Thursday, December 11, 2008

Amid security concerns, the first test between England and India gets underway. WE applaud the English team for expressing its solidarity with India and what better way to do so but come and play. Sports has stood for the best of human spirits and so it is now. It wasn't an easy task to decide to come and play here. It isn't easy to concentrate on the game when you are worried about your personal safety.And hence the decision must be applauded. We Indians appreciate it.
Having said that, it is the first time since his retirement that India has taken to the field without Ganguly. It will be interesting to find out how team India fills the void left by his departure. There are many talented youngsters who now have to adorn the baton and prove their mettle.Ganguly has always been in the thick of controversies. A man paradoxically accused of not trying to become a part pf the team while he was a junior and yet the complete team man when he became the skipper. Personally, he wasn't my favorite but I couldn't dislike him. On his day he could demolish the best of bowlers as well as any other batsman. His off side game was sheer poetry. He was such that he could single handedly change the complexion of the game despite his weakness to meddle with the balls pitched short or those flying outside the off stump. My favorite innings has to be the one he played against the Lankans in the world cup held at England at a rain interrupted match. He rose to become one of the four pillars of the Indian top order, with his batting prowess keeping abreast with controversies that plagued him like a shadow. Probably one of the most criticised batsman in the history of the game, he was also the one who steadied the boat of Indian cricket when it was threatening to sink under the rogue wave of the match fixing scandal. Those were the times when in spite of a Sachin Tendulkar on whom the team depended completely, the team still did not quite believe it could beat the best. He has the best captaincy record and he backed his team to the hilt. He laid the foundation of a strong team that believed in its abilities. And the youngsters like Dhoni can now build it up further. These are exciting times.
He was also the captain during its most memorable wins, The Eden Gardens test against the then invincible Aussies led by The great all rounder, Steve Waugh. The Finals of the 83' World Cup when the Formidable West Indies had to bite the dust in front of the underdogs from India was probably the proudest an Indian Cricket lover has felt. But I was too young at that time. I can relate much better to Dhoni's young guns winning the Twenty-20 world cup. But for me the ultimate cricketing moment or rather sporting moment has to be winning the Eden test after following on. In fact, the story is so inspiring that I am planning to get the score sheet laminated! Its an allegory to "Never say die". Memories of that win instills a confidence that no matter how bad the going or how dire the situation, its just a matter of applying one self and sticking on. The dream innings by VVS overshadowed the contributions of the other team members like Dravid, Harbhajan and Tendulkar (with the bowl). It was truly a team effort. This is the legacy that has to be taken care of by any aspiring cricketer. I cannot imagine a team without Laxman, Dravid and Sachin. And yet a day will come when these names will be missing from the score board. Lately few names have promised a great deal. While there are quite a few contenders for the one day format, The test team beyond the seniors still looks weak. I have lot of expectations from the likes of Gambhir, Rohit Sharma and Raina. Few others have flattered to deceive. Many youngsters are knocking on the selectors' door with fine performances in the domestic season. And yet we forget one thing. The senior players have passed the acid test by winning matches for India abroad. All four have done just that over the years. Irrespective of what form they are in today, they have taken on the best of bowling attacks all over the world and prospered. Most of Laxmans best Innings have come against Aussies and in Australia. Dravid and Tendulkar have held the innings together in adverse batting conditions far away from home. And there lies the crux of the matter. It is one thing to make runs in India. The real test of character is how the youngsters will fare in alien conditions. As a reminder let me mention Wasim Jaffer. Jaffer hit a superb double ton against Pakistan playing in India. The innings was such a delight that it was reminiscent of Laxman's elan. And yet when he went to Asutralia, he just couldn't play. The point I am trying to make here is that lets not try and replace the seniors until the young guns have proved their prowess with the willow at grounds outside the country. Lets treat the seniors with more respect. Lets not hurry with phasing them out lest their departure leaves the team weak and tottering. We have the ability to become the best test team in the world. We are at the threshold of establishing ourselves at the top of the world. Lets not step backwards with poor and shortsighted selections. Often we talk about people only to criticize them. And "the good is oft interred with the bones". In the end let me mention, what Dilip Vengsarkar did as a selector was hugely commendable. A selector is usually caught between the hard place and the rock. A job that is thankless. Forgotten when the sun is shining, his is usually the first head to roll when the teams performs badly. And yet pushing for the team that he believed in under all sorts of opposition, a part of the credit for Team India's recent success must go to Vengsarkar. Lets hope that Kris Shrikanth follows suit and India shines.
I was watching NDTV the other day that featured a report on the capture of the terrorist, Abdul Amir Qasab, the only one who was captured alive. The significance of that is yet to surface fully. India will no dubt benefit from his confessions to take the war on terror to its logical conclusion. The report featured the three brave police men who were behind the capture, one of whom, Tukaram Umbale, perished in his efforts. I was drawn to tears when I heard how he singlehandedly rushed out to confront the terrorist/s knowing only too well that the chances of escaping alive was an impossibility. And yet he did just that and "was shot five times in the stomach, but he held on to Qasab until others could reach him." We owe that man and his selflessness a great deal. I salute his courage.
I wanted to find out more about the incident and the man himself but the only thing I could "google" out was the same report text at the NDTV site. And I was left unsatisfied. The report hasn't done justice to the incident or to the bravery of the officer. While so much coverage was reserved for the higher officers who lost their lives, including Major Sandeep of the NSG, the lowly ranked cops have been hardly mentioned. And I feel that it is utterly unfair. People are shown paying homage to the senior officers but no one remembers the others. You cannot measure bravery by the rank of the martyr.
