Monday, October 25, 2021

Do you have eco-anxiety?

The seed was planted on a clear day; somewhere between my morning coffee and the first work call.

My newsfeed said subways in Manhattan had flooded. A woman hugged a Trader Joe's paper bag as she trudged through the knee-deep water.

Then, the seed sprouted. A landslide in North India. Homes swept away. Casualties.

It poked out of the mud of my thoughts when a friend in California reported wild fires now closer to their home. Everyone is safe. So far so good.

Giving the seed sunshine was a flood in Japan then one in our backwaters.

A series of events across the world with one common thread.

Spreading its silent roots, it made the words spill one day, 'Should we consider moving inland? Is our coastal city one giant wave away from disappearing?'

Soon after my better half scoffed at the idea, I spoke to a dear friend who is an authority in communication on urban planning and climate change.

Is my brain harbouring a weed? How do I uproot this notion that the news is watering every day? Also, what about that giant wave?

That's when she named the sapling in my mind - eco anxiety. The deluge of reporting on the adverse effect of climate change and lack of infrastructure planning is eroding the mental health of one too many. I was not alone.

She linked me to Gargi Bhavsar's article* titled 'Why climate education needs to include mental health'. A troubling account of how the idea of sudden climate devastation was coming in the way of the author's everyday life.

Bhavsar is 13 years old.

Climate impact is gradually, not dramatically, building. The giant wave is like the flying car.

But without the right research and education to help the regular reader make sense of what's going on on Earth, it's causing crippling anxiety. 

Because the sapling is thriving, I'm gravitating towards such research.

Ronita Bardhan, PhD ( she/her) is an architectural urban engineer. She recently wrote on how low income housing is setting India up to pay a literal and metaphoric heavy price on energy.

Poor ventilation leads to purchase of cooling devices -- notice any slum in Mumbai and you'll see the metallic swell of air conditioning between the blue tarp. This increases carbon footprint and eventually impacts the climate of a city.

That's where urban planning comes in.

Solution oriented conversations around climate change equate to making a garden out of thoughts on our environment. They are the rays of hope in the flood on anxiety created by the news.

For the sake on my child and her future understanding, not fear, on this topic, I hope to educate myself on such solutions.

Have you felt this way about the climate lately? Share away!


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Who is a silent mentor?

Mentor - the buzzword of the hour. By definition a mentor is a guide, guru, adviser, and everything in between. Imagine someone with salt and pepper hair, deep-set laugh lines and an aura of control.

Typically, here's someone who has been there, done that; you have immense respect for them. And so, they are to guide you. Help you stir your ship; make sense of the winds of change. Share insight on how you should swim through troubled waters.

That's a lot of pressure for anyone - especially once you label them your mentor. But more importantly, not everyone is lucky to have someone like this available to them through changing goals.

My first career goal was to be a magazine editor. But I hadn't the first clue. I did not know any editors, let alone anyone who worked at a magazine. I read magazines, I liked them, and so I hustled my way to an internship at India's best women's fortnightly (yes, even today).

There, I met my first mentor - one of my closest friends today. She volunteered advice and I soaked it up. I was hungry to learn and she was a true guide.

Ever since, I've always found a mentor where I went. That’s more than 10 years of attribution to the evolution of my mind thanks to someone else. Now, if you've shopped for a mentor with equity, you'll most likely scoff at this. Once you’ve looked, you know how difficult it is to identify this elusive human compass.

Enter, the silent mentor. I define this term as everyone who impacts your growth. Every single person you've worked with, junior or senior, who has helped you inch towards your goal at that time.

Goals change. Not everyone has a roadmap to where they want to be a decade from now. Not everyone can answer truthfully where they see themselves five years from now.

The concept of a single mentor is misguided. I've come a long way since my become-a-magazine-editor days. My goals have changed dramatically. I may not have always have had a sounding board but I've been surrounded by true leaders who've lived by example. And sometimes, silent mentors have been those nefarious elements who taught what not to become.

To all the silent mentors, may you continue to lead by example. And to you, for not realising you’ve been silently mentoring.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

What is the future of retirement?

I confess, I’ve always preferred older people to children.

