Lyrics to Hush Little Baby if they were sung in a Pakistani Household

Hush little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama will teach you life lessons that are absurd,

If you simply clear your throat the wrong way,
Mama will recommend eight paracetamols a day,

And if you don’t do everything I desire,
Mama will threaten to kick you into the gasfire,*

And if you want to learn a skill that’s fantastic,
Mama will teach you to love using a nara over elastic,

And even if you gave me a million quid,
Mama will still prefer someone else’s kid,

And if we visit someone and your knock they ignore,
Mama will stick a small bush through their door,

And if we’re out in public, don’t even blink,
Mama will worry about what others will think,

And even if you come home with a first class degree,
Mama would prefer you to learn how to make biriyani,

And if any kind of occasion is billed,
Mama will ensure 200 samosas are filled,

And if you’d prefer to hear of Mary’s little lamb,
Mama doesn’t care cuz singing is haram,**

And if you don’t note this all down,
You’ll be the last girl to get a rishtha in town.

*For those that are familiar with the threat, “Lath mari na, thei gas ni vich bari jase”
**THIS IS NOT A FATWA

Baby #1 vs Baby #2

The other night, I was at a relative’s house with the kids when the unthinkable happened. My eight-month-old, who was enjoying a slice of an apple, choked on a piece. And I don’t mean that he made a funny face and heaved, like he does every time I give him something to eat (that is the general reaction my cooking gets anyway), I mean that a small piece got stuck in his throat, he went bright red and was gasping for breath. I’ve seen a few children’s first aid videos and so tried my best to mirror what I’d seen on them and, thankfully, by luck more than skill, the piece was dislodged.

When I told my husband about it later, it struck me that I had been remarkably calm when it happened. After the piece came out, I put the baby back on floor to play, gave him another slice of apple and then just carried on watching TV whilst periodically looking back at him. Don’t get me wrong, obviously I was worried for the split second when I saw what was happening, but I sprang into action, dealt with it and then resumed my active effort to avoid social interaction. When something similar happened with my daughter a few years ago with a toasted finger, I remember how much it unnerved me for the rest of the day. In fact, I unfriended toast for about a month after.  It got me thinking about how different everything is with the second child.

The differences started right from the beginning. I remember finding out that I was pregnant with my daughter; how I took the test as early as possible, how excited I was to tell my husband, how he flung his arms around me and was overjoyed. Come to think of it, that was probably the last time he embraced me in that way…possibly because it was the last time he was able to get his arms around me! When I came downstairs after taking the test for my second pregnancy, our conversation went something like this:

Husband: You were ages in the bathroom! Was it that chicken that you made last night? You better not have stunk it out because I need to go now. It must have been that chicken.

Me: No, but thank you for your positive appraisal of my cooking. I was taking a pregnancy test, actually! And it was positive.

Husband: Oh…Well, that’s good, I suppose. You better make an appointment with the doctor or someone.

[Goes to the bathroom]

Throughout my entire first pregnancy, I was so in tune with my body. I knew exactly what was going to be happening at what stage, the exact gestation to the day, any new pattern of movement and worried over every new symptom. I packed my hospital bag a month in advance, even though I had got all the things I needed long before that and was itching to put them in the especially purchased travel bag, but the baby books I read said to pack it when you’re 36 weeks, so I waited until that exact day. During my second pregnancy, I struggled to remember how many months pregnant I was and when the midwife would tell me that I should inform them if I notice anything different about the baby’s movements, I remember thinking ‘Unless the baby suddenly decides to start doing the Cha Cha Slide, I am not going to notice anything!’ Also, as soon as my son was born, my husband had to run to a chemist to buy me maternity pads (that felt like they were made from steel) because I had forgotten to pack half of the things I needed.

I had an 18 hour labour with my daughter, but, despite this, I was really calm throughout. My husband was really unwell himself, but he was uncharacteristically great at every stage; he said all the right things, was reassuring, encouraging and comforting. He’s not someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, but I’ll never forget how emotional he was when our beautiful daughter was born and how he was beaming with pride when he nervously held her for the first time.

