She's Here! (Plus Birth Story)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Shreya, at 8 lbs 1 oz and 21.5" tall, was born on July 20, after a very long labor. Already, she's slightly older than a week and I have become depressingly aware that time is going to fly and she is not going to be the same little peanut that she was even a week ago.

Right now, I am exhausted. I have heard many moms use that word and although I believed it then, you need to actually experience this exhaustion to know what it really means. Looking after a newborn is tiring. It's also super rewarding especially when it's 3 AM and you are extremely sleepy but staring at you is this perfect pair of happy eyes that don't look remotely sleepy. I don't even remember the last night I slept properly but it was several days before I went into labor.

Birth story

I started getting timeable contractions at 11.30 pm on July 18. I had just put my knitting away, ready for a hopefully but unlikely good night of sleep when the first one hit. From then on, they started coming in 10 minutes apart. I may have gotten a half hour of sleep that night but honestly, I don't remember. By morning, the contractions were still painful and coming in 5 minutes apart. I told the husband and my family that I was possibly in labor. Everyone was now preparing for welcoming in the new one that night.

That didn't happen. The contractions didn't get closer at all but they remained painful. I started knitting in between them, and walked a LOT that whole day. I also did every exercise in the book that claim to speed up contractions. By 9 pm on July 19, those stubborn contractions were still 5 minutes apart and I was getting super irritated.

Although it was recommended to walk into L&D when the contractions were showing some kind of progress, I decided to go to the hospital anyways. There's only so much patient laboring a woman can do. I was secretly hoping that maybe I was one of those lucky ones who would be close to fully dilated even without very painful contractions.

smirk... shaking my head...

At the hospital, they told me that I was at 3.5. A whole day of laboring and that's where I was. I actually asked the nurse if she was sure. Surprisingly, they decided to admit me. They usually wait until you hit 4. I was glad. I didn't want to make the trip back home and continue laboring there. Plus, I was tired and sleepy.

I continued laboring in the L&D room and by 3 am, I was only 4.5. I requested a painkiller-sedative that put me out for about an hour (man, I was talking rubbish as soon as I got that drug - it was fascinating and hilarious). But an hour later, I was back from bliss-land and now moaning through the contractions, which were still 5 minutes apart. By 10 am, I was a 5 and my obgyn recommended taking pitocin or breaking my water to move things along, or else I could be laboring for too long. Much as I hated the idea of taking pitocin and wanted to avoid it at all costs, at that point, I didn't need much convincing. I wanted this baby out.

Until that point, I was laboring naturally. I wanted to continue doing that but I knew pitocin was going to make things... interesting. Sure enough, the contractions amped up in intensity, pain factor, and timing almost instantly. That was good news but the pain wasn't so I called in for epidural. The relief was instantaneous. I was finally smiling after a long time!

Even with pitocin, I wasn't progressing as fast as I had hoped to. It was many hours before I was at 8, at which point, the doctor broke my water. From then on, stuff started happening. Fast. I was curious how the epidural was going to impact the pushing, but turns out I could do a lot. The epidural was wearing out and I could feel every contraction all the way through. Still took me about an hour of pushing to get her out. 46 hours after my contractions first started, she arrived!

The week after

Honestly, the one week after delivery was the hardest part of the whole pregnancy and childbirth. I had a second degree tear and could hardly sit at all for a whole week. The stuff no one tells you about postpartum! Honestly, even I have mostly forgotten / blocked out the details so it's no wonder people don't mention this difficult phase much. I am hugely thankful to my mom for taking care of the chores and helping me build up my strength. The husband and I spent most of our time with the baby. Now, ten days later, I feel mostly fine. I still can only walk at a slow amble but other than that, physically I feel perfect. Now if only I could get some uninterrupted sleep.

Ever since we got back from the hospital, Shreya has kept us up all night. She has got her day and night mixed up - she sleeps like a champ all day and then sits wide-eyed all night. Each day gets a little better for us as we try to figure out what works best for her and us. Last night, I did get a lot more sleep than during the previous nights and managed to wake up ready for the day, so fingers crossed!

