Dancer, Writer, Yogi and Mama, Mirabelle D’Cruz from Mumbai shares the secrets of her backpack, her sling, and getting back to “plurk” with baby in tow.
They tell you that once you have a decent job and get married, you will be “settled.” Then they tell you you will only be really settled once you have kids. I was always critical of the settled business, though I can see value in the concern of those who talk about it. Even if you have a child, like my husband and I, when you truly feel ready, have been a party-holic, travel –holic and how can I forget work-a-holic and know you’ll have no regrets because you lived your life fully and don’t feel an ambitious desire for position, lifestyle or keeping up with the Joneses, the roller-coaster will only start after the LO arrives. This is not a complaint or judgment on parenting, its an observation on learning, growing and most of all on integrating.
I’m sharing a little of my journey, as one of the possibilities to parenting, hoping it may provoke, inspire, help or just provide an interesting read.
I had decided before I even met my husband that I would like to raise any kids I had with the same dedication I gave to studying so I could max my grades. It amazes me most of us spend at least 20 years of our life amassing “skills” to get a “good” job and absolutely almost no time to learning skills for marriage or more importantly parenting, which is a lifetime commitment! It hasn’t been easy but learning the skills (thank you Effath Yasmin and practicing them has made it happily possible. I try not to allow for space for sentences such as “I just don’t have the patience” or “ I just can’t handle it.” How limiting a belief is that! Can I not trust myself more than that? We can stay back in office to finish a task we have no interest in because its expected of us and there’s that bonus or promotion being dangled like a carrot. But our infants have no expectations of us. They just are and love us no matter what we do. (What accommodating blessed souls!) So we just don’t work at it, most of us!
For the first 18 months, I just kept to a routine. That gives babies much security and comfort. I nursed on demand, introduced her to whole foods of all textures and flavours, read to her, chanted everything pretty much on a time schedule. That’s what I believe prepared me to transition into what I envisioned as the next step, finding a daily balance between my needs and hers. The trust having been built, after 18 months we began travelling again, trips abroad, hikes with baby in a backpack, getting back to plurk (work that’s play) and many of the things I loved to do before she came along.
- Her early solid foods of steamed carrots and ripe sticks of muskmelon and watermelons and beets and bell peppers prepared her to identify and enjoy each foods natural abundant flavor. It also made for a great easy to travel with baby. I can just buy carrots and bell peppers and avocados and beets and wash them with water from my bottle and know my little one will make a meal of them. Same with fruits because she never was offered anything mashed. What about choking? Well just youtube first aid for infant choking….its that simple and really their body intelligence and reflxes are top of the line till you put fear in and mess with them. And did I mention No sugar…just jaggery and dates and honey. I learnt during my stint with gestational diabetes that even rice is sweet (yes, I know this from experience). Its all in honing the taste buds.
- Slinging her….I used a mei-tai cloth sling. I abandoned the uber cool organic cotton cranberry ergo baby sling we had got from the US….just didn’t work for an Indian baby size and weather and my narrow soulder width. With this sling, that can fit in a handbag, the world is mine to explore. We are a nuclear family and you know those days when the household help don’t show up…well…you just swish the sling to your back and there you have your baby perched like an Assamese tea basket, looking over your shoulder, feeling your body warmth and safe from the knives and fire. You can also sit comfortably while baby is in the mei tai….so when I didn’t have her in a car seat and chose to take totos (as we fondly call rickshaws), she was safe from all the sudden jerks and bumps. She’s 2.5 now and I’ve used that mei tai to take her in secnd class compartments of local trains (off peak hours, but still a way to teach empathy and gratitude really young), on flights (way safer than the infant seat belt) from Crawford market to Istanbul’s bazaars, in peak hour on the London tube and not to mention to strap her in safely while holding her attention while I’ve taught dance workshops (yes it is that secure) and made presentations and done book readings and what not.
Why a sling when you can use a stroller?
- Sling because baby feels your body warmth and does not get overstimulated by a million people coming at him or her.
- Sling because baby can hear all your conversations and is picking up vocabulary, intonation and a million other facets of communication. Your voice is also loudest to baby and that’s what matters most.
- Baby can sleep against your chest, hear your heartbeat and when it stirs, you know immediately. You can just sway, sing whatever, you literally don’t need to reach out to him or her.
What do you do with all the baby stuff you have to carry?
- My personal opinion is that the baby handbag/diaper bag is the most counter-intuitive baby accessory every made. Why? Simply because it makes no sense to carry all the weight on one side or to have stuff in your stroller so you can’t really fold it. Whats the alternative? Ye ole backpack. Backpacks are awesome! They balance weight between both shoulders and have good padding for comfort. They have at least 2-3 compartments. The expand more than most bags.
How I use my backpack:
I have a fixed place for everything. The large front compartment has food, food, more food and water.
I always have little pearlpet dabbas with at least 3 of the following at any given time:
- almonds, walnuts or mixed dry fruits (figs are great while teething, so are apricots)
- jamun chips (dehydrated jamun chips these are like aam papad but without sugar or preservatives) They are great for teething as are soup sticks.
- Homemade granola (takes 10 minutes to make and has loads of nutrition)
- Superfood laddoos (roasted sesame, flax, nachini, walnuts with a dash of amla powder to help absord calcium kneaded together with mashed dates and a lil cardamom powder)
- Seng channa (roasted peanuts and roasted garbanzos)
- Khajur pak (available sugar free at most good mewawalas)
- A small steel spoon (the one used in masala dabbas. I prefer steel to plastic because its easier to clean and if the food is too hot the spoon heats up so you know before you burn baby’s tongue)
- Face napkin
- A cloth bag in a bag (handy for any unplanned shopping, sudden gifts…anything really…and teaches environmental responsibility…yes they learn that young)
One tiny zip compartment houses my special kit that has
- Mosquito patches
- Soap paper/ sanitizer (I prefer soap paper because sanitizer has loads of chemicals and alcohol)
- Nelson’s original Bach flower Rescue Remedy Spray
- A small sachet of electrol for hot dehydrating days
- Tissue paper
Main compartment houses
- Diaper changing station (for emergencies and when cloth diapers arent practical)
- Wet wipes
- Mei tai sling
- Nursing cover (this doubles up as a blanket, peek-a-boo hiding curtain, dupatta, sunshade and a million other things )
- Cloth sun hat
- A small sling purse with entertainment that changes every few weeks (finger puppets, Find Wally book, pocket Lil Miss Sunshine, story stones)
- A lightweight change of clothes
Really this is lightweight and all that you need. I have ended up having unexpected sleepovers with this bag and we did just fine (except for the toothbrush and paste but hey that’s ok for one night)
Backpack at the back and sling with baby in the front…weight all balanced out, totally hands-free and nothing can stop you.
More to come soon……