Hairfall

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During a normal hair cycle, about 90% of your hair is growing at any given time, while the other 10% is in a resting phase. Every few months the resting hair falls out, allowing new hair to grow in its place.

This however, changes while you’re pregnant:  The happy pregnancy hormones keep you from losing your hair. But – after delivery – your hormones return to normal levels, so ALL the extra hair you gained over the past TEN months during pregnancy falls out.

You can imagine how terrifying this can be. Every time I washed my hair, palms full of hair would literally spill from my head. For a while, I took to refusing to wash my hair, eventually realizing that it made no difference.

My hair was EVERYWHERE. I would find it in the most unlikeliest of places- like the baby’s butt crack. How it managed to get there I have no idea.

This was normal- there was nothing I could do but wait.

Around the sixth month post partum, I noticed hairfall slowly starting to reduce. I am unsure if it was because my body realised there wasn’t any more hair that it could afford to lose, or if it was because one or all of these products worked:

  1. Mama Earth Argan Hair Mask
  2. Indulekha Bringha Hair oil
  3. Mamacare Shampoo for babies (I had run out of shampoo and on a whim decided to give this a try)

All products are available on nykaa.com

I am only grateful that i don’t have hair clogging my drains and need to go break those coconuts that I promised Pillairappa now.

 

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Grandmothers

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I am awfully behind schedule, it was a hectic weekend. We were planning to move houses, and then did not.

I wanted to write an elaborate post on grandmothers, but instead decided to share my girl Samyuktha Hariharan Arjun’s status here, because I could never write something that heartfelt or poignant:

“I realised today how difficult it actually is going to work leaving my baby girl at home, especially when she wakes up and gives me the sweetest of smiles.. I cry almost every morning when I leave to work , even though I just started out with a half day’s work.. And I really can’t do all this without complete support from my Mum.. she really is the best.. I just wanted to dedicate this status to all the moms out there. The working moms who have no choice but to work, leaving their kids at home, to give them a better life, the moms who work because they love their job too and most importantly to the stay-at-home mums who sacrifice their career just for their baby.. but I personally feel that the biggest sacrifice of them all is made by the grand mommies who take such good care of the kids when we r away .. We are nothing without them.. thanks to them for being the best support system for us, for loving our babies as much as we do, for their extreme patience, and for guiding us through this beautiful journey of motherhood.. we love you 😊”

To all grand mommies- thank you. We can never have it all- but you help us try. Thank you for standing by us through this phase as well, just like you have stood by us through our lives.

Fathers

Sometimes life is just plain unfair.

We bear this tiny human being for 10 months, and spend all our waking hours with the baby, in the process losing shape, losing sleep, losing hair (don’t even get me started on that).

Stress lines start showing, there’s no time for friends, dark circles and unwaxed limbs make you look like you’ve got a panda bear for a cousin.

Some of us are too guilty to go back to work, the rest of us are made to feel guilty because we work..Every single action is judged (How could you drink while feeding? Wear something appropriate-you’re a mother now! How could you sleep so soundly while the baby fell off the bed??)

But you keep us going. Your first flip is cause for celebration. The phone is filled with videos of you, photos of you. (There are no photos of you with momma because momma invariably looks like an unwashed, uncombed, smelly version of herself)

Normal reading is replaced by research on the lines of, “weaning the baby”, “introducing solids to the baby”. You are read to, played (age appropriate, well researched) music to, and fed and watered. Momma sets new records- time she can hold her pee while you are feeding, time she can get to you from the other room while you cry, time she can go without washing her hair, etc.

And yet. YET. You had the audacity to come out looking like dada. The brightest of smiles and the best of cuddles and gurgles are reserved for him. You light up as if Christmas came early when you see him. You nearly roll off the bed laughing at his (not even remotely) funny goofy faces. And when asked to choose between momma and dada, you actually cling to him!

What an unfair, unfair world it is.

Exercise

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Enough has been spoken about the importance of exercising pre and post pregnancy. This is only my take on it.

I had what is called a “threatened abortion” during the initial weeks of my pregnancy and was advised bed rest. I worked from home for a fair bit, and did not drive, or ride on a motorcycle through the 9 months. First trimester passed somewherebetween staring at the walls of the house, food being served in bed, and pujas and promises to God.

