thewilltoholdon

As I breathe and think and dream


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Of Learning Curves

I have been a mom for nineteen months now (incredible!). I have survived the difficult first year – the sleepless nights, being used as a milk production unit, the dirty diapers, the tonnes of laundry. I would like to believe that these past nineteen months have toughened me up so much that I can take most things in my stride now (namely the meltdown in the supermarket aisle, the tantrums in the car, the puke on the best dress (hers and mine) on the way to the party, etc). But no – that was me being self delusional. In all honesty, I am still pretty clueless. However I am not as clueless as I was three, six or nine months ago and compared to my naive self nineteen months ago, I am a venerable Yoda now.
Each day I am learning something new as a mom. Well, that is good. I am not scared of learning. It is the teaching bit that gives me the heebie-jeebies. I am worried about the heaps of things that I will need to teach my daughter in the days and months to come. They are (in no particular order) –
1. How to brush her teeth (she screams bloody murder as soon as her toothbrush comes within a meter of her mouth).
2. How to chew her food properly before swallowing (Put in mouth-chew-chew-no, no! don’t spit out- swallow!)
3. How to use the loo in an adult fashion (Ooh, the all-important potty training!)
4. How to dress herself (yes, sweetheart, a hat goes on your head because… it just does!)
5. How to spell her name (why did I not name her Eve or Liv or Skye?!!)
6. How not to bite/scratch/push others – and yet not be a doormat
7. How to eat broccoli and spinach without complaining
8. How to fix breakfast for herself to give mummy and daddy a break on weekends
9. How to share her things with others (lovely sentiment – though as with most things in life, easier said than done)
10. How tie her shoe laces
11. How to color inside the lines (and not on the wall or… gasp.. the white couch!)
12. How to climb down the stairs (she can manage the climb up pretty well but loses nerve while trying to get back down)
13. How not to dig her nose in public
14. How to look this way and that before crossing the street
15. How to ride a scooter…. a tricycle… a bike
And … the list goes on and on. Now I am not a very good or patient teacher. And if truth be told, I myself struggle to remember to do some of the things on the list. So the idea of having to re-iterate these things a million time each to an independent and rebellious toddler seems like an uphill task. Why can’t kids come pre-programmed with the basics?

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Love Thy Baby

You know how all books, articles and forums talk about that moment during childbirth, when the new mom looks at her baby for the very first time and feels this overwhelming deluge of love. She feels that the baby in her arms was worth every ache and pain that she suffered for the last nine months and more. Swimming in oxytocin, she can feel love gushing out of every pore and she wants to move mountains, slay dragons and cook spag bol for her baby.
That IS what is supposed to happen. and I knew it would happen to me too. I had heard all the stories, read all the narratives and seen all the tender photos. Only it did not happen to me. I looked at my daughter for the first time. I felt relief that the ordeal was coming to an end (they were still stitching me up at the time). I felt some worry that the baby did not cry all that loudly when she made her entry into the world. I marveled at the fact that she had very long fingernails. I felt mild disgust that she was placed in my arms still caked with yucky stuff. I thought my husband should probably not be making the first call to family right at that moment (wasn’t serious medical stuff still going on?). I thought many things.
But where was that extraordinary rush of love and devotion? I did not feel all that and I was very conscious of not feeling that way. I felt cheated. I felt guilty. Where was the bloody oxytocin? Maybe the epidural had affected my brain along with my lower extremities. Ten minutes into momhood, I was already a failure.
It was only much later that I read an article that said, while 70% of women fall in love with their babies at the moment of childbirth, the other 30% take more time in bonding with their baby. So thankfully I am not the monster who lives in a crooked houses on legs and routinely stews sweet innocent babes for lunch. That is a relief.


