20-Mar-2013

Three months


The baby is now three months old. I never thought I would say this in the first month, but the days just fly. 

In the first month, not so much.

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Newborns need to be fed every two – three hours. This means my sleep is shot for the entire period. Newborns also like to poop after every feed, sometimes even more. They need to be burped after every feed. This means D’s sleep is also shot. Between diaper changing, burping and feeding, we both roam around the first month looking like zombies.

Our little fellow decides to add to this exhausting mix by having gas pains and infant reflux. We endure several bouts of tearful and heart wrenching crying. We finally figure out the reason and take action. Life improves dramatically, albeit to mere sleep deprivation and not perpetual despair.

At the end of the first month mark, a miracle happens. The baby goes five hours between feeds. Just one night. But what a sweet, sweet night..

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Question – How to put a onesie on a newborn?

Answer – You don’t

Newborns have fragile and bendy necks that make it impossible to manoeuvre a tricky piece of clothing like a onesie. We quietly stick to shirts and follow an excellent modus operandi.

Open shirt and spread eagle it on the bed. Place baby in centre of shirt. Gently insert arms. Button up shirt.

No lifting head or neck.

Over time though we get more adventurous as the baby’s neck became stronger. We even begin to change him into a sleeping suit at night. One of those full hand, legs covered, button up affairs. Same modus operandi though.

The first time we try it, D looks at the open suit with a peculiar expression on his face.

“A penny for your thoughts” I say softly, not wanting to disturb his reverie

“Doesn’t this look like a skinned rabbit?” D remarks in wonder.


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Bathing is a torturous exercise that involves copious tears from all parties. The baby is simply terrified of this activity. And unlike his dad and mom who enjoy their massages, he does not think much of us gently rubbing him with oil and using (What we think) is the soothing touch.


We try changing his super-expensive, fragrance-free bath shampoo cum soap to the cheaper J&J ‘No more tears’


Still tears


We try holding him to our chests during the bath


Still tears. And a soaking wet shirt for the bath-provider


We try changing the bathroom


Still tears


We try to start by pouring a little bit of water on his legs instead of going straight for the eyes


Ah. Finally a break through. Winning formula – Water from bottom up, not top down. Then do the usual sequence of eyes, ears etc. Keep pouring water on baby at regular intervals without allowing him to go cold. 

The baby is still not too impressed by the massage but is willing to keep up pretences so I can feel like a good mom. 


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In the midst of these challenges, there are the nice moments too. There is the sublime smile the baby sports while passing wind. There is the comical smile that accompanies poops, followed by an utterly innocent expression that says ‘what is that smell? Of course, it is not me’. It is like watching a David Dhawan movie. Which like all David Dhawan movies can only provide so much entertainment.


By the time his second month rolls around, we are ready for a little more paisa vasool. Where is the bit when babies look like the ones in ads – all cute and chubby and laughing at their moms?


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The baby gives social smiles. Rather randomly at all moving objects in the house – mom, dad, patti, thatha, helper, red elephant in his crib mobile that goes round and round over his head.


As month two progresses, his neck is less fragile and we dress him in onesies that add an extra step of unbuttoning to diaper changes. But also look much much cuter.


He is sleeping a bit better. We get atleast four hours of continuous sleep most nights.


He flips onto his tummy accidentally a couple of times leading to much concern about SIDS and a couple of nights of watching him like a hawk.


It passes.


He has been sleeping in his crib during the nights. But daytime naps have been on the aching shoulders of adults. Then his aunt sends him a bouncer and a swing. He hates the bouncer. He loves the swing. He naps in the swing like an angel. We ignore the guidelines by the American Association of Paediatricians to restrict swing time to not more than two half-an-hour slots in a day. We join the ranks of parents who would do anything to make the baby sleep.


The baby is awake more and is beginning to enjoy the playmat that his aunt sent.

Even though we are not aware of it, a transition is happening. As the baby moves towards completing his third month, he suddenly develops a HUGE interest in the world around him.


