In 2013 I was invited to Giftival, a gathering of 40 people from around the world engaging in gift culture or gift economy or giftivism as it is often called. This was in Istanbul and my LO was not yet 2 years old.
I had only recently heard of gift culture at the Learning Societies UnConference at United Mahindra World College in Pune and something about it just took hold of me. I cannot say what or why, but it was some kind of tug. I didn’t however feel worthy of being in the company of people who had been practicing gift culture as a way of life for years. It didn’t seem fair to others. What could I have to contribute I thought, besides sharing and facilitating world folk dances which are such a beautiful energy sharing experience. Yet I trusted there was something in this call that was beyond me and made the trip.
Giftival opened with a story told by the deeply talented Judith Liberman, with the accompaniment of the most magical sounding musical instrument I’ve heard.
The story of two identical tables laden with food of the most delightful and desirable kind. Around it were hungry people. However they all had no elbows, and at the end of their stick like arms were spoons. In one place there was anger and frustration and resentment, because they could not eat. By the other table, there was joy and delight. The reason was simple, the people on the happy table were feeding each other.
The impact of this story on me will last a lifetime. It would not have been the same had there been an announcement of what gift culture is and what important work we have gathered to do etc etc etc… This story and meeting Judith also started me on my journey as a storyteller. It was so seamless actually, just like meeting my husband. No fuss, just a smooth flow of feeling at home.
There were lots of books and discussions and experiments and experiences of people and i just soaked them in, thinking, absorbing, processing. We discussed gift as both being able to give and being able to receive and many of us realized while we are comfortable with giving, we aren’t comfortable with receiving. We discussed the creation of money, the purpose, our relationship with it, whether it was something the world could do away with. There was an american anthropologist who had been studying gift culture in ancient cultures. She spoke of motherhood as a gift, in fact parent-hood as a gift and how patriarchy had robbed men of their instinct to nurture, focussing only as providing as their gift. There were 2 of us who were mums with our babies around.
As someone who had lost all contact with my pre-motherhood world, no moonlight group meditations, no salsa dancing with kids not welcome in most social settings, this was really a gift. The other lady was from Tamera in Portugal, where they were a conscious community working with healing water and other amazing inner growth stuff. We were both nursing mothers and nursed our babies on demand through the 6 hour a day unconference. It felt so good to just be accepted for whatever your role is in that moment.
There was Munir Fasheh from Palestine who spoke of the word gift in Arabic and its many meanings and contexts. There was Shammi Nanda who spoke of Non-Violent Communication and gift from that perspective. There were people building eco-friendly homes and offering to be paid in gift and living like that. It was really tough, but they had the courage to do this. There was Manish Jain from Swaraj University, where you could study even if you couldn’t give fees. There was Charles Eisenstein who wrote Sacred Economics. There was Aysegul who had set up Zumbara, a time bank. These were amazing people and many times in the day I wondered why I was there, but I was also very grateful I was there.
One day we had people from the local community come visit and interact. It was rather crowded and Sivaanaa was a bit overwhelmed I took her into a little room where she napped and when she woke, we joined the discussions. She climbed a chair and leaned back. I had the inclination that she might fall, but I wanted her to learn to take risks and find a space of trust in herself, so I watched carefully but didn’t give her any warnings. Suddenly the chair toppled over and she fell down. She hurt her head and began to cry. I walked to her and carried her in my arms, hugged her tight and just held her. It seems this sparked a big discussion in Turkish. I couldn’t understand what was being said, but I knew it was about us. I took Sivaanaa to the other room and hugged and chanted her to serenity. Later I found out the discussion was about how a Turkish mum (and their culture is so similar to ours) would have panicked and said said a lot of words. They were suddenly discussing motherhood as a gift it seems. They were amazed at what they saw. For me it was obvious. The child is hurt. Its ok to cry. I just need to witness her emotion and let her know I’m there for her. Really simple acknowledgement.
I hadn’t seen motherhood as a gift, till now, but I realized in the end, so much of who we are is because of how we were raised. It shapes our relationship with ourself and others and so how we raise our kids is really a big gift to them, to ourselves and the world. As Swami Vishnu, the founder of the Sivananda tradition says, all we need for peace in the world is to find peace within ourselves.
At the end, I just felt gift was not something to strive towards. It was to be who you are. Some flowers are fragrant, some are beautiful, some are creepers, theres a gift in their existence because they are who they are….true to what they are.
I moved on to London and later to Mumbai. Giftival had been beautiful but it wasn’t life altering like yoga or vipassana. There was still that feeling that it was a preparation for something. I let it be.
Back in India, many months later, after having time to ponder this gift stuff, I decided to offer a yoga class in the spirit of gift. This was at a beautiful studio of a beautiful fellow yogi Sheetal and his wife Khushi, who had converted their home into an Urban Ashram, a space that was always hosting wonderful facilitators and learning experiences. So I offered a 2 hour workshop on Surya Namaskaar, covering the alignment, the breathing, the philosophical aspect and the surya mantras. At the end there was a box where people could put their gift offerings.
When I sat to meditate before facilitating the yoga class, as I always do, so I can empty myself and be a channel for the higher energies, I found myself wondering about money.How much would we charge for this workshop were it a paid one, given my experience etc etc. I wondered how much people would contribute and how that total would feel to me. I thought of my friends at giftival who travelled and created eco-friendly homes for people, thats hard manual work and not knowing what they would receive as remuneration (and this was out of choice.) I realized somewhere I was pegging my self worth to money. I decided I didn’t want to contaminate my giving experience. I would not keep the money. Futhermore, I didn’t want to know how much money there was in the box at the end of the class. I just wanted to give and thats what i would do.
