Category Archives: Family

Breastfeeding in Public

My Che is now 9 months old. At this point, we are planning on putting all of our eggs in one basket (oo pressure, kid) — so I have this knowledge and experience that I can at least share. I hope if you are looking for some advice on breastfeeding in public that you find this post helpful.

When I began nursing my newborn, I was a bit hesitant about how and where to nurse. I knew one thing for sure — I did not want to be “banished” from a room. I didn’t want to have to go hide myself at holidays or when we had visitors, as we so often did in the beginning. I’m social. I like to chat it up. I also know that I would have a hard time merely staying at home all day. I needed to get out of the house. This, of course, involved feeding Che on the go.

At the time, I did search on the internet for good places to breastfeed. I quickly learned that this is still word of mouth type information, one can only assume because of the taboo around it.

So how did I maneuver in this new territory? When it came to guests at our house or visiting others, I would usually ask, “Do you mind if I nurse.” I think that is actually particularly generous and considerate on my part, because the reality is my kid had to eat whether anyone else liked it or not. Only once did I have a really awkward situation where I was banished to a room — a room with children in it. But in such situations, if I was not “welcome” to nurse where I was, then I’d ask my husband or someone to hang out with me. There were a few instances when I nursed privately when around older, more traditional folks, but even that was pretty rare. I do recommend asking a buddy to hang with you. I found that the overwhelming majority of people were completely fine with me breastfeeding. Even in the instances of being “banished,” several people seemed to want to accompany me into my banishment.

The next road to navigate: where to breastfeed in public. I think I feared more people not being okay with it. Luckily, I have not yet encountered any kind of rude looks or stares. Frankly, I sometimes wonder if many people even notice when I breastfeed. They don’t.

Initially, I looked for nursing-friendly places. I live in West Hartford, CT — so here is a run-down of some of the good local places as well as generic places. It was fall/winter when my son and I were out and he nursed often, so we went to the West Farms Mall. A lot. The bathroom off of the men’s department in Nordstrom has a separate nursing room, which is quite nice, though I preferred the main lounge in the bathroom because it has comfy couches. Nordstrom even has free wifi, though it is a bit slow.

The family bathroom in the middle of the mall downstairs is also a great place to nurse. It’s definitely not as comfy as Nordstrom, but it works.

In West Hartford Center, I found Reuben’s Deli to be particularly friendly — not just to breastfeeding, but to babies in general. The Noah Webster Library (main branch in WeHa Center) is also breastfeeding friendly. I nursed there once in a pinch — early on when I was more nervous about it. I went into the stacks and quietly nursed. Once I asked if there was anywhere I could nurse in the library, a librarian told me — you can nurse anywhere in the library. If you want privacy, you can use the parent conference room, which is in the children’s department. Let me also make a plug for the awesome facilities at the children’s room in the library!

Another great thing is if you ask, I found places were often very willing to accommodate. As my husband and I tried to open a bank account for Che, I asked if they minded if I nursed as we waited, and an officer opened a meeting room for me. Asking opens doors, literally.

It wasn’t long before I got over my nervousness about breastfeeding in public. I had a nursing cover, but it was a pain in the ass to use. I quickly gave that up. Then my favorite places to nurse where usually coffee joints or some kind of restaurant. I have nursed in many Starbucks and the like. If we went out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner — nursing was usually part of the event.

I traveled with my baby — with my husband and alone. I’ve nursed in rest areas. It was actually in New Jersey at a rest area where I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone breastfeeding in public. Then I further realized, I don’t think most people are even remotely aware that I am breastfeeding when I am. I think I just missed it when others have nursed in public. So if you are feeling nervous about it, think of that reality check.

Obviously nursing at playgroups, doctors’ offices, baby stores, La Leche meetings, etc are all welcomed and encouraged.

Once my son hit about 6 or 7 months, my public breastfeeding habits changed a bit. I still do it, but less frequently — partly because he is also eating solids, but partly because he is more aware of the world now and gets very distracted. Even so, I feed my kid on the run frequently, and it is perfectly fine.

The bottom line is that you need to feed your kid. In most states, you are protected by the law. And the vast majority of the time no one cares — or notices.

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Baby Che

Okay, so it’s been just about five months since I had my baby, and I haven’t posted anything about him nor the experience of new motherhood. hat’s partly because it’s daunting — there’s so much to say, and partly because it’s really personal. But let me say this — I love that little dude so much. He really is a great joy.

One of my fav photos


The Quintessential Mother-Child Photo


The Happy, Snuggly Family

Fun Father’s Day Read

Father and Child Here is a fun article from the New York Times about fawning fathers in the wild kingdom.

Kerala Part 3: the Houseboat Tour of the Backwaters

Leaving from Alleppy, we took this very relaxing cruise on a houseboat (with a captain, mate, and cook) through the backwaters of Kerala, a “must-do” when visiting. The food was excellent, as was sitting on this boat reading, relaxing, watching Kerala as we floated by.

