Tag Archives: health

101

We took the kids for their annual health checkup on Saturday. Actually, there wasn’t much need to take them for a check-up, they seem to be so very ok. But we do have to provide this letter to the Family Court each year, testifying to their mental, physical, social, emotional and academic fitness… so we had to go anyway.

One thing is for sure: the healthcare industry is booming. The hospital was so crowded that we couldn’t get parking, even though they have a huge open parking lot which I never thought could possibly be filled up unless there were some kind of city-wide calamity. I went in, while Amit sat in the parking queue, but he eventually handed over the car to a valet to park. It was a smart move: A couple of minutes later, even people asking for valet parking were being turned away!

Inside, the chaos was equally evident. The pediatric department was full and overflowing, and the two attendants at the desk were harassed and busy. I asked how long we’d have to wait and was told it would take an hour. I immediately regretted having paid up the consultation fee already, but then it turned out that that was the waiting time for those who didn’t have appointments. With an appointment, we wouldn’t have to wait long.

Their weight and height was checked. They weighed in at 14 kg each, and Mrini was measured at 100.5 cm, while Tara was 101! When we found our place in front of the doctor a few minutes later, she told us their height was good and weight was only a little (1.5kg) below normal.

I had worried a lot about their weight and height in the early days. What do you do, when your one-year-old adopted babies are in the bottom 5th percentile for weight and height, and you can’t seem to get the word malnutrition out of your head? But that was a long, long time ago. It was gratifying to see them shoot up in the first six months with us, gaining inches at a time when for most kids growth slows down to a crawl. And it’s been a long, long time now since I worried about whether they were on-track weight-height-wise. I see them with kids in their class and I can see that their height is about on par. As for weight – they are obviously thin and probably always will be, until emotional issues begin to influence their food habits; but they are not unhealthy any more, and that’s the important thing.

It was good to hear from a doctor that their weight and height was no longer a cause for concern, but it was not a surprise, nor a cause for celebration – just an affirmation of something we had come to realize and accept over the months already.

What the doctor said next, though, was a surprise and more delightful than I’d have expected. She said that the girls have started to resemble us in their “dentition” and features. I don’t know exactly what features she was referring to, and to what extent this is true and to what extent it is fanciful I can’t be sure; and I don’t really see much resemblance between them and is in dentition or anything else myself; but it was strangely elevating to hear and to think that our girls might actually look like us a bit. I realized, suddenly, how much I’d missed hearing anything like that. Personally, I still don’t see it – I don’t think they look anything like us; but it was nice to think that to somebody, they look a little more like us than they did before.

It made the whole effort of driving, parking, paying, waiting, waiting some more, and finally driving back – it made all of that seem well worth while. We left the hospital with quite a smile on our faces – yes, even Amit.

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One – For Half A Day

Tara was off her food for a couple of days. Daycare reported that presented with lunch on Tuesday – which was chicken, a perennial favourite – her face crumpled up and when asked to eat, she actually started to cry. They questioned her health and wellbeing, including asking whether potty was impending, but all she said was, “I don’t want to eat.” Thankfully, as per our strict instructions, they let it go at that.

At dinner time, she drank her milk happily enough and went off to play; but by 8 p.m. when I called them for their bedtime routine, she was becoming cranky and clingy. It was expected by then, of course. If a child doesn’t eat for a couple of days, it’s bound to portend illness and the sooner it makes itself evident, the sooner we’ll know exactly what kind of a beast we’re up against.

Tara looked uncomfortable and tearful for a good solid hour before she made us all a little happier by throwing up in the bathroom. The papaya she’d had in the afternoon came up; the milk she’d had a couple of hours later, strangely enough, stayed down. After we’d got everything cleaned up, we left them in their room and they were both soon asleep.

It was 4 a.m. before the sequel was enacted. Tara coughed mildly in her sleep, woke up, and came to us crying that she’d vomited. I couldn’t see any evidence of vomit, so I thought she’d probably just coughed up some phlegm and I put her back to bed. This happened another couple of times before I realized what was going on. Of course – she was hungry! And her cough was making her retch. Around 5.30 I gave up on sleep and gave her some food instead. She ate eagerly enough and – thankfully – it stayed down. She went back to bed for a short while and then it was time for breakfast. She had her milk again, but soon after that, instead of looking happier, she began to look positively woeful. By 7.10 a.m. she was steadfastly refusing to go to school.