Somewhere in the fifth month, my doctor started asking me to exercise. “Walk, do yoga, sign up for Lamaze classes..”, she went on. Imagine lugging a load in front of you, working a full time job, combating nausea AND walking. I would nod my head during every visit and clench my teeth and smile when my mother would complain, “She doesn’t walk at all, doctor.. she doesn’t do any exercise”

In my defense, my workplace is HUGE- navigating from my seat to the coffee machine (that served decent coffee) in the next block itself was a workout. I did some yoga with Lara Datta watching her videos on Youtube (thrice, to be specific. They left me sweating and panting). I used to be bribed to walk (“Okay, let’s walk upto CakeWalk and I’ll buy you a slice of red velvet cream cheese”) The last method was the most successful, until I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and there were no walks after that.

It was only after week 36, when sitting, standing, walking, lying down, sleeping- in a word, existing was an effort, did I start walking, in an attempt to get the baby out asap. And I kid you not, my water broke the day after my friend coaxed me to take a long walk with her.

If prenatal exercises are one thing, postnatal exercise is a whole different scenario.

I was advised to use a maternity belt or tie my tummy up using an old saree to tuck the tummy in. Amidst all the new baby stress, I barely found time to comb my knotted hair, and couldn’t care less about the tummy.

However, since February I have been swimming, and it has been doing me a lot of good. Aside from learning something new, and the obvious health benefits, swimming gives me an hour to myself, away from home, away from the all-demanding baby. I look forward to this one hour everyday because, like my girl Jenny says, putting your head under the water silences the rest of the world.

I think every mommy must take up some physical activity that keeps her absorbed for an hour. This is not about getting back in shape, or fitting into those little black dresses; this is all about getting some time away. Trust me- the baby would seem less annoying and you’d feel a lot better after that one hour away!

Delivery

This was written as a diary entry because I realised I was losing memory in chunks after the birthing- I have a very vague recollection it now (only the happy and comic parts) Now it makes sense why moms even go for baby number 2- the happy hormones make us forget the unpleasant bits and the pain!

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“I was rolled into the labour room and asked if I would be able to walk to the bed. Putting a brave and strong face, I jumped off the gurney and limped into the labour room and settled into the bed. I had painted my nails, which was a problem, because the device to be attached to my finger to monitor my pulse (I think) wouldn’t do its work properly with the polish.

My doctor came and started shooting instructions. I was connected to the IV and given some more medicines. She gave me a small pep talk that bounced off me. “Husbands only” rule prevailed and N came in, slowly taking in the scene, looking all excited. Not knowing where to stand, he stood behind the doctor, and she barked at him to stand by my side. A pair of stirrups had appeared from somewhere and I was asked to lay in the most awkward position ever, ankles on the stirrups, legs spread wide, for the world to see. Normally, this position by itself would be painful, but with all the contractions, this posture and angle did not matter. My doctor kept repeating just one thing: The baby is beautifully positioned, just go for it. And when she was ready, she asked me to push while the contractions came.

I think curiosity got the better of N, who tip toed to see what was happening. The crowd on the other side kept saying “Oh, we can see the head, push, PUSH” but later N clarified that they saw nothing, those liars. There was a cylinder ENTONOX which is a mix of Nitrous Oxide and Oxygen used as a pain killer, it is a self administered gas that my doctor asked me to breathe, and this was making me sleepy. N recollected some of the conversations we had with relish.

“Gitanjali, can you hear me? I want you to push. Are you able to push?”

“Yes doctor, but I’m very, very sleeeeepy…”

***

“Gitanjali, you are not pushing. If you won’t co-operate, I am leaving the labour room NOW”

Sobbing, sobbing “But it is SO painful”

***

(Dramatically) DOCTOR PLEASE CUT ME OPEN AND TAKE THE CHILD OUT!

***

As a last resort:

“DOCTOR PLEASE GIVE ME AN EPIDURAL!”

My doctor actually laughed “The time for epidural is long gone, here breathe in some more gas”

***

The final straw was me thinking, okay let’s get this done with, and pushing with all my might. I ended up peeing on my doctor, and still, no sign of the baby. N was promptly sent back to his spot by my side, and given instructions to make sure I breathe in gas from the cylinder.

Now I got worried because all shouts of “Push” had stopped. Frantically I kept repeating, “What are you going to do, doctor, what are you going to do?!”, as I watched her tick off a list of equipment with the nurse.

Soon I felt injections down there and a feeling of numbness creep around the area. Later I came to know that the procedure followed was called an episiotomy, and my doctor figured that the umbilical cord was around the baby’s neck preventing it from exiting my body.

