Sleeping Beauty… Not!

My journey as a new mum now has me riding the slippery sleep slope.

I’m slipping down the sleepless road to madness!

Okay I’m exaggerating, but it sure feels that way sometimes. My son is at that precious Eureka phase- discovering a whole new world around him of tantalising sights, sounds, smells and action. It’s no wonder then that his over-stimulated little body goes into overdrive and can’t calm down.

He fights sleep with all his might. In the battle of mum v/s bub, he wins. Hands down. And also legs up, drooling, screaming, full on meltdown mode.

His newest trick when drop-dead sleepy is to let out the cutest, most heart-stopping gurgle he can muster. He kills it every time. Mum, dad, gran. Reduced to helpless cooing adult fools. We can’t help but gurgle back in response and before we know it, we have him engaged and awake! Bub one, adult none.

Since we weren’t exactly born yesterday, we have tricks of our own. Daddy discovered sticking him in the sun forces him to close his eyes and a few moments later, magic! He’s off to la la land!

Much googly eyed research at ungodly hours has informed me that the first three months are akin to a fourth trimester. Meaning that babies calm down in a womb-like atmosphere. So dark, loud monotonous noises (in-utero, mum’s heart beat, breath sounds, intestine churning,), constant movement and enclosed spaces. The sucking reflex is also very comforting.

When the sleep demon decides to play, I go into multi-handed goddess mode. I snap my son into a sling while jiggling him constantly, shushing until I’m breathless and avoiding any eye contact with the face I could drown in kisses. Since my infant deftly spits out a pacifier but hungrily accepts my finger; I sometimes spend hours with only 9 fingers at my disposal.

I’ve slightly refined my act most recently. Having outsourced the shushing to the vacuum, the fan (Z’s new best friend) or a Spotify play list I am a calmer warrior now. I use my saved breath to jiggle Z to sleep as if he were still encased in my womb while I grooved to head-banging music- which I often did when pregnant.

Wow. I just had a revelation!

When sleep has played hookey too long and Z goes bat-shit crazy, he wants to feed. However, he ends up head-banging into his food source, getting sprayed in the face because I’ve already had my let down reflex and then gets even more frustrated!

I see now where he gets the head-banging from. (Slaps forehead)

I also periodically need to save my boy from his uncoordinated fists which smack into his face when on the slippery sleep road.

I truly feel like I’m losing it some days. Then the little guy turns on his gurgling charm.

Say sleepless what? I lost you at coooo!

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It takes a tribe…

This realization has been swimming in my subconscious mind for a while now but it wasn’t until this morning that it slam-dunked me in the face.

Raising a child takes a tribe.

This was followed by another, suddenly more urgent realization- I hadn’t showered in 2 days.

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It’s been two months since I last had a good night’s sleep and I guess it’ll be several more before I do. Exhausted and beat, I checked that it was indeed my son’s dirty diaper stinking up the place and not my unwashed self.

As the welcoming warm water caressed my skin and soothed my mind, I mulled over realization number one. I hadn’t really understood the phrase- it takes a village to raise a child, until I had mine.

Being an expat and having overcome several ‘foreigner’ challenges, I was certain being an expat mum could not be that much more difficult.

How wrong I was!

Take the simple, everyday, all consuming task of breastfeeding my bub. I often need a napkin to clean up spills. Nine out of ten times, the napkin is across the room, which in the moment, feels like a trek across the globe, with a 5 kilo human chest-pack firmly anchored to to my breast.

 

Then there’s the cooking and cleaning to be done, all the while attending to my newborns needs- which are a continuous cycle of feed, soothe, clean, put to bed, repeat. It’s a wonder then that I only skipped one shower.

Many expat mums find themselves marooned on a baby-centered island post-partum. Going out is a herculean task and so is building or maintaining a social life. No doubt we love our kids, but we also begin living in isolation.

I am blessed to have found several support systems that mean the world to me.

I have a doting hubby who takes over night diaper changes, flat cleaning, grocery shopping, a lot of the cooking and for the first time in a few hours- exclusive baby-sitting while I go on a date! More about this later.

