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 :)