10 things I didn’t know about being a new Mother

IMG_5002

The nine months that led to the big event… not just the birth of a healthy baby but the birth of a Mother!!! Oh, and not to forget, … a Father! :) The last few months before the big event had me getting very creative. From stitching curtains to making birth announcement cards, and this little embroidery of my baby swimming inside of me.

I’ve had sweet cravings all throughout…

IMG_5509

And cravings for momos..

IMG_4212

I had gifts coming in even before my little one was born. Here’s a gift from a lovely person who’s gesture touched me a lot even though I have never met her or know her well.. She’s the lovely Angela and you can check out her beautiful blog on creativity here at Pretty Little Things in a Box.

IMG_6081

Here are some things that I DID NOT know .. at all… about being a new mother… I think I may not be the only one who stayed in the dark for so long..! Here’s a list of some very important things I learnt in my initial journey as a new mother right after delivery.

1. Colostrum, what is it? Until the day I delivered, I was under the impression that my breasts would produce milk right after the baby was born, or at the most, delivery of the placenta. I discovered that for two to three days following delivery, there is NO milk, rather a waxy substance secreted from the nipples. This is called colostrum, and they are Extremely good for the baby (absolutely nothing can replace the goodness of colostrum). I was almost sad for my baby that there was no milk, but the nurses educated me about colostrum and how good it is for the baby. The baby will also lose weight the first 3-4 days, this is completely normal, after which there will be a steady weight gain.

2. Seriously frequent feedings : The first two months is probably the most strenuous. That’s because baby needs to be fed almost every TWO hours, yes, both day and night! At night, the baby would sleep perhaps at a stretch of four and half to five hours before waking up for feeding. Up until today, I have always maintained a record of his feeding times, and when I look back at the journal of the first two months, I see about 10-12 feedings per 24 hours. This exhausting feeding routine took a huge toll on my already frail body after delivery. Especially poor posture during feeding makes things worse. My knees and my feet were so stiff, I thought I’d break them if I fell. Luckily my Mom arrived at that dark hour, so if you too need help please do not feel shy and ask the help of anyone who could be with you physically all the time during this period. You will need help mostly for the cooking. Not only does your body need to be well nourished for the milk you will be producing for your baby, but you need the nourishment yourself get strength.

Here’s what my record looked like. I would record the feeding times, the diaper changes and even sleep and bath. Gradually over time, I only recorded the feeding times. There are days when the exhaustion and sleep deprivation can get to you and you just can’t remember feeding details, so it’s always helpful to note them down.

feeding routine

2. Burping baby : Do Not Forget to burp your baby!! Whether breastfed or bottle fed, the baby needs to be burped. I was not aware of this, I hadn’t even come across it in the famous baby book, ‘What to Expect when you are Expecting’ that I had been reading religiously during my last few months of pregnancy. Trapped air in the tummy leads to discomfort that can hurt the baby a lot. I even read that poor uneducated mothers in India often lose their newborns due to not burping them after feeding.

3. GER : Babies should be held upright for sometime after feeding. GER, or  Gastroesophageal Reflux is a case that all newborn babies have. What is the GER about? As adults, we have a muscle located at the top of the esophagus, and this muscles ‘closes’ or contracts after we have eaten or drunk, hence preventing food from sliding out from the esophagal tube. This muscle is not developed yet in babies, which leads to babies vomiting out all the milk he has drunk. In order to avoid this, the best is to burp the baby and to hold him upright for as many minutes possible after feeding. Before being aware of this, I have actually seen my baby vomiting out huge sharp jets of milk, at one point almost coming out from the nose as well. Not only does this motion hurt him, but it’s also a good waste of milk. GER is painful for babies, so please look out for signs of babies gulping as this would mean they are trying to swallow back the milk that rises to their throat.

IMG_6248

4. Respect night hours : Having read a lot about ‘nappy rashes’ and how painful they can be to babies, I was very particular about changing diapers frequently, almost becoming a little manic about it. Here’s what I learnt soon : you can change the diapers as frequently during the day time when baby is awake but you should stop at night… UNLESS you are sure baby has pooped then you have no choice but to change it. Ideally, diaper changes should be done every 4-5 hours during day hours. I make the last diaper changes around 7 or 8pm and I wait until the next morning around 6am, when baby is awake, to make the next diaper change. I learnt the hard way that diaper changes during night hours can disturb the baby’s cycle a lot. Babies get angry and you can expect some furious wailing and tears when taken to the changing station. It’s best not to change diapers at night, period.