The class was full of gurus grace. I must write another post on the beauty of the Sivananda practice and how it changed me from sceptic left brained to flowing in grace. I gave the money to my friends to use for any cause and it felt amazing. This class was offered in gift, not as social work, not as charity…..and there is much to ponder in these words and acts.
There is something sacred about gift and the journey had only just begun.
There was a raging storm inside of me. So many thoughts, so many possibilities, so many questions, so much churning. It seemed that my home, my temple, my sanctuary was blasted with gusts of outbursts and drama. I was battling enough my confusion, the fog that the physical location of my life brought to the project through which i felt most need to manifest my life purpose of facilitating joy and love. I felt spent having talked about, debated, sought advice and meditated and then my vain attempts at surrender.
Having just returned from India, having a house guest, missing my space, the joy of seeing the ocean and missing the happy buzz of Halla Gulla, setting up home again, getting back to routine it was all a bit too overwhelming and disorienting.Then everyday watching messages and e-mails of opportunities we couldn’t take up because I wasn’t in Mumbai. After a while my heart grew heavy. I missed the joy of giving that comes to me from live interaction.
The day after Christmas, I woke up feeling the desire to be quiet. It was just natural, not planned. If I could have planned I would have gone to the Sivananda Ashram in the nearby Bahamas, but I could not, and I really didn’t feel up to traveling after a hectic India trip, so I just sent my husband at text explaining I wished to be in silence for a few days and could he support me please. He said yes and things flowed.
Our daughter is 5 and very expressive and with a strong need for communication and she couldn’t quite get it. I saw that it was challenging for her, yet I felt strongly to honor the call of my soul. So i communicated in sign language. I was still accessing e-mails and whats app in a disciplined manner. Our LO did ok, meditating with me and us sharing lots of intimate hugs and eye gazing that ended in smiles or giggles. Inside I continued to be a witness to my thoughts, watching them without the colors of anyones opinion or advice.
Still it was intense for the LO.I hadn’t decided how long I was gng to remain silent, I was just going with the flow of my souls need. I arranged playdates for her via text with friends who would understand my silence.
Addressing a meltdown in silence One day however, her swimming teacher didn’t come. S loves her swimming class and her swimming teacher, who is the most positive encouraging person. The two of them share a lovely bond and greet each other and thank each other in Swahili and Hindi respectively. I love watching them and give thanks for the gift of such a lovely teacher. S burst into tears. With all this silence she was looking forward to the swimming to have fun and let go and so she just let the floodgate of tears open. I hugged her and kissed her and acknowledged her feelings with my eyes and sign language? It was not enough.
I wondered if i should speak. But what point. My mind raced…and I knew nature would solve this for us. So I managed to get her into the car. Taking a packet of bread along we drove to a pond nearby. She was crying inconsolably. I carried her from the car to the pond and took a piece of bread and threw it in the water. Soon there was life . The hickatees (like turtles) came in , few first then a whole bunch of them. She suddenly got excited about who was going to get the bread and forgot to cry. Then there were the baby tadpole like fish that create designs as they reach for crumbs and make the water jump sometimes. there are the carps and there are the red beaked ducks who glide past indifferent to the buzz the bread has created and leave a V shaped wake of water behind. She fed the tickets, shooed the roosters and hens away and was enraptured by nature. We stayed there for 20 minutes or so in silence, each of us watching what most appealed in any given moment. There were large flying stalk like birds that came and went and reflections in the water and the sun changing position. Suddenly there was a drizzle of rain, refreshing and beautiful. We smiled, hugged and went home.
Hickatees popping their heads up for food[/caption]
Hickatees Close up
Nature and play to heal myself and my child While I was honoring my own need for silence and clarity, I also wanted to honor S need for play and togetherness. I had recently chanced upon the most beautiful swing in the world. A tree that dies, gives life after death. The picture will say all there is to say! So I took S to this beautiful swing by the sea and I my husband came along too. Me in silence, them chatting. She was thrilled with the swing. Her heart needed more and after a while, she was not happy with swinging alone. She craved intimate play. So we gathered some beachy treasures and created a world. Its amazing communicating in silence, understanding what the other is saying, where they want to place an object and how we communicate our creative vision. Kind of clues you in on a deeper level. But she wanted play, like physically play..so I looked on the wet sand and began to make different types of footprints. Walking like a penguin, a duck, walking zig jag, jumping, drew a line with a stick and jumping on either side. This was so much fun for her. She made some of those up and I followed along. It was really the most creative time on the beach. We began to notice doggie paw prints on the sand and bird claw prints ….just a world out there! Jumping facing one way and then another footprints[/caption]
Criss cross, zig zag walk footprints
Heel walk footprints
How I procured a wooden crate in a liquor store without talking Some asked how I went about the business of the day without talking. I went to buy S a wetsuit at the diving store. I smiled, pointed, indicated her age with my fingers and communicated entirely in sign language. Its amazing how nice people are and even more when they think you have a disability. The saleswoman was just so helpful. Another day I went to a liquor store to ask for a wooden wine crate I wanted to repurpose into a Kabaad Se Jugaad bookshelf. I typed on my phone. I walked in with a big smile and showed the cashier my request. the whole store came to help. They didn’t have one, but one guy said his mother worked at another store and she would arrange it. He wrote a note for me to give his mother. I went to her store and got the crate. All along it was beautiful…..really deeply beautiful in a way you don’t experience in the normal world. This beauty you can’t experience in a retreat, a vipassana, an ashram, because there you know most who come re coming to seek, are positive. here in the real world, experiencing the welcome giving of a liquor store salesperson is just such a gift. the Divine Intelligence shines through all levels of consciousness. Truly! I rust that one day I can keep this in sight through my interactions with the one or two people that challenge me!
