Wednesday, February 21, 2018

You don't have to enjoy every single second of being a mom

Maya: 13 months old

Recently I had a conversation with a first-time mom whose baby was a few weeks old. She was deep in the trenches of adjusting to life with a newborn and she was finding breastfeeding to be extremely difficult, and she was driving herself nuts pumping every few hours because she wasn't producing enough milk. She had that crazed/teary look that a mom gets when she's freaked out about her milk supply. (Been there!!!) She was incredibly sleep deprived and was on the brink of tears several times while speaking with her. First, she was confiding in me about how hard it was. Then, she told me she read this article online which said something along the lines of "you must enjoy it because it goes by so fast and you will never get this time back again..."

AS IF the first-time mom needed the added pressure of thinking she should be "enjoying" every single minute of it, especially when she's having a hard time getting through the day.

We moms do this a lot. First, you're not allowed to ever openly complain about how hard motherhood is. Or else people will look at you like you're crazy. And if you do, the complaint has to be followed with: "But of course, I love my kids so much". (Duh.) Do we really need to say that we love our kids? OF COURSE we love our kids. The result is that so many moms suffer in silence and they have absolutely nowhere to vent any frustrations because nobody wants to be honest. Whatever happened to just having a good vent??? Without being judged for it. Or without being questioned for it.

As a mom of two children (who are 4 years apart), I can attest to the fact that yes, children do grow up so incredibly fast. And lately, I'm all about trying to enjoy the present moment. But I don't like this shitty societal standard that moms "should" be enjoying every single second of it, and the implication that if you don't that you're a bad mom and/or you regret being a parent.

I can just imagine my mom friend deliriously pumping at 4am (next to her snoring husband) and feeling bad about herself because she's not enjoying EVERY minute like the article said.

That day, I told her: "You don't have to enjoy every minute of it. Sometimes it's just really hard." Her expression to what I said is something that I can't put into words. It was a reaction of relief. Of an honest understanding and acknowledgement. Somewhat of a secret code among moms. I basically told her it's okay to feel like that.

I, for one, do not miss those newborn days. Of course I think back to how cuddly Veda was and the total bliss of her falling asleep on my shoulder...but I certainly do not miss: waking up every 45 minutes, colicky crying, postpartum bleeding, being insanely preoccupied with my milk production, and having zero energy recovering from birth while simultaneously taking care of and breastfeeding a newborn.

Rather than preaching to mothers that they should be enjoying every single millisecond of parenthood (particularly when they're going through a rough time), I think it is more helpful to see the positives and negatives in each phase. And acknowledge the fact that some phases of child-rearing are harder than others.

That is all.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Best Children's Books about Kindness

Books are always a great conversation starter with kids and one of the values that I think are essential to encouraging a good citizen is teaching children about the importance of kindness. The world does not need more successful people - the world needs more kind people. We should not praise children for their accomplishments - we should instead praise them for being kind to others because it really makes a difference it others' lives. Kindness goes hand in hand with empathy, compassion, and also inclusion.

Here are some of our favorite children's books about kindness:

You Hold Me Up
(ages 0-6)
Monique Gray Smith is a new favorite author of mine - I love her beautiful prose and the simple, colorful illustrations in this book which depicted many persons of color. This book teaches children to support and encourage each other, and also empathy and compassion. 

(ages 4-8)
This book is a good metaphor for showing children how our behaviour effects other people and it touches on accountability for one's actions and also empathy. "Bucket filling" is when you do something kind for someone else and it makes you feel good. "Bucket dipping" is when you do something unkind to others and subsequently feel worse. It was a perfect read for my 5 year old, who understood the analogy immediately.

(ages 4-8)
This book has lots of great ideas for kids on how to show kindness in their daily life. It gives useful ideas that are both big and small - and the lesson is that every act of kindness makes a difference. It touches on kindness to people, animals, and the earth.

(ages 2-6)
This is a really cute book that is lovely for younger children. If you don't know what words to say, or what to do, giving someone a hug can always help lift someone up. It is a charming and playful story that has warm illustrations.

(ages 3-8)
This one is one of our favorites. A little boy is walking and he almost steps on an ant. The ant starts talking to him and the boy starts seeing things from his perspective. A good lesson for kids to embrace to concepts of non-violence to other living creatures like animals/insects/plants; and also for kids to think about walking in others' shoes.

