Our Little Agent of Chaos

Our Little Agent of Chaos

At around 8 months, our daughter underwent a new kind of development, and it happened when we least expected it to. Over the past few days, she had started to crawl around the home, touching everything, pulling on wires, trying to grab our Apple TV but then dropping it to the floor. While we half enjoyed this development, we thought that we would soon need to arrange “stuff” around our home so that it is out of her reach and she does not accidentally drop anything. But we didn’t anticipate that dropping stuff was only the first step in her real motives.

Back home from work one evening as I entered our apartment, I was stunned to find our living room in a mess with all the stuff stored under Nitara’s changing table scattered all over the place. Her toys box was lying on one side while the toys were spread all over the room.

“What the hell happened here?” I wondered aloud.

It turns out that just a short while back, my wife had left Nitara on her playmat just like every other day, and gone into the kitchen just for a couple of minutes, and upon returning, she found the whole room to be a mess with our little (little?) Nitara standing holding one leg of the changing table for support while all of its contents were lying strewn around. She did not feel she had the energy to clean up right away, so she left the room as it was.

Before I began cleaning up the stuff, I took a while to take in the scene.

“How did the washcloth pack get there? How could she even lift it? Maybe it just fell out of her tiny hands onto the floor and bounced that far away.”

“Why was her brush under the couch and how did her pack of plasters get halfway across the living room?”

Of course, I wasn’t angry. I was delighted that my baby girl had progressed further on her journey of discovering the world she had come into eight months back. She was doing what her curiosity what driving her to do.

I looked at my girl and tried to imagine what she must feel like. She still had no concept of language. She doesn’t say anything and probably doesn’t even know what she is feeling. She just looks innocently back at me and passes her cutest smiles. I smile back at her and picked her up in my arms and give her the kisses on her cheeks that I always do. It occurs to me that making a mess of things was something kids would do all their lives, while I, as a dad, have to take care of the situations every time. It was an important lesson and a reminder that I am a parent – a Dad.

On Fathers and Daughters

On Fathers and Daughters

One night, I was sitting on my bed, my 3 month old baby girl playing in my lap throwing her hands and legs around in an increasingly more fluid and less robotic fashion. The room was dark but there was enough light for us to see each other’s faces. I could see that she was looking right at me while I kept bringing my face down and placing the tip of my nose on hers, like I love doing all the time. She brought her hands to my face and started exploring my cheeks, pulling my hair, rubbing my beard and grabbing my nose, like she had recently learnt to do. Somewhere during this little episode, the realization hit me with an intensity like never before that I was now a father of a girl who I loved so much that it was impossible to describe. Just to look at her playing calmly in my lap gave me a sense of happiness. It felt like I was in a deep state of meditation, in a cave far away from the rest of humanity, and it opened my mind to thoughts I never had before. I was discovering how much I loved my daughter. Right here in that moment, perhaps she was learning to love me too. I was her window to the world, but did she know that right now? I realized that there is something special about a father-daughter relationship that only fathers and daughters can understand.

It is incredibly difficult to know the heart of a father, I realized. Mostly because society talks more about mother’s love, fatherhood gets a distant second mention. Mind you, I don’t think any less about mothers. After all, they go through nine months of pregnancy, then a painful and potentially life threatening delivery, and then years of the child being stuck to them for physical as well as emotional nourishment. It is a huge task and my respect for mothers has only increased with our own experience. But what about a father? What can explain the way he falls in love with a baby who is still in the mother’s womb, months away from birth? He, who accompanies the mother-to-be to the midwife clinics every time and remembers to ask the important questions which she herself would be too nervous to remember. He, who stands by her for dozens of hours while she is in labour, encouraging her to go on. He, who sees the baby’s head and her body come out into the world. And he who then stays awake for the rest of his life so that he can protect them both from the very same world. And finally he, who decades later stays calm and takes charge, while the mother loses herself crying and howling, when that daughter leaves them for her new life with a new partner.

My chain of thoughts is suddenly broken as my 3 month old darling daughter scratches hard with her nails right next to my left eye. In the dark, I know she can see my face and the tears that had just fallen from my eyes. Is it just her innocence or is she telling me not to worry right now? After all, she has barely learnt to move her limbs and there is still a long way to go. I lift her up, hold her tight to my chest and kiss her on her cheeks, and then on her forehead while she continues the exploration of my face and neck with her tiny hands. We sit there like that for a long time as I learn what it is like being a dad to a girl. I used to think that fathers are furthest in the chain of emotions, but holding my little girl in my arms, I question how that could ever be true. I know now how my dad feels about my younger sisters, even though he never shows it, and how much they really must love him back. I know how much my wife loves his father and how much my mom her own. That I am now myself part of this sacred relationship makes me feel special, enlightened.

