Friday, December 29, 2006

The World in Ayaan Speak

Ayaan has been relatively slow to talk. I know other kids his age who are saying a lot more than he is. I worry about this on and off and then reassure myself with the following pieces of wisdom:

  1. As long as the kid is saying a few words and has other non-verbal ways of communicating with you, things are moving along in the right direction. Ayaan is a fairly expressive little person if you account for all the non-verbal communication, which includes:
    • Pointing at things that he wants
    • Responding to demands to fetch various items like his shoes, pram, books and potty
    • Waving goodbye and blowing kisses when anyone leaves
    • Slaps and bites to display anger and affection (not good but communication nonetheless)
  2. Many people have told me that kids usually pick between physical and social development to focus on in their early toddler years. So kids who walk and run earlier (Ayaan took his first steps in his eleventh month) tend to be slower off the block as far as talking is concerned and vice versa.
  3. Another piece of wisom from Ranjit: Boys tend to talk later than girls. I had heard that before but it slipped my mind when I writing this post.
  4. Something to Say adds that children in bi-lingual households tend to speak later. And our household is seriously multi-lingual - on an average day, Ayaan is spoken to in English, Hindi and Marathi


Anyway, to reassure myself, I decided to make a list of the words he does say and came up with a surprisingly long and comforting list. Here it is:

Favourite Word

'Nuh' (accompanied by violent head-shaking)


Basic Needs
When he’s hungry, he demands ‘Foodie' or sometimes just ‘Foo’
At night when he’s been changed and read to, he knows it’s time for ‘Nini’ (sleep)
When he hears the bucket filling up in the bathroom, he knows it is time for his ‘Ba’ (bath)
Any other demands are communicated through finger-pointing accompanied by ‘Di’ (‘De’ is Hindi for give)

The VIPs
Mama’: This is not only the term used to address me but also his most favourite and oft-repeated word, often to no end. Sometimes, he will sit in his car seat and say ‘Mama’ over and over again twenty times is a row while observing the traffic.
‘Dada’: This is the second most favourite word - said most often when Jai is travelling. I try to give him involved answers like “Dada is in Delhi. He will be back on Friday – that is the day after tomorrow” but after he has done this about twenty times, I regress to a simple “Dada is in office”. I know it is not the truth but it keeps me from wanting to pull my tongue out…
‘Didi’: This is how he addresses the young maid who stays with us.
‘Sheeya’: – We have two maids for Ayaan – Surekha (morning) and Shashikala (rest of the day). He refers to them both as Shiya
‘Aayee’/ ‘Yaya’ – I am not 100% sure yet but I think these are early attempts at pronouncing his name.

Mother Nature
All birds are referred to as ‘Kaw’
All big animals (horses, cows, buffalos) are referred to as ‘Moo’
All small animals (dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits) are referred to as ‘Wawa’ (Bow-wow)
All plants, trees and leaves are referred to as ‘Fouva’ (flower)

Modes of Transportation
All big vehicles (vans, buses, trucks) are called ‘Bois’ (bus)
All small vehicles (cars, jeeps, SUVs) are called ‘Kai’ (car)

Other words
‘Koi’/ ‘Koni’: This is a questioning word. For example, when he throws his ball and can’t see it, he will turn his palms upward in a questioning manner and say "Koni?"
‘Dis’: This is a recent addition. He points to things he does not know the name of and says "Dis" (this?) and then you have to tell him what it is.

How do your experiences with 19-month olds and their vocabulary compare?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Birth Story

Well, it’s not quite a tag but Mad Momma suggested I do a post on my c-section experience. So here I go…

It was all set up to be a normal birth. To start with, I had the necessary pelvic structure (I come from a long line of big-boned people) and had an easy, textbook pregnancy. I had gone for pre-natal classes and religiously done the exercises, which included the duck walk (which, for the uninitiated, is exactly what it sounds like and is supposed to help the baby descend into position). The baby also seemed to be doing his part and was not only facing in the right direction but the head too had got engaged, though not yet fully fixed.

17th May (the due date) arrived and there were still no signs of labour. My gynaecologist did a rather painful procedure called ‘stripping the membranes’ which she said would get the labour kick-started. I went home that day and witnessed some spotting but still no sign of labour. On 18th, I started to get some minor contractions (they were more like cramps actually) and I spoke to the doctor, who said that we should wait till they get stronger. But by the next day, they hadn’t really got much stronger so my doc insisted that I go and check myself into the hospital. When I reached the hospital, the resident on duty rightly commented that labour was at a very early stage and that I should go home and wait. He spoke to my gynaecologist on the phone and she suggested that he administer the pitocin drip and hurry things along. This made me pretty uncomfortable – for starters, the resident seemed to see merit in waiting and I also spoke to my mom-in-law (a practising ob-gyn in Bangalore) and she too didn’t see any reason to be in such a hurry.

