Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Surviving post-partum depression - My story!

A few years ago, I was attending a stitching class with two other ladies. As the conversation drifted we suddenly found ourselves talking about depression. Specifically the kind you feel after you have had a baby. Post-partum depression in complicated words!
 As we ran a poll, I realized that among the four ladies in the room, three of us had felt some magnitude of depression after the arrival of our little ones. That is 75 % of women. (My statistics!). Of the three of us, two had sought some form of help in regards to this depression. That's 66%. I was the moron who had thought that I was too strong and could overcome this 'Phase' in life. I think its God's grace that I survived and made it this far!

The first question that most will have is  'How did you know you were having post-partum depression?' Well I was depressed , had lost interest in most everything and have occasionally considered hurting myself.  I felt listless most of the time and lacked any drive to get things done. I am not writing this because I want sympathy. I am writing this because I am sure there are tons of new moms who are not sure why they are feeling what they are feeling. More importantly I want to share how I got through some of my struggles

As I analyze my state in that time, I realized that the following definitely contributed toward my depressed state of mind. 
1. We had just moved with a new born baby and a toddler. The move was huge and I was not as prepared as I had thought I was.  DH was starting a new job and needed to spend a lot of time at work. This left me alone, with two human-beings who could not carry out a sane conversation with me, giving my mind a chance to play all kinds of games.
2. I did not have enough help. Two kids with an age difference of 22 months, I needed all the help I could get and yet I could not find it. When I did get it (i.e. found the best nanny in the world) it took me 9 months to trust her alone with my kids. After all these was my babies and they were my responsibility.
3. I did not get enough rest. I went back to work 3 months after baby #1 and we moved to India from the US - 2 months after baby #2. I had pneumonia - 1 week after I joined work post baby #1 and baby #1 had RSV and was hospitalized for 3 days a day after I started my pneumonia antibiotics. I see moms in India take long rests post delivery and 7 month maternity leaves and I think 'Why the heck did I not do that?'
4. I made my life child-centric. I refused to do anything that I could not take my children along with. As a result my life became about me and the babies and the world outside stopped. It was like a disaster waiting to happen.
5. I started gaining weight. While with baby #1 I had managed to stay fit post delivery, eating oats and drinking lots of milk. With baby # 2, I was in India, the land of Gulab jamun and fried 'Wadas'. I started to gain weight at the sight of these foods. Putting on weight... while you have nothing else going on in life, can really take that rock bottom self-esteem and drop it in deep oceans.
6. I did not seem to have time for anything other than the kiddos. When one was sleeping, the other was awake and the cycle continued. This gave me no time for myself. No time to read/watch TV or just be!

I wish I had sought help. But it was when I hit rock bottom that I even realized I was depressed. Till that point I thought it was hormonal and it would go away. One frustrated afternoon I broke down in front of DH crying and pouring out my heart on the way I felt. I think I left him very flustered. The biggest help you need while going through post-partum is your DH to actually know that you are depressed. He was shocked to even think I was depressed. Once I had DH on my side, things started taking an uphill turn!
1. I started to wake up early in the morning and DH would watch the kids if either of them woke up before 7 am. I would read! I started to cycle and I just enjoyed the clearing of my head the morning gave me. The cycling help me loose some of my baby fat and it almost gave me a goal to achieve!
2. I started to look for things to do outside the home. My only condition was that I would not leave the kids at home alone with the maid. DH had to be at home. Bangalore has plenty to do on weekends and so I found opportunities like baking, stitching and painting.
3. I started blogging. I was able to pour out my frustration and achievements over a white screen and it surely helped my head!

Now two years later, I am on constant watch for mood swings. I look for ways and means to lift myself up and I take a break when I need it. This does not involve running away from home, but it does involve being by myself.

When I see moms with newborns the advise I give is please take as much help as you can get. Help from in-laws, help from your parents, a nanny, a cook , whatever you can afford for at least a year.
And most important tell DH when you start to feel crazy in your head!

Quoting Aunty Acid!!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The advantages of becoming a PARENT!