I knew only one grand-parent, my paternal grandmother. As a teen, I made sure I visited her every weekend. She told the best tales of yore. No, not Cinderella. But of when she made the best hair oil, or so she was always told, and sold them on the trains.

So you see, old people are inspirational. They don’t require half the hard-work children do. Because they come in unique, set molds. They know themselves. And more often than not, they just cannot be bothered.

So here’s a word that needs reimagining - retirement. I’m done with calling it the “second innings” or associating it with relaxing on a couch all day and reading a book. I know a few people in that age group – it’s 60+ here in India; their energy and will to learn could rival a 30 year old's. They need honest work to fill their days, just like they until they had to stop.

It’s time the workforce acknowledge that age is truly just a number. The mind is what matters. Just because one blows the candles on a certain birthday, does not make them less enthusiastic or intelligent. Imagine the mistakes made and lessons learned with so many years of living. How useful these conversations can be to an entrepreneur!

I hope to never have to retire. Rest, but never stop. There’s always going to be so much to do and so much to learn. And my idea of a holiday is already to sit on a couch and read all day, so what’s the point, really?

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman is set in a picturesque retirement community. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, well into their 70s, meet once a week to go over cold cases from their past lives. Until one day, the sleepy village wakes up to a murder! I absolutely adore all of the characters. They wield their senior status to have their way so cleverly. They are also whip smart and experienced, a deadly combination for anyone on the wrong side.

For those struggling with reading, pick this one up. It’s divided into small, neat chapters that you can set as reading goals and will get through effortlessly.

It only helps how funny the storytelling is. I found myself laughing out loud.

Tell me about an inspirational book you read recently that got you thinking.

Friday, June 05, 2020

35 book recommendations for kids between 5 to 10 years

We have an almost 4 year old! The last time I wrote about what she was reading, she was a wee little one with the attention span of a spoon. She may have that of a spatula now but I believe attention spans are like stomachs; they grow if you keep on feeding them.

This blog post is a list of book recommendations to transition from picture books to chapter ones. You will find a list of books for 5 to 10 year olds below!

Through Ghiasireads, I’m lucky to have conversations on books for adults and kids of diverse ages. So, this piece is well crowd-sourced and researched too. If you’re looking for reading material for your child or gifting options for this age group, here it goes:

  Classic books for kids

Aesop’s Fables illustrated by Don Daily was recently gifted to us and it’s timeless collection of short stories; a book recommendation for a 7 to 8 year old.

Another collectible is the Beauty and the Beast (or any of the Grimm brothers’ tales) beautifully handcrafted pop-up book by Robert Sabuda.

Matilda; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; The BFG, James and The Giant Peach, and what have you. No kid’s bookshelf is complete without the magic of Roald Dahl. You cannot go wrong with a Dahl when it comes to books for children between 6 to 7 years!

Green Eggs and Ham? The Cat in the Hat? Oh, the Places You’ll Go!? The answer is Dr Seuss; another author to read to your 5 year old!

Move aside, Peppa. The cutest pig for decades has been Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith. This author is a go-to for other animal-related reading.

Book series for kids that last a lifetime

I had a childhood without Enid Blyton but it’s not one I’ll risk for my daughter. The Famous Five series, to begin with, is an often repeated book recommendation for a 7 year old. Along with The Secret Seven series, this one grows with your child so it promises a few years of engagement. But if you’re in a hurry, The Faraway Series is a book recommendation for a 5 year old.  

We also have our eyes on the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell but it’s a book series to read to, or by, an 8 year old at least.

Another series that comes highly recommended for kids who are learning and improving their reading – between 7 to 10 year olds – is Amelia Fang by Laura Ellen Anderson. 

We love Chris Van Dusen thanks to Circus Ship and cannot wait to get our hands on this series he has illustrated: Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo. This is another book recommendation for a 5 to 6 year old.

Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary are two classic series written in the '50s for kids between 6 to 11 years but they promise to grow with the child.

Books for kids by Indian authors

Don’t mind me finding Panchatantra a bit dogmatic but some books are timeless like The Blue Umbrella by Ruskin Bond; it’s a good way to introduce this author to a 7 year old.

