2/13: Motherhood statements

It was a casual chat we had sometime during Pinky’s first year of MBA. We were talking about making babies, and started wondering how it would be to make one right around the time she graduated. “Imagine going up to receive my degree with a big belly”, she’d laughed.

Incredibly, it happened. When she came to Bangalore for an extended break after her exchange term at U. Michigan, we gave it a little go. And on New Year’s Eve 2015-16, if my calculations are correct, the artist first known as Larvesh came to be conceived.

Larvesh became Pupesh a month later when the pregnancy app told us that the embryo had got attached to the walls of the uterus. Three months later, when we found out it was a girl, Pupesh became Pupeshwari. And she came out as Berry in September.

IESE is situated in the hilly Barcelona suburb of Pedralbes, and unless you have your own vehicle, you need to climb a steep slope to get there. Pregnancy during the last term of school was hard for Pinky since it meant climbing the hill from the bus stop each day. Having to frequently use the restroom didn’t make matters any easier. Yet Pinky didn’t give up.

She actually took extra credits during that term of MBA, since there was a course she really wanted to do. She remained active as ever in extra curricular activities, organising two mini conferences. Given that Pupu was a tiny baby, nobody at IESE had an idea of her existence!

Pinky got her post-MBA job offer deferred so that she could have the baby (effectively getting unpaid maternity leave), but was determined to work in the gap between her MBA and job start. And so Marriage Broker Auntie happened.

The day before Berry was born, Pinky was taking calls on her hospital bed, advising clients on blading strategies. After Berry was born, Pinky refused to go to her parents’ (the standard practice in Karnataka), arguing she wouldn’t be able to work from there. Indiscretion on my part meant Pinky had to take care of Berry alone for long periods, and she did that without complaining, while running Marriage Broker Auntie on the side (it was only recently when I started looking after Berry by myself that I realised how exhausting taking care of a baby can be – my respect for Pinky shot up on that first day of house-husbanding).

A lot of people wonder how we’ve managed to move continents when Berry is so small, especially when Pinky has started such a demanding job. However, Pinky has managed the whole process so well that I scarcely imagine that we’ve done something people find so challenging – it all seems so normal to me (my part in the move and settling here has been minor – I continue to be a lazy bum and put NED)!

Back at the IIMB reunion in December, which Pinky and Berry attended for one evening, one of my friends commented how she found Pinky to be “so sorted” (in terms of motherhood). Coming to think of it, that’s an excellent summary of how Pinky has handled motherhood.

1/13: Leaving home

 

Pregnancy, childbirth, correlation, causation and small samples

When you’re pregnant, or just given birth, people think it’s pertinent to give you unsolicited advice. Most of this advice is couches in the garb ob “traditional wisdom” and as you might expect, the older the advisor the higher the likelihood of them proffering such advice. 

The interesting thing about this advice is the use of fear. “If you don’t do this you’ll forever remain fat”, some will say. Others will forbid you from eating some thing else because it can “chill the body”. 

If you politely listen to such advice the advice will stop. But if you make a counter argument, these “elders” (for the lack of a better word) make what I call the long-term argument. “Now you might think this might all be fine, but don’t tell me I didn’t advice you when you get osteoporosis at the age of 50”, they say. 

While most of this advice is well intentioned, the problem with most such advice is that it’s based on evidence from fairly small samples, and are prone to the error of mistaking correlation for causation. 

 While it is true that it was fairly common to have dozens of children even two generations ago in india, the problem is that most of the advisors would have seen only a small number of babies based on which they form their theories – even with a dozen it’s not large enough to confirm the theory to any decent level of statistical significance. 

The other problem is that we haven’t had the culture of scientific temperament and reasoning for long enough in india for people to trust scientific methods and results – people a generation or two older are highly likely to dismiss results that don’t confirm their priors. 

