Archive for June, 2010

My little baby is walking… yay!

Tiny, baby steps…. 10 or so and then plonk…. she sits down. Its cute to watch her learn to walk… and awesome to learn that the wee little one is on her way to becoming independant.

I love this stage of hers… she is learning to talk, she is learning to walk… she is learning to become a person of her own…. Awesome!

Mommy guilt and how it affected me

It is easy to offer advice to new mothers about how they should let their children be, not feel bad if something goes wrong while parenting and not obsess over a child being a finicky eater. I have done all this and more. I believed that I was the sane one among this whole melee of paranoid mothers. I often resolved never to be obsessive over my child’s behavior and was sure I would earn the tag of the most chilled our parent ever!

I never wanted to be a mother initially. Right from the time I was in college, I was sure I would never want a child and would instead do something to serve the country, join an NGO, perhaps. Like the two were mutually exclusive! However, like they say, you can go ahead and plan your life… but life always has other plans.

The body clocked chimed and I became pregnant. After a myriad complications I managed to deliver a healthy baby. I could talk about guilt creeping in right after my 4th month of pregnancy when I was diagnosed with a separated placenta and struggled to keep my baby alive to when I had to opt for a C-Sec because the contractions came in too fast and one on top of the other while the baby had still not descended.

However, none of these seemed significant when compared to the mother of all Mommy guilts- one that arises from breastfeeding issues. I had read up all about the benefits of breastfeeding while I was pregnant apart from the intense research that I had done on the pregnancy and related complications. What I didn’t research upon was about issues related to breastfeeding – because you know, I had these huge melons for breasts and I possibly couldn’t have any issues breastfeeding my child. In fact, I had told my employer that I would need that extra leave just to ensure that the baby was breastfed for as long as possible since I wanted her/him to get the best nutrition possible.

After the first few hours of delivery, when the lactation nurse came to help me feed her for the first time, Lil Princess latched on beautifully. It didn’t seem to be an issue at all. I was through all my troubles and complications, I exclaimed in relief. But the issues began from that night onwards. Lil Princess wouldn’t sleep at night and she kept crying. I tried to feed her and had to keep calling the nurses to help her latch on. She still wouldn’t sleep or stop crying. When she finally slept early in the morning, I was exhausted and weeping. “What went wrong?” I thought. Then came the comments and brickbats. “Oh! May be you don’t have enough milk that’s why she can’t sleep”. That was the constant refrain whenever the child kept crying even after I had finished feeding her. What nobody told me and I was too much in pain and too exhausted to find out was that the milk doesn’t come in until the 3rd day when you have a C-Section and until then the baby is okay with surviving on colostrum. What I was also not told was that some babies don’t sleep at night after birth. In fact, like the Lil Princess some babies may go up to a month or more of not sleeping at night and instead prefer to snooze during the day.

I came back home from the hospital, and instead of encouraging me, some members from my family only made fun of my inability to feed her. The emotional trauma probably contributed in a big way to the fact that my milk supply was affected. I was feeding her all the time and yet, she never seemed to be full. We had to resort to feeding her formula. I was devastated. What was I doing wrong? Was I a bad mother? Why wasn’t she getting her fill? Did I eat something wrong/ didn’t eat enough during pregnancy because of which she wasn’t getting any milk? Apart from sleep deprivation, since she was awake all night and I couldn’t sleep much during the day, all these and thousand other questions kept filling my mind day in and day out. I went into post partum depression, a condition I did not recognise then, but do now. I was crying all the time. My temper reached unimaginable levels to the extent that I was often pulling at my hair and flinging things across the room.

Then, I remembered how I had met a gynecologist who was also a lactation consultant earlier during my pregnancy. I decided to go to her almost 20 days after my delivery. Her soothing voice, calming words and ability to put you at ease and make you feel good, made me feel like I could do it again. I could feed my baby and do away with the “evil” formula. I did encounter success for another month or so, before Lil Princess started behaving very strangely. After feeding 24/7 from me, she actually started refusing the breast. She didn’t want to feed from me anymore. Then after several struggles and bouts of frustration and depression I finally switched over to formula in her 5th month. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t face her refusals, my struggles to calm her down and force feed her, the crying that ensued afterward. I had tried enough and for mine and her emotional health it was better this way.

However, the worst part of it all were the comments I got from strangers “Why aren’t you feeding her mother’s milk?” they asked me. When I told them that it was mostly because she wasn’t interested anymore, they smirked and said it was because I wanted the convenient way out. How can formula be more convenient than breastfeeding, I ask? The washing of the bottle, the sterilizing, the boiling of water, the expenses involved. Why would I choose all these over breastfeeding? Those comments, those funny stares I got from people, my own overwhelming feeling of guilt, all these increased my PPD and I was mostly miserable until Lil Princess was 8 months old. It was only after she became more interactive, mobile and more responsive that I started enjoying my own baby. Until then all I had, was intense mommy guilt and the feeling of how I shouldn’t have had a baby because I was incapable of taking care of her- as if taking care meant only breastfeeding.

I still do suffer from mommy guilt several times. She is a very picky eater- “am I not feeding her what she likes, the right stuff?”, She has an extreme case of stranger anxiety- “I should take her out more, I should get out and socialize more so she can have more friends” and many such instances which make me feel guilty.

However, now no more! I am through with mommy guilt, well most of it at least. And when I read this, I was sure I am doing the right thing in channelizing my attention and energies into something else- like gardening, baking and writing. I feel better now, much much better.