(ages 3-6)
This book depicts three polar bears who are geographically displaced and searching for a new home. They sail around to different lands and are turned away by other groups of animals who are more fortunate than they are. They finally find an uninhabited island and welcome other animals who are displaced. This book was inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, and it is a good starter conversation to have about welcoming people who are in need.

(ages 0-6)
One of our favorites from the Elephant & Piggie series, this one depicts sharing treats with friends. Kids have a hard time sharing their treats, so it's an excellent way to show them how to be kind and generous to others.

(ages 4-8)
Brunhilda is a funny old witch who enjoys making trouble. One day, she wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and starts doing good deeds and starts to realize that it makes you feel better if you're kind to others. This book would be good for kids who are acting out towards other kids at school.

(ages 3-8)
This book is my favorite from the Knuffle Bunny series, by Mo Willems. Trixie is a bit older now and she is going on a big trip to Holland to visit her grandparents. She forgets her beloved Knuffle Bunny on the airplane, but continues on with her travels determined to have a good time. She finds the stuffed animal again on the flight back and decides to give it to a fussy baby, showing kindness, generosity and maturity.

(ages 2-6)
A friend of ours recommended this book and we loved it, especially the fun illustrations. This book is all about showing kindness through cooking for others and being creative making them something. This book is quite humorous and it takes lots of funny twists and turns.



Thursday, February 8, 2018

Now Featured On Masalamommas (5 Things People Can Learn From Interracial Marriages)

I'm so excited to share my latest article on Masala Momma's! With all the stories of intolerance, racism, and ignorance in the news lately, it inspired me to write a little something about what I think the world can learn from those of us who are in intercultural/interracial marriages!

Click HERE to check out my article and let me know what you think!


Monday, February 5, 2018

Veda's birth story

I really wanted to have a home birth, but it didn't quite turn out that way. If there's one thing true about birth, it's this: expect the unexpected! As much as you can plan...sometimes things take a different turn. In the end, all that matters is that mom and baby are happy and healthy. I'm happy with how Veda's birth turned out, and I'm proud of us for handling it as well as we did.

But, let me start from the beginning. Or shall I say - the beginning of the end...

My actual due date was February 11th, but shortly after Christmas I got the feeling that my baby would arrive between January 15-31. I knew that I wouldn't make it until February.

We were preparing to have a home birth and even rented a birthing tub for a water birth. I wanted to have a home birth for several reasons. The first was because Maya had a quick delivery and I wasn't sure I'd make it to the hospital on time and we didn't want to risk giving birth in the car. Maya's birth was very quick, which was unusual for a first birth and she was born posterior. With Maya, I went from 2cm - 10cm in less than an hour, and ended up pushing in the car. Statistically, second births are much faster so we thought it would be safer to just have her at home. The other reason that we wanted to have a home birth was because I wanted to include Maya in the birth. Maya came with me to every prenatal appointment and was very involved in the whole process.

In my 37th week of pregnancy, I was woken up in the middle of the night by Maya who was standing at the side of my bed and projectile vomited over both of us. The poor kid was vomiting for most of the night. It turns out there was a stomach flu outbreak at her school and a lot of the kids came down with it. A few days later, I got it. It was so awful. I was constantly vomiting for days and wasn't able to keep down any water. Such bad luck, I thought. Then, I started vomiting up blood. It was terrible.

I phoned my midwife and I told her that I would meet her at the Women's hospital because I was so weak. They assessed me there and admitted me so that I could get some IV fluids and they wanted to do some tests to make sure I had not caught anything dangerous like Listeria or Hepatitis. I was so dehydrated that they had to puncture me 10 times to find a line for my IV. Finally they got it through my foot, which was really uncomfortable because I was always running to the bathroom.

(37 weeks pregnant & stuck in the hospital!)

I ended up staying in the hospital for 5 days as I kept on vomiting. The nurses were alarmed because my blood pressure kept going up, which was unusual because I have never had high blood pressure in my life! I wrote it off due to the fact that I was vomiting up blood, so clearly I was stressed out! The doctors from internal medicine were keeping a close eye on me and noticed that during my stay there were some abnormalities with my blood work. Namely, my liver enzymes suddenly started to climb extremely high, day after day, during my stay there. They suspected they had just caught wind of a more serious underlying issue - which was coincidentally developing...