I’m happy to say that my girls are not the sort to actually want to miss school. Like me (and unlike my sister), they love school. They go eagerly and enthusiastically and they don’t quite understand why we have to have weekends. So if either of them doesn’t want to go to school, it means she really, really doesn’t want to go. Even when Mrini traipsed out of the door with Amit, smiling happily and waving, Tara only sat in my lap, clung to me, and looked miserable.

It was a complicated sort of day. Tara and I changed out of work and school clothes into home clothes. I had to unpack the kids’ lunch and reduce everything to make it suitable for one child. Then Amit forgot to take Mrini’s lunch with him to drop off at daycare on his way to work. Additionally, there was some kind of strike in the private van industry, which meant that the kids’ school van wouldn’t pick Mrini up from school and take her to daycare. So it was beginning to look like I’d have my hands full, lugging Tara to school, picking up Mrini, dropping her at daycare, and coming back home with Tara, all before lunch. I could also have just brought Mrini home – but then I’d have my hands full anyway, and why deprive her of the fun of daycare?

It all turned out well enough, though. Tara rapidly improved in the morning and when she looked grumpy and I asked her why, it turned out it wasn’t her stomach; it wasn’t a fever; she wasn’t tired or hungry or thristy; she was just missing Mrini. From 10 a.m. she asked me every few minutes when we were going to fetch Mrini. When the doorbell rang, she wanted to know if Mrini had come home.

Whenever she wasn’t asking about Mrini, she sat sweetly next to me “reading” a book, colouring in a drawing book, singing songs to herself, and hardly disturbing me at all. It was hard to believe this docile little girl was Tara!

By the time we went to get Mrini, Tara was sure (sore – as she says it) that she wanted to go to daycare. I guess the thought of spending the entire day at home without Mrini was too much to bear! So I lugged up the forgotten lunch bag, put back in all the food I’d taken out, got out of my ragged home clothes and put on my office clothes again, and left to pick up Mrini from school. The drive was more chaotic than usual due to a few new spanners the civic authorities had thrown into the works, so we got there ten minutes late, but Mrini wasn’t complaining. The girls greeted each other with utter indifference. I asked Mrini if she’d missed Tara and she said “No. I was in school.” I told her Tara had missed her and she looked faintly disgusted, while Tara looked distinctly embarrassed.

I dropped them off at daycare, updated the coordinator, and got to office just in time for lunch.

At the end of the day, when I picked them up, I was informed that Tara had been ok and though she didn’t eat much lunch, she ate a hearty mid-afternoon snack. Mrini, on the other hand, was distinctly off her food. Looks like it’s her turn next. If this is a stomach viral that Amit brought back from Delhi, it might even be my turn after that… Sigh.

Health. Food.

First of all, I’m not going to crib about my diet and talk about how much I love everything that’s sinful, including food. Let’s just take that as a given.

The point is, if there’s one thing in which I don’t want the twins to end up like me, it’s my attitude to food. I want them to grow up to have a balanced and healthy attitude to food. I want them to be unfussy eaters, who will try anything once, will like most things, will have stomachs lined with lead, will thrive on bland, homemade, stale food as much as on oily, spicy, toxic street food, and through it all will achieve a balanced diet with a good proportion of dal, carb, fruit ‘n’ veg, dairy and non-veg.

And, of course, I hope they will always enjoy cakes and ice creams, but will never be cursed with an insatiable sweet tooth.

Is that too much to ask???

While the twins were at home full time, we made sure they got only healthy food. Their milk, curd, butter, and cheese came out of a packet of some kind, as did bread and cornflakes, but just about everything else they ate was fresh. They got fresh fruit and vegetables and enjoyed most of it; and fresh meat and chicken as well. They got no soups or juices out of a packet. They got no chocolates, no sweet except for what I sometimes made at home, no biscuits, no chips, practically no packaged foods at all. I did give them frozen peas, but they never liked them, though they loved fresh peas. Smart kids.

(Of course, I must clarify, to quell those rising eyebrows, that when I say ‘fresh’ food, I mean the ingredients are fresh as opposed to frozen or preserved. The food they get cannot not always be described as fresh, but I do usually impose a 48-hour limit; anything cooked more than 48 hours ago lands up in the trash can. That would be me.)