So I called back my doctor and told her I wanted to wait. She sounded pretty pissed off and tried to convince to stay but finally agreed and asked me to come to her clinic in the evening. There she gave me a long talk about how she was the doctor and knew what was best and that waiting any longer than the next day was a risk that she was not willing to take and that I would have to check into the hospital the next day, no matter what the circumstances.

All the while, the contractions continued to be disappointingly mild though they did get closer together (moving from 30 minutes apart to 15 minutes apart). I had a horrible, restless night because of nerves as well as the contractions. The next day, without much progress being made, we had to finally give in to the expert advice of our doctor and get me admitted into the hospital. We had some wild thoughts about changing the doctor at the last minute but everyone advised against it since I had been seeing this doctor throughout my pregnancy.

So on 20th morning, we drove back to the hospital. Again, the resident and my mom-in-law (in touch via the phone) felt that we could still afford to wait but at that point, it didn’t make sense to fight my own doctor anymore especially since she kept saying that waiting longer would put the baby at risk. So they finally administered the pitocin drip and the pains did start to increase but 3-4 hours later, I was still dilated barely a finger and a half. Then they decided to do a heartbeat check on the baby and there were some irregularities. The explanation for this was that since the contractions had increased but the baby had not moved forward, the baby was getting the brunt of the contractions. So they decided to do a c-section and before I knew what was happening, I was in the OT.

The actual surgery was a pretty surreal experience. I really did have my heart set on a normal delivery and since all indications till then had suggested that it would be so, I hadn’t prepared myself for the c-section and was severely disappointed. And the experience of the last couple of days had made me feel like I had been pushed into something that could have been avoided. I think I even cried a little while they prepped me. I was awake throughout but only felt a pulling sensation on my abdomen. It was pretty weird as the other doctors in the room were pretty matter-of-fact about the whole thing and were even discussing the traffic they had to brave to get the hospital – most inappropriate I thought!

After that, I kind of lost track of time and I don’t really know how long the whole procedure took but I remember hearing the baby’s first cry, the doctor telling me that it was a boy and them showing him to me very briefly after they had wiped him off. Then I didn’t see him again till I was all stitched up and back in my room when they brought him all bundled up and ready for his first feed.

I’d like to be able to say that I took one look at him and it all didn’t matter any more. But I would be lying if I did. For starters, I wasn’t one of those instant bonding kind of mommies. The first few days for me were all about the physical aspects of having become a mother – dealing with the after-effects of surgery, painful breastfeeding sessions and loads of sleep deprivation. It was only a few weeks into the experience that I really started to feel the first pangs of maternal love. So this didn’t exactly distract me from my discomfort with the way the last couple of days had panned out. I felt then, and still feel today that things didn’t go as they ought to have. I have since then read up on some of this stuff and there are quite a few things that seem fishy:
  • There seems to have been an astronomical growth in the number of c-sections. I couldn’t find the data for India but it in the U.S., the percentage of c-section births has increased from 5% to 28% in the last 30 years! From a doctor’s point of view, c-sections are preferable. They are easier to schedule – active labour can come on at inconvenient times like 3.00 a.m. on a weekend. My c-section happened on a Friday, well in time for the doctor to get a few hours in at her clinic and be home in time for dinner… Also, c-sections are a more efficient use of their time – they earn more (almost double) for a lot less time.
  • I also sensed an impatience in her to get the thing over with. My delivery happened on Friday evening – maybe she had weekend plans that I was getting in the way of. I’m just saying…
  • Her biggest stated reason for hurrying things along was that it would be a risk to wait. Since then, I have come across many cases of women who went into labour more than a week after their due dates so I am not too sure what the risk was. After all, we did a foetal heart rate check on the 19th and it was perfectly fine. Also, she should have done an ultrasound to check if the amniotic fluid was drying up but when I suggested a last pre-delivery ultrasound, she said there was need for it. So in hindsight, I am a little unclear on what her risk perception was based on.
  • I also did some very basic research on the stripping procedure that the doctor had done. It is not as simple as she made it sound. It seems that it is effective only if the body is ready for labour and the cervix is adequately ripened and dilated. (I was not even 1 cm dilated when she did it). Moreover, it is not entirely risk-free and can result in infections both for the mother and the baby.
  • Lastly, after the surgery, she told me the reason why the head had not fixed fully was because it was de-flexed. I looked this up as well. The ideal position for labour is when the baby is head down, facing the mother’s back, with its chin tucked on its chest. When the chin is not tucked, the position is known as ‘deflexed head’. Nowhere did I find anything to suggest that this necessitates a caesarean (as a breech position does). It is only an indication of a possibly long, slow and difficult progression of labour. If this was indeed the case, I should have been the one to choose since it was not about risk levels. And we would have known that all that was holding things up was the deflexed head if she had only done an ultrasound before pressing the button…

I know all this sounds a bit like crying over spilt milk but I feel cheated out of a potential normal delivery. And it might happen the next time around too, since doctors are usually even more risk-averse when it comes to a vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC). It also doesn’t help that everyone involved, including family members, was very disappointed that I didn’t have a ‘normal’ birth. I know better now, but in the less rational postpartum days, I just felt like a big, fat failure.

