Friday, July 3, 2015

The art of waiting patiently and living well

Central to the Bhagvad Gita is this simple and yet unfollowable piece of advice: Do what you need to do (your duty----this book is big on "duty"), and then quit worrying/obsessing about how things will play out, since that is not in your piddly ability to influence.

Would'nt life be so much better if we could follow this, to the letter?

Courtesy Google Images
I am playing the waiting game with the US consulate, and I am trying to forget that I am waiting, and just use this time constructively. Ha.  Working on that.

Before Gauri came along, if you had asked me what I wanted, it would be to be a mother. Currently, if you ask me, I want an email from the consulate saying they will stamp my passport to get me a green card.

But beyond that? What do I need now to be happy, now that I have Gauri? I asked myself that a few days ago while meditating (I manage a very insignificant, yet helpful few minutes), and the answer surprised me: Not the perfect man, not so much money that I could give up worrying about the practicalities of life, but to be the best version of myself possible.

And here is the thing: it is a workable goal, but the very first step is discipline, and that I have to master, and ALL my life, I have had problems with that, outside of work.

I want to focus on this now in very small ways, mostly because this is time out of time as I wait, and I really need to be as fighting fit as possible before I get back on a plane to the US to begin the next phase of my life, whenever that happens. Wish me luck! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Not the best of times

It has been a rough few weeks. First, a giant (but completely sortable) wrinkle was introduced in my US immigration process. Its sorting depends on the response of consulate officials to information supplied via email, so basically, waiting on the cogs of bureaucracy to turn. It could be sorted tomorrow, or could take 3 months. If I was the calm, only-operate-by-logic sort, I would be chilled out and enjoy the extra time I have been granted. Since my jumpy gut is instead in play, I have had multiple insomnia-filled nights before somewhat calming down.

This vividly bought back the TTC process: I was okay waiting if only somebody could could assure me of success and tell me how long I had to wait. Here I am, with infinitely better odds and a much shorter wait, and my nerves are still shredded.

In all this, a familiar realization has been re-impressed upon me: It does not really matter what our problem is, because problems come and go: what matters is how we respond to them, and what damage we do to ourselves in the response.

Tragedy also struck my family: a cousin---one who I liked peripherally but was not close to, having met her only a few times---died of dengue-associated complications.

I was surprised to find myself crying when I found out: after all, I knew her very little. But cry I did, and gloom and even guilt lingered...that I was NOT grieving enough. When something horrible happens, the rest of the world sympathizes and then moves on, while the principal players are incapacitated for a long, long time.

Dengue is SUCH a horrible illness. This is the second of two-dengue related deaths in my sphere, and it is not the infection itself that kills, but the consequences of inflammation and other responses triggered during the war between the immune system and the virus. I tried to use what I was feeling constructively: I finally got off my butt and finished writing a blog post about immunity, and how to best arm your immune system so that even if you are infected by a truly powerful bug, your immune system has enough help and is in good enough shape that it does not spiral out of control, not to the point that you need hospitalization or suffer worse consequences: The post is here.  Please share this one. I do not guarantee that this can work, but such knowledge can potentially prevent so much damage, and I am sick of the damage.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stress

The other day, I started crying over a tiny, tiny thing. It took everybody by surprise, most of all me, because I realized I am stressed without really realizing it.

This has been building up, subliminally. When I first got the email from the USCIS  scheduling  my green card interview, I saw it at like 3 am and had insomnia for the rest of the night.  My comfortable and yet uncomfortable world was going to shift.

I have to say, there is nothing as frightening as an amorphous concept. Moving to a different country. Managing alone with a toddler who, according to my mother, leaves every child she has EVER seen, including her very active sons, in the dust with respect to the energy and activity levels. Plus, she is an absolute daredevil with tons of determination,  unfortunately no fear, and only a small measure of caution. For better or worse, her mama has plenty. Of each quality.

