Once back home, my mind seemed to be a lot calmer. I was finally breathing, and not fuming. I was looking at, not looking through, people. And if anyone were to ask for some solid proof about it, I had only my baby to show. Within a week, he got as plump as could be. It was an amazing transformation, a visible proof for my state of mind.
One of the first things I did after coming home was (no, not gmail/facebook) check my weight with all the courage I could muster ;). Having gained 18 kgs during my pregnancy, I was curious to know how much of it I had lost and how much I had kept. I was relieved to know that I was only about 4 kgs heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. Which was enough to make me happy, even if for a short while. As I tried some of my clothes, happiness turned to disappointment; I could not fit into any of my earlier clothes, other than the maternity ones. Since I was eating a lot as it is, it wasn’t surprising. Thankfully I did not put on any more weight.
Although, in Mangalore, I had a very slow usb internet connection in the last one week or so, I used it mainly for reading on breastfeeding resources. Now, after ages I had access to proper internet. But then, who had the time to browse/read anything else unrelated to babies? Whatever little time I had, I spent it reading up on breastfeeding and baby wearing (baby wraps, carrying baby hands-free) resources. I learned that the non-stop feeds happened during what is called a growth spurt. But mine was feeding like this for more than a month. This definitely wasn’t a growth spurt but I let it be for the time being deciding to ask the doctor when it was time for his vaccination a few days later. The doctor only said it was normal and to go with the flow. I wasn’t convinced though. There had to some reason why he was spending hours together feeding.
One of the downsides of coming back to Bangalore was that, the schedule that was set in Mangalore was completely thrown off. At first, Fearless slept better, which I thought was him taking to the weather and the new environment. Within a couple of days, though, the novelty of the new place wore off and with that the sleep pattern too. He slept as and when he felt like. I tried to follow some routine for a week without success. My typical day began with waking up at 8:00 to see a happy baby kicking his feet up and playing by himself. A feed followed by a loo visit, followed by another feed. By this time, Ashwin would be done and dressed for office. He would prepare tea and make preparations for egg omelet. I would prepare the omelet and have breakfast together. At times, Ashwin kept rice in the microwave for lunch. Once Ashwin left for office at around 10:30, I would massage and bathe Fearless, feed and put him to sleep. The time would be around 11:30. Wash his clothes, treat with dettol and put them all in the washing machine, sweep and mop the floor (at least the first 5 days before we hired a maid), bathe. Mostly by this time he would be up, but if not, I would lie down for sometime and try to sleep. By 1:30 he would be up after 2 hours of sleep. At times, he fed and went right back to sleep for another half hour. At other times, he would want to play, with multiple feeds inserted along the way. I would squeeze in a quick lunch myself, mostly rice with pickles or puliyogare or cold maggi (because just as the Maggi was done, Fearless demanded a feed). Moreover due to the proximity of the kitchen to the bedroom I avoided doing any other work in the kitchen when he was asleep. That meant the sink was always full of dirty dishes. When he was awake, he wanted me near him at all times. As soon as I went out of sight, he would sound his siren. At around 3:00 or 3:30 he slept again for an hour or two. The next nap was at around 7:00 for an hour or two depending on the duration of his previous naps. Ashwin would be home by around 8:00 PM. I would have cooked something or kept something ready to be cooked. If not, we got some curry parcel and made rice at home. At 9:30 I would start to put him to sleep but he slept only by 11:00. By this time I would be so exhausted, I had no clue as to what I ate for dinner. The silver lining in all the gloom was that Fearless slept well until around 3:00 AM, woke up for a feed/diaper change and went back to sleep. The next feed at about 6:00 AM and back to sleep. In between if he woke, I only had to rock the jholi and he went back to sleep.
