Category Archives: Worries and rants

Stop being a “mother” to grown ass men

This Mother’s day do everyone a favour.

  • It is not a matter of pride if he needs your help to wake up for an important job interview or for anything else for that matter
  • Rise above the feeling of being needed and let him know where things are around in the kitchen
  • It is not cute for anyone to leave their unfinished coffee in a mug next to their bed. Don’t let him believe it is okay
  • Same for drain hair and not flushing the toilet properly
  • Let him have the capacity to figure out where his next meal is coming from
  • Don’t sit and worry about his smoking and drinking habits. Accept that if he is fucking up with his body, it is his doing and not yours
  • If you don’t like how some chores are done. Ask for it to be done again. If you still don’t like how it is done, think about whether it is YOU who is unwilling to let go of something
  • If you think he is doing it to get out of chores, have an adult conversation and be willing to be seen as uptight/nagging/perfectionist/plain ol’bitch. Step aside and get the damned thing done again
  • Let him take your parents to the doctor if needed
  • Let him fold his own clothes and do the laundry
  • Let him buy his own clothes. PLEASE.
  • Definitely DO NOT buy his staple underwear. If you want him try something exotic – hey! I am not coming in between you both
  • Take care of him when unwell but please don’t cut his toast in tiny squares or rewarm that tea for the tenth bloody time.  A flu won’t kill him. He can learn that and so can you.
  • Allow your husband to put your baby to bed
  • Don’t be the only one who knows when the vaccinations are due
  • Don’t talk to him in a baby voice outside of the bedroom
  • If he wants to do a keto-diet, let him do the meal prep
  • Don’t let ANYONE tell you whom you can or cannot talk to
  • Don’t cover for your colleague who cannot keep track of an important meeting on an overseas trip. You are not being a team player by doing so.
  • You don’t need to bring coffee or tea or any fucking beverage to your large group of friends or colleagues. Get them to do it themselves
  • Don’t always be the note taker in team meeting
  • Don’t stand for an inappropriate joke. Don’t preach but don’t forgive either. He should know better
  • Make sure you get an apology when due
  • Stand behind your NO. Let it mean just that

The meaning of who is a mother has evolved with time. What needs work is the expectation from the role. Let the men in your life pick up their share of the weight. If it feels like you are doing this out of love or care, think about how true that really is. If it feels like you are giving up some sort of power, think about what it is taking for you to hold on to it. This is not just about you. This is about respect, responsibility and a fixing of a larger problem that is long overdue.

To the men, you are adults. You are not chilled out or forgetful or oblivious. You have simply grown used to feeling entitled to another person’s physical and emotional labour. Step the fuck up.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

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Anyone with a pulse can care better for my child

So I wasn’t really the nurturing, maternal type ever.  I could never see myself as a mother when I was a teen or even in my early (ok fine! even mid) 20s. I don’t think it is a default setting as a woman and I definitely didn’t find anything amiss.

So ever since I have become a mother, I have been plagued with self-doubt. Am I cut out for this? What if I am a terrible mom? What if my child realizes he could have gotten better? I am someone who revisits conversations from 10 years ago on what I could have said differently so I am no stranger to anxiety or self-doubt. But this felt different.

The difference was while I believed I was totally not cut out for this, it seemed like everybody else around me also had little confidence in my ability to keep my child alive, safe and raise him well. Take him out for a walk and someone would tell me to cover his head and ears. Next time someone else would tell me to not cover him up so much for he could get overheated. “Don’t carry him in wrap, it’s awful for his spine”, they said. “That carrier is not ergonomic maybe you should try a wrap?” someone else said. “How could you carry him in your arms to cross the road? It is ridiculously unsafe” said the nth person.

There was an entire phase when strangers would walk up to me asking if I am not feeding my child enough because he is reed thin. Eventually when I had to start formula, I cannot keep track of the number of people who thought it was their moral responsibility to tell me about the virtues of breastfeeding as though I wouldn’t have gotten the memo. I worked in Nestle for crying out loud. I once got breastfeeding advice from a man on a plane! I will do a separate post on breastfeeding itself but long story short, I really wish people who breastfeed chill out a little. There is no need to behave like vegans on this one. Ha! So many offences in one stroke.

Every time this happened, I would come back home and wonder how is it possible that everyone knows more than me. I asked my mom and she laughed it off saying as many mouths that many opinions. She asked me to trust my instinct and said I would know what is best for my child. I figured then would not be a good time to confess about how I don’t seem to possess any such instinct.  I google every movement of my child only to end up worrying that he might be in grave danger at all times if I believe parenting websites. I mean why shatter the good faith one person seems to have in me.