Now I was pushing with nobody’s urging because I figured it was going to get over soon. And with the last push, I felt a lump slither out, and relief course over my body.

I was convinced we were having a boy, and imagine my reaction when my doctor announced- “Gitanjali you have a beautiful daughter!”

I remember feebly saying “What, I thought it was a boy” and my doctor replying “Adi vaangapore!”

Unfortunately, I don’t remember them placing the baby on me, though I remember my doctor saying “Skin to Skin..” I think I must have passed out for a few seconds.

I watched them take my baby away to clean her up, and N follow the nurse holding the baby like the pug in Hutch/ Vodafone commercials, and passed out again. By now, I was breathing the gas like it was my lifeline, almost enjoying the way it was playing with my head.

I woke up to more pain, as doctors massaged my tummy (or rather, mashed it like a potato) as I delivered the placenta. N was nowhere to be found.

I happily went back to smelling the sweet-smelling gas, as I felt my doctor stitch me up. Some thoughts that flitted though my mind were-

‘Yay I can sleep on my tummy now!’

‘I can have all the sweets I want- no more gestational diabetes!’

‘I can finally SLEEP!’

Who was I kidding? Nothing has changed.

Soon, my doctor left, with some instructions about how I ought to sleep, how I could sit, what I could eat. Finally, they brought my daughter to me.

There was a spot of blood they missed wiping off her cheek, and my first thought was: “oh my god, she has a mole in the middle of her face!”

Then a nurse wiped it away and there she was, eyes shut, looking so delicate she might crumble if touched.

Did I feel overwhelming love? Did I feel any motherly instincts? Not then. At that time, I only wanted to sleep.”

Cloth Diapering

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When baby K was handed to me, she had a disposable diaper (Pampers New Baby size) on her bum already. I was convinced that these diapers were a godsend: they kept her dry. Personally, that was the most important thing while she was asleep. Every time I put langots which are cloth strips tied around her hip, she’d wake up after five minutes, having peed on herself, waking me up as well. Considering I got to sleep only while she slept, the LAST thing I wanted was her bawling away because she had peed.

The first few months were forgettable. I was not ready to experiment, and I put my foot down when folks tried to convince me to give the baby some diaper free time or try alternatives. And then I noticed how quickly the diaper packets would empty themselves: A pack of 24 diapers would last me 4 to 5 days (The manufacturer advises changing diapers every 3 hours) A pack of 24 diapers cost me Rs 350- Rs 400. I would weep, when the baby would decide to poop immediately after a fresh diaper went on the bum, requiring it to be changed.

I realised I had to keep my job, just to keep buying diapers for this child.

The other thing that would break my heart was to see dustbins full of diapers being emptied from home every day. Synthetic, they take years to degrade, and I could imagine them piled high in landfills, or being cut out of the guts of dolphins that are washed ashore.

I spoke to a friend and ordered my first set of cloth diapers from Bumpadum. I had no idea what to look for, did not prep it well enough, and was not sure how to fit it on the baby- on the whole, it was a mess. I went back to using disposables.

Then I came across this photo.

CDs vs Disposables

By now, K was a good 3 months old, and we were settling into a routine. We were both less cranky and were open to trying new things.

I joined a couple of groups on Facebook and decided to give cloth diapering another shot. This time, I had a lot of questions, and a tribe of mothers who were happy to answer them. I figured these could be used upto 200 times, and in case your baby gets potty trained, then it could be sold/ handed down too. And don’t the diapers look awesome on the bum!

 

 

I slowly started experimenting and investing in cloth diapers, and now have a moderate stash of super cute prints.

The Stash

This stash lasts me through the day, and I use one disposable diaper for the night. I also use a few langots every day (2 or 3) but they work for me now because the baby doesn’t pee as frequently as she used to before, and doesn’t sleep as much either. They last around 3 hours and keep the baby dry just like the disposables. I have not gotten to using cloth diapers in the night as well, but there are a lot of moms who do.

