Thursday, February 8, 2018

Now Featured On Masalamommas (5 Things People Can Learn From Interracial Marriages)

I'm so excited to share my latest article on Masala Momma's! With all the stories of intolerance, racism, and ignorance in the news lately, it inspired me to write a little something about what I think the world can learn from those of us who are in intercultural/interracial marriages!

Click HERE to check out my article and let me know what you think!


Monday, February 5, 2018

Veda's birth story

I really wanted to have a home birth, but it didn't quite turn out that way. If there's one thing true about birth, it's this: expect the unexpected! As much as you can plan...sometimes things take a different turn. In the end, all that matters is that mom and baby are happy and healthy. I'm happy with how Veda's birth turned out, and I'm proud of us for handling it as well as we did.

But, let me start from the beginning. Or shall I say - the beginning of the end...

My actual due date was February 11th, but shortly after Christmas I got the feeling that my baby would arrive between January 15-31. I knew that I wouldn't make it until February.

We were preparing to have a home birth and even rented a birthing tub for a water birth. I wanted to have a home birth for several reasons. The first was because Maya had a quick delivery and I wasn't sure I'd make it to the hospital on time and we didn't want to risk giving birth in the car. Maya's birth was very quick, which was unusual for a first birth and she was born posterior. With Maya, I went from 2cm - 10cm in less than an hour, and ended up pushing in the car. Statistically, second births are much faster so we thought it would be safer to just have her at home. The other reason that we wanted to have a home birth was because I wanted to include Maya in the birth. Maya came with me to every prenatal appointment and was very involved in the whole process.

In my 37th week of pregnancy, I was woken up in the middle of the night by Maya who was standing at the side of my bed and projectile vomited over both of us. The poor kid was vomiting for most of the night. It turns out there was a stomach flu outbreak at her school and a lot of the kids came down with it. A few days later, I got it. It was so awful. I was constantly vomiting for days and wasn't able to keep down any water. Such bad luck, I thought. Then, I started vomiting up blood. It was terrible.

I phoned my midwife and I told her that I would meet her at the Women's hospital because I was so weak. They assessed me there and admitted me so that I could get some IV fluids and they wanted to do some tests to make sure I had not caught anything dangerous like Listeria or Hepatitis. I was so dehydrated that they had to puncture me 10 times to find a line for my IV. Finally they got it through my foot, which was really uncomfortable because I was always running to the bathroom.

(37 weeks pregnant & stuck in the hospital!)

I ended up staying in the hospital for 5 days as I kept on vomiting. The nurses were alarmed because my blood pressure kept going up, which was unusual because I have never had high blood pressure in my life! I wrote it off due to the fact that I was vomiting up blood, so clearly I was stressed out! The doctors from internal medicine were keeping a close eye on me and noticed that during my stay there were some abnormalities with my blood work. Namely, my liver enzymes suddenly started to climb extremely high, day after day, during my stay there. They suspected they had just caught wind of a more serious underlying issue - which was coincidentally developing...

Luckily the baby was totally fine during all of this. They kept monitoring her and at one point the nurse said, "you know you're having contractions every 10 mintues, right?" and I was shocked. I had no idea. Veda liked to kick me A LOT so I assumed it was just her pounding me. They did an ultrasound and they determined that the baby was luckily not dehydrated and that she likely weighed over 8 lbs. I was relieved. My body was working very hard to protect the baby. I was dehydrated, but at least she was protected in her sacred womb.

(Veda in utero: 38 weeks)

I was really itching to get home. I missed Maya so much and I had only seen her on FaceTime because my stomach flu was contagious. Maya started to act out at home when I wasn't there, against husband-ji and my mother-in-law, refusing to get dressed for the day and go to bed. I needed to get back home because I knew I was the only one she would listen to and she was probably really anxious. The internal medicine doctor agreed to discharge me but she wanted me back on Monday morning for another blood test. She wanted to make sure that my liver enzymes returned to a safe number.

