That Time I Found Out I Was Pregnant

Back when I was writing about my pregnancy and eM's first year of life, I wanted to be anonymous. I kept it all offline. Now I'm considering moving those entries to the blog so it's all in one place. Maybe I will, maybe I won't... but for now, it gives me immense pleasure to share a bit about my pregnancy as part of #9daysofwomanhood. I, along with 24 other bloggers are celebrating this theme throughout Navratri. Thanks for setting the stage for me Uttara - I loved your blog on the prompt for today - 'My Pregnancy'. 

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The day I discovered I was pregnant was the same day my husband had put down his papers at the high-paying job where we'd met. We were both out of jobs, and were moving away from a country where the government practically pays you to have a baby. We were moving, instead, to a country where our insurance hadn't yet kicked in and we'd have to foot a hospital bill of lakhs for the delivery. You can't blame people for wondering if we'd planned the baby at all :D

Let me set the record straight - we'd been not not trying for a while. In layman's terms that amounts to wanting a baby, but not necessarily thinking we'd have one right away. The odds weren't exactly in our favour. I'd been travelling solo through Europe for a while, and I met  the husband in London after a couple of months apart. Next thing I knew, I was downing three helpings of sticky toffee pudding (I'm not a desserts person), and not feeling remotely motion sick, which is my default mode when I'm travelling. While I felt great, it didn't occur to me that I could be pregnant till AFTER I'd drunk my way through Scotland's whiskies. Oops. 


It first occurred to me that I could be pregnant when we were in New York on a cruise my travel company had sponsored. It killed me to lay off the wine, but I'm glad I did! My period usually comes like clockwork, so I figured I'd wait till I'd missed it to take a pregnancy test (why waste money and optimism, amIright?). I waited till I was two weeks overdue and then picked a cheapie test because I still couldn't quite believe I'd get lucky enough to actually be pregnant. 

I didn't even have to wait very long, the test said I was unequivocally pregnant. I called my family doctor up for an appointment straight away and then waited patiently for the husband to come home. His face was priceless, especially since he'd just finished telling me jubilantly about quitting his job. "Should I take back my resignation? Is this test real?! Are you sure?!!!"

... So yes, the timing wasn't perfect. But when is it ever? Having a baby turns your world upside down at the best of times. 

We went ahead and travelled extensively through Canada for the next few months, as we'd planned. We didn't even tell our parents the news till we came back to India, because we knew their idea of a sensible first trimester doesn't include climbing up glaciers. And I wouldn't change a thing about that madcap first couple of trimesters, when I felt healthy, happy, and like I could conquer the world.

What's your pregnancy story? You can check out my co-blogger Anubhuti's take on the prompt for today here
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Being a Woman in India, 2017

It brings me immense pleasure to share that I, along with 24 other bloggers are celebrating #9daysofwomanhood throughout Navratri. I thank Uttara for introducing me. I loved her blog on the prompt for today - 'Being a Woman in India, 2017'. I would take the opportunity to introduce Anubhuti. You can check out her take on the prompt for today here. Meanwhile, here's my view. 

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 My day starts at 5:30, when I snooze my alarm while trying to quell my internal sense of alarm too. Once I get out of bed, my day is non-stop. There are dabbas to be packed, toddlers to be bathed, and school bags to be organised. When the preschooler's out the door, I have to head to my own driving class, then make it back to a growing pile of work deadlines. If I focus, I'll finish with five minutes to spare before I've to go back to school and pick up the toddler. This is what life looks like when you try to juggle motherhood with a career. And psst: I wouldn't have it any other way.

Every single thing I do makes me happy. If it didn't, I'd find someone else to do it. And on the days when I don't want to do something - I don't. There are days when I order in food, or let the house stay a mess. There are days when I push work to the next day, and days when I go back to bed while the husband gets our daughter ready. Through it all, what stands out is this: I make my own choices, and I feel supported by my family.


 Did someone say women could have it all? I'm living proof. Yes, a certain  kind of Indian woman in 2017 can have it all - the career, the home, the  one:one time with kids. But you know what the best part is? The fact that  we now have the ability to say thanks, but I don't really want it all. I'd  rather choose the things that make me happy, and not bother too much  about the rest.

