Indian Men Love Babies!

Ever since Annabelle was born we have been stopped in the street for people to pinch her cheeks, bless her, tell us what we’re not doing right or how she should be dressed. As frustrating as some of these things can be, it is fair to say that Indians, as a nation, love babies. And what’s more, the men seem to be the most interested.

We really noticed this when we went on holiday to Kerala a couple of weeks ago. The gentleman sitting next to us on the plane had Annabelle out of Matt’s arms before we could even sit down. He was chatting to her about the journey, showing her the workmen outside the plane window and generally having a whale of a time.

The staff at the hotel where we stayed was equally enamored with Annabelle but once again it was the men that seemed keener to hold her and interact with her. Our waiter, Philip was just adorable. He would take our order, bring our drinks, bring our food and then take Annabelle off for a walk around the restaurant, into the gardens, chatting away to her. It was very sweet to watch.

Philip with Annabelle

Philip with Annabelle

 

Even our driver, watchman and ‘sweeper’ in our building coo over her, chat to her, click their fingers in her face (yea, that’s pretty annoying!). I am always surprised how the women will come over take a peek and walk away but the men are the ones to stop and chat, or try and interact with Annabelle.

We have just returned from holiday in Dubai and were once again impressed by the level of interest the Indian men took to Annabelle (and my sisters baby boy). We hired a boat one day and the Captain was Indian. When the boat was anchored up for swimming he had Annabelle wrapped in a towel in his arms, he wouldn’t let her go!

Captain Chennai

Captain Chennai

Indian men have taken a bit of rap in the media lately, but it’s fair to say there are many kind and gentle men out there.

Bum Genius – The Review

I posted a while back a picture of the reusable nappies that we bought. We did a considerable amount of research as there are many options on the market but in the end, I’m sorry to say I chose based on design! I got all confused by the ‘all in ones’, ‘all in twos’, ‘one size fits all’, ‘all fits one size’ and it appeared to me, that really they were all much of muchness and the costs were all comparable. I also checked which brands delivered to India and was pleasantly surprised that most did… So I used the women in me and was sold to based on pretty colours! Well done Bum Genius design team!

Bum Genius - Great Designs

Bum Genius – Great Designs

We only bought 6 nappies originally in case we didn’t get on with them. They are quite expensive so we didn’t want to waste a good few hundred pounds only to realise we didn’t like using them. Six nappies normally gets us through a 12 hour period and whilst they are being washed and dried we use disposables. I am pleased to say that we are happy with them and will buy another batch of 12 (18 in total) so that we have a complete set and can use them full time. Having said that, I have been slightly disappointed with their overnight capabilities. Annabelle hasn’t woken up dry on one single occasion. I have used the thick liners and I have changed her during the night, but it would appear that the nappy can’t handle more than 4-5hours without being changed. We therefore use disposables at night time.

For those that aren’t sure about reusable (or cloth) nappies, let me give you some background: the outer layer is waterproofed, the inner layer (the part that touches baby’s skin) is suede and wick-able and then the insert, which you place between the inside and outside layer, is made of bamboo and is ultra absorbent. The nappies come with a choice of velcro closing tabs (to imitate a disposable nappies) or with poppers. We initially bought both types to see which we’d prefer and I think we’ll be going with poppers; although they are slightly more fiddly to do up I feel they hold the nappy in place better and they fair better in the wash.

Talking of washing. The nappies only need to be washed every other day (which means you are not doing countless loads of nappy washes) and although they go through the machine twice, once on a cool 30c wash and once on a warm 60c, both cycles should be short and sweet and using very very little detergent. This means, from an environmental standpoint, they are still quite ‘green’.

Annabelle is a (Bum) Genius!

Annabelle is a (Bum) Genius!

