Saturday, January 30, 2010

Three and a Half Months and Counting

That title would have sounded a lot more elegant without the ‘and a Half’ but then if I were so punctual with updating this blog, it wouldn’t have been limping along at a measly 165 posts in four years (yes, it has been four years but that’s the subject of another post, which may or may not see the light of day).

Anyway, so where was I? Yes, Tarana is just over three and a half months old and I am shaking my head in disbelief as I write this. When did that happen? My newborn baby has already moved out of the newborn phase and now falls into the 3-6 months bracket. And three precious months of my maternity leave have flown by, leaving me with another three before I have to drag myself back to the workforce.

I am lucky to work for an organisation that has upped the maternity leave to 6 months, following the WHO guidelines that recommend six months of exclusive breastfeeding. The law in India requires companies to only give three months of paid leave (though there are some plans to amend this).

I simply cannot imagine going back to work right now. To start with, there is no way I can continue to exclusively breastfeed if I did that. Tarana still needs 6-8 feeds a day and if I were working full-time, atleast 3-4 of these feeds would be during my working (and commuting) hours. There is no way that I could express that much milk in the nights and mornings in addition to feeding her. For continued exclusive breastfeeding to be even remotely possible, I would need to be able to express and store a few feeds while I am at work. And right now, no company that I know of provides the facilities for this. So unless using a battery-operated pump in the ladies toilet and carrying around an ice-box to store the milk is acceptable, there will be less than exclusive breastfeeding. More than that, I don’t think I would be comfortable pumping at work because it’s not done here so it people would look askance at my periodic and relatively lengthy disappearances to the loo with a whole bunch of expressing and storing gear…

But even if I kept the breastfeeding aside, I still don’t think I am ready to go back to work at month three. Tarana is quite particular in her need of me. While I do try and hand her over to the maids for short intervals so that she gets used to being in their care, she rarely stays with them happily beyond ten minutes, after which she screams blue murder till she back in my arms. I guess this is because I know I have another three months to wean her off my constant presence. And as a result, I have been pretty possessive about my little baby. Even though there are two maids around through most of the day, I pretty much change every nappy and respond to every cry of hers. It was similar with Ayaan as well, though there I didn’t have much of a choice in my manner since my nanny hunt met with success only after he was five months old.

But even beyond the breastfeeding and my own possessiveness, I believe that my baby needs me for six months at the very least. So much of baby care at this stage is about instinct - and I don’t believe anyone else can do a better job of deciphering her needs. And sometimes the needs are not just simple, physical things like a wet nappy, an empty stomach or a tired baby. There are so many intangibles about me that comfort her – the way I smell, that very particular way in which only I hold her, the unique rhythm of my rocking and shushing. And nobody can provide that but me. I saw with Ayaan that as he got older, he was happy enough without me as long as he was fed, dry and rested. But before that, I was his blankie and it’s the same with Tarana. And I don’t think I am ready to yank the blankie away at three months.

Also, there is a question of figuring out what she needs when she is cranky. I am sure given time, my maids could figure it out but I’d rather not have it happen the hard way. At six months, it’s far easier to prescribe a schedule that must be followed in my absence – specific times when the baby must be fed or put for a nap – that ensures that at least 90% of the time, there need be no guesswork about why the baby is upset and also ensures that she does not get over-hungry or over-tired.

At this point, it seems like even another three months will not be enough but I am reassuring myself with the thought that it was with Ayaan and other than the daily drama when I actually left, he was equally happy and healthy once I went back to work.

I think it really sucks that women have to go back to work before it is ideal for them and their babies. It’s heartening to know that the Indian government is considering changing policy in this manner.

On to more cheerful things – a Tarana update…

She is a relatively happy and peaceful baby. She sleeps at least a seven hour stretch each night, followed by another 3-4 hour stretch. She is smiling a lot. She coos and screeches and her big brother screeches right back at her. She loves her daily oil massages but hates her baths. When upset, she only calms with me or Jai. She shows no signs of wanting to turn over though she sometimes manages to travel from one end of her cot to another in the night. We go to the park with Ayaan now and she sits in the car seat and watches the world go by. And then, because a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s three thousand more... :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dadda's Little Football

Presenting Tarana in her favourite position:

When Jai is carrying around Tarana like this, we get a variety of shocked reactions:

Maid: Bhaiyya, yeh kaise ajeeb tareeke se baby to pakda hain (What is this weird way of holding the baby?)