Another book for a 7 to 8 year old is The Mystery of The Secret Hair Oil Formula by Asha Nehemiah. This author writes funny prose.

Taranauts by Roopa Pai is an adventure series of books recommended for 8 to 10 year olds.

Grandma’s Bag of Stories, The Gopi Diaries and The Magic Drum and Other Favourite Stories by Sudha Murthy are book and series recommendations for kids between 7 to 10 years!

Books for 5 to 10 year old

Adult authors who write books for kids

Am I even a “book blogger” if I don’t shove my favourite authors on my kid? Nope. I plan to start young. Alexander McCall Smith has authored Akimbo: The Elephants, The Lions and The Crocodile Man; Marvellous Mix-ups; and Explosive Adventures, among others for 6 to 8 year olds. I recently gifted one of these and received great feedback!

When it comes to Neil Gaiman, do not expect a straightforward kid’s book, but definitely one that’s exciting and mysterious: Coraline and Fortunately,The Milk are on my TBR for her!

Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey is a wonderful graphic novel series I love myself. It also comes highly recommended as reading for kids between 7 to 10 years.

JK Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a book for 8 year olds and above. Featured here because obviously she wrote the Harry Potter series for adults!

Empowering books for little girls

Girl power ahoy! Hilde cracks the case by Hilde Sysiak and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke are two series of books recommended for kids between 5 to 10 years.

Speaking of bad-ass princesses, Olivia by Ian Falconer and The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale are also highly recommended books for children 7 years and above.

Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls 1 and 2 are books recommended for kids 6 years and above.

Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke and Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro are two other book series I recommend for kids older than 6 years.

I hope you enjoy the suggestions above and find them helpful to raise a reader or encourage a loved child to unleash their imagination through reading.

Big shout out to reader moms Natali Asrani, Aloka Mehta, and Shwetha (@berryswirl21 on Instagram) for their inputs!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Woman, I miss you in a meeting

Meghan Markle is now a verb. I read it on an Instagram story. The definition says: To value yourself and mental health enough to up and leave a room, situation, environment in which your authentic self is not welcome or wanted.

This got me thinking.

I’m reading a book called Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men by Caroline Criado Perez. The title is a summary of the book. It’s an exposé on how one half of the world’s population has systematically been ignored, since time immemorial. It’s making me so angry and it’s making me cry.

I brought up an insight from the book with my husband the other day. Data says that women often “trip-chain” on their way to work. This means they drop a kid (or many) to day care/school, a family member on the way to an errand, or someone or the other to somewhere, before they get to work. A man hops on his choice of transportation and simply gets to work. The end.

I am the man here. I’m in a job that requires me to be at my desk before 9 30am. So, I leave home at 8 15 sharp every morning. I hug my daughter goodbye and see her not before 8pm. 

My husband takes over. He gets her ready, cooks her breakfast, feeds her, and drops her to school. All of this with the constant support of my in laws.

Not long ago, an incident came up with a friend while we were discussing our kids. He casually commented how he was transferred to Canada a week before his son was born. 

He didn’t “babysit” his son before he was 2 years old and the opportunity only arose because his wife’s tech-giant employer wanted her to submit some paperwork. She otherwise has the liberty to work from home. 

It was a big joke how he didn’t know how warm his kid liked milk or how exactly to change a diaper on a toddler.

So here’s a woman who not only is in a good job, and had tremendous family support after childbirth, but also one who singularly bears the mental load of bringing up her child.

Coming back to what I was asking my spouse:
Is our situation so unique?

Here’s the thing about my husband: he would have given birth if he could have. Fathering came much more naturally to him than mothering came to me. I’ve Meghan Markled myself since I was a teen. That’s why I married someone like my partner. 

However, was my demand for equal marriage and parenting the reason for the way we are? Was my inherent nature that expects him to share the load reason for his involvement?

I don’t want to take credit for his openness to be a present parent. But I admit that I was looking for this quality in the sperm that would fertilize my egg. I refused to be short-changed.

Now, the big entitled question, why don’t women demand sharing mental load? Especially when it comes to child rearing. Why don’t they demand their partners help with homework or housework or what have you? And I’m addressing women like me. Women who’ve had urban or semi-urban upbringing and have the ability to earn their living.