The dreaded T word… or Tirupati as it is better known

I have always been wary about going to Tirupati…. the abode of Balaji. It is supposed to draw lakhs of people every month and people consider Him the greatest of all Gods!
All that is great! but I have always dreaded the crowds and the commercialization of the place. Its been 24 years since I last went to Tirupati, and you can understand that I held no memories of the place.

So when it was our turn to go there and get the Lil Princess’s tonsure done, I started palpitating. I ensured our travel tickets were booked and our stay as well. The only thing I couldn’t ensure was the darshan. We didn’t know anyone of influence who would help us with an easy darshan. Not to worry, said our friends, a Rs.300 quick darshan ticket will ensure speedy darshan and have us out in an hours time. That is how efficient the system had become. I was very skeptical, but decided to go with that advice. We had 3 elders and one child and I wasnt sure they could cope with it if it was too crowded.

Moreover I thought, why should I be a part of the differentiation just because we are financially a little more well-off than those who could afford only the free darshan.

What happened was probably something that I had part expected but had hoped would never happen.
We had a good journey, found a great cab driver, checked into the decentish accommodation that TTD had provided. After that everything started to go awry. I was very very scared about Lil Princess’s reaction to the tonsure. She is a highly sensitive child who screams even at the slightest sound, the slightest fall. She cannot even bear someone hugging her a little more tightly than usual. I was sure she wouldn’t let her head get tonsured. Which is why I refused to go for it. I didn’t even want it to happen in the first place.

As expected, she screamed and wouldn’t let the guy cut her hair. The kids around cried for a bit but calmed down once they realized it wasn’t going to hurt. She didn’t give anyone any time or opportunity to let her realize that it wasn’t going to hurt. The result was that she did get a tonsure but she screamed herself hoarse and even got nicked at various places due to the constant shaking of her head. The tonsure guy got so psyched in the end that he refused to let my mother and P go without tipping him 3 times of what he usually is given.

That done, the next biggest issue was the darshan. All along I was told by P and the in-laws that the crowds werent much that day and that we would be out soon. Let me explain my paranoia first-  I am claustrophobic and I have a short temper. Put both together and you get a “monstress” of sorts who can’t be put into a closed atmosphere and who will blow her mind if she isn’t let out immediately. That sorted, once we went up to the line we saw that it stretched endlessly. I am talking about the famed Rs.300 lines which are supposed to ensure you get darshan in under 2 hours. I started to panic. Dont, assured the family. We will get through this quickly. Remember, I had elders who were eager for this darshan and would do anything to ensure they got it.

It’s not that I wasn’t eager, but I think temples are places where you are supposed to go for some peace of mind. To see the Lord and try to imagine Him close to you and are able to talk to Him through the silence. Not through pushing and cribbing and shouting matches. Which is what this ultimately turned out to be. Nobody even wanted to consider that they were in a temple, all they were interested in was the fact that they needed to get the darshan and get it as quickly as possible even if it meant breaking lines, pushing other people, pulling their clothing and everything else they could do to get ahead.

I had a 1-year-old child with me and 3 elders. I didn’t know how I was going to pull this through. And to top it all I was wearing the garment I am most uncomfortable in- the saree. Even if it was a cotton one, I could have managed but I had to go and bring my Mysore silk one- yes! the same one that is worn for a couple of hours during parties and other such assorted occasions. It kept slipping off at various places during the push pull routine and all I wanted to do was pull it off my body. My common sense had gone on a vacation when I was packing, I think.

It took us 5 hours to get to see THE GREAT LORD. It was just a glimpse and so momentary that there wasnt even a feeling of having seen Him. And it was amidst such pushing and pulling and screaming that the “connect” between us never happened. All I could do was take a vow front of Him to never to come to Tirupati again. I would go to the US and visit Him at His temple there but never again to Tirupati.

Maybe it was too quick and too harsh a decision. Maybe circumstances weren’t in our favor that day. Maybe another day and we would have had a much better darshan. My in-laws insisted that they have been here several times and they have never had to face something like this. They have always been out within a couple of hours. They also bragged about how their elder son took them through the VVIP quota and how they stood inside the sanctum sanctorum for about half an hour and had their fill in terms of the darshan.

But the way I look at it – No one should have to go through what we went through that day. Why should we have to push through crowds to ensure that we get a glimpse of God. Why should we listen to the leering remarks of security people and beg them to let us through. It is not a fundamental right of ours to worship whoever we wanted to, whenever and however we wanted to?

My in-laws’ subtle hints at telling us that we should have taken them in a more comfortable manner only gave me further proof that it is because of this differentiation towards certain people, that the common man has to wait and get manhandled during their wait to see the Tirupati Balaji. I saw several BMWs and Mercs going by when we were standing in the queue. Probably we were waiting for so long for that very reason- those travelling inside these cars were being given priority. We were told after we came out that there were people waiting in line for more than 24 hours and who had managed to get darshan only with us.

And yet, people return to this place and go through the same process of pushing and screaming every time. Why? Maybe it is that famous magnetic “pull” by the Lord that everyone keeps talking about. Maybe this is what darshan means to them. Maybe this is what makes them feel lucky amidst all the bad luck that they seem to have in their lives. I don’t know.

All I know is that, for me, this was the end of a journey. The one that I had resolved to make when I was pregnant and had developed severe complications threatening the survival of my child. To fulfill that one resolve I made this journey only to make another one at the end of it – to never make this journey again.

Finally… we meet

Finally met Just like that today… even though we live in the same complex, its been 3 months since I moved into it, we havent had the opportunity. Although, we have met at bloggers meets and baby showers and stuff. Today, it was by chance, she was taking a walk with her mom and I was with the little princess and my mom in the play area. If I wasnt looking around, I would have probably missed her. Anyways, it felt great meeting her. JLT, heres to many more such meetings….