I also feel sad that these cops fought against the dreaded, highly trained terrorists with a lone rifle and lathis. Let not our security forces fight the terrorists with only bravery. Lets not take their courage for granted. Lets give them a chance to do their job with dedication and yet make sure they come back to their families at the end of the day. Its often the bravest of the brave that die and are decorated with gallantry awards. But the awards cannot replace the men.
Also to be remembered are the civilians who died in the attacks. Innocent lives snuffed out before time while they went about their lives not troubling anybody. The value of human life reduced to dust. Time, the faithful healer lets us cope with tragedies and yet dulls the pain to acceptance and finally helps forget them. We must not let that happen.
We must build a memorial so we never forget these attacks on our sovereignity, so the flame of anger and the determination to fight against the pestilence of terrorism burns eternally with a brightness that doesnt diminishes with the passage of time. Let the memorial remind us of all the brave officers and civilians who have lost their lives to terrorism all across the country. Let it remind us of every drop of blood that was shed to sully the sacred soil of our nation.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Pregnancy diary – The Ten Commandments

I had a relatively easy time being pregnant and also an easy delivery. God be blessed. You cannot escape the pains of labor but it makes life easy when it doesn't last long. A pregnant woman is the most advised person on earth. And when you are hormonally not on your best behavior and when you are supposed to be staying as calm as you can for the benefit of the child growing within you, any unsolicited piece of advice rubs your nerves the wrong way. And sad but true most of them rather than helping you cause you to become more anxious. If you can listen to them with out letting that affect you its a battle won towards the victory of your peace of mind.

Here are few pointers based on my experience

1. Eating:
Has anyone told you that you must eat for two? I only followed my body's cue. On days I ate well and on other days hardly. I followed my appetite. If you have a hearty one eat well by all means and get in more healthy food avoiding junk. I used to feel hungrier during dinner as compared to lunch. In fact I never had a voracious appetite that pregnant woman are often associated with. Have snacks in between meals. Don't go hungry. Eating fruits is better than gulping sweets when you have the sweet craving. In Indian tradition the pregnant woman starts to have little bit of butter in the fifth month. Its certainly a good idea because that is when constipation and piles strike. But avoid too much butter or unhealthy fats. Avocado and oily fish are a good source of healthy fat. Oily fish is particularly recommended during the last trimester since it is believed to aid the baby’s growing nervous system and brain development. I couldn’t because I developed an aversion for fish during my pregnancy. Avoid shark as it has high levels of mercury. Eat lots of greens and yellow veggies. Drumstick leaves cleaned and cooked in little bit of oil, seasoning and salt is particularly savory and an excellent source of calcium. Apart from these, regularly have the folic acid /Iron/Calcium supplements. Avoid medication. Consult you doctor in case you fall sick. Avoid meeting people who may be laid down and sick. Its a good idea that family members you come in contact with also take care not to contract any communicable disease.
2. Drinking:
Drink lots of water. Doctors recommend about 2 litres a day. But not in one go!!! Drink lots of milk. People might tell you that if you drink more milk baby will become too big. I drank three glasses of milk along with lot of water and other fluids. (Avoid tea or coffee) My baby was 2.8 kilos! Only, I might add. The size of the baby will most probably depend on how you were when you were born. Those who were small babies are more likely to have small babies. Another advantage is that usually the size of the baby is proportional to the size of your hips. So whatever the size of the baby you should be able to deliver her or him without too much of a problem. Besides at the last months check up the doctor will give you a good idea about the size the baby is likely to be. So you can prepare accordingly. Now the reason you should drink milk is because the baby will need lot of calcium for its developing bones and connective tissues. And if the food intake falls short, then the calcium is usually absorbed from the maternal bones. The same is true even when you are breastfeeding. This is why most women end up with osteoporosis as they grow older particularly after more than one child. Include a calcium rich diet beginning with your pregnancy and it is a good idea to continue it life long. Other calcium rich food includes green leafy vegetables. These incidentally are also good for your bowels.
3. Exercising:
Exercise regularly. Few pregnant people I know of including myself have had a shorter labor and we owe it to our strict exercise regimen. The easiest of exercises is a half an hour walk. I started walking after my first trimester and continued with total comfort till the eve of my daughter’s birth. People who saw me walk thought either I was walking too fast or I wasn’t fast enough. Don’t listen to all that. The key to remember is that while exercising, do not over strain. And start gradually including a warm up and cool down. On any day if I felt over tired or felt cramping, I would stop immediately. Drink a glass of water or juice say half an hour before the walk. And drink two glasses after the walk. Stop when you feel you can walk some more. I actually built up my session to 40 min from half an hour. Closer to your due date, remember not to exert too much in case labor begins. You will need to conserve your energy. Go for casual strolls. Walking alone might prove boring and you might want to give up if you don't enjoy it. Walk with your partner or parent or a friend. And don’t try to walk at their pace. Instead make your own. If you prefer walking alone like I did, this might be a good time to memorize poems/songs you always wanted to. Or you can concentrate on your breathing. If its not too tiring you can sing and be assured that your little one will hear you from the 5th month onwards you could sing nursery rhymes. Who knows your baby might be able to remember them after she is born! You can even talk to your little one. She or he will love hearing your voice. Above all stay cheerful. Swimming is supposed to be a great exercise. But make sure you don’t enter unfamiliar waters. You should feel confident entering the waters. I personally never indulged in it but if you are a regular swimmer then there is no reason to discontinue. As always check with your doc. Regular exercise keeps your BP normal, you are less likely to get gestational diabetes and it also helps you get back in shape faster. Although finding time to exercise postpartum is the most difficult obstacle!!!
