And there she was… our bright light at the end of the tunnel

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10:33pm, Sunday, August 21, 2016 – the date and time has been etched into my rather porous memory, for life. The moment of revelation, the day I became a father. There she was, in her glorious pink pureness, surrounded by the verdant garden of scrubs, putting her lungs to the ultimate test – my daughter had announced her arrival; loud and clear.

6:00pm – Sabiha’s (my wife) contractions were picking up speed, but not frequent enough for us to panic. Anyway this was more or less a planned visit, the doctor wanted us in around 9.30pm, in order to induce her so she could deliver the next day, but the baby had other plans. We had already replayed this situation in our heads multiple times. Our bag was already packed a good month in advance. We made sure we took everything required for the birth of our unborn child – mother’s clothes, baby clothes, swaddles, mittens, caps, baby soap and shampoo, blankets, sheets, toiletries and most importantly diapers! It is absolutely essential that you carry everything that you think is important apart from the essentials, trust me, it is not worth running around last minute. Sabiha had planned out everything in advance by packing everything for a minimum of three days, more on this later.

Throughout her pregnancy I kept wondering what it would be like to drive my wife while she was in labour, will it be a weekday OR will it during peak hours OR will it be a weekday during peak hours? What if it’s raining cats and dogs and we get bumper to bumper traffic (shudder)? But in the most anti-climatic manner, it turned out to be a rainless, boring Sunday evening. Sure we got some traffic thanks to the good people of Mumbai gearing up to celebrate Ganesh Chatruthi (a festival, celebrating Lord Ganesh’s birthday, that lasts about 10 days). We were at the hospital in 45 minutes. Once again, we knew exactly what route we had to take to reach the hospital in the fastest way possible. When we went for consultations and sonography we tried out all possible routes to gauge the best possible option. The idea is to be perfectly calm on D-Day and take effective and conscious decisions, hence dry runs were very important for us. Be prepared for unexpected speed bumps (no pun intended) but think with a very clear head. DO.NOT.PANIC.

The hospital was approximately 14 kms away from where we live in the Mumbai suburb of Khar, a quaint little place, which was more of a home than a tube light flooded hospital. We had already selected our room a few days ago and knew what to expect. It was 7pm, the nurses and the stand-in doctor helped my wife to settle in, who by the way was in early labour and the contractions were coming in fast.  We waited for the doctor to come in. My wife’s cervix had already dilated 3cms, the target was 10cms to push the baby out, she had a long way to go. At 8pm, Sabiha’s doctor came in, all smiles and dandy, ever so fresh, checked her up and said she was more or less there, then very nonchalantly proceeded and  broke her water! Yes, apparently that’s a thing. The doc then looked at me smiled and said we’ll be ready in two hours! while my wife was waddling in her own amniotic-fluid-soaked bed. TWO HOURS! She was supposed to deliver the next day.

So the previous day we came for our regular checkup and the ever smiling, ever glowing doctor seemed a tad alarmed (in her own uniquely jovial manner) and remarked “Why hasn’t she got her contractions yet? it’s already 40 weeks!” Now it was my time to get alarmed, I wasn’t quite sure if she was expecting an answer from me, so I did what I do best in these situations, stared back with a really dumb look. She told us to calm down and get admitted the following day around 9.30pm.

8.30pm – I had stepped out to get some dinner when I came back my wife was writhing and groaning in pain. The nurse had hooked her up to a NST machine (Non Stress Test) to check the baby’s heartbeat and the frequency of the contractions, they monitored her very closely, keeping a check on her dilation and informing the doctor accordingly. I was just sitting there in one corner, eating my roll, trying to come up with ways to help her. My wife yelled at me for eating in front of her while she was in pain and asked me to get out of the room. I was finally of some help. When I got back, I saw the nurse was rubbing my wife’s back every time she got a contraction, I volunteered to do it myself. It was impossible for me to even  begin to fathom the degree of pain she was in but I just wanted to alleviate it in whatever way possible. If rubbing her back helped then I wanted to do it to the best of my ability. At this point you need to ensure that you are calm and do everything to keep your wife clam as well, don’t show any signs of duress or stress, it is not going to help you or the child. If the child gets stressed, there is a very high possibility of the child passing stool while still inside and that’s an automatic C-section, and my wife wouldn’t be too pleased with that as she always wanted to have a natural delivery.

 10pm – She was now screaming, there were three to four nurses helping her to empty her bladder, well let’s just things got messy and it wasn’t the best thing to be a nurse at that point, but hats off to them. I could have sworn my wife broke a nurse’s arm while yelling “I’m sorry!!!! I’m usually not like this!!”. I quietly disagreed. In my head. In the darkest recesses of my mind.