Ayaan: Dadda, you are holding her like an aminal... (mis-spelling intentional - one of his last mispronunciations - my baby is growing up *sniff*)

Friend: *gasps* How are you holding her????!!!!

My brother: Dude, are you seriously telling me that that is a valid way to hold a baby?!

Well, actually it is a valid and extremely effective way to hold the baby. It is called the football hold and is recommended by paediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp in his book The Happiest Baby On the Block. By putting pressure on the baby's abdomen, this position supposedly helps ease abdominal discomfort. I don't know about that but I do know that it works like magic for Tarana. Within seconds of being plopped upside down on Jai's arm, she's a happy trooper.

I don't know who loves the football hold more - Jai or Tarana. Because for Jai, it's the one special thing that only he can do to calm her. I don't have the upper arm strength to carry her like that for more than a few seconds. So he's proud, she's calm, I get a break and all is well with the world. And being somewhat more zen-like second parents, we find people's reactions amusing rather than irritating...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Meet the Friends

For the longest time, Ayaan had no time to spare for his ever-growing soft toy collection, gifted over the years by friends and family. They were all stuffed into a shelf in his cupboard and largely ignored. All except the Noddy doll that was his sleep companion till he turned three and then was ruthlessly discarded.

But then about six months ago, they were discovered. It started with him needing some company for his weekend TV viewing. So a random selection of soft toys would be dragged out from the cupboard and made to sit facing the TV for the duration of the permitted cartoon time after which they went back to spend the remainder of the week in the cupboard.

The next evolution in their status happened when he decided that some of the lucky ones would get to share his bed at night. So a new ritual was added to bedtime – that of picking the three fortunate bedfellows. Only they were not cuddled and hugged as you might expect. They had to sleep under his pillow…

The next step was to christen some of the favourite ones. He was gifted a white teddy bear for his last birthday, who he insisted was actually a polar bear so he got named Pola. The other favourites included Dogga, Frogga and Pengua (no prizes for guessing the animals) and just when I was despairing of any creativity in the naming process, Icy the Giraffe.

Once they got names, they became an integral part of our lives. We had long chats about their doings and their naughty behaviour, which resulted in one or more of them being banished back to the cupboard. They came vegetable shopping with us. Pola accompanied us to Ayaan’s first visit to McDonalds. Pola, Pengua and Frogga went to see Up with the father-son duo and due to a relatively empty theatre, even got seats of their own.

Ayaan clicked some portraits of his friends as well. Say hello to Pola:

And Pengua...

Dogga is the Snoopy in the TV watching picture and Frogga is buried behind Pola in the same picture.

Anyway, it was inconceivable that the friends did not accompany us on our mad holiday and that too as hand baggage. With visions of our baggage being doubled by the numerous soft toys, he was told that he could pick any three – so Pola, Frogga and Icy made the cut while Dogga and Pengua were left behind because they had been naughty boys. Much was made of them throughout the trip. They each got a hand baggage tag of their own and made their way into and out of the baggage xray machine under the watchful eyes of a certain boy.

In Bangalore, they went to the park and got to ride on the merry-go-round, the see-saw and the swing. (They were also chucked down the slide but that happened too fast to be captured on film).

Two new friends also joined the gang – Whaley and Beary. They were actually presents for Tarana but were quickly appropriated by Ayaan and can be seen here with the others watching on while Ayaan enjoys his daily hour of internet games

In Jaipur, we lost Frogga – lost being an euphemism for being chewed up by the dogs. By the time, we got him away from Beanz, he had lost both his eyes. We gingerly broke the news to Ayaan who shrugged it off by saying that Frogga was a very brave boy since he didn’t cry.

