Saturday, November 28, 2009

William wants to help

William seems to be adjusting just fine to having a little brother around. Two examples:

1. He came into my room one morning when I was pumping some milk for freezer storage ... and when I was done he picked up the pump, turned it back on, put it on his belly button, and said he was going to make some milk for Patrick, too. Umm... yeah. I tried to explain that only mamas can make milk ... but he wouldn't be dissuaded. So, we sat there for a few minutes until William said his (pretend) milk bag was full and ready to be put into the freezer, too. At least he loves his brother, even if he doesn't quite have the biology down yet.

2. He had a playdate today with a coworker's daughter. She recently got a small doll, because her mother is pregnant and they want her to get used to talking about having a baby around (hmmm- that would have been a good idea, had I thought about it!). At one point, when she put the doll down, William picked it up along with one of Patrick's burp cloths. He put the cloth on his shoulder, rested the baby on top of the cloth, and started walking around slowly patting the doll's back. Maybe we still should get William a doll so that way he's not so adamant about wanting to hold the *real* baby!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Successful Thanksgiving!

As you know from your diligent reading of this blog, we never know what we'll end up with here. It was therefore with much trepidation that I ordered a turkey and invited seven people over for dinner. My back up plan if the turkey was a disaster? Sending the driver out for multiple rotisserie chickens. Thankfully, we didn't have to resort to such drastic measures!

A few weeks ago, the import grocery store had a sign up to order turkeys for the holidays. Somehow time got away from me (that pesky baby!) and I didn't manage to get myself there until the Friday before Thanksgiving. The meat counter guy said he'd call me on Monday when our turkey came in. Monday came and went with no phone call ... so Tuesday evening I went to the store. The guy looked confused, but after some running around, eventually pulled out a 6.5kg (14 lbs) bird from a deep freezer. I still think I may have taken home someone else's bird!

Turkey in hand, I thought I was home-free. Wednesday, I set out to bake four pies - a simple procedure for someone accustomed to baking at least nine! Unfortunately, after being on for four hours, my little "Barbie" oven (as a coworker affectionately calls it, since it's only slightly larger than a toy oven she played with as a kid) started making funny noises. The pies were finished, but the first batch of yeast rolls failed.

Thankfully, my neighbor (coworker) was not using his oven for Thanksgiving, so Thursday morning we sent the turkey over there, with my mom running over to his apartment every 15 minutes or so to baste. His Barbie oven worked wonderfully, though the temperature was so uneven, the turkey was done an hour faster than expected!

Friends showed up, dishes were warmed (my oven could handle that task), and a delicious dinner was had. Except for the minor oven drawback, everything went very smoothly - quite unbelievable, actually! It was almost like we weren't even in India (until we were very thankful for Sarwary and Shabana staying late to help with the dishes!).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

God is Great!

Sarwary is continually telling me this for things big and small. She is happy to work for a family that lives so close to her house: God is Great. William is happy at his new school: God is Great. Patrick is born a boy and healthy: God is Great.

This morning, though, she had true reason to tell me. Her husband had been missing since Saturday afternoon. From what I gather from the story, he drank some bad home-brewed liquor and it made him a little crazy. Saturday afternoon he left the house at 2, and when she got home at 3, no one knew where he was ... and for five days there was no sign of him. Some husbands come and go (especially when liquor is involved), but her's never had. She admitted he would go out drinking, but said he always returned by 9 the next morning for work (he would wait to come home until after she left for work to avoid the inevitable scolding from her).

For as wonderful as Sarwary is for our family, I have found it difficult this last year to hear about her husband. She never brought it up, since that's not appropriate in the employer-employee relationship ... but out of curiosity, I asked once what her husband was doing - and got her honest answer. Were we in the US, where a single woman with a good paying job wouldn't need a dead weight husband, her life would be so different. But, we're not in the US. We're in India. And she's not part of the upper class where some cultural norms are starting to erode.

Thus, a missing husband to her is life-changing, and not in a good way. Even if her husband was half drunk all the time, at least he was home -- that was enough to keep people in the neighborhood from talking about her and her children and enough to keep people with bad intentions away from her house.