Everything is fascinating. The tubelight above his head is the first beneficiary of smiles for non-moving objects.  


Then he gives a smile everytime he sees me. Ah, it is good to be a mom when that happens.


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The baby is enjoying his outings. The first time in his stroller, he is petrified of the view of the big bad world. Walks are always undertaken with the keen sense that he would want to be carried halfway through.


Then one fine day, he looks about him in wonder as we undertake our (mostly) daily walks in the park behind our house.


We finally take him to the Botanical Gardens or rather the restaurant in the gardens where he looks around and then falls asleep on his Patti’s aching shoulder. Miraculously he stays asleep when we transfer him to his stroller.


Then we actually go to the Botanical Gardens, walking the path from one gate to another. He loves it.


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Everyday there is something new. A couple of days, it is a furious attempt to roll from back to tummy. It is promptly forgotten the third day. Instead the baby chants ‘hunn hunn hunn’ an entire day. This is set aside for attempts to raise his head while he is seated on someone’s lap.


Yes, our boy has grown up quite a bit in the last three months. He is no longer a newborn but an infant. I already miss the tiny, curled-up creature in the crib next to me. But the active and smiling infant who has taken his place is even more adorable. I can’t have enough of his grins or the grape-black eyes with which he looks around in wonder. I sometimes look at him when he is sleeping, wanting to press him so close to my heart that he becomes a part of me again.


The wonder of it all.

12-Mar-2013

Yoga Shoga


Six weeks after the baby came, I was ready to try and get back into shape. I was walking like an old and limp woman and had had enough of it. Scouring the local websites, I found a post-natal yoga course that seemed just perfect. I would start slow and steady and build up my stamina. The yoga class also allowed babies to accompany their moms. Not that I had to take the baby along. I had family babysitting and did not have to worry about him

My trial session in class was a bit of a culture shock. I have been doing yoga on and off my entire adult life (i.e. my thirties. Which is I think the same). My classmates have usually been middle aged women or older men who had long given up on the gym in favour of something less aggressive. This class was different. It naturally held post-partum women. It was also filled with babies. Clearly everyone had taken the permission to bring babies along as an invitation to do so.

I was a bit disconcerted. Surely it is not possible that not a single other woman had a reliable babysitter? Or, (this thought was worse), am I the only woman who did not want to spend every single waking moment with her baby?

Fifteen minutes into the class, I firmly decided it must be the former reason. The babies, like babies are wont to do, squealed for attention, had to be fed, had to be rocked to sleep, had to be held. Very few babies lay there sleeping quietly. All the moms broke off their exercise routine at some point or the other during class to attend to their babies. Surely, you would not be using up the 2 hours you get every week to exercise to do something you anyway do 24/7?

Though thirty minutes into class, I wondered if some women weren’t just showing off what perfect mothers they were. One of them was holding her baby while doing the tree pose. A pose where you balance yourself on one leg. Then you could do variations such as leaning forward and spreading your hands. I could barely balance myself on one leg, let alone leaning forward. I thought I would fall forward and smash my jaw. But Supermom was standing on one leg, leaning forward and holding her baby to her chest.

Pshaw.

I enjoyed the class though. Various parts of my body, still weak from the labour, were being gently pressed into service. It was exactly what I needed.

I signed up for more classes and began to attend regularly.

But one thought kept nagging me. Why did all these women have to bring their babies along? Why did they have to form a little holier-than-thou clique? Why did I have to stick out like a sore thumb?

Mostly I was feeling annoyed with myself for not working up the courage to take the baby to class by myself and manage him.

Then suddenly, I decided that I would take him. I had bought a sling and a nice diaper bag (we were using my trekking backpack till then) and I realised I would be able to manoeuvre with him by myself. I also mentally decided that I would not expect to do any yoga that day and just attend to him during class. Besides, the baby was becoming curious about the world around him and it seemed the right time to expose him to other babies and people and a whole new environment.

So last week, we were off. A determined mom and a curious baby.