 
I believe I can fly :)
I have friends who chose not to get married, rather than rushing into a wedding to placate filial expectations. I have friends who are happily married, and choose not to have kids, because they simply don't want them. I know moms who proudly go to work. I know moms who proudly stay at home with their children. Compare this with the previous generation, who found these choices impossible to make. I know elder women stuck in unhappy marriages out of habit. All of them have at least one child, if not two. If they're stay at home moms, they insist on doing everything themselves. If they're career women, they still put pressure on themselves to do it all too. I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

I've to confess: it took me a long time to get to this point. No matter how much of a feminist I am in theory, to come out and say that you're going to hand over the reins of the kitchen to a cook, or go back to bed because being a mom is bloody tiring sometimes - well, it feels sacrilegious. I won't lie, I still battle with the guilt of what an Indian woman is 'supposed' to be and 'supposed' to do. But being truly happy helps put that guilt in perspective.

I'm not idealistic enough to suppose that this is true for all women in India. The truth is, most Indian women live in a very different reality - one filled with judgment, patriarchy, and unrealistic expectations. We live in an unsafe country where being a woman is about the worst thing you can be. And yet, as the times change, step by step, I can't help but feel hopeful about what being an Indian woman will look like by 2027. Here's to empowering each other, and respecting each other's choices. If we don't, who will?

Cloth Diaper Review: CDS FAP 3.0

How long has it been since I wrote here? I don't even want to check the time stamp of my last post and see for sure. I'd say I'll blog more frequently now, but the truth is, I still don't have the bandwidth to. Ironically, what's taking up the little free time I have is writing for other businesses. Oh well, as long as words are getting put out there somewhere, somehow! That said, I just had to come here and put a virtual timestamp on one of my life's 'firsts'.

video

This weekend, I went out of my comfort zone and made my first ever vlog. It's strange, for someone who has no problem addressing crowds, I get very self conscious in front of a camera. I can barely manage a selfie without wanting to clobber my phone, so a video was.... ambitious, to say the least.

Good thing I'm talking about something I'm so passionate about that I can almost, almost, forget there's a camera on me. Here's a cloth diaper review (what else? I'm still a mom, my interests are somewhat limited!).

Not just saying it for the review, that diaper really is gorgeous, and was reason enough to convince me to do a vlog in the first place! Find it, and other diapers, at http://www.clothdiapershop.in/. Apart from gushing about the diapers themselves, I can guarantee professional, friendly customer service; a payment gateway that works; and a generally pleasant online shopping experience.

Anmol vs. Cookiie SSC: First Impressions

eM and I went to Tirupati this weekend to meet her great-grandparents and extended family. We just got back, to a huge backlog of freelance work. Both when we're in new places, as well as when she senses deadlines looming, eM insists on being carried. Nonstop. Thank god for babywearing - it preserves my sanity, and my back. 

My first baby carrier was from Mee Mee. Let me tell you since Mee Mee won't - it isn't stringently tested, and it's not at all ergonomic. I know a lot of non-parents read this blog, so feel free to skip this post, after this one important takeaway: most commercially sold Indian carriers aren't good for your baby's hips, and aren't as safe as they should be. A couple of mompreneurs recently launched soft structure carriers (SSC's) which are the first Indian-made, internationally tested, ergonomic carriers in the market. Both are similarly priced, completely reliable, and utterly beautiful. I couldn't pick between them, so I just bought one of each. And since I've been getting questions about which one I prefer, I thought I'd do a quick comparison. This is just based on about a week's usage, it's very much just first impressions. I'm still learning about the features.

Purchasing
Anmol sells SSC's via a closed Facebook group. Sales happen on a first-come first-served basis, and it's a feeding frenzy. Each of their releases contains several designs (10-15), but very few pieces are made of each type. This is because they're semi, or completely, hand-woven. Cookiie only releases 4-6 designs in each sale, but they seem to have more pieces of each type available. They also accept pre-bookings through their website. I'm not sure which brand has the most SSC's per release overall, but I've definitely observed that it's easier to land a Cookiie than an Anmol so far. Anmol's launching a website soon, so that may very well change.