When I'm not drowsy or fighting a headache, I'm mostly admiring this little bundle. Newborn-gazing is my new hobby right now and I've been spending a good amount of time taking pictures. Already she looks very different from how she was a week ago. It's truly amazing how fast they grow.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lean In
I have never met a woman, or man, who stated emphatically, "Yes, I have it all.'" Because no matter what any of us has—and how grateful we are for what we have—no one has it all.

Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In was released at a time when memoirs and self-help books by famous people were quite the rage. That in itself turned me away from this book. Plus, the fact that it was seemed to be catered more towards a woman reader rather than any reader but with an emphasis on women topics made me not want to read it. I prefer to read a feminist book that I can recommend to a male reader as well - there is no way only one half of the world can fix the problems that ail that same half.

Last month, however, I went through an increased interest in feminist matters, bordering on obsession. At that point, Lean In came into my radar again. This time, I was keen to read it (interesting how your perceptive or general mood can influence your approach to a book). It was also interesting that this book was the June pick at my library's book club, so copies were limited, but they had one last copy available and I lucked out.

Let me say at the outset that I loved this book and totally related to it. One comment I read in many reviews of this book was that readers were having a tough time relating to this book because Sandberg writes Lean In from the perspective of someone working in a corporate industry, and after reading this book, I could understand that comment. Lean In is definitely very tailored to the corporate business woman and while I will only cautiously recommend this to someone who doesn't work in a company with the corporate ladder structure (with raises, promotions, managers, employees, or projects to manage), there are several valuable tips peppered throughout this book, so eventually anyone would benefit from reading it, men and women alike.

The book reads mostly as an essay collection. Sandberg focuses on a different topic or problem in each essay and I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite. Her essays are certainly very personal and she talks about how gender had come in the way of many her actions and decisions. I loved that she inserted herself into many of the essays and not just tried to narrate how other women were doing it wrong. Personally, I have let gender interfere with many of my decisions as well and not been aware that I was doing that. Reading Lean In helped me identify them.

Sandberg talks a lot about how women have culturally and historically held themselves back - girls grow up believing that there are some things they cannot or are not allowed to do. She doesn't quite have a solution to that problem - it would require a more universal solution. But she does suggest how women can get out of its influence. She also talks about childbirth and maternity leave, and how a woman's pregnancy or plan to start a family can often derail her career, how because of a fear of that happening, many women tend to think that they always have to choose between career and family.

I loved Sandberg's honest take on many topics that affect women who work in any kind of environment - sexism and bias are very much a reality in many workplaces. It sure helps to know their signs and know that no one needs to take all that crap. It also helps to know that sometimes a woman can encourage all that crap by not speaking out (of course, that is no reason for anyone to be sexist). If you work (or plan to work) in a job that is very male-dominated or follows a corporate ladder environment, this book is definitely a must-read.

I borrowed this book from the good old library.

The Sunday Salon: May and June in review (and a look at July/August)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Sunday

May and June were probably my slowest reading months this year, which I expected them to be. There were a lot of things to take care of these past few months plus a book wasn't always the respite I was looking forward to at the end of the day. Luckily, I enjoyed all the books I did read these past two months, which doesn't happen often.

My favorite read was Lean In, which had never been on my radar until I picked it up impulsively and decided to give it a try. A Visit from the Goon Squad comes a close second - another book I may not have read this year if not for a readalong.

Even though my reading was somewhat patchy, I did blog quite a bit. All the reading I did during the first half of the year built up a huge review backlog that I wanted to take care of. I still have three reviews pending, so the hope is to write them this week and schedule them.