When I went into labour the second time, it would appear that the calmness and patience I displayed first time around was taken away with the placenta. It was so quick that I literally had to hold the baby in until I got to the hospital. When we got there, the nurses that came to the car to fetch me didn’t even bring a sodding wheelchair! One kept saying, “Come on, we need to get you to a room quickly. We don’t want you having the baby in the carpark now, do we?” I remember thinking, “You try walking with a little person dangling out of you! Let’s have the baby in the carpark, let’s invite the 3am crowd over at A&E to watch, I’ve even brought snacks for them (Yes, I remembered to pack crisps and chocolate, but forgot maternity pads), just let me get this baby out!” I delivered my son just three minutes later. My husband’s reaction was priceless:

“I can’t believe you just pushed out a baby in less than three minutes! I’m not being funny, but some of my poos take longer than that to come out!”

I should point out that, for those of you that are familiar with my blog, it may seem like we talk about poo a lot in our family and, truth be told, we probably do! My husband has Colitis, which affects his bowels and we have two children under 4, so the things we say are, literally, full of (sh)it!

I don’t want to bore you with endless anecdotes of how things changed between my first and second child, so I’ve come up with a handy table to save the strain on your eyes.

Event/Stage in Development First Child Second Child
Choice of nappies/wipes Always named brands and even considered using cloth nappies because of the chemicals supposedly used in disposable nappies (What a tit I was!) I didn’t even use wipes for the first 6 months and would clean with wet cotton pads. Asda own brand nappies and wipes after about 3 weeks.
Night time routine Bath, milk, story, lullaby whilst being rocked, ear pressed against the monitor for most of the rest of the evening, going up at the slightest sound. Milk, nappy change, cuddles, cot.
Dealing with poo explosions Another bath and change of clothes A bath only if one was due anyway, otherwise cleaned with half a packet of wipes. Clothes only changed if they can’t be cleaned with wipes.
Sensory activities/stimulation Baby groups, sensory room, daily walks, books with flaps, swimming, a little tummy time because she didn’t like being left on her own. Trips to and from nursery, weekly shop at Asda, books with the flaps ripped off, half an hour a week at baby group, plenty of tummy time because he spends most of the time on the floor.
Weaning Homemade purees made from fresh fruit and vegetables, organised into labelled freezer pots, given at specific times. Absolutely no salt or sugar for the first year. Sliced fruit and veg that he fed himself for the first 4 weeks and then he just ate what we ate, when we ate it.
Parenting style Involved in all types of play for most of the day, always watching/hovering over child, promptly removing child from any situation that could cause as much as a hiccup. Involved in play

Breast is Best but Never Mind…

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At every stage of life, for every group of people, there are always options available and decisions to make. If you are a teenage boy, it may be which Youtuber to follow. This may seem like a strange example to use, but I just can’t get my head around the fact that this is an actual thing! For those of you who don’t know, a Youtuber is a person that often looks unwashed and unkempt and sits in their bedroom talking about nothing in particular, yet is watched by millions of teenagers. (My sister was recently told by one of her teenage sons that she was old-fashioned for suggesting that they all sit together and watch TV because apparently no one does that anymore.) If you are a stay-at-home-sleep-deprived mum, it may be deciding whether you should have an early night to catch up on missed sleep or stay up and have some ‘me time’ so you can watch something on TV that doesn’t star an obnoxiously opinionated, anthropomorphised pig and/or eat chocolate without hiding behind the sofa. If you are a man, it may be deciding which body part to scratch next. When you are a new mum, one of the first and most important decisions you have to make is whether to breast or formula feed. I should make it clear that I am not trying to trivialise breastfeeding in any way. While I categorically and unapologetically believe that every mum should be free to feed her baby by whichever means she chooses, without judgement or criticism from others, I am a firm believer that breast is best.

