On Letting Them Go

When you bring up your child from the moment they are born and then you see them grow slowly over the months and years, you might tend of forget that at some point they will have to learn to be on their own without the parents watching out for them. And knowing when and how to let go can be a painful task for a parent who loves their child deeply.

I had this realization a few days back when we took our 14 m.o. daughter, who had recently been trying to hurry her walking (her version of running) while mantaining her balance, to a play area where there were lots of older kids running around, jumping, sliding, climbing, crawling under tunnels, etc. In the beginning, I had Nitara in my lap and kept searching for a quieter corner where I could let her walk and play. She went on a small slide a few times but then she also wanted to run around the big tree-house in the center.

I gave her my hand to hold and kept walking with her and everytime there was danger of another child bumping into her or if she felt like losing her balance, I would quickly pick her up and put her down somewhere safe. This went on for a while and my wife also joined us. It was soon clear that our daughter was discovering something new and just wanted to run around exploring the world on her own, but we were concerned about her safety because she was our tiny little girl and really small compared to the other children running around screaming and playing.

And then, we decided to let her go on her own and not make way for her. We would wait and see what happens. The moment we released her, she took off. First she ran in one direction and then switched and ran in another. She stop, start, change directions on her own and the whole time we watched with anxiety and waited for someone to bump into her and throw her down. It was a bit difficult to see our daughter be on her own in the midst of so many “threats” around her and not help her at all. But is was also a discovery for us because we realized that she was going to be ok without us. The kids running around that really scared us were actually trying not to bump into others, while Nitara was trying to assess the things around her as well. She felt free, we could see, without us directing her every move, she was free to see the world the way she wanted to, even if it meant making mistakes and falling and getting hurt. I learnt that it wasn’t important for me to prevent her from getting hurt, but to be there quickly if she did so that she felt we were there was for.

And so, for the first time, I felt I let my little angel go and be in this world on her own without me, even if it was only for a couple of minutes and that too in a very safe play area. I feel a lot of things when I think back of that moment. The realization that I am so protective of my darling daughter, the knowledge that she would probably be fine on her own and the sadness that one day I really would stop being there in her life at all. Happily, at least today was not that day.

Shopping for the baby arrival

Shopping for the baby arrival

More than a year ago, I wrote a post on what our shopping list for the upcoming baby looked like, and it didn’t look good. I kept reading and researching about baby stuff that new parents might need and the list just kept expanding. Somewhere in the process, quite confused with over-research, I asked my wife’s mid-wife for tips and she had a very simple answer:

“All that the baby needs is you.”

A year, later I have realized how true that really was. As the baby came into the world, we started to figure things out as and when we needed them. In any case, it never harmed anyone to be prepared but it is also important to know that there is a lot of marketing that pushes new parents towards buying stuff that they really would never need. For instance, do you really need one of those expensive baby monitors? Does a bottle sterilizer make any sense or should one use a pan instead? Before deciding to buy something, always ask yourself ‘why’ and ‘when’ you would be using it and then buy it only if you see a very clear need for it. But how to do you know for sure that you will need it as opposed to you being convinced by marketing? Just wait till the time the real need actually arises and then buy, like I did before buying our Baby Carrier.

So, from my experience as a recent new parent, here is a list of almost everything you will need for your baby in the first few months, along with the ‘why’ and ‘when’:

