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January 9, 2010
Ok, now that I have your attention.
I’ve been at my parents’ in Bombay for the last month and living in my maika allows me to live sans phone, internet and well, responsibilities. As a nursing machine for my 3-month old I don’t get out much. So I live a retired pensioners life along with my parents instead of the happening clubbing youngster life every other Mumbaiker does. OK I’m not a happening clubbing youngster anyway but one can pretend. I’d be lying if I said I felt like I was missing out – we eat at home, my splurges are on childhood memories such as Appy and my daily outing is to the local gym where sweet gujju aunties come work out alongside in salwars and sneakers. No I’m not being malicious, I love it. I love not being part of the trappings of hanging out in the latest bars, shopping at the sprawling malls (I know – sprawling is a word used a bit too generously for Mumbai) and not spending thousands on a night. My big outing for the week is a thali lunch at the Gujarati club which allows non-Gujaratis – gasp! – to eat there on Sundays. The line is long and you have to put your name down and everything. It’s nerve-wracking. Yes I’m a stodgy, behind-the-times NRI stewing in nostalgia, so sue me. On another note, I should’ve been born Gujju….NM, are you listening?
Anyway, the subject of the post wasn’t in vain. I am hollering to new moms or those whose boobs stayed much the same after they became old moms. This seems a timely conversation in the midst of the “what colour bra are you wearing” campaign which I entirely missed living under aforementioned rock. So cut to the chase, my boobs are gynormous. They started getting that way while I was pregnant. From Bs, I started entering D territory and wondered how long it would take my spine to crack under the weight. And then when someone suggested that they would get only bigger once I started nursing, I kept the number for the Guiness Records handy. No sense wasting the gift.
Living in the US, I’ve always had a problem with sizes. Due to my height and frame, I needed an XS or S top. But wouldn’t you know it – American girls that size have peanuts for boobs, not Bs. So I needed a M for boobs. Much joy when I found a S top which allowed for what I had. And horror, I didn’t need pushing up or padding. I think we all know now that Victoria’s secret is that she doesn’t acknowledge women who nurse, only those who need bras that double up as bullet-proof vests. In all the optimism that giving birth affords, I thought – surely in India tops are built for Indian women. Who are shorter, petite but dude…have BOOBS. But noooooooooo, same to same problem. I went to buy kurtis, perfect on shoulders and in height but pressed my boobs so they threatened to spill out of the sleeves.
So Indian women, speak up! in India and abroad, where are you buying clothes once you become mothers? Tell me I’m not alone. I just let it all hang out. 

A birth as it should be

November 24, 2009

My dear Mishki,

I wrote this soon after you were born. It is the typical self-centred convoluted sort of thought process and reaction I’ve had to most setbacks in life. And I thought some more and decided that you deserve better. You deserve a mother who is a role model. If you watched a beauty paegent (please don’t) you’d think this is most natural and obvious – your mother being your role model. Life sometimes works differently. Relationships emerge differently. One thing I know from my own life is that while I appreciate the spontaneity and natural evolution of parent-child bonds, setting a foundation is paramount. I dare say I lacked it in my own upbringing. But there I go again – this is not about me. This is a story for you. It begins with you and ends with you.

Your (now) father and I spawned you quickly. When people ask how long we “tried” (a phrase that makes your father cringe), I usually say 20 minutes. They look at me mouth agape and I say “OK, 10. I was sleepy.” Needless to say these very words will make you cringe. Hah too bad. When I learned we were pregnant I didn’t think much about birth experiences. I had read enough mommy blogs to know many women had c-sections, that they were on the rise and there was a lot of conflict about why this was an unpleasant phenomenon. Around my 4th month I started getting interested in natural birth. Since you will be growing up in close proximity to your parents you will soon see why this was not a stretch for us. We even considered a home birth, crunchy couple that we are. We read, we took classes, we were prepped for everything au natural.

My fondest memories of you are from when you were in my belly. Your drum-like rhythmic kicks and the way you swam around making my whole tummy contort, especially during weekly status meetings at work. My favorite by far though are the many miles we walked together. You and me. To and fro from prenatal yoga. To and from from bus stops to the subway. To the grocery store and to movies. Out in the open but a completely private time. Sometimes you made it known you were awake and ready for the ride, sometimes you snoozed, the rhythmic movement of my steps comforting you. When I got down on all fours in yoga and rocked, I imagined rocking you. When the room reverberated with Ommmmmmmm, I thought of you soothed by the vibrations. And then that fine day when you decided it was time, I was still walking. Walking with your grandmother towards the museum, past central park. What a little New Yorker baby you are. What a little woman of the world!