Luckily the baby was totally fine during all of this. They kept monitoring her and at one point the nurse said, "you know you're having contractions every 10 mintues, right?" and I was shocked. I had no idea. Veda liked to kick me A LOT so I assumed it was just her pounding me. They did an ultrasound and they determined that the baby was luckily not dehydrated and that she likely weighed over 8 lbs. I was relieved. My body was working very hard to protect the baby. I was dehydrated, but at least she was protected in her sacred womb.

(Veda in utero: 38 weeks)

I was really itching to get home. I missed Maya so much and I had only seen her on FaceTime because my stomach flu was contagious. Maya started to act out at home when I wasn't there, against husband-ji and my mother-in-law, refusing to get dressed for the day and go to bed. I needed to get back home because I knew I was the only one she would listen to and she was probably really anxious. The internal medicine doctor agreed to discharge me but she wanted me back on Monday morning for another blood test. She wanted to make sure that my liver enzymes returned to a safe number.

(Maya made me this Get Well card when I was in the hospital)

When I returned to the hospital on Monday for the blood test, the internal medicine doctor wanted to admit me immediately. My liver enzymes had elevated over the weekend (in the thousands). "Don't be ridiculous, I feel fine!" I said. My midwife came to the hospital again and they all formed a huddle with internal medicine and the OBGYN on call. They all looked at my tests and determined it was preeclampsia. They all waltzed in to my assessment room and told me I would have to have the baby immediately or else I would get extremely sick. They wanted to induce me that evening. Even my midwife said I would have to be induced, and she was really anti-medicalized births. I told them absolutely not, since I was already 38 weeks along and I knew that the baby would be arriving soon. The OBGYN did a vaginal assessment and it turned out that I was already 3cm dilated. "The only solution," the OBGYN said, "is to terminate the pregnancy." My heart dropped. The doctor explained that for most women, preeclampsia is a common condition during pregnancy which in most cases is resolved after you give birth and your body expels the placenta. She said she wasn't worried about me at all, since I was technically full term and the baby was well over 8 lbs. "It would be a problem, however, if you had developed this at 30 weeks. But since you're so far along, it's not an issue at all."

Right then, I became a high risk pregnancy, and my team consisted of my midwife, the on-call OBGYN and internal medicine.

I went back and forth with them and stated that I wanted to have a home birth. They said I technically could still have a home birth, but since they needed to do follow-up blood work for a few days after the birth, I would have to come back to the hospital. We all agreed that it would make more sense to just have the baby in the hospital itself, and stay a few extra days so they could monitor my blood work. I was fine with that, and decided I could utilize the additional days at the hospital to get more breastfeeding help from the nurses.

But, I had a few requests. The first was that I demanded that I was NOT going to have the baby that day. I wanted to go home, have a nice dinner with my family, prepare Maya, and mentally prepare myself. I told them I would come back tomorrow and only then I would have the baby. The second request I had is that I wanted to have the baby as naturally as possible, which my midwife helped me advocate for. With Maya's birth, my water broke first and then the contractions came. So, I requested that they manually break my waters and give me some time for the birth to get started on it's own. During this time, my midwife suggested I use the breast pump to induce labour naturally. I had a medication-free birth with Maya and I wanted the same the second time, or at least as much as possible. I also said that I didn't want the OBGYN disrupting me too much because I knew how to give birth and once my birth got started, they were not to interfere. The OBGYN agreed to all my conditions.

(Last belly pic!)

So, I went home. I was very nervous. We had a nice dinner. I drank coconut water all night to hydrate myself. I spoke to Maya about what was going to be happening and tried to prepare her. After she went to sleep, I took a hot bath and practiced my birth affirmations. I don't think I slept all night.

In the morning, we dropped Maya off to school and we headed to the hospital. I started crying in the car. A flood of emotions overcame me. I was scared to give birth. I was sad that it was the last day that Maya would be an only child. I felt heartbroken because I didn't know if I would ever be pregnant again. I wanted the baby to stay in my tummy forever, although I knew it was time for both her and I to meet. I was sad that it was over.

I tried to call my mom but she didn't answer. I called my Greek auntie, and I told her that I was going to the hospital to have the baby and that I was scared. She calmed me down and said everything was going to be fine and she said the Greek word for freedom - eleftheria. She said, "your body will feel so much freedom after". I felt a bit better hearing that.