I have seen several articles about how it is beneficial to have children. But I dont think I have seen anyone talk about the benefits of turning into parents. If you think its one and the same thing, think again. Having children is not the same as becoming a parent!
We live in a generation where people think a hundred times before having children. There is a lot of fear associated with it. Stability, maturity, responsibility and of course the key one Independence, all of these go out of sync! Yet in the previous generation no one gave it a second thought. It seemed like a routine of life. Like you went to school when you grew up, so you had children after you got married.
Highlight: Marriages lasted a lot longer in that generation. The women of that generation seemed content and the men never really had severe health issues till they hit their late 50's.
But forget the previous generation or even everyone around, when I look at myself, I see a tremendous change in me since I have become a parent. Not since I had a child! But since I became a Parent.

Emotional ecosystem: I used to really only think about myself. I know, selfish right!  But becoming a parent, I realized that there was someone who depended on me entirely. I had to think about the world beyond me. My emotional ecosystem started to expand to include strangers I never would have spoken to otherwise. I started to care about the mother who had a baby in her car seat in the next car while I was driving mine. I started to show sympathy to the father who had to handle the tantrums of his child in the shopping mall. I willingly let families with little children step in front of me in a line either at the grocery store or while paying bills.
While we think we become an emotional nutcase, we are actually forming a better world through our caring new nature in the role of  PARENT. 

Mega-Maturity: If you think you are not mature, become a parent. All kinds of maturity starts squirting out of your ears and noes. No! Not the kind that causes you to talk about politics or the civil system. But the kind people call 6th sense. Your maturity increases in the safety of your child and family. Your maturity increases as you make purchases. You maturity increases as you start saving up for a future.
Its almost like you gain a super-power called Maturity!

From Junkier to Healthier: While there are times when I think I am going to have a heart-attack watching my children jump from the swing, becoming a parent definitely caused me to become healthier. For one thing  I know I need more energy and that does not come from lazing around. I realized that the more I exercise the more I  had energy to keep up with the munchkin. As I became a parent, I started obsessing about if the kids were eating a balanced diet. As a result the table was filled only with healthy balanced products. Colas were less frequent and boiled broccoli came up more often.

Freakish Financial Freedom: As a single person or even when we were married and without kids, I never thought about more than the immediate need. We literally splurged all our money every month. We saved up for immediate usage. If I need a car -- I saved up and usually spent more than what I saved in the knowledge that I would not burden anyone or that I could pay it off in a month or two.  But after becoming a parent, I started thinking of long terms plans. Not just buying a house, but paying it off completely! I was saving for retirement. I was putting aside money in a group called 'emergency funds'. I had health and life insurance. I thought about investment in mutual funds that pulled a chunk of money that pinched every year! But at the end of it we were never living from month to month and always had money stuck in little pockets (well Accounts really) that could be pulled out in an urgent situation.

Rabidly Responsible: I remember loving to drive my car to 'Empty' tank and I even remember having to call my DH to bring gas over! I never do that anymore. With two kids in the car, I am constantly watching petrol tank to make sure I am stocked for my drive away from home and back! I did not just buy a car, I made every effort to maintain it. That's not love for my car that's called being a responsible parents. Since becoming a parent, I pay my bill ahead of time not on the last date, I have a well stocked kitchen and pantry and my refrigerator always has butter to whip up cakes and brownies. This not only makes me a responsible parent but also a great host, who always has brownies warm and ready!

