Could I possibly be the one in the pool of almost 500 mothers? You never know until the baby is born. That is some serious fear to carry through an already tough pregnancy. Now the new fetal DNA test is available, it only requires 2 tubes of blood from mother, sufficient fetal DNA could be separated for investigation, the test result tells as much as the invasive test could tell. In our case, your DNA shows low risk, less than 1/10,000 for all genetic mutations tested, thus we are freed from the worrying of Down Syndrome. Our DNA test was conducted by a company based in silicon valley, it is a start-up genetic testing company, the Cell-free fetal DNA test was first provided by this company from beginning of 2013. Because the lab is so close by to where we live, from blood draw to getting result, it only took less than 4 working days. How lucky we are today due to the advanced genetic technologies.

But my dear Aditi you have to remember, we live in the most privileged place, we are among the most privileged communities. Our fetal DNA test costed $7999 without insurance, Mama and Papa paid $66 out of own pocket. California is the state that most of such genetic testing companies reside, and up to 2015 there were only 4 companies up and competing. You know how much Mama wishes that within a short period of time, genetic technology will advance much more, more labs from the globe will join the competition. New methods coming up, raw costs going down, tests will be made available and affordable to most mothers and fathers in desperate need. 

The ironic fact is, when we are sitting here talking about advanced genetic technologies, to a vast amount of mothers in this world, basic prenatal care such as regular checkups, ultrasound and vitamins; basic clean delivery materials such as gloves, suction bulbs, clean scissors; basic hospital facilities such as professional medical staff, delivering tables, lights and electricity are not accessible. As a result, infant mortality as well as maternity death rate are extremely high, life and death is still a everyday struggle. While we, who are embraced by all kinds of high-end technologies, have never for a second worried about losing the baby or mother before, during or after birth. Mama wants you to always have this in mind, and start to volunteer from a very young age.

Around two years ago, when I was 12 week pregnant with your brother Shiva, we did a 1st trimester California screening ultrasound to estimate the risk of Down Syndrome. We had the result right after ultrasound, it was extremely low, 1/10,000. When Mama and Papa were leaving the institute with relief, two medical staff stopped us, asking if we could help them. We agreed and followed them into a room. They explained that their company was a genetic testing company, they were currently conducting a research on mother's blood, hopefully in the future with a small amount of mother's blood, they could separate baby's DNA and obtain information of baby's health. Which means mothers would never anymore need to go through invasive tests that could lead to miscarriage. Why did they need me was because I was assessed negative on Down Syndrome and with an extremely low risk, also I was on my 1st trimester, my blood was valuable for their research. However the donation would be made anonymous and we were not able to view any result. Without hesitation, I was glad to help. They began to draw my blood, one tube, two tubes, three tubes...without telling us in advance how much of my blood they needed, in total of seven tubes were drawn from my right arm. Luckily I didn't faint. Less than two days later, my arm started to show severe bruise, the whole right arm was covered in dark black and purple, it lasted for more than three weeks before the bruise finally disappeared. Nobody remembered this incident until recently. Who could have imagined after two years, what I exactly needed was the availability of this genetic test, and I became a beneficiary from a contributor. Help and contribute will bring back good to you, much more than that, it will make you happy and worthy. Mama wishes you a happy life by giving.

Although it was only a short period of time we were worried, for Mama it was a scary ride. "Down Syndrome" had suddenly became a horror word for me, every time I saw it, my heart stopped a little. After reading about it for half an hour, your Papa already calmed down: "Most of such tests show a false positive, 1/470 is a very low risk anyways." However Mama started to put herself through some emotional trauma: "What if I am carrying a Down Syndrome baby? Should I keep her anyways?" "It is already more than 17 weeks, I started to feel her strong kicks from as early as 16th week, how can I ever let my own child killed?" "But if I keep her, can all of us take this burden? Can Shiva take it? What is the best for him?" "What if I want to make the cruel decision? Most probably I will change my mind at the last minute lying on the operating table." "I think I will keep the baby no matter what. I will protect her from all the discriminations." I cried like I was already holding my Down Syndrome baby. You know I would trade everything I have for your health, I would suffer a great deal myself to exchange for your well-being. Money, fame and fortune, all of that is ultimately weightless and meaningless, as long as you are healthy and happy.   