Elon Musk is quoted to have said, "Most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying."

If you married someone, you must have seen an ability to communicate with them. Why don’t women learn to communicate their needs in terms of sharing responsibilities? Are they selling short their ability to evolve into a new role as mother while remaining an individual?

Many new moms have told me they are afraid to leave their kids with their husbands. 

“He won’t know the schedule.”

“He’ll struggle with the chores.”

“The baby is just more comfortable with me.”

PEEP. I call bullshit. 

Are women really genetically hard wired to be the primary caregivers? If you're going to say yes, I'm going to ask BUT WHY?

But then we also have men like someone I know. His ideal woman worships the ground he walks on. Who would agree to not vaccinate their kids or send them to school. And who would absolutely let him be the man of the house, especially when it comes to bringing in and managing the money. Men do think like this but this one has (thankfully) not found this unicorn woman.

This reminds me of the book Otis’s dad, from Sex Education (S2), has written. It is called Is Masculinity in Crisis? 

Men like the one I described above think so because of women like me. But in an epiphany, in the show, even Otis’s dad says it’s utter bullshit that should never be read.

See, I’m not sure whether or not To Meghan Markle is entering the Oxford dictionary (I read a lot of memes on social media) but it should.
It’s 2020 and women, we need to take charge. 

I am usually in meetings with 20 men as the lone representative of the opposite sex.

I miss you, girls! Come to the metaphoric meeting room, let your spouse share the load, DEMAND help.

But most of all, be the best versions of yourself and not an half assed one. 

Not because you have to conform to your misrepresented female ancestors' hard wiring or because I’m putting this pressure on you.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Things to do in Morocco

My birthday is a big deal. I owe this to my mother’s love for organizing elaborate birthday parties for us when we were kids. So turning 30 had to be celebrated for the big event it is. I chose to spend this momentous occasion in Morocco. Here’s what I loved about this African country with a huge European and Middle-eastern influence; here’s also what you should do in Morocco:

View the Hassan II mosque from across The Atlantic Ocean

Casablanca is a lot like Mumbai in the sense that it’s the business centre. The biggest and brightest thing about it is the Hassan II mosque. With the largest mosque minaret in the world, at 210 metres, it is hard to miss from anywhere in the city. Entering the premise of this prayer house by the ocean left us feeling tiny in comparison.

The intricate mosaics in shades of blue, yellow, and green add to the grandeur and make for Instagram-friendly pictures. 

But the absolute best part about Hassan II is its view from across the Atlantic Ocean, on which it stands. Drive to the other side of town, past the Corniche and up the hill to the last shanties of Casablanca, and be blown away by the beauty of this structure.

Bargain for leather in Fes

Each of Morocco’s cities, except Agadir, has a medina – or a traditional market dating back centuries. The one in Fes is a proper labyrinth. Our guide was a local so he could navigate the place like the back of his hand but I’d probably get out of there in a few years, if I were left there without Maps. Discover trinket stalls, dry fruit and perfume shops, mosques, museums and leather shops on either sides of the streets as you squeeze past animals pulling carts.

While you’re there, viewing a tannery from one of the many buildings that sell leather goods is a surreal experience. We were taken to view the Sidi Moussa tannery, one of the three at the medina. 

The Chouara tannery is the largest and oldest. Sniff on lots of the mint leaves you’ll be handed at the door to avoid nausea from the smell of drying animal skin. If you are a fan, buy one of the many shapes and shades of leather goods available but be sure to bargain first! It’s expected and encouraged.

Take a history lesson

A little off Fes is Meknes, an imperial city. Century-old remnants such as Bab Mansour, an intricately designed colourful gate, whose maker lost his life in the 1700s so he wouldn’t recreate such a beauty, pay testament to this fact. We discovered the sites, and gates, of this quiet city on the way to Volubilis, which is the highlight of this region.