Most of us parents think we are doing a favor by raising our kids but if you actually look at all the above we have a lot to be thankful for becoming parents - something that would not be possible without our little munchkins!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

You never know what's happening in some ones life - Courtesy of a Police Officer

This was back when Isaac was about 6 months and we were in the US. Suresh was jetting back and forth, trying to be with his sick mother in India and keeping up with work
Life was a turmoil. I was working and trying to get a hold of household chores. Luckily my mother was around to help with Isaac. It was still hard. I had to walk the dogs and I remember taking Isaac on the baby Bjorn with two leashes on hand just so my mom would get a break.
I drove, and so that solved a lot of issues like grocery shopping or getting to church. We did not have to rely on anyone for transportation.
On one trip home, late one evening, the following incident took place.
I was driving up the main interstate and merging onto a road close to home. In the US, laws are strict and when you merge you need to ensure that you let the traffic on the road go first before you join. I did not see the dark car and did not halt at the intersection before I merged. I heard the loud horn and I was so flustered that I lifted my hands in frustration. Some 3 seconds later, I saw the flashing lights. I had just cut off a cop and then showed him my frustration.
Now in the US, when a cop flashes the lights you pull over to the side of the road. I was terrified. My mom was sitting in the back seat and she started to pray. In the US, you sit in your car and wait for the cop to approach your car. As I waited I  started to think - God do I really need this right now! He came and knocked on my window. I rolled my window down and the cop said 'license and registration mam'. Even as he said this he glanced at the back seat to a cute and cuddly Isaac chewing on his teething toys and making happy sounds - completely oblivious that mommy had been pulled over. The cop glanced back at me and then back at the car seat and my mom sitting in the back looking terrified.
As I handed over my license I only said one thing 'I am so sorry!' I am not sure whether it was the baby, the lack of a man in the car or the pure desperation of our current state in life that showed on my face but all he said was 'hmmmm'.
I knew I was not going to get anything more than a ticket. Maybe 100 -200 dollars. But it would just make the day so much more miserable. And then what would go on my license record 'Cut of cop and raised hands in frustration - i.e. Anger issues'. As we waited, the cop went back to his car to pull up my records and check the car details.
It took a just 10 minutes, but its felt like a lifetime and Isaac was starting to get fidgety in a stationary car. The cop returned. ' Mam I am not going to give you a ticket. But please be more careful when you drive. You have a child with you'.
I think I was going to cry. 'Thank you! - thank you so much'.
I don't remember that cops face or his name or what color uniform he wore (brown or blue). But what I do remember is, his courtesy made that evening so much better for me, my son and my mother.
A few days later I heard my mom relate the incident to my aunt over the phone 'They have so much concern for our children' is what she said as she ended the conversation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Two bags and a BABY - travelling with the kids

I do not like travel. I am terrified of it you could say! Even before I had kids I did not enjoy the flight motion or the fact that I needed to stay away from 'my' comfortable bed. Leaving the home meant leaving a routine and I am a big routine person. Once the kids arrived I started stressing even more.
Our first big travel after Z arrived was a long journey to India. I still remember holding a two month old in a Baby Bjorn and trying to push the stroller which help my 22 month old Isaac. It has gotten better since then and I have learned a lot of lessons on how to prepare the kids for travel day. Here is my 'vishesh tippany' (Special Advise). I hope other mommies find it useful
Prep them up: They are never too small to understand anything. From as little as 3 months you can talk or read to your little one. There are so many books on trains, planes and boats. Show these to your child. Make an origami paper plane. Make airplane and train sounds to get them excited. When they are older you can probably speak with them on how much time it takes to get there or what to do when your ear starts hurting. I remember Z and I on a trip to Bombay opening and closing their mouth like little fishes.
Travel light: As light as you can possibly do. DH very often says 'Take you passport and your wallet - you can buy everything else'. Well when we were sans kids this seemed to be fair advice. But with kids   the are definitely a few essentials. Most flight food is bland and so you may be able to survive with it. But if you have a baby you definitely to carry the mashed up stuff. And then there are few essentials like the extra pair of clothes or two and the diapers and the wipes. While most of these may be available at the airport it is good to pack these in a diaper bag.
Snack ideas: Don't go for the oily stuff. Carry fruits that the kids can snack on or raisins or dry cereal that they like eating. On one flight from Bangalore to Mumbai , I and Z got excited about the food being given in the plane and started eating all kinds of stuff : rice, bread with butter, juice etc. It was a bumpy landing and at the terminal we were holding a  newspaper full of throw-up. Z had brought up everything she had eaten. That's another thing, accidents happen!  I learned my lesson and now I ask for a barf bag as soon as I get on a flight. Carry plastic bags for train or car trips in case the kids get sick.
Carry on luggage: While traveling with kids make sure you have kid friendly carry-on luggage. You need both your hands and more to help them out. So the ideal carry on luggage is haversack on your shoulders.
Travel timing: Whenever we drive, we try to plan it around sleep time. DH and I are morning people so we make sure we leave at 4 in the morning. This give us a good 3 hours of time before the kids wake up. It is peaceful driving! I choose flight timings too based on whether there is a chance they will take a nap on the flight.