And so we came back to Mumbai, having lost one ‘friend’ but having gained two. These days, he seems to be growing out of his interest in his soft toys. So I thought I better get this post out there before it becomes another one of those lost memories :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Long, Meandering Holiday Post

Our winter holidays are always complicated since we spend Christmas with my in-laws in Bangalore and then hotfoot it across the country before 30th December to spend my mom’s birthday with her. This year was no different, though thankfully unlike last year, the itinerary does not need a flow chart to explain. The complexity this year arose from the extra little person and her not-so-little bundle of stuff that had to accompany us. So for a two-week holiday, we carried:

  • One ginormous suitcase
  • One medium-sized suitcase
  • One strolley
  • One travel cot
  • One diaper bag
  • One laptop bag
  • One bag full of Ayaan's friends (we have soft toy friends who must do everything with us – this deserves a separate post in itself that I hope to write next)

The little person herself was bundled up and carried in this brilliant and most useful sling that Mad Momma has lent me. It’s called the Mayawrap and I highly recommend it. Tarana loves it and stays peacefully in it. It made travel much easier since I had my hands free to help Jai with the luggage and even satisfy Ayaan’s request to hold my hand. Here’s a picture from later in the trip of Tarana sleeping in the sling…

Anyway, back to Tarana’s first flight. I had grand plans of nursing her at takeoff to prevent discomfort due to the air pressure change, but we were seventh in takeoff sequence and she got screamingly hungry so had to feed her before take off but then she went off to sleep and the air pressure didn't bother her. She was either asleep or peaceful or smiley through most of the flight bar 2-3 bouts of 5-minute crying jags, one of which was because of she needed a diaper change. She was really so very manageable and Ayaan still remained the centre of all our efforts to survive the flight. He had a major meltdown because he didn't like the way the Crayola crayons box opened (crayons not as accessible to clumsy, little fingers) since he is used to using the Camlin ones! Landing was ok too - Tarana was awake but not hungry so when she started fussing, I popped the pacifier that I had brought along for the purpose into her mouth.

Life in Bangalore was terribly hectic. Tarana went completely off-schedule and refused to nap during the day. And also got upset at being passed around too much so would scream blue murder at being carried by anyone else except me. All in all, I spent most of my awake time feeding, bathing or putting one or the other of the kids to sleep.

Thankfully, while Ayaan wouldn’t allow anyone else to feed or bathe him, he was quite happy to go off gallivanting with various members of the family. Jai took him to the park behind the house twice a day, he went out for a dosa breakfast, was despatched to a neighbour’s house to play with their grandkids and most fun of all, he visited the gingerbread house and giant Christmas tree at the Leela Galleria. The life-size gingerbread house actually had cookies and other treats stuck to the walls that could simply be plucked off and eaten. And eat he did! You know that new research that says that sugar doesn't make kids hyperactive? Well, that day I had a boy with a sugar high on my hands that proved otherwise!

With the noble intention of involving Ayaan in the Christmas preparations, my father-in-law recruited his help in putting up the Christmas tree. The first task was to get the tree and ornaments down from the loft so Ayaan was airlifted to the loft where he spent a merry fifteen minutes passing stuff down. After that, he started to lose interest and had to be removed from the scene when he started wielding the branches as a weapons to swat stuff/people with and kicking the ornaments around. After the tree was finally put up in spite of his help, he had a great time spraying a can of fake snow on the tree. He did a pretty thorough job of it and I don’t envy the person who has to clean the tree and ornaments of all the gunk.

It was quite a task from keeping him from ripping the presents open but he finally did hold out till Christmas morning, though he kept showing us the presents that had his name on them. He got a toy tool box from us, a snow globe from the brother-in-law BIL and his wife, a couple of wooden toys from my sister-in-law and some books. I got a new Samsung touchscreen phone from Jai, a lovely musical jewellery box and some other stuff. Ayaan was present-opener in chief and had a complete ball opening everybody's presents for them.

The other highlight of the Bangalore trip was Tarana's christening. If you had told me a few years ago that I'd find getting dressed and out of the house by 10.30 a.m. a challenge of gargantuan proportions, I wouldn't have believed it. But then Ayaan only got up at 9 and by the time he, Jai and I were dressed it was 10 and Tarana just about woke up. So I decided to ditch the bath for her - fed her, dressed her and left for the church.