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Goodbye, Ambition! It Was Nice Knowing You

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I have been missing in action for a little while (but I swear I haven’t forgotten you!). It is just that I have been busy.  Verrry busy. Of course the lazy pace of work that I had been fortunate enough to experience for past couple of months was bound to change at some time. In our line of work it is practically unheard of not to feel the heat of deadlines, technical bugs, presentations and audits. Sooner or later (if not all the time!) one falls prey to these and other horrors – namely terrible managers who can never be pleased, snooty partners who think they can walk on water, miniscule or non existant hikes and bonuses,  clients who think they can be as irrational as they want just because they are paying an arm and a leg for our services (Ummm… well … maybe they have a point .. but hey, come on, people,  you should know better than to fall for the whole sales pitch that ‘We can build/mend/deliver anything and everything!’ )

There was a time when I used to love all this (barring the bad hikes of course!). Working against the clock , delivering a solution that, though it was not a answer to the world’s fuel crisis or a cure for cancer, still meant a lot to the client. Wracking my brains to come up with way around that irrtating software glitch.  Feeingl the heady rush of adrenaline after proving a point in intense caffeine fuelled meetings. Each morning I would match my pace to that of the others dressed in suits armed with lattes and iPads and get that heady feeling that ‘I too am doing something important in this place.’ And yes, I loved the feeling that I was coming up in the world just the way I had wanted to and dreamt of when I had been a nerdy teenager swotting for exams that would get me into the college of my choice and then later ambtiously applying for jobs, not only hoping that the prospective employers valued enthusiasm more than experience, but also somehow they chose me out of the hundreds of similar applicants.

However lately the amount of joy that I have been deriving from work has diminished. Actually that statement is not strictly true. Payday still feels wonderful and there is nothing to complain about in my professional life, It is just that the overall joy I derive from work has been eclipsed by the greater joys of family. Perhaps I am getting mellow in my old age but really the feeling of family is the best. Family life is messy, noisy, warm, chaotic and cosy. I cannot help but compare my life as it is now to the one I had just a couple of years back in London. I had a good job there but no family (at least none nearby).  I had lots of good friends and my after work hours would be spent in fun activities. Yet I would look at the couples walking hand-in-hand at a tube stations wistfully. Festive seasons would feel awful and no amount of retail therapy would help. 

Now a little more than eighteen months later, I have a husband and a daughter and I have moved halfway across the world to settle in sunny Australia. My life has changed so much that at times I feel like pinching myself for reassurance that this is indeed real. At the risk of sounding terribly mushy, being married to the one you love is incredible. I still feel the thrill at the end of each day when I am heading back home that K is waiting for me at the end of the commute. Well, of course we fight. However we agree much more than we disagree. Text each other “I love you’s” many more times than we end up not talking to each other. And we have the greatest fun together even while doing mundane things like cooking and grocery shopping.

Maybe because of my career focus in my twenties, I neevr felt that I was never a particularly maternal female. Research says that 70% of women feel an outpouring of love for their babies as soon they are born (there are  a lot of supporting medical facts about hormones that back that theory). Well I belong to the other 30% of the population who are confounded and not just a little scared of the tiny screaming creature who suddenly comes into their life.  It took me a while to come to grips with motherhood. My goal oriented mindset where doing X guaranteed a result Y did not know what to do with a baby who was irrational and unpredictable. But somehow the magic still happened and love bloomed. Soon coaxing a giggle from the little one became the most important task on the ‘To Do’ list.

I had written in an earlier blog that my friends love posting pithy sayings on Facebook. Recently one that caught my eye was “No one remembers their job designation on their dying day”. That sounds a little bleak but it’s true, I am sure. I can definitely vouch for the fact that the all-important deadline loses its relevance within days if not hours of it being met. This year’s performance rating becomes stale within a few weeks into the new financial year.

So with that thought in mind, I have decided so give Careergirl a little bit of a rest. Well, she isn’t really riding off into the sunset but the work suits and power pearls will be out only a few days in the week. I have decided to cut back on my working hours. I am going on a long six week sabbatical in a couple of weeks’ time and after that I will be deadline chasing for only 3 days a week. On the remaining four days you will find me strolling in the park, dealing with messy spills, trying to cook up a storm, reading out stories of fairies who live in the garden, doing some yoga, watching the tv (might be the cartoon channel but still…). I am so looking forward to all that. Well, I am not naïve and I know it will be a lot of hard work. But then who’s scared of hard work? Certainly not me!  If you do not believe me, just check my utilization stats at work for the past few years.