I could not have picked a better day. The regular teacher usually just gave breaks where you could hold your baby. That day there was a substitute teacher who incorporated the baby into the entire workout. I did squats holding the baby in my hands. I had to touch my toes with the baby between my legs and smiling down at him. I had to place the baby on my tummy with my feet up on a chair and my head on the floor. We had to hold our babies and gently swing them to get a waist workout. It was sheer fun.

To my surprise, the baby was quite calm. He looked around with great curiosity the entire hour. He briefly made eye contact with a neighbouring baby. He did not start crying or squealing when some of the other babies did. He squealed towards the end when he started feeling hungry and after class, I fed him. His diaper change also waited till after class. In short, both mom and baby had a wonderful time. And mom managed to do the entire workout.

As it turned out, no one particularly noticed that I had brought the baby along. The one lady I had chatted with a few classes previously gave me an encouraging smile and delightedly asked “So you brought him along?” Clearly, no one had been judging me about not bringing the baby along. Except me.

It did become easier to strike up conversations though. I compared notes with a couple of moms and felt reassured that my concerns were not unique.

The baby and I made our way back home, happy and content.

04-Mar-2013

Loving my smartphone

I think I had a smartphone back in Mumbai. I say ‘think’ because my Nokia E 63 was used for making calls and sending SMSes. 

Then I moved to Singapore and bought an IPhone. I have already fallen in love with it. Especially because a lot of my waking hours go in nursing the baby and the IPhone is a very handy thing to keep me busy. My top uses – 


  • Skype – Sure, I had it on my comp in India too. But suddenly I find my family and friends geographically dispersed and Skype could not have been handier.   
  •  Whatsapp – This is something I discovered only recently and I have been fascinated ever since. It is also the first paid app I have bought on itunes but it is so cheap, it is practically free. I have rediscovered my lost fetish for having conversations through SMSes. Even better, I have been able to chat with friends in different time zones given the odd hours I have been up at.   
  • Camera – The quality is top notch. I am trying to keep a record of the baby’s growth and an Iphone is much easier to click snaps or make videos than my usual point and click camera. Especially when we go outside, I don’t have to remember to take the camera along. 
  • Surfing – The top sites being baby forums. The baby not sleeping well? Baby’s poo green in colour? What are the side effects of vaccinations? Much easier than sitting down at my laptop and wasting my non-nursing hours. 
  • More surfing – Mostly my favourite news sites – Guardian, Rediff, NDTV, NY times (upto the unpaid article limit). I re-discovered New Yorker and have been enjoying the great quality essays. I have also been able to keep up with business news on the economic times and business standard websites, something I thought I would never do during my maternity leave but which is probably going to be helpful when I head back to work . Also my favourite blogs (though commenting is a bit of a pain with such small letters). And occasionally recipes for the helper to add some zing to our daily bread. 
  •  Email – Naturally. I even have time to read forwards 
  • Directions – This is the one function which I use on-the-go. With google maps, bus and MRT timetables - New city, here I come! 
  • YouTube – Especially to keep in touch with Bollywood songs. Also to know what a Harlem Shake a friend told me about is. Or to indulge in a bit of nostalgia by playing old Hindi and Tamil songs. I should ideally be playing nursery rhymes too but I still have not crossed the bridge into that stage of parenting 
  •  Worldclock – this is a cheap thrill. I have entered the times of various geographies inhabited by family and friends and it is super easy to figure out who is likely to be free to talk/Skype at a particular hour.
 I was wondering whether to include Facebook given how frequently I visit it. Except that I have built in so many restrictions that I hardly see posts of more than a few people and they don’t update every two hours. So it is not much fun.

I am aware I have arrived at the smartphone party late. Which is also why I am quite eager to up the knowledge quickly. If anyone has suggestions for use or some sites which I can surf for timepass, pls share your thoughts generously!

03-Mar-2013

A party

I was dressed in a smart and rather flattering dress. I was forced to follow an uber-healthy diet during the last trimester on health grounds, a time when most people are upping the ice-cream count. When the baby came, I had shed the pregnancy weight quite fast.

