Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Wee Girlie

One of the most precious gifts I have ever received was the lovely kantha that Sue made for Tarana from one of her saris and with her own two hands. She posted on it and I am stealing her post and putting it up here as well. (The picture doesn't do it justice as there is some ultra cute embroidery in running stitch - stars and stuff). Over to Sue:

Ro sent me post this pic of my little doula baby, Tarana. Her older brother Ayaan has kindly arranged the toys around her and T herself is looking awesomely cuddly but this photograph is extra special to me because the red kantha she's lying upon was stitched by me this summer.

It was made out of an old saree of mine, a much-worn favourite given to me by Mejopishi one Pujo when she decided I was old enough to get sarees for the festival. I didn't like to cut it up but for my doula baby only the best would do, na?

I sat up hurriedly stitching it at nights after Rahul went to bed, trying to finish it before I met Ro in Madras in July. I thought it looked too plain even when I did give it to her so I brought it back to Cal and did a little more embroidery on it and then had to scramble trying to post it to Bombay when Ro had an early Caesarean.

I know it's not right to bind so much to material things but I look at that bright patch of red and I think of Ro telling us girls that she was pregnant. I think of her wondering what kind of an older brother Ayaan would make. I think of when I first started reading Ro's blog (I was expecting a Fidgety Fudge) and I used to pay great attention to whatever Ayaan did. I think of how much Ro wanted a little girl this time and how hard she and I tried to pretend we'd be just as happy with a little boy too. And I look at Girlie and you know, life seems so right.

Thanks Sue. This post felt like a hug. Sending one special baby hug your way from your little doula baby :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dethroned

When I was still pregnant with Tarana, I was desperately hoping that it would be a girl and yet accepting that a boy was just as likely, I came up with a list of reasons to convince myself that a boy would actually be better. It went something like this:

  1. Ayaan wanted a baby brother. And given that their age difference of four and a half years would already be on the higher side, the two siblings being from the same gender would work better to ensure a close bond between them.
  2. I was probably better equipped to deal with boys. After all, I am a stern, disciplinarian kind of mom. Who knows if I could muster up the broader emotional range to parent a daughter.
  3. Two boys would mean that my crown of the queen bee of the household would remain uncontested.

It is still way too early to comment on the first two. While Ayaan clearly adores his baby sister and has so far not even mentioned his previous preference for a male sibling, we will have to wait and watch to see how the sibling relationship develops and sustains as the years go by. As to the question of whether I will be able to be a good mother to Tarana, I’ll be lucky if I could answer that question many decades later on my deathbed, if at all because questions about how good a parent you are/ were can be tricky, can’t they?

The third one however can be answered right away. Not only is Jai showing signs of being wrapped around Tarana's little finger as she grows (he refers to her as his princess, need I say more...), the undeniable fact that my throne has already been whisked away is evident from the following conversation:

Picture this. The baby has just woken up and is stretching and opening her eyes. Ayaan and I are leaning over her cot and talking to her. It goes something like this:

Mama: Hi Sweetie Pie
Ayaan (perfectly mimicking Mama’s tone): Hi Sweetie Pie
Mama: Hi Girlie Whirlie
Ayaan: Hi Girlie Whirlie
Mama: Hi Baby Doll
Ayaan: Hi Baby Doll
Mama: Hi Little Pet
Ayaan: Hi Little Pet
Mama: Hi Princess
Ayaan (without missing a beat): Hi Queen

!!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Month and a Day of Tarana

Wow! I can’t believe I am already the mother of a one-month old and a month-old mother-of-two. You would think that the substantially reduced sleep would make time go slower, what with there being more awake hours in the day. But on the contrary, time seems to have whizzed by faster than usual...

Overall, things have been going well. To start with, Tarana did have her days and nights mixed up somewhat and she would sleep a LOT during the day and be bright and playful at 4 a.m. in the morning. But I have seen that settle down in the last couple of days. Her stretches of night sleep have been increasing from the initial pattern of waking every one and a half hours for a feed. It was as if she knew she turned a month old yesterday because last night, she actually slept a 4-hour stretch. I am going to wait and see if she repeats it over the next couple of days before declaring it a pattern…

Ayaan has been absolutely brilliant about the new baby. He clearly adores her and his first question when he gets home from school or waks up from his nap is ‘Where is the baby?’ Whenever she is awake, his aim is to get the baby to look at him and then squeal ‘Look Mama, she is looking at me!’ and to this end, he is quite happy to sit next to her and wave rattles in her face.

He has been quite accommodating with the amount of time he needs from me too. Other than a few sacred activities, he has been quite okay with doing stuff with Jai and/ or my mom – the non-negotiables being his morning milk, an hour of computer games when he gets back from school, the weekend cartoons and the bedtime story. Even for these, he is okay if I need to feed Tarana in parallel. I have to say that he has totally exceeded my expectations of him as a big brother so far and I am terribly proud of him…

His excitement at celebrating her first-month birthday yesterday had to be seen to be believed. He showed a great deal of initiative planning it out. He insisted his Dadda take him to a bakery where he picked out a cake for Girlie. Then he nagged us all endlessly till we got the cake and candles together. He took the responsibility of blowing out the candles on her behalf very seriously and blew out the candles three times before the camera was ready. He then proceeded to cut the cake with his very own orange knife and served us all miniscule portions of the same. It was all very cute. Here's a picture of him all set to celebrate :)

So far the challenge of balancing two kids hasn’t really hit me since my mom is in town and she helps out with one kid while I am busy with the other. Once she leaves, my sister-in-law is going to be in town for 10-12 days. Then we have about two weeks on our own before we go off travelling for the Christmas break – first to my in-laws place in Bangalore, then to my mum’s place in Jaipur. So it’s only when I get back in early January and get down to it will I truly be able to judge how well I can hope with handling the two of them…

There's so much more I wanted to say but I don't have the time or energy - I think it's time I went to bed. Also, I don't remember much of what I planned to say in this post. Blame it on the sleep deprivation...

I leave you with a picture that Ayaan took of Tarana seen from his perspective :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Big Brother is Born

So Ayaan came back with my mom last Sunday night. I had hoped not to be feeding the baby when he arrived but such plans are made to be overturned. I heard the doorbell ring and then an excited, high-pitched screech saying ‘Where’s the baby???!!!!’ Then he came running into my bedroom and bounced on to the bed to get a good look at his baby sister. For some time, he bounced around the room noticing all the new things – the box with all the diapering supplies, the night lamp, the baby cot, the tube of Lansinoh, the big bottle of sanitiser on my bedside table… with questions pouring out nineteen to a dozen. Then he slowed down and came back for another peek at the baby, patted her arm and gave her a gentle kiss... And that was the first meeting...

Since then he has been more or less adorable around the baby. He keeps instructing me and my mom to be gentle with the baby when we are doing what he perceives as dangerous things such as putting nappy pins. He is full of curiosity about what the baby is doing, why she is doing it and when she will do this, that and the other. The big obsession is with when we can give the baby chocolate :)

He has taken personal responsibility for supervising his Patti while she gives the baby her daily massage and bath. He makes Patti read his bath book to him and the baby and then later insists on being allowed to brush and comb the baby’s hair.

Doesn’t he look gigantic next to her? His hands are almost as big as her whole head. Friends had warned me about this, but nothing prepares you for how huge your first-born seems compared to the new baby. Even when I am doing something trivial like washing his hands, I am shocked by how large they are! It's hard to believe that he was her size just four and a half years ago...

He doesn’t think much of the name we have chosen for the baby and has christened the baby ‘Girlie’. If he catches us calling her Tarana, he makes it a point to correct us and once even sternly explained that the baby cannot have more than one name.

Another sweet thing is the obvious pride and desire to show off the baby. Visitors to the house are immediately directed to the room where the baby is and asked to 'come and see our baby'. He has also been pestering me to invite some of his friends over so that he can show them his baby sister.

But if you look below the surface, there are early signs of things to come. To start with, he has been putting his stamp on everything that belongs to the baby. My mom got some rattles for her and he has appropriated them (along with some of his old baby toys that I had dug out) and dispenses them for the baby to play with as he sees fit. The smarty-pants noticed the age label on the packaging of one of her toys (it said 6M+), so guess who gets to play with that toy till then. He makes a point of taking her massage mat and spreading it on the floor for his own personal use now and then. Some of the results of this possessiveness have not been pretty. Like the other day, he sneaked off with my tube of Lansinoh and liberally applied the majority of its contents on his Doodle Pro, whilst also managing to smear his bed sheets, pillow and pyjamas.