 


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Sleep Wars: Breaking All Rules and Loving It

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The stories of my friends and colleagues who were fellow moms to infants or toddlers used to fill me with envy. Kim had a set bedtime routine for her one-year old who went off to bed without a fuss at 7:30pm. Kim, who had a high pressure job in the mergers department of our consulting company, swore that her son’s bedtime routine was what kept her sane . Once he was asleep, she could catch up on pending housework chores, unread office emails and of course get ample amount of sleep to ready her for the next big day. Nora’s three month old was very clingy. Every night the baby would keep her parents up. Finally, exhausted, they decided to put the baby in her own room and leave her to self soothe. The first night was difficult but Nora says that after that the baby understood that the dark nursery meant that it was time to sleep and she started sleeping through the night.

Whenever I heard such things, I could not help but compare those kids to mine. R has always been hard to settle and I have never been able determine the right routine for her. I have read lots of baby sleep books and articles on the Internet but nothing really worked.   Put her down to sleep early and then she would be up all bright eyed and bushy tailed by the middle of the night, expecting us to begin playing with her. Put her down late – she would over tire herself and it would be hell to quieten her enough for sleep. Most nights she would go to sleep in her cot but around midnight she would start screaming. She would refuse to go back to sleep until we brought her into bed with us. Then she would happily hog most of the space and kick us all night at every opportunity.

 I like my space when I sleep and moreover, I love sleep. In my pre-R life, I would always ensure that I had a minimum of 8 hours shut-eye as that made me function properly through the day. After the baby, the lack of regular sleep was what hit me the hardest – especially once I joined back at work when R was around six months old. So I decided to do what my friends had been doing – try and enforce some routine by the tough love methods as advocated by all the books. Crying-it-out was a big failure – the problem was not just that R screamed her lungs out but also that K could not bear hearing his daughter cry so much. We had one of our very rare fights over this. I suggested putting R in her cot in a separate room and K would have none of that as well. He did not care for what is written in the baby rearing books or what the childcare experts might say.  I tried explaining to him that the baby was just stringing us along as she knew that we were nearby and that we would rush to comfort her every time she let out a small whimper. I forwarded him articles and narrated the success stories I had heard. However he was adamant that R would remain in the same room, preferably in the same bed as us. That really caused a quite bit of friction between K and me. Though we had similar outlooks in most things in life, we were definitely not seeing eye-to-eye on parenting styles.

The months went by and R now mostly sleeps in our bed. Her bedtime routine is still choppy. She still kicks and keeps tossing – and generally wakes us up many times during the night. No matter how much I try putting her into a comfortable position (for all three of us), she just will not stay that way. She flails her tiny arms indignantly and gets back to sleep-exploring every inch of the king sized bed. At times she wakes herself up. Then she looks up at me sleepily and offers a half grin barely visible in the faint light of the night lamp. It is at those times, feeling her tiny warm body against mine, that I realised that I love this. And more importantly she loves this – she loves being sandwiched between her mommy and daddy. It makes her feel safe in her little world. And I found  that this waking up at odd hours in the night for sleepy family snuggles and our quiet laughter at discovering the new weird posture R has contorted her body into, is a lot of fun for us as parents

So I guess K was right all through. Before I had just been thinking of myself, how I need my sleep and how I need to be super-efficient at office. But those actually mean nothing when you think about R or like R. I try and imagine what life must be for her. Eight month old, helpless, totally dependent of other people, unable to communicate in any way other than cry. Now if the very people she is the closest to and depends on, tell her ‘You know what – You are going to sleep in this scary room all alone. Cry as much as you want – it will not be of any use.” Can anything be more upsetting or heartless?