I also practiced yoga. I am a staunch believer in yoga and have been practicing few basic asanas for a long time. So it was easy for me to move on to asanas that were beneficial during pregnancy. I did these, first thing in the morning. I also included relaxation breathing. And yes. Its a good idea if you get into an exercising regimen when you start planning to have a baby. It will be easier for you to continue them right into your pregnancy.
4. Breathing:
Heavy breathing is not recommended during pregnancy. For one, particularly in the third trimester, as the uterus grows and pushes against your diaphragm you will find it difficult to breathe. Casual breathing and meditation are extremely good though. These reduce stress and anxiety and help calm you. During the last trimester you can practice labor breathing. It will help you prepare for labor and child birth. You may refer to Lamaze or any other breathing technique. The point to remember is that if you don't practice correct breathing technique, then you are less likely to be able to calm yourself breathing during the final onslaught.
5. Posture:
Avoid sitting for too long. Its bad for your back and can lead to piles. If you are working and sitting is all you do the whole day sit straight and keep your knees below your hip level. Make sure you get up and walk for few minutes every half an hour. As the weight of the uterus grows, you might end up with edema and leg cramps. Relax your legs every now and then. Lying down for a few minutes is a good idea particularly when you feel tired. After the 36th week, spend more time with your pelvis above your knees while sitting. Squatting and mopping the floor is a good exercise to prevent breech delivery.
6. Hygiene.
Urinary track infection is very common in pregnancy. You can prevent it by drinking lots of water and keeping yourself scrupulously dry. Wipe yourself from front to back. Its a good idea to use toilet paper regularly. Carry tissues when you travel. With the uterus pushing against your bladder you will feel like urinating more often. More so in the first and the third trimester. Don’t attempt to hold it in and relieve yourself whenever you feel the urge.
7. Clothes:
Wear what is comfortable. Your husband’s shirt on loose pajamas makes excellent maternity clothes! Try lounge pants from HANES. I find them extremely comfortable even in hot weather. You can go shopping for some stylish clothes line available for would be mothers but remember you won’t need them after few months. I recommend wearing bright clothes. It will pep you up. Many people I know resorted to gloomy looking gowns, and looked depressed. You can buy skirts and wraparounds as you can wear these later too. Buying few loose kurtas/tops is a good investment because you will be wearing these for a long time after delivery too. It will be some time before you start reducing weight. You can perhaps buy front open kurtas so you can use them during your feeding days. It is recommended that you expose your stomach to daylight every now and then. It is purported to be good for the growing fetus.
8. Get informed.
The more you find out about what is going to happen, the less will be your anxiety. It will help you prepare for different stages of labor and you will also know important things to look out for. Some times your doctor (gynecologists are usually very busy) might miss out on few things. If you know what to ask the doctor you are more likely to get all the information you will need. I also read on child care apart from light reading. You won't get too much time to read after your little bundle of joy is born. There is a plethora of information on the net from everything about pregnancy to child care. Reading about other women’s' experiences also helps immensely.
9. Keep busy:
Other than reading, you can listen to music. It will help you stay cheerful. Research shows that babies can start hearing from the 5th month onwards. Good soothing music particularly classical music does seem to be good for the baby’s development. But I also listened to some favorite rock numbers! Anything that will put you in a good mood. I used to dance to the music much to my mothers concern! I also spent my time stitching baby vests and nappies and also simple stuffed toys like stars and cubes out of scrap clothes. Let your imagination run wild! You can watch good programs on TV. But mind your posture. Practice breathing or kegel exercises while you watch TV. Discovery Channel hosts “Woman’s Hour “at 12:00 Noon. These are informative and fun. If you are religious, praying can help soothe and relax you. Else just sit and meditate. Devote some time daily for this. Avoid unpleasant or distressing environment.
10. Plan ahead.
Keep a list of important phone numbers handy in case of an emergency. Discuss it with your family members so there is no last minute confusion or panic. Closer to your due date make a list of things you will need during your hospital stay and immediately after delivery. Planning will reduce anxiety especially if the baby is early. My little one arrived 3 weeks early. And when I had to rush to the hospital because my water broke, I referred the list I prepared while packing my bag. You can keep your bag ready close to the due date. Remember to pack at least two maternity gowns with opening in the front to facilitate feeding, maternity inner wear, clean towels and sanitary napkins apart from your toiletry. You might also need a good dress to go home in ideally which facilitates feeding. Its quite likely that you will be feeding your baby while going home! At home/hospital, gowns are better postpartum. For the baby you will need towels with hoods, cloth wraps, vests and clean nappies. Buy them before hand and wash and dry them before using. For about a week, babies pass Meconium which is a sticky black/green liquid. Use old cotton clothes for nappies and make sure these are clean. Its not easy to wash these Meconium stains. You might have to discard the nappies. In cold weather you might need infant socks and caps too. Take some snacks and juice to have during labor. Carry books and magazines to read in case labor is delayed and music player to relax you. Carry a list of phone numbers of people to call with the good news. Discuss the birthing plan with your doctor before hand. It is a good idea to speak to her/him about the hospital procedures. Insist that the baby be given to you for feeding soon after birth. Some hospitals don’t enforce it. Other things you might need are socks for yourself in case it gets cold, a hand fan if its warm, 1 or 2 old cotton saris/clothes, a cloth to act as drapes in case the hospital room windows don’t have curtains (babies are best kept in dark interiors), bed sheets, comfortable slippers, a hot water bottle or alternatively a cold pack to relieve back pain during labor etc. Don’t forget to take a camera to take those 'first pictures' of your baby!

