November is Prematurity Awareness Month

World Prematurity Day November 17

In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes,How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues

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Last week at How Do You Do It? a brave bunch of Mum’s of Multiples (MoM’s) shared their stories of premature babies. There are birth stories, NICU stories, stories dealing with pain, and loss.

Please drop by and join the campaign to spread the awareness for prematurity. I have two posts up, the first is my emergency delivery story at 31 weeks gestation in Hong Kong, and the second post is a compilation of SMS’s I sent to Maher, Houda (my mother in law), and my parents from the NICU, updating them on the babies progress.

This is one that Maher wrote as part of a series: Parenting and Practicing Yoga. Against All Odds focussed on the period when our babies were in the NICU.

Thanks for dropping by.

 

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Rahul, Day 3

Rahul, Day 4

Rahul, Day 4

Rahul, 2 weeks

Rahul, 2 weeks

Leila, One month

Leila, 4 weeks

Leila, 5 weeks

Leila, 5 weeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Brothers

This August full moon, it’s down to recycling my Raksha bandan post from two years ago.

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Raksha Bandan – Bond of Protection

When I lived in Zambia my family celebrated Raksha Bandan, a North Indian festival that honours the love between sisters’ and brothers’. It falls on a full-moon in August every year.

My parents, aunts and uncles took a day off work, we a day off school. We wore traditional Indian clothes and jewelery, and gathered at one if the homes.
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My mum, aunts and I picked out beautiful rakhees weeks in advance. There is a range of choice, from simple threads to more extravagant ones with mirrors and gold fringes. A few years ago there was one that played a popular Bollywood song. This year the fashionable rakhees have green, red, and shiny diamond-like stones on them.

I always chose the simplest threads and tied one around each of my brother’s and “cousin-brother’s” wrists. This gesture was to symbolise my love for them. In return my brothers’ had the duty of protecting me. From what, I wasn’t always sure.

After I tied the rakhee, we hugged each other. I always whispered an awkward, “What are we doing guys? Do we need this string to symbolise our feelings?”

I was the pain-in-the-ass, no fun girl who wasn’t into rituals, or for that matter, kitsch Bollywood dance because as a classical Indian dancer, Bollywood dances were corrupt versions of the real thing.

So, back to the hugging, after that we fed each other Indian sweets that my mum and aunts had prepared over the last week or two. In return, the brothers’ proudly offered me envelopes stuffed with notes.

Next was my mum and aunts’ turn. They tied rakhees around their “cousin-brother’s” wrist. He was the only one in Lusaka. They sent the others theirs in the mail, without fail.

My dad received his two rakhees by post, usually in good time. Since his sisters lived elsewhere it was my job to tie them. I got two envelopes from him as well.

Once it was all done, we’d have a big meal, and spend the rest of the day together.

When I left Zambia at 16, I forgot all about Raksha Bandan. One July my mum called to remind me about it. She asked if I’d sent all the boys a rakhee. I replied that I hadn’t so she quickly bought some on my behalf.

On the full-moon day, she called me. My little brother had refused to wear the rakhee since it wasn’t an initiative of mine. I was taken-aback. I had no idea that this really meant anything to him, or to any of them.

I immediately apologised, and ever since, I’ve made a special effort. I don’t always send them a rakhee in the mail, but I call or at least email.

This year, my mum only “reminded” me about it yesterday. There is no way I can get them rakhees in time. Phone calls will be in order, and a promise of more planning and organising for the years to come.

In my mum’s typically thoughtful and unimposing manner, she mentioned, by the way, “I’ve sent you a rakhee that L can tie around R’s wrist, if you guys want to do that of course.” I can’t wait to see the mini-rakhee.

My brothers are dearer to me than I can express. I do in fact feel safe, supported and strong when they are around.

So why not have a special day that celebrates the bond between sisters and brothers.

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Raksha Bandan This Yeara

Raksha Bandan – Our Version

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This morning – Our version – two rakhees, one each.
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Like a Coconut Tree

The phone rings in the morning. My brothers and I wake up. It rings again. The person on the other end won’t give up. I rush into my parents bedroom to double check. Their unmade bed is empty. It’s no dream.

Mum and dad woke up their doctor friend in the middle of the night. They met at the local university teaching hospital UTH. He gave them a stash of morphine. They sped on the unlit, but familiar roads from Lusaka to Livingstone. My dads record time is 3 hours to do the 500km.

That was the first of my grandfather’s heart attacks. Let’s just say there were a few of those sudden trips – between the two grandfathers and grandmother living in the little tourist town bordering Zimbabwe.

By mid-morning my brothers and I are stuffed into a car, packed with snacks, clothes for the parents as well as for us, and we are on our way to Livingstone.

Every single time I have seen my grandfather after that, and I tell you he has had many fantastic days and many issues since -ranging from more heart attacks, to epilepsy, and to cancer, I thought it would be the last time.

Maher jokes that my grandfather has been dying for 25 years but is going to outlive everyone – his first wife died suddenly, after insisting that her daughters return to Tanzania regardless of school terms in India to see her, my other two more “healthy” paternal grandparents left before as well, and his second wife, who happened to be my dads oldest sister, died to cancer.