At some level, I think he is not entirely happy about the baby being in our room so more often than not, he demands to come and sleep with us. At this point, I don’t want to say no to him as it might only make it worse but it is not optimal – he is not sleeping as well and I need to take the baby to his room for her diaper changes and feeds when she wakes.

He has also been more than his usual bratty, rebellious and destructive self but I am not sure whether to attribute that to the baby's arrival or the week of grandmotherly spoiling he enjoyed in Jaipur.

So anyway, so far so good. My mom says the sibling relationship is largely smooth sailing in the first few months. It when the baby can move around and get into her big brother’s stuff that things will start to get interesting…

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Say Hello to Tarana

Since Poppins Mom already stole my thunder by announcing the arrival of my baby girl in the comments on the last post and Doula Sue compounded it by revealing her name, the only thing I am left with to do is to post a picture of my little daughter Tarana.

She arrived eight days early. The borderline low amniotic fluid from the Week 32 scan dipped to worrying low levels. So we decided to get her out safe and sound via c-section rather than wait for a labour that looked unlikely to happen in any case since she had not descended adequately. So yeah, I didn't get my VBAC but you know what, it didn't matter as much as I thought it would. She was born healthy and full-term and that makes how she got here nothing more than an irrelevant detail.

On to the vital stats. She weighed in at 3.2 kgs and is 50 cms long. The jury is still out on who she looks like but she looks quite different from what Ayaan looked like as a newborn. Talking of Ayaan, he has yet to meet his baby sister as he only comes back from Jaipur tonight with my mom. That should be fun and post-worthy :)

We are back home and settling down now. More later. Thanks a million for all the lovely wishes that you guys have already left.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Shopping for the Baby

I finally got around to doing a day of baby shopping and am all stocked up on everything that I am likely to need in the first couple of months. Except for the baby cot, where I am holding out for a preferred design that is expected to arrive in stores sometime in the next week.

In the comments to my last post, Wordsmith asked me to share my shopping list. The list is actually something I created for a pregnant friend a couple of years ago so I am just updating and posting the same...

To start with, depending on your and your family’s beliefs, you need to decide whether you want to shop for your baby before s/he arrives. Many people are superstitious about shopping even a day before the baby arrives. In my case, I felt it was okay to shop once I was in my ninth month. I recommend this option for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I cannot imagine how people leave
everything for later. Life is so intense after the baby comes that having to then get together even the basics for the baby would be pretty nightmarish, in my humble opinion. Secondly, while you could theoretically get your family members to do the shopping but this is not for someone like me who is pretty fussy and likes everything just so.

I have basically broken things down into two lists:

  1. Things you need immediately and should ideally buy either before the baby comes or just after
  2. Things that are not crucial and that you can wait to see if you want to buy. But depending on choices you may already have made, they might actually fall into the first list for you (many of them did for me)

Buy First

  • Diapers. You will need these at discharge time to bring the baby home from hospital. Pampers has a product called ‘Swaddlers’ which are the right size for newborns and are available in most baby shops. While constant use of diapers is not recommended in the humid Indian climate, I found that my son slept better at night with a diaper since then he only woke up when he was hungry and not when he got wet (which is very often in the earlier months)
  • Cotton Nappies. These are best for regular use as they allow the skin to breathe, reduce the occurrence of diaper rash and are more environmentally responsible. I used the square ones, which you fold and fasten with nappy pins but not everyone is comfortable with those. There are other options that can be tied, buttoned or fixed with Velcro fasteners. The Velcro ones are more convenient but the Velcro wears out after a while. Babies go through nappies really fast in the first month. Buy at least 24 in the smallest size and then see how it goes. You will also need nappy pins if you are going for the first option.
  • Jhablas. Buy just 4-5 to start with since you will get gifts and then you will have too many. Buy 100% cotton ones. They should also be the type that you tie or fasten in front – before their heads are fixed, it’s pretty scary to make them wear T-shirt type things that go over their necks.
  • Nightwear. Sleepers work well (especially if it is winter or you sleep in an air-conditioned room). These are full body suits, which cover the baby right down to the toes. Most baby shops stock them. Otherwise, pajamas and tops will do as well. Remember, tops should be front opening and not the type you have to pull over the baby’s head. And the elastic should be not be too tight on the pajamas.
  • Socks, Mittens and Caps. Cotton should be warm enough for Bombay weather. Mostly useful in air-conditioned surroundings and I found the mittens discouraged thumb-sucking.
  • Wrapping Cloths. These are for swaddling the baby. Most babies like this as it keeps them warm and stimulates a womb-like sensation (they will teach you how to do this at most hospitals). But my son rejected these completely. So I suggest you buy 6 and then stock up if you find it’s working.
  • Blankets. The thickness of these will depend on weather and whether the AC is switched on. I found that a length of flannel works best, as it is warm, soft to the touch and easy to wash. Buy 3-4 as they too can sometimes get soiled with diaper leaks and what not.
  • Rubber/ Plastic Sheets. To protect mattresses and furniture from soiling. Most baby shops sell these plastic sheets along with a set of cotton covers (attachable with Velcro). These are a must-buy. Rubber sheets are available at most medical supplies stores.
  • Lots of small, soft towels and wiping cloths. For wiping the baby’s face after feeds and washing. Also useful to put on your shoulder before burping your baby – to prevent unsightly stains…
  • Towels for use post-bath.
  • Soap. My choice is Dove – it really is the mildest. The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) soap is actually formulated just like any other soap.
  • Shampoo: J&J. You can also use soap for their head too, especially if they don't have much hair but the shampoo has a no-tears formulation supposedly so maybe it stings less if it gets into their eyes.
  • Oil for massage. J&J is fine but you might need to shift to olive/ coconut oil if it doesn’t suit the baby’s skin.
  • Talc. I read that talc is not recommended as it can lead to respiratory problem if inhaled the baby so I never used any. If you want to use, J&J is probably the best.
  • Lotion/ cream is not usually necessary if you are doing daily oil massages, unless skin starts getting dry or in cold weather. I used the J&J lotion.
  • Diaper rash cream. Buy an imported one, preferably one that contains zinc oxide. If anyone you know is coming in from the US, ask them to bring a tube of Balmex (made by J&J) – you might also get it from baby shops that stock imported stuff. Use only if you see a rash developing or when you plan to keep the baby in the diaper for an extended period of time (e.g. at night)
  • Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. Putting this on liberally in the diaper area keeps it fairly rash-free. And it’s less chemical (I feel) than the diaper rash cream.
  • Baby brush and comb set
  • Baby nail clippers. Some people find it scary to use these – in that case you can use a nail file but that is far more tedious and can test both your and the baby’s patience. Before, I got confidence to use the clippers; I used to just bite the nails off with my teeth, while the baby was nursing.
  • Loads of cotton wool and a bowl for water to wipe after soiling. Baby wipes are convenient too especially if you are on the move or low on energy (in the night). But I wouldn’t recommend using them all the time as the chemicals/ fragrance make the baby’s skin more prone to diaper rashes. If using cotton wool, tear the rolls into single-use sizes and store in a box in advance for convenience.
  • Baby wet wipes.
  • Bucket for soaking and washing nappies
  • Bathtub. The traditional Indian way to bathe the baby is to place him on your legs. But I could never get the hang of it and my baby did not like it so I bought a bath tub. If you do buy one, there’s a foam bath support you can get to put in the tub. It’s in the shape of the baby’s head and shoulders and therefore holds him in place while you bathe him. Imported but available in most baby shops.
  • Bucket, Sponge and Mug for bathing. You might not need the bucket and mug if your bathing space is equipped with a hand-shower
  • Nursing bras. You would find them at most lingerie stores and Mothercare stocks them as well. They are the types with a clasp that allows you to remove just the cup without undoing the whole damn thing. Highly recommended.
  • Some front-opening tops and nightwear for easy nursing access
  • A feeding pillow to place the baby on – bending over and feeding can get painful for the back so you need to lift the baby to your level. You could alternatively just use a regular pillow.
  • A comfy chair to sit in while feeding
  • Breast pads. Leaking breasts can become embarrassing and uncomfortable. But not everyone needs them so just buy a small pack in case you do and then stock up later. These are available at Mothercare as well as most baby shops.
  • Lanolin based gel/ cream meant for sore nipples. This is safe for the baby and is a godsend in those early, painful days of breastfeeding. The recommended brands are Lansinoh and PureLan – get friends/ relatives abroad to send or pick up at a baby shop that keeps imported products.
  • Crocin Drops – standard prescription for low-grade fever in infants. Babies tend to get feverish after their DTP vaccinations, so you will need these then.
  • Nasal Aspirator. You will need these in case the baby develops a blocked nose.
  • Medicine Dropper for babies
  • Digital Thermometer
  • Feeding Bottles. Better to keep 1-2 in case there is a problem with nursing the baby, then you can stock up if you need more. Avent bottles are good and are also supposed to minimise nipple confusion in case you plan to combine breast and bottle feeding. You might want to consider the BPA-free option, whatever brand you buy.