A Berber city from the 3rd century, Volubilis was home to Prophet Idris, descendant of Prophet Mohammed. The excavations are half complete but lend a glimpse of this once-rich Roman settlement, complete with its mosaic flooring and Jacuzzi-like home baths. We drove through his eponymous town a few kilometre away, atop two hills, to enjoy the view of the dotted homes and wonderful winds.

Watch the Mediterranean Sea meet the Atlantic Ocean

On our way to Tangier from Fes, we made a quick stop at Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco. Perched atop the Rif Mountains, this cool blue city warmed our eyes and filled our bellies with a scrumptious tagine lunch. 

But as we came down to the coastal city of Tangier, we were welcomed with the stark mix of blue and green waters. The Strait of Gibraltar is the meeting point of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Watching them flow and ebb by the beaches of Tangier was the highlight of my trip. On that warm and sunny but windy afternoon, I wanted to do nothing but dip my toes in the very cold water. But it was a wise decision to enjoy the view from the viewing deck uphill from the city centre. What’s more, Spain is literally a 45-minute ferry ride from this bountiful city!

Another city that offered us a ‘wow’-worthy view of coloured waters was Rabat. We soaked up the sun as we saw the Atlantic Ocean meet the Bou Regreg River, at the Kasbah of Udayas, across from the city of Sale. Make the short climb uphill from the Kasbah’s gates, to the 12th century fortress; the view is guaranteed to take your breath away. 

Eat pigeon pie

Vegetarian or non-vegetarian, whatever is your food preference, you will not be left wanting for delectable food in Morocco. After you’ve had copious amount of sweet mint tea (every hotel welcomed us with this) and tasted all types of tagines (meats and vegetables cooked in an earthen pot) try pastilla. This flaky pastry stuffed with pigeon—most commonly chicken—mince is both sweet and savoury. It packs a punch of flavours and goes well with harira, Morocco’s answer to tomato soup but with bits of meat, veggies, lentils and chickpeas too. 
When we were passing through Larache, a coastal town, on the way to Tangier, we gorged on whole prawns tossed in butter, garlic and parsley—shell and all. Do not miss the seafood on the coast! It is fresh and mouth-watering. Lastly, finish your meals with sweetmeats that put the ‘s’ in sugar.

Shop for olives in Marrakesh

Jemaa al Fnaa is, arguably, Africa’s most famous square. Home to some of the oldest and largest souks in Marrakesh, a visit to this area was a must. It is a bustling (often chaotic for a non-Mumbaiite) market during the day that transforms into a food lover’s paradise by night. We drank an abundant amount of orange juice for only Rs 20 per glass while shopping for ceramics, processed leather footwear and souvenirs. But the highlight of this place were the olives.

Our guide once told us that there are many olive trees in Morocco as there are people—so that’s about 3.5 crore! Safe to say, we ate a lot of olives on our trip. This square has a special souk that is dedicated to olives of various colours that are garnished with multiple herbs. At as little as Rs 150 per box, we picked these up to share with loved ones back home instead of the customary chocolate.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

30 things I learned before turning 30

My dearest baby Z,

My father once wrote me a letter on his version of the Golden Rules of ​L​ife. I'm 30 today, and I've learned a few things along the way, so here's a lowdown of them for you: 

1) Family comes first. Period.

2) Do not put up with people who make you feel inadequate. Even if they are family.

3) Learn the rules carefully before you break them.

4) Be reliable, motivated, and self reliant. 

5) Work smart not hard.

6) Keep trying. Hustle.

7) Don't take no for an answer but don't keep asking the same question to the one who keeps saying no to you.

8) Inherit the essence of your nani's wisdom, "Tu nahi toh aur sahi, aur nahi toh aur sahi."

9) Read. Always learn. Apply your learning.

10) Knowledge that you cannot use to help yourself, or someone else, is useless.

Fail a lot, fail young, fail at all kinds of things. Nothing builds character like rejection and failure.

12) If you don't believe in yourself, no one ever will. 

13) Love, respect, and pamper your body and mind.

14) Favourites are overrated. 

15) You're allowed to change your mind. Be kind about it if feelings are involved.

16) Be straightforward. Be diplomatic, if you inherit that trait from your father.

Moisturize. From head to toe.

18) Mentors are a blessing. 

19) Pass on a favor as much as possible.