So, I look down back at my darling daughter and tell her what every father tells his daughter, ‘Nitara! My dear Noni! Papa loves you.’

Chasing The Phone

Chasing The Phone

A few times a day, we do a video call with our family back in India so that they can see Nitara and what she is up to. During one such video call recently, while she was sitting and playing on her play-mat, I got an idea. Nitara had recently started to crawl a bit better so in order to show my mom that, I placed the phone in a standing position on the floor, but a few feet away from her. The phone, with my mom on its screen, immediately caught Nitara’s attention. She quickly leaned towards the phone, got onto her tummy and started crawling. As soon as she was in touching distance of the phone, her one hand made an arc in the air, landed on it and lifted it up. She sat up, brought the phone close to her face and started inspecting the screen with my mom on it. Naturally, the inspection proceeded with one corner of the phone now in her mouth, so I snatched it from her, moved to another end of the living room and place the phone down on the floor again with its screen facing Nitara. She was on the move quickly again and headed for the phone, but the distance being a bit far, she stopped in the middle, rested for a few moments and then resumed crawling towards the phone. As soon as she reached it, a familiar look of curiosity came on her face and just as she was about the grab the phone again, I snatched it out of her reach and went and placed back it in the previous corner of the room. This whole cat and mouse went on for some more time after which it was clear that Nitara had exhausted all her patience and energy for the day and gave up and started crying. We had to end the show right there. As it was also dinner time by then, a bottle of milk was produced before her which contributed greatly to calming her down and eventually preparing her for sleep.

Needless to say, Nitara chasing my phone has become a regular feature of our video calls back home.

There’s A Turtle In Our Home

There’s A Turtle In Our Home

There’s a cute little turtle in our home. It’s always lying on its stomach on the floor, facing a direction that it wants to go in. It pushes forward with its back legs, but doesn’t know exactly how to use its front legs in tandem with the rear in order to move forward. And thanks to its unending efforts, it occasionally manages to raise itself slightly but then ends up rolling over onto its back. It doesn’t know how to roll back to its previous position so it starts crying and I have to rush forward to help it back onto its stomach, ready to push ahead again.

But every now and then, I take my eyes away from it for a couple of moments and when I look back, it has moved forward a bit. I look at it and it looks back at me. No movement, nothing. Then I go back at my laptop. After a while, I look at it again and again I find it has moved forward quite a bit. First it was lying on a play-mat. A few moments later, I found it on the floor. Then, in the play gym. Then under the coffee table.

Like I just said. There’s a cute little turtle in our home. It moves when no one is looking, stops when there are eyes on it. Unsuspecting Dad uses the quiet time to catch up on his work. The unaware Mom prepares dinner in the kitchen. All is well, until you hear a thud. No longer able to maintain her balance trying to climb onto the front of the couch, the turtle – our 7 month old daughter – finally falls sideways onto the living room floor and the suddenness of the fall scares her more than it hurts, and she erupts into loud screams again. I rush to her aid again, pick her up in my arms and try to pacify her, while her Mom also arrives from the kitchen and inspects the scene. Our little girl gets a bit of affection from both parents and once she has stopped crying, I put her down on her play-mat again, and hand her her toys. She is happy now. The Mom is back in the kitchen, and I back at my laptop to resume typing the blog post I knew had been pending for weeks. I write a couple of more sentences, and just as my concentration is back, I throw a quick glance around the room to find my turtle again lying on its stomach on the floor. Where is it headed now?

Rhymes On My Mind

Rhymes On My Mind

Remember how some days you wake up, get ready, step out of the home for work/school and realize that you’ve had a particular song playing in your mind, even on your lips, the whole time without you knowing or even being able to make it go away? I know its happened to me quite a lot and most times I’ve been surprized to learn that it could be the worst song I’d ever heard, or it could be one that I last heard years ago, but which had suddenly made home in my mind and just wouldn’t go away. Sometimes, this would last an entire day and I would not be able to get rid of it. Yes, I know it has happened to you too.

But, of late, things have changed a little. Last week, I woke up, got ready, was off to work and the whole day, there was a nursery rhyme stuck in my head and I just couldn’t shake it off. And the reason was simple. We were playing nursery rhyme videos on our TV, while our 7 m.o. darling daughter sat on her high chair across the room with a bib around her neck, having her meal. She finds these videos quite interesting and so they were the best way to make her eat. Imagine the look on your face if something utterly unbelievable happened at the most unexpected time. Can you imagine how your expression would be in that first instant? Now freeze that look for about half and hour and that is how my daughter keeps staring at the TV the whole time these are playing.

