Free hit counter

Ok

By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.

10/12/2015

Sleep baby sleep... (Sleeping in India and in France)

A friend (Indian) came home unexpectedly on Saturday night at 9 PM. When he ‘complained’ about Baby Samurai not being available for play, I explained that he had been sleeping for an hour already. To which he answered: “Are you German or what, that he needs to have a schedule?” That says it all…

Sleep is one of the largest cultural differences between India and France, according to me. Family sleep india.jpgFor example, an Indian can easily talk to you while you are asleep, or clean your room, or even bring you a chai. And nobody would think of closing the door of the bedroom when starting a movie full volume in the room next door. The few times I allowed myself to sleep late, like until 11, my favorite Indian was all over the place, and came and disturbed me several times...

It must be linked to the living conditions: as many people live in very small spaces, no one can afford the luxury of a beautiful uninterrupted nap, or in silence (to be fair, it is better they learn from an early age to sleep through the noise in India, it is quite a matter of survival). In India people sleep because they have to, they do not indulge in the comfort of resting. However it is a little less true regarding food, yet another physiological need.

The same goes with babies (1). They follow the rhythm of the household. Even worse: If parents work a lot, it is not uncommon that a baby stays awake till past midnight in order to spend some time playing with his father.

In India, the child sleeps with his mother. And therefore, theoretically, with his father. Unless the latter doesn’t want to be woken up (by the baby’s cries or kicks), in which case he will go sleep wherever he can (on the floor, on a mattress, in another bed or on the couch). I know a lot of such cases. About the couple intimacy? Well, even before there is a baby, it is already quite an unusual concept (once again probably because of the ‘sardines’ way of life and also of the arranged marriage). And even if it was, the baby comes first. And he must sleep with his mother, to be able to suckle ad libitum and to ‘create bonds of love’. In such a context, the baby doesn't need to learn to fall asleep by himself nor to go back to sleep on his own; and they don’t let him cry more than two seconds. The baby is King in India, at least the first two-three years (after that it becomes less funny, with a strong reality check for what is coming ahead).

That mothers end up exhausted from continuously waking up from kicks or a greedy suckling mouth, nobody cares (at least after the first 3 months where they are well looked after by their mothers, so that they recover well from the physical hardship that giving birth is).

You have guessed, I was one of these wron-out mothers, since Baby Samurai had decided that sleeping at night was good for fools, the day he turned 4 months. well he was sleeping, but would wake up every two hours (at best). In addition we traveled quite a lot, and he often slept in our bed. At 5 months I did try the Tracey Hogg method to teach him to fall asleep by himself, but I was already too weak from sleep deprivation to withstand an hour of crying and I decided that 1. He was too small, 2. Westerners were a little too harsh in the way they (we) educate the babies, 3. The French are quite cold-hearted to leave a newborn alone in his bed in his room the first night itself.

And there I became sleep deprived, crazed. Not depressed, but a real zombie. My goal every day was to pull the wool over my colleagues’ eyes (and master the technique of sleeping with eyes open). I must say that in addition to micro-nights, I had to deal with breastfeeding. And breastfeeding is good, but it is not always easy: it takes of lot energy, when he feeds, and even more so when you have to express milk. I had therefore abandoned the idea that baby Samurai (and I at the same time) would one day sleep an entire night, at least not before he would leave home...

And then, one evening, a friend of mine, a French girl married to an Indian man, sent me a document to “Sleep train babies" (SleepSenseTraining (website) that she intended to try.) I explained to her that personally I had given up and I expected things to settle by themselves. But then, out of curiosity and because I had nothing else to do and I had my phone in hand, I opened the book. 45 minutes later, Baby Samurai woke up and I decided to test this technique illico presto. Just like somebody drowning clings on to a lifeline. The last chance! After crying for 45 minutes, he was sleeping soundly. And in a week’s time (with ups and downs) he was sleeping almost all through the night, more than 10 hours. I would have been told it was possible, I would have not believed it!

This being said, I did things my way. And some may argue that I am taking the best of each culture, but really, I'm just following my instincts. So we follow a bedtime routine which includes a massage, he goes to bed at 8 PM and he sleeps in his crib. On the other hand he sleeps in our room and I don't insist he falls asleep without anybody in the room; I will continue to take him in my arms to calm him down if he needs and I am a little flexible regarding the naps. I was also comforted in my approach by the little I have read about Hélène Stork’s work about ‘compared practices of mothering in the West and in other countries, including South India’ and I just ordered her book (2).

In any case, Baby Samurai sleeps and I feel alive again – in fact I'm almost tired of sleeping too much but I shall not complain shall I??

(1) Summary of the differences in mothering:

India,sleep,Hélène Stork,education,baby sleep,sleep training,Tracey Hogg

Source:https://www.Cairn.info/Revue-spirale-2005-2-page-151.htm

 

(2) Hélène Stork, Indian childhoods. Study and comparison of cross-cultural psychology of the young child, Paris, Paidós / Centurion, 1986

Providing medical and psychological consultation in Paris suburbs, Hélène Stork found many psychological disorders in young children. Following her strong intuition that these difficulties were representative, among others, of the malaise of an entire society, she compared the practices of mothering in the West with those of other countries, including South India (Tamil Nadu), where she stayed at length, on several occasions. Like the Ethnologist, she led extensive clinical research on the field, along with studies of ancient Sanskrit texts underlying the Indian techniques of infant care. This book, after defining cross-cultural psychology (history, methods, goals), describes with great precision (thanks, in particular, to the filmic investigation) gestures and postures of mothering in South India, bringing a rich contribution to the study of the psychic life of babies during the first six months. At the end of his work, Hélène Stork formulates a question for the West: “Does the social organization of the family allows women (parents) to practice a mothering helping in the sensory-motor development and good mental health of the child?”