They checked us into the hospital and into the glamorous induction suites, which were larger than my apartment living room. It felt like a suite meant for Beyonce! They had a giant tub there and a lot of space to walk around. The room had warm natural sunlight and good vibes all around. I thought to myself, this is the room where I will meet my daughter. We had a pretty nurse with long sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, and long eyelashes. She said she would be there until the evening, and she wondered out-loud if it would be a January baby or a February baby. It was already past 10am and the nurse asked if I had anything to eat (it takes a lot of energy to give birth). I said I hadn't in a few hours. She told us to go down to the cafeteria and have some lunch together. We came back to the room after lunch and I cried a bit more. We had to wait quite a while because the OBGYN's had a lot of medical emergencies that day. I was grateful for the extra time because I got a chance to calm down and feel comfortable in the birthing room space. I wasn't in a rush and I didn't want to be rushed.

(Me in my fancy birth suite, resting before the fun begins!)

Finally, the OBGYN came in to break my water. It was a bit scary, because they had to insert a long stick that looked like a knitting needle. It looked terrifying, but thankfully I couldn't feel much. My water broke, and I immediately got to work. I knew there was no turning back - this was it and I had to embrace it. I started pumping my breasts and sitting on the birthing ball and walking around. My contractions started coming, very lightly. My midwife said she would step out and to call her back when I was in active labor so she could deliver the baby. I was thankful to be given some space.

After a few hours, the OBGYN came in and wanted to start the induction medication. I agreed, but I only wanted very little. They gave me one unit of pitocin, which the nurse said they would have to increase every 30 minutes. Immediately, my contractions came on strong. I felt them all in my lower back. I stood up the whole time and pressed my face to husband-ji's neck and we swayed back and forth like a slow dance. I was so thankful for him in that moment. He never left my side. He swayed with me, as a true partner. I didn't feel alone. I felt like we were doing this together. I lost track of time. I dreamed that it we were at our wedding and we were slow dancing together. I glanced at the IV and I only had gotten two units of pitocin - it had only been 30 minutes but it felt like forever. The contractions were soon unbearable and very strong. I went from deep breathing to yelling. The contractions came like a slow wave, and after I felt a strong sensation of the baby's head lowering.

All of a sudden, I said, "call the midwife RIGHT NOW". She arrived within 15 minutes and had just taken off her coat when I got the urge to push. I lay down on the bed and the midwife examined me and said, "Yup, 10cm dilated. You're ready! PUSH!Husband-ji was crouching over me and I grabbed his neck. I let out a huge scream and her head came out. "One more push, Alexandra!" the midwife said. I pushed and I screamed, "VEDAAAAAA!" and I felt the baby slide out of me. I felt close to God in that moment. Suddenly she was put on my chest. Husband-ji cried. The nurses clapped. I was in pure bliss. I felt so calm and such a sense of completion.

(Minutes old)

It had only been about 45 minutes since they started the induction medication. The midwife said it was the fastest birth she had ever attended. Veda came into the world like a true fireball! Shortly after, I felt the urge to push again and my placenta came out. After the placenta came out of me, I felt so much better. I don't think I realized exactly how the preeclampsia was affecting me until it was over. It was a relief to have the pressure of the baby off of my internal organs. Husband-ji cut the umbilical cord, as he did with Maya. I felt so close with him and so much love towards him. It bonded us even more than ever before.

(Proud dad)

It was such a beautiful moment. I felt so different. It was like a rebirth, in a sense. I was born again - a mother of two children. I was a mother. Not a young mother, as I felt before, but a real mother. A confident mother.

Although my birth didn't go as I planned it, I embraced the ride and I was happy with how it turned out. I don't think I would have done anything differently. It was perfect.

(Maya meeting her sister)


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Veda: 1 Year Old!

My little sweetheart Veda turned ONE yesterday! I truly can't believe how fast this year went by. Yesterday evening we had a little party for at home - it was really simple and beautiful. Big sister Maya baked an eggless chocolate cake for her with blue icing and pink heart-shaped sprinkles. My mom and dad came over and we cut the cake and sang happy birthday to her. I was so happy that both sets of grandparents were there to celebrate with us. It was really casual...we were all in sweatpants!