Decide whether you want/ buy later

  • Cot. You have to decide whether you want the baby to sleep with you in your bed or in a cot by himself. I am a big advocate of the cot but there pros and cons of both. You need to decide what works best for you. Reading up on stuff like this might help. If you are planning to get one, you will need a mattress, sheets and something to protect the mattress (rubber/ plastic). Cots can cost anywhere between Rs. 4000-15000, depending on where you buy them from and what features they have. But babies can sleep in them till they are 18-24 months so I think it’s a good investment. In fact, some of the Mothercare ‘cot bed’ models actually convert to toddler beds and are useful till the kid turns 5.
  • Car seat. This is not a legal requirement in India but is useful if you plan to drive a lot with the baby, especially if you don't have a chauffeur. It also doubles up as a useful carrycot. You can take it along when you go out and make the baby sit/ nap in it.
  • Baby Bouncer. This is a baby seat that also has a vibrating functions. Works well in soothing some babies. It did not work with my son but I know mothers who swear by it. I did find it useful a little later when I started solids and before he was stable enough to sit in a high chair.
  • Toys. Play Gyms, play mats, cot mobiles, rattles and the like. Best to wait since you tend to get gifted some of this stuff.
  • Sling. This allows for easy hands free carrying of baby. It reduces the strain on your back and shoulders and also allows you to get on with your work. These come in various types but not all of them are easily available in India. Check this and this.
  • Baby Monitor. A little expensive but worth every penny, in my opinion. It allows you to leave the baby in the room and get on with other stuff without having to constantly check on him. My quality of life changed dramatically once I got one. It will also be a necessity if you plan to eventually shift the baby to his own room.
  • Breast Pump. Will give you some freedom after the first few weeks as someone else can feed the expressed milk to the baby from the bottle. You will also need it if you want to continue feeding the baby after you go back to work. Amongst the manual ones, Avent is supposed to be good but manual pumping can we tedious. I am going for the Medela Mini Electric this time around.
  • Pacifiers. Another hotly debated topic. I didn’t do pacifiers but they are part of the essential list for many parents. Decide which side of the fence you fall in. This might help
  • Stroller. This is not not something you will need right away unless you plan to be out and about the moment the baby is born. There are many styles and price ranges out there with a multitude of features, so some research is required before you decide what is best for you.
  • Bottle steriliser. If you do plan to do a significant amount of bottle feeding (expressed breast milk or formula), this is a good investment as it beats the old-fashioned method of boiling the bottles in a big pan on the gas... But again, you might want to wait and see whether the quantum of bottle-feeding justifies this purchase.
  • Diaper bag. This is something you will require when you start going out with the baby to carry essentials required for feeding, changing and entertaining the baby.

And I think with that, I come to the end of my list. There is no end to the list of things you could buy for your baby but I think the list above covers the essentials and then some. When you do shop, you will run into Moses baskets, bath thermometers, shampoo hats, changing tables, nursing aprons and many other chic/ tempting/ mildly useful gadgets and accessories that you might or might not decide to buy depending on your budget and inclination.

Also, this is based on my experience and the advice that I got from friends, this time and last time. So other experienced mommies reading this - please feel free to add/ subtract/ agree/ disagree. One big gap is what might be required in winters for infants born at that time - not much use for that in Mumbai...

Hope this is some help to any mothers-to-be to happen to chance by.

Updates:

  • Grobag: Aneela says "I would say the Grobag... copyright issues notwithstanding you can ask someone handy with a sewing machine to make it for you. It saves you from fussing over the baby at night (and some cold mornings) worried whether they have thrown off their covers. And there was something like a sleeping bag "envelope" that someone had sent from Pakistan... think a padded pouch which zips up on the side and easy access waist up. It was handy to put the bub in it when less experienced grownups wanted to hold him, would also put him in it when taking him out in the stroller. The sleeping bag pouch was used from day 1. The Grobag thingie should be used when the baby is a bit bigger... say three months... so there is no risk of him/her slipping in. appropriate head circumference and all." Also available at Mothercare - see this.
  • Mothercare toiletries: Neelum says "I only (and still am) used Mothercare products for him and found them to be very mild, just suitable for babies, they are tested and have a host of things in them that are not harmful to babies. Mothercare products are availabe in all Shoppers Stop outlets. And in the same section they stock Sudocrem, a nappy rash cream, actually it's an all purpose one, which I still use on my 4 year old for minor cuts, bruises and insect bites." Choxbox swears by Sudocrem too.
  • Cantaloupe's Amma says that baby monitors are cheaper in the US so it might make sense to get a friend to get one for you. If you do this, Sphinx says you should remember to get the right voltage or a converter.
  • Other suggestions on toiletries: Lavs recommends the J&J top-to-toe liquid soap as well as their imported mosquito repellant. Preeti found that the baby soap from Himalaya really worked for her son. K's Amma recommends Rashfree diaper rash cream and says that Boroline works just as well too if you happen to run out. She also points out two Indian lanolin-based products, Nipcare and Nipheal, for cracked nipples. Vandana also swears by the Rashfree cream and also recommends the Chicco champoo.
  • Diaper genie: Ariel recommends it if you don't/ can't take your garbage out everyday.
  • Some interesting tips from K's Amma: She says that baking soda and vinegar are the best cleaners for soiled cotten nappies. Soaking poo-soiled nappies in a diluted vinegar solution helps to kill all bacteria and also soften and deodourise the nappies. Sprinkling baking soda on the soiled nappies (which are not washed yet) absorbs all the bad odour and helps to clean the nappies better (followed by the usual soak-wash-rinse cycle, of course!) The main advantage is that both, baking soda and vinegar are safe on baby's skin and eco friendly. She also recommends buying a spray bottle (available in shops that sell beauty parlour supplies, or maybe even regular super markets) and sterlised cotton balls from a medical store. Test the strength of the spray on your hand and adjust it so that the spray doesnt sting. Use this to wash Junior's little behind. It's cleaner (no double dipping) and safer -less chances of someone knocking off the bowl of water etc.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Nine Months Blahs...

... is what I have a case of. To be honest, this is not a term that I came up with – it was used by my pre-natal class instructor when one of the heavily pregnant ladies in the class could not summon up the enthusiasm to do some of the exercises.

Well, as they say, if the shoe fits…

For the past couple of weeks, I have been afflicted with a general feeling of ‘who cares’ and ‘why bother’. Some of you might have guessed that this is heading towards being a big, fat, pregnant excuse for having been behind on updating the blog. But it’s been more than that. Even reading and commenting on my favourite blogs feels like too much effort. I am still keeping up, more or less, especially if I am spoon-fed the entire content on my Reader but following links to finish reading posts is sometimes beyond my current levels of motivation.

I am feeling the same way about returning calls and SMSs. Communicating with the world at large seems cumbersome.

And sometimes my tea gets cold on the bedside table before I can muster up the energy to roll over, sit up and drink it.

Another thing I can’t be bothered to do is to wash my own hair. It all started about a month ago when I slipped and fell in the loo and put my back out. So in the week that it took to stop hurting like hell when I lifted my arm, I went to the salon for a wash and blow dry. And got addicted to the pampering, the laziness and not to mention the perfect finish. So the last month has seen me arriving at the salon with bi-weekly frequency to get my hair done. Other mundane tasks like washing my face at night and applying anything but lipstick in the morning which cannot be outsourced have, of course, fallen by the wayside.