Before having children, I assumed that, when the time came, I would be able to feed my children the way I wanted and it would be my choice to make. I was wrong. I only discovered once I had my daughter that I have inverted nipples, which makes it insanely difficult to establish a latch and made breastfeeding impossible; well, for me anyway. While I was disappointed that I couldn’t breastfeed the way I had hoped, becoming a mum for the first time is such a culture shock that you just don’t have time to dwell on all the things that don’t turn out quite the way you imagined. For the first two months, I expressed milk when I could and gave formula the rest of the time. When I was pregnant for a second time, I was determined not to let my deformed nipples get the better of me. This time around I knew what the problem was beforehand and so tried to prepare for it – I bought nipple shields, had done some research (by which I mean I googled breastfeeding with inverted nipples) and had been in touch with the local breastfeeding support group that also sent a lovely lady to visit me once my boy was born. But I still couldn’t manage to establish a latch. After days of being fondled by women I’d only just been introduced to in desperate attempts to establish one, and after weeks of trying it on my own, with a broken spirit, I finally gave up. I was crushed.

The difference was that this time I had read up (thank you Google, once again) on establishing a good milk supply. I pumped every 2-3 hours, day and night, and managed to provide my son with nothing but breastmilk for eight months. To say it was an arduous journey would be an understatement. There were the obvious problems that probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – Being attached to a pump for hours each day, surviving on less than four hours sleep each night for the first three months because, not only do you have to get up for feeds and nappy changes like everyone else, you have to then stay up and pump for the next feed, having to pump throughout the day when you have two children to look after, cleaning and sterilising pump parts and bottles every day,  yada yada yada (it was a choice I made of my own free will, so I am not looking for any sympathy). But there were other issues that I wasn’t expecting and that were, in some ways, actually harder to deal with. I live in a community where the prevailing wisdom on the benefits of breastmilk is lagging by about 15 years. While, in theory, they accept that breastmilk is good for babies, this is based mainly on the religious importance given to it and its convenience because it’s readily available, at the right temperature, doesn’t require any equipment and also helps you lose weight… apparently. In practice, they were very quick to remind me of the perceived benefits of formula, such as it enabling babies to put on weight more quickly, allowing babies to sleep for longer because it is more filling and that some babies just don’t like the taste of their mother’s milk! (Really? How do you know? Has any baby ever told you that?) If this is how they feel about nursed babies, you can imagine what an alien concept extracting your milk and giving it in a bottle is. For them, I had combined all the evils from both forms of feeding to invent my own satanic method. As well as the aforementioned misconceptions they had with breastmilk, here is a roundup of my top 5 favourites ‘problems’ they had with my method:

  1. “The milk doesn’t retain its nutrients when expressed into a bottle and then fed to a child, so it is of no benefit to them. You’re better off giving formula”

Do they drink milk directly from a cow? That milk’s been expressed too and that gets pasteurised first! If any nutrients are lost by the milk entering a bottle, it is negligible.

2. “Directly nursed babies (I am deliberately not using the term breastfed babies because my baby received breastmilk and so was breastfed as far as I am concerned) don’t get colic or reflux. Yours is suffering unnecessarily because you are using a bottle and he’s not reacting well to your milk. You might as well just give formula.”

My beloved Google tells me that directly nursed babies are just as likely to suffer colic and reflux as bottle fed babies, so wrong again!

3. “You’re restricting your baby’s milk intake because he can only drink as much as you’re able to express.”

Yes, the baby only gets as much I manage to express, but I had an oversupply and was producing so much milk that I was able to donate close to 1000 ounces to a local milk bank. Oh, and my son is the size of a small car, so I don’t think there is any possibility that he ever went hungry.

4. “You don’t get to bond with your baby in the same way.”

