March 25, 2017

hope

parched land and dry wells everywhere
hot days, getting hotter as time passes
but dark clouds loom
and a small bit of green struggles to break free
hope

long days and longer nights
never-ending pile of deliverables
but an unexpected ping
and an offer to share the load
hope

a sleepless night and a tired morning
upheaval and uncertainty yet again
but wide smiles and tight hugs
from big mouths and little arms
hope

hope is easy. sometimes.

when what we want, happens
when how we envision, others see
when what we see, is beautiful
when whom we want, is there

but there are other times when
hope takes a rain check
hope goes missing
hope seems impossible
and hope is all but a lie

but don't stop dreaming
reach out
look up
hold someone
hope

read and write
sing and dance
run and jump
stretch and fly
hope

do what you do best
do your best
and hope

March 18, 2017

depression

the black cloud covers
but its approach you can't feel
till it is too late

March 16, 2017

technology - part one

the other day,
i was flipping through old photo albums.

no, not the musty, dusty kind
that have spent many years in many cupboards.
or ones that have moved around in cartons and containers
from one city to another, or even across the oceans.

not the ones that make you turn your head every which way
because the photos are hanging in odd positions,
clinging to the pages because the glue has dried up
or to memories because they have faded.

not the ones which have a cover
with the date and occasion embossed
sometimes in gold
where you know what's coming before you even turn a page.

not the ones that require you to climb up stools
to reach the top most shelf of an old, tall cupboard
open, close, open, close
until you find the one you're looking for.

no, these albums are handy
and really so
in the palm of your hand if you want it
or at least on your lap.

they are neatly organised
almost as if designed by someone with OCD.
and you can organise them further
any which way you want.

by day
by date
by people
by place

they are smell-free,
but maybe an effect for that will come soon.
the photos don't move,
but you can animate them.
they are in frames that can't be changed,
but that's likely a malfunction.

but you can do other things to them.

want to make them happy?
apply some sunlight.
want to make them muted?
apply a fade.
wish the person's face was bigger?
apply 'the crop'.
wish it was shot at a different time?
apply a filter.

they'll never get lost
unless you forget to back them up.
they'll never age
unless you have a fall.
they won't stop evoking tears of sadness or joy
despite not being touchable or smellable
and they'll never be out of reach
unless you walk away from technology.

March 7, 2017

is there an easier goodbye?

special covers,
lines highlighted,
the smell of time,
dog-eared pages.

choruses,
the one line that healed,
the one tune that choked,
scratched beyond recognition.

faded,
torn,
worn,
small.

gang of girls,
PJ parties,
chocolate and calorie sharers,
fellow drunks.

small,
spunky,
spirited,
scratched and dented.

it's never easy to say goodbye
to a missing book, a favourite tape, that pair of jeans, friends or a lovable car.

yes, i know change is the only constant.
i've learned it enough at school
and i've experienced it enough in life.

people come and people go, and it's the same with stuff.

keep the connections and the memories, and let everything else go.
that's what i tell myself, and that's what i've done, too.
i think.

because then, it's easier to say goodbye.
just slightly easier.

My baby couldn’t latch on to my breasts

This post was first published on Zenparent in November 2016.

I remember it like it was just yesterday. Nurses standing around me supposedly helping me understand Nursing 101, which was to get my six day-old daughter Aditi to breastfeed. She hadn’t figured out how to latch on, and we were both struggling. She because of hunger—she was yet to regain the birth weight that she had lost—and I because of the worst possible pain every time she tried to nurse. The nurses weren’t helpful in the least because all they did was to keep reiterating that breast milk was the best and that formula wasn’t the way to go, even if the child was crying due to hunger (these are also the same nurses who looked at me with disdain because I had decided to take an epidural.) Something in me snapped, and I decided that I couldn’t deal with this lack of sensitivity in addition to all the other things—hormones mainly—that I was dealing with. So I left the hospital and instead turned to the internet to find an answer to my nursing woes.

Breastfeeding support groups were a dime-a-dozen. Most of the forums were US and UK-centric but breasts are breasts and breastfeeding is breastfeeding whichever part of the world you’re in, so I began to read. I learned about the different holds—football (American, obviously!), cradle and side-lying are the ones that immediately come to mind—that had worked for different people, and the immense relief they felt on accomplishing what felt to me a mammoth feat. I tried them all and failed. The more I read, the more of a failure I felt. While words of encouragement were aplenty, they all had an undertone of sympathy—poor you, you aren’t able to do the one thing that most mums do and must do at any cost.

My mum told me a hundred times over to start Aditi on formula, but I wouldn’t hear of it. This, despite her telling me that she didn’t nurse my brother or me and that we grew up on Lactogen—something that I love to eat in powder form even today! In my defence, I had just moved back from the US a few months earlier and was fresh with information on how breast milk is the best milk. In addition to the La Leche League, the most famous support group for breastfeeding mothers around the world, I had been introduced to numerous other sites that had me convinced that if I didn’t breastfeed, I wouldn’t have a bond with my child, and that neither of us would be healthy in the long run. Most of the forums that were set up to offer support seemed militant in how they pushed you to breastfeed at any cost.

Try as I might, I didn’t succeed, but instead of listening to the sensible advice from my mum, I turned to technology again. Enter (drum roll) breast pump. As the name implies, this gadget—available in single and double—pumps the breast for milk. It mimics a child’s suckling motion and ‘tricks’ the body into lactating. It was tough at first because I was not only dealing with engorged breasts but a urinary tract infection thanks to the episiotomy that left me with a high fever and unbearable pain.