To moms and moms-to-be who want to move to cloth diapers, here are some lessons I learned:

  1. Give it time- it will work with time
  2. There is never one brand that will work- I experimented with Bumpadum, Superbottoms and Alva Baby before I realised what worked for my baby
  3. There are different types of diapers among the brands themselves- pocket diapers, cover diapers and All-in-ones (AIOs) Again, I bought a few of each before we decided what worked for us
  4. I did not invest in new born size diapers because I knew the baby would out grow them in a couple of months. I only use one size diapers (I can use these from the time she’s 3 months up to when she’s 3 years)
  5. I have not started using cloth diapers when we travel either, but I intend to from our next vacation
  6. This option isn’t easy- I spend half an hour everyday hand-washing the soiled diapers, and they go into the washing machine with the rest of our clothes

If you have any questions, the manufacturers are always reachable. There are umpteen facebook groups that help too. In case you plan to start using Cloth Diapers, do check out the group Cloth Diapering India, to start with.

Happy Cloth Diapering!

Breastfeeding

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It is surprising how little people know about breast feeding, particularly, first time mothers. Partly I attribute this to taboo regarding the subject (how many movies, for instance, include a breastfeeding scene after a birthing scene? It is always the mother sleeping next to a serenely sleeping child), and partly because other moms don’t speak about it- what is there to speak, you might ask- You put the babe to your breast and it suckles away.

Wrong.

It started with the breast examination during one of my visits to the doctor during the eighth month of pregnancy.

“Okay, open your top and show ‘em” she had said. “Nice, good,” And then she proceeded to pull my nipples out. She sent me away saying, “So you do this every day, okay? Make sure they are out like this. And no stimulation, because we don’t want the colostrum wasted. And you are not feeding your baby anything other than breast milk for SIX months- you get me?”

Expectant mothers concern themselves with the birthing: all the literature we devour is related to the delivery. As a result, we are thoroughly unprepared for anything that hits us after the birthing.

Breast feeding is a beautiful thing. It is amazing it is to be able to feed your baby and satiate its needs and to soothe it when it is distressed and needs comforting. Breastfeeding is customized- a mother’s body picks up infections threatening her baby when she kisses the baby’s fingers, face, or when she cuddles with the baby. Her body creates a resistance against these infections, that she feeds the baby through her milk. Breastfeeding is convenient: it is accessible anywhere, any time. It is also how a mother transfers all the immunity she has built for herself to her baby.

What nobody ever speaks about is how hard it can get!

There are so many things that can go wrong: If the mother’s nipples are not taut enough, the baby would not be able to latch. If the nipples are too big, the baby cannot latch. Some babies cannot latch because of factors such as tongue ties or lip ties, and hence cannot draw milk. And in some cases, the mother might not be able to create enough milk to feed the baby, and might have to look for other options. If under supply is cause for concern, over supply comes with its problems too- engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis are painful, and might cause an infection to the mother in some cases.

Mothers gush about how breastfeeding helped them bond with their baby- It truly does, when the mother and child have no issues. Because any trouble related to feeding has only one consequence: a hungry baby. Remember this is a new born as well: it is tiny, helpless, and entirely dependent on the mother. It yells its lungs out, face turning red, and then purple, begging for food and there is nothing that makes a mother feel more unworthy, than an inability to feed her baby. I had a problem called OALD (Over Active Let Down) – more about it when we get to O. But long story short, feeding was a nightmare. I would dread feed times, because my baby would wail through the session, hardly feeding, until she would tire and doze. I met paediatricians and lactation consultants. I spoke to friends who went through the same problem. They all had just one answer: It will pass, give it some time.

As I write this, we are in our sixth month- by the eighth week the OALD had abated. I also don’t remember the ordeal we went through in as much detail as I would like. I am pretty sure that in a couple of months, I wouldn’t think too much about the OALD. And now I think this is why mothers don’t speak of the troubles they underwent- because once that wave passes, there are other waves to ride.

However, I do definitely think that some warning about breastfeeding would have helped. For example, if I had known that it would involve round the clock feeding, and waking up at least thrice every night, I might have been prepared for it. I used to laugh it off when friends would tell me during the last stage of my pregnancy, “Get all the sleep you can now!” but now I can tell you, moms don’t get to sleep for a 3 hour stretch for at least a year or a year and a half after the baby is born.

I sleep in tiny one to two hour stretches, and every time I lay down, I am in constant apprehension of how short the nap would be. I walk around like a zombie, I have dark circles under my eyes. I have started snacking in the middle of the night, and I am seeing the fat line already. Nipples get sore from the constant suckling, and breasts become embarrassingly large. But this is a choice we make. Expectant moms and women who are looking at having babies in the future- don’t say you weren’t warned! 😊