Bassinet/Seat: Most international flight have the option of a bassinet. This was so useful when traveling with a 2 month old Z who slept most of the time. I did not need to hold her. I could just put her in the bassinet. Some international flights let you take car seats and my kids are great at sleeping in the car seat. But this is only useful if you need the car seat on the other end of the trip i.e. like traveling to the US.
Security Check: This is the most annoying part of flight travel even when you travel alone. You have to remove laptop and other things before going through the security. If you have two kids running around crazy it becomes so much harder. The key again here is to travel light. Take only essentials. Declare out stuff like water for the kids or food that you need to carry for them. Most Security Checks go smoother when you have told them everything you have in your bag. I usually go there and remove everything on the small trays they provide.
Entertainment: Whether it is the railway station or the airport there is plenty to entertain the kids. Keep them occupied. At railway stations we usually walk up and down looking at engines and other fun stuff. Some airports have children's play area. On our travel to Singapore we discovered this play area and it entertained the kids for 45 minutes as we waited to board our flight. On flight we usually have some videos stocked on a fully charged laptop and this definitely helps keep them calm. One thing Isaac loves doing is walking around the flight. If its a relatively big flight, this may not be such a bad idea. A few trips around the cabin and maybe the little one will tire themselves to fall asleep. Car trips are usually passed by lots of books to ready, good music and maybe in desperate situations a tablet with some kiddie games on it.

The best way though to get I and Z excited about travel is to talk to them about who they are going to meet at the other end of the travel or what all they may see at the end of the travel. It makes the travel and adventure full of excitement.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Feeling Positive! #lookup

This is a story from about 6 years ago. The date Feb 6 2009. The time about 1 p.m. It was a phone call I was looking forward to and yet dreading.
The ordeal has begun some 8 months before this date. Finally after waiting for 6 years we decided to visit a fertility specialist. Yes DH and I spent some gruelling days trying to decide if we wanted to have a child that badly that we would take all the treatment. And the answer was YES! We had a fun life. Things were going well. We both had good jobs and a comfortable life style. But our nest was empty and the void of the missing child seem ever so evident.
As we went to the fertility doctor, I kept hoping for answers to my question. Was something wrong with me? Why couldn’t I conceive? But the Doctors and the tests had no answers to my questions.
Finally like all patients, we were set into a protocol. It seemed like we were yet another statistic in the childless world. Two months of blood test, pokes, injections and two unsuccessful cycles later, I was yet at a point of no hope. Lots of questions more and no answers to anything. At the end of the second cycle. I decided I had enough. I did not want more treatment, I was tired of being poked. I was tired of the blood tests and the medicines. But most of all I hated getting that call at the end of it all just to let me know that I was not pregnant.
Then in January 2009, my mom came to spend some time with us. She prodded us a little bit to try the next step of the infertility treatment. IVF. This meant more injections, more blood tests, more medicines and yet another phone call at the end of it. I really did not mind the injections or the medicines, but I definitely did not want to answer the phone call.
As we finished our cycle and completed all the details of the IVF treatment, it seemed like the only thing left to do was wait and watch. I was not optimistic at all. I did not feel ‘positive’ about this pregnancy test either. I usually got the news at work and so the day I was supposed receive the call, I decided to stay at home. I could not handle yet another day at work with the negativity of a failed treatment. My cousins were visiting and so it was a perfect excuse. I wanted the answering machine at work to take the news that my ears did not want to hear. And yet at 1 pm my cell phone began to ring. I waited for a couple rings and then DH looked at me. So I picked up the phone
Hi Rohini! You pregnancy test has come back positive!
They only thing I said was ‘Are you sure?’
Oh yes!
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation but 9 months later we were blessed with a bony boy.
Some 22 months after Feb 6 2009, I got that feeling again. Not of negativity. This time I was feeling hopeful. But this time I looked at a stick for the positive sign! And we were bless with yet another healthy completely adorable little girl!

