Monday, May 19, 2014

From Home To Home

Time has come for us to head from my father's home back to my own.  Three months, as is the custom in India - and it's a wise one (if one wants to move at all), for babies seem to settle down remarkably when they hit this age.  After this, moves are likely to be more unsettling for them as they look around, recognize and begin to communicate with everyone they meet.

It's quite a different set up from some months ago, for the baby and myself.  My father and I had plenty of time to set up the baby's room - a table of the right dimensions converted into a changing table, a wonderful little rocking cradle just right for his small size, enough empty cupboards for all the knick knacks that inevitably go with babies.  Everything in sight was scrubbed, dusted; shelves were lined with fresh paper.  At that time, I planned everything (with some help of course) but didn't know quite what to expect.

Now, there is no time to plan anything, nor am I physically in my own house yet.  It's a house that has long been lived in by two busy adults - shelves packed with books and music, cupboards full of baking equipment and crockery, kitchen filled with spices, herbs and foods gathered lovingly from all my travels.  Nothing remotely resembling baby stuff.  Lots of dust, a few insects...We have a lot of work ahead! 

There's no space for a changing table so I will make do with a bed.  We need a room for the maid, who accompanies us, so I will have to share the office room.  Our gift cupboard (yes! we actually had the luxury of buying gifts for lots of known and unknown people in advance, whenever we saw something nice) will be emptied for the baby.  Some books will be transferred to cardboard containers.  And this, I know, is just the tip of the iceberg (rather hurricane)...

On the other hand, the baby and I know each other intimately now and we manage to function as a comfortable unit instead of a bewildered mother and a desperate baby (of course, things keep changing and each day brings it challenges, but we are more settled now).  I feel more comfortable in subjecting the baby to all these changes than I would have just a month or two ago.  It's a good feeling (and I hope it lasts!).

Nice (and comfortable) as it has been in my old home, I am now ready to head to my regular home and settle in amidst the chaos!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Moms Need Moms Too

All kinds of lists are made out during and after pregnancy about people's requirements - things the mother and baby need.  While all these can be gathered from books and well wishers and bought in shops, I'd like to add a very important part to nurturing - having one or more loving person whom one can connect with.

This doesn't need to be your own parent or even a relative.  It just means having someone to communicate with - someone warm, understanding and supportive and (preferably) who has gone through one (or more) generation(s) of babies and pregnancies.  There are so many questions to be asked, so much reassurance required and so many helpful hints to be gathered which cannot come from any other source.

I'm lucky to have a long distance, wise and wonderful friend who has seen (and experienced) several pregnancies and a much younger relative (around my age) close by who has been supplying me with all the things I needed (that I didn't even know I needed).

The first few months go by in a daze, and one forgets to eat, tries to sleep (but can't), tries to squeeze in luxuries (like bathing!) and essentials (drinking water!) - I can see my old self looking on sardonically and saying, "Get a life, girl!"  But that's what happens while trying to cope with baby on one's own.

Time goes by and you realize that while you are there for the baby, there has to be someone there for you - especially when you're trying to keep the baby comfortable against all odds and fighting sleep deprivation!

Books do help.  They offer wise words, laughter, spiritual remedies and more - if one lays one's hands on the right sources.  While there are many pregnancy books (I find the 'What To Expect' series handy), I would like to mention two that are the equivalent of wise mothers' words, which have helped me through this period.  The most useful and reassuring book on pregnancy I have read has been 'The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding' by La Leche League International.  This doesn't just deal with breastfeeding (though this is an important component of the book, more so because (as the book itself says, and I have experienced it too): so many people including doctors keep saying, "This isn't working is it?  You had better stop") but also deals with aspects of bringing up a baby from a natural, baby point of view (not in terms of time or milestones or other things that most books talk about).  Similarly, 'The Secret of Childhood' by Maria Montessori is an old classic that I find has given me a different perspective of bringing up infants : how to try and see things from their viewpoint not from an adult's.  Apart from this - my yoga books and murder mysteries prop me along and help switch my thoughts when I am tired.