Blog highlights from March and April

Plans for July and August
One commitment I know I am going to have for sure the next couple of months is baby care. So, reading is probably (definitely?) going to take a hit. Besides, lately, I have been less inclined to read and have been knitting most of the time, so I'm taking advantage of the break. Still, I do have some books on my nightstand that I plan to read when I'm looking for a read. They are mostly books I believe will be quick reads or easy listens. Whether I will actually get to them remains to be seen.
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn: This one has a pretty good beginning, so I feel reasonably hopeful that it is way better than Dark Places, which was just meh.
  • A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan: A review book. This isn't my usual kind of book but it sounds super appealing now.
  • Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie: I have been looking forward to reading this one ever since I first heard about it months ago.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: Probably not a light read so I won't be reading it when I'm looking for only a couple of minutes of reading time, but I love Mandel's writing and want to read this one as soon as possible.
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie: I have read only two Agatha Christie books to date, so this is me wanting to change that... if this one works in my favor.
  • The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua: Ooh, some geeky love to read about!! Plus, it's a graphic book!
  • Armada by Ernest Cline: Yay for a new book by the Ready Player One author.
  • Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella: I've always loved Kinsella's books in the past but lately, her trite formulaic novels about a silly girl who gets rescued or rescues herself in the end has been wearing me thin, so I'm not very sure this one will work out.
And then for audiobooks,
  • Missoula by Jon Krakauer: Love Krakauer's books - must-listens for any day.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: I'm not decided yet whether I want to listen to or read this book but it's on the list.
  • Dead Wake by Erik Larson: This is yet another author that I always have success with.

Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Absolutely. Justice served with a side of pineapple. That's what I'm here for.

If you told me that I could potentially love a book that featured vampires, werewolves, and other paranormal characters, I would have smiled politely and promptly forgotten the book you were trying to recommend. (I do love Bram Stoker's Dracula though - one of the most original books I've ever read.) If I had spent any amount of time on Sunbolt's Goodreads page and saw that it was categorized under Paranormal Fantasy, I would probably not have given it even a few pages. But Jenny's review couple of months ago and my general lack of awareness regarding what the book was about worked in Sunbolt's favor. And boy, am I glad I read it!

Before you turn away, let me emphasize that although I did mention vampires and werewolves in the above paragraph, Sunbolt is less about them than it is about this magical world where many of these kinds of charactes co-exist. (Plus, no one is dating a vampire or proclaiming the many eye candy benefits of being with one.) Intisar Khanani is now on my list of of authors to watch out her. She writes a beautiful hand and a compelling tale.

Hitomi is a Promise, an untrained magician who is generally viewed with suspicion by most of the people of Karolene, where Hitomi lives. Not being native to Karolene, she tends to get picked on by people trying to cause trouble. Hitomi is also a part of the Shadow League, an underground movement whose main goal is to overthrow the corrupt and villainish Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame. When they get wind of a ploy by Blackflame to assassinate a leading politician, they try to save the latter and his family. But a lot of things go wrong and Hitomi finds herself captured with no chance of escape.

That, in a nutshell, is what Sunbolt is about. When I started reading the book, I found the writing very easy to get lost in and the book an addicting one to come back to every time. I wasn't quite sold on the plot initially but when I finished it, I couldn't quite stop believing that I loved it. That's a strange way to feel about a plot-oriented book that's more a novella than a full-length novel.

In Sunbolt, Khanani creates a world that feels very natural. She doesn't waste her time in world-building or introducing complex characters. She lets the plot do that at its own pace without making the reader feel lost. To me, that was one of the selling points of this book because the author takes you right into the heart of the book without running the risk of starting the book with a slow introduction.

Yes, there are supernatural characters and if you are like me, maybe you will prefer not having them in your books. To me though, these characters felt more substantial and relatable than the ones in a typical paranormal fantasy book. (Not that I have a problem with those characters - I do love the Vampire Diaries TV show, but this book is as far away from that brand of paranormalcy (paranormalism? paranormality? paranormaltion?) as possible.

Sunbolt is also super-diverse. It had a feel of being set in the Middle East and the character map could have easily spanned across the spectrum. It felt super good to read a fantasy set in a non-European, non-American locale. I'll be watching out for the next book in this series (trilogy?).

I received this book for free for review from the publisher via NetGalley.

The Sunday Salon: Almost There!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Sunday

I started composing this post couple of days ago, but with everything else I was doing during this long weekend, it got sidelined. I am enjoying my five-day weekend and will return to work on Tuesday, thanks to the Independence Day holiday and two vacation days I needed to use up at work. I've been thinking of this long break as the quiet before the storm, because I am expecting the little one to arrive any day now. Actually, I am hoping she will come any day now. I got my last pending work responsibilities settled. (I still have to work until I go into labor.) The baby furniture and items are all ready and waiting for their tenant. Sleeping has been so freaking difficult and painful! At this point, I am ready to be done.