I have been fairly lethargic in my role as my mother too. Thankfully, it has coincided with Ayaan becoming less clingy so I don’t think he has felt it as much. When I get back from work, the only thing that I really have the energy to do is to lie in bed with him and read to him. Anything more strenuous seems like…. you guessed it… too much effort. I am still doing his morning pre-school routine on most days but when Jai is around, I delegate bedtime responsibilities to him. I like to think I am fostering father-son bonding. And next weekend, he goes off to my mum’s place for his two-week vacation and for the first time, I am viewing his impending departure with a sense of anticipation and relief.

The blahs have also kept me in a comfortable state of denial on exactly how impending the impending arrival is. So till last weekend, my baby prep included picking up some surplus nappies from a friend and getting some baby shower gifts. But thankfully, nature has a way of dealing with everything and apparently its answer to a state of nine months blahs is a slap of nesting instinct right in my face. So Sunday dawned on me opening up the storage under the bed and manically digging through Ayaan’s old clothes to find the newborn stuff, which was then washed and neatly arranged in the cupboard shelves earmarked for the purpose. And just for good measure, I cleaned out the bookshelf as well. It wasn’t baby-related but it was calling out to me :)

Anyway, I have got it all sorted and washed and put away in the cupboard now. I have made a list of what needs to be bought and the coming weekend will see me hitting the shops with a vengeance. So the overdue baby prep is finally on overdrive, indicative of the fact that the blahs have passed. Let’s hope blogging will be more frequent too :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pregnant with Envy

Just for fun, here’s the list of things that make me green these days:

  • Women with flat stomachs
  • Women who can wear fitted clothes
  • Women who can wear their rings since they fingers haven’t bloated up
  • Women who can wear heels
  • Women who can get their hair straightened/ coloured
  • People who can jog, swim and/ or go to the gym
  • People who can ingest toxic liquids at free will
  • People who don’t forget things without detailed to-do lists
  • People who don’t have the certainty of immense pain in the not-to-distant future
  • People who can get foot reflexology and other massages
  • People who can walk without an inelegant waddle
  • People who don’t have to rush to use the facilities at the drop of a hat
  • People who can sleep on their backs and tummies
  • People who can travel
  • People who can sleep easily and through the night
  • First-time pregnant women, who don’t have to pamper anyone but themselves
  • Pregnant women who don’t look like they are carrying additional babies in their arms and chins
  • Men. Enough said.

So if you see a pregnant woman turn an unattractive shade of green, it might not be because of morning sickness. It might just be you ;-)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Random Thoughts of a To-Be-Mother-of-Two

When Ayaan was born, I was completely unprepared for the way that a child comes and wraps his little self around your heart in a way that you couldn’t tear him out unless you tore out your very heart itself.

That being said, I don’t think I was a natural-born mother. I was pretty matter-of-fact through my first pregnancy – for me, the baby inside me existed at a conceptual level and I found it hard to relate to it as a real person – so I didn’t really talk to or read to Ayaan in utero and when a friend mine said of his unborn child that he already loved it more than anything or anyone else in the world, my response was ‘Really?!’

Even once Ayaan was born and placed into my arms as a squalling bundle, I wasn’t one of those instantaneous mothers – I felt no immediate bond, nor did I have any overwhelming emotional response (like bursting into tears, for example). I think my first response could best be summed up as ‘Hmmmm…’

Thankfully for Ayaan, biology took over and while I still wasn’t feeling the much talked about ‘mother-child bond’, a feeling of immense protectiveness kicked in. Here was a little human being who depended on me to nourish and soothe him and there was no question of letting him down. So for about three months, I was almost on auto-pilot – feeding, rocking, changing diapers – taking care of the little fella’s physical needs. And then one day about three months into the journey, the little fella in question looked into my eyes while I was feeding him and smiled and then Boom! And the rest, as they say, is history.

It took its while coming but after the initial phase, I’ve lived through motherhood pretty intensely. As far as I am concerned, the world pretty much revolves around Ayaan. And so the question begs to be asked. Will I be able to feel this way all over again and find as much love to give again or will my poor second child have to learn to be happy with leftovers?

I am cherishing and appreciating this pregnancy a lot more than the last one because I know this is my last opportunity to feel little feet kicking inside me, amongst other wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) pregnancy experiences. But like the last time, the baby itself continues to be a concept to me. The person who I can talk to and relate to is the darling four year old who lives in my real world. And so all my plans for the forthcoming months revolve around him rather than the new baby who will soon join us…

  • By this time in my first pregnancy, the baby’s paraphernalia was being planned in full swing. Copious lists had been made, nappy material was bought and sent off to Jaipur to be stitched, the crib was decided on, clothes and other baby gear were bought and so on and so forth. This time I do have a lot of stuff left from Ayaan’s time (or so I keep telling myself but I am yet to take stock), but I haven’t gotten around to doing much else to prepare for the baby’s arrival. The preparations this time have been focussed in an altogether different direction – preparing Ayaan for the big change that is going to happen in his life. So we talk about the baby a lot. And focus on the many positives – like me being home all day for six months, like him getting to open all the presents the baby gets since the baby can’t open them itself, like how the baby will learn how to do everything from his big brother and other such myriad stuff.
  • When I think of my time away at the hospital, the main concern is Ayaan. I don’t want him to feel abandoned or have his life thrown out of gear. So I have been discussing with my mother (who's going to be here for the first month) and Jai how it’s more important that someone is home with him at any given time than for me to have them attending to me for 24 hours. I also would like him to come by to the hospital atleast a couple of times to meet the baby before he/ she comes home.
  • Coming home from the hospital is the other stress point. I don’t want him to feel ignored in the hustle bustle of settling in with the baby. I plan to take up the suggestion from a couple of friends to sweeten the deal with a smashing, new gift 'from the baby'. Not only will it make the moment a lot more positive, it will also keep him busy while we get settled in. Currently, we are deciding between a new bicycle (his current one is a pink-hued hand-me-down from a friend’s daughter that he is on the verge of growing out of), an elaborate set of cooking toys and a kiddy computer (his current one has gone kaput).
  • I also want to make sure that I don’t deny him anything that he is used to getting from me. I want to be able to continue to do his morning school routine and hopefully the baby’s sleep-feed patterns will allow me to. And I want to spend a lot of time with him during the day so locking myself into a room for every one of the baby's feeds won’t be an option. So I am thinking of getting myself one of these nursing apron things so that I can feed the baby anywhere in the house.
  • My biggest worry with going back to work this time has little to do with how the baby will cope. I saw that Ayaan coped really well, after a few days of separation anxiety. But the five year old boy who’s got used to Mama being around all day will feel the pinch a lot more. So I hope that my mother and mother-in-law will be able to spare at least a month each at that time to help him ease into my going back to work…

So as you can see, the baby itself doesn't feature high on my to-do lists and the worry about whether I will have the space and bandwidth to give the second one what s/he needs is a valid one. I know I’ll figure it out but it seems all fuzzy in my head right now – I guess some things just can’t be planned for.

I do have the assurance of several second-born kids and mothers of two that these second kids have their own ways of getting their due. This second baby in particular is already messing with me and making sure I take note of him/ her. On Tuesday, I went for an ultrasound and was told that the baby was in a transverse breach position and what’s more, the amniotic fluid index (AFI) was on the lower side, thus reducing the likelihood of the baby being able to turn. So a sleepless night was spent worrying about the implications of low AFI and shedding tears over the lost VBAC dream. And then on Wednesday, I met my gynaecologist and less than 36 hours after the sonography, the baby had moved into a head down position! Sheesh! This one is already one step ahead of me. At this rate, I don’t think s/he will let me give him/ her a raw deal, no matter what my plans!

(The doctor also said that the AFI was adequate and not anything to worry about. Needless to say, I am not feeling very charitable towards the ultrasound technician)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Something's burning...

Sibling rivalry has reared its ugly head in Chez Ayaan as evidenced by these two conversations from the last week...