So right up until they joined ‘big’ school this June, they rarely had access to junk food like biscuits, chips, soft drinks, chocolates, toffees and the like. In playschool, they sometimes got a chocolate, but it wasn’t very often, and, back then, sometimes I just grabbed it from them and distracted them for a few minutes and they’d forget all about it (after shedding a few indignant tears).

Now, of course, it’s a different story. If they get goodies at school, they usually eat them before I get there (smart kids), but if they still have them on hand, it’s not as if I can just take them away, distract the kids and they’ll forget all about them. Oh no!

For one thing, they have my number. They don’t trust me at all when it comes to chocolate – and with good reason; if only they knew how many of the chocolates intended for them have landed up in the dustbin (me)! Now, if I tell them to put their sweets in their bags, they protest loudly, and when they finally comply, they keep a sharp eye on their bags. The whole way home, a small part of their memories are dedicated to the stored chocolate. As soon as we reach home, they start to ransack their bags looking for their chocolate. At which point, I usually take it away from them and keep it on top of the microwave – within eyesight, but, mercifully, still out of their reach. The deal is that if they eat their lunch like good girls (without throwing their food around and generally driving me crazy), then they will get chocolate. They don’t yet know that they shouldn’t have to negotiate for something that’s rightfully theirs… But that day is not far off.

One day Tara was too sleepy to gracefully complete her lunch, so I put her to bed sans chocolate. Mrini, however, said to me assertively, “I don’t want sabzi, I don’t want chicken, I don’t want dahi, I want only chocolate.” So I gave her hers.

Three hours later, Tara woke from her afternoon nap, and, still groggy and rubbing her eyes with both fists, said to me, “Mama, I want my chocolate.”

Well, I gave it to her – with Mrini looking on and saying “Taya, ha-piece-ha-piece,” as sweetly as she could. I told Tara that Mrini had already had hers, but she promptly broke her chocolate in half and gave it to Mrini regardless. It’s absolutely heart-warming to see her do that without any hesitation or prompting… especially considering that Mrini rarely returns the favour.

So distracting them and hoping they’ll forget about it just won’t work any more.

Still, they do get quite a lot of chocolate in school some days. It kills their appetite for lunch, and I doubt it does their teeth any good. And I really don’t want them to develop as much of a sweet tooth as I have. I don’t know whether not getting a lot of sweet at this age actually helps to develop a sweet tooth, or whether being denied it helps to avoid getting a sweet tooth; but it just seems like in this respect less must be better. So whenever I can, I still surreptitiously reduce the quantity of sweet that they actually get. Very sneaky and mean of me, no doubt, but that’s what parenting is all about, isn’t it?

What I really started out writing about though, is, why do all school birthday treats have to be packaged foods? I know that not all parents have time to bake up a storm like I did – and it is a lot of work – but can’t you do something simple and homemade? Or else send fruit? Or something that’s not food?

I’m a great fan of eating out and even of eating packaged food, but for these tiny tots, I still feel that the less packaged foods they get, the better. At least with homemade stuff, you have a better idea of what’s gone in it and how much of what and whether it is likely to be allergenic or not; and also, you have better control over the hygiene conditions. But most importantly, it’s the only way to minimise kids’ exposure to chemicals like preservatives, flavouring agents, and the like. Shouldn’t we be thinking of that for at least a few years?

I know – they’re three years old, I should just let go. We do the best we can at home and I should just let go of what’s beyond my control. And I will. But, when they come home with three or four different bits of chocolate and a commercially made cup-cake each, I just wonder.

Live Report and Swine Flu

We’re getting close to two years since we brought the twins home. And boy, they have certainly blossomed in these two years! Apart from being mischief makers on par with Dennis the Menace, they’ve also bloomed physically. When we got them, they were at the lowest 5th percentile in terms of height and weight. They were already over a year old, so we could only hope that any physical, mental, or developmental delays due to malnutrition or the institutional environment wouldn’t be lasting.