The principle behind nursing is simple. You feed a baby whenever it is hungry. It takes the body a little time to understand how much milk and how often the baby needs it, but once it gets it, it gets it. End of story. With pumping, however, it isn’t that simple. Since you can’t pump just when the baby is ready for a feed, you always have to be one step—or one pump—ahead. You’re on a schedule, and one that can’t be changed so easily because the body is ready with the milk whether the baby is or isn’t, so you better pump it out!

I got through four months in this completely mad fashion. I barely got any rest, but I was sure that I was doing the right thing. Breast milk was best, right? When Aditi neared the five-month mark, her paediatrician asked me to introduce her to solids. I don’t know if it was coincidence, but she also began to sleep a lot better from then on. With better rest and sleep comes…ummm…more sense? I realised that I couldn’t go on pumping endlessly because it was taking a toll on me. (Hats off to those working mums who continue to do it through their child’s first year or more!) So I slowly reduced my pumping, and by the time she was six months old, I was completely done. She was on the bottle drinking a formula called NAN which stank to the high heavens, but I didn’t smell like a milk factory any longer so I didn’t care!

When my son was born two years after this experience—yes, many ask how I had the guts to have one more child—I decided even while he was inside my tummy that I wouldn’t put myself through the experience of pumping even one more time. I couldn’t. If he didn’t latch on, he was going to be on formula. With steely determination, I put him on me minutes after he was born and voila! He latched on immediately like he’d done it all his life! (Well, yeah, he had!) I was relieved on so many counts. I could sleep when he slept, I wouldn’t have to wash and sterilise bottles, I wouldn’t have to get out of bed at night to warm up the milk, and most importantly, I wasn’t a failure. It’s funny how that thought that I had failed with Aditi had stayed with me. We got through nearly 9 months of nursing (not exclusively, though) until one day, he pushed me away. And that was that.

I have shared these experiences with my children and the conversations they bring about are always interesting. I’ve corrected my son Yuv quite quickly when he hinted that he was smarter because he latched on while Aditi didn’t, but I can see that she still thinks about it and wonders why she wasn’t able to. It will take a series of conversations that will come with time for people to understand that nursing isn’t the only determinant of how good a mother you are. It’s not even only having a child biologically, and it’s not even only being a mum to a human. Yes, the love and bond between a mother and her children is special, but so are the bonds of many other relationships—and they don’t have to be only by blood or breast milk.

I started this story saying that I remember it like it was just yesterday, but it’s been nearly 11 years since Aditi was born. I’m happy to say that I have a close bond with both my children despite one not being breastfed at all. We are all in pretty decent health, too. Yes, there are moments (many) where we all get on each other’s nerves, but it’s not as if the breastfed one bothers me any less.

Why this long ramble? Because I hope my story brings some comfort to new mums going through the struggle, tending to a new born, accepting the changes to your body. Hang in there, ignore preachers, chat with your friends (preferably ones without children), and get a glass of wine once in a way. You’ll at least get a few hours of sleep. And so might your child.



Rekha Raghunathan is a full-time mum and editor and a part-time writer. Madras and Bangalore are her homes, and Roger Federer is her obsession.

February 23, 2017

phantom menace

a thin, white, minty stick the size of my ring finger
with a bright red tip, the memory of it still lingers

i've smoked it many a time
with friends, of course
i've tossed and caught it well
like the movie star, of course
i've held it between my teeth
to look cool, of course
i've blown many rings
imaginary, of course

phantom sweet cigarettes, are they to blame
for the fascination or is that an excuse, lame

what you see when you light up is probably just my frown
but it's because my heart beats a lil' faster knowing that yours is slowing down

February 21, 2017

benevolent babas

left and right i turn,
bearded men with palms raised
compete to bless and sell

February 14, 2017

February 12, 2017

boxed-up feelings

i wish there were boxes inside of me
and that each of them was labelled
with all the feelings that i'm feeling right now 
clearly demarcated

fear, anger, sadness
confusion, love and envy
each one sealed in its own box 
without them getting all muddly

because, in and out of their boxes,
they very often seem to jump 
causing mayhem in my mind 
because they treat it like a garbage dump

was it anger that caused me to act in a particular way
or was it sadness, instead, that had plagued me through the day
how can i forget fear and confusion
when both emotions have left me in a sticky situation

out pop joy and love
suddenly giving me some respite
and in go the others
thankfully without much of a fight

many a time i notice
that all of them sit tight
inside their boxes, doing nothing
especially late at night

and it's at these times when i am blank
that i write about how i feel
with objectivity, i think
that helps me, with life, deal

i wonder what would happen
if i switched around the labels
would they act their new part
and spin me some new fables
or would they continue to jump
in and out with glee
and leave the acting of the part
solely to me

February 9, 2017

raindrops on my face

the breeze felt warmer,
the road seemed longer,
and the trees didn't sway as much.
there was a stillness.

she felt more deliberate too,
like she had to think before taking a step.
the fluidity was gone,
and so was the lightness.

it was a usual evening.
she was off on her walk
just the predictable routine,
a few rounds around where she lived.

but something felt different, something felt off.

was it the tunes?
but she had heard them before.
was it the place?
but she'd been there so long.
was it her thoughts?
her head was so full!
was it her heart?
it felt so heavy.
whatever it was, it was too much.

suddenly, something changed.

it got cooler and the leaves began to rustle.
the breeze blew her hair every which way
and she felt herself moving faster.
faster and faster!

she felt a few drops land on her face,
and then, the tears which had been brimming for awhile, flowed.