 It seems probable that I will not get much sleep in the coming days and months. I will continue to be groggy at work and perhaps will not be able to contribute my 100% on some days. Probably I will end up with a horrifically spoiled kid after some years.  However right now, my heart tells me that my main task and responsibility should be to make my tiny baby feel safe and utterly confident that she is cherished. My rest, my work, rules or schedules do not get priority over her happiness.


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15B, Happiness Way

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I thought I would write a blog about the weird behaviour of the healthcare nurse at my daughter’s 8th month check-up yesterday. Once she heard R was just having a few spoons of solid food each day, the lady in question became so bent up on underscoring the importance of the stuff and how R should really be having a cupful of fruits and vegetables three times a day that she turned somewhat manic. She definitely succeeded in stressing both me and my husband out. Whole day I had nothing but the word S-O-L-I-D-S flashing in my head and I also felt very indignant when I thought about the nurse’s lack of social skills. By evening I was fuming and armed with loads of stories from fellow moms at work who have had similar unpleasant experiences, I was determined to write a scathing blog lambasting bossy nurses with terrible bedside manners. However when I woke up this morning, I felt surprisingly mellow and yesterday’s big thing seemed diminished.

I remember one quote posted by a friend on Facebook. Incidentally I find it very strange that people are always posting these inspirational posters on their wall. Scrolling down the newsfeed is basically trawling through reams of quotes about the importance of time, broken hearts, dads who are heroes, superwomen moms, and more. Most times I just race past those. But undoubtedly there are a few good ones out there at times. The one I am referring to now, talked about how life is not about the actions of others but rather our reactions to those actions. Our happiness is ultimately tied to how we react.

I have decided this morning that I will not react negatively to things or spend time pondering on those. Instead I will celebrate the good things that have happened – both big and small. So, Healthcare Nurse, I have nothing against you now. You were probably doing your best. And I have met enough lovely midwives and nurses to know that most of them are really awesome. As for my daughter, she will learn how to accept solids at her own pace. I don’t see her as the only 20 year old in history living on infant formula!

 So at least for today, I will focus on the good things in my life that make me happy every day and give thanks to God that there are so many. This is what I am celebrating this week –

1)      R is crawling everywhere now. In the evenings this week whenever I made dinner, she crawled into the kitchen and made a beeline for me. On drawing level with me, she would delicately pat my leg asking to hoisted up. Awww! I love this phase so much.  

2)      I finished 2 interesting books this week – crisp taut thrillers both. Started on thriller number 3. I am really enjoying my train commute into city these days.

3)      Made a couple of dinners this week that were very well received. The first was chicken biryani on Monday night and while that dish is fairly normal in my household, I am proud of the stuff I cooked on Tuesday – Kung Pao chicken with steamed rice and Mee Goreng with seafood. Even if I do say it myself, they tasted as good as the ones served in restaurants.

4)      Had a few funny experiences at work. A colleague lost his pants at the gym on Monday and walked around in office all day in his cripsly formal shirt and electric blue gym shorts. The visual was so ridiculous that none of us could help bursting out with laughter, even while feeling very sorry for the guy. Heard a hilarious anecdote from the girl who shares my cubicle about how a couple of years ago she accidentally toasted a mouse along with bread and unknowingly ate the toast. Eeeek! Well, office can be a lot of fun at times.

5)      On the serious side, today was the deadline for a piece of work at office and everything got finished well within time. That is nothing short of a miracle!

6)      K had a good appraisal at his workplace. I am happy that all his hard work has paid off as he really has been slogging out for long hours for the past year and more.

7)      I got two posts in this week and this is the third. I haven’t been this productive since the first week after I signed up. Awesome!

Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy your weekend.

So what made you happy this week?


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Motherhood Clichés

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I know this sort of post has probably been done a thousand times before, if not more. So I am definitely not trying to write anything unique here. Maybe that is just as good – as when I do try to write unique stuff, in the end it turns out that it has all been done before. It seems I don’t have a single new thought in my head. Imagine how crushing that feeling is. You think you are this special one with special thoughts specially buzzing in your oh-so-special head. But finally it seems everyone is as special or more.