When we took them for their annual check-up last weekend, we found, to our delight, that they’re now close to the middle of their weight range. In height, they’re still below average, but at least they’re somewhere around the 20th percentile. They might come up to average, slowly, or maybe they just have short genes. Anyway, they are generally healthy now, and have got a certificate from the doctor to this effect. I didn’t really need a doctor to tell me this – but we have to send this document to the Family Court every year unti they turn 18, as part of their Live Report – but it was nice to have it reaffirmed from a medical perspective.

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I suppose what follows should, logically, be a separate post, but it seemed to me distantly related.
Swine flu is currently all the rage. It’s the number one topic for the newspapers and amongst all parents of school-going kids right now. The papers are doing their best to spread fear and chaos, as usual. Schools are agonising over whether or not to close, parents over whether or not to keep their kids at home, students over whether or not it’s hip to wear face masks. The government has been urging everyone who is even just thinking of coughing or sneezing to get tested for swine flu – without considering first how they are going to cope with the masses of people who come in demanding to be tested. Now that reality has hit them hard, they’re backtracking and saying, hey, hang on, don’t panic, just stay home and drink lots of fluid.

Maybe I’m stupid, callous, and cavalier, but… Don’t we need some common sense here? This is flu season. If you send everyone to be tested, you’re going to be so swamped, you’ll probably just miss the folks who might really have it, or get to them a couple of days later. Why not just tell people to go to the doctor? My understanding is, most cases of flu, even if it is swine flu, can be treated by rest, relaxation, plenty of fluid, and common sense. Only severe cases are cause for concern. The statistics show that, in most cases, the flu runs its course in a week, like any other flu. It is estimated to be fatal in less than 0.4% of cases, and then it is due to complications like pneumonia or pre-existing medical conditions. Don’t take my word for it – go do your own Google search (or any other search engine search, I suppose), and find out for yourself.

In retrospect, it’s quite possible that Amit had swine flu week before last – he is always working with people who travel, or with people who interact with people who travel. He had fever, lethargy, sore throat etc. And it did go off after a week without any medication, but with plenty of rest (and good food – not sure of the medicinal quality of that, but it does the morale a world of good). His doctor didn’t think it was swine flu, but apparently it’s really difficult to distinguish flu from swine flu without the lab test. All the same, unless you develop the severe symptoms or you have pre-existing medical conditions, specially lung problems, it doesn’t seem to be something to get into a panic about. I don’t think panic helps – even if the newspapers delight in it.

As a result of the newspapers’ scare-mongering, even Amit, normally quite a logical and practical person, is worried now. Our girls have had a stuffed head, particularly at night, for the past couple of weeks or more. They don’t really have a cold, only a very mildly runny and blocked nose. No fever, no sneezing, practically no coughing, no apparent sore throat, and they seem to be in fine spirits in every way. So should we be worried about the runny nose? Could it be swine flu? Should we keep them at home? Should we get them tested?

If you believe all you read, the answers would be yes, yes, yes, yes. But I believe getting them tested for next to zero symptoms would be irresponsible and a misuse of scarce resources. Amit thinks we should at least take them to a doctor. I think we just did – though for their annual checkup, not for swine flu, specifically. The mildly stuffy nose was present then, no better and no worse than it is now, but the doctor didn’t even so much as comment on it and prescribe a decongestant, so is it really likely that two cases of swine flu just walked through her clinic and she didn’t notice?

I think getting people to be aware of the symptoms and encouraging people to go to the doctor if they have symptoms of flu is sensible. Getting people to just stay home if they are sick is sensible. Emphasizing the importance of washing hands frequently, with soap, is mandatory (and I don’t see enough of that message being sent). But closing schools, testing every single person who coughs twice in a day, wearing face masks all the time etc is just over the top. Starting a panic response to the situation right now doesn’t seem like a really good idea. If a sensible, educated, informed, and generally level-headed person like Amit can be scared into taking two obviously healthy kids to the doctor just because of ordinary stuffed noses; if, in other words, an ordinary parent can be made too scared to call a stuffed nose just a stuffed nose, then you are already succeeding in overwhelming common sense with panic. That’s not sensible.

At least, that’s the way I see it. But then, what would I know?

I Wish I Could Stop Breathing…

Oh, not for good… I am feeling a bit sorry for myself, but I’m not that far gone… yet…

It’s just this stupid cold (I mean flu) which Sup33 & Co didn’t give me.

