Smile, My Little Baby!

Smile, My Little Baby!

From the day my darling daughter was born, the one thing I wanted to see her do the most was to smile. The first expression I saw on her face was that of fear after just having come out into this world. Then, she cried. Over many days and weeks, I kept looking at her with renewed hope that she would smile. But of course, I knew that babies that small don’t know smiling yet. And what will she smile at? She doesn’t understand what being happy means. And what could have made her happy anyway? A large supply of milk and sleeping for as long or as little as she chose?

So, weeks kept passing by but there was nothing. She got her name – Nitara – but even that did not please her enough to pass a smile. A few times, we thought we did she a smile on her face when she was asleep and then that smile would vanish abruptly. It wasn’t really a smile, maybe a twitching of muscles in her face? Maybe her brain was learning how to move those muscles in different manners? Sometimes my mom claimed that she saw Nitara smile, but I couldn’t actually count on that unless she smiled at me and I saw it too. And a smile didn’t really mean much unless we were sure that she really was smiling about something.

Finally that day came and Nitara smiled at me for the first time. It was in response to a toy that I had shown her. But even then, it was difficult to make her smile on purpose. I tried many things, made faces, made funny sounds, sang for her. And finally I got it.

What Nitara really enjoyed the most was me forming my lips into an ‘O’, opening my eyes wide, and making the sound ‘Ooooooooo’, all together. The more I did it, the more she smiled. Later, when she started to make sounds like ‘A-gooo’, ‘A-gaaa’, using her voice for the first time, I started imitating her sounds. Gradually, I found that she liked my imitation of her and she started to respond to my imitation by making more such sounds, which I imitated again, and so on, and she enjoyed this whole experience so much that her smiles this time were a true result of joy at a new discovery.

Soon afterwards, the smiles turned into laughter. Now, she has been advancing so fast almost anything can make her laugh. Just talking to her makes her laugh. Showing her your tongue makes her laugh out loud. She looks at the most simple things around her, like a photo frame of my mom and me (from when I was a baby myself) throws her into convulsions. My youngest sister, perhaps, is nowadays her biggest source of laughter. They play peekaboo and Nitara has a rocking time with her. In fact, her smiles now have a character of their own. No longer are there simple curving of lips and expansion of cheeks. Now she opens her mouth wide and makes loud joyful sounds when she smiles and you can see the joy in her eyes as well.

So, it has been worth the wait. Every time she smiles feels like the first time and makes me super happy. And, to see a baby smile and laugh and show happiness, isn’t that the biggest reward of being a parent?

How life has changed since the Baby

How life has changed since the Baby

One immediate consequence of having become a father was that it took time away from the things that I generally enjoyed doing before the baby arrived. I loved to read lots of books, write this blog, learn Swedish, and watch Netflix with my wife. Soon after my daughter was born, I did continue to write this blog for a while, though with lesser frequency and they were mostly delayed posts. Then, at around 3 months after the birth, we decided to take parental leave for 6 weeks and visit our family in India. This break, I was certain, would give me time again to be able to do the stuff I was starting to miss over the last few months.

So, we prepared for the travel and I kept notes about our preparation so that I could write a post about it soon. However, I stayed in India for over 6 weeks but not once during that time did I get the opportunity to write a single post even though my mind was bursting with things that I really wanted to write and publish here.

So, what happened? Why could I not do the stuff I really cared about doing for my entire holiday? A few things actually. I realized that neither did I have the time away from my darling daughter (by my own choice) nor the frame of mind to detach myself from her exciting world to be able to do some writing. I could spend entire days, weeks or even months being by her side, watching as she kept trying something new every now and then. She learnt to reach out with her hands and touch and feel my face. She started to grab her toys and then try to put them in her mouth. She tried to roll over on to her stomach but kept failing for many weeks, until she finally did it and then started crying when she couldn’t move back. I saw the first time she saw something funny on my t-shirt (I always wore cartoon prints) and decided to try to crawl to get to me across the bed. She pushed hard with her legs to move forward (a big development) but had no idea how to use her arms and as a consequence of this lack of coordination, she would raise her bums in the air, dig her face into the bed and end up rolling over to one side and onto her back, wondering what went wrong. And I watched with fascination, when even in a state of hunger, she would break her feed and turn her head around to stare at the TV in our room, and then back to the feed and again to the TV, over and over.

On top of that, only a couple of weeks into our vacation I fell sick to Typhoid, which ended up making me too weak to sit in front of a laptop for more than a few minutes at a time. It took me the rest of the vacation period to overcome the illness.

