Thursday, July 24, 2008

Work and Maternity Breaks

Breaking News: I was asked to resign from my job... because am on maternity leave. NOT FAIR.

I had an engaging role working out of home. The role necessitated occasional travel which I was (and still am) willing to do leaving Button behind with my mom. The head of the organization who took this call to let me go has 4 children herself. She worked out of home for the same organization several decades ago when she took 4 maternity breaks herself. Everybody agrees that I did a great job and that they "wish" they could wait another month for me to return, but no, progress on a couple of assignments is too fast to not have a person on the job NOW. I was openly told that the question of hiring somebody else would not have come up had I not gone on a break.

Two Questions:
a) I was open about the fact that I would go on maternity leave several months ago. Why did it not strike them then that a replacement would have to be found for a few months? Also, would it not take them time to train a new person and bring him or her to speed? It seems illogical to insinuate that I am somehow less capable now, given that am a new mother, especially coming from a lady who is a mother 4 times over.

b) Is it possible that this whole arrangement fell through because the organization is a US based one and am in India? Are Indians treated below par?

I am trying to not let guilt or resentment take over, but they do surface every now and then. As if coping with a newborn is not taxing enough!

ps:Two other posts dealing with similar topics.

Y on Working Moms
ITW on Maternity becoming a Career Hazard

Friday, July 11, 2008

The long journey home...

8th July: Wake up in the morning at 4.00 a.m.. Feed Button. Start packing large suitcase with baby clothes, baby toys, diapers, nappies, liners, rubber sheet, plastic sheet, burp cloths, towels, brush, baby oil, top-to-toe wash, lotion, powder, medicines, medical records... etc. Rush to doc to check if am back to normal, a month after delivery. Run to the baby shop to buy baby items of next size(forgot am going home for two months!) Run back. Feed baby. Start clearing cupboards (When the lady of the house is away, the maids will play!). Talk to boss about where to ship my stuff. (Another mail on story of my job follows in a few days). Try to get Button to adapt to bottle-with-a-liner. Surprised that he adapted in a few seconds!! Talk to husband endlessly about handover-of-household-routines (never believing he would stick to even one of 'em, but what the heck, we live on hope!) Finally sleep for a few hours after the first feed in the night.

9th July: Barely make it to the airport in time. Mom has one suitcase (medium) with her stuff. I have one suitcase (small) with my stuff. My husband has a laptop and a small bag. Button has two large suitcases, one medium suitcase, one diaper bag, one feeding bottle backpack and a carseat (all for a 300 rupee infant ticket!) My husband in all his wisdom had bought full fare tickets on Jet Airways for us and managed to get 3 upgrade vouchers to get us to the "royal" business class on an all-economy flight (men, sigh!)

In-flight we were instructed a few million times to feed the baby during ascent and descent, as infants do not know how to yawn (nonsense!). Also to bundle him up as he may feel cold and to plug in cotton wool into his ears. Button had other plans though. He managed to shake his head violently enough to get the cotton wool out each of the 20 times that we tried. Also hated the blanket. Refused to suckle. Instead yawned copiously during both ascent and descent. Babies sure have the own minds!

10th July Mom and dad worked overtime to set up a system for clothes and diaper changes. Button refuses to come to mom except for 'Inga'(food in his language). Prefers trusted maid K over me. Likes his great granddad's Shakespeare declamations (wonder why at 91 years of age he chose to recite Mark Antony's speech to Button who is barely 5 weeks old!). Also likes his grandpa's nonsensical babble. A typical example is "Kanna, mokutickinal, grahhy, peetombom, ffaffa, jikoko, wednomini!!" (perhaps it makes perfect sense to the little one!)

My mom calls Button "Pattaani" meaning 'green pea' in Tamizh. My dad has begun calling him "Takkali" (Tomato), "Muttakos" (Cabbage) and "Tarboojini" (Water melon)

Button loves the sound that a friendly lizard makes in our bedroom (strange tastes!)

He loves the sounds of birds chirping in the garden too (Help, we only have crows and pigeons in Bombay!)

Cries if people talk to each other and stop fussing over him for more than 5 minutes at a time. A typical conversation between my parents goes like this -
Mom: "R, we must finish our pending bank work soon enough.My sweetheart, my little darling, my pot of gold, apple of my eye. We only have three months. Honey, sweetie pie"
Dad: "Nimponsui, jijiloti,hugijoti.Yes, I have processed my papers. polikutti, kotiharra, biscofoji, wawarani. Am waiting for your signatures only. jugijugi, kohimera"
Wah, what a lovey-dovey couple!

11th JulyAm luvving it now. No worries of how to dry my clothes, maid worries or cook problems. Am more relaxed and able to bond with Button better. He is growing up to show his own tiny spirit and mind now. Am looking forward to seeing his personality grow.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Guilt. Sleep. Thrills.

It has been one month of life with baby Button! Finally some pics to share with you.

Guilty. Typically, motherhood is picturized as a baby feeding at a mother's breast. Breastfeeding is praised to the skies and the virtues of a mother who can feed her baby with plenty of milk are written everywhere. In my case, I had a trouble-free picture-perfect pregnancy... I imagined that I would be a fount of milk with my baby growing up on the abundant milk that I generated. The bible that most people follow "What to expect in the First Year" talks of storing extra milk and the right techniques to breastfeed etc...innocently, after reading it, I imagined I would have so much extra milk that my baby would be able to bathe in it! In the first harrowing week, Button woke up every hour to feed (and whimpered for more after I was done). We made sure that he latched on properly, the lighting was right, the bed was okay etc. Finally, we went to the doc in panic. I was exhausted and stressed out and wondered what was wrong. My pediac gave a simple solution - "Be practical, he is hungry, give him a top feed" (read formula milk for the non-parents!). I was devastated. I felt like I had failed some important entrance exam by not having enough milk. It took me two weeks to rationalize that it is more important to keep the baby healthy, happy and on combination feed(formula and mother's milk), than to keep him hungry and on mother's milk alone. Now he is a lot more settled, sleeps a lot more and funnily I seem to be producing a lot more milk, although not enough to exlusively feed on my milk alone!

You never know when guilt as an emotion catches up with you. I always thought that being aware of one's actions would remove guilt from one's life. In this case, much as I rationalized, books, elders in the family and self created notions (not to mention ignorance) pushed me to this negative emotion. Its a downward spiral after guilt settles in. Thanks to an understanding mom and mom-in-law (who repeatedly quoted the Gita that I should try and leave the fruits of labor to the Big Man above) that I pushed aside my prejudice. Sigh! So much for being an Sec A+ well educated yuppie mom.

Oh, my mom has been plying me with milk- lehiyam (a south indian Chavanprash kind of concoction), garlic boiled in milk (UGH!), Satavri powder, Saabudana kheer, Mother's Horlicks and Lactonic (a grand total of a litre of milk everyday). Am gagging!

Sleepy.The one luxury I miss now is... no, not movies or martinis....but blessed sleep! For someone who loves her zzz time, Button is a revelation. How he manages to wake up without an alarm clock every 3 hours is a mystery! It is forward and onward to a routine of me feed - bottle feed - burp - change nappy - continue bottle feed - change nappy - burp - rock to sleep!

Thrilled.He smiled at my husband yesterday (he completed one month yesterday!) His first social smile. Nazar na lage but oh, my heart warmed to him and I was thrilled to bits. His smile just lights up the room and our lives! He has been regularly smiling at my husband and my mom ever since... still hasn't at me, but what the heck, I live on hope and all the milk my mom feeds me!

Footnote: Am off to my hometown for a month just to miss the messy Mumbai monsoon. More blogging from home.