Sitting on the fence of parenthood, and thinking about my parents

In my 28th week of pregnancy, I’m literally on the fence of motherhood. This is not a fence of indecisiveness, but more of a time mandated eventuality. In another 12 weeks give or take, I hope to be a mother. And between reading up on what I need to buy, should I bother setting up a nursery, should we co-sleep or put the baby in his own room etc. etc., it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that parenting is going to be way more difficult than making mundane choices on gear and feeding and diapering.

For instance, what kind of a parent will I really be? If my personality is any precursor, I’m probably going to be loving, stressed out and impatient. I’m going to have to learn a few things about myself. What really makes me sit down and think, a little bit in fear almost, is that I’ve never had to be a role model for anyone until now. I’ve never had to watch how I behave, react to situations but now I will because my child will not just learn from what I say, but from what I do. I don’t think there’s anything scarier than that. Me, as a standard for human behavior.

This makes me think back to my own parents, about whom I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. For one, I think my parents were perfect, of course. How else would they have made me perfect? (that’s not an original, it’s from Mindy Kaling). But jokes apart, as it happens with time, you only remember the big important things about your childhood. And mine was a very happy one. Sure I remember not having that Rs. 100 Barbie doll because my father couldn’t afford to splurge on that stuff but look at how Barbie is viewed today! The best memories I have of my childhood is our dinner table. We always ate together and I always finished last and cleaned up the table (not so memorable at this point). But more importantly, when I think back to my parents what I really remember is who they were. My father was always a practical idealist with strong, soft hands. I read a lot about different parenting styles – attachment vs detachment, DIY and what not. My dad was all of that rolled into one. It was almost like he was just born to be a dad. He did it, it seemed like, effortlessly. He was always home by 6 (which became a pain when I was a teenager and wanted to stay out late, he was ALWAYS waiting). He hand-fed us, bathed us and I remember falling asleep on him as a child of as old as 6 or 7. My mother cloth diapered us, because it was cheaper not because it was an environmental fad.  My parents didn’t baby wear but they carried us around for as long as they could (no, we didn’t have strollers or prams, those were for rich kids). And we were forced to finish everything on our plates, which for as long as I remember, was the food that everyone ate.

Despite all that, was I a spoilt brat? Yes, in today’s world if I met myself as a child, I’d think I was an ill-behaved brat. I had tantrums but no one paid attention to them, except my mom. But all I remember being that child, was happiness. I felt loved and smothered with affection and attention every single day.  We grew up with other families and kids so my brattiness was not tolerated eventually. We went to tons of family parties all the time, learned music, art but it was never a big deal. We spent hours playing outside, but always within safe confines. And I like to think that eventually, I turned out fine. I do have friends and family who love me and put up with me. So my parents must have got something right.

I also remember strong parenting, corporal punishment (my dad was picky about the body parts he would whack – usually my butt or pull my ear lobes, more annoying and insulting than painful, which was the purpose). I also remember never being pushed to accomplish anything. Of course I had to have academics under control, but once when I was in sixth grade, I slipped from 2nd position to 7th position and I thought all hell would break loose at home. My father was unfazed. All he asked was why do you think that happened and if you feel bad about it, what are you going to do about it. As a 11 year old I was dumbfounded. I mumbled something about working harder and he went back to his tea and cigarettes. He was no tiger parent. But oddly he wasn’t so casual when he caught me lying about something incredibly trivial. He asked if I drank my milk, I said yes and he found traces of discarded milk. To him that was a major transgression of trust. It became a huge brawl and I went to bed, crying. I just didn’t get why it was a big deal. But I know now that he hated nothing more than lies, however insignificant they were. And that told me he cared far more about the kind of person I was rather than what I would achieve in life.

He never pushed me on any of our big life decisions. We eventually married who we wanted, studied what we wanted. My father always asked questions about why we thought we asked for something we wanted. He even asked me why I wanted to marry my husband! At our wedding, he behaved like he was the father of the groom, was far more jovial and relaxed than my FIL who, was the host in this case!

Yes there were bad memories too, but they somehow don’t matter as much. Of course, there were resource constraints but somehow growing up with those resource constraints, we always knew they were there and we chose accordingly. My mother was a lesson in frugality and saving, although neither my husband nor I are keen savers. Something about growing up as middle class kids in India, when we’re finally on our own, we save enough but we also enjoy the fine things. I know our parents would have wanted to when they were young but they had bigger burdens of worry then. We’re lucky that we are far more fortunate than they were. I learned how to cook, fret and worry about loved ones from my mother. But I learned how to let go, how to really be independent from my father and my sister.

So now when I think how I’m going to do as a mom, I must say I have no idea. Because I’m also one of those over-educated, over-thinking types that feels the instinctive need to Google every thing. That’s the bane of my generation. That’s unlike our folks, for whom becoming parents was not a choice, but a natural progression of life, that continues to give them joy for years into their old age. For whom, it appears to me, that parenting came naturally, that they made us into good people effortlessly. I bet there was sweat and blood and toil behind all that, but like good parents they never let us see it. I just hope that despite living abroad for a better part of my adulthood, being an over-educated, slightly older new-mom, I will always remember how to be a parent like my parents.