(Maya made me this Get Well card when I was in the hospital)

When I returned to the hospital on Monday for the blood test, the internal medicine doctor wanted to admit me immediately. My liver enzymes had elevated over the weekend (in the thousands). "Don't be ridiculous, I feel fine!" I said. My midwife came to the hospital again and they all formed a huddle with internal medicine and the OBGYN on call. They all looked at my tests and determined it was preeclampsia. They all waltzed in to my assessment room and told me I would have to have the baby immediately or else I would get extremely sick. They wanted to induce me that evening. Even my midwife said I would have to be induced, and she was really anti-medicalized births. I told them absolutely not, since I was already 38 weeks along and I knew that the baby would be arriving soon. The OBGYN did a vaginal assessment and it turned out that I was already 3cm dilated. "The only solution," the OBGYN said, "is to terminate the pregnancy." My heart dropped. The doctor explained that for most women, preeclampsia is a common condition during pregnancy which in most cases is resolved after you give birth and your body expels the placenta. She said she wasn't worried about me at all, since I was technically full term and the baby was well over 8 lbs. "It would be a problem, however, if you had developed this at 30 weeks. But since you're so far along, it's not an issue at all."

Right then, I became a high risk pregnancy, and my team consisted of my midwife, the on-call OBGYN and internal medicine.

I went back and forth with them and stated that I wanted to have a home birth. They said I technically could still have a home birth, but since they needed to do follow-up blood work for a few days after the birth, I would have to come back to the hospital. We all agreed that it would make more sense to just have the baby in the hospital itself, and stay a few extra days so they could monitor my blood work. I was fine with that, and decided I could utilize the additional days at the hospital to get more breastfeeding help from the nurses.

But, I had a few requests. The first was that I demanded that I was NOT going to have the baby that day. I wanted to go home, have a nice dinner with my family, prepare Maya, and mentally prepare myself. I told them I would come back tomorrow and only then I would have the baby. The second request I had is that I wanted to have the baby as naturally as possible, which my midwife helped me advocate for. With Maya's birth, my water broke first and then the contractions came. So, I requested that they manually break my waters and give me some time for the birth to get started on it's own. During this time, my midwife suggested I use the breast pump to induce labour naturally. I had a medication-free birth with Maya and I wanted the same the second time, or at least as much as possible. I also said that I didn't want the OBGYN disrupting me too much because I knew how to give birth and once my birth got started, they were not to interfere. The OBGYN agreed to all my conditions.

(Last belly pic!)

So, I went home. I was very nervous. We had a nice dinner. I drank coconut water all night to hydrate myself. I spoke to Maya about what was going to be happening and tried to prepare her. After she went to sleep, I took a hot bath and practiced my birth affirmations. I don't think I slept all night.

In the morning, we dropped Maya off to school and we headed to the hospital. I started crying in the car. A flood of emotions overcame me. I was scared to give birth. I was sad that it was the last day that Maya would be an only child. I felt heartbroken because I didn't know if I would ever be pregnant again. I wanted the baby to stay in my tummy forever, although I knew it was time for both her and I to meet. I was sad that it was over.

I tried to call my mom but she didn't answer. I called my Greek auntie, and I told her that I was going to the hospital to have the baby and that I was scared. She calmed me down and said everything was going to be fine and she said the Greek word for freedom - eleftheria. She said, "your body will feel so much freedom after". I felt a bit better hearing that.

They checked us into the hospital and into the glamorous induction suites, which were larger than my apartment living room. It felt like a suite meant for Beyonce! They had a giant tub there and a lot of space to walk around. The room had warm natural sunlight and good vibes all around. I thought to myself, this is the room where I will meet my daughter. We had a pretty nurse with long sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, and long eyelashes. She said she would be there until the evening, and she wondered out-loud if it would be a January baby or a February baby. It was already past 10am and the nurse asked if I had anything to eat (it takes a lot of energy to give birth). I said I hadn't in a few hours. She told us to go down to the cafeteria and have some lunch together. We came back to the room after lunch and I cried a bit more. We had to wait quite a while because the OBGYN's had a lot of medical emergencies that day. I was grateful for the extra time because I got a chance to calm down and feel comfortable in the birthing room space. I wasn't in a rush and I didn't want to be rushed.

(Me in my fancy birth suite, resting before the fun begins!)

Finally, the OBGYN came in to break my water. It was a bit scary, because they had to insert a long stick that looked like a knitting needle. It looked terrifying, but thankfully I couldn't feel much. My water broke, and I immediately got to work. I knew there was no turning back - this was it and I had to embrace it. I started pumping my breasts and sitting on the birthing ball and walking around. My contractions started coming, very lightly. My midwife said she would step out and to call her back when I was in active labor so she could deliver the baby. I was thankful to be given some space.