I think what makes it especially bad for me is my biggest decision: EVERYBODY is telling me to leave Gauri here, atleast for a month or so while I move back and figure out where I will be and settle down. This decision, atleast makes sense from a practical standpoint. I may have to interview in different parts of the country, for one thing. If I am hopping on a plane and staying in hotel rooms, it makes sense that Gauri stays settled in familiar surroundings during the process.

But what makes it worse is my family trying to persuade me to leave her in India long term, with them bringing her to see me, and me flying back frequently, for a year or so. Lots of people have done it, they say. This is true, we know a few. You will not be able to watch her as closely as we do here: this is also true: In India, she has an army to watch her and keep her out of trouble without burning out in the process: A great grandma and grandma and grandpa and an uncle and aunt and maids who are nuts about her, not to mention a mama who supervises the whole deal.  You replace that with one mother and one nanny/au pair, and you have to ask....but how will that work? Yet, it will, I know. You just need a system. But when you sit halfway across the world trying to envision that system, it becomes hard.

But she needs me. And god knows, I need her. My mom has told me to set the me-needing-her bit aside in my decision making process. I cannot. Right now, a month's separation is all I will agree to, but the chipping away continues. And even the thought of being away from her for a month is heart rending. And equally heart rending is the thought of taking her away from all these people who care about her: they need her too.

Yet, I HAVE to get out of India. This country is not for me. Having lived here 3 years now almost, this, what I knew at 22 when I first left, has been soundly reiterated. But when is the right time to make the transition?

Not to mention the job stress drama. Yes, networking really matters. More about job searching later. currently trying to pin down recruiters in various companies. Like slippery eels, they are. Anybody know any fabulous head hunters who recruit for life science-related positions who I can entrust my resume to for a fee, let me know. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Transitions

I am poised at the edge of a huge transition, one that I have been awaiting for a long time now: my return to the US. I probably would be able to pack my bags and jump on a plane mid-June (not that I will), and that thought, not surprisingly, is scaring the bejeezus out of me.

Gauri is not ready to leave India yet. This place has been so wonderful for her. Yet, leave it we must, well before her second birthday, probably.

I have a monster job search to manage. After the scarcity of opportunities in India, the US appears a veritable smorgasbord. But it is not easy. There are recruiters on LinkedIn to be plagued, random strangers to be called, professors to be emailed, nails to be bitten to the quick. If anybody has need of an immunologist with superior scientific communication skills, holler.

Gauri also is in transition. Over a month ago, she was a little baby hulk: Gauri see, Gauri smash. Now, her nurturing side seems to be emerging. Little bears get picked up, get patted rather forcefully, are nestled into the crook of her neck and walked around till they fall asleep. She suddenly loves cuddling with me at night before she goes to bed. Out of the blue, she went from hating Chika Chika Boom Boom (a book about the alphabets climbing up a coconut tree, and falling down) to demanding that I read it to her 6 times a day, sometimes in succession. Her playfulness (which was always present, right from the start) is really blossoming: her favorite game is acting like she wants to feed us while she is sitting at her highchair; the moment we present ourselves, mouths open, she plops the food in her own mouth and grins gleefully. Toddler hood is also making its presence felt in less charming ways as well: this kid has an operatic voice, and cannot really communicate verbally yet, so resorts to pointing (with her whole body), and going UUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHH!

Wonder what is coming next, in every sector. With Gauri, every process is a joy (mostly). With the job search, and I am still rather enjoying it four days in. Ask me in a month. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

One!

It has been twelve wonderful months since Gauri arrived!!! When you are going through infertility,  you cannot believe that such milestones will ever grace your life, but arrive they do, and you get to eat this:


I was an awful record keeper all year. So for her party, I decided to make up for that: I put together a movie of her first year, showing her month by month, covering milestones, journeys (by road and by plane) taken, videos of her dancing, videos of her eating with a ferocious concentration,  videos of her attacking other people: it was SO great putting it together. I would love to put it up here, but have decided against public sharing. I did share with all my blogging buddies on Facebook. Btw, if we are blogging buddies but have not yet connected on Facebook and you want to change that, drop me a line. 