5. Socks for tiny hands : Babies have nails growing even when they are in the womb. A week after delivery, my baby was scraching his poor little face with his almost razor sharp nails. The nurses had advised me not to have them cut the first two months at least. Looking at those miniscule fingers and the fact that those fingers were always so active shaking and trembling, I would not have had any courage to use the baby clippers (yes, please do not use adult clippers!) on them. It is very important to wrap his little wrists with baby socks. That way no harm done to that precious face. Here’s him held by my Mom, notice the socks on his hands.

IMG_6344

6. Baby bed : To co-sleep or not is the question. In India, it goes without discussion that babies sleep with their mothers on the bed. Dad will have to go find an alternative solution to the bed. Here, in France, I was actively discouraged from the very start to have my baby sleep next to me on the bed. The reasoning was that since babies are so fragile the mother may do a lot of damage if she rolls over her baby accidentally at night, given how exhausted she already is. Well this made sense to me. But yes, I did end up co-sleeping the first month and half. Looking back, I know my baby felt extremely reassured to have my body so close to him. But unfortunately, co-sleeping wasn’t working out for my comfort at all! I am  the kind of person who moves around a lot in bed, so having my tiny dot of a baby next to me was a big source of tension, I remained stiff and unmoving the whole night so as not to wake him up.

Well, a friend recommended me an excellent idea : the baby bed adjoined to the parent bed. This is how it looks like :

IMG_6182

This way, parents are happy and so is baby! Please note: the baby bed has to be devoid of toys or objects! The toys placed in this photo were placed only for a pretty photo!  The bed has to be secured very very firmly to the parent bed, with zero risk of accident. I found this bed on the French equivalent of e-bay called Le Bon Coin, and it cost me a mere 30 euros. The bed should have a firm mattress, and no pillow (to avoid risk of suffocation). This bed made my life a whole lot simpler. I could move around in bed, and when feeding time approached, I would feed baby and then put him gently back into his bed. You can have a night lamp next to you with dim lighting when it comes to night feedings.

IMG_6679

7. Sleeping on a pillow : If you have opted for the idea of a co-bed, here comes the next problem… something that all new parents seem to face. You’ve fed the baby, finally rocked him to sleep, all the while maintaining a stiff body posture so he doesn’t wake up, and then very carefully you lift the baby and walk across to his cot, you raise the baby and just about ready to gently plop him, when the tiniest fraction of hurry wakes up baby and he’s starts to wail… oh no, this means you have to start all over again, this is indeed a nightmare!

Against all contrary advice, I went ahead and opted for something that made my life much easier and I wished having thought of it earlier. When feeding the baby on my lap, I would place my baby on a big soft pillow. This is a special pillow that’s slightly bigger than him, and it’s almost flat. It’s basically an old pillow, and doesn’t have any fullness in it anymore. Once the feeding is done and baby has gone to sleep, all I had to do was gently lift the pillow and place it on the baby bed. The baby sleeps on the pillow all night. The gentle curves of the pillow would ensure that if baby brought his thumb to his mouth, the thumb would remain in place. Now, I know this would sound controversial, to have a baby sleeping on a pillow, but I used my judgement on this, I was 100 percent sure that my baby was safe, and I would suggest that you use your judgement on this too. I found using the pillow idea made my life much simpler when placing the baby back to his bed.

IMG_7622

8. Breastfeeding techniques : Well, I wish I had read on my favorite book ‘What to Expect when you’re Expecting’ the specific way I could breastfeed along with the feeding positions a bit earlier. It was only in my third month that I got savvy on the best way to breastfeed. Please have a read below on the best way to breastfeed. The content of our milk, as the excerpt rightly says, is not uniform, and this can be noted the way baby suckles. There is a change from the first 5 minutes which is rapid suckling to a slower one. Even when you change breasts, the rapid suckle in the initial five minutes can be observed.

Feeding tech

As to the feeding position, the lying on the bed position wasn’t working out for me at all. Though relaxing initially, there’s a lot of tension involved later of how to change breasts. Trial and error method taught me the best position, that is sitting with legs crossed under me. I would have my soft big pillow on my lap with baby on it. Under each of my knee would be a cushion each to support the weight.

9. Sleep deprivation : Before my baby came along, I used to wonder what was the big fuss when new mothers would complain about not getting enough sleep. In my mind I brushed it off as mothers who weren’t organised enough or couldn’t take control of situations. I always thought everything would go almost as smooth as my normal life before. My ‘normal’ life before was where sleep featured dominantly in my daily life. Going to bed early was always important for me so I would get my good 9 hours of beauty sleep to tackle the next day. I would be the grouchiest person if I didn’t have enough sleep. Here’s the good news and bad news when baby comes along… the a baby changes totally your ‘normal’ daily life pattern. Not having enough sleep is amongst the many changes. Not getting 6 hours of straight sleep the first 3 months is absolutely normal. Welcome to the new normal! :) The good news? I don’t know if other mothers would agree with me, but right after having my baby all the way until now (my baby is over 6 months old) I feel my body doesn’t require as much sleep as before! Shocking considering how I used to be before! Somehow I don’t mind even if I’ve slept badly, or had just a few snatches of sleep. For my baby I am always smiling no matter how tired I am. I think this is probably fixed by Mother Nature herself, for mothers to be wired for no sleep once baby comes around. Having said that I do look forward for my baby to grow up quickly so I can get some longer hours of sleep!