But the gnawing feeling does not really vanish ever. On good days, the voice in my head says, “this child is too good. He deserves better than you.” On the more trying ones, it doesn’t have to say anything. The “I told you so” hangs in the air.

When I step back and think about where any or all of this is coming from, I am also struck by how this happens only to me and not my husband. No one ever walks up to my husband to tell him how he can do better. The mere fact that he is choosing to spend time with his child is more than good enough. So many people mention to me how lucky I am that he is such a good parent. I am truly grateful and yes he is exceptionally good with our child. But the bar feels low. It is like you can be a great dad but whatever you do as a mom, you do because you are a mom.

I was not expecting a medal or recognition on a regular basis for what I do. This is not like how I say I don’t want gifts but expect them on my anniversary and birthday. I am being honest here. I am not ranting about how underappreciated mothers are because I know how much I have taken my own for granted. Yes universe I hear you. You can stop laughing now.  I am just pondering out loud on how while I didn’t want constant praise, I never really signed up for the best mom award either. And yet, here I am in a race that I didn’t know I was running.

I am not looking for praise, but I am looking forward to a time when someone doesn’t think I am fucking up my child.

Till then, “come on anxiety naanum neevum kai kothundu nadakalam” (Translation: Come on anxiety, let us hold hands and walk together)

Tip #2:

Don’t go and creepily appreciate some mom extra just because of this. It is incredibly fake and there is a month of May to do just that. So save it. Unless someone is harming their child (literally harming. Not in the ‘in 20 years from now he will need therapy because he fell asleep while nursing’ kind of way) don’t say anything. Trust me your silence will be so valued that you might even be offered a pedestal in the temple they are building for my husband.

 

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Normal or…

One of the most often asked in the first few months after giving birth has been “normal or…” It’s a question left hanging where many don’t even want to take the dreaded C- word. I always found it very strange that it is perfectly all right to ask such a private question and I can explain why. Whenever I have been asked this question and I have replied back saying “yes I had a vaginal birth” people immediately broke eye contact and/or changed topics. If you cannot handle hearing the word vagina, why would you ask this question? But it is incredible how an assumed shared experience makes it perfectly all right to suddenly ask someone a question about their nether region.

My problem with this question stems from the intent. If you were asking me this out of concern for my well being and recovery, it is a different story. But we all know that in most cases, it is a question to evaluate if someone has suffered the right amount and is worthy of the respect given along with the title of “mother”.

The conversation around this began around the third trimester when conversationally I would be asked if I had a birthing plan. And my response had always been “my plan is to get this thing out”. After a laughter that clearly indicated no amusement, would begin this conversation on how these days women just prefer a C-section because it’s easier and can be fit into a busy work schedule. This would be followed by a tsk tsk and how doctors also just prefer a C-section. The unspoken message in the air being how women these days don’t have it in them to bear the pain or prioritize their lives over this miracle of birth.

Important side note: There are many reasons why one would choose a birthing experience over another. I am not advocating for any one way. What I am assuming is that women are capable of identifying and gathering information they need to best make a choice that would suit their needs. Novel concept?

Post birth is the next competition of hours in labour. I have stopped answering the question on hours of labour simply because every single time I have, the response has been how someone else had x + few more hours of pain. Then there is the epidural conversation. Now I am someone who is not embarrassed to say I am pro-drugs. I am in favour of the medical advancements being made and if there is a way to manage pain without causing significant harm there is nothing like it. I have absolutely nothing to prove or so I thought. But when the time came, I did feel like a lesser mortal asking for help.

I was left wondering how we ended up with such an idealization of birth. How did we come to make gold standards of many things that are particularly difficult for many women especially for those who choose to maintain an identity outside of motherhood. Of course, if you want to visualize that your body is opening up like some flower while listening to some Tibetan chants, you should be free to do so but what is unfair is for anyone to wield their choice with exaggerated benefits of a method that is impractical, unpleasant and quite frankly impossible for many women.

Yes “natural” is good but not everything that happened in the olden days is necessarily the best (infant mortality and maternal mortality rates can probably attest to this). The movement around this began with the intent of giving women the choice to make informed decisions pertaining to their bodies but has become another way to control, dominate and judge women. What this results in many a time are unrealistic expectations and a feeling of guilt even before the parenting journey has begun.

We need important conversations around abuse during birthing, informed consent, taking women’s pain more seriously and empowering women to feel their best while focusing on the health of the unborn. Instead what we have devolved into is a slugfest of wearing pain as honour and a sense of martyrdom to justify inadequate support.