20) Surround yourself with intelligent people.

21) Trust, but verify

22) Be
 a supportive woman. Make a lot of girl friends. Remember that women can really have it all.

23) Device tiny tests on the moral, intellectual and other non-negotiable grounds before choosing a partner.

24) Do not prolong a dead relationship. 

25) Know thy self.

26) Learn how to give yourself a thorough orgasm before expecting another person to know what to do with your equipment.

27) Make older friends.

28) Reconcile to the fact that some things in life are sheer and absolute dumb luck.

Travel, food, and books are worth it.

30) Don't take anything too seriously or too lightly because remember, all to taste death. 

I will love you forever,


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Essika Kids Baby Girl Clothing Review

I was born in a desert, in the summer. So, I turned 1 in a desert. In the summer! My parents decided to have a beach birthday party for me, in a tent, minus ACs. It was the 90s, so I looked like a giant cake myself. With tiers of pink frill strapped to my chubby rolls. 

I don't have a single picture of me where I don't look like a grump. 

This is the best smile they got out of me!
A little before my daughter turned one, and I decided to host a dinner party at home to celebrate her, I had made up my mind about her attire. It would be nothing but 100% cotton. Two birthday dresses, with smocking in the front and soft linen inside, were flown down for her from The UK.
My little on her 1st birthday.
So, when I chanced upon Essika Kids, elegant and eco-friendly clothing for children, I wouldn't wait to get my hands on it. Merlin, the founder, and a mom of two herself, deeply understands the kind of soft and comfortable clothes kids need through their activities. 

We got the Gelato Top in natural-dyed (dark) Blue Khadi and a super cool knee-length Striped Skirt in 100% cotton. 

Love this top and skirt combo
I love the fabric and the fit. It's something that I'd wear because it's loose and perfect for the constant humidity of Mumbai. I roll up the sleeves on the top when my daughter is having a busy day, or leave them be when there's a nip in the air. 

You can find them on and 

Enjoying our pleasant winter-ish morning nip.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Anmol Baby Hybrid Wrap and Soul Slings Full Buckle (Standard) Review

I learned about baby wearing when my lactation consultant hosted a meet with Rashmee, a baby wearing educator and Founder of Anmol Baby Carriers. There, she deftly wielded a long, soft navy blue hybrid wrap, and prompted put a 3-month-old boy to sleep. He was lulled in barely 5 minutes. Needless to say, we bought that blue hybrid wrap.

My daughter was born exactly 2 weeks later.

My husband and I wore her since she was less than a month old. She loved it. She calmed down instantly, and always seemed cosy. The wrap's litmus test came last October in Diwali when our street could definitely be heard from the moon. She was not yet 2 months old.

She was extremely unsettled that evening but here she is, 5 minutes after being worn: 
Grumpy, but quiet.

As she became more active, and started walking before her 10th month birthday, we had to start looking for a baby-wearing alternative. The wrap is great but it doesn't help in easy transfers of a sleeping baby (at least in the only style we know to wear her).

By her first birthday, we were sure we needed to find a baby carrier than was Indian, ergonomic, and good looking. Both of us are averse to the idea of a pram or stroller, so a carrier was the way to go for us.

My research on the subject concluded that I needed a Soul Slings's product in my life. And as luck would have it, I won a Full Buckle Standard size carrier by the brand in a beautiful maroon (they call it Lacre) color through my page on Instagram, @ghiasireads.

Here's us taking it out for a spin on our recent getaway to the mountains:

She clearly loves a good cuddle with mommy. The carrier is easy on the shoulders and back, I wouldn't complain about any pains. I later wore her on a sunny afternoon, and I could secure the flap in place to protect her from the sun and help her nap. 

I love both our carriers. They are extremely useful and can be folded to fit in a handbag! I hope we never have to use a stroller for our babe because smelling her hair and stealing kisses on her forehead are so much better! My only piece of strong advice is to make sure that the baby is always ergonomically carried with her lower half taking an 'M' shape. Carriers that make your kid's legs dangle are extremely dangerous for her hips!

Have you tried a baby carrier yet? 