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Pregnancy update: yoga is my best friend

I had started with yoga not so long ago, probably sometime in the middle of 2012 to supplement running and weight training. I instantly loved it and it made me think of my best friend from college, Sasha who is a yoga fiend and is quite traditional about it. Anyway, after I got pregnant of course I was all about getting to find a prenatal yoga class as it became obvious that regular yoga classes weren’t cut out for me.

A lot of times I get asked, are you still running. And I shake my head, no. Not with any regret mind you. Basically all the weight I’ve gained is sitting right around my uterus. Yeah it’s probably my baby and all the stuff around him. So I find my belly quite heavy and uncomfortable . When the belly was smaller, I ran till about 19 weeks after which I decided it just wasn’t worth it. You see the uterus is held together with these muscles called round ligament and mine would ache like crazy after/during a run, sometimes even after an extensive walk. And I had never read anywhere that running is good for your baby or pregnancy. Yes, exercise in general is a must and you can/should continue unless risks are posed and you don’t feel good about it. I just didn’t feel good running and I know how running made me feel good before I got pregnant. So I stopped.

Instead I supplemented with yoga, LOTS of yoga and some swimming when I can make the time. Both of these made me feel great, unlike post-run when my tummy hurt. The midwife made it clear I needed to exercise about 5 times a week especially if I was keen on having a normal childbirth. Which I am so I got my ass off the couch even on days I felt exhausted. First success was finding the prenatal class. Once I had gone to a few classes I realized prenatal yoga wasn’t that different from a hatha or a flow/mellow class. A few poses were missing, inversions distinctly and full torso twists. But overall, all the exercises that come recommended for a healthy child birth will be an integral part of any yoga (prenatal or not) class. These include the cat/cow poses, the warrior standing poses, bricks and back bends, lots and lots of squats – prayer and yogi squats, downward dogs, child pose, the triangle pose etc. Luckily these are poses I’ve been doing ever since I began yoga, which albeit is not very long ago and I regret not starting earlier. But ever since I started, it’s only made me feel amazing during and after. The poses I mentioned above focus on all the right muscles – the pelvic muscles, upper legs, back etc. – that you need to focus on for a healthy pregnancy and child birth.

My buddy Kanika who is also pregnant and I exchange daily (nay hourly) tips, and everything to do with pregnancy and our journeys to becoming mothers. Kanika who is extremely keen on a natural birth introduced me to the book by Bradley of the famous Bradley method of natural child birth. I’d like to have one but I am not sure I can handle it yet. However I would still like to be aware of the tools I’d need to do so. So I got the book on Kanika’s recommendation as I’m too lazy and cheap to sign up for the classes (no less than 8 weeks!). Anyway, the book has a bunch of exercises to prepare for natural birth and lo, they’re ALL yoga poses. From sitting in padmasan or simple sitting pose (which the book calls tailor pose!) to squats to cat/cow etc. Nothing new there. Moreover, every experience  I read online about women having a positive birth experience, they sang eulogies to their prenatal yoga classes and practice.

So natural or not, pregnant or not, yoga is great great great. But it’s even better for pregnancy. There’s lower chance of straining especially if you have some practice from before and know how to slow down the pace of your practice to suit your body. It really helps with back aches and tight hips – a couple of pigeons or double pigeons will stretch out those hips and IT band issues like I have. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to get to a class. I’ve been doing some form of a 30 minute class at home nearly everyday, ever since I decided I wanted to be prepared for birth and stay healthy/fit.

There are tons of yoga videos online but I would recommend finding those suited to prenatal yoga. For instance, Lara Datta has a great routine and I’ve done this one quite a few times. It’s not un-challenging but very easy pace. There are some which are more strenuous – like one where this lady who clearly is an alpha yogi – does a bunch of the usual poses but she makes you hold them longer and does back to back standing poses which can be hard (like a warrior right after a bunch of squats). But I do those on days I feel relatively more energetic. Anyway she has a series of 3 classes online all of which are challenging but great. I would just recommend doing it at your own pace than trying to keep up with the crazy yogi lady. And finally this is a class I found today, it’s a very easy paced video, is quite technical in the way it progresses. This also has a series of 3 videos and I haven’t done them all yet. And no prenatal class is complete without kegels so that’s a good sign for a good yoga routine. Even if you don’t find it in a routine, it’s easy to add in while doing any of the sitting poses like simple sitting or butterfly sitting. I like to mix up the routines to get the feeling like I am actually going to a new class. I wish there were more full class length videos online and I know I can always buy dvds but I’d get bored of the same routine.

In any case, if you find yourself reading this and you may want to become or are pregnant I highly recommend yoga. It never feels bad – in fact if it does you should stop – like some other forms of exercise (Bikram yoga is included here – I like yoga for how it makes me feel and I can’t ever imagine feeling good at 105F heat). In fact many weight routines do incorporate many yoga poses too. And the best part about yoga is that it just keeps getting better with time. You get more flexible and the same poses can generate so much more incremental benefit over time. If there’s anything India should be proud of it’s definitely yoga!