My mum is visiting us for 3 months and having grandma around is definitely a bonus.

Supermamas is a kick-ass group I am part of and whose concept I hope, spreads all over the world. Founded by two expat mums in Berlin, the group connects mums (and dads) to be a Bubble Mama and/or a Helping Mama. A Bubble Mama is a mum (irrespective whether a first-timer, veteran, expat, local, straight, gay, etc) who within the first three months post delivery, can ask to be pampered. The pampering involves Helping Mamas or Dadas, coming over with a home-cooked little something and most often; much desired company.

I had the honour of being royally pampered and in the process, made new friends. I cried tears of joy as I bit into food that was not just tasty, but especially made for me. The delight of connecting with another human being when you feel so bubbled-in is simply inexplicable. Not to mention, I had one less meal to cook! I was treated to Lasagne verdi alla Bolognese, Polenta with Quinoa stuffed veggies, a fruit smoothie, Lentil soup, Pasta cake from Naples and fresh salads. Some brought gifts of plants and bath bombs.

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Supermamas at work

There are several other online groups that I’m part of and truly cherish for the support they offer. Hamburg Mother’s meeting, Gentle Baby Sleep, Breastfeeding Support for Indian mums,etc.

In the first few weeks after giving birth when the hubby had to travel abroad for work; I was terrified. Terrified that I might have baby blues. So for the week that he was away, we had two of our closest friends in town come over regularly with dinner. I asked 4 of my bumchums from around the world to check in on me. So between advice from Africa, encouragement from India, daily check-ins from America and home-cooked food from Dubai, the week sailed by smoothly.

Asking for help turns out to be a lot harder than I thought. I need to constantly remind myself to take it easy, get help when possible and let things slide. Having a spotlessly clean house round the clock is no longer important. What is important is giving my child my best. And that involves calling in on my tribe. Friends, family, well wishers. We were never meant to raise a child alone. Even if we’re expat mums.

With an 8 week young son, my schedule is unpredictable and planning is an exercise in futility. I do it nonetheless. I have been told it gets better and I am a hopeless romantic.

Back to the date I have today. I’m finally going see Walk off the Earth live in concert! My date is another new expat, blogger mum who has been in the game several months longer than I. We will meet for the first time this evening. I suppose you could call this a blind date!

Here’s reaching out to all mums and especially all expat mums. Go get your tribe! They make you a better you!

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The Tribe pitching in

Pit-stop at the docks

This morning I had the privilege of introducing my 7 week young son to the Hamburg Fischmarkt. Even if he slept through it all, his senses definitely picked up the wind, the tantalising aromas and the funky atmosphere.

Before you scrunch up your nose, know that this is a Fischmarkt with a difference.

It contains everything from Rasta coffee to live bands. For a full low-down on all this marvelous market has to offer- check my post from 2 years ago- Reggae Coffee at the Fish Market.

When the weather gods decide to shine happiness on the harbour, Hamburg is priceless. More so a sunday morning by the water, diving deep into a Fischbrötchen.

Here’s us- baby, dad and mum- making a pit-stop, fuelling up on Milk, Alsterwasser (Beer + Sprite) and the sun- not that mum needs it! 😉

Tip to those going to the Fischmarkt- instead of the usual train, take the boat there. The ticket is the same as for the train.

Our world in our hands

We’ve got our whole world in our hands.

Literally.

At 3.5 kilos that’s not hard to accomplish. I suspect, the sentiments will not have changed even at 35 kilos. Though, by then, our little man may very well be out of hand!

This precious cocktail of ours has German and Indian blood coursing through his veins. Needless to say, we’ve had plenty of opinions from well wishers about how he will look, the colour of his eyes, hair, toes….