My sweet Mishki , you worked so hard. You worked with Amma to come down. All 9 lbs of you. Yes you big baby. You stretched amma’s uterus to its fullest. You challenged my body and mind. My body obliged achingly, my mind had trouble grappling with the vast expanse that was you. Still, we tried. Valiantly we moaned through contractions. We breathed with our stomachs the way we learned at yoga. You were (are) so long, even while you were descending into my cervix, I could still feel your feet at my ribs. You made your Amma work for you and she doesn’t regret it. When the dreaded c-section happened I knew there was one thing I dreaded more. Yes I’ll say it now – I dreaded a son. But no! You sneaky little thing were the girl I wanted all along. When the doctor pulled your fat head out she gasped at the “big baby”. Your father however, said the 3 words I’d been waiting to hear all my life – “It’s a girl.”

You came out screaming bloody murder. I know crying when you’re born is a good sign but jeez did you make your point. I, well, I sobbed like a baby. The tears flowed freely and I wailed. We both looked at you in wonder – how did this child fit inside me was our first thought. When I finally had sensation in my arms and they gave you to me, you searched for food and assured me with your strong suckle. Even now when you feed, you suckle like an efficient machine. With big noisy gulps like “6 pigs eating” as your grandma says.

I won’t forget my birth experience Mishki. And I won’t stop feeling that I wanted something entirely different. But never confuse that with you or your entry into this world. You came in strong and screaming, ready to take on whatever was in store. Even now we call you “the beast”. Yes, we’re sweet that way. Somehow I know you’ll fit in with us, your green parents with our irreverent sense of humor and lack of sense of grandiose.  And if you don’t, too bad, we’ll keep you anyway.

Sometimes when I succumb to those feelings that engulfed me the first 2 weeks I recall what Appa said and it gives me solace “You still birthed this baby.” I still birthed you. And you’re all mine.


A birth interrupted

November 12, 2009

Written four weeks ago:

I debated long and hard about how to write this post.  I found some words, scratched those, formed others. I thought about my blog friends, my few readers. What they’d say. How they’d compare this to their own experience. Most of all, I debated long and hard about whether to write at all. The last week has been both the most fulfilling and disappointing of my life.  Accordingly, my words are dichotomous, my feelings fragmented, my thoughts fuzzy. My daughter was born a week ago.

There’s no running away from it. I detailed in black and white right here, what I thought about birth, how I hoped my child’s would be, what I believed, how I worked towards it and the vision that carried me through my pregnancy.

I decided to write both ways. First, the way, I GoTB react to it. React to most setbacks in life. Harshly, disdainfully, resignedly.

Labor started on Monday morning. It felt like cramps but when I went to the doc, she felt my tummy and said “you’re having contractions.” Yayy! This is what I had wanted – a natural start without any induction. Once again she said I was going to have a good size baby 8.5-9 lb! I laughed it off. You just have to see my 5 ft, 3 frame to know how impossible that sounded. Regardless, I was determined. I had learned size was not anything to fear in labor. My mother-in-law pushed a 10 lb baby out without drugs. That baby is married to me now. So my mom and I carried on with our morning – her a bit tentatively, me cheerfully. I took her to the MET. Of course it was closed for the Monday. At this point, the contractions were getting a little harder to manage so we took a cab home. I told her I was taking a nap and started breathing and managing my contractions the Bradley way. I counted breaths, I stayed hydrated and I timed my contractions. I walked, I climbed stairs, all in an effort to bring the baby down. At 3 pm my water broke and I asked my husband to come home. There was some meconium in my water but it didn’t upset me too much. I called the nurse – she asked me to come in but I told her I wanted to labor at home a bit longer. She seemed concerned – contractions were now 5 mins apart so said ok- just 2 more hours. Almost exactly 2 hours later we left for the hospital. I was in it intensely now. I was in the zone. I took my electrolyte drinks, ate and left. At the hospital I stayed calm through admission but threw up promptly as we got to our room. We refused IV but got hooked to the fetal monitor. At this point I could no longer talk but stayed focused only on my husband. He counted breaths through contractions with me – he was my rock, everything I could ask for. We were going on about the 15th hour of labor now, about 6-7 of those active and intense. I started getting back pain and suspected that the baby was posterior i.e. sunny side up. I couldn’t believe it – all the prenatal yoga, watching my posture – even at 36 weeks she was anterior in her ultrasound. What happened?? The doctor came in and confirmed – yes, baby was posterior. Now I was about 8-9 cms but had some work to do . Baby had to turn and descend.

Contractions were coming in every 30 seconds, which basically meant on top of each other with no break and were 80 to 90 seconds long. I looked at my husband, defeated and begged for pain medication. He looked me in the eye and asked me to tell him if I really did. No he wasn’t being hard on me. I had drilled it into him not to take my pleas at face value and to help me get past self doubt. But I was sure. I took the epidural in tears, ashamed at my lack of strength. The night was spent on all fours trying to turn the baby. In the wee hours of the morning the doctor came back. I was still at 9 cms. An hour later, no change.