Follow my journey on reading for myself and my daughter @ghiasireads on Facebook and Instagram

Friday, July 21, 2017

My yellow brick road to motherhood

My daughter is a month away from turning 1. To mark this huge milestone in my life, I mean, her life, I've decided to share the story of "how it all began" for us. I’ve recently begun blogging on Instagram. I write about some of my favourite books and those from my baby’s library.

@Ghiasireads has introduced me to parents across the globe. We exchange stories that usually end with “me too” because, parenting. It’s so unique yet just the same for everyone. So, as this community continues to grow, I was encouraged to say a little something about our own journey to parenthood.

A few months ago, the Indian version of one of the UK's bestselling parenting magazines, Mother & Baby, shot with us to celebrate their 9 years in the country. I was also invited to write the cover story for them, and here's what I wrote: 

I am a medical marvel. I was born the last of three children, exactly 8 months after my mother had a Copper-T fixed in place to seal the fate on their family of 4. I was a kilogram of wrinkled skin at birth. Cut to, 15 years later; my period had still not made an appearance. A quick sonogram told us that I had something called Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD, at the time). I was overweight, suffered from severe acne, and was promptly put on birth control pills to regularize my cycle.

For the next ten years, I took really good care of my body. I worked out, lost weight, and remained fairly healthy. It was not like my cycle was suddenly watching the calendar, but I could afford to get off the pill every now and then. In the meantime, I was constantly reminded, by articles, my doctor, my family, and society-at-large, what a tough time I was going to have to get pregnant.

The meet cute

I met my husband, Nadir, when I was 23. We were married two year later. At the back of mind, the nagging voices kept telling me how tough PCOD, now called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, was going to make it for us to start a family.

Nadir was well aware of the situation, and we always wanted kids. So, on our first wedding anniversary, we decided to begin the long journey that was in store for us to get pregnant. We were sure it would take at least a year. Then, IVF? Hip injections? Who knew what the future held.

Our daughter, Ziya, was born exactly 9 months later.

Yes, a medical marvel.

Too good to be true

The symptoms began to show less than a week into my pregnancy. I had terrible morning sickness, but I dismissed it as a stomach bug. My chest felt heavy and my stomach felt bloated, but I assumed it was the irregular period that would finally show up. I took a test a month later, many miles from home, when I was visiting a friend in The Nilgiris. She was 2 months pregnant herself and saw through my tell-tale symptoms.

The news of my pregnancy brought a lot of joy to both our families. It also brought more morning, afternoon, and evening sickness for the rest of my first trimester. But to begin with, Nadir and I were over the moon. We were immensely grateful that this baby had picked us, and so soon! The rest of pregnancy was a breeze. We spent half a month in Japan when I was 5 months pregnant. I would comfortably walk 6 to 7 kms every day without feeling exhausted.

At 5’ 9’’, my frame hid the 20kgs I put on pretty well. I didn’t look pregnant all the way until the last month; when the back ache, sleeplessness and general unease began. But, there’s nothing to write home about my pregnancy. It was lovely.

The most important aspect about it, and something that has become very close to my heart, was my decision to attend a workshop on breastfeeding and lactation. 

The importance of being informed

I was 6 months pregnant, and one of the two pregnant women in a sea of new moms, at the workshop. The session opened my eyes to a host of trials and tribulations these new moms were going through because they were not armed with the right knowledge on breastfeeding BEFORE the baby came along.

The lactation consultant held a brief and enriching experience on the dos and don’ts of breastfeeding, on things to watch out for early on, and the general confidence a woman needs to maintain in order to believe her body can handle the most natural thing in the world.

Happy birthday

Ziya’s birth, just like my pregnancy, was uneventful and a breeze. She arrived on her due date, completely naturally, all of 6.7 pounds (3 kgs). I had refused an epidural but settled for an episiotomy. 

My doctor performed a procedure called ‘stripping’, a day before her birth, which set the contractions in full swing the same night. The only book I had read, which was What to Expect When You’re Expecting, had told me loud and clear to wait out the slower contractions. So, I patiently went about my business the whole of the next day, and got myself admitted to the hospital when my contractions were 2 minutes apart. I was hooked to an IV and put on Pitocin that sped up my labor.