Delivery
Cookiie delivers via DTDC, and helpfully sent over a tracking ID. The package from Mumbai arrived in Hyderabad in four days, and attractively highlighted the benefits of babywearing. Less reflux, less fussing; and my favourite, which is also their tagline: you get to 'wear a hug'. Cookiie SSC's come with a clearly illustrated instruction booklet, and a one-year warranty against manufacturing defects.

Anmol sends their SSC's through Mirakle Couriers, an agency employing low-income deaf adults. It also arrived in four days, and my favourite thing about the packaging was that it required no scissors or knives to open up. The SSC was very neatly packed, with a simple photo-guide of instructions, and a handwritten note. The box has a great diagram of the SSC's parts, which I confess I missed seeing because I was too excited about the SSC itself!

Size
The specs indicate Cookiie is less than a centimeter taller than Anmol, and about 3 cm wider. When I place them one on top of the other, you can see there's practically no difference. In fact, I'd have suspected Anmol was wider because of the way it's cut - the thick paneling on the sides goes a bit higher and wider than Cookiie's. eM seems to have a bit more space in the Anmol, though she doesn't really need it at the moment. On the other hand, Cookiie's waist band is a bit wider, which is great for hiding post-baby belly bulges (or cheese paunches, as in my case). Cookiie's SSC also comes with a handy minifier that can cinch the seat by up to 5 inches, making it convenient for smaller or thinner babies.
Both carriers have easily adjustable straps. They may be the exact same straps for all I know, but I find Anmol's easier to adjust on the go. Cookiie's are a bit more rigid. This may also be because Anmol is more generous with extra strap material, so there's more material available to loosen/tighten. My husband will vehemently deny it, but we have pretty similar body frames. But if I were sharing my SSC with someone with a very different body type, especially a bulkier one, Anmol may make it more easy.

The Cookiie fits babies from 5-22kgs, while Anmol seats 7-22kgs. While Cookiie's brochure emphasizes it's not to be used for babies below this threshold, Anmol provides a rolled blanket/pillow hack that allows their SSC to be used by even newborns. Both brands have toddler variations that can be used by bigger babies.

Other Features
Apart from being in a cool colour, Cookiie's hood has drawstrings on the sides making it easier to tighten and tie + look great with ruffled edges when not in use. It's also stowed with snaps while Anmol's is secured with velcro. Coming to the chest strap, Anmol's is placed at bra-hook level, while Cookiie's is a bit higher, and adjustable.

And finally the pocket - Cookiie's is placed at the middle of the waist strap, and is wide enough to accommodate a mobile phone, credit card, and keys. Anmol's is placed at the left of the waist strap, and won't fit a phone. This is probably a good thing, as it keeps phones away from the baby, but it's less convenient. Being a right-hander, I also find the placement slightly awkward, especially since it's near/partly under the baby's leg. That said, I only do front carries at the moment. When I do a back carry, Anmol's pocket will likely be the more convenient one.

Aesthetics
The Cookiie comes in super cool graphic prints - stars, chevrons, block prints, ikats. The waist band has a different pattern, and the hood is usually a sharp contrasting colour, which makes the whole thing look stunning when used. Most Anmols are semi or completely hand woven by local weavers, and the wefts of cotton skilfully showcase several colours. The material's OKO tex certified, and is yarn dyed, AZO free. What this basically means is it's completely baby friendly and won't bleed into their skin. It also looks gorgeous, especially in natural light. Each brand definitely has a distinctive style, but I think both look fantastic.

There you have it, the differences I've spotted after a few days' use of each. This isn't a review of either, because I haven't used them long enough. I genuinely don't have a preference yet, and I also want to emphasize that what eventually works for me given mine & my baby's body types + how we use it won't necessarily be the right choice for you. This is also only applicable for the carriers that were sold in the latest release. Both brands are constantly modifying and improving their products.

I highly recommend trying out any babywearing gear before you buy it. If you're in Hyderabad, check out our sling library, where you can easily try on and rent carriers. (Full disclosure: I'm a co-founder of the library, but I don't make any money from it, or from any of these vendors).