For instance, on Day Four of the missing husband, Sarwary had to go to my office to complete her security interview. Naturally, she wore one of her best saris. She was near tears when she arrived in the morning because someone in the neighborhood said something to the effect of: "your husband has only been gone four days and you're already dressing up." Say nothing of the fact that after work she would spend a few hours (and her hard earned money) getting a friend or an auto driver to take her around to different neighborhoods to look for him.

Greg and I, honestly, feared the worst, especially because of the possibility of her being left in limbo since you can't be a widow if a dead husband never surfaces. After all, what good can come of a person who was half crazy being missing for so long? It is so easy to overlook the people on the side of the road - between poverty, mental illness, people who don't want to be found, etc, finding one person amongst the many really is like finding a needle in a haystack. But through all this, Sarwary kept telling me, "God is Great," and her husband would come home. Her faith in these two simple tenets seemed so simple - and also like she would be set up for disappointment. If he didn't come home, what would she do?

The story, from the blog title, has a (relatively) happy ending. Yesterday I told her to go home early to start her search - she was hesitant (not wanting to lose her job), but I reassured her it was more important at this point for her to take care of her own family. As she was leaving, her brother in law who works in Saudi called; she took this as a good omen and set off with determination.

I could tell from the moment she stepped in our house this morning that her prayers had come true and that her God was still Great. She found him in a town about 20 KM (12 miles) from her house; how he got there is a mystery, since he left with no money. He was covered in mosquito bites and wearing a different shirt. It sounds like a friend who lives that direction had helped spread the word he was missing, and some tile-cutter told her husband to stay put in front of his workshop until Sarwary could come out to check if this bedraggled man was the missing one.

Her husband will stay with his mother for a week to recover - and I told her to take him to a doctor to make sure he doesn't have any of the various mosquito-borne illnesses. Tellingly, people in her neighborhood who had started to gossip about her, last night came to her house to offer their thanks that her prayers had been answered; her position in society was restored. God is Great.

What am I doing these days?

No posts on the blog, so you must think I'm really busy. Busy is relative. Patrick is doing well on the sleeping front - if I wake him up to feed him before we go to sleep around 9:30 or 10, then he'll usually wake up twice between then and 6AM. Usually, in this instance, means that's what he's been doing for the last week. And, he's only three weeks old, so all is subject to change!

During the day, I might cook with Sarwary (we've made some spinach soup and tried falafel from scratch which means from dried chickpeas and beans), I might go for coffee (I've expanded my knowledge of HYD coffee shops!), or I might just read -- all activities interspersed with feeding Patrick. I pick up William from school, eat lunch, and take a nap with Patrick and William (thankfully their afternoon naps are currently concurrent!). We all wake up and play for a bit (my mom playing with William, me feeding Patrick - notice any trends here?), then Greg comes home from work and we eat dinner. Another hour of play time, then William goes to bed ... then an hour of adult conversation, some reading, and we go to bed!

In short, not much different happens day to day, and the rhythm depends on how Patrick feeds and sleeps. William is generally in a good mood and "plays" well with Patrick about 90% of the time -- about the best we can ask for! Hopefully soon I'll have some deep thoughts to share, but for now you'll have to see if Greg can come up with any cultural insights or pithy posts for your enjoyment.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Though each child is of course unique, it's hard to resist comparing them, especially when Patrick is such an unknown entity at this point. Face it, babies don't have much of a personality when they're less than two weeks old. We like to think of it as the "blob" phase, where all they do is eat and sleep, with occasional periods of alertness. So, here are some observations of what we remember of William at this age and how Patrick is shaping up.

1. Patrick is not a ghost baby. This is a good thing! William was so fair, we constantly worried about him getting sunburned, which was stressful because the pediatrician said not to use sunscreen until he was 6 months old. Patrick's skin tone is darker than mine, so hopefully he'll take after Greg and tan rather than burn immediately.

2. Patrick spits up. A lot. Burp cloths were a nice accessory for William; we could use the same one for days on end "just in case." I think we go through about 3 or 4 a day with Patrick. But, no worries, it's just regular baby spit up. No one is concerned about digestion issues.

3. Patrick has really long fingers and toes. If he were a girl, he'd be all set for ballet since his second toe is longer than his big toe (good for pointe shoes!). He's not a girl, though, so perhaps he'll like playing the piano ... put those long fingers to a good use! William just seemed to have normal length digits.