“Mamma, I miss hearing your voice” One day S said to me , “Mamma, I miss hearing your voice”…so from that day on, every night when we give thanks to the universe, I would give thanks aloud. I also told her I’d read her a story everyday with no conversation before or after. And did I mention a moonlight walk on the beach with my husband where I wasn’t talking. Must have been bliss for him! lol!
Mindfulness walk to bring in the new year I’ve been hosting a stone soup gathering once a month in my home. For the 1st of January i sent out a mail inviting people to a darkness into sunrise mindfulness walk at 7 mile Beach, which is such a beautiful beach. We went at 6 a.m when it was dark and walked in silence until 7 when the sun rose. We had 2 kids among us, who found their own silent communication and play. The dark water turned to its beautiful blue as the sun rose and it felt like time to speak again. I came to, feeling rejuvenated and with such amazement at the gifts that a silent retreat while living in the heart of life can bring.
I didn’t find the answers to the questions i had, but in silence, I found the most unexpected beautiful gifts and such deep connection with my LO.
Is this something you would do with your child? I’d love to know.
(Click here to read Part 1 Guzz guzz Gruzz the anxious buzz)
Years later…..I sat on her couch in Mumbai, this complete stranger (Effath Yasmin), with my 9 day old baby in my arms, helpless, tear filled feeling like a complete failure of a mother. My baby was unable to nurse. The buzz was devouring me, it was loud, it was bold, it was taunting, my body was overwhelmed with shivers of volcanic proportions, my fascia were stretched to tearing point, and were yet being played upon by porcupine quills.
To add to this I could feel the buzz in my infant….this could not be happening…..it was beyond surreal, beyond a divine joke. Imagine feeling my own guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz and then feeling as palpably as labor surges, the buzz in my child. My husband was my only solace.
This stranger was the messenger, nay the midwife of my release, but we both didn’t know it. After a long and tedious journey, we discovered the little angel had a tongue tie. A path breaking first time in India on an infant with laser, she had a frenotomy, a small surgical procedure that is quite painless and bloodless. This was preceded and followed by Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, that made the buzz go away from our baby. Read more about the procedure hereThat meant the buzz in me went back to my normal average. I didn’t think much of it, but was elated and on top of the world that she could nurse and nurse she did for a long time to come and what grace that one act of being a mother cow can bring, is journey that I wrote about in another note.
Exactly 4 years later I sat on her couch again. We were friends now, Yasmin and I having journeyed like only soul sisters from a universal mother can. Our daughters were having a sleepover and we were up chatting into the night. I am about to move to the Cayman Islands, so we are making the best of whatever time we have with our dearest friends. Yasmin and I often talk about tongue ties, it is her area of expertise and deeply interests me. I have since counseled many mothers whose babies have tongue ties, I have friends whose babies and older children have tongue ties but do not have it resolved, mostly due to unsupportive fathers. I can diagnose simple tongue ties physically and definitely know many of the symptoms behaviorally. I can see that I have several.
I request Yasmin to check me. This also coincides with her understanding and her investigation that while my body would respond to improved function after every Biodynamic Craniosacral treatment sessions over the past year, it would recoil into some unknown buzz again. Its almost like my body cannot sustain the better function. Her investigation was the restricted structure must be the cause. It comes as no surprise that I have a tongue tie. There is not a flicker of doubt that this must be resolved before I leave. I have 6 weeks. We get to work with Biodynamic Craniosacral sessions, a beautiful nonintrusive way to ease the body into its optimal wholeness and well-being by improving body’s physiological function
I have my frenotomy. It redeems me. It is done under local anesthesia and even through the anesthesia, as soon as the frenum is severed, I feel my jaw relax and I start to feel like a big weight has begun to lift off my neck and shoulder muscles. Apart from that I feel pretty normal. We leave the clinic and Yasmin gives me a ride to the homeopathic chemist, so I can get bio-chemical salts for anti-trauma and pain if needed. I am beginning to feel something peeling off my inner skin, so to speak. I don’t say anything though. As we wait for the remedies, I talk to a close friend that needs a frenotomy and tell her I’m feeling relaxed and pretty normal.
Suddenly the lightness gets larger than life, my inner skin was still feeling like it was peeling. Imagine one of those heavy collagen face masks peeling off various internal layers of your body you never knew existed. I decided to sit down and focus on my Ajna Chakra. I feel a little more focused. I go off to the next store to get a paracetamol, just in case I need it for pain. By now whatever was happening, was escalating. Yet my inner core was still as a lake. The peeling of the inner skin (which I now know was fascia) was progressively relaxing rapidly. It felt like a lot was falling away, like cascading away. Yasmin comes by me and I ask her if she can take me home and then involuntarily collapse into a heap in her arms.
