Momsplaining -1

I’m furious. I have been wanting to talk about a few things related to my journey into motherhood and parenting for sometime. I will be addressing these in a series of posts titled “momsplaining”.

It takes an entire village to raise a child. And I need that village filled with positive people in it to make this journey a great one. If you want to be in this journey with me, you have to be someone who helps me in nurturing good values and raising my child into a decent human being. If not, I can do without your ignorance.

I recently had a conversation with someone and while we were discussing birthing in the US, she told me she was all for birthing without medication. I agreed but what she was to say next made me feel furious at the sheer ignorance in her statement. “Apparently 85% of women in the US get epidurals. And they are getting it for convenience” I could not sit still listening to this person undermine another person’s journey into motherhood. Convenience or not, that mother puts in many months carrying her child under various circumstances and to belittle their motherhood over physical pain tolerance felt very wrong.

I have never before spoken about my journey to anyone besides very close members of the family. I am not going to get into great detail about my birthing process. I was induced with pitocin. The entire process from start to finish took 48 hours. I went without a morsel of food during this period. I had a couple of complications on top of this. I was not doing well and needed the medication (epidural) to keep me going and to keep me and my baby from harm’s way. Does the fact that I took an epidural make my journey any lesser? Absolutely not! Does this make me a weaker mother? No. Infact, it only makes me a strong person and an awesome mother for choosing to do what was best for my child and myself.

This is not the first time I have been judged for getting an epidural. It is not healthy to shame someone for doing what they thought was the best route just because it is not deemed the best way by society especially where motherhood is concerned.

Let’s raise our glasses to all those supportive positive women who help make our journey into motherhood an amazing stress-free one!

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Another green find

For the longest time, a few things have bothered me since coming to the US. The amount of food waste, the use of paper towels and the use of dish scrubbers. It seems like such a waste and I’m consciously making an effort to do what I can in tiny baby steps to transition into a sustainable life. It’s taking a long time but we’re getting there.

I was reminiscing over old trips taken with my parents with K the other day and was talking about how one particular place was very inspiring. It was the trip we took to Vivekanandapuram in Kanyakumari, India where the community as a whole tries to practice sustainable living by growing their own vegetables and fruits and making all-natural soaps, shampoos etc. on campus. Every time you dine at their campus, you must wash your dishes in an outdoor sink. They provide a container filled with ash of some sort that is very mildly abrasive enough to clean out dishes and a coconut fiber scrubber. That was it! My next change at home was to switch out my trusty old scotch brite to coconut scrub pads.

I searched online and came across this company called “Safix” from Bangalore, India. They ship within India and worldwide. Their scrub pads run a little expensive considering there is no one else doing this at the moment. It costs about $13 for 4 pads. But they claim the scrub pads last 4 times the life of a normal scrub pad which is about a week or two. So the cost really does not bother me a great deal for now. I have only used it twice so far. They are great and use less soap. The one thing I would make sure is to get them wet or soak them a couple of minutes before use to prevent the dry coconut fibre from breaking off. The great thing about these scrubbers is that you can toss them in your vegetable garden to compost once you’re done using it. I really hope they will last as long as the company claims. Will check back in a week or so.

Imperfect produce

I’ve been on a mission to reduce waste. The biggest problem I see is not just in my home but everywhere I go here in America – the land of opportunities. Isn’t it ironic that we call this beautiful country, a land of opportunities and yet waste every opportunity given to reduce waste? Ever since I came to the US, I’ve watched tons of documentaries about the atrocities farmers have to go through because of unreasonable standards set by grocers around the country. I have looked high and low for options to buy produce that are literally shredded as waste just because they don’t look perfect. Mind you, this is not just a problem of the US. This problem plagues every part of the world. Just the other day, I watched a video of a farmer in India spraying some chemical to make produce look richer than they normally do. Why must everything look instagram-ready?