4. Like William, Patrick naps better on his tummy - preferably when his tummy is on my tummy. He doesn't like being on his back unless he's at a 10+ degree angle - otherwise he seems to spit up more (which, obviously, wakes him up and makes him mad!). Case in point: he just woke up as I was typing this (I had put him in his baby basket on his back), cried until I picked him up, proceeded to spit up, and then went back to sleep on my shoulder.

5. Patrick has less hair, and it looks blonde-ish now. I was always surprised how much hair William had and that it never fell out. Patrick looks a little bit more like the baby pictures of me and my sisters - just a little fuzz on top! Only time will tell if he will be a chunky baby (like me, Beth and Nancy) or a skinny baby (like Greg and William).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Important education for William

Greg seems slightly concerned that William is lacking education on a key front: US sports. He (Greg) repeatedly reminds me that when he was William's age, he already knew the helmets for the pro-football teams. I tried convincing Greg that William knows other useful things (like being able to distinguish the sound of the water truck engine from an auto truck engine, thereby being able to determine if it is worth it to run to the window to watch - he likes the water truck because it stops outside our building, but auto trucks generally motor by too quickly for him to get to the window in time), but Greg didn't buy my argument.

As a result, we spent time with William this morning on two important tasks:

1. Reading the sports page of our local paper. This means William will learn the key cricket players since, of the three pages in the sports section, fully two are devoted to cricket. We'll see how long it takes for William to recognize the faces of the Master Blaster (aka Sachin Tendulkar) and MS Dhoni, India's top two players. Or how long it takes him to identify the uniforms of the various national teams (today we talked about India, Pakistan and Australia).

2. Even more important, learning how to make the "hook 'em horns" sign with his hand. William only recently has had enough small motor control to hold up more than his thumb or first finger. Holding up the first and pinky finger simultaneously was quite a challenge, but after about 20 minutes he was almost there. I think he should have it perfected by the time Nana and Grandpa Bob visit in December - Gmo and Grandpa Tod will have to help him practice when they visit.


You may not know what Bee-bo means or maybe you've forgotten
It's just the tiny hippo way of saying ... BELLY BUTTON!
(from Sandra Boyton's Belly Button Book)

Patrick's belly button made its appearance today. I'm pretty happy - it was kind of getting stinky. I don't remember William's umbilical stump being that smelly just before falling off, but perhaps that was an inconsequential detail with everything else going on when we had our first 8-day-old-baby.

Sarwary asked what we did with the stump -- I said we just put it in the trash. After all, it's kind of gross! With William, I considered putting it in a baggie and putting it in his baby box, but Greg promptly vetoed that idea as disgusting. After all, who wants to look at an umbilical stump one or thirty years later?

Sarwary told me two things that some Indians do. I have no idea how wide-spread these practices are - if it's just amongst her small community or a wider cultural phenomenon. After all, umbilical stumps aren't exactly a common topic of conversation.

1. Rather than throw it in the trash, the preferred method of disposal is to find a mouse-hole and put it in there. I'm not sure why it's better for a mouse to presumably eat the stump than have it burnt in the trash, and neither is Sarwary ... but, nonetheless, she says that's what they did for her three kids.

2. Sometimes, a woman who is having trouble conceiving will swallow the stump (umm... yeah... didn't really want to know that!). Sarwary was very careful to explain that the woman won't chew it - you have to swallow it whole and to facilitate this it's best to dip it in honey first. Thankfully, I don't seem to have any trouble having children, so this course of action was deemed not necessary for me.

Also, umbilical-stump-related, Sarwary has said I can now eat peanuts. I didn't tell her I already had a peanut butter sandwich when Patrick was two days old before she told me I wasn't supposed to eat peanuts! She was so serious about this that when she made idli (rice cakes) the other day, she made coconut chutney for me and peanut chutney for Greg and William (Greg prefers the peanut over coconut).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Last prego update: postpartum wrap up

Though the monthly checkups were (relatively) familiar and the birth itself was quite similar to my US experience, the postpartum stay deserves its own post. By nature of being who we are, we had no qualms telling people "no" or asking questions when things seemed a little strange, so we didn't have a negative experience by any means. We just had to keep on our toes for "different" things.