Now as promised:

Handy tip while visiting a new mom:

When you are about to ask someone if they had a “normal or….” delivery, pause. Think about why you want to know.

  • Is it out of care?
  • Is it to share your birthing story when it is not warranted?
  • Is it to share some new found nugget of gold on child birth that you cannot hold in?
  • Is it in any way shaming the person for the choices they may have made?

Think about these questions before asking. Irrespective of the experience they underwent, the person is healing. They don’t need your bullshit.

P.S: This didn’t fit in the post but I needed to get it off my chest. Your birthing experience doesn’t have to be about absolute suffering. Neither does it have to be magical or pure or <insert any word typically used with getting high>. It can be – meh, whatever, okayish or even I really don’t recall. It is FINE. There are shades in this spectrum my friend and you pick you.

 

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Next chapter: Motherhood

When I started writing about my struggles with infertility, I constantly felt isolated and saw all people with children as homogeneous and part of one large happy (albeit exclusionary) club. I could not have been more wrong. As the famous saying goes, “the grass on whichever side I am on sucks” – from the inside this club is ridiculously claustrophobic and strangely isolating at the same time.

Motherhood is peddled to be THE most magical experience, the MOST satisfying, the 42 to your life’s questions. I don’t think people are necessarily colluding to lie and convince others to have kids to ruin their lives; but at the same time I cannot help wonder why does no one talk about the banality of this experience with slivers of joy when you are awake enough to spot it. What keeps us from being honest about how fucked up it really is and admit that it is horrible at times without having to constantly caveat that we don’t necessarily hate our children. Why doesn’t anyone talk about how it feels to be trapped in a never-ending saga but hopelessly in love?

I have complained before about how exclusionary it is when people with children constantly say “you will not understand until you have kids”. I am going to try and put my experiences into words to bridge this divide. I think the more people we can have understanding how messed up all of this is, the better. This is not to say that I am the gold standard on anything and of course you can be a part of the #notallmoms camp. Maybe you felt you were born to fill this role, maybe your milk ducts were always your friend and maybe your child self-soothed to sleep. But I find the misery in the commonality of our experiences a lot richer than the uniqueness that we believe we are born into. So here goes nothing.

I will be writing about the non-existence of this instinct that I am supposed to have as a mother, what it means to secretly fear that your partner is the better parent and your child loves him more, the feeling of total inadequacy that began even before I was wheeled out of the labour room and dealing with the guilt of knowing how you ought to be grateful but instead are angry most of the time.

Other topics of conversation could include how most parenting websites seem to be written by white people, what it means to read about French parenting and realizing that it may not work in India, the different sounds of a breaking heart when your baby pees on the paper you wrote his day schedule on and most importantly small handy tips on what not to say to other parents. For example – suffering is not a competitive sport. If a new parent is complaining about lack of sleep or difficulty with feeding, it is not necessary for you to offer a worse story or remind them of terrible twos. Listen and offer coffee or something stronger. Be a friend.

Hop on! We have a lot of ground to cover and the same rules as before apply. Save your advice for another forum and your angst is always welcome.

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Not being treated like an adult because you are not a parent

One of the things that drives me bat shit crazy is how it is assumed that the husband and I just sit around on large wads of cash, doing absolutely nothing other than sipping on wine and watching Netflix. If you are suspicious about how an imaginary scenario can be so specific, it is simply because I basically strung together everything that has ever been asked about us simply because we don’t have kids.

It may come as a surprise, but we still have full-time jobs, bills to pay, taxes to worry about, medical appointments and other “fun” adulting things to do even though we don’t have to care for a tiny human. Whether it is at work or with extended family or with friends, there is always this awkward conversation where people try and guess what we do with all our “free” time or why do we need time off since we anyway don’t have “serious commitments”  like children.

The expectation to stay on longer at work, to show up for family stuff you didn’t sign up for, to cover for family friends is sometimes flattering, I mean who doesn’t like feeling wanted?! But the assumption that either of us are twiddling thumbs or don’t need to consciously carve out personal time is infuriating.

Statements like “You won’t understand, you do not have kids” or “you don’t know exhaustion until you have had sleepless nights with a baby” are simply exclusionary. Yes, I may not have the life experience of raising a human but neither am I sitting to watch paint dry. I am not taking away from the hard work that goes into parenting but when you look around you will see that everyone is trying. Working moms/dads, stay-at-home moms/dads, people with aging/ailing parents, people trying to pay off medical bills, people straddled with loans working different jobs, you name it. Some struggles are just less apparent than others.