Apart from my personal experience the points I have mentioned are also based on information I have picked up from reading few good books and from the net. The book called “What to expect when you are expecting” by Arlene Eisenberg and Heidi Murkoff and published by Workman Publishing, was a constant companion throughout my pregnancy. It was purchased because of the strong references satisfied couples gave about the book and now that I have referred to it myself I am happy to say that the book has lived up to its expectations! Pun unintended. It has almost everything you need to know and more. And its easy to refer to. I also read/am still referring to the book, The Handbook of Natural Baby and Childcare by Kim Davies. It covers almost everything about child care and is easy to refer to. Plus there are some delightful baby pictures to see! Its not possible to mention all the pregnancy and baby care web sites I browsed through but special mention to
A parting piece of advice. Enjoy your pregnancy. This might be the only time you will be carrying. Savor the kicks when they come, the ultrasound scan that give you a peek at your baby and all the pampering you will be subjected to. Take care of yourself and stay happy. This is the only time you will have your baby all to yourself. Relish it.
My baby reminds me of Don Quixote. Much like the great man wielding his sword at the wind mills, my girl has taken to the ceiling fan. While the Dutchman saw them as foes, the fan is a constant source of fascination for my girl. Particularly when at slow speeds, the blades are visible and there is a shallow hum. She instantly looks at the ceiling and smiles in pleasure. Many a times they hold a conversation, the fan and my girl, to which I am not privy, not unlike too lost chums meeting after a long time. My girl has started rolling on to her tummy but still spends a lot of her playtime lying on her back and I have to admit it that in that position, there is not much of a view but of the old faithful ceiling fan rotating in fair weather or foul. People with Air Conditioning are missing something. SO the big advantage is that I don’t need a mobile entertainer for my girl. She has a very interactive session with the fan often raising her voice in glee. There are times when I on either switching off the fan to a stop or increasing it to top speed ( when the blades no longer appear separate) have been greeted with a long whine of protest from my daughter!!! I have even sought the fans help at times when my daughter refuses to lie down preferring to be carried. The fan acts as the perfect distraction so poor mommy can stretch her back after carrying 12 pounds of pink flesh with a fascinating smile, on her shoulder and arms!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Barkha Dutt hosted a talk show last night in which the Mumbaikars got together for a debate on the aftermath of 26/11. There were those who survived the terror strikes. And those who lost somebody they knew. The mood was angry as it should be. People are just not willing to sweep this incident under the rug anymore. They have faced enough and are not willing to make anymore sacrifices. The politicians have been patronising the citizens of India for too long. They have manipulated the public to dance to their tunes. Taken them for granted. Fooled them with false promises and sugar coated tongues. Thrown morsels at them after promising them heaven. And we let them rape us. And kept quiet. We were too busy to stand up against them. The problem of the person next door was not our problem. Its time we united. The problem of every and any citizen of India is Our collective problem. Just by electing a government to power doesn't absolve us from our responsibility. We have the power to create them, and the power to make the machinery perform. We have the power to bring them down when they have failed us. We have the power to be the change that we seek.
To ensure that such an incident does not happen again in this country we have to address it from two sides. One, if there is a problem do everything in your power to limit the damage. Have better security, educate common people, make our cities more secure and safe.
The other thing and the most important is to PREVENT such an incident from taking place.
1) India needs to send a strong message to the world that we will not tolerate terrorism on our soil. Trying to establish ourselves as a peace loving non violent nation should not be to the extent of projecting ourselves as a soft nation. If war is not a solution, then who is preventing us from going after the terror networks and their established sites. When America went after the Al Quaida it became a US problem. WE preferred to not get our hands dirty. We preferred to sit on the diplomatic fence. WE didn't want to stir the hornets nest. But we still got stung. WE have been getting stung for too long. And other than shouting foul we did nothing and exposed our weakness and vulnerablilty to the terror mongers. Like the nerd that was too weak to fight back we cried when we got bullied. Lets stop playing the role of a friendly neighbourhood hero. No one is standing and applauding our stand. Play the game fair by all means but don't get beaten by twisted rules and foul play.
2) If democracy is of the people, by the people, for the people, then these very people have to be responsible with their votes. You decide the government that will come to power. And once voted, WE don't want to wait for four years to see the change. If any elected member of the assembly or house under performs we need the power to vote him out. A 'call back' system has to be put in place. but before voting the right candidate We need a forum where we can check out every candidate's profile and experience before casting our vote. An official website should be created where the candidate standing for election has to enter his past performance, qualification, and future manifesto with plans to make them work. Should he /she be found failing in his promises then he needs to stand trial in front of the people who voted him. And remember, lets not vote for people who will be "good for me". Lets get people in power who will be "good for us". DON'T LET THEM MAKE ISSUES. YOU TELL THEM THE ISSUES YOU WANT THEM TO TAKE UP.