So, due to the reasons stated above, I suddenly realized that I had not been able to make a single post on my blog for over 2 months. So many things had happened in my life as a dad over the past few months that it was now difficult to keep track of all the developments. When my darling daughter transitioned from being a quiet observer to learning to make tiny “a-goo” sounds to call us and then on to filling our ears with her shouting and singing – all in order to amuse herself – seems like a recent blur.

Over the next few days and weeks, I will try to come up to speed again with my writing, the reason being that I am back to Sweden without my wife and daughter – but only for a short while. Next month, I bring them back here and then the routine perhaps would resume and I might find myself short on time again.

So, one thing that I really did learn from my experience until now is how the arrival of a child changes the lives of the parents forever, whether it relates work, social life or just personal preferences. You suddenly realize that you can no longer accompany your friends to that bar that you frequented. You can only hear of others telling you about their upcoming foreign vacations, but you yourself can no longer plan one. So, a lot has changed and sometimes we hope to be able to do the same stuff as others, but we are new parents and still getting used to the new life. However, contrary to what I always hear, I wouldn’t really call it a sacrifice at all. I don’t think I am making a sacrifice if I am giving up on a few things I liked to do so that I can take better care of my daughter. I am happy to do everything I can for her, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. I do it out of love.

And love it really is. Of a kind that I have never felt before. Or never felt possible. Remember the first crush in school? Remember the first time you thought you were in love? Or the first time you actually got loved back? The time when you thought you would die if you did not get your love back? Or the time when you got married? All of those feelings simply pale in comparison to the feeling of love that I feel for my darling daughter.

Darling, she really is. It is impossible to explain how happy she makes me feel when she smiles at the stupid faces I make in order to amuse her. Every single time she smiles seems to me like the first time and fills me with life. The only thing I want to do all the time is pick her up in my arms, hug her and plant tiny kisses on her round round cheeks.

So, on the one hand while having a baby has taken away the routine of my life, my passion for reading and writing and being able to socialize with friends in the same way as before, it has also brought me happiness and love in its purest and most pleasurable form – the love of a father for his daughter. So, the scales are tipped heavily in the favour of the good compared to the bad.

And that is all that matters, doesn’t it? How has your experience been like?

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Pee, Poop and Burp: The First 40 Days

Pee, Poop and Burp: The First 40 Days

For the first 2 days after our baby girl was born, she only needed a change of diaper every 6-8 hours. She had her typical blackish gooey poop and we could barely tell if she was peeing at all since there were no leakages. The midwives told us that the baby did not need to burp because she was having very little breast milk in the beginning. So, I thought we were doing fantastic at under 3 diaper changes a day. In fact, I enjoyed changing her diaper a lot. She never cried, except when hungry, and even then, it was a low cry and she would calm down as soon as she was fed. She was turning out to be an extremely well-mannered baby. And I proudly trumpeted this fact to friends and family.

WRONG!

Only a few days on and the little one gave us a shocking reality check. She now pooped much more often, more like 6-8 times a day and specially after each feed, sometimes more. At times, she pooped again immediately after the new diaper was put on. And then you needed to redo the whole exercise of laying her down on the changing table, remove her diaper, clean her with a wet cloth and dry her and put on a new diaper, all the while putting up with her relentless ear-shattering shrieks and howls. (Did I mention that she hated being put down on the changing table now?) Often times, having just been cleaned up and the next diaper on its way out of the bag, the little one discovers she forgot to pee in the previous diaper and does that on the changing table itself. Sometimes, directly on my hands. We scramble to prevent the pee from flowing onto the changing mattress and clean her up once again before putting on the next diaper. The shrieking and howling continues relentlessly.

Where Pee and Poop were causing such mayhem, how could the Burp stay behind? Having a really small tummy, she was always too full after a feeding session and appeared irritated, so I would lift her to my shoulder and pat on her back a bit in order to elicit a burp. But it wasn’t that easy. It still isn’t. Before we even pick her up for a burp, she throws up a mouthful of milk onto her chin, neck and clothes. It’s a race between her and us, can we pick her up in time to prevent her from vomiting? Even when we pick her up first, we need to hold her straight otherwise she simply vomits out all the milk and then wants to be fed again. Holding her straight was yet another challenge because she would start scratching my neck with her fingernails, pull at my collar and suck my shirt for milk, all the while throwing her little frail head around wildly while I struggle to hold it in place.

At other times, she would asleep while on the breast and wake up shortly afterwards to realize she has her mouth full of milk. Not knowing what to do with it she ends up coughing all of it out onto the tired mum, following the scene up with another burst of crying and maybe re-feeding.