The first conversation happened at bedtime, when most of these chats about the baby usually tend to happen. It started out as inane, random stuff and then got pretty specific. It went something like this:

Ayaan: What is the baby doing now?
Mama: I don’t know. Maybe he’s playing
Ayaan: Can I tell him something?
Mama: Sure
Ayaan: *whispers something to my belly button*
Mama: What did you tell him?
Ayaan: I told him to eat a piece of your heart
Mama: Ouch. But why? That will hurt me
Ayaan: *giggling* It’s okay. I only told him to eat a small piece
Mama: But it will still hurt me
Ayaan: *after a moment’s silence* So, did he take a bite yet?
Mama: No. He didn’t. Because he doesn’t want to hurt his Mama
Ayaan: But you are not his Mama
Mama: But of course I am his Mama
Ayaan: No. You can’t be his Mama because you are my Mama
Mama: But who will be the baby’s Mama then?
Ayaan: *after giving the question some serious thought* Dadda!
Mama: But only girls can be Mamas and Dadda is a boy
Ayaan: It’s okay. Dadda can become a girl!!!

As expected, Jai was not quite on board with these plans to change his gender :D

The second conversation happened this morning at the breakfast table, another regular conversation moment once the mad rush to get dressed for school is over and done with...

Ayaan: Mama, will you pick me up today? (picking up involves fetching him from the bus, which stops at the building gate)
Mama: Not today, baby. I have to go to office
Ayaan: You haven’t picked me up for soooooo many days
Mama: You know what. When the baby comes, I won’t be going to office for six whole months… November, December, January, February, March and April… and I can pick you up every day during that time
Ayaan: Wow!
Mama: And Mama and the baby can both come together to pick you up
Ayaan: But I don’t want the baby to come. I only want you to come
Mama: Ok, I won’t bring the baby with me if you don’t want. But what if he cries and wants to come and pick you up?
Ayaan: *reluctantly* Okay. But you have to ask him. Only if he wants to come, you can bring him

Heh. It's clearly not going to be smooth sailing around here once the competing contender for my affection arrives

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Milestones Nonetheless

It's been a busy week in these parts with lots of new experiences for Ayaan. While milestones are no longer biggies like the first independent step or recognisable word, they are still worth stopping and smiling over. So here are some of this week's milestones...

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Ayaan's handtowel and school diary have a new companion in the schoolbag as of last week - a pencil box! We have been asked to send pencils to school since the kids are officially going to start learning to write. They started with drawing straight and slanting lines this week, as per Ayaan's account.

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I finally decided to bite the bullet and start the journey towards helping Ayaan self-dress. It was not so much that I didn't think he was capable of doing it, but it takes more time and patience than I have to spare to let him do it. Mornings are too rushed to spend a precious ten minutes allowing him to do the honours, so we have started with the night suits. He needs a little help getting his hands into the armholes but he's mastered the rest. The buttons, as expected, take the longest time but I am impressed that he can do it entirely on his own, without losing his temper when the task requires more than a few attempts. (I am also impressed by my ability to stand back and let him fumble his way through it rather than jumping in and doing it myself).

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At the ripe old age of four-and-something, Ayaan finally got to experience that rite of passage for kids of this generation. He got his first taste of a McDonalds Happy Meal this weekend. It wasn't so much that I was depriving him thus far but he just never knew such a thing existed and I was in no hurry to educate him on this particular point. But last week, he came home from school one day and said he wanted to eat a burger in a restaurant. So there you have it - Ayaan's first Happy Meal, complete with a burger, a portion of fries, a crappy plastic toy and more carbonated beverage than he has ever had in a single serving.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Swine Flu on my Mind

You can’t blink an eyelid these days without running into some update about the rapid progress of swine flu in India. The news channels current scroller announces that the death toll is now 23. And paranoia mounts.

We were quite unconcerned and unaffected till Monday. But then four prestigious schools closed their doors on Monday. Ayaan’s school continued to stay open though. So Tuesday morning dawned with a big dilemma – to send or not to send? I was quite in favour of sending him school, but then each and every one of my friends were keeping their kids home – either the schools themselves were shut, or the parents had decided not to send the kids inspite of the schools being open. So I chickened out and decided not to send him after all. What clinched it for me was the fact that he is in kindergarten and school is a nice place to go to spend a few hours colouring, playing and interacting with other kids. If he was older and keeping him home would have meant playing catch-up with missed classes, the decision would have probably been harder. Anyway, we had to struggle with this choice only for two days because the authorities have ordered a blanket shut-down of schools (along with multiplexes and malls) till Monday at the very least. But when schools open for good, I guess I will eventually have to send him.

The other worry that is preying on my mind is that there seems to be evidence to suggest that pregnant women fall into the higher risk category when it comes to the swine flu. Now usually, I am very confident in the ability of my immune system to take on germs. Most fevers, coughs and tummy upsets are usually fought off with the simple expedient of ignoring said germ attack till it goes away. But my brush with a throat infection in my second trimester, which I was unable to shrug off and required two rounds of antibiotics to get rid off, has me a little worried. And the stuff out there on swine flu and pregnant women is not encouraging. A few examples (clink on them to see the full articles):

A US study published online ahead of print in a leading medical journal suggests that complications from H1N1 swine flu could hit pregnant women harder, and that pregnant women infected with the virus are hospitalized at four times the rate of infected people in the general population.

Pregnant women account for six percent of U.S. swine flu deaths since the pandemic began in April, even though they make up only one percent of the U.S. population.

Pregnancy weakens a woman’s immune system, so that she’s more likely to suffer pneumonia when she catches the flu. In earlier flu pandemics, infection also raised the risk of a premature birth

So with one pregnant woman, one child under 5 and an infant on the way, we would classify as a high risk household. But the question is what does one do about that?

Some sites, like this one recommend, amongst other things, that pregnant women stay home, keep away from people, send their husbands’ grocery shopping, advance their maternity leave and keep their kids home from school so that they don’t get the virus from them.

But to what extent can one isolate oneself and one’s family? And for how long?

From all indications, this virus is here to stay for a while and will infect people on a large scale before it goes away. According to our health minister, atleast one-third of the Indian population is likely to contract swine flu by 2011. And he may not be far off the mark either since health experts in the U.S. (including the WHO) believe that 40% of the American population is likely to be infected in the same time frame. So this is not something that can be avoided simply by closing the door of your home and staying in for a couple of weeks. Because at the end of those two weeks, the only thing that would have changed would be that the disease would be more widespread than two weeks ago…

And to what extent is it even possible to shut out the world, and with it the virus? I could start my maternity leave two months in advance and keep my son home. But Jai would still have to go to work and travel for work. He could very well carry the virus home to us. And we have two day maids, one live-in maid, a driver, a dhobi* and the garbage lady in and out of our immediate vicinity on a daily basis. They could bring the virus into our homes.

Also, I would still have to step out for routine stuff like my gynaecologist appointments and grocery shopping. Additionally, the swine flu virus is not just spread when someone coughs/ sneezes in your face. Any object or surface that they touch with their hands after coughing would have the virus transferred on to it. And the flu virus can live on a hard surface for up to 24 hours and a soft surface for around 20 minutes. Which means it’s not just contact with people but the buttons in the lift, the door knobs at the doctor's clinic, the basket handles at the grocery store, and basically anything that you touch that an infected person could have touched can be a potential source of infection, if you touch your mouth or nose after touching them.

My point in saying all this is not to join fear-mongering but on the contrary to suggest that it would be impossible to avoid this virus just by shutting oneself off from the world to the extent that is possible. The best possible response is not to hide away but to continue living a reasonably normal life, whilst taking reasonable precautions. After that, it’s just a matter of luck.

So here’s what I plan to do as of now:

  • I will continue to work and go into office.
  • I will send Ayaan to school, when it re-opens.
  • I will continue to go to for my fitness class and for my daily swim.
  • I will continue to leave the house for all other routine activities, like weekly household errands.