I am completely conscious and feeling fine, except for the physiological happening. My body was saying, hold on I need to take over for a while. My entire body started vibrating. Not like a phone vibrates, but a very subtle yet powerful vibrating. Something more like diffusing, like an essential oil in a vaporizer. It kept on going. I was so high in my head; it felt like I would become one with the universe. I have had this feeling before, during a yoga practice in the Sivananda Ashram and while birthing. I am not alarmed, yet everyone around me is.
In that busy street of Mumbai, a crowd has gathered. I am able to tell Yasmin, who is not panicking at all, that I am well. They give me glucose. I don’t want it. I have eaten a good breakfast and I know something incredible is happening, that just needs allowing and time. Yet I sip. Slowly the vibration reduces to 80% and I am able to volition my body into movement. I receive a message, as I often do, some call it intuition, for me it is so crystal clear I can never doubt it. I must be taken to the doctor who performed the frenotomy because he does this procedure more so from the limited view of a anatomical restriction and not so aware of the depth this small minimally invasive procedure could hold for people like me.
I get home and rest in Savasana. Yasmin offers me a Biodynamic Craniosacral session. I sleep, but I am completely aware. Little tingling sensations are taking place all over my body. This continues and after 8 hours, I have a massive headache. It is the most awful thing ever, I know these sinus headaches, they have made me feel like banging my head on a wall and cracking it open and only go after I throw up, and the change in head position while trying to throw up is another roller coaster all together. I have been taking biochemical salts anti-trauma pills as suggested in my post-operative care by Yasmin and then receive a Biodynamic Craniosacral therapy session. This brings much relief.
Once that headache is gone, I sleep without a pillow in savasana for a few days. The re-calibrations continue as tingling and shifting in my body. I continue with the frenum massages, so the frenum doesn’t reattach. These massages make the tissue in my mouth feel more comfortable and help with eating food , which could otherwise have been stiff and painful.else it could make me feel my mouth more stiff. The healing on the physical plane alone was amazing. The pictures will speak for themselves. I was extremely tired for a week. It was like all kinds of toxins were released with that peeling off feeling. But what can I say the guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz had gone away! This time completely.
The so-called normal activities around in our life like the machine that droned spraying mosquito repellent or the tearing noise of the brown tape on the cardboard box didn’t grate on my nerves anymore. You may relate to how it feels when someone scratches their nails on a rough surface or when chalk scrapes on a blackboard
There are some relationships that one has that don’t come with a choice and some of those could really annoy me, because of the buzz in those people. After the frenotomy, could meet the same people where they were, without judging them, just seeing and feeling genuinely at peace that we are all on different paths to the same place. I cannot tell you what a relief that was! Not to want to convert everyone to healthy eating or even to make sure their kids had the frenotomies they needed that were the answer to all their issues. Whatever it was that used to irk me in my body before was gone. The guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz had really gone!!
I got my first yoga practice in a week after the frenotomy. There is a natural resistance when you do yoga, but there was something like a fight earlier, even with years of practice. The fight was now just gone. Yoga, my absolute love was really “sthiram sukham aasanam” that which is still and in which there is contentment.. I stopped a few minutes into my surya namaskaars. I was crying….so much ease was just too good to be true. I mean this is what the yogi’s meant. It wasn’t about flexibility and strength and how much you can do, or how long you can hold, it was about being at ease and content in a pose/asana and that stillness of mind with the complete natural surrender of the body that is energetic and beyond flexibility is the most incredible continuous bliss ever!
I started to be more at ease with everyone. I was able to be at ease when my daughter went to sleep a little later than her schedule or meals were a little late or occasionally not healthy. The presence of other people’s buzz didn’t affect me. I can still sense it with great clarity, but it does not affect me anymore. This alone has created heaven on earth. All the Biodynamic Craniosacral Sessions over the past year prepared my body to receive the gift of a tongue tie release that would last perhaps a life time.
I am now on the beautiful Grand Cayman islands on the other side of the world from Mumbai. In my 4 months of being here, I have not experienced any headaches that lasted for days ending up in a throwing up and head banging feeling before. I have not experienced any sinus attacks that would cripple my life for days on end before. I managed a massive transition of moving home from India to Cayman Islands with minimal help with ease.
During my short stay here so far I have met many adults and children who have tongue ties. Their parents struggle with discipline and food issues. Not everyone will get this, maybe not everyone is prepared. It took 34 years for me to be liberated, everyone has their own journey. My mother and mother in law are both tongue tied and I can see how their lives have been affected. Even if you look at only the physical impact, it is large. I hope that in time, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy will prepare them to arrive at a space where they can have the frenotomy they need.
I write this thinking of all the mothers I have spoken to, with infants that cannot nurse and are too “colicky”, the mothers who know something is wrong, but have no support from their spouses. I write this for all those that continue to experience the anxious buzz, all day, all night, lifelong.
I write this for the children that have this anxious buzz and cannot express or understand it. Like the little me, I know their trauma.
I write this for the doctors that have been given such a narrow, limiting view of the human body as something that is fixed in form and function.
I write this because most tongue ties are yet undiagnosed and under researched.
I write this because I witness Yasmin going through her journey having selflessly dedicated her life to serve and support people and families who are affected by tongue ties against all odds in her life.
I write this because this kind of liberation from disability is everyone’s birthright.