So, the first 40 days with our little baby have been much tougher than I had ever imagined. There were times when it felt like either we were the worst parents or this was the most difficult baby ever. I often wondered why babies just don’t stop crying even though we were doing everything that they needed. I also wondered if there was something that all other parents knew, but not us, which made our parenting a bit worse.

But after the first 40-50 days, things have improved and we are now in a different phase with our baby. More on that later.

How has your experience been? Do let me know by leaving a comment below.

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Singing to my baby

Singing to my baby

In those early days after her birth, when it was impossible for us to know how to calm a crying baby, we tried many things. Picking her up in my arms and swinging her a little used to soothe her. It worked most of the times, but not always. In most cases, we found that the only solution was to feed her. But the moment you took her off the feed, she would start crying again.

But how do you put a crying baby to calm down and sleep?

As new parents, we were utterly clueless about things. But one day, out of sheer desparation, and without realizing, I started singing to my baby girl. At first, she did continue to cry but her howling reduced considerably and soon afterwards she became completely quiet and went on staring at me. At this, I realized that she probably found my singing a soothing change and this encouraged me to keep going on. I must have sung to her for at least 20 minutes non-stop. During the whole time, I obsered how she kept looking at me and slowly started to drift off to sleep. My wife looked at me with utter disbelief, because neither had believed we had any way to putting the baby off to sleep. But now, I had apparently found a way. I felt so happy and proud of myself. I know that my wife has the bigger connection with the baby because she feeds her all day, but I had just achieved something that she could not. I had contributed as a dad in the care of the baby and I felt on top of the world.

I cannot say that this works perfectly because the next time I sang to her it made her cry even more. This time, I was puzzled and, frankly, a little disheartened. Here I was thinking my baby loves my singing but now that seemed like a fluke. But I did try it many times in the days and weeks to follow and got mixed results. Then, I realized something. My baby did actually feel soothed by me singing to her, but it all depended on which tune I chose. At times, it has been the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, while at other times, it has been some old bollywood songs. But i have also learnt that sometimes the baby really is hungry after all, and as a Dad i need to respect that and not force my singing on her.

If you are wondering how to sooth your crying baby and push it over the edge into the world of sleep, try singing to her. And if she doesn’t respond at first, don’t lose hope. Maybe it’s time for a change of tune. Maybe she isn’t ready yet. Trust me, she will be ready soon. And when she shows that she likes your singing, that moment will be priceless.

How has your experience been singing to your baby? Do comment below and share.

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Our daughter Nitara Bagga is one month today

Our daughter Nitara Bagga is one month today

Hey World!

Meet Nitara, our charming little princess who has all grown up to be one month today. We are so glad to have her in our lives and we love her very much. Here’s a Happy One Month to her from her mom, dad, grandparents, great-grandparents, as well as aunts and uncles.

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Bringing our baby home from the Hospital

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On 16th January 2017, we brought our newborn baby girl home from the hospital. It was indeed a very special day for us. In the morning, I reached the hospital around 11 AM after doing a bit of grocery shopping. Shortly afterwards, the midwife on duty told us that we should be able to take  the mother and baby home today as they were both doing well and there were a lot of people waiting to be accommodated as the hospital was full.

We readily understood their problem (we ourselves had to wait a couple of hours to get our room 3 days earlier so we know how important that was). I left for home to fetch the baby’s car seat and, on the way, picked up some stuff to decorate our apartment for welcoming the baby. Our neighbor and Nupur’s (my wife’s) mom decorated the apartment while I arrived back at the hospital with the car-seat.

Once we were done with the formalities (which consisted of just signing a piece of paper) at the hospital, we carried the baby in the car seat till the hospital entrance and then took a cab home.

For those who are interested to know, I had bought the Maxi Cosi Pebble, which is an infant car seat and can be used until the baby turns 1 year old. It turned out to be quite easy to attach the car seat and it held up very well over the entire journey back home. You can read more about why I chose it here.

When we reached home, our moms welcomed us warmly and we were very happy to find the apartment so nicely decorated. We celebrated a bit by eating nice food and some sweets. We changed our little one into more comfortable clothes and then put her down on the bed to sleep. We had decorated her cot but she still hasn’t slept in it because she always needs to be close to her mom, which is fine for us.

Here are some pictures.

Do share your own coming home experiences by commenting below.

It’s a Girl !!

its-a-girlOn the morning of 13th of January 2017, and after an excruciating 28 hours in labor, while it was freaking cold and snowing outside, the clouds parted and our ray of sunshine, our sweet little angel, finally entered our world.