I discovered only today that a cold is not the same as the flu (I always thought cold = flu = viral, but I am only partly right, it seems), and that what I have right now is the flu. Flu, says Wikipedia, is more severe than a cold, comes with fever on the side (not onion rings or fries), and is marked by a sudden onset, while a cold builds up gradually. Apparently both are viral though. So why the doctor has put me on antibiotics, I don’t know, but I suppose that’s what doctors do best.

On Thursday, when I took the girls to school, they seemed ok, so I decided to wait outside the class. For about 20 minutes, all was fine. Then Tara started to cry and the rest of the one-hour session was chaos. She refused to sit in class at all and would only be pacified by being allowed to play in the sandpit, which, apparently, was ok with the teachers. I was impressed with that. (Naturally, Mrini wouldn’t stay in class for more than 2 minutes without her beloved twin – no matter what enticements were offered.) So the rest of the session was spent somewhat sulkily in the sandpit, with only the last few minutes being spent back in the classroom.

On Friday morning, I was already coming down with the flu, and what’s more, I had to spend the entire school session in class with the kids, to prevent a fresh outburst of tears and dramatics.

Saturday passed in a haze, with Amit struggling to manage all the household tasks and prepare for an official trip abroad, while I whined and snoozed.

And now he’s gone. It’s Sunday, my household help (the paid ones) are off, and the kids are home all day. So I have to single-handedly bathe them, feed them, play with them, cook for them… All that fun stuff, you know.

And tomorrow is Monday and I have to drive them to school bright and early in the morning – apparently they have been shifted to 9-11 a.m. instead of 11-12 noon as it was so far. And I’m not to be allowed into the classroom “even if they cry”.

In case you think, by now, that this whole post is about how I’ve got the flu and how lousy that is, let me tell you, that isn’t what this is about at all. No, really. It’s about how I want to stop breathing for a while, and why.

See, what with my better half at the other end of the globe and the twins still trying to get used to school all over again, what I really don’t need right now is for either of them to come down with what I’ve got. Can’t I just imagine it: driving to school to deposit one wailing kid all alone in class while the other kid, sick, accompanies me on the drive both ways but doesn’t get to actually go anywhere. Not to mention all the fever, body ache and all that stuff that they will have to suffer. Not to mention that just as soon as one gets well the other will certainly fall ill.

So, I really, really don’t want them to get it. To the extent that I’m actually washing my hands with soap about 25 times a day, in the hope that that will help.

Actually, I don’t want to pass it on to anyone else in my inner circle either – not 8-month pregnant Shaba-aunty, not park friends (of either generation), not the twins’ school mates and teachers, not even, retrospectively, the traveling spouse who, if he gets fever, will probably be immediately isolated on suspicion of swine flu. None of this would be nice.

Which is why, while I don’t want to stop breathing for good or anything – it would be great if I could stop for just a few days till I get this virus out of my system. Oh and, while the breathing is suspended, please god, could you hold off on all that coughing, sneezing, and snuffling business too? Not too much to ask, is it? Thank you so much.

Chicken Pox!

Shaba-Aunty’s daughter, H, is down with chicken pox. She’s maybe 7 or 8 years old. She became symptomatic last Saturday, with high fever, vomiting, and of course, the pox itself. So naturally, this whole week, Shaba-Aunty has not been coming.

Shaba-Aunty became more than my “cleaning girl” in February, when I started working from home, and she started managing the kids in the mornings, while I worked. She dropped them to playschool, picked them up, gave them lunch, and put them to bed, apart from the usual domestic chores like washing dishes, putting out or picking up the clothes, sweeping, swabbing, dusting the house and so on. I’ve written about Shaba-Aunty’s immense value in my life in an earlier post. After two plus months of life with the enhanced Shaba-Aunty services, I’ve been sent back to the dark ages in the past one week and life has been pretty bleak indeed.

Right after breakfast, I’m deluged with house work. I don’t even attempt to do as thorough a job of cleaning the house as Shaba-Aunty does, but at least I have to make a modicum of effort to sweep most areas of the house. Then there’s always a mountain of dishes to wash, and all the rest of the housework. Meanwhile, there are the two pesky devils, demanding to be entertained and threatening to turn the house upside down unless I cooperate pronto.