As a couple with several spectrums of interests and affinities; we’re more concerned about his “inner features”

There’s no doubt he will use his multilingual skills to con his first fans- namely the grandparents. This has already sent my non-German speaking mother scrambling to master the many nuances of this language. The other grandmother has already brought out her English text books from school. Imagine the heartbreak, they say, if you can’t understand your only grandson! I trust my son to have other tricks up his sleeve to con his unsuspecting, language-proficient grandmas.

Breakfast humour this morning was anticipating future tantrums from this mini version of us. We envision a mixture of Indian/Goan emotion and German structure. I can already see a 2 foot tall ball of energy informing us- “Mum, Dad; I’m going to scream and have a fit for the next ten minutes and you can’t stop me!” Ten minutes later, all normalcy will have returned. Bravo German punctuality! Worst case scenario, he will sway towards Indian time sense and still be screaming an hour later!

The snowboarding, ballroom dancing, IT bent Papa is itching to get his son on a mini-board at 3 and have him go nuts at Slow Fox music.

The basketball wielding, blog writing, Homoeopathy practicing Mama wishes her son takes to sports and languages with equal passion.

Neither of us will be surprised should our boy decide to ski, play heavy metal, do ballet or major in Math.

That’s the way of life, isn’t it?

We are dreamers, but also realists. No amount of romancing about our son promises us a smooth ride through parenthood. We are gearing up to have our worlds turned upside down and inside out. (already happening to a certain degree), to expect the unexpected and to celebrate the challenges.

I for one (the emotional half of the couple) will probably lose my marbles when my son crosses limits. The structured half of the equation, Papa, will deal better with impish behaviour. So between the two of us, nuturing our boy into a responsible young man shouldn’t be that much of a struggle, right?

Wrong.

The longer we are together, the more we absorb the other’s qualities! That makes us a punctual Indian and emotional German couple!

Role reversal is both confusing and hilarious! Things which would have sent me into a flying rage before, now no longer ruffle my feathers. But come 15 minutes late to an appointment and I’ll bite your head off! Similarly, snowboarding Daddy goes berserk when I suggest our son may ski!

This is going to be an interesting journey. Keeping our world in our hearts is no problem. Making sure he is not out of hand, will be a whole different ball game! ❤

My hat-trick 100 day

This is a celebratory, centenary post- it seems hard to believe it’s already number 100- and I’m spectacularly delighted to share it with you!

Today, the 16th of March 2018, is one hell of a milestone for me! No, scratch that. It’s a hat-trick of milestones.

For starters, my beautiful baby boy turns a month old today. That means I’ve managed to keep us alive a whole four weeks without any major disasters. The small ones are plenty and happen multiple times a day. 😉 Strike one!

Having a beautiful birth experience was one of my big goals for 2018. Despite all the fear, old wives tales, queer warnings from queerer people; I made it! I even got promoted to an All You Can Eat Buffet! Strike two! (The birth, not the buffet)

I’m a big believer in writing down goals and micro managing them until I nail them on the head. In case you’re interested, here is my strategy.

Today I have in hand my licence to practice in Germany. Exactly a year ago today, I bombed at my first attempt. Re-qualifying in a new language and in a new country was no piece of cake. I was forced to romance failure, even to find a friend in it and now, finally, I’m armed to heal. How contradictory that sounds! But I come in peace! 😉 Strike three!

Over and out.

PS- stay tuned, I’ll be back soon.

21 down, 21 to go

That’s days and years. 21 days done. At least 21 years to go.

21 days to form a habit they say. I guess that makes Zane my new habit.

I’m talking about my newborn son and how much time we have left in our Provider-Consumer relationship.

Many wise parents scoff at 21 and say it’s more like 21 times ‘n’.

For now, I have new-found respect for cows. How do the poor things stand being constantly milked? My bub makes sure I know how this feels. While I enjoy being food and comfort giver, I also sometimes crave to not have a 3 kilo attachment at my chest, with the suction prowess of dental tools.

Does that make me a bad mum? Definitely not. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t asked myself that question. A million times over.

“I make you feel like a cow, you say?!”

This morning at 4 am when I took a carefully timed pee-break, hoping my son didn’t wake up and start screaming bloody murder, I looked in the mirror and did a double take.

