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Please don’t call it labour pains

Child birth
Last week I had the opportunity to meet a mother to be at a family function. While I was congratulating her on her beautiful glow & how privileged she should be feeling with a life growing within her, all she talked about was her impending ‘labour’ and how anxious she was of the pain. She was fearful of even asking me how my experience was as she had already listened to frightful stories from other mothers!

Why don’t mothers encourage pregnant mothers with more positive experiences is beyond me! Why do women wear the length of their ‘labour’ as badge of honors & scare others is something I have not been able to understand.

Fine. Bringing a child into this world hurts. But doesn’t getting pierced or tattooed not hurt? Ok, there is no comparison between these two. There is absolutely no comparison between the two. One if for beautification & personal statement; while the other is the most life changing and selfless act. But I digress here.

This article is to tell all would be mothers to look at ‘labour’ as not laboring, but as ‘birthing’ or anything which makes it more positive. How about a ‘right of passage’. Birthing is as arduous a process for the baby as it is for the mother. But, by going through this process, the child receives many benefits.

Have you heard of the story where a small child watched a butterfly trying to come out of the cocoon, and after seeing it struggle, opened the sac to make the process easier. The butterfly did emerge, but because of the lack of the struggle, its wings had not developed properly and it could no longer fly. When you think of the birthing process as an enabler through which the mother is assisting the child to enter the world with dignity, love & strength, suddenly the mother is humbled & empowered.

If we only let our bodies and nature, do its job, pregnancy & birthing is a beautiful process. I wanted to tell that scared mom-to-be to trust, believe & be in awe of her body. Without being asked, her body would nurture the child for 9 months inside, and forever, outside her body. She will produce the best food for the child through her body for as long as the baby needs it. Did you know that the breast milk changes its formulation (actual constituents) according to the need of the baby!

Our first memory of birthing is old hindi movies where the pregnant woman is rushed into a room & is heard screaming; with the father pacing outside the door. Since then we associate birthing with pain. Pregnancy is not a medical condition that requires treatment. In older times, there was a loving dai who would comfort & assist the mother-to-be birth, as she had done for all women in the village/family/community. She knew the mother personally, attended to her throughout the pregnancy, offered advice, and loving brought her baby into the world. The western world is now waking up to this phenomenon, but we seem to have forgotten it, despite having given it to them.

A gynecologist friend practicing in the UK told me that NHS assigns a pregnant woman a mid wife for the entire pregnancy & through the birthing process. A doctor is usually called in only for emergencies. Why? Because our bodies know best.

When you receive forwards on Social media telling that child birth pain is equivalent to 20 bones breaking, please do read that during this time our bodies produce crazy amount of endorphins which give relief from this pain. And guess what, the amount of endorphins produced is good enough to give the mother a high! But we have started interfering with our bodies and the process, and scared ourselves enough to dread the final days. The doctors ask the already tired mother to ‘push’ the baby out, but did you know when we clench the jaw while pushing, we are closing the birthing path! We are doing it all wrong. The calmer the mother is, the more the endorphins get produced, and the smoother the process becomes.

So when you plan to book your pre baby photo shoot & your baby shower, do look up for natural birth & pre birth classes. There is inspiration and power waiting to be discovered which will change your outlook. Also, the next time you have your pre natal gynae visit, tell your doctor you want a natural birth and ask her to guide you to it. She may be shocked/surprised, but chances are she may view you with a new respect.

Just so you know, I was no different from the would be mother I met. But I decided to take help & make a difference.

Childbirth is the only time you will assist God in a miracle
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Advice I would have given myself in my first pregnancy

Yeah yeah, aren’t all first time moms given advice by anyone and everybody. In fact I feel that it is a tradition, which unfortunately I am a culprit of having given into. See, I have understood that as first time mom you may hate when people give you advice on everything- how to breastfeed, make the baby sleep, burp, bathe, change, when to start solids, weaning…blah blah. And try hard as you may, you can’t avoid it. So, you have to vent out this baggage you received, by becoming just one of what you didn’t want to, and dish out advice when you see a new first time mom 🙂 . Simple. And thus the tradition continues.