3) If you think the government is not doing its job, then be a part of the government yourself. Be the change you want to see. I have lots of hope from the youth. Lets stop pointing fingers and take responsibility. Make the change. Its time for a revolution and change. Its the youth of its time that fought the British out of this country. It will be the youth of our times that takes our country out of this age of disillusionment and anguish.
To its basics, it means, one, get the policy right. Two, get the government right. Demand the government that you seek. And three, Be that government.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Its the 28 th of November, 2008. A quarter hour remains before the new day begins. I lie awake at night crying. Sleep eludes me. I remember the face of a crying child, just 2 years old, who has lost his parents to terrorism. Terrorists who stormed the Nariman House in Bombay killed a Rabbi and his wife who were held hostage. Their child "rescued' yesterday is now an orphan.
I imagine him weeping because he is away from his parents. He doesn't understand why they are not with him. He is comforted by strangers. He is looking over their shoulder to spot his parents who will now never come to hold him again. He must have cried himself to sleep and will wake up to an uncertain life without his parents. Who will take care of him? He will cry for days inconsolable until one day he learns that his parents have gone for ever. While he is at the whims of strangers. And even in the best of foster care, can they ever match the love and care that he would have received from his parents? What destiny lies ahead for this unfortunate child for whom the nightmare has just begun? His innocence died with the bullet that killed his parents. Forever.
I too am a mother. I underwent the pangs of labor and delivered my baby girl who is now six months old. I have held her whenever she cried and comforted her. There are times when she only wants me and is not comforted by anyone else. She will cry till she comes into my arms. She needs me to put her to sleep, to feed her, to make her feel okay when she is afraid. And to think that poor little kid will never have these moments again just breaks my heart. There is something only a mother can do for her child. You have to be a mother to understand the pain of separation. I now know. I understand what the hapless mother felt at the moment just before the bullet ripped through her body. She was dead even before the bullet could kill her. She died in that fraction when she realised her child would be an orphan. To lose a parent is bad enough. To lose both in a moment of madness at an age when you cannot comprehend the reason or understand why it happened, is crushing. Did the mother beg her killers to spare her for her child? Did she plead to them to kill her but at least let her husband go so her baby would not get orphaned? Can there be anything more hopeless than losing your parents?
So many children get abandoned for various reasons. How much more tragic is it to lose your parents to senseless violence. Nothing, nothing can justify this act. No matter how persecuted you are or how wronged, the sin of killing this child's parents is unpardonable.How many such babies have been orphaned all over the world in wars and because of terrorism? No matter which part of the world you live, which language you speak or which religion you follow (or were born into) the pains of labor that a mother undergoes is the same. The cries of a child pleading to be comforted by her mother is the same. The affection a father feels is the same. There cannot be a martyrdom after such a heinous crime. No God will forgive this. There will be no peace for the perpetrators in this world or the next. This hatred garbed in supposed vengeance will never be forgiven. The curse of every weeping mother and every crying child will forever be on them.
Death comes to all. But its what you did while you lived that counts. You can kill innocent people. And you can live on. But the blood is in your hands and you can never wash it off.I wish we could go back in time and prevent this crime. I wish the child did not have to cry. I wish no child had to cry. WE can take pride in being humans when there are no more tears in innocent eyes.

Friday, November 07, 2008

22 October 2008
Breastfeeding - Don't let them influence you against it

Being a new mother is a challenge in many ways. Not only must you learn to take care of yourself when you are pregnant and then learn to take care of your tiny bundle of immeasurable joy who nevertheless is extremely demanding, but you also need to put up with never ending advice from everyone around you about what to do and what not to do. Sometimes the advice come handy but most of the time, they are tossed at you from people who have never been in the position themselves like men for instance and others who have never been pregnant! Its a little like an old granny giving advice to Sachin Tendulkar on how he must handle Shane Warne. Well, as some one said, a pair of ear plugs must be made part of the maternity wardrobe and I couldnt agree more. I was subject to much advising and I hope to deal with these in subsequent articles. But I want to dedicate this one to breastfeeding.
To breast feed or not is not a question that causes confusion in India primarily because its unthinkable not to breast feed your baby unlike in the west where it is a fashionable thing to do like yoga! The benefits of breast feeding is slowly being made popular to would be mothers all over the world. But it is still acceptable as an option that the mother decided. Much like opting for an epidural or a Cesarean if you feel you can't bear the pains of labour. By the way, the use of the word labour is completely justified for those few hours of child birthing experience. But in India if a mother were to decide in favor of a less painful method of child birth she would be considered a renegade or insincere. An old uncle once told me that mothers are more attached to babies that are born naturally rather than a Cesarean. Like all outdated things of the past best laid buried, I bury that bit of preaching. The doctors recommend that the baby be breast fed exclusively for six months. But in India we have a tradition of starting on outside food much earlier. In a month most babies start on cow's milk. And then other feeds like wheat/barley porridge or mashed fruits and vegetables are begun in 4 months time. With the advent of formula milk and baby food, these have caught on, particulary favored because of the ease of preparing them.