I have read many articles such as this one or this one – some more kind than the others but most in a similar vein. Across many cultures where busyness is now a status symbol, it is hard for me to not see what you do as taking a moral high ground simply by being a parent. Feel free to vent and cry, I want to be there for you. But don’t pinch my cheeks and sigh when I offer help. Not advice – actual help. If someone is just offering you advice, feel free to kick them in their most vulnerable area.

Parenting is the most non-secret, secret club. Not being able to break into this club sucks big time and many times is bloody lonely. I love hearing about your kids, seeing their pictures – truly. I sympathize with your pregnancy struggles – really do. But I have been in enough situations where not being a member of this club keeps me out of so many conversations. I am not saying don’t have conversations on birth plans, how much/how little sleep your little one is getting or about switching from breastfeeding to formula or preschool selections or arranging for childcare. They are important to you, you are important to me therefore they are important to me. I am not blaming anyone at the slightest but for the sake of other women like me; I want to also say that many of us feel left out beyond a point. Also, it sucks when you chuckle or patronizingly smile when we share something from work or about struggling relationships.

All I want to say is that I may never understand what you are going through but I want to, and I am working on it. All I am asking for are two things:

1) Please return the favour and respect my life experiences as well

2) Allow and trust me to help you so that I can be/do better

#Endofrant

 

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Temples, faith and dissonance

We were on this road trip with our parents to this temple called the Garbharakshambika literally translating into the Goddess who is the protector of the womb. It is located near Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu and believe it or not, is very easy to find using Google Maps.

Flashback: We have fielded many suggestions around applying some kumkum from some temple to wearing some thread on the left hand. A visit to this temple was something that came up over and over from relatives and it was something we never acted on. I was able to park it aside with the excuse of undergoing treatments and therefore not wanting to do road trips. But once we decided to stop all treatments, we lost that excuse and it was hard to ignore the plea of “there is no harm in trying”.  So off we went with a seething husband waiting to connect his fist to the face that made this suggestion in the first place.

What is strange about this temple is how new-age it is. There is a dedicated website (feel free to look it up. I have no intention of ruining my day with sponsored ads by posting the link here) explaining the history, instructions on how to consume the prasad and most importantly, how it can be couriered with blessing to U.S, UK, Canada etc. There are also testimonials but again all by NRIs as though domestic clientele is not worth bragging about.

As we were entering the temple, the lady selling flowers on the other side of the entrance, yelled out saying buying flowers as an offering is great for putrabhaagyam (fortune of having a son). That got the ball rolling.

Outside the administration room (where one goes to pay for the rituals and prasad) there is a board in Tamil explaining how there is no need to stop on-going medical treatments in order to make an offering at the temple. In fact, it strongly encouraged continuing with medical treatments.

Walk further in, there are cows grazing and women in three clear categories:

  • Category 1: Women here to pray to have a baby
  • Category 2: Heavily pregnant women who are praying for a safe birthing experience
  • Category 3: Women with babies who have come back to offer thanks

As everyone stands to look at the deity, the main priest offering prayers inside the sanctum summons the Category 1 women to line up with the ticket bought, a 5-rupee coin, a small bottle of nei/ghee (clarified butter) and a coconut. This isn’t some discrete announcement or a tacit understanding but more like an angry man bellowing at a room of about 50-60 people.

Then in groups of 4, we were asked to sit at the threshold of the sanctum and the priest took the stuff from our hands to rest it at the feet of the deity. Sitting there it is hard to not notice things like the palpable sadness in the women around me, the fact that our husbands are not expected to sit alongside us, that the priest is churlish to a point that makes me wonder if he is mad at us for not being able to do the one thing that is expected of us.

I was also incredibly conscious that I was basically sitting at a threshold of a temple asking for absolution. As a feminist, was I disrespecting the way paved for me by all the work done in the past? As an educated woman, did I fight hard enough against this? As an educator, am I no longer a role model for my students when I preach rationality? But what if this works, would I become a statistic on the website in the favour of this ritual? Was I going crazy thinking this would work?

The four of us were then asked to put some kolam on the threshold of the sanctum and place the 5-rupee coin on the design. Now the other three women drew a star with two intersecting triangles and in my head, I was like everyone obviously has seen/read the Da Vinci Code. But I cannot draw straight lines with a pencil let alone rice powder so I drew a basic flower imagining that I could place the 5-rupee coin at the centre. Clearly, I didn’t meet the brief since the priest scowled, redrew a star on top of my flower and placed the coin on top of it, not trusting me with anymore tasks.

We were then given back our small bottles of nei/ghee and sent on our way with instructions on consuming it for 48 days.  As I walked back to my family, I was struck by how even though I come from incredible privilege (caste, colour of my skin, ableness, education, economic background, access to medical care, voice, you name it) in this temple I shrunk my presence without being explicitly asked to do so. I walked slower, with lowered shoulders, I struggled to find my voice when the priest barked something at me and most importantly, I experienced guilt.