Essentially life as usual but…

  • I will avoid crowded areas unless it’s absolutely necessary. And watching the latest blockbuster release in the cinema hall is an acceptable sacrifice, in my opinion.
  • I will be extra scrupulous about personal hygiene, especially in the area of hand-washing. Moreover, I have popped a bottle of sanitiser into my bag for situations where soap and water is not easily available.
  • I will avoid touching my face (especially my nose and mouth) to the extent possible. This is difficult because I am a face-toucher but I am trying to control myself.
  • I will keep a safe distance from people with coughs and colds. My maid arrived for work with a mild case of sniffles the other day. I have asked her to stay home for a couple of days till it passes, even though it has the appearance of being nothing more than a common cold. The driver has mild fever and has been sent home for some R&R.
  • I will watch like a hawk for early symptoms. In most of the cases of mortality due to swine flu, Tamiflu was started later rather than earlier. The evidence seems to suggest that the medicine works best when taken within 48 hours of contracting the flu.
  • However, I will not wear a mask. I am not just saying this out of vanity. It’s just that based on the stuff that I have read (like this and this), including WHO guidelines on the same, masks are not very effective at preventing the spread of the virus.

How do you plan do deal with the swine flu scare?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Etiquette Around Pregnant Women

You would think that offending or upsetting a pregnant woman would be the farthest thing from any well-intentioned person's mind. But you would be amazed at how often perfectly nice people manage to say or do something that they really ought not to have, without even realising that they have done it. Having been at the receiving end of these faux pas this pregnancy and last, I thought I would compile a list of them:

  1. A little chivalry will never be misread. Offer to carry a heavy bag, give up your seat on a bus or in a conference room or go out of your way to drop a pregnant woman home, and she is sure to send some good karma your way.
  2. But there is a caveat to this, don’t go overboard. Pregnant women may be heavier, more easily tired and less able to perform strenuous tasks, but they are not invalids and over-solicitousness can be irritating. Last time around, I remember I drove my car to a conference (at a hotel 15 minutes away from my house) in my ninth month and everyone was like ‘Are you crazy? Why are you still driving?’ And I felt like saying, ‘What? Do you think I change gears with my belly?’ Or when I sit on the ground at a get-together, some five people hop out of their chairs and insist (over all my protestations to the contrary) that I couldn’t possibly be comfortable on the floor.
  3. Avoid trying to guess how far along a pregnant woman is. Unless you have the rare gift of predicting gestational age to the week, this never turns out well. Underestimate and you risk leaving her feeling that she is not putting on enough weight for a healthy pregnancy and baby. Overestimate and you leave her feeling fat, a cardinal sin when dealing with women – pregnant or otherwise. One would think this is obvious stuff but this particular topic seems to be a standard opener when talking to a pregnant woman. Last week, I happened to bump into someone who guessed that I was two months further along than I actually am and when corrected, she continued to stuff her foot further into her mouth by wondering if I was carrying twins!!!
  4. On that note, if you are not a hundred per cent sure she’s pregnant, pretend like there’s nothing different. Early this year, I met a colleague who gushed, ‘Wow! You’re pregnant again?’ I was depressed for two long weeks till I took the pregnancy test and found that I actually was. Now, of course, I think she was clairvoyant rather than rude but it could have gone either way… And then there is another colleague who got the not-guessing part down right but then a couple of days ago ruined it by saying something to the effect of ‘Phew! You are in the family way. I have been wondering about your weight gain for the last few months but felt it was rude to ask’…
  5. If you are waiting in a queue at a public restroom and there’s a pregnant woman behind you, let her go first. I know it goes against every grain of a big city dweller to give up their place in a queue but seriously, try and imagine having a really full bladder and then imagine someone putting a 2-kg (or more) weight on top of your bladder. ‘Desperate to pee’ takes on an entirely new dimension when you are pregnant.
  6. The upside of being pregnant is that men no longer talk to your chest. The downside is that everyone (men and women alike) talks to your belly instead… Staring at a pregnant woman’s belly is just plain rude. And unless you are a really close friend or family member, touching is even ruder.
  7. We all have at least one scary story about pregnancy, labour and/ or post-natal experiences. Miscarriages, premature deliveries, post-partum depression – there is no end to the number of things that could go wrong and the chances are that each of us knows of atleast one such event. But it’s probably best to keep it close to your heart if you are in the vicinity of a pregnant woman. Trust me, she’s worried and hormonal enough without you adding fuel to the fire…
  8. Unless you are the doctor or the spouse, remember that it is not your job to keep the pregnant woman on the pregnancy path of virtue. So hold your horses on chastising or interrogating her on her choice to drink an occasional glass of wine, watch a scary movie, wear small heels, carry her toddler when he’s upset, colour her hair or eat Chinese food, amongst the many other supposedly taboo things. I am sure she would have thought it through before she did any of these things (maybe even checked with her ob-gyn) but even if she hasn’t, it really is none of your business. And unsolicited advice falls into the same domain.

There, I think I got them all. Feel free to add on if you feel I've missed something.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Prezzints for Mama

Having cribbed about the brat's desire to pass off his old things as presents, it's only fair that I also document the cute manifestations of this habit. On many days, I get home from work to be told proudly that there's a 'supprise prezzint' waiting for me. On a couple of occassions, the camera happened to be handy for me to document the 'gifts'.

This one is wrapped up in his pillow cover (the pillow's still there too) and neatly closed with a butterfly-shaped paper clip that he has appropriated from my stationery drawer.

I was instructed to empty the pillow case, which I did in accompaniment to much hopping, squealing excitment to find:

  • A stethoscope, an syringe and some other paraphernalia from his doctor kit
  • A cap
  • A colouring book with a page coloured in especially for Mama

And on another occassion, I got this... (the maid's help was recruited to pack it):

...which contained the following items:

  • An old book we haven't read for a while
  • The ubiquitous butterfly clip
  • A star-shaped cookie cutter from his Play-Doh set
  • A cow soft toy
  • 4 crayons
  • A wooden giraffe peg (came with the butterfly clip)

And that's not all. We've also wrapped up a prezzint for the baby - a couple of soft toys - and hidden it under the bed, to be opened only when the baby comes...

I will never know if the birthday boy from the previous post would have appreciated his gift of old crayons, but as his mother, I'm loving this habit :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Present Woes

A few days ago, Ayaan was invited to the birthday party of a good friend from school. In preparation for the same, I went to the toy store the previous day and picked up an appropriate gift for the birthday boy and got it nicely wrapped up. The brat, however, had other plans.

I came home early from work so that I could go with him and walked into a mulish Ayaan with his own ideas with regards to the gift. He had found a tattered little box and filled it up with the dirtiest and most broken crayons from his vast crayon collection and he insisted that this was the gift that he wanted to give, not the one Mama had bought.

I took a deep breath and mustered all my good intentions to get through this minefield without a tantrum. The first tactic was to give him a spiel about birthday presents and to convince him that they had to be new. I reminded him of all the new birthday presents he had got on his birthday. And that no one wanted to get old things for birthday presents. But the boy wasn’t buying.

Then I changed tactics and decided to try some trickery. I suggested that we take both the gifts and proposed that I carry the crayon box in my bag (in the hope that he would forget all about it in the excitement of the actual birthday party). But he was having none of it, the crayons would be carried in his own two hands and that was that.

And that was when my good intentions melted in the face of his stubborn refusal to be swayed. And I lost my temper and said something to the effect of ‘I said you couldn’t take the crayons and that’s that’ and then dragged him out of the house kicking and screaming, with the designated and duly purchased birthday gift in hand. He cried all the way in the car and got a smack for all his efforts. Of course, once we reached the party, all was forgotten and he had a good time... and I heaved a sigh of relief at having survived the storm without any lasting damage.

But in those dark hours of the night before sleep claims me and I critically assess and judge my parenting, I wasn't so sure I had done the right thing. Maybe the crummy crayons were worth much more in his eyes and were really his idea of a perfect gift for a pal. Would it have really done any harm to let him that gift along with the main one as well? I mean, he didn’t want me to take the original present at all but I think he would have been amenable to the idea of that being a present from me while the other one was from him…

But on the other hand, I think he needs to know that birthday parties are not about him but about the person whose birthday it is. I find it hard to believe that the birthday boy would have appreciated the gift (unfortunately, I do not have a picture to convey the absolutely pathetic quality of those crayons but take my word for it - they were a mess). In that case, wouldn’t it have been selfish of Ayaan (and me) to give him something that he, as the giver, wanted to give but the receiver would not appreciate. Isn't that against one of the very basic codes of gift-giving?