The doctor came in her scrubs and ordered the team to ready the OT. She told me to wear the scrubs and be ready as I could be called in anytime. I am coordinating with both sets of parents to come as soon as they can, the baby could be out any time. I saw them take Sabiha into the OT, while I was explaining the address to my sister. Within a few minutes two nurses came running to asking for me. My heart skipped a beat, did something go wrong? Why are they looking so alarmed? Did it have anything to do with the umbilical cord around her neck? (yes the sonography the previous day showed it, but more on that later). I rushed into the OT and I could see people in scrubs coaxing her to push. I was confused, was everything ok? The anesthesiologist said everything was fine, she was doing really well and got a stool for me and I sat besides her and was about to say encouraging words to her and I heard a cry… The doctor announced it was a girl! My wife was ecstatic and started hollering “we have a daughter!”

There she was in flesh and blood, my senses were fixated on her for I was experiencing something so pure, something so unequivocally divine for the first time. She was crying inconsolably, My throat was dry, my eyes tearing up. I just wanted to reach out and mollify her to tell her that it’s ok. I had done my homework and read quite a bit on childbirth to realize that the baby must cry as soon as she is born, I knew that! But at that time, my mind was all muddled and a heartfelt plea came out of me “Why is she crying? please do something!” to which the doctor said “It’s a good thing she is crying, she is fine”. It was over in exactly five minutes. The staff cleaned her up and I held her for the first time, blinking, breathing, living…

My name is Nadir Kanthawala and I am a proud new age dad to a beautiful daughter! Through this blog I plan to record all the milestones of our daughter and the experiences we are having while raising her. I want to reach out to working parents, especially dads and promote hands-on parenting.

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She is 5 months old

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It’s been five months since…

…Our daughter Z chose us as her parents

…She was pieced together from a single cell into life bag of skin, bones and a beautiful soul

…I graduated from a doting husband to a doting father

…Our world turned upside-down, but so did our frown

…Happiness transcended all other forms of emotions

…Sleep became a distant dream, ever wanting, ever incomplete

…You are responsible for driving up the sales of diapers

…We realized that crying is the new talking

…We craved time and again for a little sliver of her smile

…She declared the ceiling fan and the photo frames as her best friends, sometimes they fought bitterly

…A vaccination injection is more painful to you than to her

…Her hair started defying gravity

…My wife and I have barely spent time together alone, and when we do, all we talk about is her

…All greetings to friends and relatives end with yours, wife’s AND daughter’s name

…A two-hour window going out seems like a mission

…Two’s company but three is a joy

…You’ve been shining in this world full of darkness

 

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10 things to carry when out with baby

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As parents, we always wondered what would be the ideal age to take your newborn out. We were always troubled with this thought and being new parents you would take extra caution and follow everything the doctor says. Well over the months we grew more confident and started taking our daughter out from the age of 2-months.

The doctor’s advice was not to take the baby out for almost 6 months and though it seemed to us as logical, we went against it. It was difficult for both my wife and I to go out anywhere and it really tested our sanity. We were paranoid just by the thought of it but eventually we relented and took her out and we felt so much at ease. Unless and until you don’t try it you will never know whether it was hard or easy.

We know a lot of couples who had started taking their kids out from a very young age, either through intent or compulsion. There were some who had to travel with their kids when they were only 15 days old and some around a month. These are situations that you cannot avoid, like when the family is shifting bases or the mother wants to travel back to her mother’s.

Some brave parents decided to travel with their new born on holidays and they felt at ease. Though we started with a simple car ride to an eatery and back. Thankfully our child slept… well like a baby so no trouble whatsoever. But here is a list of things that you should definitely have when traveling with a child for a couple of hours:

  1. Diapers and pair of extra clothes – Never forget these. Accidents are waiting to happen you can never be too prepared
  2. Wipes and hand sanitizer – for obvious reasons. I urge all parents to either wash their hands before a diaper change or use a sanitizer.
  3. Quick dry sheet – When changing the baby you’ll need something to lay her down on
  4.  Mosquito patches – They work wonderfully well. In fact sometimes I use it.
  5. Blanket – it’s always a safe option especially if you are travelling by car and the air conditioner is on
  6. Car Seat – Very important. In India nobody really care for this but it is absolutely necessary that you install one. We have one which doubles up as a rocker as well so we just pull it out and carry it along with us so our daughter not always on us and our hands are always free to do other things. Similar logical while in the car, it is not advisable to carry the child in your arms. The baby should be buckled in safely, accidents to announce their arrival. They just happen.
  7. Feed – This depends on several factors. Since our baby is exclusively breastfed we had a window of two hours, either we come back home or we find a place where my wife can breastfeed. If your child is older then bottle feed is always advisable
  8. Toys – Kids are unpredictable, there were times when we have just reched the venue and Z has misbehaved and we had to carry her. Toys, especially rattles helps to distract the child and give you those precious few minutes to eat/drink/chat or come up with a contingent plan, provided you don’t want to take the child in your arms.
  9. Socks/cap – depending on what the temperature is like
  10. Wash cloth – babies from their third month drool a lot so it’s always better to carry a soft napkin to wipe her mouth