We bought our Bum Genius nappies off Smart Baby India website, they delivered to our door and payment was made via cash on delivery. It took 3-5 days if I remember correctly. The nappies are Rs1,695 for one (but you get a discount if you buy in bulk). This does sound expensive, I know (~ £20 for one nappie), but if you consider that you buy a total of 18 nappies (£360), this should last you right up until your child is out of nappies, so perhaps 2-2.5yrs. And they can be used for a second child. On average disposable nappies cost about £10 per week, so after 2 years you’ve spent over £1000 on nappies! A considerable saving.

It’s worth also mentioning, that we don’t take our reusable nappies when we go away travelling, carrying around enough dirty clothes is cumbersome enough without adding pooey nappies to the bill!

Below are some other brands you might want to check out:
Charlie Banana
MollyCoddle
Wonderoos
FuzziBunz
Happy Heiny

Flying Babies

Annabelle was 14 weeks old when we took our first long haul flight. Finally the passport arrived, we got our exit permit (I can’t sing the praises of the FRRO enough! Believe it or not!) and we were on the next flight out of Bombay. It was the 2.30am British Airways flight direct to London Heathrow.

We bathed, fed and bedded Annabelle as normal at 7pm, then at 11pm we bundled her from her bed into the car. She stayed asleep until we reached the airport and then the commotion, lights and noise were all too much for her and she was awake from then on. My husband carried her in the Baby Bjorn and we checked the pram and baby seat onto the aircraft (it’s free to check these items in). I tried to keep Annabelle asleep for much of the waiting time as I didn’t want her to become over tired, it was pretty hard though. She was so alert. Perhaps as excited as us?

As soon as we boarded and belted up, just as we were taxi’ing I started to feed Annabelle. This had been my strategy. Let her have milk as soon as we are on board so that she is calm and quiet. It worked. She became sleepy and was put straight into the bassinet (on the bulk head seats). Annabelle slept for a good 5hrs of the 9hr flight. The other 4hrs was on and off. She became a little unsettled for the last 40 minutes, so I walked her around and shh’d her to sleep. Once again, I saved up some milk for the landing; we are requested to be seated and belted for 20 minutes before landing and I knew this would be a prime time for Annabelle to kick off.

Upon arriving at LHR we had a one hour transfer before our flight to Barcelona. We raced through the airport (thank goodness for the Baby Bjorn) and were queuing for boarding again before we knew it. I made a decision before we departed Mumbai that I would not pay any mind to other passengers if Annabelle was to kick off. Worrying about them would only make a potential hellish journey worse. As we boarded for Barcelona there were so many families, it was a day time flight and only 2 hours long. This helped considerably. Annabelle was pretty grizzly and fed up by now but luckily most people on board were relaxed and kind.

Ready for her Road Trip

Ready for her Road Trip

When we landed in Barcelona we took a taxi to the villa, which was a 30-40minute drive away. The airline had left our pram and car seat at LHR so Annabelle sat on my lap. In fact I fed her in the car as well as she was pretty miserable by now. Once we arrived at the villa, Annabelle was snatched from my arms by loving aunties and not seen again for a good while. She did have one almighty break down. I have never seen her like it. Howling and howling and barely able to catch her breath. It was heartbreaking to witness, especially as nothing was soothing her, not rocking, cuddling or the boob. You know when the boob doesn’t work you’re in trouble!

My sister calmed Annabelle and she remained calm for the duration of the afternoon, but she wouldn’t sleep! She had been awake a good 5-6hrs (normally she can’t last over 2hrs). In the end my mum walked her into bright sunlight causing her to scrunch her eyes shut and finally she fell asleep!!

I was worried about the night time, but actually after a bath (in the sink) and a feed, we put her to bed and didn’t hear a peep out of her until 7am the following morning! That’s travelling East to West for you!

Returning from the UK I travelled alone, I was nervous but once again I made a decision to ignore the looks of disdain from other passengers. The air stewardess was so very helpful and I had a spare seat next to me, which was also a real help for just dumping things while I sorted out Annabelle. The flight took the same course as the previous one. She slept for a good 5hrs and then unsettled… Over all though I was pretty impressed with the ease of travelling alone. People are willing to help!

