Being Mother (in) India


The moment you have a bump, you give access to ‘neighbor aunty’ to give you unsolicited advice. The moment you have a baby, the whole India is ready to offer you their free, annoying, consulting services, forcibly. From maids to mothers, you are officially public property now. Everyone wants to tell you how to be a mother. You are now, officially, mother (in) India.

And these three you might come across, for sure!

Milk: The one solution to all problems

It is madness when the baby cries. Our sweeping-n-mopping-only-maid Anjamma also couldn’t hold her comments in when Zara was crying at my breast. “Milk is not coming I think, amma” – What!! Did you just say that? Another maid came to help us with the baby, and whenever she is cranky, she quips, “Jaai papa, did you give enough milk?”

Could there be another reason why a baby cries? A wet diaper, boredom, change of carrying position, irritability with her clothes, too hot or too cold, or the infamous colic pain. NO. In India, there is only problem – lack of milk. If Zara cries, I, her mother, somehow withheld milk from my anyhow-low-supplied-breasts.

My parents freak out when Zara cries. I can understand, initially, when a baby’s home, we just can’t hear her cry. I love papa’s line, “My stomach is churning nana. I’m going out of the house,” and he storms out when the baby is inconsolable. I remember feeling that way when my nephew Ryan would cry and I was single back then. But my sister sat me down and told me that crying is their language, their  mode of communication. It does not mean they are in pain. I was more supportive, once I understood that.

People do understand but can’t help their nazuk dils. Grandparents go berserk when babies cry. “Joy, Joy, get out fast and come and give milk” – this is my mom, banging on my bathroom door, while I’m downloading after three hours of holding it in. Seriously, for the first time in my life, I feel like crapping is a crime, and mothers are guilty of it, especially when their baby is crying! Again, my mom is excellent in consoling Zara. She somehow just quietens down the moment she is in her arms. There are times I finished my business quick and came out rushing from the loo only to be scolded for disturbing Zara while she is being put to sleep … phew! Now I’m like, dhobi ka kutha, na ghar ka, na ghat ka. I can’t go back in. I can’t seem to enjoy staying out now. It’s a funny feeling. You violated the bowel movement, and now there is none.

Even the nurses did not spare a new mom like me just days after delivery. One particular nurse would always, always comment “You should take milk tablets. Ask the doctor. Don’t take my name madam.”

Shall I carry your baby? (Meaning carry and just shake shake shake)

We were trying out nannies, when this lady comes in to “try” for a day. She was the most annoying. I was feeding, and she kept pestering me, “Shall I carry baby, amma? Give here.” I’m like, “Can’t you see I’m feeding?”

And once we carry the baby, oh my, we do the shake! Louder the cry, harder the shake. Oh my goodness, it is harmful to shake a baby’s head like that violently! Mamma has lost her cool explaining this to our maids!

We can still somehow forgive the uneducated. But education for once, has not served its purpose here. Educated people – all, are waiting to just carry the baby. I don’t know how it works in other countries, but here, they literally put their hands around your baby, while you are nursing or just finishing off, in an attempt to carry the baby. I mean, seriously, how many people wanna carry my baby at one go? It is a typical passing-the-parcel story. 

Now, I’ve even given up on asking people to use the expensive 500-rupees-plus Hand Rub, so strategically perched at the entrance to my nursing station!

Cover your ears, wear socks and cap!

I’ve heard this so many times from so many people, in my first three months, it’s maddening. Somehow, overheating yourself up in tropical weather is supposed to help you!

I’m all for grandma’s gyan. I love to do some good old traditional baths, massages and recipes. But few of our age old traditions make absolutely no sense – common or scientific.

Dig this: My nanny, Sapna, a young girl, tells me how her sister would always wear cotton in her ears, with a cap, plus socks, for one year, 24/7, even if she was sweating. Even worse, she would overheat her baby too.

We need to keep our baby warm,  not hot! Newborns cannot regulate their body temperature, so we help them.

Chitamma, tried-n-tested-n-failed-nanny, for a week, was after my life. She would run around me with cotton in her hands – ‘please put cotton or you will fall sick.’

Yes, my body is weak and needs help, but overheating is not helping me. These restrictions can in fact, add to my stress! Leave me alone, people, but please continue to pamper me … hee hee.