Here are some pictures from Veda's birthday:


Monday, January 29, 2018

15 Tips on living in a Joint Family

We have been living in a joint family for the past 18+ months since my in-law's moved in with us, making our house a multi-generational home. Many people are shocked when I say that my in-law's live with us, and even nowadays in the motherland (India) people aren't doing it that much. When desi wives opt out of it, you can bet there are even less Firangi Bahu's that do it too. It definitely shifts the dynamic in the home because you're basically welcoming in two foreign elderly roommates who have their moods! As much as you think you know your in-law's, living together is a completely different experience. There's not much you can do to prepare for it, but there is a way you can minimize problems.

Here are my top tips that I've learned from living in a joint family:

1) Mind your own damn business
The best way to cohabitate peacefully is to mind your own business happily. Don't get involved in family drama that does not require your participation. Carry on with your own work. Don't nit-pick or criticize your in-law's every move. Stay out of arguments that don't concern you.

2) Be Forgiving
The ONLY way you are going to survive in a joint family is if you learn how to be forgiving and let things go. There will be fights over big thing and little things. You have to give people the benefit of the doubt - that maybe a simple remark came off in the wrong way but they had no intention to hurt you. If you keep holding on to resentment, you will end up being miserable and effect the mood of the entire house with your bad attitude. You have to learn how to resolve conflict if you're going to live with people long-term or else it's not going to last.

3) Be considerate
Be mindful of other people's sleeping times and quiet times. Don't pester them if they're trying to unwind and relax. Be considerate with your noise level during said times. Even in-law's need their privacy, and don't forget to give them some time alone at home too.

4) Don't let small annoyances get the best of you
Your in-law's are part of a different generation and culture so they are going run their household in an old-school type of way. Things that bother us are: the way my father-in-law loads the dishwasher; how my mother-in-law washes the counter-tops with water and the kitchen gets soaked; and my mother-in-law often forgets to use the cooking exhaust and our whole house smells like an explosion of onion chutney. All of these are small little annoyances that are common when you live together. They are petty things so don't waste your time by getting into a huge argument about it. And remember, if you want something done a certain way, it's best to do it yourself! (Eg. I often wipe the water off the counter-tops).

5) Go out for walks, often
If you feel like your in-law's are driving you nuts, go out for a walk and get some fresh air. If you want some privacy to vent, take your husband out for a walk. If your in-law's have not had any privacy for a while, take the kids out for a walk. The goal is to get some fresh air and walk off any tension. Plus, it's good for your health!

6) Be there for each other
Help out your in-law's when needed. Pick up their medication and take them to the doctor. Be there for each other when someone's sick, upset, or just lonely and needs a friend. Watch a movie together. Make an effort to celebrate birthdays. Be kind. Pick up what your in-law's like to eat at the grocery store, or if you notice that they're out of toothpaste, buy it for them.

7) Keep a master family calendar
In a multi-generational family, there is a lot of coordinating different schedules. I keep a master family calendar that is centrally located in the kitchen so that all the family members can reference it. Everyone writes down their appointments, classes, social get-together's, and travel dates so that we know who's doing what and we avoid miscommunication.

8) If you work from home, create your own work space
Since my in-law's moved in with us I had to give up my old office room that I used to retreat to write in. It has been really hard to concentrate and get any work done with the hustle and bustle of the house. Sometimes I work at the dining table, after the kids go to bed, but I am often distracted by my in-law's. Lately, I have been bringing my laptop into the bedroom when the baby naps in the afternoon. If you do work from home, make sure to retreat somewhere that there are less distractions. Overall, living in a joint family has made the household run smoothly, but it has made my work productivity go down.

9) Use headphones
If you want to listen to music, be mindful of other people and use your headphones. If you want to watch a TV show that you know they don't like, use your headphones. 

10) Show appreciation
If your mother-in-law likes to cook, compliment her on her cooking. If your in-law's watch the kids so you can go out and do something, say thank you. Indian elders are not used to verbal appreciation so a little goes a long way. My mother-in-law often says "why are you thanking me for something that is my duty?" but then she appreciates my thanks anyway.

11) Escape for the weekend
Plan your own weekend getaways or vacations to get a break from home life. Whenever there is some tension in the home, it can always be solved by a little space and perspective. Whether it is going on a weekend trip solo, with friends, or with your spouse and kids, it can give you a nice break from daily routines.

12) Take your in-law's on a fun outing
Don't completely ignore your in-law's - take them out for fun, too. Whether it is to the Indian grocery store, a restaurant, bowling, a shopping mall, or a movie, it's fun to get out of the house all together sometimes.