10. Chapped nipples and stretch marks : I really doubt if there’s any cream invented yet that can really help remove stretch marks… I have tried several brands, famous and not, and I started them from my sixth month onwards to know that nothing works. It’s all in the genes. If your Mommy or Daddy had stretch marks, so will you. Yes, perhaps one can try and keep the skin area moisturised well enough but there’s no wonder cream that can 100 % be stretch-mark proof. There is better news for chapped nipples : The initial days of feeding a newborn can lead to nipples almost cracking which can hurt bad. I am sure there are several good creams out there, but I used Lansinoh, a British brand, and extremely safe and good. It can be applied even before feeding and there is no problem at all even if baby takes it in. It’s 100 % natural and hypoallergenic.

So there is my list, all the things I had no idea of, and I hope they can be of help to you new moms out there! :)

IMG_6765

Birth of a baby, and the end of a blog

Image

For my readers and for those wonderful bloggers I have got to know in the past year and half I have been blogging, here’s a wonderful news : my baby has finally arrived! :) With the new role of being a mommy, and the many things I have yet to learn of everything to do with babies, and learning how to be a good and efficient mommy, sadly, I don’t have the time to be a good blogger! I have decided to permanently stop writing, though this blog won’t close entirely. There are certain blogs I like checking into every now and then, and it would be with pleasure that I look in on them at times.

Wishing you all the very best! :)

Vibrant Spring, and Tino, watercolour 3

Image

Though Spring arrives officially in France in a week’s time, it already feels a lot like Spring. The skies have been clear blue with the sun shining brightly now for many days in a row. For most of my life, before I settled in France, I never really paid attention to nature, or the flowers or vegetables that grow in particular seasons. I decided to pay a lot of attention to all the green things growing around me this year. I discovered daffodils are Spring flowers, and they will grow only for a month. I notice them growing everywhere. The first shoots of Spring are definitely the daffodils, daisies and pansies. I can tell because I see them growing by the sidewalks, in the forests, in gardens etc.

When I was in school, I remember I had to study Wordworth’s poem ‘The Daffodils’. He seemed so happy to be in the midst of daffodils and I always wondered how it must feel to see so many yellow and I guess, pretty flowers all around you (In India, I doubt daffodils are Spring flowers, and I was brought up in India). Here’s the first paragraph of the poem to get you jogging your memory if you had to study this poem too :

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

I made my watercolour inspired by the daffodils growing in profusion around my house. When I saw Tino, a white and grey cat, one day playing amongst the flowers it gave me the idea to get the drawing started. I am happy to note that I can see a slight improvement in my watercolour techniques compared to my previous two.

Image

Here’s Tino below, along with the daffodils and my pink watering can!

Image

Image

Breakfast in Other Countries

SnowFlake:

What a lovely video, and I think every breakfast looks delicious! :)

Originally posted on roodonfood:

As an American, I grew up eating eggs, toast, bacon, pancakes, cereal, oatmeal, grits etc. I’ve often wondered though what people sit down to eat for breakfast in other countries.

This video via Buzzfeed answers that question. My favorite from this list would probably be the Indian dosa with sambhar or the Vietnamese Pho. Which of these would you try for breakfast? Are you from outside the U.S? What’s a typical breakfast for you? Did they get it right?

View original

Disdainful cats, watercolor 1

Image

My inspiration to draw these two cats with their funny expressions came from two cats in the neighborhood who can be seen often sitting close together on a window sill. They looked disdainful, I couldn’t figure out why. Either at being locked out of the house, or the fact that I dared to come in close enough to shoot them with my camera. Either way, they looked hilarious! :)

Image

A few thoughts on the Romas (gypsies)

No post today on inspirational craft ideas, or my delights in discovering France, (though they do make very pleasant topics!) today I would want to talk of a slightly disturbing topic… that of Romas. Who are they? Before arriving in France, I had not even known their existence. I’ve heard of ‘gypsies’, stuff I read in my childhood books, but I never knew if these gypsies were ‘real people’, like do they actually exist? Do they really travel all the time and never settle down? I used to read as a child that frequently they stole things.