Anyways I digress. Returning to this post. This is about and for my baby daughter who is growing up so fast that I cannot believe my eyes. (Aha, I’d told you this stuff has been done before. You should have stopped reading this in the first paragraph itself! Since you did not heed my advice then, you now have to listen to me rambling on and on in that typical mommy fashion about how cute and talented my baby is.)

Time heals. Time is money. No, wait, those aren’t the right clichés. Time flies!  Yes, that’s the one.  Time has definitely been flying and these past eight months have gone by in the blink of an eye. (Well, I really did blink just the one time as certainly not many blinks or shut-eyes have been happening for me in this last two-third of the year!) Anyways, last time I checked my baby was this wrinkled and splotchy redfaced screamer. And now she resembles a human being and behaves like one too. A slightly demented and off-the-rocker human being. But then there are so many adults who are worse so I am definitely not holding that against a baby. The screaming bit hasn’t changed much – though R has trained me to hazard a few guesses about the reasons for the screams and the possible fifty things that might get her to stop or not.

When R was around 2-3 months old, she was fascinated by doorways. She would be door watching all the time. I think she was totally blown away by the concept that doors were gateways to a magical world where people vanished and then sometime reappeared as either themselves or as a whole new person. Now she can crawl. She crawls from room to room always pausing at the doorway and then sticking out her head to check  whether any dangerous creatures are lurking around. Doorways have lost their allure. I hope she is not losing all her faith in magic!

R perhaps thinks that she is the royal baby born a year ahead of time and whatever her heart desires will just appear in front of her exactly the way she wants it to. She certainly throws royal tantrums if that does not happen! And she is impossible to contain these days. She does not want to sit still. She even dislikes her old favourite of being held and rocked. Independence strikes so early. And there I had been bemoaning a scant few days ago that my arms were aching from carrying her around.

A thought that keeps coming into my mind pretty often that I must be an awful Mummy (another very unoriginal thought I am told!).  Certainly I am not one of those zen-like calm capable Mothers who can take all that motherhood throws their way and continue sewing or knitting or whatever it is they do.  Their houses are vacuumed each day. They do not keep losing one baby sock each day and they never run out of nappies.

Well I might be one scatty mom but I love you, my Pumpkin. Even when you won’t sleep in your cot and  after I relent and bring you into bed with me, you kick me awake every half an hour. Even when you used your tiny fingers to pry out the right arrow key on my laptop keyboard. Even when you gnawed on both sets of the car keys with your toothless gums so and now it is a ten minute task to unlock the car doors. Even when you scream blue murder whenever we go on a long drive or even short one to the nearest supermarket. I love you soooo much! You see, while I have come to terms with the fact that I am extremely average; I have discovered that you are indeed the most special human being on this earth.

 


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God, Religion, Babies and Head Tonsures

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We are planning on visiting our native places in India around the midyear mark to visit friends and relatives. This will be a very special visit as it is the first time we are going with our baby daughter. Needless to say, there is a lot of excitement on both sides and already loads of plans are being made about places to visit whilst in India, the shopping to be done in preparation for the trip, all the things we need to carry for our infant, etc. I was really looking forward to it – till my mother-in-law dropped the bombshell. In one recent phone conversations, she mentioned that she would like to take her granddaughter to Tirupati for a head tonsuring ceremony.

For my non-Indian friends, Tirupati is a major pilgrimage place for Hindus as it houses the temple of Lord Venkateshwara. This temple is the most visited place of worship in the world and on an average, around 30 to 40 million devotees visit the temple each year. One of the most significant features of the temple is that thousands of devotees get their heads tonsured here and offer their hair to the deity. Over a ton of hair is collected each day and this hair is later auctioned to international buyers to be used as hair extensions or in hair products.

I had always considered this act of head tonsuring to be weird, not to mention faintly barbaric. I could never understand what God would do with all that hair – surely he has loads of his own!!! So when told that my poor baby daughter is to be tonsured soon, I was appalled and I admit I have secretly been worrying over this ever since.