The first difference was actually in the delivery room, where we learned that each item used would be charged to our bill. Thus, nurses are hesitant to change things (like the cover on the delivery bed) unless you ask. For us, Rs 60 ($1.50) for a second or third cover isn't a big deal, but I could see how little charges would add up for some families. Thus, first task on hand was to explain to the nurses that we understood the charging system and they didn't have to ask twice if we were "sure" we wanted something -- at one point, this even included our midwife telling a nurse to put gloves on *both* hands!

We also later learned that the assisting nurses told the midwife they thought something was wrong with the baby at first, because Patrick had so little hair. I also held him for a comparatively long time right after birth, which made them also think something might be wrong since it seemed like I didn't want to let go of him. Thankfully, the midwife explained that many babies don't have any hair for months - and that many mothers like holding the baby right after birth as a reward for hard work.

The real differences came, though, once we got out of the delivery room and into the recovery room. Apparently, most Indian women delivering on the deluxe floor do very little for themselves postpartum. And, by very little, I mean next to nothing. As in, I went to go to the bathroom, and the "daya" (below a nurse) started following me. I had to explain that, really, I could walk to the toilet and handle my business myself. A few hours later, the daya heard the shower running and came rushing in the room -- Greg said it took him quite some effort to explain to her that I was OK, that I would call if I needed help, and that she really shouldn't go and try to help me shower.

(aside: the dayas also didn't speak much English or Telugu - Hindi almost exclusively - so all this is taking place with the very few words we had in common and lots of hand gestures)

The nursing staff was shocked to come into my room at one point and see me breastfeeding by myself. I'm really confused - still - about why this was so shocking, but according to our midwife, many women after delivery just sort of lie in bed and let a mother or mother in law or daya place the baby to the breast and hold it there while feeding. A few have even brought wet nurses to the hospital.

I was surprised later on when the (male) OB doing rounds was coming to check on me, and then postponed his check up because I was breastfeeding. We could never figure out if it was because he didn't want to intrude on "bonding" or if it was because it was considered improper for a man to be present. I'm hoping the former, but I can't quite rule out the later. When he came back, he only asked questions (no exam), so it wasn't as if I needed to move my body which would have disturbed a nursing baby.

In general, most people entering the room didn't say who they were or why they were there - which is more than slightly disconcerting when a nurse just enters and states: "Give me your baby." Needless to say, my reply was: "No. Please tell me who you are, why you need my baby, where you are taking him, and what you plan to do." It turned out to be harmless (getting his heal prick test done), but something like that would never happen in the US! Or, at least, it would be very uncommon. It was also difficult to handle because we never quite knew at first why a person was there - for Patrick? for me? for a routine thing? because they were concerned about something? Again, we got used to stopping the person mid-track and asking name and purpose.

When William was circumcised, the OB took him out of the room for about 15 min and then promptly brought him back in to nurse and calm him down. For Patrick, they brought in the NICU surgeon, used the "operating theatre", and wanted to keep him in the NICU observation unit for two hours. I got a few funny looks when I walked down to the NICU after 30 minutes to nurse him (what was I doing walking? why no wheel chair? why did I want to nurse him after that and not just let someone else take care of him?) - but as this was about 24 hours post-birth, I think the whole hospital staff must have decided that the crazy American mother just liked to do things her own way, so (thankfully) no one denied me entry to the NICU.

I haven't spent much time in NICUs (thankfully) but when we did take the tour of the one at Georgetown, I remember a few comfy chairs for mothers to nurse (or express milk while looking at their babies) and generally room for parents. Here, I was shown to a small side room with a plastic chair for nursing - and I didn't see any parents sitting around.

The food, needless to say, was Indian - and spicy! I actually liked it better than the bland hospital food I had with William. I never ate enough rice to please the nurses - but lunch and dinner each came with two to three cups of rice - very different from my regular diet. As it is expected that a patient will have an attendant with her at all times, two meals always came - which Greg was very thankful for. We had brought some food for him, but with no microwave, the prospect of cold leftovers wasn't too appetizing.

I'm sure I'll think of a few more and add to this later, but that's it for now - it's 9PM, William's asleep, Patrick's been asleep for about an hour, too -- which means I better go to sleep (or, rather, start my sleep installments...)