08/03/2015

If you go to Delhi...

Be ready!

 

Mumbai-Delhi. Two cities ten times the size of Slovenia each. Two thousand kilometers. Two hours by plane. Sixty flights per day. Nothing insurmountable! Except that it requires a bit of anticipation. If the delays are not what they used to be a few years ago, they are still frequent between these two mega-cities: when it’s not the fog in Delhi it’s the rain in Mumbai...

 

For an appointment at 4:15 PM, I had therefore planned carefully. I would arrive at 1:10 + something unexpected (a one hour flight delay) + 40 minutes by taxi + something unexpected (almost anything that could happen on the road and block us 30 minutes) and I still had a 45 minutes safety gap...

 

Except that... While it had not rained for more than three weeks, nature unleashed in the night before myindia,mumbai,delhi,flight,gurgaon,traffic departure! Naively, I thought I could still take a rickshaw but upon the advice of my favorite Indian I booked a Uber (a first!), and left early. I could only get a SUV and thank God for that: the water level was so high that only our car could pass in some passages, where rickshaws drivers, stuck in the middle of the street with water up to the waist, were forced to push their vehicle on the side. And we, while water was coming under the door, we drove through, pushing water as a backhoe snow! Which enabled me to 1. Arrive at the airport and 2. Arrive at the airport in time, and even a little bit early. Early enough to take the time to call back the driver after realizing I had forgotten my umbrella in his car – since it is not permitted to exit the airport after check-in in India, it is the guard who had to go get it for me, the driver having some difficulties locating me behind the glass door! And early enough to buy a phone charger since mine had gone missing. So here I was, finally ready for the flight!

 

One hour delay at the time of boarding... How grateful I am for my foresight!

 

Two hours delay at the time of take-off... Why on earth didn’t I book an earlier flight?? Okay, don't panic. There is still a small chance that the traffic on the Delhi-Gurgaon road is not huge in early afternoon and that there is no major incident...

 

Finally I land in Delhi. I jump in a radio-taxi. We rush to Gurgaon and reach in 25 minutes! I am fifteen minutes early which means I can pee, pump some milk, freshen up, put my jacket on. Before all that I inform the desk that I am around, just so they know... An employee comes to meet me immediately and make me follow him. Before I know it, I find myself in the meeting room (hungry, with a full bladder, dishevelled, fearing breast engorgement, my shirt protruding from everywhere, in short completely lost in translation!).

 

My instructions were strict for this meeting: whatever happens, be on time – German-Swiss take time very seriously. Taking this into account, I had calculated that I should be ready to leave by 5.30 PM (it was planned to last 75 minutes max) and could book a return flight at 7:45. How surprised was I to realise it was 5:55 when I left the room! But no need to get excited, with the delay I experienced in the morning, there is no chance that my flight is on time!

 

india,mumbai,delhi,flight,gurgaon,trafficDespite the craziness of the traffic jam (these I-don’t-know-how-many-lanes of cars are very impressive on this road), I arrive at 6.45 at the airport, sharp one hour in advance... Except that I am on the phone with a colleague and he won’t stop talking. Which is makes it very uneasy to show my e-ticket to the guard... Ten minutes later, I finally hang up and I am immediately told that I am at the wrong terminal! I had completely zapped that Jet Airways flights are not operated with other domestic flights... There seems to be no end to this day!

 

Another walking-in passenger then offers me to use his car, which leaves me somewhat puzzled. He assures me it’s not a problem, it’s his office car and anyway I won’t find a taxi at the departures... By the time I decide whether to take up the offer, the guard urges me “there, a taxi! Go go!” I spot a white car which is about to leave and stops it. I ask if this is a taxi, and if he can take me to Terminal 3. No problem!! As I can’t see a meter, I assume I will have to pay a bomb but it does not matter, I just want to go home! I still ask the driver what kind of taxi this is and the answer is weird: taxis booked online by companies, especially for foreigners. Well... Twenty minutes later I'm at the right departure gate, and not even late, my flight was announced to depart with delay at 8:30 PM. When I ask the driver how much I owe him, he answers – wait for it – “nothing, it was my pleasure to help you”. Bah ?? Wait wait wait. Am I really in Delhi? The city with a terrible reputation? And two men offer to help me in the same day? I love my life!

 

I landed in Mumbai with one hour delay. Found a taxi and got home in an acceptable time considering the weather conditions. It is 11 PM and I'm dead...

06/29/2015

Having a filthy day?

After three months away…

No I have not disappeared! I had thought (very naively) that I would have some time to “do my things” doing my maternity leave, like writing. But it went the other way around!!

And like if it was not enough to be haggard, drunk of fatigue, full of playful hormones (they say it is normal when you breastfeed), with a useless brain (not even capable to remember what I have done with a bottle of water I picked up two minutes ago – oh well, I put it in the cupboard, of course!), I got back to work, in a not-so-easy environment… And started yoga again (from 6 to 7 (AM!!))… But I am a Samurai, I can do it!!

My resolution of this getting-back-to-‘normal’-life is thus to start blogging again, posting every Monday instead of every other day…

And to start with, a video to remind us that some Indians don’t have it easy every day…