This thought stuck around and one fine day, I had this video going around in my facebook feed about a company called “Imperfect produce”. The concept is simple. They take the imperfect produce and resell it to you. I was instantly taken. I spoke about this with my husband who also instantly said “let’s support them. it’s a great opportunity to tackle this problem that we have.” And so the day I got back from my trip, I immediately subscribed and got my first delivery yesterday. Sitting in a spacious cardboard box were my precious veggies and fruits. I opened up the package like an excited kid opening a toy. I was psyched and itching to see just how imperfect they were. I thought I would be happy on seeing them but it just made me furious at how stupid we have become as human beings (the so-called intelligent species. not so intelligent now eh?). The produce looked perfect. Yes, my grapefruit had a knobbly head and another fruit looked like it may have suffered a little bit of dry skin. But I swear to you, if this is the criteria for what goes in the bin, there is something seriously wrong with this world.

I must take you all back to my first experience of buying veggies. I was maybe around 10 or 11 when my mom asked me to bike to the store at the end of the road and grab a bag of 8 tomatoes. That vivid is my memory. My mom said “Make sure a half of them are firm to the touch and without nail gashes or overly damaged. The other half can be ripe red tomatoes as they will be used in today’s dish”. That is all. Not a word about the shape. The nail gashes I can explain – Many South Indians have this terrible habit of digging their god-knows-where-its-been nails into the flesh to check for firmness. It is the worst way to check for firmness as a simple firm hold of the tomato in your palms with just a touch of  pressure will tell you all you need to know about the longevity of that tomato. Someone needs to teach the people doing the nail digging a thing or two about buying tomatoes. The times were simpler back then. There were tomatoes of all colours, shapes and sizes. Fast forward to a decade later, everything looked uniform and pristine. Retail ready. And fast forward a few more, it is instagram ready.

Coming back to Imperfect produce – This company has really started a revolution and calling out BS in the retail world. We need companies like these who will open up people to treating nature like you would your child. Would you toss your child if it didn’t come out perfect? Just like us, not every piece of fruit or veggie is perfect. We all have our imperfections which is what makes us beautiful. Imperfect produce has tag lines like “I eat ugly because …. ” and “How would you feel if you were a heart-shaped potato”. We shouldn’t have to think this way. The produce I got from them were in no way ugly. And it is sad that just because a few corporations find it difficult to stack the knobbly ones, we end up contributing to food waste. The retail corporations say it is the people who prefer the shiny ones. I’m not so sure. I believe the majority of the problem lies with them wanting to make their jobs easier. It is high time these grocery stores figure out a better way to display the produce and not contribute to waste due to sheer laziness.

Note: If anyone is interested in trying out Imperfect produce, let me know. I can share a link. (No. This is NOT a sponsored post). I’m just passionate about supporting good businesses.

Why Ikea’s Antilop high chair is the best yet!

I’m nearly 8-9 months late on this post. But better late than never! We had been searching for a high chair for the longest time. This was really from the time my daughter was 4 months old. When she completed 5 months, we started her on solids and couldn’t figure out which high chair to buy even though she was sitting perfectly since 2.5 months. We decided to buy a booster seat that we could plonk on the floor or on the kitchen counter for the initial feedings. I think when she was around 9 months, I definitely was desperate to get a high chair as my baby was starting to get jumpy. I was so frustrated with so many options and way too many opinions from anyone and everyone. A friend who was raving about their OXO priced at $400 and then there was this woman I met in gym class who said she loved her Inglesina that attached to the table (again highly priced). With too much information, we were bordering on quitting this journey to find the “perfect” high chair.

Then it happened. I looked at trusty old Ikea’s website. When all else fails, you must always visit Ikea. And there it was with its ugly alien creature-like legs, a bare white seat and a buckle for jokes. Thats it! Priced at $19, I realised even if I went wrong with this one, it wouldn’t hurt the pocket. So off we went, to get our next temporary solution. Only we didn’t realise at the time, that this would be the permanent solution.

The Antilop is such a plain and no-nonsense high chair that goes with practically every decor. And because it is bare, it is just like a canvas and will take any color you throw at it. I have heard parents complain of staining. I haven’t had that happen yet and I am an Indian mom. We cook curry all the time! So if I can swear that there is no staining, then there is no staining. Just be a decent human being and get spills ASAP. Anything like tomatoes, strawberries, curry, blueberry, sauces….. has to be wiped as soon as baby is done with the meal. I use baby wipes for the stubborn stains like blueberry and curry even before they stain as a fool proof method to prevent staining. It is as simple as that.

