How Far We've Come
Hey! My name is Felisha Eng and I turned 32 years old this past Mother’s Day woot woot! I was born in Long Beach, CA, but by 3 months old I moved to live with my grandmother in Minnesota. I always say that I’m lucky to have spent the first 6+ years of my life there. A childhood in Minnesota means snowy winters and hot summers, all in one place. I actually ended up going back and forth several times before deciding to stay for good with my mom in Cali.
Growing up I had an adventurously complicated upbringing, and a strained relationship with my mom. My dad left us when I was 8 years old, and with abandonment comes a shit storm. You name it, it happened. I always felt so alone, especially being an only child. Well, I did have a Jerry Springer sibling from my dad, but that’s another story. Oh, and did I mention that I have another father figure that till this day I call dad? While Asian dad was gone to Neverland, Black dad was around – just not so prominent all the time. Anyhow, mom was either too busy with her career in fashion or too busy with her social life. It seemed as though there was time for only one or the other, & very little room left for me.
I always felt like an afterthought or neglected stepchild, except I was the only kid in the room. Mom isn’t your average Khmer Rouge refugee. She went to middle school, high school, and graduated with fashion design/merchandising degrees here in America – just to give some insight on who/how she is. No, she did not escape early & she did experience all the terrors of the war. What makes her different though is that she really applied herself as soon as she touched US soil. Not to say that other Khmer refugee parents did not, but I am saying that she chose a different American dream.
Our relationship wasn’t strained just because she didn’t have enough time for me, but because I felt like she decided to be unapologetically unavailable. I no longer resent her the way I used to, because I have come to realize that she is only human. Just like all of us, she has feelings, reservations, and desires. She’s worked so hard to give us a better life, and she’s had to do it all alone. That hardens a person, and sometimes requires one to prioritize feelings after tasks that need to get done. If you look at us now though, you’d think we’re the best of friends. She really is the homegirl now.
Mom had me when she was 24 years old, and I had my daughter Hermionie when I was 24 years old. All 3 of us are snakes by the Chinese zodiac, so it’s like a F5 tornado of personalities when we’re together! I was told by a monk that my extremely unexpected child would bring me tons of good luck. That’s exactly what I needed, after being sunken with her Puerto Rican dad for so many years. I say sunken because that’s the best way I can describe that time of my life. I had no business being engaged to that man for 6 years, but what resulted out of it is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I have had PCOS since I was 14, and had very irregular cycles. I’d go a couple years at a time without a cycle, so I would’ve never guessed that I was 24 weeks when I found out that I was pregnant. I was even told prior that I’d need IVF if I ever wanted to conceive. I had no plans of having a child with him at that time, but there I was 6 months pregnant as hell. And to add more drama juice to the scenario, I basically had a Pomeranian pregnancy.
My water broke at 34 weeks, I was induced a week later, and gave birth to my almost Christmas baby on December 23rd. So, to really paint the picture clearly, I was mentally pregnant for only two months before popping out a whole real-life human. It's madness, I know. I suppose having a normal pregnancy wouldn’t have been very Felisha-esque.
I was very excited to be a new mom, but had no clue what I was doing. Hermionie was tiny and restless, while I was exhausted and spread thin. I had the baby blues and felt overwhelmed with life. I felt bad that I didn’t only feel happiness with my baby, but I didn’t have much emotional support from her dad. We were never on good terms, so for us as a couple this was another hardship to deal with. Since Hermionie was born premature, we expected possibilities of the usual complications. When she was 2 months old, we heard a heart murmur which was totally common. The doctor said that small holes in the heart due to incomplete development, usually self-resolve by closing with time and growth.
The plan was to monitor it, and as time passed Hermionie’s condition worsened. She had severe difficulty breathing and couldn’t feed. By 6 months, she was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Defect & had Ventricular Septal Defect. VSD is a hole in the wall that separates the chambers of the heart. Her heart was recycling poorly-oxygenated blood through the hole, and she needed to undergo open-heart surgery to patch it closed. What was supposed to be a clear-cut surgery, revealed more than what was detected on all her EKGs. Once inside, her doctor discovered the hole to be massive and long, spanning from nearly the top to the tip of her heart. After several agonizing hours the hole was patched, but in the process her sinus node (the part of the heart that makes it beat) was unavoidably damaged. They attached an external pacemaker, and waited for 7 days in hopes that her heart would start beating again on its own.
Unfortunately, her heart beat never fully recovered and an internal pacemaker was implanted in her belly. Our life consisted of 5 different medications daily, and weekly visits with 4 different doctors. This wasn’t the end of it either. When Hermionie was 2, her pacemaker freak-accident malfunctioned and she had to have another heart surgery. And until technology progresses further, Hermionie is due for more pacemaker replacement surgeries. Despite every heavy thing she’s endured in her 7 years of life, my baby is still a happy little girl. She is extremely resilient & is far beyond her years. She’s made me tough, and she’s made me want better in life.
I’ve made it my paramount mission to provide in every way possible for Hermionie. I knew that I was blessed with an amazing child, who demanded an amazing life. I worked hard to excel in my fashion career of 12+ years, but in 2019 quit as I reached my seat as Director of Product Development and Production. I never thought my life would change so drastically in such a short amount of time, but my long-time friend/new bf helped me realize my potential. I used to live in such negative spaces, but after experiencing him, I’ve learned to see that life is truly boundless. He helped me become free of feeling stuck in any singular situation, and helped guide me to pursue my true passion in food.
I didn’t even know food was something I can do for a living – I just didn’t think it was feasible. I spent so much time in my usual career, that I thought it would’ve been my end game. But together, we spontaneously opened a pop-up food business called Aria Café, named after Hermionie’s middle name. Owning our own business has been nothing short of life changing. I have owned a garment manufacturing business before, but this new love project is something else for me. I see Aria Café as the start of not just a new chapter, but a brand-new book of life. I have felt more fulfillment and achievement in these past 2 years, than I have ever felt in my 32 years of life. My days are as flexible as I want them to be, and I’ve been able to spend more time with my daughter. Time is something we never get back, and it feels so good to be in control of it.
I often and openly talk about my life prior to now, as a way of reminding myself how far I’ve come. I feel extremely proud, and I count my blessings daily. I love sharing my story with folks because I hope that it can inspire them. I sometimes see my past position in someone’s current position, and I want for them to know that they can and will move forward from it. Moving from one stage in life to the next required me to live on a higher frequency of positivity, and it's something I upkeep.
A few things that help me are: surrounding myself with a small circle of only close friends/family, staying away from situations that are non-beneficial to myself/those around me, and being so busy that I just don’t have time for nonsense. I do have moments where I slip into negative thoughts, but then I’m always able to rise back up by reminding myself of my good purposes and intentions. I strongly believe in the law of attraction - that our wishes and desires can gravitate towards us, if we invite it in. I am a former fashion professional, new food-biz owner, gymnastics & ballet mom, and I body it.