Unlike the other comments, which I just found irritating more than anything else, this one actually hurt a little. When my son was a few weeks old, I took him to a baby group and made the mistake of talking to people. I had mentioned my chosen method of feeding him earlier in the conversation and, whilst we were discussing sleeping habits, I told them that when my boy gets tired he just want to be left in his cot to fall asleep on his own and hates being held. I was actually kind of boasting because my daughter was an awful sleeper and it would take an hour of rocking and singing and then having to leave the room with stealth ninja moves to get her to sleep, so I never expected my revelation that my son falls asleep with little trouble to backfire the way it did. One of the responses I got was, “It’s because you give your milk in a bottle. You’ve not allowed yourself to have that bond with your child that breastfeeding mothers usually have and that’s probably why he doesn’t want to be held by you when he’s tired.” I am certain that this mum wasn’t deliberately being a condescending and self-righteous twat, but her assumption that the bond between a mother and her child is restricted because the child does not spend half the day with an overrated part of its mother’s anatomy in its mouth is absurd! I have no doubt that directly nursing an infant does help to establish a unique bond, but that bond can be established in endless other ways too.

5) “It’s the reason you haven’t lost weight. If you breastfed normally, you’d have lost your baby weight by now.”

Sure, okay, let’s go with that. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I consume about 3000 calories just for breakfast, anyway.

Last week, I finally made the decision to claim my life back from the pump and switch to formula. I had only ever intended to pump for the first three months anyway and had delayed projects that I wanted to complete because of my pumping schedule for long enough, so I decided to hang up the nipple tearing instrument of torture for good. It was quite an emotional journey that I made and the only other person to observe it in all its unrelenting horror was my husband. He’s the only one that has seen how much of my life I’ve had to sacrifice to pump for this long, watched me battle through 4 bouts of mastitis and witnessed how I’ve learnt to bite my tongue in front of those who make unpleasant comments, knowing that deep down I get upset by the fact that they don’t understand that I only do it for the benefit of my child. I’m not sure what I was expecting him to say, but his response when I told him of this difficult, sensitive and emotional decision will stay with me forever. His exact words were…. “Never mind! Have you seen the remote?”

The Journey of a Sarcastic Muslim Mama…

The wedding is typical of its kind – overcrowded and big,
The abundance of blusher makes her look like a pig,
The optimistically fitted outfit is starting to dig,
She’s anchored to her chair by a 3 tonne wig.

She bids her family and friends a tearful goodbye,
Upon arrival, her new neighbours are eager to pry,
She’s surrounded by people but wonders why,
She’s not with her husband. Why can’t she sit with the guy?

She hopes she doesn’t become one those wives that are hated,
But then comes the news for which her Mother-in-Law has waited,
The scan has been done and the pregnancy dated,
All health professionals assume she and her husband are related.

Unwanted advice is a definite given,
The birth is nothing like what she’s seen on television,
She screams like someone undergoing an exorcism,
But one look at the baby and all is forgiven.

Breastfeeding turns out to be one hell of a chore,
The ‘laid back feeding’ position goes out of the door,
When she’s shopping in Asda and the baby’s after some more,
And she can hardly whip out a boob and lie down on the floor.

She becomes a full-time children’s entertainer,
Her footwear of choice is a comfortable trainer,
Her similarities to her mum have never been plainer,
Every time she opens the cupboard full of containers.

Her home always looks like an open suitcase,
Of meaningful conversation, there is no trace,
She’s always asked if she’s ill but that’s not the case,
What people see is her newly adopted every day face.

Her daughter starts nursery and she starts to choke,
Her delight at eating lunch in peace is no joke,
But the exposure to different people starts to evoke,
Discussions of why Santa doesn’t visit brown folk.

Five years down the line and the family has grown,
Her once handsome husband looks more like Fred Flintstone,
She looks forward to evenings when they get to be on their own,
And sit in silence while they each check their phone.

Each day she feels some of her sanity decay,
Sometimes she never wants to leave the duvet,
Remembering the days when her clothes weren’t covered in puree,
She realises she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Double Lives

I never intended to post another blog entry so soon after my first one, but I have received a number of messages saying that it was nice to see someone writing about an imperfect life so honestly. It made me realise how much we are affected by the way we perceive the quality of other people’s lives and how we would like ours to be perceived. We’ve all seen and ‘liked’ the memes on social media about how Disney gave them false expectations of men, but beyond this, why are so many of us so afraid to admit that our lives and relationships are simply ordinary?