  1. Feeding Bottles
    For a new-born, remember that the priority should be to only breastfeed as far as possible. But you should still be prepared with at least a couple of bottles, in case you face difficulty with breastfeeding and need to give some formula or if you need to store breast milk for later use as well.
  2. Cot
    It depends on you personally if you plan to have your baby sleep separately in a cot or in the same bed as the parents. For us, even though our baby sleeps with us on most nights, it is good to have a secure place where we could leave her for some time and not worry about her rolling over and falling off the bed. Having her own cot also means that the baby can sleep undisturbed and one does not have to worry about being too careful getting on or off the bed.
  3. Changing table (with changing pad)
    Again, it is not a necessity and you can easily manage on the bed as well. But we did find it to be excellent use because it meant we did not have to bend in order to change our baby’s diaper, which was very good news for our backs and we were also able to store a lot of our baby stuff under our changing table, so it was easy to reach diapers, creams and other baby stuff while changing diapers. By the way, for our baby, we stopped changing her diapers on the changing table when she was around 9 months old because she became too big for it and kept wanting to get up and roll over so it now became impossible to use it any more, but we still use the space to store her stuff.
  4. Onesies
    This is a no-brainer. You will definitely need lots of these since they are easy to put on and don’t have to be taken off for diaper changes. I would recommend at least 6-8 along with a few pyjamas, caps, gloves and socks. In the early months, diaper leakages and vomiting undigested milk are more frequent and it is handy to have a few changes always at hand, considering that you might not be able to wash the baby clothes every day. Babies can also feel colder than we do and it is necessary to keep them warm and that is why you will need some gloves and caps. But remember not to pack the baby too warm that they start feeling hot.
  5. Diaper bag
    As well as keeping things handy and organized at home, diaper bags are a must if you want to take your baby out. And, of course you will. Buy one diaper bag and stick with it for s long as possible. Make sure the bag you buy has enough space to manage all the stuff you need and has a few compartments to organize stuff as well. Read about the contents of our diaper bag here.
  6. Moisturizing and Diaper Rash creams
    Baby skin can get dry and rough if the weather is cold or if not taken care of. If you think it is needed, remember to apply moisturizing creams (the ones for babies, not adults) on their body as well as face. Which cream you use depends on where you live and what is available, but for us our mid-wife recommended Decubal. Diaper changing creams are a must because they help cure diaper rashes, which are inevitable if the baby wears diapers for long. We used Bepanthen and Inotyol.
  7. Nasal spray
    We had bought salt water sprays, such as Näsfrida, which are specially developed for use with babies. These have been helpful on two occasions, when the baby developed congestion in her nose due to cold and when her mucus hardened in her nose and could not be dislodged easily. I would say carrying a Nasal Spray is a must. Check your local pharmacy or baby stores to know what is available.
  8. Mobiles
    We bought a mobile hanging from IKEA that we hung via a mobile arm that was attached to our baby’s cot. It turned out to be a very interesting distraction for our baby. Our mobile had bees hanging from it which always caught our baby’s attention. Whenever our baby cried, we only had to turn the mobile a little and she would get engrossed in the bees flying around. It was a great thing to have.
  9. Baby carrier
    A baby carrier is an expensive product, but it also has a good use case. We bought an Ergobaby 360, but we did not buy it in advance (read about our experience here). It was when my wife was having a hard time carrying our 2 month old baby all day long even at home and her back was hurting her, we decided that it was better for us to have a baby carrier. Now, we just strap our baby to our chest and can do other stuff at home, such as cleaning up, cooking, or even take her out for a stroll and she observes the world pass her by. We have made excellent use of our baby carrier, but I can advise waiting untill you really feel the need for it.
  10. Formula
    To breastfeed or to use formula milk is the big debate. But even if you intend to only breastfeed, remember that at certain times, formula milk comes in very handy. We have had very stressful initial few days and weeks where we weren’t sure if our baby was getting sufficient milk or if she was still hungry. We used to give her top feed with formula just to be sure she was not hungry. Also, when the mom is not feeling well, it is good to have some spare formula milk. We use Baby Semp here in Sweden, so check what is available where you live.
  11. Diapers
    It is next to impossible to avoid using diapers. Either one can dedicate their lives to washing and changing nappies as well as underlying bed sheets, etc. every time the baby pees or poops, or one can take the easy route of using diapers. We have been using diapers since day one, and even on days when we decided to use a nappy instead, we had a tough time keeping up. I would advise that you keep at least 15-20 diapers (which means a pack each) of size 0 and size 1 handy before the birth just to be sure which size will suit your baby in the beginning, and then stock up for at least a week’s worth of supply at a time. Small babies can use up as much as 6-8 diapers a day. You can also read here about which diapers we have utilized.
  12. Stroller
    If you re going to take your bay out of home in the first few years (of course you will), you will most definitely need a stroller. We got a Bugaboo Buffalo for our baby but not everyone needs such an expensive stroller. Think a little bit about how often you are going to use the stroller and in what conditions. Do you think the stroller you need should be able to accommodate a lot of stuff, such as when you are out shopping? Or is it more important for you that the stroller is light and folds compactly and fits in your car? Do you want to be able to fit a car seat to the stroller at times? In that case, do you get adapters to fix your car seat to that stroller? Do you need bigger wheels such as if it snows where you live or if the terrain might be a little rough, or will smaller wheels suit you since you are only going to use it when you are in easy terrains, such as in a mall? Think about these things and then decide.
  13. Car Seat
    Do you have a car? If yes, then you obviously need a car seat for your baby. If you don’t have a car, you probably don’t. But think about how you are going to bring your baby home from the hospital, and how you are going to take her to the doctor for the follow-ups and in emergency cases? Do you easily get taxis which come with infant car seats? Are you going to be travelling with your baby in a manner that might require a car seat? We bought a car seat despite not having a car, and over the last one year I have realized that we used it only in the initial few days and only when we had to take our baby somewhere in a taxi and going by public transport at odd hours with the stroller was not an option. But after she was 4 months old, we have never had to use the car seat, but the reason is that we have excellent and stroller friendly public transport in Stockholm and one can get to anywhere in the city with the stroller. But is your situation different?
  14. Bottle Sterilizer
    We almost fell into the trap of buying an electric bottle sterilizer which would have cost us a good amount of money. And though there are some good sterilizers available, I was lucky to have spoken to a friend who told me that they just wash the bottles and then sterilize them in a pan of boiling water in their kitchen. And my friend’s wife is a nurse, so that gave me the confidence that we did not need anything special. Now that I reflect on this decision, I realize that if I had bought the sterilizer, that would have meant one more thing that needed to be taken care of, such as cleaning if it became dirty, maintenance in case it malfunctioned, whereas a pan needs to maintenance at all.
  15. Baby Gym
    We bought a fancy one from Fischer Price which had a mirror, music and lights as soe of the features and we started to put our baby in it from when she was 6 weeks old. She took some time to get used to it, but we did notice that she tried to observe the hangings quite a lot and the music also occupied her attention. After a few weeks, our baby had started to enjoy and interact with the gym a lot and we could leave her in it for 15-20 minutes at a time and be free to do other stuff. So, I would say you will most certainly need a baby gym, but which one completely depends on you. The point is to give the baby things to observe and touch so she learns.
I hope this list is good enough and covers all basics and essentials. Have I missed discussing anything important? Could anything be added to this list? Please comment below to let me know or if you want more explanation about something. If you like my post, do press the like button and let me know and Follow my blog to receive notifications of new posts.