Advice I would have given myself in my first pregnancy

But, jokes apart, if I were to give some sensible advice to myself, this would be it-

1. Rest before delivering- you’ll never have ME time again for the next 5 yrs. It’s so true. Especially if you are planning to have more than one kid. Rest as much as you can before delivering. Just stay in bed & relax, enjoy, do everything which is not a chore or a task on your to-do list, by becoming a parent you’ve signed up for a lifetime of doing that already.

2. Rest after delivering- yup. That’s the natural progression. Get all the pampering, sleep in late, be lazy, get massages, stay in for the convalescing period, let others do the household work, you don’t have to bathe your new born from day one, you’ll have years to do it 🙂

3. Eat without a thought- you’re still nourishing another soul, and lactation is the only time, second to pregnancy, when you can eat as much as you can. You always have a legitimate excuse of an expanded waistline 🙂

4. Become BLIND to the household- everyone else is an adult or not-a-new mom. They can take care of themselves without you wanting to assist/manage everything.

5. Sleep when the baby sleeps- for once listen to what the older women (who are still on the advice giving trip), & don’t use this time to catch up on chores & tasks & bathing & organising. Sleep. Once the world knows you are fit to manage yourself & the baby, all help is withdrawn, and you have to actually manage everything. So savour this time.

6. Get massages done- Yes, the midwives knew what they were talking about. Go get pampered. Those daily massages get your tummy in & your spirits up :). It takes away the weariness from the birthing process, lack of sleep, and gives your body and mind the much needed relaxation.

It took me my second pregnancy to understand & appreciate the deeper meaning of all these sayings & advices, and since I was staunchly not willing to take any advice from others, I wish I could’ve written this post for myself earlier 🙂 .

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How having 2 kids changed me

Pregnancy is cherished & made a lot about. Which is right, it is a huge turning point in your marriage, career & life. But it’s only a 9 month event. What ensues is a life long journey called parenthood, but I feel it is not given its due. Raising a child is more risky, tough, challenging, rewarding, fulfilling and life altering. What an individual becomes as an adult, is a sum total of his external environment & the upbringing his parents gave him. The same is true of the parent also.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightfalling/2261753548/">~PhotograTree~</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

photo credit: ~PhotograTree~ via photopin cc

And imagine the impact of raising two kids have on a parent! I have felt so many changes in me ever since I became a parent of two.

  1. I became more confident- Because I chose to have 2 kids when I know so many couples who have openly said that they don’t have the energy/ will to do it, I felt brave and empowered at the same time.
  2. I became more aggressive- I was assertive till I had just 1 kid, but now I have to stand up for 2 kids with the same limited energy that I have, so I optimise by becoming aggressive & cutting to the chase.
  3. I became a preserver- I have started saving. Because 1 kid is fashionable, 2 kids are a responsibility. In my first pregnancy, the novelty was so high that I wanted to buy everything new, right from clothes, to nursery items to toys. But for my second pregnancy, I had already carefully sterilised & stored a lot of stuff from my daughter’s time. I was also less stuck-up & was open to borrowing stuff from my sister/ friend who had kids.
  4. I started planning for the future- I have never had a plan for life and have just gone with the flow. But, now, with two kids, I have started for planning for tomorrow. How long do I intend to stay in a full time job? What will I do post that? When would the kids need my complete attention?
  5. I became stronger- Now when I look back, I realise as a first time parent I would get very defensive/ hurt when someone gave an opinion or advice on parenting methods or pregnancy, or life in general. Second time round I figured out that everyone has a right to their opinion & I have a right to take it or ignore it. So without making it all about myself, I chose to process this information they way that suits me.
  6.  I was less judgmental of myself & others- First time round I wanted to do everything right the first time. And because I had set up such high standards for myself, I would measure others by the same yardstick. Oh… this mother doesn’t spend enough time playing with her kid, or lets the maid feed the kid, or some such thing…. Second time round I realised that every mother loves her child as much as I love mine, and like every child, every mother and her ways are also unique. Who am I to judge her?
  7.  I was relaxed- Don’t let that trick you :). I am twice as tired, twice as short of time, twice at lack of personal time & exercise, twice of everything when I had just one kid. BUT, I am relaxed. I have done ok as a mother of one, I will do more than ok this time too :-D.
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Skills set of a new momma

When my husband & I decided to have kids, being the type who wants to prepare to the hilt to get everything right in the first time, we armed ourselves with as much information we could find. Books, internet, parent-child bonding classes, pre-natal lessons, discussions with our friends who were parents and what not. We registered ourselves for emailers & newsletters & officially became part of the parenting bandwagon.
But, informed as much as we were, our greatest & most profound learnings came on the job. Like my career, although my MBA degree taught me the rules & the rote, my experiences taught me the practical application of the written words.