And add to this confirmation bias – where cases of people violating “traditional wisdom” and then having some kind of problem are more likely to be noticed rather than those that had issues despite following “traditional wisdom” and you can imagine the level of non-science that can creep into so-called conventional wisdom. 
We’re at a hospital that explicitly tries to reverse these pre existing biases (I’m told that at a lactation class yesterday they firmly reinforced why traditional ways of holding babies while breastfeeding are incorrect) and that, in the face of “elders”‘ advice, can lead to potential conflict. 

On the one hand we have scientific evidence given by people who you aren’t likely to encounter too many more times in life. On the other you have unscientific “traditional” wisdom that comes with all kinds of logical inconsistencies given by people you encounter on a daily basis. 

Given this (im)balance, is there a surprise at all that scientific evidence gets abandoned in favour of adoption and propagation of all the logical inconsistencies? 

PS: recently I was cleaning out some old shelves and found a copy of this book called “science, non science and the paranormal”. The book belonged to my father, and it makes me realise now that he was a so-called “rationalist”. 

At every opportunity he would encourage me to question things, and not take them at face value. And ever so often he’d say “you are a science student. So how can you accept this without questioning”. This would annoy some of my other relatives to no end (since they would end up having to answer lots of questions by me) but this might also explain why I’m less trusting of “traditional wisdom” than others of my generation. 

Pregnancy and deadlifting

The so-called Sympathetic Pregnancy Belly, which is caused due to something known as the Couvade Syndrome, is not a myth. As the expectant mother’s abdomen swells, to make room for the baby growing within, her partner’s belly starts swelling up as well.

Having personally experienced this, I can think of several reasons due to which this happens. Firstly, the expectant mother (“mother” for short) is encouraged to eat nutritious fattening food during pregnancy, which is sometimes too tempting for the expectant father (“father”) to let go of.

So as the baby grows within the mother’s belly, the father becomes fatter as well, ingesting the same nutritious food his partner has been instructed to ingest.

Then, it is a custom that when you are pregnant, people call you home to feed you lunch/dinner (sometimes you go out of your way to solicit such invitations). It is also custom that these invitations are extended to the father as well, and with rich foods and desserts being staples at such meals, it further contributes to the sympathetic  belly.

And then there is the lack of exercise. With your partner experiencing pains all day, and not being able to walk too much, you prefer to spend time with her doing nothing rather than going out on those romantic long walks of the yesteryear. You take pity on the partner and start taking your car out for even the shortest distances. Even when you travel, you limit your activity so that the partner doesn’t get stressed. And your tummy grows.

Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have minded growth of my tummy along with my wife’s, but the problem in this case is that my triglyceride levels have shot up as well (thanks to all that eating and little exercise). With the nutritious foods the partner consumes being too tempting to let go of, dieting is not an answer. And hence I’ve decided to resume deadlifting.

Among all the different kinds of exercise I’ve done in the past, the deadlift stands out because of the sheer volume of mass you move in the course of the exercise, and the extent of your body that gets exercised in the process. It is an utterly tiring exercise (you need to make sure you’ve eaten well enough before you embark on it), and if you are deadlifting regularly, no amount of dessert eating can have any impact on your triglycerides (last October, when I was deadlifting sporadically and eating without restraint, I recorded my lowest ever triglyceride numbers since I started testing that thing).

And there is one other major advantage to deadlifting as well – you can continue lifting your partner well into the pregnancy. While both the father and mother put on weight during the pregnancy (as documented above), under normal circumstances there is no addition to the father’s muscle mass. Consequently, it becomes progressively harder to lift the mother through the course of the pregnancy, a task that would have been trivial in ground (non-pregnant) state!

And what better way to be able to lift the partner, than practicing to lift heavy weights? And where else can you lift the kind of weights you can lift when you are deadlifting?

Unfortunately I had given up deadlifting for the first part of the pregnancy, and hence I’ve fallen well behind the curve. I find it extremely hard nowadays to lift my wife, and I’m not proud to say that. Hopefully, having resumed deadlifting, I should¬†be able to make up for this in a few days now! Watch this space!

One final question for those who deadlift – deadlifting what weight (as a function of N) can prepare you to lift a human weighing N kgs off the floor and cradle her in your arms?