“It’s a girl!” I announced to my wife with tearful eyes as the midwife turned the baby and opened her legs. The very next instant, the baby was placed on the mother’s chest, skin-to-skin. We were spell-bound. In that instant, we forgot all the tiredness that we had been feeling over the last 2 days. We had our baby in our arms.

We couldn’t believe it was a girl. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because we had become so used to the bump that it would still take time for us to process that it has now become a real person. We had imagined it would be a girl. We had also imagined it would be a boy. We knew it could be either. But seeing our baby girl for real turned out to be so different from imagining.

After a while, the nurse asked me if I would like to hold my baby for some time while they helped my wife relax. They asked me to take off my t-shirt and be skin to skin with my baby because she needs that. I was so scared. She was so tiny. I was scared of picking her up. But they told me I would be just fine.

It’s my daughter… It’s MY DAUGHTER!

And then I held her in my arms and everything else in the world became unimportant. This, Now, was Everything.

Our little baby girl is adorable and quite healthy. The mother is doing excellent, though still a bit exhausted. Our mothers are here to help us and they have both been amazing in sharing our load.

Even now, 2 weeks after the birth, I can’t believe I have a baby now. I can’t believe I have a daughter. I can’t believe I am a Dad now…. Maybe it will take some more time to sink in. Maybe, I should change the tag line of my blog now.

How has your experience been? Do share by commenting below.

(This post was originally written on 15th Jan 2017, but I forgot to publish it and only realized that today.)
(Pictures will be later.)

Crossing the Due Date

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Today, 8th January 2017, was our baby’s calculated due date. But the little angel has decided to make us wait a little longer.

We had come to anticipate that our baby might arrive earlier than its due date. Why? Simply because we had been told that the baby can come anytime from two weeks before till two weeks after the due date. Add to that our excitement, being first time parents, and the fact that both our moms have arrived from India for the birth of their first grandchild. So, starting a few days before christmas, when folks at work started going for holidays, I would leave work everyday wondering if I would be coming back the next day or not. I’ve been going to bed every night half expecting to be woken up at odd hours to discover that my wife’s pains have started. Days have turned into weeks, temperatures have plummeted over 20 degrees, snow has covered the whole of Stockholm, but our baby has not yet shown up.

I remember once asking our mid-wife if it becomes apparent during the later stages of the pregnancy whether the baby might come earlier or later. Maybe the position of the bump might indicate something? She told us that there is no such prior indication and that the baby decides when it wants to come out. “Oh!” said I as I looked at the bump, “So, YOU decide?”

I spoke to the baby a few days back and told it (we still don’t know if it is a he or a she) that we have already completed all the shopping for it. I asked the baby what more it needs me to do before it is happy enough to come out. I did not get any answer, not even an acknowledgement.

So, I thought to myself if there was something I have forgotten to do or was there a certain way I needed to call the baby out? That it has grandparents and great-grandparents and uncles and aunts desperately waiting for it obviously makes no difference to the baby’s mood. I had to try something different.

So, that night I had an idea. Maybe the baby needs some sort of homely Indian stimulation. I created a playlist of top Govinda (a popular Indian actor from the 1990s) dance songs on YouTube and played them for 2 hours while we sat in front of the TV watching. In between, I would ask my wife if she felt anything different. No! So, the next evening, I created an even bigger playlist of other popular Bollywood dance numbers – old and new – from Salman to Shah Rukh to Aamir (amongst others). Despite another couple of hours wasted in front of the TV, nothing happened now too.

I have tried everything else I could. I have sung to the baby, danced, thrown commands at it, suggested dates, pleaded, but nothing seems to work. I guess it gives me a glimpse into the future of our household. Gone are the days when things progressed according to my planning. Something, rather someone, else is going to beat my plans from now on.

So, today, the due date is here and about to pass in another few hours. But our stubborn baby has quietly demonstrated who exactly will be making decisions over the next few decades. And, I better get used to it.

So, we wait again.

The Count Down is On: 2 Weeks to Go

The last few days are upon us. Our due date is now less than 2 weeks away. And everyone says that the baby can come anytime, and without warning, during the 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after the expected date. So it could be today. Or tomorrow. I don’t know.

How do I feel? I am not sure. There was a time over the last couple of months where I was completely immersed in planning and shopping for the baby, and all the fun had made me quite excited and eager. However, now that the wait has shrunk from months into weeks, and weeks into days, I am starting to get the jitters.