Here was an odd aspect. I really wanted to do this tour, because the novel (The God of Small Things) is set in a village that is along the backwaters. I wanted to see the scenery. But, you are basically touring people’s neighborhoods. Granted, it was on water, but the American equivalent might be if foreign tourists rented RVs and toured around suburban streets. We actually “parked” in front of someone’s house for the night. I know the residents must be very used to all of the tourists, but it’s got to be very annoying. I cannot imagine waking up and seeing an RV parked in front of my house with gawking tourists. (And that is basically what we did.)

We saw rice fields growing famous Keralan rice, which is very different from basmati. There are a lot of photos from the houseboat tour, so I will simply let you look at them below. Click on individual photos to enlarge them.

A note about the photos: the long skinny boats full of men are snake boats. They are preparing for the famous snake boat races. The hammers and sickles are indicative of the strong presence that the communist party has in Kerala, which plays a large role in the novel The God of Small Things. The rest are photos of views we saw while on the boats — or pictures of my family.

After we got off the boat (into pouring rain), we got into a car for a twisty ride up to Thekkady and the Periyar Wildlife Preserve.

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Getting through my Trip

I am not sure I am going to be able to write up the rest of my trip. I will do what I can, but school begins on Wednesday, and I have a lot of work to do. I’ll try to at least post a few pictures here and there. Besides, such a large part of blogging is very self-indulgent.

I had coffee with a former student today so we could share stories about our respective summer travels. I was telling her that I miss being in India. Granted, there is something to loving a place while one is on vacation. Living in a location is entirely different. I think part of it was that I really enjoy spending time with my sister and her family. Since my sister left for college, I have always lived far away from her (except the summer I lived with her in Philly). I think that when they return to the States, they should move to the luxurious and wonderful state of Connecticut.

Visiting the Taj Mahal the Special Indian Way

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This passed weekend, my relatives took me to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. They gave me the royal treatment! First they hired a professional photographer to take pictures of me (and all of the family members). The got a few cute photos and then even one of me looking as if I were holding he top of the Taj. This is a very popular pose for Indian tourists.

Ekta did not come on this trip, but Sudhaphoi’s four year old granddaughter, Akanksha, came.

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Here is a shot of Anilkaka and a shot of Samta:

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The Taj Mahal is both beautiful and romantic. For those of you who do not know, the Taj is actually a mausoleum for ShahJahan’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal. He was heartbroken when she dies, so he had this beautiful complex built in her honor. It is completely made of marble with inlay of lapis and other precious stones.

This is a shot from inside one of the two mosques in the complex, my favorite shot.

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Then we went to Mathura and visited two temples to Krishna. Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Krishna. The day started to take a turn for me when we got to Mathura. At the first temple, a very beautiful and peaceful temple complex, I fell in the bathroom. It was pretty disgusting, because I fell flat on my back onto the wet bathroom floor. God knows what was on that floor. I hurt my elbow, bruising it and cutting it. It that moment, I was suddenly overcome with how foreign I felt. I felt like everyone was looking at the white girl who can’t even walk. Clearly, I am very odd to Indians — sometimes inspiring curiosity, other times inspiring disdain. Often, I am very aware of how bizarre I am to people around me. Most of the time, I am perfectly fine with it, but in this moment, it completely overwhelmed me. It got better as I went through the temple, but I was getting tired, and my cold seemed to be worsening. We went to another temple to make an offering just in time before they closed the entrance to see Krishna. Then we were in the marketplace.

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We shopped for a bit, and I was getting increasingly tired. After a bit, we got in the car to come home. We stopped for dinner, but I was not hungry because I just wasn’t feeling well. I’d developed a cough and a sore throat. Finally, after being stuck in traffic, we got home at about 1:30AM. It was a very long day.

Again, I had another wonderful time with my relatives. They were so kind and generous to me, and I really appreciated everything they did for me. When I fell, they were very worried I had hurt myself. And they suggested several remedies for my cold.

I had a good long sleep, and I felt a little better the next day. That day, I went with Lesa’s family to have lunch with a Canadian family in Khan Market. We went to a place that serves western food. And today, I went shopping at the state emporiums and got lots of gifts for people back home. Feeling better today, but still on the mend.

Meeting Relatives

One of my best adventures so far has been meeting my new relatives. I was very nervous about meeting them, because I was filled with a mixture of wanting to impress them, fear or “messing up,” and concern about cultural misunderstandings. I was pleasantly surprised. When I first reached Nikafoi’s house, I was welcomed with this view:

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I believe the intention of this wording is “Welcome to our home” or something along the lines of “Our home is your home.” Clearly, I was immediately part of the family.

Let me explain something about titles for family members. Aunts and uncles are called certain titles based on the relationship to the child. Father’s sister and her husband are foi and fua, respectively. Father’s brother and wife are kaka and kaki. Mother’s brother and wife are mama and mami, and mother’s sister and husband are masa and masi.