The streets are bleached ashen under the glare of the night lights. The moon and its powerful silence are obscured by construction cranes, unfinished buildings and the impatient honking of cars whose drivers are racing away seemingly ahead even when there is opportunity to relish the concrete city stillness. Pariah dogs languish in their familiar hunger. The last vegetable vendors are pushing their carts home. Cars jam the road to the airport- impatient, excited, in a hurry, apprehensive, overwhelmingly emotional, — all of the above. A myriad stories incompletely told.
Today my being has taken over my mind and my pain body. I can only describe the is-ness of my being as an urban satchitananda; clarity of truth, existence and possibly a short lived but rare human bliss in the midst of urban functionality and a resilience that is unique to the people of Mumbai.
Why this clarity, this pervasive peace? Why this morsel of divine nectar? After 3.25 months of a God gifted challenge, our daughter is able to nurse freely. This day I have awaited more than the day I wed my soul mate, more than when our daughter was born. It is here. ‘Ask and you shall receive’ is the divine promise, always fulfilled in His time.
9/10/11 Little Baby Sivaanaa Magdalena is born. Desire for natural birth is thwarted by divine intervention when her head gets stuck in the birth passage after 14 hrs of an intense but very pleasurable labour. She is airlifted through a C section while lights are dimmed and powerful mantras pervade the OT.
Week 1 I am in the most intense physical pain I knew up until then. Bedridden, unable to sit up and feed my child. Emotional bordering on irrational. Rudy is such a blessing.
Week 2 Slowly recovering physically. Constant nightmares during the few winks of sleep. Why despite my yoga and our preparations as a couple and the most amazing spouse and calm gynac and third eye Ajna Chakra buzzing labour did we end up with a C-sec? A myriad other questions in the same vein. No answers just tears.
Add on several doctors visits. Baby dehydrated. Dr asks if I have enough milk (like how would a first time mum like me know what is ‘enough ‘ and asks us to give formula. Formula is a Forbidden F word to me. But baby’s dehydrating so I snap at the relentless pro natural fundamentalist voices in my head and get my first n hopefully last tin of formula. I use it sparingly. Trying to breast feed. Baby latching properly. Check. What’s wrong then? Whip out the breast pump I got for occasional use. Maybe one lonely drop of mother’s milk in an hour.
Week 3 I am bruised. Still depressed n overwhelmed. Recovering from surgery n hemoriids from natural birth. Possibly not lactating adequately. Baby’s latch meets all perfection criteria. Something must be wrong with me. My body’s letting me down again. Frustration, anger, and deeper depression.
I’m sent an invite to a breast feeding workshop by a friend on FB. Baby is just 12 days old. We cart her to Goregaon. I learn even more fab things about breast milk n feel lower. We set up a private consult. Early diagnosis; possible birth trauma and mechanical tongue restriction. We need to address these and work on building up an inhibited milk supply . Recommended treatment; Cranio Sacral therapy. I’m still meditating or should I say intermittently tuning in, so I’m getting answers n guidance in bits.
Week 4-5 We start cranio sacral therapy for Baby and me. My body and pain body need release from the trauma of the c-sec as well. I am helped and Sivaanaa loses her deep gag response. I begin expressing and pumping milk, one little drop at a time. Feels like a drought. Meanwhile we chart the little ones weight. She must stop dehydrating and at least get back to her birth weight. We note with tallies the number of pees and poos and their quality n quantity. Sivaanaa is such a peaceful baby. Yasmin our lifesaving LC (Lactation consultant) says we will have to take help of formula as a medical aid until her weight is regained. Me the natural birth n breast milk fundamentalist is left choiceness. Baby refuses the steel vati, the medicine dropper etc so we use a SNS (for those as clueless as I was it’s Supplementary Nursing System. ) a tube with formula or expressed milk is taped to the breast to allow the double function of retaining the baby at the breast and stimulating the production of milk. Meanwhile I pump every two hours almost around the clock. The times that I miss, because I’m exhausted or sleepy I feel bad about. Rudy is always there hugging me, making breakfast, changing baby and just being the peaceful gentle nurturing soul he always is. I am low but I count my blessings every day. Somewhere along the way, I collect 100ml in a day’s pumping. It will account for 3 of her meals. I take a picture with the bottle. My most prized trophy ever! I dance around the room. Some hope gleams in my tired and anxious eyes.
Week 6-8 All the dink laddoos, methi seeds, Ayurvedic capsules, organic lactation promoting teas etc have been consumed. I have visualised a Ganga of milk flowing from Shivas head. I have composed a ditty to get milk flowing- my personal lactation mantra. I know it’s only my stress keeping me from lactating. I must let go of my negative view of baby’s birth. All 3 of us prepared so well, that a c-sec could only be her choice in choosing how to come. Having had both experiences God gave me the learning that nothing is good or bad. Some things are preferable on a personal level, however none must be judged for who knows what drives their choices. SNS is not working. It’s very painful, so to give me rest and allow me to focus on building supply, we use an infant feeding tube attached to a syringe. Poor baby, I cry every time I see that tube and syringe feeding her.
