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The Baby Bloom Theory: Who Will Come First, The Newborn Or The Nani?

16/03/2016 8:16 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Nidhi Dutt

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A lone lily: The inspiration behind my very own 'bloom theory' (Picture: Nidhi Dutt)

Recently we've had the scent of lilies wafting through our home - a glorious amalgamation of belated Valentine's Day love and gifts from friends with impeccable floral taste. Having noticed one flower was yet to bloom, about a week ago, I told girlfriends that when it does, baby will decide to make his or her way into the world.

Freakishly, over the weekend the lone lily, placed next to an antique Ganesha statue at the front of our home, bloomed. Moments after taking stock of the potential viability of my very own 'bloom theory', my doctors told my husband and I that our baby was in position and could arrive at any time, three weeks earlier than expected!

The potential sync between the lily and baby fails to account for the fact that our master of ceremonies, my 90-year-old Nani, is yet to arrive from Australia.

This might seem cute and maternal in all the right ways but the potential sync between the lily and baby fails to account for the fact that our master of ceremonies, my 90-year-old Nani, is yet to arrive from Australia. This Nani with an iron fist - one disapproving stare still puts the fear of God into her brood of children and grandchildren - is heading halfway around the world to supervise my first 40 days of mummyhood, a time (as I've learned over the past nine months) millions of Indian families and new mums take very seriously.

Nani, a ballsy Punjabi woman who has raised generations of children, including me, became a first-time mum in India way back in 1946. Seventy years later, I'm following in her footsteps in New Delhi. During her childbearing years, Nani endured a total of 120 days of post-birth confinement (three children). From not being allowed to eat for five days after giving birth, to making it through all of her pregnancies with little or no medical assistance, her experiences mean that few things about having a baby surprise her.

As first-time mums 70 years apart, our experiences of pregnancy couldn't be more different. Like most new mums I know, I've devoured all sorts of 'becoming a mum' literature, online and offline, joined Lamaze classes with my husband Eric, and have had a meticulously well-supervised pregnancy by a team of female doctors who ooze girl power.

Nani is extremely liberal and progressive... but I'm curious about what she will find reasonable for me to do - and endure - during our 40-day new mummy journey.

My pre-delivery anxiety - and a touch of diva behaviour - over comparatively mundane problems, is amusing, if not puzzling for Nani. I recently called her to tell her about my pregnancy-related carpel tunnel syndrome. As I stared at my sausage-like fingers, freaked out by how they were expanding around and over my rings, she flatly told me, "Nidhi, these things never happened to us. Hours before I had your Massi, I cooked dal-chawal for your Nana. And I was just fine." New age problems cut down to size by a no-nonsense, hardy Indian matriarch.

I won't be following the traditional 40-day confinement drill rigidly. For one, I know I'm going to need more than just milk (the only thing Nani was permitted to consume) to get through the first five days of caring for a new, tiny human. I dare say 21st-century living will also force me to, momentarily at the very least, abandon confinement and step out the front door of our home. For a woman of her era, Nani is extremely liberal and progressive, hardly a sucker for frivolous traditions but I'm curious about what she will find reasonable and acceptable for me to do - and endure - during our 40-day new mummy journey.

Nani and I aren't exactly on the same page when it comes to motherhood. My ambitious plans to get back to the daily grind within weeks of the baby's arrival are met with quips about the modern woman's greed for independence; suggestions my husband Eric will be actively involved in all baby duties - feeding, bathing, sleeping, the lot - elicit hearty giggles; and discussion about hospital fees at one of New Delhi's best women's hospitals immediately prompts suspicion we're being ripped off.

Her traditional approach, my modern outlook, an Indian-American-Australian newborn and a complex web of traditions. Seriously, how hard can it be?

When she visits, I want to dive into some serious mummy-to-mummy heart-to-hearts. I want to hear Nani's take on becoming a first-time mum at the age of 20 in an India that was, for the most part, far more conservative than it is today; how she feels about contraception and what rights she had to plan her family; what each of Nani's births was like and what she would have liked to have known before she learned by trial and error later; whether she really truly believes that women, like me, can (and should) 'have it all'; and yes, I'm really looking forward to getting to the bottom of the 'pregnant women shouldn't observe the solar eclipse' old wives tale I was ordered to follow last week.

Until then, I'll tend to my glorious little lily and speculate about who will arrive first: Baby or Nani. Her traditional approach, my modern outlook, an Indian-American-Australian newborn and a complex web of traditions.

Seriously, how hard can it be?

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