So anyway, in hindsight, I may have let him take the crayons. But I am not sure that would have been the right thing to do. What do you think? What would you have done in this situation?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

One More Reason to Regret my Caesarean

When Ayaan was born by c-section, I was disappointed and upset to say the least. Having had a relatively smooth pregnancy, a reasonably broad body structure and the baby in the right position, there was not even a remote thought of caesareans in my mind. I practised all my breathing techniques and religiously did the duck walking and squats recommended by the pre-natal class. But it was not to be. (You can find the detailed birth story here). My doctor, in her best (and in my opinion, flawed) judgement recommended and actively pushed for induction of labour, which didn’t take and then resulted in a c-section.

Now, in addition to being heartbroken at being denied the badge of honour of delivering a child the natural, God-given way, I also had to have myself cut open (with all the risks that any surgery entails) and suffer through the post-operative recovery along with the regular post-natal stuff. Even if you add to this the fact that caesareans are substantially more expensive and that they come with a higher likelihood of breastfeeding difficulties and postpartum depression, we are still talking relatively short-term effects, largely on the mother. Which is why I find this particular news story more than a little disturbing. Here's an excerpt:

Caesarean delivery can alter DNA

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet believe they have discovered the DNA mutations that explain why children delivered by planned Caesarean are at a higher risk for immunological diseases such as asthma, cancer and diabetes.

The genetic makeup of white blood cells looks different in children delivered via Caesarean compared to that of children born normally, reports Svenska Dagbladet newspaper (SvD).

An explanation for the different DNA sequences might be that those delivered via Caesarean experience greater stress than babies delivered naturally.

While stress builds up gradually during normal birth, the nervous systems of babies delivered via Caesarean are exposed to sudden stress. At the same time, some DNA genes are turned off while others are switched on.

Professor and paediatrician Mikael Norman, one of the researchers involved in the study, explained that stress occurring during vaginal birth is positive and goal-oriented:

“During a Caesarean, the baby is totally unprepared. The stress comes all at once. There are animal experiments that show that negative stress can programme offspring, something that later can play a role in terms of risk of illness.”

Ever since I got this in a mail last week, I have been brooding over the What Ifs. What if I had picked a different doctor to start with? What if I had stood firm when my doctor insisted on inducing labour? What if I had changed my doctor even at the last moment? What if I had done more squats? What if? What if?? What If???

Not a very productive line of thought, I know. But crying over spilt milk is one of my specialties…

For this pregnancy, I have changed to a doctor who comes highly recommended and I am holding out a glimmer of hope for a VBAC, but unless all the chips are lined up just right, it is pretty likely to end in a caesarean again.

Oh well, I can atleast hope that studies like this will make doctors more cognisant of the long-term downsides of caesareans as a preferred method of delivery and prompt them to be less trigger-happy when recommending them.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

That Time, This Time...

The interesting thing about being pregnant for the second time is that you have something to compare it to. And interesting things always provide fodder for blog posts. So here’s some of the things that have been different for me in the second pregnancy:

General Health

The first pregnancy was completely uneventful. To start with, I didn’t suffer a single day of morning sickness. Now you might think that this might be because I have blocked out unpleasant thoughts thanks to pregnancy amnesia but I remember very clearly the lack of nausea being a source of worry, an indicator that things weren’t progressing as well as they should have been. Well, this time atleast I didn’t have that to worry about since I was plagued by a general feeling of nausea and malaise through my first trimester…

Also, while pregnant with Ayaan, I didn’t have any issues that required me to take any medication other than the standard multivitamins and supplements. But this time around, I got a horrible throat infection and resultant hacking cough that called for two rounds of antibiotics before it went away.

Fitness

I was quite a couch potato through my first pregnancy. I was working longer hours then and that along with a much longer commute didn’t leave much time for exercise. I did attempt some half-hearted walking on the weekends and signed up for a pre-natal class to learn some exercises, but overall, I would have to say that I spend most of my free time horizontal.

This time, we have become members of a club nearby and the one form of exercise that has always been more of a delight than a chore – swimming – is now easily accessible to me. The work and the commute have been lighter too, allowing me to slip in a morning swim atleast 4 to 5 days in a week. And I can feel the difference. My weight gain has been slower, as evidenced by the scale and the fact that I am still comfortably wearing my wedding ring which came off in the fifth month last time thanks to fat, swollen fingers…

Food-wise too, I am being a lot more circumspect this time. Having treated pregnancy as a license to eat everything in sight the last time and having paid for it in terms of unnecessary extra weight, I am trying to seriously avoid junk food. I carry nuts and dried fruits to work to satisfy snacking urges and prefer a cheese sandwich to a fried snack, even at home. The fact that I have an absolute aversion to sweet stuff this time around also helps.

Physical Appearance

This one is short and sweet. I jumped an extra bra size compared to last time. And my tummy popped out a lot sooner - people were offering me their seats right at the beginning of my fourth month this time around.

Fashion Sense

There’s no easy way to say this. I was a frump in my first pregnancy. My sartorial choices included shapeless tops from FabIndia, oversized salwar kameezes, some maternity wear that my mother picked up from the US (only they were a size too big), some very poorly designed maternity pants I picked up at Mumbai store and whatever I could raid from the husband’s closet. I wasn’t particularly upset about this since there really weren’t any other alternatives available.

This time, I have decided to go in for a much more ‘yummy mummy’ style of dressing. It helps that Mothercare has launched their maternity wear in India – and while their clothes are not exactly at the height of fashion, they are still a huge improvement on what was available in India earlier by way of maternity wear. The current styles in tops too have a lot of options in lycra and empire waist lines, so I have been able to pick up stuff from regular stores that double up quite well as maternity wear. And last but not least, a fortuitous international work trip allowed me to pick up some good maternity wear, like these lovely maternity jeans that almost don’t look like maternity jeans.

So yes, I am comparatively rocking this pregnancy when it comes to looking fashionable and might I even say, hot!

Energy Levels

Much, much lower this time around. When pregnant with Ayaan, I would come home from work and fling myself in front of the TV, where I stayed till I went to bed. Mornings were a leisurely start to the day where I cashed in my pregnancy chips by insisting on breakfast in bed before I moved my bones. This time around, I am up at the crack of dawn to get the brat ready for school and my day ends only once he is in bed. Plus, I am trying to be more active with the regular swimming. So I feel utterly exhausted ALL the time. And the house is a mess. I can’t even summon up enough drive to put away the ironed laundry, which usually piles up in a mountain, to be tackled on the weekend. Forget about laundry, all the books I’ve read in the last month are still lying on my bedside table/ drawer since I haven’t been able to muster the motivation to pop them into the bookshelf.

Need for Information

Last time, I was positively ravenous for information on pregnancy, birth and caring for the baby. I bought the bible of pregnancy of course (What To Expect When You Are Expecting) but I also bought Spock on Pregnancy, a book on pregnancy nutrition, another on breastfeeding and atleast three books on childcare that I can recall. In addition to this, I signed up for Baby Center’s weekly mails – which told me what I was supposed to be feeling in minute detail and gave me weekly updates on what the baby was up to.

The only thing that has survived to the second round is the What To Expect and even that is being read cursorily. Last time, I pored over the entire book just after I bought it and read each month again just when it had started. I think I stopped short of memorising every detail in the book and could have answered a quiz on pre-eclampsia, placenta previa and cocaine use during pregnancy amongst other things. None of which, I might add, had any relevance or connection to me or my pregnancy…

This time, I pick it up once in a while when I am between books, leaf through the questions for the month I happen to be in (sometimes having to catch up with two months at a time) and read the answers only if they apply to me. For example, I know that the question ‘The baby is kicking so much. Could it be twins?’ in the sixth month chapter can be safely ignored.

Bending the Rules

I was paranoid about following ALL the rules the last time around. For example, I think I started wearing flat shoes and stopped wearing underwire bras the day the two pink lines appeared in the home pregnancy test. I stayed away from pork entirely due to the tapeworm scare. I never ate salads outside home for the fear that they might be improperly washed. And forget about imbibing even a sip of an alcoholic beverage, I didn’t so much as take a bite of anything cooked in a wine sauce.