About eight months ago, when I found out I was pregnant, I couldn't wait to get here. There is something very beautiful about a belly bump and the idea of carrying a living breathing being inside a body. And while the whole experience has been wonderful and I wouldn't want to change a thing, the inconveniences have been a steady reminder that this isn't for ever.
  • Not being able to eat tuna.
  • Not being able to run.
  • Not being able to get a sentence in without panting.
  • Not being able to go bowling.
  • Not being able to work without worrying about the unfinished stuff.
  • Not being able to go to India.
  • Not being able to plan anything without wondering about how it will impact the little one.
  • Not being able to eat without wondering if it's on the NO list.

But on the plus side,
  • Feeling the punches and kicks from this little peanut.
  • Getting extra attention everywhere (this is both a plus and a minus, but people mean well and it's always nice to have someone walk ahead of me to a meeting room and get things set up for me).
  • Getting rid of my tea/coffee habit. Now, I have tea/coffee occasionally, more as a drink to relish than as something to help me stay awake. Of course, the upcoming sleepless nights may change that.
  • Having the husband take care of some most of the chores. (Okay, he is not going to like this point.)
  • Not feeling guilty about wanting to stay put and not do anything because my leg/feet/hips/back/everything hurts.
  • Watching her kicking and sucking her thumb on the ultrasound.
  • Planning, like all new parents do, about how we want to bring her up and what we should/shouldn't do.
  • Looking at all the cute baby items, this time with a personal investment in them. (On the other hand, worrying about consumerism and challenges in bringing up a girl in a world that is still not ready for her.)
  • Having a cute little kicking and thrashing bundle to look forward to, after all the struggles.

I am told that the pregnancy will appear to be a piece of cake once we get into the routines of feeding, diapering, and not-much-sleeping. Oh well. As long as there is a cute little bundle to tickle and cuddle with.

This past week, I picked up my knitting needles after having put them down at the beginning of my pregnancy. For some reason, I completely lost my interest in knitting as soon as the hormones started raging. Besides, with a summer baby on the horizon, I didn't have a strong incentive to knit anything. This week though, I started easing back in. I made a Gryffindor lion banner - it's now gracing my Harry Potter box set. I also knitted a cardigan for the little one and I'm in love with how it turned out.

Last night, after finishing the cardigan, I hit a rut. I wanted to read something but nothing is sounding appealing. There's also a part of me wondering what will happen if I went into labor halfway through the book. (I rarely go back to a book I stopped reading for whatever reason.) For that reason, I picked up and abandoned The Book of Speculation for now. A quick read is probably what I want. If fiction, then something plot-oriented. But nothing fluffy or silly. Nonfiction actually sounds sweeter - reading facts or essays is probably what will work best for me right now. If you have any suggestions of books that are quick reads, not too deep or profound, and easy on a distracted or restless mind, throw them my way. If it's a book that helped you when you were busy, definitely let me know about it.

I have been considering taking a Scribd, Oyster, or Kindle Unlimited subscription. That was the plan for a long time - I thought it would be a good idea to have an ebook subscription when I am nursing a kiddo. But now I am not too sure. I rarely deviate towards books when life is busy. I'd rather knit or watch TV, so I'm not sure a subscription would fly, but we'll see. Audiobooks will probably work much better.

Friday, I celebrated my birthday. Ever since we found out that we are having a July baby, I wondered if there is a chance she will arrive as my birthday present. I didn't want her to be born on my birthday, of course, and I'm sure she would prefer to have her own special day. So it was with a lot of relief that I woke up on my birthday with zero indications of going into labor. The husband got me an Audible subscription, which I am super excited about because I am caught up with my Audible library and need to stock up on new titles. He also got me a book embosser that I cannot wait to get my hands on. It's still being delivered, so hopefully, it will be here this week. At work, I had a surprise baby shower and birthday gift - my colleagues had chipped in for a gift card. Honestly, that made my day, especially since I didn't even see it coming.

Today is likely to be a day of chores. I still need to return a couple of library books before the baby comes, pack my hospital bag (I tried delaying this as much as possible), stock the changing table, order swaddling blankets, and buy yarn for some knitting projects. Hopefully, I'll get to some of these today.