Did I mention that Yasmin our IBCLC thought baby might have a posterior tongue tie based on how I’m getting bruised and distorted? We visit the best paediatricians in the city, the breast feeding experts, the works. We drive across town, stopping at kind friend’s houses so Rudy can feed and change Sivaanaa while I keep to my pumping schedule. So what did the doctors say, including one renowned senior paediatric doctor, who also happens to be an ardent breastfeeding advocate/expert ? Baby’s latch is perfect. She doesn’t have a tongue tie and this statement without even looking at her mouth ! I was recommended to discard the bottle and feed for 48 hrs at the breast. The pain I was told is natural, though how women would opt to nurse their babies with this kind of ‘natural’ pain for aeons is totally unbelievable. So I did the 48 hour thing. I was desperate enough to try. Little fighter baby fed for 18 of 24 hrs and then again the next day. Eventually she was exhausted and sleepy and I was bleeding. That led to blood in her stools and more panic for me. How many times I swore I would give up and go the formula way. Yet there was a persistent intuition that I would be able to feed the little one.
Baby was now almost 3/4th on expressed milk though feeding from the tube. Sterilising and tube feeding was too cumbersome. Hooking it all up at night etc so, I convinced Yasmin to let us use the bottle. Actually I think it was more like an understated threat; we use the bottle or I quit. I was formula fed and I turned out slightly weird but happy.
Week …. I’m losing track here…
Baby never liked the bottle. Believe it or not there is such a thing as bottle stress and she had it. Shoulders up to her ears, forehead frowning, tightly clenched fists and tightly cringed toes. Poor little girl. It was very convenient though for all those times she felt hungry while we were in the car driving to the next doctor in our quest for answers. Doctors say once the baby has the bottle, it loses its preference for the breast. Maybe some babies or most babies….not this one.
Meanwhile we worked with Yasmin, slowly eliminating all possibilities or rather possible problems and were left with the tongue tie. As parents our observation was that our very peaceful and smiley child tended to gag and cough every time she tried to laugh, which was often. It was like something was yanking her tongue back. She also cried very softly and there was something distinctly different in her cry compared to those of other crying kids we observed at our many paediatric visits. Yasmin said a paediatric dentist was more likely to be able to help identify a tongue tie than a paediatrician since the former studied oral anatomy in more detail. And so we went to a well recommended paediatric dentist, who assured me baby has no tongue tie and I should be just glad I can feed her my milk through a bottle and stop looking for problems when there were none!
Finally, thanks to Yasmin, we sent a case report with her observations and a video of baby’s mouth as she cried to a dentist that specializes in tongue ties in Albany, New York. Dr. Lawrence Kotlow has helped many a child feed by performing a frenetomy, a surgical procedure to clip the frenum and free the tongue. He agreed with Yasmin’s report and said it appeared Sivaanaa had a tongue tie and definitely she had a lip tie but he couldn’t make a definite diagnosis from a video. He connected Yasmin with a Mumbai based laser dentist . There was hope finally. My intuition told me that it was most certainly a tongue tie and if the frenetomy was performed all would be well. So we proceeded to what hopefully was the end of our quest.
Dr. Suchetan Pradhan examined Sivaanaa in joint-consultation with Yasmin. He agrees with just a lip tie, no tongue-tie he says. Phew! He said he could use laser to sever the lip tie. He wasn’t sure it would make any difference to her feeding though. We decided to go ahead with it. It would help her dental development positively anyway, so why not. We were so nervous….read all about the procedure, risks etc.
Yasmin could not sleep that night because the pieces don’t fit in together. The presentation of baby oral function and feeding assessment indicated a posterior tongue tie. She had earlier spent lots of time patiently matching Dr. Kotlows video of how to diagnose a posterior tongue tie with Sivaanaas video, frame for frame. Such selfless dedication, this woman is truly called to do what she does) Now she sends Dr. Pradhan the finer details of her observations and Dr. Kotlows video on how to diagnose a posterior tongue tie
We go in for the lip frenetomy. Dr. Pradhan had received another call from Dr. Kotlow, so he decides to check her tongue again. Guess what he finds? A posterior tongue tie! We are so happy!
The labial frenectomy is in process…Sivaanaa is confused but trusting. Dr Pradhan and his wife Dr. Shalini are calm and organized. They keep us in the loop. We play mantra music through our phone. The procedure is over in 15 minutes…Sivaanaa seems fine. We go home, waiting to feed her and check if it’s worked. We are so proud of the little one…she was so brave.
Labial frenetomy made a 5% difference for me…not significant but it gave us hope. Two hours later the anesthetic gel wore off. Sivu was howling like we had never heard before. I hugged her close, gave her skin to skin but she kept crying. I swore to put a stop to all these breast feeding experiments. Enough is enough!
We got our dear homeopath Dr. Rashmi Jaising to prescribe homeopathy for the pain and soreness Sivaanaa was so intensely feeling.
A week later we were back to get the tongue job done. Nervous again. This ones tough. Why? Because a little baby is constantly moving her tongue so one wrong nip would lead to a catastrophe. Dr. Pradhan was going to do local anestheisa and administer chloral hydrate (a hallucionogenic called a sedative by the medical community) Anyway, they said they would try with only the anaesthetic gel. Dr. Shalini, his wife, suggested using the Indian bath position to stabilize baby’s head. It worked. Sivaanaa clamped down on Dr. Shalini’s fingers and that stabilised her tongue a bit. Drs and Rudy and me, spoke to her before, telling her how important it was to try and keep still and how proud we were of her and how brave she was. She looked in our eyes and drank every word in…she even smiled. It was like she knew all along that this would change her fate and that of many babies in India with similar challenges. How I thank God for giving us the gift of his presence!
