Who Is She?

Never Let Go

She carries you around for months
She brings you into life
She holds you when you need it most
And makes sure you survive

She loves you with no strings attached
She is your first true love
She shivers when the cold sets in
Makes sure your hands are gloved

She keeps leftovers for herself
She feeds the best to you
She sits patiently by your side
When you’re ill with a flu

She is the only ray of hope
She shows you what is right
She pulls you up when you’re in blue
And brings you to the light

She is your friend when you need one
She mentors you through life
She lends her shoulder to lean on
When things don’t turn out right

She works hard for you night and day
She ensures you advance
She sacrifices all her life
To give your life a chance

She meets your infinite demands
She helps you make your mind
She pushes all her hopes aside
And leaves her dreams behind

She safeguards secrets within her
She is the one you trust
She can be tough on you sometimes
Never is she unjust

She’s always close-by even when
She may be miles apart
She’s known as mommy, mom or maa
And lives inside your heart

– Yousuf Bawany, July 2015

NOTE: Being a mother is one of the most demanding jobs yet doesn’t pay a dime; our children should be able to recognize her role in shaping up their lives and learn to respect her. This poem is for my kids so when one day they ask their mother, “What have you done for us?”, this can serve as the perfect answer and also help them understand her true value.

I dedicate this poem to my mother and all the mothers out there. I love you maa!

Life After Kids: Beauty Sleep For Newbie Parents

In my Arms

In my Arms

Children are the BEST thing a married couple can have; a new home comes in a close second. The first few days after the baby’s born are the sweetest. Everyone in your household pitches in with the baby’s care, especially if you are living in a joint family system (it’s an Indian-sub-continental thing). But after the furor has died down, the baby is left at the mercy of the untrained parents who try balancing everything from their disrupted nightly routine to the regular diaper changes; needless to say, the whole experience can be a bit overwhelming.

I started writing this post almost seven months back, right around the time when I was cradling my two-month old son to sleep and I revisited it only after reading a friend’s Facebook status update begging for help:

Can’t say I miss being with my li’l baby but I do feel good about my newly acquired balancing act of managing work commitments too. Now only if I can get back to my social commitments. Any tips from sleep deprived parents welcome! All others who plan to be smart-alecs by saying motherhood comes with sacrifices, please keep your traps shut! Lol.

Having gone through fatherhood twice, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on balancing sleep and kids. This sense of helplessness most parents experience can be somewhat alleviated if you somehow miraculously get to sleep through the night. So my dear friend and all my readers, I present to you some time-tested tips that work most of the times and will (probably) help you and the baby get a good night’s sleep; if everything fails, try praying.

  1. Get the baby checked for infantile colic and treat accordingly
  2. Try giving the baby a pacifier at night
  3. Let the baby snuggle with you; try the wonders of kangaroo care
  4. Change the baby’s diaper frequently; some babies are really fussy about a dirty diaper
  5. Sing the baby a lullaby; hush little baby!
  6. Take the baby in arms and pat him/her lightly on the buttocks
  7. Try a technique called the 5 S’s by Dr. Harvey Karp; I have tried it on more than one occasion and it works
  8. See if the baby is gassy and give him/her some gripe water; do check with your doctor before giving the baby anything
  9. If the baby is being breast-fed, check if the mother is fulfilling the baby’s needs; otherwise, ask the doctor for a suitable infant formula
  10. See that your kids are burped properly; if not, they may cry a lot and keep you up all night
  11. Set up a sleeping pattern with your partner so that you can each take 4-hour shifts watching the baby; a 4 hour sleep at a stretch is better than no sleep at all
  12. See if the baby has boogers in his/her nose; a stuffy baby is a fussy baby
  13. Make sure the temperature of the room is right; the baby will cry if it is too hot or too cold
  14. Get an automated swing; the swaddling motion is comforting for the baby
  15. Use toys like mobiles over the baby’s cribs; seeing a repetitive circular motion helps put them to sleep
  16. Buy cots that have a vibrating electronic device underneath; the vibrating helps babies go to sleep
  17. Maybe you are not handling the baby properly; there are several independent services who teach how to take care of a baby and you should try hiring one
  18. Take the baby for a ride in the car near its sleeping time; works like a charm
  19. Give the baby a stuffed toy to snuggle with; it’s better if you try point no. 3
  20. Teach your baby how to sign; apparently, it’s the new IT thing but I’ve never given it a try
  21. Give the baby lukewarm milk with some cardamoms as it helps relieve stomach pain and gas build-up (check with the doc before trying this out)
  22. Make sure the baby’s wearing comfortable clothes; an uncomfortable baby is a fussy baby. Babies outgrow clothes faster than older kids so make sure you have appropriate clothes for the baby.
  23. Check your baby for diaper rash and get your doctor to recommend an anti-rash nappy cream.
  24. Join a parenting group for new mothers; hearing other people’s problems may help you deal with yours better. OK. The last one came out wrong. It should be ‘a support group for new parents’. The mothers and fathers are in this together.
  25. Most babies adjust to a sleeping pattern three months after their birth, so wait out the sleepless nights, keep your fingers crossed and pray that your baby is one of them; think of this as a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel scenario