But most of all it is emails going to and fro and small phone calls and little bits of time spent talking and being with a small set of warm, loving, caring people that have really helped me in these last few months.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Having Faith

A new direction to one's life requires one to have a lot of faith - both in oneself and in the process of life itself.  I don't mean to be didactic but am writing this partly to air my thoughts and partly in case it is of help to anyone who finds themselves in unfamiliar situations, on the brink of uncertainty or nervousness.

Babies are meant to be bundles of joy.  But they are huge responsibilities as well.  Especially when all the literature tells you how vulnerable they are and how many infections they are likely to catch and so on.  What they don't tell you (and what you need someone else to - in this case I am fortunate to have an old friend, Nora, who I send frantic emails to in times of distress) is that babies are natural fighters and things are usually not as bad as they seem.  But people at hand often love to tell you how you can do things better or differently.  Well - listen if you like and think it over, but don't be overwhelmed - and don't lose heart!  Things have a funny way of straightening themselves out - it may not be the usual way or someone else's way, but that is of no importance.

My baby had a badly given vaccination that turned into an abscess.  The doctor I went to made various noises, "Has he been crying more than usual?" and so on.  More than usual?  Crying peaks when a baby is two months old.  How do I know what is more than usual??  I said he had no pain or fever and that she had told me there would be swelling on the leg.  "Yes, but only for 24 hours."  How does one know that?  The first vaccination (for tuberculosis) caused a boil that stayed for weeks, which is apparently normal.  "First time parent," she muttered and I felt terrible, as if I had missed something very important.  She squeezed the abscess and the baby started howling.  She suggested I go to some place two hours away from home, carry my feed, put him into surgery immediately and get the abscess out, however long it took.

I just went home, close to tears.  Fortunately there was a highly recommended paediatrician very close to my house.  I went to him.  "Just relax," he said and lightly touched the abscess.  The baby didn't stir.  He explained that this could only have arisen due to bad vaccination techniques and said I could go anywhere to get it removed.  Also that I was not a professional and hence couldn't judge abscesses - sometimes there was no fever or pain but they were infected, as this was.  Fortunately there was surgeon in the same clinic who was experienced and good.  I went to him and he bandaged the abscess saying it was too hard to open unless the baby was made unconscious, which he didn't want to do.  So the bandage stayed, the antibiotics began and we returned the next day, apprehensively.  The bandage was opened.  The abscess look a teeny bit better.  So it was re-dressed and this procedure was repeated for two weeks until the body took over and it began healing by itself.

Through all this, I had many moments of self doubt, of worry and concern, fear about the future and how I would handle the situation.  Many onlookers said this could never be a reaction to an injection, especially babysitters (babysitters are the hardest to deal with because they seem to have much more experience with babies than me!). Nora was the only one who said, "Don't worry.  This will all work out.  Babies are tough and it won't hurt him in the long run."

Everything has worked out.  I am still nervous each time I go to the clinic but it is close by and the baby seems to accept this routine, so we don't have a terrible time of it.  Now, the only thing I try and remember of this episode is to have faith in myself, in my ability to tackle new situations and be on unfamiliar terrain - because that's how life is.  And not look back to complain or criticize.

P.S.  Soon after I wrote this blog, I got a call from the original paediatrician, saying the next dose of the vaccination was due.  I told her I had not got the surgery done and it was healing.  She said, "In that case, it was not a real abscess.  I have recently had other children with such reactions but not as bad as your child's.  But this time we can give him the modified vaccine, which has just come in stock, because this is clearly a reaction to the vaccination (this is known to be a difficult vaccination for children, which is why two versions of varying efficacy are available)."

Well, life comes full circle.  I think the take home message really is that we can rarely say what is right or wrong, we can just do the best possible with the information and instinct we have and let life lead us on.
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