Now I know no $500 chair can come close to this Antilop. Not your OXOs, not your FPs, not your Stokkes. Babies require restraining of some sort until they are able to eat with discipline. And this chair I hear is perfect for babies until they are 4 or 5. After that my baby can start eating in our dining chair at our dining table like a normal human being.

The grass is not really green on the other side

For the longest time, I’ve heard, read and seen people talk about the superiority of European products over American ones. Plenty of online forums are filled with American moms claiming how much better the French formulas are or the German baby foods are. And I believe many European countries do a great job with their baby foods. But does this mean they are superior to ours? The answer is simply no. I have got news for you mommas out here in the US. I hate to burst your bubble and deter you from hoarding European baby products.

On my recent trip to Europe, I understood that American products are of great quality and they are on par if not better. Even how businesses welcome parents is simply better here. And I must say I, like many others have taken the US for granted. Everything from the cruel acts of genetically modified produce to the washing of eggs protective outer layer in the name of disinfecting has generally given me an impression that our European neighbors are doing it better. But the reality is that they have their own set of quirks. For instance, can you believe they don’t consume fresh milk? It’s a lot of ultra processed stuff that will happily sit on your counter and doesn’t need refriegeration. I will tell you however that their cheeses are way better. We must up our game on that front and go beyond our Americans and pepper jacks.

The US is one of the best destinations in the world for parents with their little ones. Right from how we are treated in public arenas such as restaurants, shopping centers to how even the diapers are is simply of another level. There isn’t a place I would think twice to visit in America. I can blindly pack up my bag and babies bag and start off on a classic American road trip and not worry about whether the stroller would go through. I wouldn’t worry even if I were to take the local train as the train are aligned so well to the platform I wouldn’t have to lift my stroller. Or worry if I can find kid friendly vegetarian friendly options at restaurants. While Europe does have great food all over, there were times we were in restaurants that didn’t have anything vegetarian besides their bread and water.

Having grown up in India, changing my baby anywhere isn’t that big a deal. However, the convenience of having a changing table in just about every restaurant or department store or gas station makes our lives easier. I have had to change my baby in peak winter on bare bathroom floors with no heating or cleanliness more times than I have had access to changing tables in Europe. This is also not to say that the next time you visit, you should travel with your trusty American products. Europe has equally good options and in some cases, better products that are worth trying on your trip. Millions of babies are after all raised on them. I’m just arguing that American moms seeking European products in the US seems like a case of the grass being green on the other side when it is just as green over here.

How to pack toddler’s bag for a trip to Europe in winter for a month

Packing for a toddler can be challenging. And packing for a toddler for more than a month and for winter is a harder one to tackle. To make our lives easier, K and I had decided to skip taking suitcases and strollers and instead have brought Osprey Farpoint backpacks to navigate the many stairs in railway stations and to handle the large amounts of walking we would do across UK and Europe.

The key is to get packing cubes to compress what you have. And to use those straps in bags and suitcases to compress everything even more.

For those interested, here is a packing list of things we took for our toddler for our winter vacation to Europe.

  • 5 onesies
  • 2 thermal tops
  • 5 leggings
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 5 pairs thick wool socks
  • 2 days supply of diapers and wipes
  • 2 pair gloves
  • 2 pairs beanies
  • 2 layered fleece and insulated jacket
  • 1 thick fleece waterproof jacket
  • Scarf
  • Mustela Cold cream and moisturizer (since my daughter has sensitive skin, I didn’t want to play around with other brand moisturizers)
  • Mustela Hydra Stick to get those dry patches before heading out.
  • Baby scissors for nails
  • Saline wipes
  • One bowl with spoon
  • 1 big and 1 small sippy cup
  • 3 board books
  • 2 sets of flash cards (ABCs and First words)
  • Hair Brush
  • Tooth Brush
  • Aquadoodle (This is amazing for kids that love to scribble and doodle. It is mess free and keeps them engaged for hours)
  • Baby carrier
  • Fizz wizz tablets
  • Thermometer (you never know when they will come in handy)

In addition, we also carried a basic set of medicines for our child as instructed by her pediatrician. We did purchase a few things on arrival.