After a few hours, the OBGYN came in and wanted to start the induction medication. I agreed, but I only wanted very little. They gave me one unit of pitocin, which the nurse said they would have to increase every 30 minutes. Immediately, my contractions came on strong. I felt them all in my lower back. I stood up the whole time and pressed my face to husband-ji's neck and we swayed back and forth like a slow dance. I was so thankful for him in that moment. He never left my side. He swayed with me, as a true partner. I didn't feel alone. I felt like we were doing this together. I lost track of time. I dreamed that it we were at our wedding and we were slow dancing together. I glanced at the IV and I only had gotten two units of pitocin - it had only been 30 minutes but it felt like forever. The contractions were soon unbearable and very strong. I went from deep breathing to yelling. The contractions came like a slow wave, and after I felt a strong sensation of the baby's head lowering.

All of a sudden, I said, "call the midwife RIGHT NOW". She arrived within 15 minutes and had just taken off her coat when I got the urge to push. I lay down on the bed and the midwife examined me and said, "Yup, 10cm dilated. You're ready! PUSH!Husband-ji was crouching over me and I grabbed his neck. I let out a huge scream and her head came out. "One more push, Alexandra!" the midwife said. I pushed and I screamed, "VEDAAAAAA!" and I felt the baby slide out of me. I felt close to God in that moment. Suddenly she was put on my chest. Husband-ji cried. The nurses clapped. I was in pure bliss. I felt so calm and such a sense of completion.

(Minutes old)

It had only been about 45 minutes since they started the induction medication. The midwife said it was the fastest birth she had ever attended. Veda came into the world like a true fireball! Shortly after, I felt the urge to push again and my placenta came out. After the placenta came out of me, I felt so much better. I don't think I realized exactly how the preeclampsia was affecting me until it was over. It was a relief to have the pressure of the baby off of my internal organs. Husband-ji cut the umbilical cord, as he did with Maya. I felt so close with him and so much love towards him. It bonded us even more than ever before.

(Proud dad)

It was such a beautiful moment. I felt so different. It was like a rebirth, in a sense. I was born again - a mother of two children. I was a mother. Not a young mother, as I felt before, but a real mother. A confident mother.

Although my birth didn't go as I planned it, I embraced the ride and I was happy with how it turned out. I don't think I would have done anything differently. It was perfect.

(Maya meeting her sister)


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Veda: 1 Year Old!

My little sweetheart Veda turned ONE yesterday! I truly can't believe how fast this year went by. Yesterday evening we had a little party for at home - it was really simple and beautiful. Big sister Maya baked an eggless chocolate cake for her with blue icing and pink heart-shaped sprinkles. My mom and dad came over and we cut the cake and sang happy birthday to her. I was so happy that both sets of grandparents were there to celebrate with us. It was really casual...we were all in sweatpants!

Here are some pictures from Veda's birthday:


Monday, January 29, 2018

15 Tips on living in a Joint Family

We have been living in a joint family for the past 18+ months since my in-law's moved in with us, making our house a multi-generational home. Many people are shocked when I say that my in-law's live with us, and even nowadays in the motherland (India) people aren't doing it that much. When desi wives opt out of it, you can bet there are even less Firangi Bahu's that do it too. It definitely shifts the dynamic in the home because you're basically welcoming in two foreign elderly roommates who have their moods! As much as you think you know your in-law's, living together is a completely different experience. There's not much you can do to prepare for it, but there is a way you can minimize problems.

Here are my top tips that I've learned from living in a joint family:

1) Mind your own damn business
The best way to cohabitate peacefully is to mind your own business happily. Don't get involved in family drama that does not require your participation. Carry on with your own work. Don't nit-pick or criticize your in-law's every move. Stay out of arguments that don't concern you.

2) Be Forgiving
The ONLY way you are going to survive in a joint family is if you learn how to be forgiving and let things go. There will be fights over big thing and little things. You have to give people the benefit of the doubt - that maybe a simple remark came off in the wrong way but they had no intention to hurt you. If you keep holding on to resentment, you will end up being miserable and effect the mood of the entire house with your bad attitude. You have to learn how to resolve conflict if you're going to live with people long-term or else it's not going to last.