When he was awake, I used to give him a few minutes of tummy time as suggested by the doctor. He loved it. He loved being held/carried by me even more. Although I never really made a habit of picking him up every time he cried or fussed, he really did become very attached to me. So much that he would not go to his father. As soon as Ashwin came near him, he cried. So to keep him occupied, I used to keep an infant merry-go-round toy wound up. It would give me a few seconds to go watch the boiling curry pot or use the loo. When it stopped he would either cry or kick his legs and move around and come find me. It was so funny to watch. I would turn my back for a few seconds and moments later he would be near my feet staring up at me. He would have travelled the entire length of the room by just kicking his legs. Ah, no one so tiny could have loved me as much :).
When he turned two and a half months, I accidentally found the solution to his non-stop drinking. I had just fed, burped and put him in the jholi. Exactly 15 minutes later, he woke up and started screaming. Since rocking the jholi wasn’t working, I thought I’ll do what I always did – feed. As I removed him from the jholi, it turned. So holding him upright with one hand, I proceeded to straighten it out. It must have taken me a minute. Just as I was about to sit down to feed, he gave a loud burp (he burped loud and deep, like an amchigello all right 😉 ). And like magic, he stopped crying and went back to sleep. Although I did burp him after every feed, I had not realized that he would want to burp in between too. Why had I not thought of that before? After this episode, I only had to burp him if he woke up screaming within minutes of his last feed. No more did I have to feed him for hours together and he went back to sleep, or play, without any fuss. I got so much crap from people telling me I was “not having enough milk”, when all it really took was a simple burp. And I was right after all, for insisting that his non-stop drinking was not normal behavior.
Ashwin wasn’t home during the day all right, but he remained absent even during the nights. For one, he could not live without Arnab and his gang of noisy rogues on the Newshour Debate. When even my baby’s breath was enough to wake me up, you can imagine how the TV and Ashwin’s coming to bed that late affected me. I looked after Fearless the entire day and the entire night without any disturbance to Ashwin. My only request with Ashwin was that, at times he handle him and give me a break for a few minutes. Maybe instead of sitting in front of the TV, he could put him to sleep? Its not like I asked him to bathe, feed or handle him in the middle of the night.After a fitful uninterrupted sleep the entire night, he could handle him for a few minutes in the morning when I used the loo, instead of covering his ears with the blanket and going back to sleep leaving a screaming Fearless beside him? At first I thought maybe he was scared of holding a 2-month old and gave him enough space to adjust and get comfortable. But then I noticed that it changed nothing. He enjoyed his TV and he enjoyed his sleep. Of course the “well-wishers” told me to that it was normal, that once the baby arrived I should let Ashwin free; after all his work was now done. I disagreed, and still do. Such statements/comments are insulting, really. I don’t believe a father’s work gets over with certain exchange of DNA. Infact, the father’s work is just beginning. As for letting him free, he is free. That does not mean he behaves like a stubborn mule with no adjustments at all after the arrival of a baby. This much I made clear to Ashwin. He said he tried but that the baby’s cries irritated him and he doesn’t agree with him anyway; so he stopped trying too.
If I thought it couldn’t get any worse than it already was, there was someone else who could. My mom. She found a hundred different ways to irritate me. Who knew she was so creative!!! If at any time during the day I decided to sleep, my mom would somehow, telepathically, get to know of it and call up asking what my baby is doing. Even after repeatedly telling her to call up only if urgent during the day and that I would call her in the night as usual, she never listened. Her calls ruined my sleep and at times even Fearless woke up, even though I used to keep my mobile in vibration mode. After this happened 3 times, I told her I won’t receive her calls during the day. The next day I put my phone in complete silent mode and went about my work, only to see 4 missed calls at lunchtime. Thinking it was urgent I called back only to be asked what “shahjeera” is; she was reading up a new recipe for preparing the next day and the recipe called for a quarter teaspoon of shahjeera and she urgently needed to know what it was. Quarter. Tsp. Shahjeera. For the next day. If she meant that by “urgent”, I don’t know what is. After this I stopped calling back during the day. There would still be missed calls, but I ignored them. It was useless fighting and fuming and ruining my entire day.