Tarana’s christening dress was stitched by my mother-in-law and it was totally adorable. There is something so special about hand-made stuff, especially handmade stuff made with love (like Sue’s lovely kantha). There was another baby being christened at the same time and though she wore a beautiful all-lace dress, it was so obviously store-bought and machine made that I wouldn’t have traded T’s dress for the world.

Some wedding was running late so we had to wait outside for a bit. Ayaan immediately got busy with his favourite activity – mucking around in the mud – and put paid to all my efforts to have him looking neat and well turned out.

The baptism itself went pretty smoothly, with Tarana sleeping through most of it, though she did bawl her head off when they poured the freezing cold water on her head.

I think what made the Bangalore trip most special this year was the relationships that Ayaan was able to forge with everyone there. In past trips, he had ample opportunity to cling to me but this time, he had a lot of independent and memorable interactions with the extended family and was happy to go off and do stuff with them, without me in attendance. That, in itself, was a big milestone.

The next leg of our trip took us to Jaipur for my mother’s 60th birthday. Just in case getting everyone (a friend says I make it sound like I am caring for a football team :) – I guess there is a Drama Queen in all of us) ready and out by 10.30 was too easy, we needed to leave the house at 7.30. We somehow managed to drag everyone out of bed, get loaded into the taxi and make it to the airport in time for the flight. The flight was uneventful. I was a bit stressed out since I had forgotten to sterilise the pacifier but Tarana deigned to nurse both at takeoff and landing so all was well.

The exciting thing about the Jaipur trip was that my mum did not know that we were coming. A couple of months ago she had pulled a complete martyr act, like only a mother can, saying that she didn’t want us to take the trouble of coming to Jaipur and 60th birthdays were not such a big deal anyway. So like the good children we are, we decided to just ignore her and land up anyway. We managed to keep the whole thing hush-hush and she had absolutely no idea we were coming.

It was weird not to have her waiting for us at the Arrivals gate when we exited the airport but we got into a pre-paid and headed home to wait for her. I called her to test waters (told her I had just landed in Mumbai) and figured that she would be coming home for lunch. The sad part was that when she did arrive, I was inside feeding the girl and missed the golden opportunity to say 'Surprise' and catch her expression. But Ayaan and Jai did the needful and she was super thrilled. In spite of her martyr-hogwash, she was flying two inches over the ground as one surprise after another was unveiled. At 7, my brother entered the house to more excitement.

The next day was her birthday. She thought that the plan was a cozy dinner at her friend's place. Unknown to her, we had planned a big party - which we were a little stressed about since the banquet manager of the place had not managed to get anything together. Jai stepped in and after telling her he had a meeting, went off and got everything together in time for the party. The friend (at whose house the party supposedly was) called in the evening and told mum that she needed to pick up some kababs on her way (from the venue of the party). Mum cribbed and cribbed about why she could not have asked someone else and felt most put upon as the birthday girl. She then proceeded to take a century to get ready while my brother and I were pulling our hair out in trying to make her hurry without giving the game away. We finally left the house well after Jai messaged us saying everyone had arrived and was waiting. In the rush, forgot the camera. :((((((

She was well and truly surprised and was very happy despite her earlier statements of not wanting a big party. A few of her friends and relatives from Delhi showed up too so that made it extra-special. The brother had chosen a lovely poolside venue and we had hired a live band which sang all the retro English numbers she loves. So, all in all, the Great 60th Birthday Surprise was a grand success.

The rest of the Jaipur trip flew by in a blur of sleep for me. My mother retired the day after her birthday so I handed the care of both kids to her and Jai and stirred myself only to nurse Tarana. It was a much-needed breather!

The Jaipur story would not be complete without a BIG thank you to The Mad Momma and Eve’s Lungs for helping me out with Tarana’s woollen wardrobe. Since finding adequate woollies in Mumbai for a newborn proved virtually impossible on my (feeding) schedule and asking my mum to stock up might have got in the way of the big surprise, they very generously stepped in, bought and couriered some lovely warm clothes for Tarana. Here’s Tarana and Buddy the Dog (thanks to Ayaan) modelling some of them.

On the flight back, we finally dropped the ball and left our strolley suitcase behind in the cabin. But we were really lucky since the airline found it and got it back to us in one piece (including some gold earrings that Tarana had been presented with).

Phew. And with that, ends the holiday saga.