3) Be considerate
Be mindful of other people's sleeping times and quiet times. Don't pester them if they're trying to unwind and relax. Be considerate with your noise level during said times. Even in-law's need their privacy, and don't forget to give them some time alone at home too.

4) Don't let small annoyances get the best of you
Your in-law's are part of a different generation and culture so they are going run their household in an old-school type of way. Things that bother us are: the way my father-in-law loads the dishwasher; how my mother-in-law washes the counter-tops with water and the kitchen gets soaked; and my mother-in-law often forgets to use the cooking exhaust and our whole house smells like an explosion of onion chutney. All of these are small little annoyances that are common when you live together. They are petty things so don't waste your time by getting into a huge argument about it. And remember, if you want something done a certain way, it's best to do it yourself! (Eg. I often wipe the water off the counter-tops).

5) Go out for walks, often
If you feel like your in-law's are driving you nuts, go out for a walk and get some fresh air. If you want some privacy to vent, take your husband out for a walk. If your in-law's have not had any privacy for a while, take the kids out for a walk. The goal is to get some fresh air and walk off any tension. Plus, it's good for your health!

6) Be there for each other
Help out your in-law's when needed. Pick up their medication and take them to the doctor. Be there for each other when someone's sick, upset, or just lonely and needs a friend. Watch a movie together. Make an effort to celebrate birthdays. Be kind. Pick up what your in-law's like to eat at the grocery store, or if you notice that they're out of toothpaste, buy it for them.

7) Keep a master family calendar
In a multi-generational family, there is a lot of coordinating different schedules. I keep a master family calendar that is centrally located in the kitchen so that all the family members can reference it. Everyone writes down their appointments, classes, social get-together's, and travel dates so that we know who's doing what and we avoid miscommunication.

8) If you work from home, create your own work space
Since my in-law's moved in with us I had to give up my old office room that I used to retreat to write in. It has been really hard to concentrate and get any work done with the hustle and bustle of the house. Sometimes I work at the dining table, after the kids go to bed, but I am often distracted by my in-law's. Lately, I have been bringing my laptop into the bedroom when the baby naps in the afternoon. If you do work from home, make sure to retreat somewhere that there are less distractions. Overall, living in a joint family has made the household run smoothly, but it has made my work productivity go down.

9) Use headphones
If you want to listen to music, be mindful of other people and use your headphones. If you want to watch a TV show that you know they don't like, use your headphones. 

10) Show appreciation
If your mother-in-law likes to cook, compliment her on her cooking. If your in-law's watch the kids so you can go out and do something, say thank you. Indian elders are not used to verbal appreciation so a little goes a long way. My mother-in-law often says "why are you thanking me for something that is my duty?" but then she appreciates my thanks anyway.

11) Escape for the weekend
Plan your own weekend getaways or vacations to get a break from home life. Whenever there is some tension in the home, it can always be solved by a little space and perspective. Whether it is going on a weekend trip solo, with friends, or with your spouse and kids, it can give you a nice break from daily routines.

12) Take your in-law's on a fun outing
Don't completely ignore your in-law's - take them out for fun, too. Whether it is to the Indian grocery store, a restaurant, bowling, a shopping mall, or a movie, it's fun to get out of the house all together sometimes.

13) Your in-law's don't care about your house rules
Indian elders do not like house rules and they don't like ultimatums. If anything, it's going to piss them off. Don't tell them how you operate your household - let them find their own way in your household. There are going to be issues with bedtimes, constant phone calls to India at night, too much TV for the kids, different discipline styles, the pooja bell ringing at dawn, and your mother-in-law complaining that you don't feed your kids enough. That is all normal.

14) Be flexible
Living with your in-law's is something many of us Western brides never thought we would do and you might feel like your life is a lot different than you had imagined it. Realize that your in-law's are not going to be alive forever. Be flexible and try to be easy to live with.

15) Embrace new ways of life
Inviting your in-law's to live with you means that you are inviting in a whole different culture, family dynamic, generation, religious practices, diet, values and parenting methods into your home. You're also inviting in new habits, TV shows, music, and movies that they bring in.


What about you guys?
What are some tips that you can share for joint families?
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