So, we get an overdose of nursery rhymes for a good amount of time everyday. And that is why, on some days, upon waking up, I find one of those stuck in my mind. And everytime I managed to clear my head of it, it would start over automatically. There would be an involuntary clicking of the toungue (click–click-click–click-click—-click-click) to set the base and then, the rhyme would begin:

Baa Baa Black Sheep, Have you any wool..
Yes Sir! Yes, Sir! Three bags full..
One for the master, One for the dame..
And one for the little boy Who lies down the lane…

Which is your favourite Nursery Rhyme? Share with me by commenting on this post.

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.

Watching our baby in the womb

The first ultrasound doesn’t really show you much. The only thing it does is that it confirms that there is something inside and gives you something to start dreaming about. It is too small to look like a baby. Just a foetus. No arms, no legs, just something resembling a head and a small body maybe. No movement.

The second ultrasound was what really shocked us. Being our first pregnancy, we had never seen anything like this before. We could easily tell it was a small baby now and was so much different from the first scan. We could see its hands and legs, and body, and the head and a tip for the nose, the curve for the butts. It was incredible. We were now looking at a living being that we created. I got goosebumps and felt something indescribable in my heart when I saw it flapping about its arms and legs randomly, and twisted and turned its body away from us when the scanner moved over my wife’s bump. It was as if the baby was telling us it did not wish to be disturbed. It was doing something really important, in that it was slowly creating itself and growing up, getting ready for the outside world. Being created from a cell and growing into a fully formed human being is a tough job and our baby is so busy with it that it does not care for being disturbed.

Or? Or, was it calling out to its mamma and papa, trying to touch and feel us, asking us to pick it up and bring it out into the world and take care of it and decorate it with cute clothes and accessories and shower it with love? Maybe, it already knows it has first-time grand-parents, a great-grandmother, and first-time aunts & uncles all waiting for it. But wait we must and so must the baby.

And we wait. 8th January 2017.

Being there for the mother

During the first 2 months of her pregnancy, my wife didn’t even notice anything different about her. We only found out towards the end of this period that she was pregnant. But it was just as she entered the third month that her health started to decline slowly. At around 1.5 months, despite being otherwise healthy, she had lost all taste for non-veg food such as chicken and other meats. This came at a bad time for her since we were vacationing in Rome and Florence and the sole purpose of our trip was to enjoy the amazing food Italy has to offer. We have long been fans of Italian food, so it was specially disheartening to see her push away the lovely pasta carbonaras and the super delicious pizzas. Fortunately, she still had the energy in her to sightsee and shop around, so the trip was otherwise very nice.

On our journey back to Stockholm, she finally showed the first signs of nausea, though even now, it was quite in control. She only felt motion sickness, but never really threw up.

Over the next week or so she was a bit steady with her health and we took a trip to an island in the Stockholm archipelago with my sister and her husband and did a bit of barbecue. My wife was still repelled by meats and now her hightened sense of smell was at its peak, so we kept her a bit away from the cooking. But otherwise, she was fine.

Over the next 2-3 days was when the most noticeable decline in her health began. She started feeling more and more out of energy and stopped eating almost everything. She took longer naps during the day and sometimes refused to even talk about food.

There came times when her nausea made her vomit so much, she would get frightened that the spasms caused by throwing up might harm the baby. But her midwife had already told us that the baby continues to be safe in the womb, and even if the mother stops eating completely, the baby continues to suck all the nutrition it needs, be it at the cost of the mother’s health. This was soon visible as my wife started to throw up day and night. She ate nothing, but vomited a lot. The really strange thing was that, when she felt the nausea, she couldn’t even manage to rush to the washroom and threw up immediately, whether she was in the bed, on the sofa or right outside the washroom.

Some nights were so bad that she vomited every 15 minutes, and I slept with a bin next to me which I would immediately bring to her service as soon as I could tell she was feeling sick again. One specific night, I remember having such a light sleep myself because I was worried she would get sick again soon, and she did. In all, the poor soul lost around 8 kg of her weight in just about 4 weeks. Carrying a lot of plastic bags whenever we stepped out of the house became a routine.

She is now in her fifth month and all the nausea is already gone and she seems to have gained back a kilogram from the lowest point. She is also quite active now – though not the same as before getting pregnant – and her bump has become quite prominent and people at work have started noticing and congratulating her. It is such a relief to know that your partner is not suffering any more. Nice to see her up and about, going to office everyday and coming home and making dinner.

However, I also do know that this is only a brief reprieve and that the really tough times are yet to come when her bump will become large enough to restrict her movements again, when she will again have to be very slow and careful with her activities and above all, the hell she is about to go through with the delivery.