This kid, OMG, this kid. Her personality is a joy to behold. She is super social. Usually, babies do not interact much with people as they go out for walks, from the sampling  I have seen. They are just wheeled around, with both parents and child just staring straight ahead. Not this kid. She is usually hanging out of her stroller, which terrifies the crap out of people who do not realize she is strapped in (three point harness, ugh, Graco), checking out the wheels, waving to people, craning her head behind to see who we passed, playing peekaboo with grandma: she is just so THERE. And people really respond to that. I have seen people who would normally just ignore kids start engaging this child.

 She talks a little now. "Mama" has not yet emerged---- this kid's first words really reflect her priorities. First came "boto"(bottle), followed by "dog" and then, a few more like "ball" and "boo" (book), followed by the most meaningful communication of her first year, "bye!" She uses this one like a swiss army knife: when people are getting ready to leave, when she wants to be taken somewhere else, and this use took the cake: to change the subject as I was reading her the riot act for biting me. Fun times ahead, clearly.

If you ask her "who is a cutie pie" she proudly thumps her chest. If I ask her " who is a goonda" (Hindi for hooligan), the chest gets thumped again. If the maids ask her (in Hindi), what her name is, that chest gets thumped again, much to our amusement.

Happy birthday darling girl. You have brought so much joy into so many lives.

Friday, March 13, 2015

RIP Paul Kalanithi

I read the news of a passing of a stranger yesterday, and it has stayed with me since because of the sheer power of his words.

Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon at Stanford and a tremendously gifted writer.  After he was diagnosed with aggressive metastatic lung cancer, he wrote two utterly haunting essays, entitled  "How Long Have I Got Left?” for The New York Times and “Before I Go” for Stanford Medicine. Both essays are must-reads, the first especially so for members of the medical community.

It is funny that one of the reasons that I feel so particularly bad about this is because somebody with so much eloquence was taken from this world, while everyday, so many good people pass relatively un-mourned by the general public.

But anyway, it is this man's eloquence that spurred this post, and got me talking about something that I have pondered in passing for several months now.  Kalanithi, addressing his infant daughter who was born only days after he was released from the hospital, said this in his second essay:

When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.

These are words that will resonate with me,and with many of you, because he put into words what so many of us feel, but cannot express. And the scope of his statement is not restricted to people whose days are numbered, but ALL of us, really.

I was happy-ish before Gauri came along, but it was a low-level contentment, if you will, where I was always looking forward to the next thing to make me happy: a holiday, a book, a job, a date, the baby itself (a 4-year long wait, that); I was very rarely perfectly happy, perfectly joyous in that moment. I think there may have been a few instances where I came close: there was one, I remember, when I was out in Acadia National Park. Existential joy at its purest.

After Gauri? The moments come thick and fast. I still grumble about many things, I am still looking forward to a great many little things (getting out of India, mostly), but there are so many moments that are so perfectly joyous that they are hard to bear. Then there are moments of perfect quiet peace and contentment.

Very few things can bring this sort of joy. Very few things make us stop searching for the next best thing and let us simply bask in a particular moment. I am glad this man got to experience that, though it is such a tragedy he died just a few months short of his baby's first birthday. I do not know him, but I am so saddened by the fact that he had so little time. For all of you out there in the infertility trenches, know that the prize you are fighting for is the best one indeed. It is worth the pain of battle.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Parenting Fails and Triumphs

As a new parent, I started down this road with SUCH good intentions.  My baby would get no screen time. She would not be transfixed by electronics. She would be interested in exploring her surroundings. She would be involved in the world around her.

Well, two out of four is not bad, is it? 

Turns out, ensuring that your kids do not fall down the rabbit hole of a deep and abiding fascination for electronics requires serious discipline from you, and whoever else is in the house. We failed, and badly.