There are no restrictions on taking your baby out, either for a few hours or few days as long as you are mentally and physically prepared to do this. More than the child it is important the mother goes out regularly because it is difficult to be trapped inside the house with a little child.

Back to the pregnancy

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Today’s post is about nostalgia. It’s been exactly a year since we found out that we were pregnant. We were shocked to find out but not in a “oh-crap-how-did-this-happen!” kind of way. Z was a very planned baby; we were just amazed that she picked us in our first attempt.

So much so, that my wife just couldn’t believe the obvious symptoms for almost a month. I honestly thought she was falling sick due to the changing weather but clearly that was not the case.

A year ago, she was visiting the quaint settlement of Wellington, Tamil Nadu. She was taking a break in this hill station, and staying with a friend from the armed forces whose husband was pursing a course there.

No sooner had she settled into the car, making their way up to the mountains, than her friend broke some good news: she was six weeks pregnant! My wife was ecstatic for her buddy and she called me to share the news. We were so happy to hear this because some day this year we’d be in a similar position.

Coincidently, it is because of this friend of my wife’s that we both even met, dated, and got married. So we were clearly going to find an even deeper cosmic connection with her.

The two women discussed all things pregnancy the following day. My wife complained of constant dry retching in the morning. She wondered why she was waking up so hungry. She was also feeling bloaty the past couple of days and was constantly tired.

I was told that these are also a few symptoms of an upcoming period so my wife chose to ignore them. As a long-term patient of PCOS, a few days here and there on her cycle were not unusual too.

But the third day, something peculiar happened. All of these symptoms came in full force and with still no on-set of a period. They were in Ooty and she chanced upon a medical store. So the two of them decided to pick a pregnancy test and just give it a go when they got back to Wellington.

My wife tells me that there was no electricity when they returned and it was the start of the evening. She lit a candle and was quick to get to the loo and pee on the stick. Her friend was waiting outside the door with bated breath.

That’s when she saw it. The two pink-lined test (that she still hordes somewhere). She threw the door open, and announced it to her friend!

But the girls were still uncertain because it could be false positive. So off they went to the local market and bought two or three more tests to try the next morning. And as you would have it, all of them turned positive.

My wife called me as soon as she could and broke the news. For a second I thought she was going delirious in all that premium quality oxygenated mountain air. There was no way we could have been pregnant that quickly. I had this massive smile on my face and the emotions were bursting at the seams. The last time I felt like this was when I had asked her out and she said yes 😀

It was so exciting that we were already making plans about what changes to make in the room, where to place the crib, the name of the child…obviously! Just imagine, you just found out a couple of days ago that your friend was pregnant and then it’s you.

And fate has a funny way of working, my wife’s friend delivered a girl too, four days after our baby was born.

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Sleep Regression – A monster in the making

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Raising a baby is tough work, everybody knows that, but the rewards are priceless – that unadulterated, bedazzling smile that she beams every morning; the cherubic mirth on her face every time you open her diaper and there is a surprise waiting for you; the sheer joy she experiences when you splash warm water on her while bathing. These beautiful moments become permanent memories, your go-to memories, something that you’ll never forget.

But my baby doesn’t take much time for her transformation to complete from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde and these are moments you are more than willing to forget. It’s experiences like these that test your mettle as a parent. But what are these moments?

We are dealing with two concepts here, the first one is a growth spurt. Growth spurts happen starting from as soon as one week and go on till the first year.

As the name suggests, during a growth spurt the baby grows in weight, height and head circumference. This directly translates to an increase in her food intake. This is far more pronounced in breastfed babies as breast milk digests faster as opposed to formula. In this period the child tends to get fussy, irritable and downright cranky.

The second one is sleep regression – During this period it would seem that your child has magically forgotten how to fall asleep. She will hate naps, sleep for shorter hours and wake up regularly, especially at nights. Basically the baby starts behaving like an adult as far as sleep is concerned. We would fight sleep in our heydays to read a book, or be on the phone or watch TV right? Well that’s what’s happening to the baby.