Shame the same can’t be said for people on trains. I took a 3 hour train journey, alone with Annabelle (is that an oxymoron?), from Oxford to Manchester. I had to stand in the vestibule for the first 2.5hrs. I wasn’t bothered that no-one offered their seat, (at least in the vestibule I was less concerned about Annabelle kicking off), because those people seated in the carriage probably didn’t know there was a lady with a baby out by the toilets. I did in fact have to squat down on the floor outside the loo and feed Annabelle. And who said motherhood wasn’t glamourous? I was pretty miffed to see that, when a seat became available (30minutes outside of Manchester) I spotted a man who had been standing in the vestibule with me for the majority of the journey. Pretty poor form that he didn’t offer a seat when it became available. But that whinging said, I preferred having the space of the vestibule and the fact that fewer people were out there to disturb.

On the train (still in her PJs!)

On the train (still in her PJs!)

At the train station, ready for our journey

At the train station, ready for our journey

On the way back I had a seat reservation, and whilst boarding a train station representative said I could park the pram in first class and take a seat at the back of the carriage since it was so quiet. As I had just gotten myself sorted a Virgin representative came storming through all balshy saying you can’t sit here. I calmly said “oh it’s no problem I can manage standing, after all I had to stand all the way here”. I think she realised what she sounded like and then to give her her dues she couldn’t have been more helpful. But once again I was disappointed by the attitude of some of these people. Jobs worth. Haha

Anyway – my advice would be to walk on board with an attitude that’s ready to face anything. Don’t worry about what the other passengers think and don’t worry about how your baby behaves, just do what you can to get through the moment! Secondly, accept help. I found people were willing to help with the pram, my bag, this and that and it was very well received at my end.

We’re off to the South of India in a couple of weeks and back to the UK again in a few more weeks… let’s see how those flights go!

Jet Lag – What a Killer

We have just returned from 4 weeks in the UK and Spain. Annabelle has slept in 5 different beds in the last 28 days and she has been pretty laid back with it all. Arriving in Europe from Mumbai was comparably easy. The first night she was so tired she slept through. Result. After that she seemed to be back on schedule pretty quickly.

Returning to Mumbai has been a different story. Maybe it’s because there’s only me at home to handle the adjustment or maybe it’s because we’ve gone west to east (my Dad always says West is Best when it comes to jet lag) or maybe it’s just because poor Annabelle was totally over the whole travelling malarky! Either way, yesterday, day 1 into our return I was officially dying from exhaustion.

We arrived back on Sunday morning. Sunday was a relaxed day with friends visiting on and off. Annabelle slept and ate whenever suited her. I bathed and bedded her at the usual time and with no fuss. My husband and I went to bed at 8pm as I was so knackered. I was awoken by my husband saying he could hear Annabelle. I sat up, blurry eyed, thinking it was 3am or 4am only to discover it was 9.10pm. WHAT? Annabelle has never woken before 10pm. Ever. This is new. I didn’t think she could be hungry since it had only been a couple of hours since she last ate. Plus she was howling, which is very unlike her. She proceeded to wake, and not settle, every 90 minutes until 3am. Eventually I was at the end of my tether and just screamed “please take her, I can’t cope”. My poor husband was great at keeping me sane and allowing me to go back to bed. Not that that really helped though as she was still howling.

Bed no.5, week 4

Bed no.5, week 4

On the plane and ready to sleep....zzz...

On the plane and ready to sleep….zzz…

Home and wiped out

Home and wiped out

 

On the Monday she went down for her morning nap with no bother and then it was time for her lunchtime nap. All hell broke loose. I spent a good 90 minutes trying to settle her. In the end I left her in her cot to cry herself to sleep. Something I haven’t done very often.

Of course, like every desperate mother I turned to Facebook, and was offered some very helpful advice…
1) Keep the daytime routine as normal as usual
2) Take baby outside during awake time to remind them it’s daytime and to get some fresh air (so called “fresh” here in Mumbai!)
3) Put baby late to bed and day by day slowly bring it forward bit by bit

I did this yesterday and last night and guess what? It worked. A great night and today has been good too. She has settled on cue and without fuss. I think we are nearly there. They do say expect one day per hour time difference, for example travelling from UK to India where there is 4.5hr time difference expect 4.5 days before you are back to normal.