At times, I feel I cannot wait for the baby to come. But other times, I get really scared when I think about whether I have prepared correctly or not. What would happen when my wife’s pains start? Will it be slow pains at first which increase in an orderly fashion and give me indications of when to call the hospital? Or will something happen in a flash and I will need to act quickly? How well will I manage those tense moments when I take her to the hospital? Though we have already packed the maternity bag and the baby bag, will I still miss something on the last day? These questions give me a hard time.

A few nights back, while sitting in the living room watching TV, my wife let out a slight moan of discomfort – like she often does – but this time it gave me a jolt to imagine that that moment could just as easily have been the onset of labor. I started wishing ‘not today, not today’ in my mind and it took my some time to calm down. Since then, I have gone to bed every night hoping for an uneventful sleep. I feel utterly unprepared, even though I have done everything to prepare us and our home to welcome the baby. All our shopping is done, work is taken care of, in fact both our moms are here to help us through the coming weeks. The maternity ward’s number as well as those of the taxi companies are in all our mobile phones as well as pasted on the fridge in the kitchen. I keep reminding myself that when it is time, I have to think about my wife and baby’s safety and comfort above everything else. Yet, despite all this, I am nervous that I might be missing something.

I know that my being nervous sounds so unfair, considering what my wife might be going through in her mind. The baby is growing inside her and not me. It is going to come out of her causing her the worst imaginable pains and for an unknowable span of time. I imagine how scared she feels on the inside. She asks me everyday if the baby is going to be alright. ‘Of course!’ I tell her. We are two healthy parents going through a normal uncomplicated pregnancy, so we have no reason to feel worried. But I guess you do feel worried nevertheless.

All I do every morning is look at the fact that my wife has woken up feeling good and I hope to keep seeing her like that for just a few more days. I want her to be able to go to work and to the markets a little bit more before the baby comes. Maybe she is still preparing herself on the inside just as much as I am every day.

Even this morning while I was on my way to work, and right now while I am writing this post, I found myself asking mother nature to let the baby come as close to the expected date of 8th January as possible, believing that the next few days will end up preparing us better. Whereas the truth is, no amount of time can prepare you for it completely. So, we take each day as it comes.

What it really means to be a Father

What it really means to be a Father

superdadOver the last few weeks, I have been thinking deeply about what it means to be a father and what the main role of a father is. While I wait anxiously for the day when our baby finally arrives, a few things have shaped my feelings not only about what being a father would mean for me personally, but also how it does and will affect my wife and baby in the short as well as long-term.

The first was that, being in her eighth month now, my wife has been slowing down drastically in what she used to be able to do, from going to office to taking care of the home, cooking, etc. I found myself empathizing more with her, constantly trying to make her more at ease. I started taking us out for dinner frequently, so that she didn’t have to put effort in cooking dinner everyday. Whenever she seemed out of energy, I did everything I could to make her feel comfortable. Over time, I realized that it was making her happy and feel loved, and what else could I value more than having our baby born to a happy mother? And it wasn’t just for the baby, it owed it to my wife to do everything I could for her because she was going through so much at a personal level also.

The other thing that caused the biggest change in me was a bit more complicated. Many weeks back, my wife suddenly felt a bit scared by something and I was surprised by how her body started responding. She felt weird in her tummy and even the baby felt weird and kicked a bit more. I immediately stepped in to calm her down and insisted that she had nothing to worry about as long as I was here. She started to feel relaxed and slowly her physical discomfort drained away. This was the first time I realized how important I – the father – was to them. Even the unborn needed me to be there. They were my responsibility.

Over the next few weeks, there were some things that started to worry me deeply. I can’t share what it was, but suffice to say that it was not related to the pregnancy, but some factor outside of our control. As I thought more and more about the situation, the more worried I became. I was so stressed that I worried about it every minute for over a month. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t enjoy time with my wife or my friends. But as much as I wanted to, I never mentioned anything to her. And the reason was that I didn’t want her to worry. I didn’t want anything to affect her. Even though it later turned out that I was imagining too much and there was no need for me to worry about those things, I realized how important a father’s role is in the family: to keep them away from worries.

Also, while I was so worried, I could not say anything to anyone. But in all that worry, I suddenly saw some light. I decided to tell my dad about it, and immediately after sharing a bit of it with him I realized that I felt so much better and safer myself because I knew he was there. I knew that in the worst of situations, he would bail me out. So, even though I am now a grown man of 33 years, there are still times when the world scares me but I have a dad who I know will always be by my side to protect me and make me feel safe. And one day, I have to be that man for my children.

So, today I think I know what being a father – a Dad – really means. It is far more than love. It means making your family feel safe and secure and protected. It means becoming a wall between the world and your family.

Fatherhood is so underrated. What do you think? Do leave your comments below.