At this point, I was visiting Nikafoi. Sudhafoi just happened to be visiting from Mumbai, and Anilkaka flew in special from Amhedabad. So this was an extra warm welcome. When I arrived, Nikafoi was still at work (she works in the income tax dept. for the government), so Sudhafoi did a special blessing for me. It was a crazy little scene as I was trying to do the right things: take off my shoes, tough my relatives’ feet, greet everyone, etc while Sudhafoi was trying to do the blessing. But it all went well, and I felt very welcome.

Then Nikafoi came home, and this is a photo of us.

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She pulled out an old photo album and showed me family pictures, which were lovely to see. I even saw a picture of Sujal from his last visit, 17 years ago. As one can imagine, family would like to see him again. I brought my laptop and we called him on Skype, so he got to practice his Gujarati. This was another level to the visit. Samta and Ekta (Ekta was the first person to welcome me, meeting me at the car) speak good English, as they learned it throughout their schooling. I believe their classes were conducted in English. Anilkaka also speaks good English. Nikaphoi and Sudhaphoi speak some English, though they understand more than they speak. But still, it can make communication tricky. Samta and Ekta translated, yet we still ultimately speak a different dialect, so sometimes there were miscommunications, though nothing egregious.

Finally, they took me to a large mall in Gurgoan and took me to a very nice Punjabi restaurant. Here is a photo of Nikaphoi, Sudhaphoi, and Anilkaka:

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And a photo of me, Ekta, and Samta:

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Samta and Ekta are lovely young women (both in their early 20’s). Ekta is a dentist, and Samta is studying to be an electrical engineer. They were both very friendly and chatty with me.

I know that I am rather unusual in my bedtime and need for sleep in that I usually am in bed by about 9PM, so getting home after midnight was a very late night for me. I wasn’t at my best, because of this pesky cold I have, but all in all, it was a perfect meeting! I could not have imagined feeling any more welcomed!

It’s My Birthday!

I just had a lovely birthday. Sujal and I initially had plans to spend the day in Northampton, one of my favorite towns ever. Alas, plans did not pan out. Sujal has not been feeling well the past few days.

We decided to grab breakfast around here — drop by Harry’s Pizza because they have a great breakfast on the weekends, and we hadn’t been there in awhile. The website says they serve until 2PM on Sundays. We got a late start and arrived at about 1:20. Sadly, it turns out the changed their hours. After driving a round a bit, Sujal and I settled on bagels at Bruegger’s, which, frankly, hit the spot. Then we did a little B-day shopping. I got a cool Eagle Creek travel purse (I love Eagle Creek bags!!), and Sujal got a Travel duffel. We picked up a cake and went home to do some tidying up around the house.

At six, we met up with our friends Joe, Lara, Rita, and Mike at one of our favorite restaurants, Bricco. Delish! Then everyone came to our place for cake. It is so lovely to spend your birthday with friends and loved ones. I could not have asked for a better day!!

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Two Weeks Before I Head to India

Since school has been done, I have slowly begun preparations for my trip to India. For those of you who don’t know, my sister moved to Noida, which is just outside New Delhi, in December. She will be there for two years. I am going to visit for six weeks — Yes, you heard me — six weeks. I’m very excited and a little nervous — nervous mainly because Sujal will not be coming with me. He can’t get any time off of work. Initially, we thought he’d come for two weeks in the middle of my trip, but he can’t.

So far, I am planning to see the Golden Temple in Amritsar (figures in Bharati Mukherjee’s writing and is the setting of Bride and Prejudice), Kerala (setting of The God of Small Things), Agra (the Taj Mahal — can’t miss that), and Jaipur (my sis raved about her visit to Rajasthan).

After my own travels (some with sis and family), I am meeting up with my sister-in-law, and we are visiting family in Mumbai, Amedhabad, and Delhi. I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of family I have not yet met, and I’ll be seeing one auntie whom I met at our wedding.

And yesterday I got my ten year visa! Sujal and I hope to perhaps come back in March to see relatives, because he has not been back to India since he was in high school.

If anyone has any good advice — I’m open to it!

It’s Official — We’re Staying!!!

So I haven’t wanted to write about this publicly until now. Sujal lost his job at Fanzter in November, which is a pretty scary thing considering he is definitely the breadwinner of our family. He interviewed with Newsweek in New York City, where he would have had a very attractive position working on their website. We went to NYC several times, but I just really did not want to move. I’m not much of a city gal — I really value space and quiet, to items that are at a premium in NYC and its environs. So to make a long story short, he turned down the position.

He was also interviewing at ESPN, and I am thrilled to say that he will be starting back at ESPN in January! Woo-hoo! While I have always maintained that I don’t love Connecticut, apparently, I do! Truth be told, I prefer small towns, but over NYC, I apparently love the suburbs. I love suburban Connecticut. There I set it. I truly am The Connecticutian. I love our house. I love our life. Could there, be improvements — of course, but things are pretty damn great. I’m also very happy at my school. It’s tough to begin at a new school. It’s like being a first year teacher all over again, and I like what I have established at my school.

The bottom line is, Connecticut, you can’t get rid of us! I am the Connecticutian: Hear me bore — I mean roar!

On a side note, Sujal found this great song by Jesus H Christ & The 4 Hornsmen of the Apocalypse.