Last evening, I was working on a new art project (I’m quite excited about it, but keeping it a secret for now! :) ), my TV was on and a documentary had just started on the Romas living in Paris, in the terrible looking slums I was shocked to discover was possible to be seen in some forgotten corners of the big city. Usually, I keep my channel tuned to something a little boring so I won’t be diverted from what I’m doing, and the pleasant TV noise can just fill up the room. But I was quickly forced to raise my head, to see what the Romas were all about. After a while, I gave up on my project, I knew that even though the topic of Romas was disturbing, that there are people like them who live in such poverty in a rich country, I would make myself see reality, and not shy away from it.

Ok, so in a gist, the Romas are a special group of people who occupy perhaps the lowest rung of the social ladder. They are extremely, extremely poor. They are spread over the eastern European countries, namely Romania, Bolivia, Kosovo,Turkey etc and well, they are considered a huge menace to society given their thieving ways, and refusal to work along with society. My husband shares all of his deepest thoughts with me, and soon I understood he is anti-Roma, which I am almost sure now most west Europeans are. Well, if I were living in France a long time, and if I were constantly exposed to stories of their crimes and thieving, I think I would develop strong opinions too. I do have my own personal story of a negative brush with the Roma. Once traveling by metro, I felt my handbag being gently tugged at. I was surprised, and looking down, I saw three children, perhaps 7 or 8 years old, very inefficiently getting on to the game of thieving. They reached around my waist, they were so small and I didn’t know whether to laugh or say something to them. Though I still didn’t have the eyes for it, I was beginning to understand by their clothes, their demeanor, that these kids, were Romas.

What shocked me most?? The Romas have Indian heritage!! How come no one ever told me that before? I discovered that thanks to the documentary. An ancient looking photo showed Romas dressed in what could have passed off as Indian clothes, that of turban and special pants called dhotis. Even I could make out that given the clothes, I’d say they were of Rajasthani background. Peering into the faces of the Romas being interviewed in the documentary, I discovered that quite a few of the men could still pass off as Indians. Even though they migrated / were taken as slaves, about 9-10 centuries ago (yes, the date is approximately around the 11th century that they moved out from India), shockingly they still retain genes that trace them back to their Indian roots. Also, they have certain words in their vocabulary that sound Indian ( they call ‘meat’ mas which is the same in Hindi) and their numbers are also very similar to Hindi.

However, I noted that a) They no longer seem to have Indian names.  The Romas in the documentary yesterday had come into France from Romania, and so they had names like Ionel and other Romanian names b) Their eating style has also changed a lot over the years. Digging through the internet for a little more information on them, I found out that their food pattern is mostly meat. This may sound disgusting, but they eat infected carcasses from roadsides. If any resemblance to Indians of long ago has to be drawn, they almost sound to belong to the class of the ‘Untouchables’ in India, a class of people who, long ago, were considered the lowest of the lowest in society. While things have changed a lot for such people in India (former ‘untouchables’ are now accepted citizens of the country, they suffer no stigma), the Romas, if indeed they were the Untouchables, continue an existence of extreme suffering, as their lot is condemned to deep prejudice, and stigma on integrating them into general society. 

Following the documentary yesterday though, all I could see were the women and children suffering, living in slums and camps with no water supply or electricity. The mayor had made them proposals of giving them money so they could go back to their countries and not return, but many of the Romas stubbornly refused to move. I am not sure of the intricacies of the legal system, but the police cannot force them out of the country. Their presence has to be ‘suffered’.

I have read interesting opinions on the net from two individuals. One is a man from Kosovo, who grew up familiar to the surrounding racism against gypsies and he feels that this is a very dangerous sentiment as terrible consequences due to it have already been felt in Europe before. He believes there are certain sections of the gypsies who are sincere and show willingness to integrate and be seen as respected and educated citizens of society. The other voice on the subject belonged to a Roma herself, someone whose parents moved to New York while she was young, and she never revealed until she was in her twenties that she was a Roma. (I am not sure if the ‘menace of the Romas is felt at all in the US) She was deeply ashamed of her roots, and she admitted she would never let herself or her children ever be in contact with the Romas. 

It is amazing how centuries ago, the stories of displacements of Indians to far flung strange countries have evolved so much over time. The Romas themselves, the Indians who were taken as slaves in Surinam (there is a distinct story there too, that I am vaguely familiar with, but wish to learn more), and those taken as slaves in the South east Asian countries. It’s so amazing, mostly because as an Indian grown up in India, one hears almost nothing of them, almost as though they never existed. But they do exist! Perhaps such displaced Indians don’t call themselves as Indians too anymore, their generations outside of India have spanned centuries, but there is no denying, that they do share the Indian heritage. Wow! If there is anybody who knows of a book on such a topic, I would very much appreciate the share!