Some parents may actually resort to giving the baby up for adoption but I suggest you wait out the worst of it and you’ll be amazed at the things these kids do when they grow up. Remember; it’s these unique experiences, these memories, that bond you with your spouse and your children for life.

Baby Steps 101 – Learning to be a first-time parent

What goes on in the labor room, stays in the labor room! Some progressive hospitals let the dad into the labor room to enjoy (seriously?!) the whole 360-degree birthing experience, but more often than not, the dad and the couple’s close relatives sit in the waiting area, praying for the health of the mother and the baby. The father-to-be can clearly be distinguished from the lot as the one pacing the entire length of the dimly-lit corridor, biting his nails (or indulging in some alternate idiosyncrasy), waiting for the nurse to come out with some good news; a scene straight out of a silent movie. It could be hours, even days (God forbid), till you hear from the hospital staff, and when you’ve given up all hope, a nurse sporting blood-splattered scrubs (the source is better left unnamed) bursts out of the labor room screaming, “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” (or a boy). What follows is nothing short of a miracle; the silent ambiance is ruptured with shrieks of joy and cries of “Mubarak Ho, Mubarak Ho!” (meaning Congratulations in Urdu). From my personal experience and fairly recent induction into daddy-ville, a possible sequence of events that follow include:

  1. shedding a tear (or two) of relief, or even a full-blown outburst (believe me; no one will judge you)
  2. seeing the baby for the first time
  3. shedding a tear (or two) of joy – again; no judging
  4. checking on the mother’s health
  5. sharing sweets with everyone
  6. seeing the baby again
  7. your mother and your mother-in-law arguing over who she resembles more
  8. saying the Azaan (Muslim call for prayers) in the infant’s ear
  9. seeing the baby some more (you just can’t seem to get enough of her)
  10. having some more sweets (Pakistanis will be Pakistanis)
  11. shortlisting baby names (if you haven’t already decided on one yet)
  12. meeting your wife together with the baby and crying some more
  13. giving the baby something sweet to taste

And then the baby comes home, bringing with it, two invisible (not imaginary) companions named “Sleepless Nights” and “Ceaseless Crying”. You have no choice but to welcome them into your humble abode; no compromises. Waking up at hours unheard of somehow becomes routine. People at work mock/pity you as you walk into your office with bleary red eyes. You seem to be running to the doctor every time the baby sneezes. You used to think your wife was high-maintenance; well guess again! The formula milk and the diapers, the cleaning wipes and the bouncers, the bottles and the sterilizers, the rattles and the swings, and loads of other things-that-shall-not-be-named, don’t come cheap; and don’t even get me started on the filthy expensive vaccinations. But wait; there’s another intruder that creeps into your life and needs no invitation; “Postpartum Depression”. Your wife’s mood swings, an essential part of her hormonal imbalances, may drive you to the edge and back; tears of joy might turn into a crying frenzy on how she would be a terrible mother. In her defense, after what she’s gone through, she deserves a breakdown or two (hmmm… make that a hundred). As a loving husband, you must hold her hand through all the highs and lows, and make sure she knows that you are there to support her no matter what; a freezer full of her favorite ice cream seems to help (a lot!).