I did not mention anything to my mother-in-law at that time. I know she means well. However subjecting a ten month old baby to this seems like extreme cruelty to me. I fail to see how sacrificing my infant’s hair is going to provide her good karma for all her life. Besides doesn’t the word sacrifice mean giving something up of one’s own free will? How is that relevant for a baby who cannot make any decisions for herself?

I admit I have some shallow reasons too for balking at the hair tonsuring. My daughter would be having her first birthday shortly after the India trip. Do I want her to be sporting the bald look at one of the greatest milestones in her young life – her first birthday party? Not really. Besides my baby was born with very little hair and I had worried a bit about it when I noticed other young babies with full heads of hair. Now she is getting lovely silky hair of her own and I am so proud of that. To think that would all be gone again makes me shudder.

More than the cosmetic reasons, what irks me most about this whole thing is that I do not even believe in these rituals. I have visited the Tirupati temple in the past. There is no doubting that the place is place has a grandeur of its own and it is amazing to find people from all walks of life there. However it was so crowded that it took us ages to reach the sanctum sanctorum and when we did, in the place of prayers the thought of a possible stampede kept preying on my mind! 

I confess that I am not an overly religious person. Sure, I believe in God – but I like to believe that I have a personal relationship with my God and that does not require much outward trappings in the way of rites, rituals and ceremonies. My parents are Hindus and they brought me up as one, acquainting me with all of Hinduism’s myriad gods and goddess and its zillions of festivals. However they never imposed the stricter rules of the religion on me – there was no pressure on me to fast on certain days or be vegetarian on others or visit the temple every so often. Instead they drummed into me the fact that the basic tenet of any religion and all religions is that one should be good and kind to one’s fellowmen and that is the surest way of pleasing God.

When I got married, it was into a family of devout Brahmins. I had no problems getting along with my in-laws as such. They are really nice people – caring and affectionate. Everyone went out of their way to welcome me into the family. We spent a happy ten days with my extended family of in-laws after the marriage. It was mostly great fun except for one thing. Everyone in my new family was very religious. My mother-in-law visited the temple twice a day and also spent hours in veneration at home. Everyone else too followed elaborate daily rituals and special ones on the auspicious days. I felt like a fish in the Sahara. I had no idea what I was supposed to do and I was scared of offending my new relatives. When my ignorance became glaringly obvious, the females in the family took it upon themselves to impart as much knowledge about the household rituals as possible within the limited time I had with them. They took me to numerous temples, explained what offerings I needed to make to particular gods on certain days, also taught me the use of different veneration items like the vermilion, the rice grains,the camphor and the lamps. To be fair, I guess they abbreviated the rituals quite a bit for someone who knew nothing and would be living far away from India. However it still felt like an information overload to me as I was an absolute novice in these matters. And of course there was that tiny voice at the back of my mind all the time – Do I really believe in these trappings of religion?

Once I reached Australia, it was not that bad. My mother-in-law would ask me over the phone to follow certain rites at particular times of the year. I would try to follow her advice as best as I could (with some modifications of my own!) but of course things were not difficult as there was no one around to really judge me. My husband knows my limitations and he generally has no outward demands in this – though at times when I slip up in something he considers really basic, I feel he does get a bit disappointed. 

Now this head tonsuring issue is hanging over my head like the proverbial sword of Damocles. I cannot decide on what to do. Should I stand up for my convictions and tell my in-laws that I do not believe in ritualistic worship and thereby hurt their feelings? Or should I keep the peace and go ahead with the whole thing , choosing instead to shed a few private tears with my baby after she is tonsured?

This whole thing is also making me wonder about a bigger issue. What sort of religious teachings am I going to impart to my daughter? Shall I teach her the notion of a flexible religion as my parents taught me and have her lead a life that has less piety and rigidity? Or should I try to push her into the excessively religious ways of my in-laws in the hope that she gains loads of good karma for this life and the next one? There are no easy way out. Me and my husband have divided opinions on this and I am sure you can figure out what our respective stands are! Maybe we should just leave the choice for our daughter to make once she is old enough.