What We Are Born Into
I answered Heather Gallagher's question "What were you born into?" as part of a project promoting Doula Training International's Born Into This conference taking place in Austin, TX this July. Here is the story of what my parents and I were born into.
I am born into a first-generation, Vietnamese family. My parents chose to birth all five of us unmedicated, because they were worried that the meds would hurt their babies. I am born in to a generation building a life after the traumas of war and crossing a sea on the gamble that their lives could be better, away from Vietnam, in 1980. I am born to survivors of the Huế Massacre, and the death of a daughter at 7 months old. I am born in to a family divided by those who survived Vietnam, and those of us who never set foot on the Homeland.
My mom is one of the most resilient people I know. She was born a year before the rumblings of The War began, raised her oldest son alone because her husband was a soldier, and built a whole new life in a country she didn’t know, under circumstances she couldn’t own. She was a seamstress for several years before opening her first nail salon in the 90s. With 60-hour work-weeks, and only Sundays off, she cooked, cleaned, and exhausted herself for her kids. Today, she enjoys retirement as a burgeoning connoisseur of fine Korean soap operas. Go, Mom.
My dad enjoys making goofy faces at his grandkids while giving his kids noogies (it drives us all nuts). You couldn’t tell by his thick sense of humor but, he is a survivor of 3.5 years imprisonment in a concentration camp after fighting in The War for six years. The thing that stands out about my dad is, even after that trauma, he still believes in fighting for the rights of Vietnamese people as the president of a political party that calls out the human rights violations of Communist Vietnam. I believe I inherited my flip-your-bird-to-authority attitude from him.
It’s hard to be born in to this legacy and live your life wondering how you can live up to parents like these. I am, by far, their youngest and most sensitive child and that made growing up complicated in a family where your problems look so small compared to what your parents survived. Into adulthood, my parents, siblings, and I have grown together and it’s a beautiful thing. Witnessing my mom’s work ethic, grit, and creativity combined with my dad’s sense of humor, intellect, and activism inspire me. The way I’ve chosen to honor the best parts of them is through my work as a doula. It feels natural to me; gently and carefully supporting others during jarring transitions; drawing parallels between my parents’ journey and the growth of the families I serve.