March 25, 2017

hope

parched land and dry wells everywhere
hot days, getting hotter as time passes
but dark clouds loom
and a small bit of green struggles to break free
hope

long days and longer nights
never-ending pile of deliverables
but an unexpected ping
and an offer to share the load
hope

a sleepless night and a tired morning
upheaval and uncertainty yet again
but wide smiles and tight hugs
from big mouths and little arms
hope

hope is easy. sometimes.

when what we want, happens
when how we envision, others see
when what we see, is beautiful
when whom we want, is there

but there are other times when
hope takes a rain check
hope goes missing
hope seems impossible
and hope is all but a lie

but don't stop dreaming
reach out
look up
hold someone
hope

read and write
sing and dance
run and jump
stretch and fly
hope

do what you do best
do your best
and hope

March 18, 2017

black dog

the dark cloud covers
but its approach you can't feel
till it is too late

March 7, 2017

is there an easier goodbye?

special covers,
lines highlighted,
the smell of time,
dog-eared pages.

choruses,
the one line that healed,
the one tune that choked,
scratched beyond recognition.

faded,
torn,
worn,
small.

gang of girls,
PJ parties,
chocolate and calorie sharers,
fellow drunks.

small,
spunky,
spirited,
scratched and dented.

it's never easy to say goodbye
to a missing book, a favourite tape, that pair of jeans, friends or a lovable car.

yes, i know change is the only constant.
i've learned it enough at school
and i've experienced it enough in life.

people come and people go, and it's the same with stuff.

keep the connections and the memories, and let everything else go.
that's what i tell myself, and that's what i've done, too.
i think.

because then, it's easier to say goodbye.
just slightly easier.

My baby couldn’t latch on to my breasts

This post was first published on Zenparent in November 2016.

I remember it like it was just yesterday. Nurses standing around me supposedly helping me understand Nursing 101, which was to get my six day-old daughter Aditi to breastfeed. She hadn’t figured out how to latch on, and we were both struggling. She because of hunger—she was yet to regain the birth weight that she had lost—and I because of the worst possible pain every time she tried to nurse. The nurses weren’t helpful in the least because all they did was to keep reiterating that breast milk was the best and that formula wasn’t the way to go, even if the child was crying due to hunger (these are also the same nurses who looked at me with disdain because I had decided to take an epidural.) Something in me snapped, and I decided that I couldn’t deal with this lack of sensitivity in addition to all the other things—hormones mainly—that I was dealing with. So I left the hospital and instead turned to the internet to find an answer to my nursing woes.

Breastfeeding support groups were a dime-a-dozen. Most of the forums were US and UK-centric but breasts are breasts and breastfeeding is breastfeeding whichever part of the world you’re in, so I began to read. I learned about the different holds—football (American, obviously!), cradle and side-lying are the ones that immediately come to mind—that had worked for different people, and the immense relief they felt on accomplishing what felt to me a mammoth feat. I tried them all and failed. The more I read, the more of a failure I felt. While words of encouragement were aplenty, they all had an undertone of sympathy—poor you, you aren’t able to do the one thing that most mums do and must do at any cost.

My mum told me a hundred times over to start Aditi on formula, but I wouldn’t hear of it. This, despite her telling me that she didn’t nurse my brother or me and that we grew up on Lactogen—something that I love to eat in powder form even today! In my defence, I had just moved back from the US a few months earlier and was fresh with information on how breast milk is the best milk. In addition to the La Leche League, the most famous support group for breastfeeding mothers around the world, I had been introduced to numerous other sites that had me convinced that if I didn’t breastfeed, I wouldn’t have a bond with my child, and that neither of us would be healthy in the long run. Most of the forums that were set up to offer support seemed militant in how they pushed you to breastfeed at any cost.

Try as I might, I didn’t succeed, but instead of listening to the sensible advice from my mum, I turned to technology again. Enter (drum roll) breast pump. As the name implies, this gadget—available in single and double—pumps the breast for milk. It mimics a child’s suckling motion and ‘tricks’ the body into lactating. It was tough at first because I was not only dealing with engorged breasts but a urinary tract infection thanks to the episiotomy that left me with a high fever and unbearable pain.

The principle behind nursing is simple. You feed a baby whenever it is hungry. It takes the body a little time to understand how much milk and how often the baby needs it, but once it gets it, it gets it. End of story. With pumping, however, it isn’t that simple. Since you can’t pump just when the baby is ready for a feed, you always have to be one step—or one pump—ahead. You’re on a schedule, and one that can’t be changed so easily because the body is ready with the milk whether the baby is or isn’t, so you better pump it out!

I got through four months in this completely mad fashion. I barely got any rest, but I was sure that I was doing the right thing. Breast milk was best, right? When Aditi neared the five-month mark, her paediatrician asked me to introduce her to solids. I don’t know if it was coincidence, but she also began to sleep a lot better from then on. With better rest and sleep comes…ummm…more sense? I realised that I couldn’t go on pumping endlessly because it was taking a toll on me. (Hats off to those working mums who continue to do it through their child’s first year or more!) So I slowly reduced my pumping, and by the time she was six months old, I was completely done. She was on the bottle drinking a formula called NAN which stank to the high heavens, but I didn’t smell like a milk factory any longer so I didn’t care!

When my son was born two years after this experience—yes, many ask how I had the guts to have one more child—I decided even while he was inside my tummy that I wouldn’t put myself through the experience of pumping even one more time. I couldn’t. If he didn’t latch on, he was going to be on formula. With steely determination, I put him on me minutes after he was born and voila! He latched on immediately like he’d done it all his life! (Well, yeah, he had!) I was relieved on so many counts. I could sleep when he slept, I wouldn’t have to wash and sterilise bottles, I wouldn’t have to get out of bed at night to warm up the milk, and most importantly, I wasn’t a failure. It’s funny how that thought that I had failed with Aditi had stayed with me. We got through nearly 9 months of nursing (not exclusively, though) until one day, he pushed me away. And that was that.

I have shared these experiences with my children and the conversations they bring about are always interesting. I’ve corrected my son Yuv quite quickly when he hinted that he was smarter because he latched on while Aditi didn’t, but I can see that she still thinks about it and wonders why she wasn’t able to. It will take a series of conversations that will come with time for people to understand that nursing isn’t the only determinant of how good a mother you are. It’s not even only having a child biologically, and it’s not even only being a mum to a human. Yes, the love and bond between a mother and her children is special, but so are the bonds of many other relationships—and they don’t have to be only by blood or breast milk.

I started this story saying that I remember it like it was just yesterday, but it’s been nearly 11 years since Aditi was born. I’m happy to say that I have a close bond with both my children despite one not being breastfed at all. We are all in pretty decent health, too. Yes, there are moments (many) where we all get on each other’s nerves, but it’s not as if the breastfed one bothers me any less.

Why this long ramble? Because I hope my story brings some comfort to new mums going through the struggle, tending to a new born, accepting the changes to your body. Hang in there, ignore preachers, chat with your friends (preferably ones without children), and get a glass of wine once in a way. You’ll at least get a few hours of sleep. And so might your child.



Rekha Raghunathan is a full-time mum and editor and a part-time writer. Madras and Bangalore are her homes, and Roger Federer is her obsession.