Except the last one hour, when I screamed loud enough to scare the entire neighborhood, and almost broke a nurse’s arm (unintentionally), the labor pains were really not that bad. Imagine cramps, but ones that come and go in bursts. Lastly, imagine a large watermelon pushing against your vagina and rectum; yes, that has got to hurt!

Ziya was born, without event, 3 hours after we arrived at the hospital.

Brand new mommy

As the lactation workshop had mentioned, my doctor put her to my breast immediately after she was born and she latched on beautifully. The OT staff was kind enough to click our first family picture while they kept us entertained with cheerful banter.

I have full support at my in-law’s home and I never went to my parent’s house, as is tradition, during my pregnancy or after Ziya was born. Nadir was hell bent on massaging and bathing her himself, and so, we only employed the services of massage lady for me.

We were both also keen on keeping her off formula as much as possible. She was formula fed for the first 2 days at the hospital, and because my milk hadn’t come in, I didn’t refute the decision. But after that, she was exclusively and absolutely breastfed until she was started on solids at 6 months of age. And because breastfeeding went well for me, I lost 10 kgs in a week after the delivery.

It takes two

Nadir and I have handled Ziya by ourselves from the minute she was born. I have a tremendously supportive family, and they helped me by completely managing the house while I could focus on the baby. They are also involved in her routine whenever we need them. Moreover, as a freelance writer, I get to squeeze in a few assignments while they happily coo and caa at her.

Ziya has always been a poor sleeper and slow to pile on the grams. I was constantly asked to give her formula, at least once a day, so that she would sleep better, or gain weight and get chubby. But Nadir and I knew that her frequent waking or lean structure is not because she’s starving. She showed us no signs of hunger after being breastfed, and so, we had the confidence to persevere and stick to what we believed in. I am repeatedly told that some children just happen to be bad sleepers, and we seem to have scored us our own.

I do not, for a minute, think it would have been possible for me to nurture and nourish Ziya without the undying support from my husband and family. Nadir is one of the most hands-on fathers I’ve met. When I’m tired from waking up for the 4th time at night, he jumps to my rescues even without being asked. She loves a good cuddle with him and that’s testimony enough. He still massages and bathes her even after he’s had the longest day at work. He maintains a blog to document everything about our daughter in the hopes that she may read it one day and relive our journey.

Baby steps: her and me

Ziya is way ahead of meeting her milestones at 7.5 months. She has been cruising (holding onto things and walking) for a few weeks now; but last week, she figured out how to bend her knees and sit back down too! She seems ready to start walking on her own as soon as her feet will allow it. I was lucky enough to document her first smile, when she was 40 days old with a selfie, a picture I will treasure forever. She has been blabbering since she was barely two months old; we are told it means she will be a talkative little one!

I had my first meltdown when, on the insistence of enforcing a tradition, her hair was shaved when she was 10 days old. It upset me deeply and I wailed for a good hour; much more than her. In retrospect, I am glad it was done with that early because her full head of hair, one she was born with, grew back pretty quickly and in time to sport it with her pretty frocks.

For now, she enjoys the three small meals we feed her. A hyperactive baby, she likes to be done with her meal as soon as possible so that she can get back to crawling around the house.

As a new mom, my body has experienced exhaustion like never before. I am constantly sleep deprived and hungry! I’m still eating for two as I plan to breastfeed her way past her first birthday. Even with the support and confidence of an extremely involved husband, we have our tiffs because we want to do our best for Ziya.

We hope Ziya will grow up to be a strong-willed, assertive woman , one who stands up for what she believes. There is nothing more that will grow our hearts than to see our daughter in the best of health, fulfilling her destiny with her best foot forward.

After all, she’s no less than a medical marvel herself.

An edited version of this story appeared in the May 2017 issue of Mother & Baby magazine India. You can find the copy here:

All text and images are the IP of Sabiha Ghiasi and Mother & Baby India. Do not copy without prior permission.

Shot by: Akshay Kulkarni

Do you have eco-anxiety?

The seed was planted on a clear day; somewhere between my morning coffee and the first work call. My newsfeed said subways in Manhattan had...