Annabelle is certainly more tired than usual but I think we are nearly there already. Fingers crossed I get my happy easy baby back soon.

Going Away – Nashik at 3 weeks old

Never mind the 40 days confinement that the Indians do, with my Mum and Dad in town we were off for a weekend at 3 weeks old. I was a bit nervous, I have to admit, but if my parents thought it wasn’t totally irresponsible then it couldn’t be, right?

We left early on the Saturday morning. I fed Annabelle loads before rolling her into the car where she slept for the duration of the 3.5hr journey. We arrived at Beyond by Sula at around midday/1pm, I immediately fed Annabelle and then we chilled out by the pool drinking Sula Brut and Rose for the afternoon. Again, irresponsible? With Annabelle being so young she was still in the very sleepy stage.

In the evening we went to the Italian restaurant at Sula. I bathed Annabelle in the shower to keep our usual routine of bath, feed and then bed. We fed her and headed to the restaurant. After some top up feeding at the restaurant she slept in her pram at the edge of our table.

She slept the whole night in her pram (we didn’t bring the bassinet) and the next day my husband carried her around the wine tour before we fed her up again and hit the road. She didn’t quite sleep the whole way back but she was still as good as gold.

If you are able to and up for it, I highly recommend getting out and about when baby is so young as their sleepiness means you can enjoy longer car journeys or flights without worrying.

bath at sulasula wines

British Passport for Newborn Baby

Sorry to start a post with such negativity – but getting a British Passport for a new born in this country is a nightmare. Before Annabelle was born we checked on line for the procedure and what paperwork would be required. We read somewhere on line that it would take 12 weeks which seemed like a lot to us and put us at risk of not getting the passport in time as we had planned to return to the UK about 12 weeks after Annabelle was born.

First things first, we had to get her birth certificate. This is done with the help of the hospital and since we were in a hurry my husband asked the nurses to please expedite the process, he witnessed them asterisk our papers and assumed that was code for ‘do this urgently’, but we have since learned, although it is not confirmed, that this could have meant ‘these are (apparently) wealthy foreigners, you can milk them a little’ as our birth certificate took 3 weeks in this time they even spelled her name wrong and then declared it can not be changed. Unless of course we pay. The whole thing cost us Rs4,000. Our friends who also had their baby at Ambani but didn’t require their birth certificate in a hurry went along to the BMC office and paid Rs60 and got 3 copies in less than 2 hours. We were ripped off!

Once we finally had the birth certificate we downloaded the application form (C2) from the website https://www.gov.uk/government/world/india. It’s worth noting that Mumbai Deputy High Commission do not do any dealings with passports. They won’t even answer your questions over the phone and their consular desks are open only between 8am and 10am. So getting any information is very difficult. Even if you call New Delhi High Commission they won’t put you through to a consular worker, the best you’ll get is a receptionist telling you to email the standard email address. We did email that email address and got an auto response saying “we don’t respond to emails please call this number…” which was a premium rate UK number. Really helpful. Thanks.

Anyway, on the website was a list of papers required for the application:(https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/136846/form-c2-notes.pdf.pdf)

These included birth certificates, marriage certificates, passport photos for Annabelle, passport copies for us, a counter signed application form. We put it all together, reasonably easily and sent it off feeling like we would get the passport in time.

A week later, a letter came back saying our application was incomplete and that we needed to now send the following:
* All my pre natal records
* Photo copies of the discharge summary from the hospital for both Annabelle and me
* A photo of my husband and me at the birth
* Our original passports (and if not possible to send original as in my husbands case as he would be travelling for work) then colour copies of EVERY page of the passport attested by a UK lawyer. Try finding a UK lawyer in this country. Turns out the Mumbai Deputy High Commission will attest them for you. Good luck getting a meeting there though.