Now all that suffering was bearing fruit. I could wear all my pre-pregnancy clothes and boy, was I  going to wear the better fitting ones everywhere. Especially considering that with my one-Oreo-pack-once-in-two-days diet, it is unlikely that this joyous state of affairs is going to last long.

So there I was, on one of my few (and now increasing) trips outside. D’s friend had invited us for his child’s second birthday party.

Where was the baby?

At home, with the folks.

It turns out our paediatrician has strong views on letting an under-three months old mingle at children’s birthday parties, which apparently are cesspits of infections.  (We did not mention the brewery trip to him. I assume the alchohol in the air would have killed off any germs.)

So not only was I slightly overdressed for a children’s birthday party, I had left my kid behind too. Only someone desperate for social interaction and an opportunity to dress up would do this. Such as new moms living in a new country with very few friends.


D and I were headed towards a part of town I had never been to and which was really far by Singapore’s standards. When we passed by actual forests, I could not quite believe we were still in the tiny country. For a change, the horizon seemed to go on forever. Then signs of people began again.

When we had first arrived, we had stayed near Orchard Road, the part of town where people came to party and shop. Naturally they were all dressed to the hilt. Then we moved to our flat, and while people there still looked smart, they were never in their outdoor finery. In the area in which I found myself, people looked relatively more homely, wearing the kind of shabby shorts and t-shirts I have been too embarrassed to don even inside my condo.

We had arrived at one of the largest HDB communities. HDBs are apartments built by the government and are shorn of fancy pools and tennis courts which condos come with. As we entered, I realised they were shorn of fancy lobbies too. The building could not have been plainer. They had been built simply to house people. They could have been government housing in India but for the lack of spit and urine stains. There were tiny gardens for children. There were useful shops selling reasonably priced goods. There were community health centres.


We walked into the flat, ready to mingle.

If there is one thing I learnt from that party, it is that large gatherings of Indians across generations, usually means everyone is in traditional clothes.

Not smart black and white knee length dresses showing arms. You can stick out like a sore thumb in western clothes, even in Singapore.


Even before we entered the flat, we saw the buffet outside. Having a baby means your schedule is tied to the baby’s and you show up when nursing/bathing/sleeptime etc  permits you too. (And I will finally stop judging parents whose lack of punctuality used to annoy me).  So the cake had been cut and we had skipped that horrid part where good food is calling out to you but you are not in a position to attack it.

After I had been introduced to various people and some minimal polite conversation had ensued, I made a beeline for the buffet. The menu was mouth-watering to say the least. The star attractions were chicken Biryani, mutton paratha, sardine paratha and Indian rojak, all of which I helped myself to in generous quantities. If I was a bit puzzled that a Tam Brahm household was doling out the meat by the gallon, I did not let it stop me. The hostess’s family had been in Singapore for a few generations and perhaps had imbibed local habits.

“No”, our host informed us, obviously amused by my naiveté, “This is mock meat”

“What” I spluttered.

“Yup, made of soya. A lot of the monks find it difficult to give up non-veg from their previous lives. So mock meat caters to them. The other vegetarians also enjoy it”

A lot of emotions ran through me. Firstly I felt terribly cheated. It is a bit like ordering beef burger and finding you have been served horsemeat instead. Then I got a little concerned – was it safe to consume all the estrogen in soya when one is nursing?  Finally I wondered if it wasn’t cheating to eat mock meat. I can understand if you had been brought up on a diet of meat and found it difficult to give it up when you took your orders. But if you are a vegetarian by birth and have learnt to enjoy the taste of meat, then it seemed a bit fussy to be eating mock meat. Just eat the real thing and enjoy it. (And I don't buy the argument that they are concerned about killing animals. Most of them seem happy enough to flaunt their silk sarees or leather handbags. Though that is a topic for another day). I guess each to his own.

While all these emotions were running through me, my mind was giving an entirely different set of directions to my hand and mouth. “Eat” it seemed to be commanding 
“The stuff tastes good even if it is fraudulent”

So I did