The sleepy face with scraggly hair and smudged mascara-like dark circles was me! I looked so ridiculous, I had to laugh. And laugh I did. Loudly! The experts weren’t lying when they said medicate with laughter. Almost immediately my sleep-deprived body perked up and I started appreciating the lighter side of being a new mum.

Did you know one in four women get depressed after delivery? It’s not difficult to see why. Added to being almost solely responsible for keeping a tiny babe alive, (often with zero prior training); comes the fact of having him/her attached to you at the (far from proverbial) hip, breast, tummy, heart and soul.

Heart and soul are both beautiful and devastating. Hearing your baby cry is sufficient to tear that heart into pieces. Seeing him giggle and smile makes you soar to the high heavens. The joy is indescribable!

Not to mention leaky boobs. The mums that breastfed know precisely what I mean. When one is active, the other is anything but passive. Get upset and your eyes are not the only ones producing fluid. Lie on your belly or try to and you’ll see who’s in the way!

My favourite is tummy to tummy with my son. The warmth and proximity are simply heartening. There’s just something magical, mystical even, about connecting like this with my baby. Maybe it’s gut instinct?

This minute fellow is so precious to me. I love my new toy, er.. boy. Hubby gets instantly nervous when I say toy. He starts checking for signs of depression or any other feature that doesn’t fit my super-mum avatar. I’m not sure he believes me when I say I’m kidding!

All jokes aside, I am in a good place now, after a tough start. I am content with being a less than perfect mum, with not brushing my hair because that’s a time consuming luxury I’d rather spend sleeping and with crushing every inevitable challenge through the miracle I hold in my arms.

21 years sounds like a nice, long time to provide for my son. Hell, it sometimes sounds scary!! (I left home at 18 but was parent-dependent for way longer; as was my hubby. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…)

Perhaps the 21 years will be longer or perhaps shorter. Either way, I intend giving every moment my best-even if my best is sometimes 40%.

My mantra for the t(c)rying times is- “This too shall pass!” My mantra for the happy times is- “Enjoy it while it lasts!”

As my bub grows, daddy and I will graduate to chauffeurs, bed and breakfast organizers, chaperons, sensor-board and ethical committee. This goes without saying.

What I truly hope though, is that we also work our way into our son’s heart as his confidante, friend (someday later, not when he’s 8!) and inspiration.

Here’s to our 21, son!

Cheers!

Son, today is Women’s Day

Dear Son,

You’re only 20 days old today; so you’ll understand this a few years later; but no one can fault me for starting early.

We humans have a funny way of showing how we care. Sometimes we set aside days to honour people-mother’s, father’s days; sometimes we wait for occasions to express love- birthdays, anniversaries, valentines and tragically, funerals.

Today is a day set aside for women. All over the world, there are cards and roses and chocolates doing the rounds. However, at the same time there are women being ill-treated, shamed, raped and killed.

“But what can I do about it mum?” I see you asking me soon. So here’s a list I have ready for you.

Whether the woman you are dealing with is me, your mother, a friend, a colleague, a new love or a total stranger; first and foremost, respect her.
That also means respecting what she says. Even a no. She has her reasons and she doesn’t always owe you an explanation.

In most instances you will be physically stronger than her (unless in those special circumstances when she is better fit and decides to beat your ass 😉 ). Use your strength to make her life easier. If need arises, protect her.

In a world with ever decreasing charm, be chivalrous. Hold open a door for her, cook her breakfast and bring her flowers. PS- this is something your grandfather unfailingly did for his wife and daughter every 8th of March, every birthday and every anniversary.

Most of all, love her for who she is. Not who the world says she should be. Not for who you think she should be. She is a woman and has dreams, crazy emotions and a tremendous spirit. You won’t always understand her. In fact, she will often drive you nuts. Love her nonetheless.
Cherish her and know you are privileged if she chooses to share her heart with you.

Go out into the world and celebrate her son!

Then finally, we can have women’s day everyday and not just today!