My only diversion and reason for happiness was Fearless. Just when I thought I could take it no longer, he started eating his hands. Awww, the sounds he made when he did that was enough to melt my heart. It was even more wonderful to watch him eat his own hands with such relish and concentration. At times I myself felt like eating his hands 😉 😀 😀 Another time, when I was particularly angry, just like that, he started giggling. He had started giggling a few days back but it never lasted longer than 3-4 seconds. But this time though, he kept giggling for so long that I had no other option but to smile. He may have been giggling at my perpetual frown at the time but I like to think that he was trying to make me smile. This must be the time I actually, genuinely made the effort to stay happy at all times. Easier said than done.
Before coming to Bangalore, Ashwin and I had decided to hire a maid and a cook for some time because I knew it would be impossible for me to take care of a 2 month old and the home at the same time. We hired our building watchman’s wife for housework (washing vessels and cleaning the floor). I do not like maids and had never had one before. This was the first time and she turned out to be the “cliche`d” maid. All the dirt under the sofa or the shoe stand, soap and/or food on the vessels, you get it… I had to wash every vessel before using it. But since I could not handle more than that at the moment, I went with the flow…for exactly two and a half months. Since Ashwin hadn’t bothered hiring a cook (pamphlets and advertisements, he said, were pasted on trees and lamp posts all around our area, and which somehow disappeared as soon as I came to Bangalore), I asked our maid if she would cook too. She agreed. Ashwin couldn’t endure her cooking for more than a week. So I was back in the kitchen. At times I cooked, sometimes Ashwin got parcel from the nearby hotel. I couldn’t endure this for more than a month. Some googling helped me find a cook who would come in the evenings and cook dinner. He lasted for two months. All in all, when my baby turned 5 months, I had neither the maid nor the cook and I was back to doing everything myself.
As soon as my baby turned 3 months, I got calls from “well-wishers” telling me, yet again, how my milk wasn’t enough for him and how I should start solids for him immediately. I explained them why solids was unnecessary at it this point and why it was better to continue with breastfeeding. And that the doctor too suggested the same. Apparently none of these things entered their thick skulls because every few days I got “follow-up calls” which went the same way as the first. Although I was yearning to give up breastfeeding due to the pain and all, I still had enough sense to go on for some more time. Moreover, by this time, Fearless was was a pro at latching. While I was reading up and trying different ways/positions of breastfeeding to reduce the pain as well as to help him latch properly, my baby had developed and perfected his own method. He latched on from the side of his mouth by suddenly turning his head from the side to the front. It was funny to watch him do that. But now, he had mastered the art of latching normally. Also he now took about 20 minutes for a full feed instead of an hour. With the combined effect of jholi, normal latching, and burping at intervals, breastfeeding was now relatively less painful.
At around 4 months, I tried giving my baby some water. I tried giving him with a spoon and with a dropper but he used to make a “phuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrr” sound and spray everything out. He never ever accepted the bottle after his vomiting episode at around 1 month. He even rejected expressed breastmilk if given in a bottle. That meant he was glued to me all the time and we could not get out of the house for more than an hour. I was yearning to go out but it was impossible with him wanting a feed every hour. I was exhausted and frustrated but something better was happening meanwhile. Somewhere during this time our relationship, although not the same as before Fearless arrived, was getting better each day. Ashwin was now confident enough to hold Fearless and at times he would hold him and play with him for a few minutes. It wasn’t much but I wasn’t complaining. That, and the fact that I was sleeping better, seemed like more than I could ask for at the time.