Firstly, I think Disney is being assigned an undue portion of the blame. It may have presented you with princes that carried their brides off into the sunset on horseback, but those kinds of men and that type of scenario aren’t as far-fetched as you might think. The prince in Sleeping Beauty found her asleep, thought she was pretty, gave her a kiss, assumed she was interested and took off with her. If that’s the kind of man you’re after then I have great news! Job Centres all around the country hold fortnightly congregations with many men just like this, so find your nearest one and go take your pick. Also, when Prince Charming’s father decided it was time for him to get married, they arranged a gathering and he was given a choice of any girl in the kingdom. Spurred on by their parents, all the girls competed for this coveted prize and naturally he picked the pretty one that was good at housework. How is that different to how many British Pakistani parents get their sons married? (The kingdom being Pakistan of course)

Part of the problem is, of course, social media. We see other people’s pictures of them out with friends, loved up with partners, looking immaculate, on family-fun days out and think, ‘Why isn’t my life like that?’ While we lay in bed, instead of reading or sleeping, most of us are checking Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, stalking everyone that allows us to take a glimpse into their lives, clicking on the profiles of people we don’t even know. We forget that these pictures and not statuses are often not as spontaneous as they appear to be nor do they represent a typical day in these people’s lives. They have been specifically selected, edited, cropped and reworded to create the most impact. For every picture uploaded, there are many that have been deleted because the lighting or angle made them look unattractive, a friend had ruined the symmetry by facing the wrong way, the kids looked bored or there was some underwear drying on the radiator in the background. More often than not, the picture posted isn’t evidence of their exceptionally perfect life, but is the exception to their ordinary life.

When I had my now 3-year-old daughter, I remember the first time the health visitor came to see us. As she was leaving and trying to arrange her next visit she said, “I try not to arrange morning appointments for mums that have only just had a baby, but you seem like you’re on top of it, so is 9:30 okay?” Now what I wanted to say was, “ARE YOU INSANE? I went through a 16 hour labour just 3 days ago, I’ve had less than four hours’ sleep, I’m wearing my pyjamas underneath my abaya, I haven’t washed my face or brushed my teeth yet because I set my alarm to go off just 10 minutes before you were due to arrive and that only gave me enough time to hide the dirty laundry and throw the unwashed bottles in the sink! On top of it? On top of what? How about I stick my foot on top of your head! I would have struggled with 9:30 even before I had a baby so, no, 9:30 on Thursday is most definitely not ok!” However, what I actually said was, “Yes, of course, that’s fine.” I remember being really annoyed with myself afterwards for not asking for a later appointment just because she made a flattering judgement about me and I felt that I should maintain it. Had I said how I really felt, perhaps paraphrasing it slightly, I’m almost certain she wouldn’t have judged me or thought anything of it, but I didn’t because I was happy for her to think that I was coping better than I actually was. The staff at my daughter’s nursery also seem to have the same mistaken beliefs about me being a highly efficient and organised mum and I have never said anything to correct them. They always comment on how well presented my daughter is, how advanced she is because of all the things I must do with her and are impressed by the pretty name labels I have attached to all her things. They clearly have no idea of the half hour wrestling match that takes place every day just to get a straight parting in her hair; the amount of shouting that takes place to get the kids in the car on time; that probably half of what she knows has come from watching tv and that I bought iron-on labels because I can’t even thread a needle and, even then, they have been stuck on wonky.