13) Your in-law's don't care about your house rules
Indian elders do not like house rules and they don't like ultimatums. If anything, it's going to piss them off. Don't tell them how you operate your household - let them find their own way in your household. There are going to be issues with bedtimes, constant phone calls to India at night, too much TV for the kids, different discipline styles, the pooja bell ringing at dawn, and your mother-in-law complaining that you don't feed your kids enough. That is all normal.

14) Be flexible
Living with your in-law's is something many of us Western brides never thought we would do and you might feel like your life is a lot different than you had imagined it. Realize that your in-law's are not going to be alive forever. Be flexible and try to be easy to live with.

15) Embrace new ways of life
Inviting your in-law's to live with you means that you are inviting in a whole different culture, family dynamic, generation, religious practices, diet, values and parenting methods into your home. You're also inviting in new habits, TV shows, music, and movies that they bring in.


What about you guys?
What are some tips that you can share for joint families?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Things I'm Doing Differently with Baby #2

Both of my babies are so different in personality and I'm finding what works with one does not work with the other - my style of mothering is slightly tailored to each one. Maya was our first baby and I was in my twenties when I had her and I didn't have any experience with kids. I remember the first day in the hospital, after giving birth, I was so embarrassed that I did not even know how to change a diaper, so I made husband-ji do it! None of my friends had kids and none of them were even married yet. Looking back, we truly had no idea what we were doing as parents. It really was all done by trial and error - sometimes I'm surprised how well Maya has turned out...given that we were completely inexperienced! Veda is such a different baby that not everything that worked with Maya has worked with her. Parents can be very passionate about the methods they use in raising their kids, but in reality, there is no "right way". At the end of the day, it's whatever works for the specific child.

Here are a few things that we have done differently with baby #2:

More breastfeeding
The biggest difference has probably been the breastfeeding. Veda is an exclusively breastfed baby, and won't take a bottle or a pacifier [Read more about our breastfeeding journey HERE]. I got a lot of help from the nurses at the hospital before we were sent home, which really gave me a great latch from the beginning. With Maya, I did not like the nudity of breastfeeding, so I had an aversion to it from the beginning. She also got a bad latch that was not corrected, so it was very painful. Maya only breastfed for a month before I started supplementing with formula, and then I pumped for 3 months until I gave it up all together. So she was only on my breast for a very short time. She also always took a pacifier, and we used it until she was past two years old. Both methods have their pro's and con's. With Maya, I loved the freedom of having husband-ji feed her, especially at night. A con would be that there was a lot more bottle washing, and it also took a long time to get her off the pacifier. With Veda, I love breastfeeding her and it has been a wonderful bonding experience to nourish her from my own body. Cons - since she is exclusively breastfed, momma can't catch a has been very demanding! But since she has started solids, we are slowly trying to drop a few feeds so that I can go out and have some time to myself.

More intuition
I have read a lot less baby books this time. I think I only had one baby-related book on my nightstand which was Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding. I prefer to trust my intuition, and it helps to just focus on the baby and drown out all the incessant chatter. Moms worry enough, without information overload adding to it!
When I had Maya, I had a big stack of books on everything from feeding, to sleeping, to development. And don't forget the internet - Web MD, weekly Baby Centre updates - I was in a conscious anxious state of whether or not she would survive each day, despite being a wonderfully healthy baby! People also offer so much advice, which I used to take so personally. With Veda, I don't ask for advice and when I'm given unsolicited advice, I just let it roll off of me because trusting my natural intuition is what's best for her.

Less going out
I used to take Maya everywhere from the time she was a week old. Even my midwife wanted me to slow down, but it was really boring for me to be at home with the baby. I loved to take her out in the stroller - so much so, that it was the only place she would nap until she was 18 months old! Because I had to walk her to sleep, I lost all my baby weight within 11 months. Husband-ji and I used to take her out to restaurants, travel...we took her everywhere! Sometimes it was stressful because we took her out despite her readiness for it. Looking back, I really overdid it. With Veda, I have barely gone out at all - just last month I started to go out to some mom and baby activities. Not going out too much, especially in the beginning, made me recover from childbirth at a more relaxed pace. I didn't feel so much pressure to "bounce back" to pre-baby life - something which is, of course, irreversible. And also, a lot of the times it was overwhelming for me to go out with Veda, due to my PPD
Our home life was also a factor in venturing out - with Maya, it was just me and her at home while husband-ji worked 6 days a week, so I felt like we both needed the socialization. And plus, I didn't have any mom friends. With Veda, we live in a joint family household of 6 people, so there's a lot of daily hustle and bustle to entertain her. And I already have my mom friends whom I meet for play-dates, so I don't have to search desperately for moms to meet.