I and my husband had decided on feeding our baby exclusively on breast milk. Our daughter was born three weeks early and was consequently small. She weighed 2.8 kilos and was thinner than other babies. But she was a very active child who came kicking and suckling her wrists voraciously. Breastfeeding her turned out to be a nightmarish task for me. Her hunger never seemed to satiate and I was literally feeding her round the clock. All that marathon feeding caused me to be in constant unbearbable pain for two months.She hardly slept in her first three months preferring to feed and when she did sleep, I lay down feeding and after a while we both would drift away tosleep. Once I had figured this out, I managed to get some sleep at night and my girl would sleep for 4-6 hours at night. But she was awake the whole day. And if I was lucky would take a small nap in the afternoon. Her doctor said that it was nothing to worry and that most of it was comfort sucking and quite normal. But around the time after her first month, I was put under pressure to start her on formula milk. I refused of course prefering to wait and watch. I saw no reasons to believe that the baby was under fed. I had to change nappies almost constantly and inspite of putting her on a diaper at night changed about 20 nappies a day. Her stools also seemed normal and healthy.
Telling a woman she had less milk for her baby was like telling a man he was impotent. With almost everyone who saw the baby saying she just didnt have the size of babies her age, I was worried and did a lot of reading on the net. Even my gynacologist during the first postpartum check up at 1-1/2 months made me believe that the baby was not getting enough milk and recommended milk boosting tonic. In her words, babies that were well fed would sleep a great deal and play when not feeding or sleeping. I adamanlty refused to believe it. Even after hours of breast feeding I could always express some milk. I stopped having the tonic after few days. More because I couldnt come to terms with the fact that it would work. I had suffered the pains of engorged breasts a few times and my theory was that if milk is produced in proportion to the demand, then what good will excess milk do if the baby is not able to drink it? I would only end up with more engorgemet. I read somewhere that the more the baby drinks the more mik is produced and so I didnt understand how outside milk would make things better. If anything it would further reduce breast milk production. I persisted with breast milk. Besides, though she still looked small, she was gaining weight slowly and steadily. At times my resolve would falter but my husband stood by me. We decided to wait until she was four months old. I was anxious lest my stubborness cause health concerns to my little one but deep in my heart I knew I was right. I did not even feed her water. She lived totally on breast milk.
Today my baby is four months old. And weighs a good six kilos. She looks chubby and healthy. A far cry from her skinny days! She has started to roll on her tummy and is fine in every other way. Touch wood.
So don't listen to others. There is no substitute for breast milk. Persevere now and your baby will carry the benefits for a long time. Breast milk is high on fat and fufills all the nutritional requirement of your baby. It is free from contamination. And most of all, it gives your child a means to bond physically and emotionally with you which will help him or her develop into a secure and confident child (see postscript). And here's a very good reason if these weren't enough. Its the best way to lose all those extra pounds you gained during pregnancy. You really lose weight!
You are getting enough milk if:
You need to change more than 6 nappies a day.
The baby poo is a mustard yellow with/without a curdled look. The baby may poop 3-4 times a day or may go without pooping for couple of days. That is quite normal.
The baby doesnt look listless. Crying is okay. Look out for any signs of sickness though. Check with your doc when in doubt.
The baby gains weight steadily. The actual weight gain will depend on the sex of the baby and his or her birth weight. A weight gain of 150 - 200 gms per week is the norm, although there can be variations. The doc will know best.
Happy breastfeeding!
PS: Latest research indicates that babies that are breast fed and spend their early months with their mothers breastfeeding, sleeping and being carried about more often are easier to discipline and grow up into confident caring and happy individuals. Taking off your baby from your breasts too early can give rise to insecurity in them. Ideally continue feeding till baby is two years old. And remember, never let a baby be left alone to cry. Pick her/him up as soon as you can.
15th October, 2008
How soon has the last four months passed? I have to looks at my baby's earlier pictures to realize that she has grown up and how soon! Feels like she just grew up in my arms And I didn't know. Motherhood has changed me in more ways than one. Since becoming a mother, I haven't slept for more than 4 hours at a stretch. In fact it is as less as 2 hours usually. And I was the sleeping queen! I havn't had a long relaxing bath, something I cherished previously. I take my food in as little time as possible. But these are not complaints. If some one had told me that I could do all these I wouldn't have believed them. And yet I seem to be getting by with very little sleep. I feel tired. and yet I seem to have endless energy to pacify my baby when she is crying or playing with her even though I would really like to just hit the bed and sleep for as long as I want to and more.
The other night there was a disruption in power supply and we did not have power the whole night. It was a warm night with mosquitoes buzzing around. I fanned the baby almost non stop perhaps nodding off for few moments in between. I finally slept for few hours in the early morning when it got a little cool. And yet I carried on with the day without a nap. I did try to catch few winks while my baby slept but just couldn't. Even at night I lay awake for a long time before finally succumbing to sleep. After that night I feel I can handle anything. Oh did I not mention all those early nights and days when my baby was feeding contiuously, and it hurt so bad I cried while feeding, And there was the pain of the stiches. I didn't get much sleep or rest. My inability to sleep is starting to look chronic. I cannot sleep when I am trying to and cannot wake up in the morning when I am trying to! May be its a sleeping disorder.
Its not easy and if I knew I would have to do all these things I might have chickened out of possible motherhood. But I did venture and am I glad. Every moment has been special. I just love having my baby. I can't imagine what my life was like before. Touch wood!
Becoming a parent makes you a better human being, It unleashes qualities you never knew you had. It makes you patient, contented and selfless. Perhaps for the first time in life. When I look back at my life that has passed I can't think of any major achievement that I am really proud of. Now that I have had my baby and if I can do my best and bring her up in the best possible manner I would die a satisfied person. Its satisfying to leave behind a legacy that lingers on long after you are gone. And nothing like a child brought up well who becomes a world citizen, Just, caring and responsible.