My grandma watches incredibly awful regional language TV soaps. I watch Downton Abbey and Top Chef and Modern family. My dad channel surfs. All of us (barring my grandma) spend far too much time with our smartphones. I have tried to keep her out of the room while the TV is on, but the damage is done. Among her favorite objects are remote controls. She drags em around the house, points em at the TV, presses buttons, and gets super pissed when nothing relevant happens. Sometimes she stands in front of the TV, pressing buttons on a remote, waving her arms and screaming like a witch doctor, exhorting it to start. When it does start, sometimes she ignores it, but whenever there is a jingle or the opening number, she is transfixed and starts dancing to it (turns out this kid is pretty musical---she will dance to almost anything). When she sees my phone, she lets out a war hoop and dives for it. My laptop drives her ballistic. I usually deny her these objects, resulting in tantrums (already at 11 months!!), which mama is pretty good at ignoring at a deadpan manner, but other people can be PUTTY in the face of. Working on establishing rules for consistent reactions in a big family is a headache, I have to say. But the rewards make it totally worth it. 

But with these things that have not worked out the way I intended, there are also things that have, some a bit more than I would have liked. This kid loves nature. She is out for maybe around 2 hours a day in our garden, not counting her long walk. She is observant and really pays attention to her surroundings. She loves to explore, take apart, and examine everything (she stands on tiptoe in front of desks and tries to pull all the contents down...joy). She eats (self-feeds) with no need for distraction, really tasting and enjoying food---part of that is her own nature (all her half-siblings are really good eaters) and the fact that she has never been troubled by reflux, which is the root of the problem for so many kids labelled "picky eaters." Nonetheless, I have to give quite a bit of credit to baby-led weaning. It really is a fantastic concept.

But overall, the triumphs have little to do with me, and quite a bit to do with the amazing support system I have. Usually, the fails have also little to do with the parents (but in some cases, they do, as is so here). And I am NOT going to beat myself up about it, and you cannot either, even if some of you may want to. "Perfection" in parents is unrealistic, unachievable, and overrated, is it not? We just have to do the best we can under the circumstances, while not being too hard on ourselves or on the kids.

I just have to work on keeping her love for electronics under reasonable control, and making sure her interests remain diverse. Easy peasy, right?  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ten months!

It is a short time really, but it feels like ALL my life. I cannot imagine a world without this child in it anymore.

She is changing so fast. The beginnings of conversation are here: I was so freaking excited when, in the middle of the night, she pointed to her bottle and wailed "bo to!" It is an indescribable feeling when you know they are getting closer to the point where they can actually TELL you what they want. It is also interesting to see them try to discover how to use their tongue and vocal cords to actually form words: last night, she appeared to be struggling to form the word "goodnight," (she was clutching "Goodnight Moon") and she went "gGGG" and something unintelligible after that, but this gives you a real appreciation of how difficult learning to talk is.

With eating as well, there have been huge strides. She hated her high chair at first. Screamed like Torquemada himself had strapped her in and was starting up his routine. I used to wring my hands, because trying to teach a child to self-feed while not using a high chair is a daunting and super messy prospect. So I girded my loins and began a long (and thoughtful) campaign to get her to accept the detested high chair, and it finally worked. So that accomplished, I sat her down in it and gave her finger food ( a plate of torn-up dosa pieces) and OMG, she proceeded to feed herself! I have gone with baby-led weaning from the start with respect to the food she ate, but had delayed self feeding (they tell you to start at 6-7 months), and was scared that she would get too used to being fed.  Well, it is not a concern apparently, and her highness has had plenty of time to practice her pincer grip picking up random objects off the floor (have had to deal with explosive diarrhea in the middle of the night a couple of times now, joy).

Speaking of explosive diarrhea, I have a tip for all you beleaguered parents out there: Probiotics are supposed to help shorten the frequency, duration, and severity of gastrointestinal upsets, and this kid has been on a heavyweight probiotic (Lactobacillus reuteri in the Gerber Soothe Colic drops) since nearly day one. So when a bout of explosive and uncontrollable diarrhea began, I decided to try the effect of two probiotics as opposed to one, and I picked yeast (Saccharomyces boulardii, sold in the US as Florastor) as the second probiotic, and the infection came under control within 18 hours! So two probiotics are better than one, and it may be better to give two very disparate bugs (for example, yeast and a member of the Lactobacillus genus)

But yeah, she is self-feeding, and mommy dare not eat in front of her, because this kid waddles up to me like John Wayne, yanks food off my plate, swipes it on the floor, and when she is satisfied that it is dirty enough, shoves it in her mouth. She gave me the fright of my life when she did this with a very large piece of raw beetroot: I was terrified she would choke, but she proceeded to gum it very carefully for a very long time, and then swallowed.  What I realized then is that we vastly underestimate the ability of a baby to know what to do with food.  