More therapy
This time, I started going to a female therapist in my second trimester of pregnancy with Veda. She gave me some wonderful advice and it helped that she's also a mom. I really liked how I felt like I could talk to her because she made me feel like her place was a safe, inviting space where I could express myself. Motherhood is very complex and it's helpful to have someone to talk to about it. I have been seeing her regularly since I had Veda, and it has had a really positive influence on my outlook, and it has especially helped during my PPD. When you become a mother, a lot of issues resurface about how you were raised and what you'd want to do differently, so it helps untangle those emotions.

More co-sleeping
This is something we never did with Maya! I was so against it, and I liked having my own space and my own bed. Maya was in her own room, in her own crib, by the time she was 3 months old. Veda has her own crib in our room, and half of the night she ends up in my bed because I'm nursing her all through the night and it's just easier for me. By the time 3AM rolls around, I can't get up anymore to rock her to sleep, so I just allow her into my bed and she sleeps and nurses until 8AM. I also lay down with her for most of her naps, so I can catch up on my sleep. I really love sleeping next to her and snuggling with her. I'm not sure when exactly she's going to sleep in her own bed, but I'm not going to rush it.

More self-feeding
Maya was very active and we still have to force her to sit down and eat. She rarely eats enough, and it will never even occur to her that she's hungry. She has always been this way, which is part of the reason why we needed help from the iPad to feed her - something we have since stopped. We didn't try self-feeding with her and I don't think she would have done it either. We spoon-fed her until she was 4 years old! So crazy. Then, at age 4, she started having her lunch at school, so we started asking her to feed herself at home too. With Veda, she's a big foodie. Every time she sees anyone with a plate, she comes over and wants what they are having. She also loves more textures, so I just give her small pieces of things and she feeds herself. Then, after she does that for a bit, I spoon-feed her just to top her up a little bit.

Less fighting
Husband-ji and I fought so much when we had Maya! Over absolutely everything. He had his own way, and I had my way, and we used to criticise each other about which way was best or how it should be done. I realized later on, after many, many fights and marital counselling, that we each have our own way as parents and that it's ok to have different styles of child-rearing. With Veda, I've let a lot of things go and I'm open to try anything - or "whatever works". For example, sleep training & night weaning are planning to do in the next few months - I'm open to try several different methods.

More present
Having two kids that are 4.5 years apart in age, I am so much more conscious of how fast children grow up. Seeing how big Maya is compared to Veda, I am cherishing every moment with both of them. Motherhood can be such a blur of routines that you forget to stop and smell the roses.

More asking for help
When I had Maya, I wanted to be the perfect mom and I wanted to do everything myself with no help from anyone. What the heck was I thinking?!? Jesus. I don't know where I got this ridiculous idea from, and it really led to several mental breakdowns as I began to understand how hard motherhood was - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - especially when you're doing it on your own. Nobody can do it alone and people shouldn't have to. Asking for help with the kids is an act of self-care, and I wish I had done it sooner rather than later. I think I wanted to prove to myself that I could be a good mother by taking full responsibility. The result was Maya being extremely clingy to me, even to this day!
Going in to having another child, I knew I would have to ask for help and I was ok with it. I let my mother-in-law help a lot more with her, which is convenient because she lives with us. I have also hired a babysitter to come twice a week to look after Veda, so that she has some exposure to a caregiver outside of our family.

Less screen time
This is something we implemented in our home last year which I'm so proud of. We used to get help from our handy iPad to help feed Maya from the time she was 10 months old. It was so wrong, and she got so addicted to it. I have completely refused to do this with Veda, and if she gets restless while having her meals, I hand her one of her beloved books. Our screen time rules in the household now is that Maya gets to watch one 30 minute episode of a kids' show on TV after school, which Veda also wanders over to watch with her. On the weekends, we always watch a movie all together. Nowadays, the screen time is more about togetherness. I also keep down my own screen-time habits by using the "Moments" app which keeps track of how much time you spend on your phone and reminds you to get off it!