Then I heard the words I hadn’t prepared for. Not once in the nine months leading up to this moment. She said the baby was not descending and I had to have a c-section. My mind blurred. Surely, this couldn’t be happening to me. Not after everything I had visualized, what I’d planned. The dim realization that a birth could not be planned occurred much later. We asked for my OB – she was at home. We were just asking her for her second opinion. Instead to our surprise she said she was coming in. On seeing her I burst into a fresh set of tears. She said how surprised she was to see me still laboring. She was so sure I would have had the baby by now. You and me both, sister.

But she concurred with the advice – c-sec was the way to go. She felt the baby was too big to fit down through me. And so I was cut open and my baby girl was delivered to me. I was numb with drugs and couldn’t even hold my arms out to hold her. Yes she is my joy and makes every day of the nine months and 30 years of life prior worth it. But it doesn’t change my birth experience from being traumatic. It doesn’t make me stop feeling like a failure. I join the ranks of hundreds of such women, and still I am alone in my grief. I mourn this privately lest someone take it as ingratitude for a healthy child. To those who chide me I have no words. All I can say is you don’t know. You don’t know what it is to come so close to birthing the baby you’ve carried for nine months only to have her delivered to you like a package. You don’t know how excluded I feel from my own baby’s birth. You don’t know how it feels to know that what’s most natural turned out to be the most impossible.

Coming soon: the post I should be writing.

Update. Stop.

September 24, 2009

I am so terribly tardy on a post that I’m not even going to bother explaining. I yearn for the days of telegrams when you didn’t have the luxury of verbosity. Had awesome baby shower. Stop. Mother arrived. Egad. Stop. Hacking Cough. Pulled rib muscle. Stop. Couldn’t take it anymore, rushed to hospital. Stop. Prodded and poked me, I hate docs. Stop. Gave me pain meds. Heaven. Stop. This coming from the girl resisting the epidural. Stop. Doc claims I am 2 cm dilated. Stop. To my credit, not hyperventilating. Stop. Feeling a bit better. Mom and I getting along. Hallelujah. Stop.

Mood forecast: slightly cloudy, torn between wanting to have baby soon versus struggling with rib pain. Want to be healthy for labour.

Verdict: Control is a tricky thing. The more I want it, the more it eludes me.

So be it. Stop.

Babies a little while longer

August 7, 2009

I haven’t written anything about Veeru and Basanti in a while. Truth is they’ve been more on my mind than most things while my husband and I wait for the baby.

In so many ways this feels like we’re having a second. V&B have been part of our lives from the beginning of our marriage, when we just bought our apartment, when we first became “us.” You could say we were one of those couples to jump into having kids way too early. They sleep with us in our now increasingly small bed. They lounge around with us on weekends. They hang out by the door the minute they hear our footsteps outside. They are the center of our lives, and we, theirs.

I am worried that soon the spotlight wil be off them. They will just be the “pets” in the household. That I will look at them with fear for the first time as I worry about the safety of the baby. And it breaks my heart.

We put up the baby’s crib this weekend. Cats love secret new places, getting into inaccessible nooks and corners and true to their nature they delightedly slipped behind the jail-like bars. Innocently, they scurry in and out as though we built it for them, excited for the new game they now have. For their sake and ours, I want this delight to last just a bit longer.

The evil glint is all pretense. They're suckers for chin rubs and cuddles.

The evil glint is all pretense. They're suckers for chin rubs and cuddles.

Natural birth in an unnatural city

July 16, 2009

A couple from my husband’s school first talked to me about the Bradley method. This method makes natural birth its mission. I listened with interest and I knew a lot of it fit well with my general views but was wary so as not to be “taken-in” by it. Then my husband brought home the book “Husband-coached childbirth” from the library and as I feared, we’ve both bought into it almost entirely. The Bradley method preaches natural birth in every way imaginable – a vaginal birth sans painkillers, minimal monitoring equipment and hook-ups, the husband/partner more important than the doctors themselves, the baby in your arms the second it’s born, and preferably leaving the hospital a few hours after birth. Of these I feel varying degrees of passion for each of the missions. It’s not hard to want natural – at least for me. We live a fairly natural life eating food with few or no preservatives, are not big fans of drugs in general. Moreover I do buy into the theory that when the perpetuation of an entire species depends upon this, procreation need not be that mechanized. Below are my priorities for the birth:

  1. I’d like to avoid a c-section. This is of utmost importance to me. Sujatha wrote here about the growing percentage. Of these in urban areas, a minority are ‘emergency” c-sections – most are preferred either by doctor or patient or both. I live in NYC, one of the most urban, commercialized cities in the world. My hospital Cornell Medical while world renowned for dealing with complications has a very high scheduled c-sec rate. This scares  the crap out of me. But I’d like to stand my ground.
  2. No epidural: Make no mistake, I am a wimp. I don’t have any crazy threshold for pain and I milk every bruise for what it’s worth. A cat scratch on my knee and I’ll limp for days. But I’d like to try to go without. Studies show that the spinal epidural can be found in the baby’s blood 3 mins after being administered to the mother. Epidurals can slow down labour and be counter-productive. They prevent your body from giving you the necessary codes like when to push so that you are more a puppet in the doctor’s hands rather than understanding your body’s cues. There are other studies that show slower lactation, breast-feeding etc. Of course the Bradley method will select the studies it thinks fit to promote its mission but regardless of the studies, I’d like to try.
  3. I’d like to labour as long as needed: I don’t want to be induced. I don’t understand induction entirely. Although I know that rate of induction is related to c-section rates. I don’t need my birth to be quick and convenient. If the bus comes the minute I arrive at the bus-stop, I am happy for the convenience. The birth of my child is allowed to be inconvenient.
  4. I’d like the child in our arms immediately: My child doesn’t need to cleaned/ bathed before I hold it. God knows I’ll be dealing with all sorts of gross stuff after, why not right away.
  5. I want information: I don’t want to be an obedient patient. I want to understand what is being done to me and why. Most importantly I want a clear understanding of what is medically necessary versus a nice-to-have. I want to know what’s an emergency and what’s not. None of the points 1-4 are as important as the health and safety of my baby so instead of fighting me I’d like the docs and nurses to explain things to me and be collaborative. My birthing experience is not more important that my child itself.

Want to know what happened to the friend who turned me on to the Bradley method? She said her delivery was a “horrific nightmare”. She yelled “Fuck you” at her doula. She screeched with pain since she had a posterior baby. She threw up in her hair and demanded an epidural the second she got to the hospital.

I get it. We can decide these things and want these things but the experience is not entirely in my control. I am ready to be flexible, open and sensible. If I am unable to be, my husband will take the lead. But I also plan to rigorously practice the positions and pain management techniques taught at the Bradley class. I plan to take the precautions and act the way I should for the next few months leading up to the birth. I don’t do things haphazardly and I will dedicate myself to the method but I will not be disappointed if things don’t go the way I hope.

What do you think? Have you heard of the Bradley method/ know anyone who’s tried it? How much of this resonates with you? How much is hogwash? Also do you specifically know anyone in NYC and experiences they might have had?

I’m all ears. And thank you.

Treat Rape as Rape

June 22, 2009

It’s not that I have high expectations from TOI. I usually expect the worst, barf and move on. But Anu in her feminist site pointed us to this article about the Shiney Ahuja rape case and it really made me gag. Is this an editorial? A news piece? Some type of insightful feature story? I don’t know. I’ve stopped expecting any semblance of journalistic rigour from these papers. Regardless the stance of the writer is deplorable – the last line says it all “A word of advice to all the women out there- choose your maid with care! “Not only is this article poorly researched (picks a few similar stories, creates a pattern, almost cultural and social phenomenon out of nothing – I haven’t ever seen any commentary in the Western media about the growing epidemic of men and maids cavorting), but the conclusion is so disconcerting, I am left speechless. Well, not quite speechless. No surprise, apparently our maids like all of us other women in short skirts are responsible for tempting poor unsuspecting men into rape.

The other angle of this story that flummoxes me is people wondering why he needed to go after a maid. I don’t pretend to be oblivious to the obvious class and superficial differences people are alluding to. It’s not a generalization to say that the maid community is probably not as attractive as Bollywood so maybe this reaction is justified. But this is rape. We’re not talking about Shiney’s girlfriend and why he chose a maid over a Bollywood star. We are talking about exerting violent power and sexual aggression. It could be a maid, a bombshell, a 10 year old boy. It’s rape. Maybe people are wondering why someone needs to resort to rape.  Again, this is not how I tend to feel towards the situation because I feel like rape is so far removed from just the act of sexual intercourse that it’s hard for me to talk about it as though it was in lieu of a dry spell in the man’s life. Rape is not a last resort for lack of sex. It is a completely criminal and conscious act towards an unwilling victim which cannot be rationalized. The only thing that can save Shiney is if it’s proven that it was consensual. If so, then the above line of questioning can continue. But until then, this can only be treated as the heinous crime that it is. And that’s it. Questions leading with “Why would a man of his stature with access to hot women need to…” will only serve to divert the issue and create fodder for the public and media but do very little to address the very serious accusation of rape. I say we stop asking “Why maid” and start demanding investigation and justice for rape. Period.