He moved back to India when my aunt (his wife) was diagnosed with an advanced stage of colon cancer. By being in India they could have affordable medical as well as domestic help. He left India on a boat leaving his family in Bombay as a 25-year-old with a wife and baby girl, only to return 50 years later as an outsider living in a strict Jain community in a dry state. Gandhi’s Gujarat of no alcohol.

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Foreigners, people with a non-Indian passport can take alcohol into Gujarat. Of course it is the state where the most alcohol is consumed.

Maher is not a whiskey drinker like the generation of our parents and grandparents, but the only person he never says no to is my 88-year-old grandfather.

25560729-135558.jpg Nanaji, as we call him, hands Maher the key to his securely locked cupboard. He pours out tots of whiskey, holding the bottle close to the floor. None of the nosy neighbors or people in the street have caught him out yet.

We saw him last in December 2012. The four of us, my parents, one of my brothers and his fiance, were all there. When Maher, the kids and I left for Koh Samui on my birthday, I had the same thought I always have.

I didn’t even know he had the cancer until that last trip. He’s had it for 10 years already.

My mum has been in India for the last 4 months with him as it spreads. My dad has missed his wife, he is off this week to reunite with her, and to say goodbye to one of his best, most trusted friends, the man who taught him good whisky, who introduced him to my mum and who also married his closest sibling.

Now, I realise that my grandfather surrendered to the process a long time ago. He has always been gracious. He loved to take photos, listen to classical Indian music, eat good food, entertain friends, and drink only the best whisky. Anyone who has spoken to him has heard his humble, “Please correct me if I am wrong,” line qualifying every statement he makes. He listens, and gives space to people without imposing.

He is strong and tall, but flexible like the coconut trees I see around me, moving with the wind.

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Ustad Bismillah Khan

Who am I?

Rahul: Why Maher choosed you?
Me: Ah, very good question, but this one you have to ask papa!

Rahul: You and papa is in love?
Me: Yes we are. Papa and I love each other.
Rahul: You and papa loved each other before me and Leila came out of your belly?
Me: Yes, we did, honey.

Leila: Mama, where was Leila and Rahul before we was in your belly?”
Me: Hmmmm…your body wasn’t anywhere. And you were an idea that mama and papa had.

9 Years and Moving to the Beat

9 years ago today Maher and I got married. In Montreal. We were amidst close family and friends – a party we won’t forget.

Guajira – I Love U 2 Much

Dandia RaasThere was dancing – from barefoot in the rain with Yerba Buena at the jazz fest, the garba and dandiya raas non-stop night, to the gypsy band “Soleil Tzigane” who used to play Friday and Saturday’s at Cafe Sarajevo, what used to be my hangout while we long distanced. We were thrilled that the musicians accepted to do our reception.

Ederlezi – Goran Bregovic (First dance)

I can’t just grab a photo that represents the occasion from my phone’s camera roll or off FB, our wedding photos are stuffed into a steel box in Chengdu. Hard copy.

Together koh samui

4 moves, a few mistakes, a stroke, IVF, NICU time, Leila and Rahul, long distance all over again on, and we continue to sneak moments together, learn about each other, grow in our relationship, listen to each other more intently, accept each other more sincerely, continue to compromise, let go, and love more deeply.

At least that’s what we try to do anyway. And hope for more years together.

Related:

Waiting for Cafe Sarajevo to say Good bye.

Flat Thai Tyre

After a few hours playing, grocery shopping, and eating at the Tesco Lotus on a holiday morning,we walked out into the afternoon heat – Rahul in the trolley, Leila upset because she had to walk; both, more than ready to get into their air conditioned car-seats and nap.

I can’t remember if it’s a flat tire or a flat tyre.

“A flat tyre (American English: flat tire) is a deflated pneumatic tire, which can cause the rim of the wheel to ride on the tire tread or the ground potentially resulting in loss of control of the vehicle or irreparable damage to the tire. The most common cause of a flat tire is puncturing of the tire by a sharp object, such as a nail, letting air escape. Depending on the size of the puncture, the tire may deflate slowly or rapidly.”

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Luckily, there was a “tyre fixing” place 20m away, just across the ring road. A man standing close to the workshop immediately crossed the road with us, back into the Tesco parking lot, assessed the situation. He returned a few minutes later, filled up the flat tyre with enough air to get us across.

And indeed, he showed us the hole.

Papa speaks Francais

Early one morning a couple of weeks ago.

Leila: Where’s papa?

Me: He’s on a plane, going to Houston, in America.

Rahul: Like the pilgrims?

Me: Yah, to America like the pilgrims. But he’s on a plane, not a boat, so he’ll be there by tomorrow.

Leila: Can you be papa?

Me: What do you mean can I be papa?

Leila: Papa talks French. You talk French.

Me: Woah. Oh. Tu veux que je parle en Francais avec vous?

They both look up at me, eyes gleaming. And smile.

Rahul: Papa talks Francais.

Me: D’accord, on peut parler en Francais.

Leila: Papa. Papa, I want to go to Etats Unis.

Me: On va aller aux Etats Unis bientot cherie. T’en fait pas…..

(Ten minutes of French later)

Me: Ok guys, come on, let’s go downstairs for breakfast.

Leila: Nooooo, you are papaaaa…you talk French.

Me: Ah, oui. J’ai oublie.

Rahul: No talk Francais mama. Talk Anglais. Waaaa. You are mama now.