12 th September, 2008
One of the most incredible feelings you get as a new mother is when your baby after a sleep wakes up and cries, possibly feeling abandoned and you reach out and pick her up to comfort, telling her "its all right..Mama is here." My mother had said many a time when I teased her 'concerns' which the rebel in me often found interfering, irritating, nagging... "You will know when you become a mother." And now I know. I cannot say taking care of a baby is the most difficult of jobs on earth but without a doubt it is the most satisfying and amusing. Not too many jobs can stake claim on such fulfilling rewards. The toothless smiles, the innocent imploring eyes and above all the preference your baby gives you to all others. It is without a parallel. So what if you have to wake up groggy in the middle of the night to respond to her cry for comfort and hunger. When the pleading eyes beseech you to take care of her, your heart and innards melt in maternal love. My baby has started turning to her sides and is very garrulous despite not having a language to converse in. She even chuckles when you have held a funny face long enough.
The other night my baby was in no mood to sleep. She had slept well in the late evening and was bright and alert experimenting with all the noises she could possibly make with her mouth and the different decibels she could reach! She had already become proficient with swinging her hands at hanging toys that is whenever she wasn't trying to chew them off. I periodically counted them to ensure she hadn't gulped down a few! I had turned out the light as was the 'bed time' routine leaving only a night lamp on. This had been established to get the baby used to the idea that "it was night time now and a good idea to sleep." The night lamp helped me during middle of the night feeding. To be fair my little girl has always been sleeping more in the night and for longer durations. In the second month she started her norm of a 4 hour sleep before waking up for a feed. At times she slept for 5 and even 6 hours at a stretch. But in those days she hardly slept in the day time preferring to feed. But lately she had started sleeping more in the day and it takes longer for her to sleep in the night and when she does, she wakes up in 4 hours with the precision of a swiss watch. I never had to set an alarm to wake up and rouse her to feed.
Coming back to the other night, while feeding her I spotted this huge spider on the wall. It had thick octet legs and looked menacing. Normally we get to see thin legged spiders but for a change, this was big. The word tarantula kept flashing in my mind. The repository in the head sprung up the name from a dusty shelf along with the information that it was scary but entirely harmless. But some of the spiders were deadly causing fatal poisonous bites. And didn't one of them bite our friendly neighborhood hero changing his life for ever? But even a 'harmless' spider can cause a skin reaction or rashes. I continued feeding and the baby slowly drifted to sleep. I stirred to try and put her down gently without waking her up. Its usually not easy. And as I lifted her gently from my lap, I spotted a fleeting movement across the bed towards its edge. In the dim light I figured it was the spider. I could no longer see it on the wall. Shocked, I jumped off the bed with the baby. I now could make out the spider clearly. It seemed to be hovering on the hanging edge of the bed sheet. I was a little scared now especially because of the baby. I wasn't sure if I should put her down with the spider so close. But if I had to do something I needed my hands free. I gently put her on her little bed. I could still spot the spider which was motionless now perhaps sensing its exposure. I couldn't bring myself to let it go for I would never have been able to sleep in that condition. It isn't that I am afraid of spiders, but this one was pretty big and could cause trouble. Besides darkness of the night invariably exaggerates your emotions particularly fear. I realized that I had to squash it if I wanted to sleep but the idea was totally repulsive. I was gripped by a fear and disgust at the very thought but more for my baby's safety, I concluded I had to do it. So I grabbed a fat book and with a prayer of forgiveness slammed it on the spider still perched on the edge and the book fell down on to the floor. I was shaking. I saw another big book lying on the shelf and on an impulse placed it on the book already lying on the floor with the now dead spider. Although there was no way that a spider could wriggle out from under the first one. I imagined it all squashed up with its innards spewed out stuck on the book's glossy cover and it was a repulsive thought. I couldn't bring myself to lift the book and spy the evidence of my deed. As I was closely inspecting the area around ground zero, I was horrified to spot a dozen or two little baby spiders scampering about. Few along the wall and the floor skirting and many trying to climb the wall with tiny legs. The thought of all those baby spiders growing up into scary adults got me worried. So I grabbed a third book and ran it on the hapless babies. Most of them perished.. all those that I saw moving. Few must have got away.
"I killed the mother spider." I thought. I had seen a movie called Arachnophobia on television once, where this very dangerous spider with a fatal bite was killed just in time when they discover the secret hideout of its nest which if left undetected would have unleashed hundreds of the menacing spider into the neighborhood. Indian spiders are not known to be fatal. My baby meanwhile woke up in all the muffled commotion. I put her back to sleep and then snuggled in my bed covers with a creepy feeling of spiders running over me.