Less buying useless crap
Baby gear is a huge business and there are products for anything baby related and even whole aisles dedicated to babies....not to mention rows upon rows of toys! With Maya, I didn't know what I would need so I just bought everything. Then I realized how little we used all the stuff and it just accumulated into a big stressful clutter! I kept the really useful items for our second baby, and especially the clothes. But this time, I find that I'm not using that much. All you need is a few good quality clothes, really. Clutter can be really stressful for kids, so I've been trying to keep everything to a minimum. Besides, Veda is much more entertained by grandma's pots and pans from the kitchen!

That's all so far, but I'm sure we will have lots more as Veda transitions into toddlerhood!


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Best books about Pregnancy & Childbirth

Pregnancy is a complicated time for women as our bodies (and souls) are changing to accommodate a new, powerful life force. It is also a naturally anxious time for a woman - Will my baby be okay? Will I be okay? How will I manage? How much will my life change? Most women get overloaded by all the wrong kinds of advice - like all the things that can go wrong. While most of it is well-meaning, I truly believe that the most important gift you can give the pregnant woman is confidence and the belief that yes, she can give birth, and yes, she will make a great mother.

For both my pregnancies, I read a lot of books to increase my confidence about giving birth and explored many different options. It helped me narrow down a birth plan, educate me about my body, and get me mentally prepared to give birth.

It is also very important for a woman to BE INFORMED and educate herself about the different stages of pregnancy, childbirth, and even early infant care. You need to coach yourself - and your partner - about the different stages of labour. You need to research different positions for birthing and explore Plan A, B, and C.

Here are some of my favorite books about pregnancy & childbirth:

The first prenatal class we took in preparation for Maya's birth was a Birthing From Within class and their confidence-building methods transformed me from a scared girl to a brave woman, ready to surrender to my birth. Funnily enough, I didn't read this actual book until I was pregnant with Veda and found a lot more useful tips. One thing I really adore about the Birthing From Within approach is that it concentrates on childbirth as a couples event and it gets the dad involved as an equal partner, which really sets the tone for your journey as parents. This approach fully involves dad in the labour, rather than treating him like a useless sidekick. It not only addresses the woman's fears about childbirth, but also the man's. It is truly a partnership childbirth book, as all books should be in this genre. It also has a lot of great creative projects you can utilize to face your fears and express yourself.
This is an excellent book that gives a comprehensive guide of all possible options for birth. It covers the pros and cons of different prenatal providers, places of birth, interventions, and more. Definitely a must read for anyone who is pregnant and researching options for their delivery. I loved the woman-centered and birth-centered tone of this book and it respects the fact that every woman is different and it's not a "one size fits all" approach. It also features real birth stories.
Also check out: Ricki Lake's groundbreaking documentary The Business of Being Born.
Ina May is the leading midwife in the United States with over 30 years of experience. She encourages women to have unnecessary medical interventions during birth. Ina May is slightly old school and she uses a lot of ancient wisdom. This is a good book for women to read if they have some fears of childbirth because Ina truly believes that childbirth is beautiful and it's nothing to be scared of. The book shares a lot of tips, including alternative pain relief, positioning that you can do during childbirth, and how to create a safe and soothing environment for childbirth.
This is a great guide if you're interested in breastfeeding. I would read this before giving birth, and have it handy for on a bedside table for late night nursing. It's not just about breastfeeding, it has chapters on weaning, nursing challenges, sleep, and creating "nursing manners" with your baby (like not letting the baby slap you!).

Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally
This is an excellent book with great advice about labour, but also the importance of movement during pregnancy, labour, and beyond. The book contains a lot of yoga-type stretches that you can do during pregnancy and there is a broad section of childbirth positions for each stage of labour. This book has a large section on water births, and also good postpartum exercises.

What to Expect When You're Expecting
What to Expect is a comprehensive guidebook that informs you of all the different stages of pregnancy in great detail. All pregnant ladies own this book...for a reason! It is so informative and it is invaluable. It's a week by week encyclopedia and a great starter book for a first pregnancy.

From the Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Becoming a Parent
I read this book during my pregnancy with Maya, and I found it to be a good alternative to What to Expect. It is a neutral guide, with a lot of different options. It's not preachy, which I loved.


Dear readers, what are your favorite books about pregnancy & childbirth?

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