From Maggi to Udon Noodle Soup

I always thought I'd marry someone who cooked. It turns out the only thing more attractive than a man who cooks... is a man who doesn't cook, but attempts it for you anyway. Over the last five years, A's cooked for me exactly two times. Ready-to-cook cake, and a ready-to-cook mac and cheese, as he's always quick to point out. But, no sarcasm, I still think it's really sweet. This week, after binge-watching Masterchef Australia and hearing me talk about the idiot-proofness of Built2Cook, he volunteered to make dinner. I figured it was an interesting opportunity to stress-test the product... would someone who'd only ever made Maggi noodles be able to pull off an Udon noodle soup? :)

eM and I took our seats in the Rao kitchen and settled down to watch. First off, I should mention that I was very impressed with Built2Cook's ability to take feedback & refine their product. I'd just mentioned an oil spill in last week's box, and this week saw the oil in a different type of container! Everything continued to be neatly labelled and packed. I'm a fan of consistency, especially from startups, so this is very promising. As A set up his kitchen, he asked if I had a strainer, a vital utensil for this dish. I do, but as I'm rating Built2Cook from the perspective of the average bachelor who doesn't cook - it may be worth noting if a recipe needs 'special' equipment like a strainer or a grinder that such kitchens may not have. They do mention it in the recipe, but it'd be good to have it mentioned upfront to avoid disappointment.

Inspired by the advice on MC Aus, A decided to 'keep his bench clean'. He opened everything, carefully re-sticking the labels for each ingredient onto the containers as he went along... he didn't want to risk grabbing the dark soy rather than the light soy, or the aromat in place of the tempura crumble. Thanks to his meticulousness, we noticed a couple of minor discrepancies. The recipe said to garnish with leeks & broccoli; but the ingredients list only mentioned leeks, and the box itself had neither. This wasn't a big deal though, as the box was chock-full of other lovely fresh veg - carrots, spinach, asparagus, yellow & red bell peppers, mushrooms. We certainly didn't miss the leeks & broccoli. It was a beautiful display of chiffonade, which made the finished dish look “exactly like the picture on the flyer!” as A said.
 
An added advantage is that it's impossible for each vegetable not to get cooked properly as they're all cut so evenly. If I had to nitpick I'd cook the asparagus slightly before throwing in the rest, as it remained slightly bitey, but mostly, it's foolproof... and so healthy, given it’s all blanched! A ate everything except one asparagus without complaint. So I definitely recommend making this with/for kids who may be picky about their vegetables otherwise.

We were also impressed with the ingredients for the curried broth. When I cook Oriental from scratch, I invariably skip things like aromat, or replace the castor sugar with white. I just can't be bothered stocking a full Oriental kitchen for the few times that I cook it. With Built2Cook, there's no such compromise because you have everything you need, in the proportions that you need. A was hesitant at first, asking if he could really just use exactly what was given without tasting along the way. In the interest of checking idiot-proofness, I told him to go for it, leaving out just the salt. The resulting broth was a thing of beauty. As A put it, "I feel so proud of making something taste like that, even though I didn't actually do anything." Hint, hint: if trying to get to someone's heart through their stomach, this is bound to impress!

The broth and vegetables are perfectly balanced, and the whole thing has a complex flavour profile which you wouldn't think came from just four basic steps. It probably took A about ten minutes to cook - 8 more than Maggi; but 10,000 times more healthy; and, frankly, just as moreish. I'd be happy to drink mugfuls of that every day. I wasn't this impressed with thetacos since their taste depended on my ability to season. This, on the other hand, was gorgeous enough to inspire poetry - the crunch of the tempura crumble against the freshness of the spring onions, while the veg stayed firm but tender in that rich broth... I hope they keep a Japanese dish on their menu at all times, because the chef absolutely nailed this one! 

I think the only advice I'd give non-cooks who try Built2Cook is to follow the recipes verbatim except for the amount of oil & salt to be used. With a non-stick kadai, we used about 1/3rd the oil provided, and none of the salt. It was lovely to sit around doing nothing while A whipped up a beautiful meal. I could see his confidence growing as he cooked, and the dish's resounding success has him rearing to try something else soon!