Pictured below is the shameful mass of crumbs that I discovered this morning when I finally remembered to empty the toaster’s crumb tray. The truth is, I am a toaster. I maintain a respectable appearance on the outside and function perfectly well, but inside I am crumbly mess of insecurities, shortcuts, unfulfilled ambitions, exhaustion and mummy guilt. We are all selective over how much of our lives we reveal to other people, and the impression we create of our lifestyles isn’t always 100% true to reality. I am not suggesting that everyone who posts on social media is deliberately falsely representing themselves. A lot of the time, people share things simply because they think their friends would be interested in them and others may genuinely have glamorous social lives (whoop-ti-do for them) or genuinely perfect relationships (double whoop-ti-do). As stay at home mums, our lives centre around our children; on countless trips to the toilet; on talking about wee and poo so much that it’s disturbing; on saying and reading the same thing 50 times a day; on hearing “Mama” so many times that it makes out want to hack your own ears off with a bread knife; on never being able to go anywhere without making a meticulously timed plan that takes account of different nap times, dietary requirements, temperaments and packing for any possible eventuality.  We may not have the most glamorous of lifestyles, but, hey, we are all just crumbs in the same toaster crumb tray.

crumbs

#Iamatoaster

Initial Observations

Before I got married, I was a very different person. I was renowned for being carefree and not taking anything in life, including myself, too seriously. I would see women that were married with kids that were always fussing over their children and complaining about their husbands and, like the obnoxious twat that I was, would think that I would be so different when my time came.  Well, I was right – I am nothing like them. I can honestly say that after five years of marriage and having had two kids, I am so much worse that any woman I had ever observed!

Whenever I heard about other people’s domestic disputes, I was full of the naïve, self-praising optimism that most unmarried Muslim girls that have never actually been in a real relationship are. Gosh, I was like a ceaseless rubbish dispenser of clichés about people needing to talk things through, the need for open and honest communication and resolving problems through compromise. Pah! As I write this, I am currently on Day 5 of not talking to my husband! Worse than that, I can’t quite remember what I am supposed to be so annoyed about, and if I don’t know, you can be certain that he doesn’t have a clue, but we are both enjoying the comfortable silence that marital disharmony brings and so have decided not to question it. Besides, it gives me an excuse not to have to do his ironing!

As for not fussing over kids, fussing is as an intrinsic part of my parenting style as a flour bin is to a Pakistani household. Just this evening I was telling my three year old daughter that she could only have a short story at bedtime and was rushing her to change out of her clothes as though I’d walked into her room to randomly find her dressed like Honey G from the X-Factor. And why? Because she had gone to bed a whole 20 minutes later than what she normally does. Like, seriously, 20 minutes! The thing is, deep down I know that 20 minutes is hardly going to cause a catastrophic imbalance in her brain development, but I just can’t think rationally when I am in the role of Anal Ambassador for Routines. Also, in the time that it has taken me to write these three paragraphs, I have been upstairs to check on my eight month old three times. Firstly, I went up because I’d forgotten to plug in the monitor in his room. So, because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hear it if he wakes up and cries, I went upstairs to plug the monitor in, which naturally woke him up and made him cry. Secondly, he was coughing for quite a while so I went up to check that he hadn’t vomited. Thirdly, he stopped coughing, so I went up to check if he was still breathing. After having ascertained that both the monitor and my baby’s bodily functions were all operating correctly, I decided that the music from his cot mobile was disturbing my writing, so I switched the monitor off!

Being a Stay at Home Mum and housewife isn’t what I always planned on becoming. It isn’t glamorous and it isn’t easy, but it is often underestimated and devalued. Things aren’t helped when social networking and internet forums provide such open platforms for people to showcase idealised versions of themselves that leave others feeling like they simply aren’t good enough. Well, this blog’s not here to present a version of me that has been created by one of those incredibly flattering Snapchat filters nor one that’s been inspired by a hijab tutorial, it’s here to present the metaphorically naked me – the me that has lumps and bumps and unwanted facial hair, the me that stays in pyjamas far more than I should (they’re not even always proper pyjamas and sometimes even transcend into a random salwar and an old t-shirt), the me that says I’m not the perfect wife or mum and I do get things wrong, but I do my best. The truth is, we all have ideas about the kind of wives and Mums we’d like to be, but the reality is that you can’t always live up to those ideals. But, do you know what? That’s perfectly okay.