India is envied for the help we get from parents and elders, and maids, and neighbours, but the help brings with it the price of unabashed, unashamed interference. If you’re pregnant, get ready for this: your breasts will become public topic, and milk supply discussed while you’re having evening chai. 

Neighbor aunty will knock on your door, just when you’re taking that quick chai break, only to enquire about how well your baby is feeding, and if she is gaining color or not. Of course, she’s also gonna bring you gourd curries in real tiny dabbas, and she will hold it back in her hands, until you’ve finished answering all her queries on the proper functioning of your breasts.

Now, would I have it another way? I don’t think so. I’m so grateful to be at mom’s. Timely and delicious food, loads of pampering and love, grandparents’ love for Zara, plus, my parents are so understanding and fun to be with. I would not be comfortable any other place, not even mine. These first few months, this is the best place I could have been in. Hands down! (Definitely gonna cry while leaving)

The extras … just humour me!

Oh, so whenever I try to overdo the mother’s duty, Mark says, “Don’t try to be mother India.” (just felt obligated to explain the headline)

Did you ever come across these comments? I just laugh at them now, but it did get some-getting-used-to!

 

IMG_7004
One of those cold nights when I did put cotton in my ears πŸ˜‰
Joy, eat foods that give milk.
Aren’t you eating gourds?
Why aren’t you covering your ears? ‘Balinthalu’ must cover and put cotton, and wear socks. (When the temperature is 30 C!!!!!)
Give more milk on other side.
Is it time for feed? Why is she still crying?
Jaai papa, paalu iyyi (give milk)
You’re roaming in the house without socks !!!
I can’t believe you washed your mouth with cold water! Yadamma, bring hot water for Joy papa to wash her face!

And so I re-wash my washed face with hot water, and played with the rest to finish it πŸ™‚

FYI: Bought the ring sling at Soul Slings – very useful!

 

 

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9 comments

  1. Very well written..my lo is 8 months old now. I delivered in Switzerland and luckily I didn’t have to go through so much trouble like urs 😜
    After really long I reward something which I wished never ended..refreshing(which is what is really needed atm)

    • Well… If you were living in a metro city you would see through all this from a different lense.
      (When I had my daughter) I lived in a place where there is minimal interaction with neighbors/service maids.. To the point you could miss someone talking to you, let alone advising you.
      I guess your case is specific to place where you must have grown up or lived for long tome enough for the “unsolicited advice”.. If I were you, i would smile at them, make a mental note and be thankful for their concern for you and your baby.

      • Hey thanks for reading my post. I cannot see your name here. Where do you live or where were you when you had your baby?
        Yes this is specific to where I stay. As I mentioned in my post, I’m eternally grateful, and wouldn’t have it another way. The rest of it just humoured me and I learned to smile at all the visitors and neighbors and their unnecessary comments. Thanks for writing in.

  2. Enjoy the love and care, unsolicited or genuine, as long as it lasts, my dear Shruthi.

    I loved the end. I wish U had begun your post with the same feelings.

    Kisses to baby Zara and a big hug for U and Mark.

    • Thank you for reading Joseph sir πŸ™‚ I really appreciate it! Yes I am totally enjoying my family’s support and love.. Wouldn’t have it another way. Surely, will give your love and wishes to Zara and Mark. Thanks again πŸ™‚

  3. This is clearly a post written and meant to be read in a lighter vein. Hilarious, Joy! Reminds me of the time I delivered a decade ago. While our elders meant everything for our own good, a lot is forgotten that the Mother needs rest emotionally too.
    And the same authority with which they talk of dairy production and consumption of the two foot wonder in your lap, they’ll soon start talking about your body weight too πŸ˜‚. I got back from the hospital after my c-section to hear ‘is the baby still inside you?!’ . Oh and u are lucky to have a normal delivery joy. C-Sec in India directly tells upon your competency as a Mother. It’s a crime.

    I do hope people read this blog post in the right spirit! You are one of the most loving and grateful daughters / Friends I have know . Enjoy your motherhood ad pepper it with humour just like you did above, so articulately!

    • Thanks Aparna! Love u too. I still can’t believe that you are treated differently when you have a C sec. That’s so mean and uncalled for.
      I did get some weight gain comments already ha ha ha

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