At 4.5 months, on the doctor’s suggestion, I tried giving him something other than breastmilk. He seemed ready for solids. So, at first I got him Lactogen (since the earlier box was past its expiry date) but he completely rejected. I must have used only 3-4 tsp from the box. Then I tried getting him NaN since a friend suggested that her daughter too rejected Lactogen but loved NaN. It did not work with Fearless; I must have used about 3-4 tsp of this too. Ashwin refused to buy Cerelac for the time being. So I tried mashed banana. He ate it with relish but by nightfall he had stomach pain. So I decided to wait for another week before giving him solids again. Every 2 days, I tried something different (steamed and mashed apples, dal water, diluted lemon juice… everything was rejected). At 5 months, my mom sent over “bolu” (small flat pellets made of ragi and wheat, which are dissolved in water and stirred on low flame until desired thickness is achieved). He ate one spoon, then “phuuuuurrrrr” followed by screaming. After the banana incident I was wary of giving him banana again so soon. So thinking he wasn’t ready for solids, I decided to wait longer. One of the well-wishers told me how she made her son eat food – put him down on the lap, hold his nose and pour the food in his mouth. “He can’t put it out and the only option left for him is to swallow,” she said. I was shocked listening to such force feeding methods. Food times should be something to look forward to and enjoy, not torture. When I told Ashwin, he wanted to try it. It was a disaster. I had a video of this which I showed to the well-wisher and in her usual style she said, “is this how you treat a baby…This is not the way to treat a baby.” Never before had Ashwin understood when I told him about the contradictory behavior of this well wisher, but after this incident, he understood and was wary of taking any more suggestions from her. Yes, every cloud does have a silver lining.
There was one thing nagging me though. My baby hadn’t yet started to roll over. I hadn’t really given much thought to it but after so many people asked after it, I was beginning to get worried.
My baby was now almost 5 months old. I hadn’t gone out of the house in more than 6 months, other than to the clinic for vaccinations, which was only about 200 meters from our house. One fine day my frustration spilled over and Ashwin took us out on a ride. Fearless fell asleep on my shoulder in less than 5 minutes. The rest of the ride was a haze as my shoulder and back started hurting. Had to cut the long ride short and go back home. After this episode, I tried different baby wearing methods. It was too uncomfortable for Fearless and me too as Fearless was a big baby and enjoyed stretching and boxing and kicking his legs; the slings were too confining for him. The next option was to buy a baby harness. The ride to the shop to buy one was difficult but worth it. Fearless loved it and I was more comfortable wearing him this way on long rides. It felt so good to be out of the house. It was also a different feeling for me when random strangers stopped to tell me my “daughter” (everyone including his doctor mistook him for a baby girl at first) was cute. It was a strange feeling because it was usually I who used to play with and ask after babies of random strangers on the road, park, bus and malls. It felt good, I admit :). And Fearless loooved all the attention.
My leaves were coming to an end. Even though I had already put in my resignation papers, I had to go to the office for some of the separation processes. The whole process would take a week but I would need to only go on the first and last day. Ashwin would be staying at home with Fearless. The only problem was the feeding part. I had expressed enough breastmilk to last him for more than a day but then what to do if he rejected the bottle? On one side, I was worrying about Fearless and how Ashwin would handle him. On the other side I was enjoying riding my Activa after almost a year. My god, such an incredible feeling it was! My friends at office were really nice to me, as always, and the separation process was initiated with the help of my manager. I only had some usual copy-pasting things to do. I came back home by 3:00 to a baby who was happy to see me and his father who was relieved. Fearless apparently behaved like an angel, drank milk from the bottle and slept for the most part. Wow. If I thought, after this, I could offer him breastmilk in a bottle, I was wrong. He wanted me and only me.
When he completed 5.5 months, I tried giving him bolu with a different taste each day (plain once, a pinch of sugar one day, a pinch of salt the next and so on..). It was useless. He hated it. So I tried giving him mashed banana again. This time I mixed a little poha (paper poha) soaked in water to make it less sweet. He loved it. Once again I tried different juices, steamed fruits, etc but all other foods were rejected. So I stuck to poha-banana and that became his food for the next one and a half months. If I thought he would reduce breastfeeding after starting solids, I was so wrong. The feeding remained the same.
It made sense now to shift our home closer to Ashwin’s office since the distance to my office was no longer a consideration. We had been in C.V.Raman Nagar for exactly one year. So with a 5.5 month old baby, we moved.
By the way, I finished most of the Lactogen/Nan making gulab jamuns a few months later, so it wasn’t a complete waste 🙂 We did not have gulab jamuns for atleast another year after this though.
To be continued…