But let me take a teeny tiny break from talking about my daughter to talking about myself. 

I have been trying the work-from-home gig as a freelance editor for the past 4-5 months. I HATE IT. I hate that I do not often shower till the end of the day. I hate how low my productivity is. I hate the lack of structure, which is not helped by my total lack of discipline. The only (big) plus is I can take frequent breaks to spend time with Gauri or take care of her, but even that cannot be a long-term thing. What I have realized in this time is I do not at all have what is takes to be a SAHM or even a WFHM. I need to get out on a daily basis. Thankfully, we have a pretty good caretaker system at home, and my grandma is around to supervise. It really helps to have a family member around. 

So I set out to look for shared office spaces (for entrepreneurs/freelancers), and I was pleasantly surprised: it appears to be a thing in both the US and India, and it appears to be a pretty fun setup (a dedicated desk seems to go for around $400/month in Austin, TX, or around 13000 INR/month in Mumbai, India). This seems like a great short-term solution till I return to the US...my going back has been delayed by 6-12 months past my estimations, much to my dismay, though the delay is a good thing for Gauri. Once I go back, I definitely want a full-time job that takes me back to science as opposed to freelance science editing. Anyway, starting next week, I start working from a shared office space as opposed to my couch. YAY, hello makeup. Hello, pretty clothes. Goodbye, detested jammies.  Hello, meeting new people.

Good note to end on, huh? 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Resemblences

While a baby is a genetically a blend of two people together, the trait distribution can be complex: sometimes, the individual contributions from either biological parent are evident, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes, there appear to be no inherited traits at all.

If I look at Gauri and I together in a mirror today, I sometimes cannot see the resemblance (possibly because our coloring really differs), but then it seems to jump out in our eyes, the overall shape of our faces, and sometimes just something indefinable. But then, when you look at baby photos of me and baby photos of Gauri, the resemblance is much stronger.

But I digress. This child has taken definite facets from her maternal and paternal sides.

Her smile is mine. Her eyes are mine. Her eyelashes (score!) are mine. Her joy and enthusiasm for people are the same as mine as a child----I sadly became much more reserved later.

Her love for reading may have come from me; I was the consummate bookworm, and this kid LOVES book-time. Her ability to cry quickly may, sadly, be mine as well---even mildly strong emotion provokes tears in me: I just sniffled through the the end of "The Imitation Game," much to the amusement and disbelief of the people with me. Sigh...it would suck if this very disadvantageous trait afflicted yet another generation. In the plus column, she may be a very early talker like me, but the jury is still out on that one.

But, oh, the (possibly) paternal influences: Unlike me, this child is very physical. She crawled early at 6 months, stood up by herself at 6.5 months, is starting to walk unassisted now at 9.5 months: What amazes me is a lot of her half-siblings started to do all of these things at around exactly the same times.  Her height and weight percentiles (very tall, rather light baby) match up almost spookily with that of a few of her female half-sibs. She is utterly fearless and is indefatigable. She may also turn out to be athletic and may be good with using her body: we showed her the correct way to dismount from a bed, and she picked it up immediately....my abilities to imitate or follow a described motion are actually sub-par, which is why I will always be a sucky athlete/dancer. Probably the best dissimilarity from me: this kid loves to eat. She loves food, all types of food (giant, giant score).

Can you delineate traits in your children? Would be fun to read about it---including the things they pick up as a result of nurture, not nature...sometimes that matters more: for example, Gauri's love for books. My parents read to me, and I am reading to her. Would the two of us have been the same if we had not been raised thus?

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