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... :)