So, here’s my list of the skills I need/ developed as a new mom/ parent-

  1. Multi-tasking- I am almost always doing more than 1 thing at a time. Yes, I get at the end of my to-do list faster this way, & although I am secretly proud of this skill, I feel it’s a double-edged sword which will send me closer to the burnout & mental fatigue faster. This is one skill I am looking forward to put to rest.
  2. Building a network outside my comfort zone- I have ventured out & made friends/acquaintances with people with whom I have very little in common, in fact only my kids in common, & surprisingly this has offered solutions to problems which I had been dealing with alone, be it car pools, references for a dentist, scheduling last minute doctor appointments.
  3. Asking for help- I used to think asking for help outside my usual behaviour, but I have found people (mostly) to be accommodating & considerate when you tell them you are a new mom & any 5 mins saved in a queue will go a long way in your day.
  4. Patience- It is as clichéd as it can be. You become your own nemesis when you become a mom. If you have a short fuse, your child’s favourite pastime will be to press your buttons :-).
  5. Confidence- I have more confidence than I had ever before. It is a surreal sense of achievement, not vanity, just plain contentment, that I feel & have seen in the eyes of my fellow moms.
  6. Faith- I know at least 3 couples, very good, kind & loving people, who have refused to have children because of the fear that this world is not a good place. This only gets fortified by the news that you read so very often these days. Yet, at the same time, I as a fact know, at least 20 couples who have more than 1 child because they believe that with their kids, they can make this world a better place.
  7. Gratitude- I have renewed, in fact, ever more new gratitude for my parents. The ethical, disciplined yet democratic & loving way they brought us up, with never a mention of their struggles & challenges, is something I can only hope I can emulate.
  8. There has to be a God- I read somewhere in my teens that ‘Pregnancy is the only time when a human assists God in creating a miracle’. Today, as a mom of two I believe it. There are zillions of permutations and combinations that can either give or deny you the pleasure of parenthood. With kids I realise there is no rhyme or reason for anything & everything. You as a parent can do your best & HAVE TO leave the rest to God. No amount of education or books can ensure what life will turn out for your kids.
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I know a lot of busy couples for whom the decision of not having a second child is a no-brainer. They just don’t want to revisit the cycle again.

But for me the 2nd pregnancy was a breeze, and I am not alone in this experience. Almost all parents say that their second time was easier for so many reasons.

Because we already knew what to expect, right from the doctor’s visits to medical exams to reports…. we were aware.

Psychologically we were in a better place. We had experienced the joys & fears of being completely responsible for a new life, who would become the centre of our being forever.

We were prepared for the adjustments our lifestyle would require- less alone time, lesser late nights (well, I mean the fun & entertainment, not nightly nappy change and feeds- one really doesn’t get that lucky), and more of family time.

We were relaxed– We were not afraid to fail. We weren’t judging ourselves so critically. And we had more realistic benchmarks for ourselves & from the baby, and this took a lot of pressure off us.

We were wiser– If you are remotely like me who wants to learn from my own experience that hearsay and the kgs of advice everyone is just wanting to give, you’d know this one. We didn’t buy & stock everything the books and parenting sites and every well wisher told us, because we knew what works and what don’t for our kids and our lifestyle.

We believed– We started having more faith is goodness and god. Because we realised, from experience, that there would be loads we would not be able to control, despite our best efforts. So, we became believers. That all good shall happen.

And who do we thank for training us for this 2nd round- our first born. Who taught us all short cuts for feeding a baby, tricks to distract a crying baby, tips to make travel fun, deep-breathing between two tantrums, how to keep awake at 2 am by watching TV….. Yes, my teacher is not my mom or best friends, or my sisters or my mother in law… no one, as much as my daughter in her 2 yrs before we started our second pregnancy. She was and always will remain my biggest teacher of life, not just as a mother.

She is shaping who I will be know as an adult.