Dr. Pradhan only does a little. He takes small breaks and talks to Sivu in between as do we. It’s done. We are home again. Guess what 80% difference. WOW…. I feel so good… she can almost feed now. Still incomplete though. We give it a week to sort of evolve. A week later, more frenetomy. Now I can feed her. The pain and distortion are almost gone. I would have liked some more, but Dr. Pradhan doesn’t think it’s necessary since she can now feed.
Right after the second lingual frenetomy procedure, Sivaanaa can laugh almost uninhibited. She makes all these sounds she couldn’t before. Hell she can cry an assertive adamant baby cry! She can roll her tongue from side to side. The most priceless thing ever was the first time she fed successfully. She obviously felt the difference too. He face had the patient enjoyment of a meditator….not wishing to go forward in time or backward, in the NOW and relishing each moment, silent and serene. When she was done, she came off, looked me straight in the eyes and gave me the most radiant, blissful toothless smile ever. I have been in heaven and it’s a sweet sweet indescribable bliss….
……….the street dogs continue to languish in their familiar hunger, the cars honk impatiently and the city races mindlessly. In the midst of all this sit Rudy, Sivaanaa and I, content in our urban satchitananda.
Sivaanaa refuses the bottle, even expressed milk in a bottle. She still smiles when she feeds, even in the middle of the night when she feeds with eyes shut. I wish the frenectomy was complete and the pain gone. Sivaanaa would not need to feed so often then. We would be truly free, but we accept that it may not be time for that yet. She came to challenge me to find my limitless strength, she came to empower, and she has made an example and a successful experiment so no other mother and child (and father) would willingly have to suffer like we did. A few days ago, another baby had a frenectomy and there is an improvement in her latch. More babies will follow. We hope the doctors will devote more time and energy studying the details of ensuring the procedure is complete, so our baby can be completely healed. Our journey has already empowered so many others. We are all so limitlessly blessed and presented with opportunities to find and share our bliss. Happy blissful living!
* All this was made possible because of the selfless care, empathy and understanding and deep study and knowledge of our lactation consultant Yasmin Effath. May she always be blessed.
We also commend the courage of Dr. Suchetan and Shalini Pradhan, doing a new procedure on an infant for the first time ever while taking every care to be safe.
And how can I ever thank my darling soul mate and husband Rudy for his relentless selfless love, service and support. May our souls be always inextricably linked forever.
It is impossible to thank God for his energy and presence, his faith in us and this well disguised opportunity to evolve our souls. We love God insanely and are truly humbled.
Part 1 guzz guzz gruzz goes the anxious buzz. This is the background score that plays relentlessly and restlessly on the instrument of my body in its many nuances. It pulls at my fascia(the connective tissue that is really is our second skin) here and there, tugging and drawing on my bones, sinuses, adrenal glands and physically raging a ceaseless war with an unknown, unnamed, unsought enemy.
War is not my thing, yet war ravaged my inner landscape for 33 years. To understand what this meant for me, I invite you to come and experience my life here, come inhabit myself, come journey as me.
I am playing; I must be about 5 years old. I use the upturned boxes of my father’s visiting card boxes, with the tiny finger holes in them to make a stove. I place upon them my kitchen vessels and as I am cutting out rotis from leaves with a discarded metal soda topI am unable to be absorbed and completely immersed in what I am playing. I am five, I am curious, I want to be absorbed and immersed by my play of making rotis but I don’t understand the guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz. It feels like a restlessness, like this is what I want to be doing, but it’s not what my body wants, and there’s no peace and stillness inside. It is a very live wire, electric shock kind of experience that I can feel in my body. I cannot be still and must keep doing and planning for the next do-ing when one thing was nearing completion. Although I don’t know what this anxious buzz is, my little self knows it must be vanquished
As I am growing, I try role playing, I make different kinds of friends, I seek out new experiences……anything to get rid of the guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz. Perchance, I dance, I discover the freedom and catharsis and pure fluid relief that movement can bring…..somewhere in that experience, the buzz gets a little faint, sometimes, if I’m lucky, it is so faint, it is almost gone. I realize I have a possible solution, I feel elation even in the buzz that still scourges on.
Whenever I am angry or upset, the buzz pulls my whole body taut, like a stretched violin bow. The sound that I hear and feel inside is like the highest pitch on the violin. I feel the tautness more than I hear the high pitched sound. When someone is yelling at me or a friend is saying unfriendly things to me like she doesn’t want to me my friend, the sound inside me is louder and more dominant than the yelling or the unfriendly tone of my friend itself.
I also discovered that slamming the door shocks the buzz into a state of freeze. It is like the buzz is still there, but doesn’t move. It is frozen. Then I discover when I lock myself in a room with music, drape my dupattas just so, and stare into the long mirror on my dad’s Godrej almirah, I can transform into another character and I dance and I spin……and boy! can I spin…… In the dancing and in the spinning somewhere in an uncertain space….there is a moment, sometimes longer of bliss. The buzz is gone, oh so momentarily, such a will o the wisp, almost like that special moment when your child did something unique or funny and then it was gone.
I am in the 9th grade. I am fiercely competitive. I love learning and still do, but I also vociferously want to always stand first. I put myself through all this self-imposed expectation and then there are all those fat ICSE textbooks that need to be studied. And I remind myself that I must not lose my rank because my Hindi is not good enough. Exams stress me out and I have these horrible migraines. It’s like my head will explode and burst. I am short tempered, the smallest thing will annoy me and I am drinking coffee and studying at night. Coffee helps intoxicate the buzz, so it doesn’t grab attention over the books.