Way back in the dark ages when Shaba-Aunty just did the house cleaning and buzzed off in less than an hour, I was used to handling the kids solo all day long. Besides, I wasn’t working then. Now, I’m ostensibly working – at least, I have been getting paid, so I should be working – but with two pesky devils and no Shaba-Aunty, I might as well attempt to climb Mount Everest without oxygen, so futile is any attempt to work while the kids are awake. Luckily, work has been going easy on me, so I manage to squeeze every inch out of the two hours when the kids sleep in the afternoon and make do with that… but it isn’t easy.

The simplest way to keep the kids occupied in these long, lonely days of no school and no Shaba-Aunty, has been to get them out of the house. I’ve taken them swimming three days this week, and it has them happily engaged and physically stretched, so that they eat well and go straight to sleep afterwards. Oh, and their swimming skills are improving too.

But all in all, it’s true what they say: once you get used to having household help, you can’t manage without them. I’m just waiting for poor H to get better so that Shaba-Aunty can relieve me from the drudgery of housework around the clock.

I asked her about vaccinations against chicken pox, she said that when H was small, the doctor told her that this one vaccination alone would set her back by Rs2,000, so they just didn’t do it. I wonder whether she regrets that decision now. At least her own health is not at risk, as she says she already went through her bout of chicken pox when she was young. Hopefully the girls won’t get it now… that would be a disaster.

Small Acts of Parental Love… And Torture

There are lots of things a parent does in everyday life, which bear testimony to their love for their children. A few examples: dealing with poop and puke and everything inbetween; showing patience in the face of tantrums, illness, general unreasonableness, and everything inbetween; acting chauffeur, butler, cook, and many things inbetween… and more!

But I don’t know if any one rather common act of a parent speaks more of love than this: steam inhalation.

So, your kid/s has a cold. You give the drops and syrups and whatnot, you wrap them up warmly and feed them soup and orange juice or whatever. That’s easy. But that’s not all. You have to give them steam. You have to get a kettle full of boiling water and place it in close proximity to the said sick child and keep the said sick child in close proximity to the said kettle of boiling water for several minutes. And ideally, you do this thrice a day for several days.

Up until this time around, my kids didn’t object to this treatment too much. I’d set an electric kettle on a low table, put a chair next to it, drape a large bedsheet over the whole lot, and get under the sheet with one child on each knee. Before the heat built up, I’d have them engrossed in songs, fairy tales, or other random mommy-babble. They’d sit and listen till they fell asleep or I ran out of inspiration. Amit once even video-taped the whole sequence – from the outside, all you see is a voluminous, tent-like bedsheet with strange sounds emanating from it – it was bizarre. But hilarious.

But, alas, children grow up. And change. And in this particular respect, that change has taken the shape of an aversion to the talking-bedsheet treatment. Tara, actually, still doesn’t mind it too much. As I usually subject them to this treatment just before afternoon naptimes and end of day bedtimes, she’s too sleepy to do anything other than drowse on my shoulder. Mrini, on the other hand…

Wails.

And wails.

And wails.

And goes on wailing right until the end of the session.

See, I think my kids are the cutest, the bestest, the adorable-est… the usual, you know? But when they start wailing… (insert gnashing of teeth and pulling out of hair sounds here)

I mean, it’s not as if I enjoy the steam treatment. Whether I have a cold or not (but especially if not), probably the thing I least want to do is spend ten minutes babbling under a bedsheet while getting cooked pink like a tomato. And believe me, it does absolutely NO good to my hair. This blasted steam treatment is a headache to set up (gathering up sheet, chair, low table, electric kettle and rigging up the latter so as to be inaccessible to the kids, and then gathering up the kids…), a headache to administer, and is thoroughly detrimental to our electricity bill to boot (to say nothing of the environment in general).

Yet, in the interests of good health, it must be done. I hate it. She hates it. It doesn’t seem to be doing either of us any damned good. But it must be done.

So – in my limited experience, this has to be one of the most difficult everyday-kinda demands on parental affection. And to think that she’s probably going to hold this against me for the rest of her life. I can just see it now – an adult (or adolescent) Mrini turning on me in tears and saying: “You! You used to truss me up and steam me when I was just a baby! How could you!?”

And that’s a good question.