Just do a basic search of these two words on any search engine and automatically the results will throw up “4-months” attached to the term. So clearly this is something all 4-month olds experience and various parents have described their harrowing experiences.

What’s worse? When growth spurt and sleep regression happen simultaneously.

As a parent this phase will test your patience and tolerance levels. The crying gets really out of hand and all the baby wants to do is cling to you. Feeding will not always help, nor will constant engagement. All the baby the wants is human touch. You’ll do it for a couple of days but after some time your body gives way and frustration sets in.

At one point you’ll probably start crying louder than the baby. There will be moments you wished you never had a child. You’ll start questioning your skills as a parent or why you became a parent in the first place. You will find yourself screaming at the baby or nobody in particular. You think you might have lost your mind. But please let me tell you that you are not alone. All parents go through this. This particular experience doesn’t make you an incompetent parent.

We are going through this phase ourselves. It’s been a week where we (mostly my wife) haven’t slept at night uninterrupted. Our daughter wakes up every two hours for a feed and then refuses to go back to sleep. After a lot of effort we got her used to sleeping all by ourselves we aren’t planning to throw that away.

We carry her for comfort, but we don’t walk with her. We kiss her head, but we don’t engage her. We pat her back, but we don’t play with her. After a while we put her back in the crib, she cries, she howls but eventually she does fall asleep. We make sure that the room is dark and we don’t give her any attention.

Initially this will be painful but it is just a matter of getting used to. From what I have read online, this is a temporary phase and it dies out. As parents we need to be strong and patient.

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Let’s Talk About Breastfeeding

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This week’s post is written by a very special guest…. my wife. No matter how much I try, I will never do justice to this topic. Yes there are loads of articles out there telling you how important it is to breastfeed your child. But we want to talk about something that mothers tend to take for granted and then struggle later.

Over to my wife.

The first conversation I had on breastfeeding was with my aunt, my dad’s youngest sister. She said, “I breastfed all my three babies until they turned one! I hope you do too. Persevere , don’t give up . ” I was 5 months pregnant.

My brothers and I were formula fed babies so I never had the opportunity to discuss this with my mom.

I remember thinking what the fuss was about. It’s the most natural thing in the world.

A few days later, I was in Japan. I sat by a bridge overlooking a river with flying fish, with the Arashiyama bamboo forest in the background. My phone buzzed and it was my dear friend, urging me to attend a workshop on breastfeeding.

Why did she think I needed to attend a workshop on breastfeeding? It’s the most natural thing in the world! I was only interested in prenatal yoga, and the right breathing techniques, and the right stretches that would see me through a totally natural child birth!

Nonetheless, I decided to go. I was fresh from a holiday and ready to pass some time before I got serious with breathing correctly.

It may have been the wisest decision I made since, forever.

Here’s the thing, breastfeeding may be the most natural thing in the world, but it sure as hell does not come naturally.

I met the most kind, patient, and sincere lactation specialist at the session. She guided us through eye-opening facts about breastfeeding. Things to look out for, the rights and wrongs, the ‘normal’, the important “etc” .

I was one among the two pregnant women in a sea of new moms. The other one was the doctor’s childhood friend.

The mothers shared stories after the session. One had broken out into a rash post delivery and decided not to breastfeed her newborn until the marks were gone. A few  days later, her son preferred the bottle to the breast. Another couldn’t get her baby to latch correctly, leading to frustration for all parties involved.  There were stories of bleeding from sore nipples, babies crying through the night from hunger, and a general air of guilt, at not being good enough to do the most natural thing in the world.

Later, my friends shared their stories too. One baby would wake up crying every 15 minutes, another never latched, a third was formula fed once a day because no one told the mother there was no need for it.

I was now looking at every first-time mom with new eyes. How was her breastfeeding journey going? I wondered. Was she suffering in silence because someone asked her to suck it up (no pun intended) and “bear the pain”? Did a lactation specialist visit her or was she going to listen to family advice? Was she feeling adequate or burdened with guilt?

I don’t want to write about what comprises breastfeeding; that’s not my area of expertise. But I want to spread the word and say, “hey, there’s help available.” Reach out BEFORE the baby comes along. Child birth is a much shorter event than breastfeeding. If there is so much awareness on giving birth, imagine the talks we should have about feeding the baby.

A new mom should be armed with as many resources and as much knowledge as possible.

No, it should not hurt. Yes, it is the most natural thing in the world.

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