This post has been written for #look up stories for

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mommy Evaluation

When I was single I never bothered what people thought. Even when I got married I really didnt care what people said or felt. I did as I pleased and as I thought appropriate. You could say I had the skin of a rhinocerous. Nothing affected me.
Somehow the after becoming a mommy my skin has become like the elephant. It may seem tough, but it is highly sensitive. I tend to hear things in super sonic mode. DH even tells me that I hear things that are not meant for me. Then I have the super-mom interpretation system. This seriously is the most annoying part. I take what people have 'probably' said, interpret it and blow it out of proportion!
Am I the only mommy who does it? And why did this change happen.
This weekend we spent some time with a few families and one particular brother (I say brother and not friend and you will realize why shortly) watched me reprimand Isaac. I was gentler than normal but this brother keeps telling me to be kinder. His usual words are 'Baccha hai ... mar daloge kya!' Its sounds very funny when you are trying to correct a 5 year old.
As I was correcting Isaac he looked at me and I laughed. Then he said this
'Whatever said and done, my wife and I think your kids are good!'
It was a completely unexpected statement and no one has really said this to me before. It felt like my yearly evaluation was done. I know DH would have just shrugged away this statement with a kind of  'Yes I know'. But for me I really needed to hear it. DH often appreciates my investment with the kids in terms of homeschooling and other stuff. But when you get an external review, its like icing on a yummy cake.
Why do we mommies need to hear this?

Most mommies live with the constant guilt. Maybe for some its because we spend all our time with our kids and our children kind of reflect us is a lot of ways. For instance, Isaac was born a very calm and content child. For more of his first two years he rarely cried. But somewhere around 2 years the shit hit the fan and he had lost his calm nature. Somewhere during my second pregnancy, I had lost my cool. I started showing signs of pregnancy mood swings. I am sure Isaac must have been watching these behavioral changes and I feel that was the beginning of some of his anger issues. I now constantly spend time praying for him. We mommies live with the guilt that we can/ or may have messed up our kids.

I read this article somewhere that said that if a dad brings a kid with a messy face, people around think its cute. But if a mom brings a kid with a messy face, she is judged as not doing enough for her children. Why does the world judge the daddy and mommy with different yard sticks? Somehow if a child is good the whole world compliments a father on how well he has raised them and if the child goes astray then its the mother's fault. Why is it that the responsibility is not shared equally?

Appreciation or lack thereof
This is my constant fight with DH. Most folks who go to work get a yearly evaluation. Some even get a salary hike if they  perform well. But somehow mommies who work hard day in and day out get no appraisal. We mommies don't need the salary hike. But the verbal appraisal is very important. The most important person to provide that should be DH. Wouldn't it be fun is maybe once a year we got a certificate saying ' Worlds best mommy 2014-2015'. I would totally love it!
Another aspect of this appraisal is when the outside world provides it. Daddies please stop taking all the glory and share it with mommy. Maybe even call it mommy and get the outsider to repeat comments. Believe me every mom loves hearing good things about their kids. DH is very good at this. Especially if someone comments on how we homeschool. I have heard him frequently say ' I really dont know how she (referring to me) keeps it all so organized.

To the world outside, if you see a mommy struggling with a child, remember we mommies are far more stressed than most CEO's. So give us freedom from our guilt trip and if you cannot say anything encouraging, don't say anything at all.
To all the mommies out there if I have ever said anything that made you feel condemned .. Please .. Please forgive me!