Fast forward: The 48-day thing didn’t work. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt. The rational part of me, of course, didn’t think it would work. But clearly miracles happened to someone right?  I was just hoping it could have been me.

Other things I noticed:

  • This temple is dedicated to a goddess who is dedicated to solving only the women’s problems. There is another section in the temple with another god for men but guess what, that God deals with “general health problems”
  • There is an ecosystem around the temple where there are flowers to please the goddess and chappal stands. BUT there are also a few stores on the parallel street to the temple selling porn. Loving how this “ecosystem” is committed to the whole experience
  • All the paintings in the temple explaining the story have incredibly fair skinned people. Because you know, if you are dark-skinned and struggling with infertility then even God cannot save you
  • How the word “luck” was thrown around so many times and most of the women in Category 3 came with twins. Awfully coincidental?

temple-clipart-kovil-5

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Not everything starts on a Monday

To set context for this rant, let me begin by stating that I am a bit finicky. No surprise there.

I am someone who will continuously miniaturize my handwriting so that I don’t spill into the next day in my weekly planner. If I had days-of-the-week underwear, I wouldn’t wear them out of order. I organize my To-Do list (when I have a choice) in the decreasing order with most to do on a Monday and then Friday being reasonably chill. I think it is sacrilegious to take a Crocin from the middle of the pack instead of following the line (across or vertical – I am chill and very open like that) or to stack books with only some of the spines visible.

I guess you get the picture.

But coming back to my story/rant –

After multiple cycles of Clomid + Progesterone, I willed myself to start IUI. I showed up at the clinic ready to knock the cycle out of the park but a quick scan revealed that my follicles weren’t looking great and the doctor predicted that the eggs will be of poor quality.

This was infuriating for two reasons:

1) I re-read my emails thrice before sending them out and here my unsupervised follicles were doing a shoddy job.

2) I had pushed back a month of work travel so clearly while I am busy clearing my schedule to make this work, my body was not being a team player.

Anyhoo…the doctor recommended a month of oral contraception and regular scans as a performance improvement plan for my shady follicles. So I went to the chemist armed with a new prescription. Side note – in most parts of India, the chemist bhaiya/anna is an integral part of any journey you are on. If you stop buying pads for two months, he will suggest a Pregasure test when you go to buy Combiflam. So when I went from buying ovulation sticks to progesterone to birth control; his surprise was legit and as a stakeholder in this decision, he did vocalize it. I explained everything and now we are cool. But I digress…

This is the pack and before you yell about its expiration date – it is an image off the internet.

28414-loette-levonorgestrel-ethinyl-estradiol-packaging

Observe closely. This pill is supposed to begin from day 1 of the cycle. The design assumes your cycle would obviously start on a Monday. I mean which woman’s body would dare to be rebellious enough against the very artificial markings of time? Further, scans are prescribed based on the days of the cycle therefore days of the week have little meaning. Now you can tell me that not everyone who is on the pill needs to plan for a scan and I will say, “Excellent point my friend, but would you rather not check your weekends on iCalendar instead?”

Besides, what happens if I need to start on a Wednesday? Do I even then begin from Monday or worse break pack from the middle? *gasp*

I really want to know what could have led to this decision of using days of the week instead of the number of days in the cycle. Is it a “differentiator” that 3 men in a room came up with?

Man 1: Well, everyone has days in numbers on their packaging. We should stand out in the world of contraception and help women calendar their week

Man 2: That’s a great insight!

Man 3: Great! Beers everyone?

Am I being catty? Yes. Am I making assumptions about someone’s gender? Yes. Am I falling back on stereotypes to make a point? Yes. Is it unfair to the men who want to be helpful and actually care? Probably Yes. If you reversed the situation and deployed the same logic, would I be mad? Hell yeah! But who are you kidding? Men willingly using oral contraception? Ha!

But as a valued customer (for the sheer number of times I have had to go on this pill!) I can tell you that it is fucking annoying to see this pack and count the empty blisters to know when to go for a scan!

But for all this ranting, each time I had to start a new strip it HAS been on a Monday. So either my brain is so nitpicky that it willed my body to sync with a poorly designed pack or maybe those three men were onto something.

Hmmm…

P.S: Other thoughts in my head as I stared at this each night – what is with that logo? What pose is it advocating for? Why the pink arrows? Why three arrows from Sunday to Monday when everything else is two? Is it because it feels longer? Sigh…so many more thoughts! Ugh!

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