Now, I am a little more irreverent about the rules. I continue to wear my sandals with 1-2 inches of heels, particularly on days when I know I won’t be doing much walking; and I plan to continue wearing them till I find them comfortable. The same applies to the underwire bras. I do eat the salads if I know I am at a trustworthy establishment and am not above gorging myself on a well-cooked pork sorpotel. And my doctor has permitted me a weekly glass of wine/ beer and while I am not swigging the stuff on a weekly basis, I happily have a glass of wine when I am out for a meal with friends.

Hmmmm.... I felt like I had a more examples of how the second pregnancy is different but the one thing that remains the same is ‘pregnancy brain’ {thanks Talena :) }and the rest of these seemed to have slipped my mind. More as and when I think of them.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

WaterWorks Inc

Here’s the thing. I don’t really do tears. Sure, I cry sometimes. Mostly out of anger and frustration and more often than not, directed at the husband. But overall, if you knew me, you would agree that I am rather practical, bordering on unemotional. I like to say that I have the sentimentality of a rock. Well, apparently pregnancy hormones will melt the flintiest of rocks. And cause a flood of tears not seen before in these parts* (except when Ayaan is denied something he wants).

I give you a sampling of the events of the recent months:

Situation 1: Another Kind of a Mile High Club

Jai and I were on a flight to Jaipur and we were going to be meeting Ayaan after a gap of two weeks. Jai decided to tell me that my mother told him that she won’t be bringing Ayaan to the airport to receive us since it would mess with his dinner time. This simple announcement over, he went back to reading his book only to look up a few moments to find big, fat tears rolling down my cheeks. Of course, he assured me that he was just kidding so that I would get a surprise when we landed. Now, you’d think that would be reason enough for me to stop crying right? Wrong. I wept for another five minutes for no reason known to anyone and to the utter discomfort of the guy sitting on the other side of me.

Situation 2: Morning Melodrama

One bright and sunny morning, I went into Ayaan’s room to wake him up for school. Now most days, he beats me to it and wakes up himself and pads across to our room. On the days that he needs to be awoken, he is grumpy to say the least. And it was no different on this particular morning. He peered up at me and said ‘Tu Ja’ (Marathi and Hindi for ‘get lost’) in the his rudest tone. Now this is a common occurrence and depending on his rudeness and my patience levels is dealt with anything between cajoling, scolding and spanking on my part. Not on this day, however. The instant these words left his mouth, I felt my eyes prickle and five minutes later, Jai walked into the room to find me sitting on the floor and bawling in a most heart-broken fashion. And the effect of this on my loving son, you ask? He was magically transported into a brilliant mood and was laughing at my theatrics and egging me on to ‘Cry some more’… though to give the devil his due, I don’t think he has ever seen me cry for real, so he probably thought I was putting up an act for his viewing pleasure…

Situation 3: The Not-So-Professional Business Traveller

Having overslept and rushed to the airport counter 25 minutes before the departure of my flight, I was politely informed by the Jet Airways lady that the flight was closed. This being the first time I have ever missed a flight, I was understandably bummed and then again I started to feel that unmistakeable prickle in my eye. And when she informed me that the next flight was all sold out, the dams burst and before I knew it, I was dripping enormous tears on the check-in counter and the Jet lady was veering between trying to look sympathetic and shifting uncomfortably in her chair.

Amongst other things, I have also been sniffling at sappy movies like Message in a Bottle and getting teary-eyed at an animal rescue programme on Nat Geo. Darn! I miss the old me. This is one thing I will be happy to lose along with the pregnancy bump. Now if only I could keep the cleavage :)

* I met a friend for lunch who reminded me that these events are not as unprecedented as one might suppose. She remembers from my first pregnancy that I drove home from work bawling half the way because the traffic jams upset me. I, of course, have no memory of this event. I guess this what they call pregnancy amnesia, when you subconsciously block out events from your pregnancy and childbirth experience that you don't want to remember and that might sap you of your motivation of going through the whole thing again :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In Conversation with Ayaan about the Baby

I am happy to announce that the brat has moved on from his gory obsession about his mother being cut up and we have been having a lot of fun, stimulating conversations about the baby. I am going to record some of them here for posterity...

On Gender Preference

Ayaan: Can we get a baby brother?
Mama: We can’t choose, baby. We will only know when the baby comes. What if it is a baby sister?
Ayaan: Well, ok then.

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On Gestation Periods

Ayaan: Mama, when is the baby going to come?
Mama: In October.
Ayaan: *brings his calendar* Show me on my calendar
Mama: *marks out 24th October on his calendar* The baby will come around this day
Ayaan: No. no. That’s too far. Can’t he come in June?

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On Equality of Discipline

While watching TV and being told to move back…
Ayaan: When the baby watches TV from too close, you shout at him also and tell him to sit back, okay?
Mama: Okay

After a little accident, followed by a scolding from Mama…
Ayaan: When the baby does susu* in his undies, you shout at him also, ok?
Mama: But when the baby is small, he can’t control his susu and he will do it in his diaper. So we have to wait a bit for him to grow up and learn to do it in the potty
Ayaan: Ok

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On the Biology of Pregnancy

Dinner table conversation…
Ayaan: Mama, when the baby does susu inside you, does it come out in your undie? Then do you have to go and change your undie?
Mama: No, baby. We all have a bladder (you have one too), where the susu collects till the bladder gets full and then we go and do susu in the bathroom. So the baby’s susu also goes to Mama’s bladder and comes out when she goes to the bathroom. (OK I know this is not technically true but I didn’t think he would get the whole peeing in amniotic fluid thing just yet)
Ayaan: And what about foodie? How does the baby eat foodie?
Mama: When Mama eats, some of that food goes to the baby. There is a pipe from Mama’s stomach to the baby’s stomach and the food goes directly to the baby’s stomach (again, a gross simplification but I don’t think I know much more than that either…)
Ayaan: Does the baby eat carrot?
Mama: Yes. He eats everything that Mama eats.
Ayaan: Does he eat chappati? *rinse and repeat till he runs out of his list of known edible items*
Ayaan: But Mama, you don’t eat chocolate and meetha** things? You must eat some otherwise the baby also won’t get any meetha things to eat…

After he bumped into my knee…
Ayaan: Sorry. Baby got hurt?
Mama: The baby’s not in my knee. He’s in my stomach…
Ayaan: But he must be going for a walk to your knees sometimes, na?
!!!

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On Sharing:

While playing in his room:
Ayaan: When the baby comes, I’ll keep my toys in this drawer and the baby’s toys can be in that other drawer.

While eating his post-dinner chocolates, which he gets to eat on Mondays and Thursdays
Ayaan: When the baby comes, we’ll give him chocolate on Mondays and Thursdays also
Mama: But when the baby is small, he won’t have any teeth so he can’t eat the things that you can. He will have only have milk till his teeth grow.
Ayaan: Ok. But when he becomes big and his teeth grow, then we’ll give him chocolate on Mondays and Thursdays?

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Preparing for the baby:

After we read this book, which had a page on feeding the baby and mentioned that some babies are breastfed and some are bottle-fed.
Ayaan: Mama, when our baby comes, we will give him milk from a bottle, ok?
Mama: No, baby. I will feed him from my breast like in the other picture?
Ayaan: No, no, the bottle is better
Mama: But the milk in the bottle is not as healthy as the milk in Mama’s breast
Ayaan: Ok. But when the milk in your breast gets over, then we will give him a bottle, ok?

When he was at my mum’s place in Jaipur, he found one of his old baby hair brushes. And decided that he will keep it for the baby.
Ayaan: Dekho***, Mama. I kept this brush for the baby.
Mama: Very good. Why don’t you tell him? *pointing to my stomach*
Ayaan: *to my stomach* Baby, I kept this brush for you.
Mama: The baby said ‘Thank You’

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Catching Out Mama’s Lies

A few days after the brush episode…
Ayaan: Mama, what is the baby saying now?
Mama: *having completely forgotten about the previous conversation* Sweetie, the baby can’t talk yet. He will start talking only after he comes out and grows up a little. In fact, you will have to help me teach him.
Ayaan: But that day, you said that he said Thank You…
Mama: Er….

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*Susu = Pee
** Meetha = Sweet
***Dekho = See

P.S. We are not talking about the baby in any particular gender but Ayaan tends to use the male Hindi verbs when referring to him, as do I. Hence the baby has been referred to as a 'he' in the conversations above, which were conducted in a mix of Hindi and English but I have translated for convenience and easier reading for all...