On a final note, I have nothing against c-sections or people who have them. I just feel, and I am sure that most of you would agree, that if a natural birth is possible and there are no real risks involved, then doctors and mothers should be patient and let nature take it course.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

All about No

Any parenting book or website worth its salt will tell you that you should avoid saying the word ‘No’ to your toddler too often. And like a lot of optimistic advice that these books offer, it is virtually impossible to follow.

Will someone please tell me how I can keep the dreaded N-word off my lips for more than 10 minutes, when in every 10-minute slot of time Ayaan does atleast one of these very no-worthy things:
  • Slaps, bites or pinches me
  • Pulls my hair
  • Assaults some unsuspecting kid in the park
  • Tries to eat mud
  • Picks up handfuls of mud and throws them at me or other kids
  • Attempts to paint the wall with his food
  • Throws his food at me
  • Climbs up onto high surfaces and prepares to leap right off
  • Tries to climb onto the dining table (which by the way has a glass top and pretty flimsy wrought iron chairs)
  • Tries to throw something out of the window of our fourth floor apartment
  • Finds one of our mobile phones and tries to murder it
  • Tries to play with the electric switches (the sockets are blocked off but still!)

And that’s not quite the end of it – the list could go on for atleast another page. So I don’t know how I can be expected to go for more than 10 minutes without saying no.

What I count as being worthy of uttering the negative can essentially be categorised into 4 categories:

Dangerous

This includes things like launching himself off the 2-foot high sofa, playing with electric switches and trying to investigate the kitchen counter (which is often populated by sharp, glass and/ or hot objects. When it comes to this category, there is no doubt in my mind that there is no option but to let Ayaan know that I am vehemently against what he is doing and that he must stop it RIGHT NOW.

Destructive

These are actions that destroy items of value such chucking of things out of the window and the use of my mobile phone as a hammer. These items too I place outside the limits of letting Ayaan explore and discover. Let him do that with things that cost under Rs. 100 - destruction on a budget!

Rude

This category is about behaviour that is socially unacceptable. My expectations on this are pretty low. I have no problem with reserved behaviour where Ayaan refuses to interact with some over-enthusiastic baby-loving person we meet along the way – that is completely his prerogative. But I do object to violent behaviour towards me or other kids in the park – and this includes both actual violence (slap, pinch, bite, etc.) as well as snatching things that do not belong to him. I have to say that the snatching part is not such a problem and Ayaan will usually give back what he has snatched with good grace when asked to. But the violence… now that’s a whole other cup of tea. I actually have scratches on my face sometimes and the other day, he picked up a pebble and threw it at another kid, completely unprovoked. Again, very no-worthy behaviour.

Messy

This is the hardest one. It is very difficult to draw the boundaries between learning and discipline here. For example, when Ayaan attempts to paint the wall with his food, should I let him ‘express his creativity’? And when he wants to splash around in the filthy puddle in the park, do I let him enjoy this wonderful experience and forget about germs and the mess in the car from his dirty clothes and shoes? Here I usually decide based on the degree to which the mess is reversible. So food on the wall and mud stains on the car upholstery are clearly out but playing with dry mud, emptying the onion rack and pouring water on the floor is okay.

Anyway, that was my side of the story. But that’s not all. What does Ayaan have to say on this subject? When I say this word to him, his reaction is one of the following:

  • He actually listens and obeys – a rare but satisfying response. He does this for a few things like not entering the loo and not walking out of the park gate but mostly he doesn’t approve of the word.
  • He pretends that I never said it and continues with the offending task that he is being reprimanded for. This is what I call his denial mode. If I repeat the N-word often enough, it will result in one of the other reactions recounted below.
  • He looks at me, nods his head in disagreement and goes back to what he was doing. This is the toddler equivalent of showing me the finger.
  • He screws up his face and starts crying – this usually happens if he’s already pissed off in general or if I utter a particularly violent ‘No’.
  • If he has hit me and I say ‘No’, he will sometimes smile and press his face to mine in an imitation of a kiss in an effort to placate me. Basically, the rascal knows he did something wrong and he is admitting it and apologising in his own (very cute) way but do you think that stops him from doing it again just a little later? I would have to say no.

And of course, no discourse on the subject would be complete without an account of Ayaan’s love affair with the sentiment of refusal, especially when it originates with him. It’s like he’s suddenly woken up to the delightful (for him) fact that he has the fundamental right of choice and he can exercise it with a simple movement of his head. Sometimes he will say no just for the heck of it – because he can. Like when I know he is thirsty and offer him a drink of water, he will shake his violently as if I have suggested the most unthinkable thing ever and then just moments later, he will go up and pick up his sippy cup and drink as if it were going out of fashion…