Clap! Clap! Clap your hands!

Clap! Clap! Clap your hands!

Last week, something amazing happened with our 7 m.o. daughter. My wife and I had recently spoken about training Nitara to do stuff like clap her hands and one morning I tried to teach her to clap her hands but it did not work and she was not interested. However, in the evening my wife held Nitara’s hands and started clapping them together while I clapped mine to show her again how it is done. Then we let go and soon we were surprised to see that Nitara began to clap on her own. And that wasn’t all. When she stopped, I started clapping with my hands and kept on saying “clapping, clapping”. Seeing me do it, she started to clap again and we were excited at having taught her some new actions. We had fun for some time and when we stopped, I waited a short while and then just said the word “clapping”. To our astonishment, Nitara started clapping her hands at the mere mention of the word. We couldn’t believe ourselves so we did this a few times by distracting her in between. I even picked her up and sat her on my shoulders, told her we are doing “dansy, dansy” and then let her hands free and said “clapping, clapping”, and there she went clapping her hands again.

We were overjoyed at the whole development. It was a proud moment to know that our baby was responding to us by actions, that she not only heard words we spoke but also listened to them and retained them in her mind.

I was so happy that I hugged her tight and kissed her round cheeks and told her, “I’m proud of you, my baby.” Then a thought came to my mind. More of a reflection. As kids, we sometimes say that one day we would want to make our parents proud. But what we don’t know, and what I learnt today, is that parents become proud of their children much earlier than the children realize. I don’t have to wait for my baby to grow up, do well at her education, chose her career and achieve something big in order to feel proud of her. I already am proud that she is a lovely baby and is learning to do stuff even if it’s something as small as clapping her hands. Before today, I could never understand this. But now, I love it.

So, though it has been over a week, Nitara continues to respond to the word clapping. Not only that, she even does it unprovoked, and often when she is excited. It’s exciting.

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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