One of my daughter's favorite toys - may it rest in peace (or should I say 'pieces'?)

The last paragraph should pretty-much sum up your life for the first three months after the baby’s birth. But as soon as the baby crosses over into her fourth month, most lucky parents (myself included) see a visible change in their lifestyles. The baby becomes more responsive, starts cooing, even ga-ga-ing at times, might even recognize you, bestow you with a smile or two, and seems to settle down into a sleeping pattern. Sleeping for four (maybe even six) hours isn’t just a dream anymore. Life somehow seems much more settled. There are a few outbursts, a tummy-ache here, a little gas there, but all-in-all, you feel blessed after having gone through what you have in the early days.

Five-month olds and coloring books do not mix - take it from experience

My daughter is a little over five months old now and she keeps getting more adorable every second. I can hardly restrain myself from giving her soft cheeks a loving bite. Besides being my favorite dessert, there’s a lot more she has to offer, be it a sincere smile, or a gentle caress. But more than anything, she has drastically changed my perceptions on learning; it is not a one-way street as perceived by most new parents. We spend all our lives trying to mold our children into ideals, but we somehow miss so many things our children can teach us, even as infants. Here are twelve things I learned from my five-month old daughter.

  1. Persistence is the key to getting what you want, when you want; crying always works.
  2. Curiosity might have killed the cat but it won’t kill you, as long as your parents are watching.
  3. Change is healthy, even if it’s just a loaded diaper.
  4. A sincere smile can change any situation from bad to good.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try out new things even if they are not edible.
  6. Appreciate the little things in life, even if they’re as mundane as the ceiling fan.
  7. Don’t care what people might think about you; just let it rip.
  8. Time shouldn’t limit your abilities to do wonderful things.
  9. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying; you’ll eventually learn to sit on your own.
  10. Hold onto the people you love as if it’s the last time you’re holding them.
  11. Raise your voice; you won’t get any milk if you aren’t heard.
  12. Be content with what you have; drinking milk everyday is enough to keep you alive.

Raising a child can be nerve-wracking and fun, all at the same time. But more than anything, its an amazing voyage of self-discovery. It has its ups and downs (mostly ups), but most importantly, it allows you to appreciate the gift of life. You may have other children later on, but the experiences of raising your first born will last you a lifetime.

NOTE: Being a father, I’m writing this article from a dad’s perspective and from my own personal experience. Even though it has a lot of religious and cultural influences, you may be able to relate to most of my experiences.

This article was published at the Express Tribune Pakistan Blog (International Herald Tribune) as well as in the October – November 2011 issue of Expert Parenting and Pregnancy, Pakistan.

What My Five-month Old Taught Me

We spend all our lives trying to mold our children into ideals, but we somehow miss so many things our children can teach us, even as infants.  Here are twelve things I learned from my five-month old daughter:

1. Persistence is the key to getting what you want, when you want; crying always works

2. Curiosity might have killed the cat but it won’t kill you

3. Change is healthy, even if it’s just a loaded diaper

4. A smile can change any situation from bad to good

5. Don’t be afraid to try out new things even if they aren’t edible

6. Appreciate the little things in life, even if they’re as insignificant as the ceiling fan

7. Don’t care what people might think about you; just let it rip

8. Time shouldn’t limit your abilities to do wonderful things

9. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying; you’ll eventually learn to sit on your own

10. Hold onto the people you love as if it’s the last time you’re holding them

11. Raise your voice; you won’t get any milk if you aren’t heard

12. Be content with what you have; drinking milk everyday is enough to keep you alive