  • Formula (since our room does not come equipped with a fridge or a microwave, whole milk is not really an option while we’re in the room) – HIPP
  • Baby wash body and hair – Childs farm for eczema and dry skin – This is excellent even if your child does not have eczema or dry skin . It keeps their skin from going dry in the winter.
  • Baby diapers and wipes – There are lots of brands. If nothing works, there is always Pampers/Huggies.
  • Porridge – Creamy porridge from cows gate
  • Baby food – HIPP or Ellas kitchen
  • Water

The good thing about European countries for people traveling from the US is the sizes of items you buy here. Even the full size toiletries can be very travel friendly. London is very baby friendly. It is possible to find restaurants that will provide high chairs. There are tons of stores like Boots, Sainsbury, Tesco where you can purchase diapers, baby food, baby toiletries. It is definitely not a walk in the park to take strollers around London as some footpaths can be bumpy and loading the stroller on and off the crowded trains is one more thing to worry about. And I hear it only gets worse in Europe. We have our Ergobaby carrier with excellent lumbar support. So if you’re planning for 5-6 hr outside time and don’t mind carrying the baby for maybe 2-3 hours a day, the carrier would be a better option. But if you’re planning to be out all day, invest in a lightweight stroller.

Fizz wizz tablets are little pellets. You take 2 oz warm water in your sippy cup. Rinse your sippy cup nipple using your fingers. Drop one fizz wizz tablet and close the sippy cup. Shake vigorously for 2 mins. This cleans your sippy cup so well. This is a must for people who can’t deal with bottle brushes on the go.

It is possible as you see to pack light. Toddlers don’t need a ton of things to keep them entertained. Especially in a place like London where there is a bus going down the road every 5 mins. I just place her by the window and she is happy saying “butch” for hours on end. Drawing/doodling is another great way to keep them busy. Join them and they will stay occupied even more. Toddlers love the outside. Just make sure to carry insulated jackets for toddlers with layers beneath. This will keep them nice and toasty. And that is all you want for them to absolutely enjoy the outdoors. A nice snug beanie goes without saying. The insulated jackets may be expensive but save you the trouble of wearing bulky layers. If you’re someone who absolutely dreads lugging around heavy suitcases in stations and airports up and down flights of stairs, packing light is definitely the way to go. It makes travel seem a lot more fun and stress-free.

Travel chaos and London calling

There is something that happens when you travel. You are stunned with things that happen out of the blue and take you off guard. That surprises me every single time we travel. A few days ago we started on our big journey to UK and Europe. Aadya and I fell sick a week before making it difficult for me to pack our bags. K was busy with work winding up what he could before we left. But then a day before we left when we were supposed to pack, he fell sick. This put the entire task of packing bags plus getting things sorted in our place on me. Just like that, my adventures began. It was indeed time to travel with the rush of things getting done frantically. How these things happen the way they do is beyond me!

On 8th Dec, we took off on BA to London Heathrow. The British are very hospitable people. Can’t say much about the customer service at British Airways though. They not only managed to mess up our reservation but were quite rude and creepy. One customer rep insisted on performing a blessing for our daughter when we called quite stressed out about our seating arrangements. After all, this is our first trip abroad with our toddler. Blessings are always welcome but it was just so frustrating when you are trying to get to some information to plan and the way this person goes “Ms. Divya, I just said I bless your daughter wholeheartedly. Did you not hear me?”. I was very creeped out then because of the tone. The day prior when we called to sort our seating and meal preferences, the representative out of the blue asked us what our nationality was. I have no idea what our nationality has to do with our reservations.

The onward flight to London was very smooth. The new Boeing was just as they call it – dreamy. A good thing about having babies is choosing that front row seat. It gives you the best leg room in economy. Aadya did great on the flight. She was entertained by air hostesses and fellow passengers. She entertained them in return with her air kisses and cute baby head tilts. The 11 hour journey was a breeze. London greeted us with cozy weather. On landing, the first thing we did like any sane person with jet lag would do – get some coffee. We hit up the very famous London coffee chain – Costa. We both had 2 flat whites and shared a ‘toastie’. Why America will not make anything beyond plain grilled cheese I will never know! Toasties are just amazing savory quick eats. You just can’t go wrong with it. It’s also unbelievably easy to make. The toastie we had was a Mushroom Emmental Cheese toastie. I still can’t believe we’re here. It feels surreal. Yet this is happening. We checked into our hotel which is very close to Trafalgar Square. So far London has been nothing but welcoming. Now onto our adventures here in UK and more!