Sometime later in the night just as I was succumbing to a slippery sleep, a loud thud startled me out of my dreams. A quick glance at the clock told me it was just over an hour after the spider obliteration. I looked in the direction of the noise, towards the open loft. It was the mama cat that had given birth to a litter of kittens in our store room. It usually made its way in to the house through any one of the many ventilator openings and there was one near the loft. She had come to feed her kittens I presumed. I was too sleepy and refused to get up to open the bedroom door. But I felt remorse at the thought of the kittens waiting for their mama. I reluctantly got up and opened the door and after what seemed like ages the cat mustered some courage and jumped down from the loft and pattered out of the room. As I closed the door and made my way back to the bed, I heard distant peals of kitten 'meows' of joy followed by a long suckling silence. I drifted away to sleep once again. In the middle of the night I got up few times on the crying demands of my baby, fed her and slept. I was used to this routine. I had figured out that if you kept your eyes closed while you fed the baby in the night and remained in a self imposed state of subconsciousness, you had a better chance of going back to sleep than if you were wide eyed and alert. Two feeds later, the new day had dawned. but to catch up with my lost sleep I usually sleep late. Finally, late morning I removed myself from the comforts of the bed. The baby was sleeping with a look of satisfaction on her cherubic face. After washing up I proceeded to venture out for my first glass of milk in the morning. I could hear my mother singing in the kitchen while going about her chores. I saw the books lying on the floor and the adventures of the night resurfaced. The fear had passed away with the night and so had revulsion. Instead was remorse and pity for the now dead spider. I tentatively lifted the book half expecting the spider to spring out with a vengeance. There was no spider there. I had failed in my murderous attempt. The spider had escaped and now lay hidden somewhere in the room mourning her babies. Are spiders vengeful? Do they have a memory of elephants?
19th August , 2008
It would be nice to record all these emotions that inundate me. Those that I experience continuously as a new mom. But there is a dearth of free time. I get time to myself only when my girl is asleep or playing with somebody else. She likes to keep me in sight and gets bored if left alone to play. so I have to be an active partner in her games...entertaining and getting entertained. Spare moments are hard to come by, primarily because while she sleeps I usually have other chores to complete. Never ending cycle of chores that include washing her clothes, drying them, folding them... and trying to keep the room tidy. Then I need to eat and have a bath!...All achieved when she is in a good mood or better still, is sleeping. I sometimes find words springing up in my mind leaping to be written down. But they must be postponed to a moment in future. A moment such as now when I can finally give the words a place to rest.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

18th July, 2008
The more I go through parenting the more I say I owe my mother an apology.” So said Ray Romano. And I realise the truth in that quote as I write this, a new mother of an almost 2 month old baby girl. All these emotions are what my parents must have felt when I was born. This little girl will one day grow up and have a mind of her own, challenging all that you tell her! Just like I did. I was not too close to my parents emotionally. In the sense that I wasn't the kind who would confide in them. I felt closer to my dad because we were more like friends. We would discuss sports and books. Tastes I didn't share with my mom. But my turmoils I kept to myself. But everything changed as I gave birth to my baby. I have never been this close to my mother. And I have found a new respect for her.
Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up to my baby's cries. She turns to her side, the side I am sleeping on, whimpering, pleading... to be held and fed, with poignant tears filled eyes. And I just melt. No matter how sleepy or tired I am.. I feel important like I have never felt before. Never felt this needed by anyone. There is this little angel that depends on me! And when I feed her I feel so special. There is something only I can do for my baby and no one else. When she cries in hunger in a relatives arms, I take her in mine and there is this recognition.. “This is my mom.. and she will feed me”! Last night I couldn't sleep for some time. I had fed my baby and put her to sleep. As I lay beside my baby looking at her I couldn't help but wish she woke up and that I could feed her! Its a great feeling.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Make believe. Pretentious.
Obscure. Corrupted
Words spew out from the mouth
A pale relative of the true emotions
Raging like a storm
Thoughts unbridled, spontaneous
Mushroom in the fertile soil.
Like wind blowing across frontiers,
Untamed, unfathomable,
Blessed with secretive sanctity
Brutally honest, fearless.
Coming to life when interpreted
And in misinterpretations
Naive words made a scapegoat.
Blamed for war and fire
When it was only a messenger.
Shot in place of hideous desires
Menacing and smirking inside.
Don’t trust the words for they are
Doomed to be untrue
A poor imitation to the unspoken feelings
Listen to the heart instead
Hear the words unspoken
Unearth the truth lurking between the lines
Feel the emotion that gently exudes
Unnoticed thru' the eyes
Before it gets garbed in words
glamourised or demonised.
Never has a word done justice
to the emotion, Of which
Its just an unillustrious offspring
Whether it was despair or anger
love or hate
Either falling short
or exaggerating the rage
Let the words pass like waves
Perishing in the moment and reborn in another
Open your inner eyes to the truth unclothed
Rising in the womb of eternity
As slimy uncorrupted thoughts
My little one,I wonder.
What are you dreaming of in the dark interior?
Its bright and sunny outside
Anticipating your coming home.
Are you like your father?
Or mother or a bit of both?
The world is waiting with bated breath
To see you wake up from your long sleep

What destiny are you carrying on those tiny shoulders
What aspirations run in that tender mind
And while you kick those tiny feet
And explore the womb and its mysteries
One day will you tread the world
And explore the universe and beyond
Challenges await you And temptations
Joy, pleasures and destinations
So rest all that you can my love
Your mother awaits your arrival

March, 2008
Days thick in anticipation
of a life altering moment
Time spent dreaming
about a strange addition
swinging between anxiety and anticipation
Impatience and dread following each other
Life in the womb kicking and nudging
to mark its cherished presence felt
Getting ready in the transition to take on the world
A self centred existance stands to be erased
A life of unconditional loving beckons ahead
As the weary past slowly sheds like old skin
ready to receive the fresh new life within
A transition from one body to another. A rebirth.
For the woman bearing life
For the life growing inside
I wait for the moment of reckoning
Lingering at the threshold of mother hood

Written on : April 23rd, 2008