As much as I would like, I cannot take any of her discomfort onto myself so that she feels better. But what I know I can do is to be there for her all the time, understand her problems and emotions and be the nicest husband that I can be. I must shield her from stress, both physical and mental, and do things which make her happy. After all, it is in a way unfair that the mother has to undergo so much while the father can basically rest his ass on the couch and eat and drink whatever he likes. I wouldn’t mind taking up part of her burden, but knowing that it’s impossible, I can only take relief in the fact that I have the opportunity to be there and take care of things when she doesn’t have the capacity for it.

Anyway, we still have a long way to go. Lots to do. January 2017, we are waiting for you.

Love for the Unborn

It is a slightly different sort of feeling today. My wife is over 4 months pregnant now and while I have been looking at baby products like toys, gyms, neck slings, etc., I  am positively overwhelmed. There is so much I need to and want to do, whereas the baby is still over 5 months away. I want to buy the most colorful bibs and toys, and my heart is set on the most expensive baby gym and stroller I have seen yet. I have basically forgotten about everything else that, until a few months back, I wanted to buy for myself. No longer am I wishing for the MacBook, or the Hoverboards so popular these days. Neither am I thinking of a gift for myself on my 33rd birthday, which is only about a week away.

But more importantly, I felt something even more incredible. While I was looking at some baby carriers, I felt this strong urge to pick up and hug my baby. I felt as if we already have a baby and someone has taken it away from me and I just felt unable to bear the separation. I just wanted to hold it close to my chest and not let it go, and protect it from the world. Gosh! It feels like I am the mother, not the father. Never expected I would have started to feel this much love and attachment for the unborn little one this early. Do dads really feel the way I am feeling?

It’s gonna be a…. Boy? Girl?

As soon as we learnt we were going to have a baby, I was pretty sure in my mind that I would like to know the gender of the baby in advance. My wife, on the other hand, felt exactly the opposite. For her, the surprise was important. Over the countless weeks that followed, we both put our arguments forward, trying to convince the other why one of us was right.

For me, knowing was important for two reasons. First, I don’t like uncertainties and prefer knowing over not knowing. I wanted to enjoy the whole period leading up to the delivery framing my thoughts more deeply about the baby and feel more of a bond with it when it is born. Knowing would also let me prepare things accordingly, buy the right colors: blue or pink, the right bibs: sporting a lion or a kitty. I wanted to enjoy knowing. The second reason, though less important, was that, back in India, it is illegal for doctors to reveal the sex of the baby (believe me, it is very very difficult to find out there). But here in Sweden, having had the option available, I wanted to take it just for the reason that I could.

My wife’s only reason for not knowing was that the lesser you know, lesser you tell the world and therefore, lesser people talk about it. She is a bit superstitious, in that she didn’t want to celebrate something way before its time.

However, after some time, it so happened that she got completely convinced by my arguments and agreed to finding out the sex of the baby at the next ultrasound, which was also going to be her last. Now that she agreed on this, she started to see all the advantages, such as being able to prepare with the right colors and the right name, and so much more. Overall, the excitement of being able to find out in advance proved too much for her to let go.

It is strange how opinions change. Because not only did she end up changing her mind, so did I. It happened one day that I was talking to my mom and she said that someone had predicted to her the sex of my baby-to-be. Though I do not believe in such predictions, it did take a place in my mind for a while and I realized that it disturbed me deeply. Somehow, something had come and taken away from the fascinating discussions I was able to have with my wife. Always discussing what we would do if it were a boy, or if it were a girl, pondering over each scenario, all of that was great fun and kept us excited. But once we found out the gender, what then? Nothing?

So, it finally dawned on me that I would be happier not knowing. That I would appreciate both a boy and a girl equally when it comes out because, by then, I would have gone through that nervous anticipation as a father where sometimes there would be good days and sometimes bad days during and I would not want knowing in advance to influence that genuine nervous anticipation. After all, it was my secret to keep and only mine to disclose.

My wife has been quite surprised that the tables had now turned completely. She now wanted to know while I wanted it to remain a suspense. It is, in a way, a good thing that both of us came around to appreciate the other’s point of view. And once you do that, your final decision, whatever it might turn out to be, could never be wrong

In our case, we finally decided not to find out. So, at the ultrasound, when the nurse told us she would be scanning the baby’s lower body and that we could look away from the big screen if we wanted it to be a suspense, my wife closed her eyes while I looked away too. Every moment, I felt enticed to look at the screen; the truth was right there to discover. But I didn’t look.

So now, we wait for January 2017.