Anyway, we met all this criteria in less than a day and sent the application back. I spoke to a chap at the British Deputy High Commission in Mumbai saying the system was so complicated and how I couldn’t find this information in the first place. All he kept saying was “it’s on the website”. I wish I could post that page here to help you all but I still can’t find it!

Low and behold, another week later another letter from the Consulate asking us now to send original copies of our marriage certificate and discharge certificate and MORE photos from the birth. But there was no definition in how many more photos or precisely what discharge information they required. All I wanted at this stage was to speak to someone about what was required, but when I called Delhi (the number they provided on the letter) I was told it is against the rules for anyone to speak to me. What service. In the end I lost it with the poor receptionist who kept saying “madam I understand” at which point I said “I don’t think you do understand because if you did, you would provide me with a suggestion on what I should do next, I have called, I have emailed, I have checked the website and apparently I’m still not sending what is required so please please let me speak to someone”. She asked me to email again and said someone would call me back before the days end. She was true to her word and when I spoke to the gentleman later that day it also transpired that I was required to send my antenatal profile as well as the discharge docs. Lucky I spoke to someone then, as this would not have been sent.

In my third letter to the Consulate I asked them to not write letters but to use email or phone in the future as the letters they sent me were taking 3 days to reach us. One was dated 28th May and we received it on 31 May.

Today it has been nearly 5 weeks since we submitted the first pieces of paperwork and still nothing. I have emailed them again for an update, but of course, no reply! We have 3 weeks before we are planning to return to the UK (where I am a bridesmaid at a friends wedding)…watch this space.

I hope, if you ever have to go through this, you don’t have the same experience that we have had. Whilst I think 16 weeks is a total joke to get a new passport (if we were in HK it would take 6 weeks), I do think that if you have time on your hands the procedure is pretty straight forward. It’s just that we are in such a rush and no-one is willing to help us expedite the situation.

If you have had any experiences dealing in this area, please feel free to share them.

Overnight Train – Darjeeling and Kolkata – 6.5 months

My husband, being Anglo Indian, hails from Kolkata and his grandfather was schooled in Darjeeling. When we moved to India these were two of the places top of our to-do list, as soon as I found out we were expecting we thought we’d better get them booked in!

We flew to Kolkata, had half a day at the Tollygunge Club which was beautiful and so relaxing. I have been craving greenery and serenity since being pregnant. In the evening we had a train from Sealdah to New Jalpaiguri booked for 11pm. We had a room booked at the Tollygunge so that we could shower and nap as we knew it would be a long and possibly restless night.

Our taxi turned up about 20 minutes late and left us in a state of stress since we were told that we would never make the train station before departure time. Somehow our rickety old clapped out yellow Ambassador still had some gusto in it and we arrived with about 5 minutes to spare. We even managed to settle into our cabin before departure.

On this occasion, we decided to go first class. The four birth cabin cost INR3,000 each and our companions for the evening were a lovely young family with a 3 year old daughter. He shared his Bacardi and coke with Mr Maternal and she shared her chapatis and chicken curry with me.

I remembered from my last trip that the beds can be a little hard and so we used all our wolly jumpers and coats to pad out my now larger belly. I was able to curl up pretty easily and drift of to sleep. I especially think Baby liked the rocking motion as s/he squirmed and moved only a little.

Arriving in NJP was an adventure in itself, the train was delayed as usual but the biggest shock was all the beggars and taxi touts. Our new friend from the train had kindly arranged a car for us so that we didn’t have the hassle of bartering for cars. I recommend this. I was tired and hungry and the last thing I felt like doing was fighting for a Rs500 discount.

The drive is pretty, umm how should I describe this, bumpy? We were in a Maruti Sazuki which handled the bends like a dream but lacked on stamina up the hills. The whole journey took 3 hrs and was hairpin after hairpin. I am a good traveller but even by the end of this ride I was ready for it to end. The roads were pot-holy and broken so it was very uneven. Mr Maternal even questioned whether this might effect the baby. I’m sure it was fine.