"What will you do?" I asked your Papa. " You need to calm down. I don't want to discuss about it this early, it's like worrying a plane falling on our head. You need to have faith." He answered, "No matter what your decision is, I will support you with all my heart." "You need to have faith." Papa said. Your Papa always has strong faith, and it has helped us through a lot of ups and downs.

When I received the DNA test result by email, I called your Papa immediately, I was shouting on the phone, "She is fine! She is fine! And she is a girl!!!" Papa and I both cried, we were overjoyed by the news of your health, as well as your gender. Yes, you are a girl, a girl that your Papa always wanted. Not all girls in this world are wanted by their Papas, you are indeed born a lucky one. During our 20th week ultrasound, Mama was lying on the table watching you from the screen, you are such an active little girl, you were moving, flipping, stretching and kicking nonstop like a true Kung Fu master. For a moment there I couldn't stop myself thinking how lucky you are. "A boy or a girl?" To a surprisingly large amount of parents, that is the only thing they ever care about for pregnancy. Although the gender is fixed at the moment of conception, it takes 20 weeks for a fetus to fully form his/her sex organ. Which means even around 18th to 19th week, a boy or a girl's sex organ could look exactly the same in ultrasound image, same size same shape, some girls' even bigger than boys'. To tell for sure it's a boy or a girl, one has to wait for at least 20 weeks. 20 weeks of developing, it's a little human being already, all of her organs are in shape, some of them already functioning. After 4 more weeks she would survive outside mother's womb under medical help. She has been hearing her environment for a month now, she would suck her fingers for fun, swallow amniotic fluid for practice. Maybe she already knows how to smile when you talk to her through mother's tummy. But a lot of healthy girls wouldn't survive after coming this far, their Papas and Mamas decide to kill them, just because they are girls, not boys. Looking at how lively you are from the screen, Mama can't stop thinking about the girls that were killed and being killed, and Mama can't help crying.

Yes my little girl, you will surely find out one day, the world you are going to be born into, it's not a perfect place for girls. It is not now, it has never been, and we can only hope for a better future. Till very recently, the world's most famous scientists, explorers, historians, artists, musicians, philosophers, rulers and leaders are 99.99% men, the world was only run by men. Men are still ruling the world no doubt, but after years of years feminist movements, in some parts of the world, women started to participate in roles such as making the rules. However if you look at the population, majority women in the world still have nothing to do with making rules but only to obey. Most of the time women are kept doing what "they do best", giving birth and taking care of offsprings and whole family, and by the end of the day, this turns out to bring them less and less respect. Being a girl, there is much more danger awaits, sexual assault and harassment, gender inequality and discrimination. Even a woman grows up unharmed physically and mentally, most probably she will be put down many times by men's ego later on in her life. Meanwhile, majority of men still couldn't bear to hear the word "feminist", which just means a normal person who thinks women deserve a better environment and they deserve equality, and there is so much to do for them.   

Mama is not suggesting giving birth to your brother and you makes me sad. In fact it is the most beautiful thing ever happened to Mama, I am grateful for each every second I am able to spend with you. Giving birth and taking care of your brother gave me a feeling of being complete. Now you, my dear daughter, we are going to have so much adventure together. I believe by looking into your eyes, Mama is able to find out the little girl in myself, by watching you grow, Mama is going to reflect myself and find out answers about life. I have always been a pessimist when it comes to the selfish and greedy nature of humans. Until one day when I was with your brother that I realized, a mother can never be selfish towards her babies. Selfless love and sacrifice, Mama believes that is the key for human race to survive. Now you see, women is such a powerful gender, mothers and daughters, even the whole world is letting them down, they can still generate endless love, to cure the world.

My dear creator Aditi, Mama wishes you grow into a powerful woman, powerful in a way that you are full of self respect and confidence. So powerful that you might get hurt sometimes, but you can always choose to forgive and choose to love like you were never hurt. The world awaits you to bring changes, and my Aditi, you are the change and you will make it a better place for everyone.

Love 
Mama
  

5 comments:

  1. Exceptionally well written..I wish all the very best to you and your dear Aditi,may she holdyour dreams and shine in her glory.
    Myself..another Aditi😉

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  2. beautifully written 姐, i had tears in my eyes!

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  3. What a wonderful letter for your little angle Aditi. It is the true feeling for all the mom with their child.very heart touching message for her.

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  4. What a wonderful letter for your little angle Aditi. It is the true feeling for all the mom with their child.very heart touching message for her.

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  5. Ultimate letter for aditi. God bless u baby!

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