I am in college. Someone I know throws a toffee wrapper on the ground, just because they know I will pick it up, and I do. I am called Captain Planet and it’s not funny. When someone is sarcastic as some people just are, my entire body goes into clamp down mode. It’s like in Prison Break, when there’s a security breach and the alarms are buzzing and red lights are flashing the order is lost and all the heavy iron bars and doors are racing with the siren to clamp down and shut down. It’s all inside my body; my mind is completely aware and able to make sense and to just ignore the comments. I cannot emphasize enough that this is what I feel entirely in my physical body alone.
The anxious buzz made an over achiever out of me, not allowing me to be, just do do and do….it’s not entirely a bad thing to be charged up for achieving, but oh those moments of silent bliss, where there is no background score, just a feeling of lightness and quietness and a silence could give me the feeling of being ‘rested’.
At some point I realized the entire quest of my life had been to get rid or quieten the guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz.. I had dancing highs, Vipassana highs, yoga highs and love highs.)These highs were the silent symphony and it was becoming more frequent. I sought it …….always. I remember sitting in psychology class and hearing about self-actualization and wondering if that was what those moments of silent symphony were.
I never spoke to anyone about this anxious buzz in my body; I just assumed everyone must have it in their body. I want to say here, that origin of the buzz was in my body and its effect on the mind was completely an escalation of the physical experience of it. Though like everyone I have challenges in my personal and professional life, the buzz was only further escalated at these times….but it always existed.
It would also feel an excruciating overwhelm physically to be in the presence of many people… The anxious buzz would feed on other people’s vibrations. If someone is angry, even a random women fighting for a seat on a crowded local train, the buzz in me would go befriend her energy. So the buzz was gathering unto itself all energies it came in contact with.
Travelling in Mumbai was a hellish experience anyway and add the buzz to it; it would feel like I am gathering energies of random people that tend to be restless, hasty, quick to anger and racing. Being in local trains was so excruciating, with the energies of women that had woken up too early to cook and pack tiffin’s and catch the right bus to catch the right train and get a seat so they could chant or chat before they went on in exactly 18.55 minutes into the next necessity. I invested in a Walkman and listened to the best of Gypsy Kings or Madonna hanging on that central pole of the train by the door, alighting at every stop, safeguarding that final step before the train left for my feet to find, space, my hands to find space, my ears were plugged in, listening to Madonna….. “Just like a prayer I’m going to take you there.”
I experience many moments of sometimes extended silent symphony as my yoga practice gets stronger. I have experienced that with Latin American dance, which really calls to me with its unsurpassed joie de vivre, the silent symphony is shorter and further between. A month in the Himalayas studying yoga begins healing a terrible L5 slip disc that doctors said was only degenerative because of my congenital scoliosis (irregular curvature of the spine to one side, also a midline defect) and brings me experiences of silent symphony that I only later read about in books from great masters.
A few years later my time spent in Bermuda, quite deeply immersed in my yoga practice in the lap of nature, and in dance too bring home to me a discovery of personal truth. Not as flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods, but rather, as butterflies, sheltered in a cocoon of grace as we go through intense and necessary periods of metamorphosis, because fly we must, it is our very nature to do a fluttering dance, that comes from the stillness within our bodies and beings, dancing in rhythm to change that is inevitable.
guzz guzz gruzz goes the anxious buzz….it is not gone yet…will it ever?
Mandalas are geometrical patterns that are contained within a circle and bring great balance and harmony.They exist everywhere in nature, in the trunk of a tree, in starfish in the sea, in snowflakes and in cells.
Colouring mandalas with your child or having your child color mandalas are great motor exercise that bring deep harmony and an inner sense of accomplishment and contentment.
I don’t believe in forcing a child to colour. However, there is a time when kids are obsessed with coloring. It is what they call in Montessori education, a “sensitive period”, a time when learning of that topic will be most welcome as interest is at peak and persistent. At such a time, having mandalas available with easy access to the child can be helpful. I’m not too sure about boys, but my little girl cannot but help be attracted by the designs.
We have a community silent hour every month, where people of all ages sit together, doing whatever they want in silence. Some read, some nap, some colour, some journal. Being only 4 and having attended these gatherings since she was 2, the little one likes to busy herself coloring. Little hands must do and this is something she loves.
Though I have worked with children in the space of dance education and storytelling for over 12 years, I’m no expert on education, but I am a keen observer. These are a few things I noticed about mandala coloring:
Coloring from inside to out or outside to in, whichever way the child chooses, brings a sense of focus and inwardness.
There is a natural silence that this harbors, the symmetry and balance bring peace and the face looks focussed yet serene.
Since coloring is a precursor for developing the fine motor skills needed to write, coloring mandalas, with their intricate patterning helps develop this in a very organic way. Whoever enjoyed drawing straight, slanting and curved lines on blue and red lined paper anyway!
My daughter and I more often than not chant while coloring. We often colour together, on the same mandala maneuvering space and her indicating the colors she wishes me to use silently. Its such a great experience. Often after long periods of togetherness, we get on each others nerves. At times like this, we are both glad to quietly colour mandalas and avoid saying impulsive and possibly hurtful things to each other.
As an extension, we observe mandalas in nature, someday we will make mandalas with leaves and flowers and kolam/rangoli and when she is old enough and interested, we will learn to draw yantras.
For now, we enjoy our mandala meditations. Do try it and share your experience in the comments.