Dear Sophie, Today You Turned 1

❤️ Happy Birthday, my sweet Sophie. ❤️ My heart and brain can not believe that you are already 1. Where did the year go, baby? Our lives changed a year ago on October 9th. I remember this day all too well. Your daddy and I went to the weekly OB appointment, except this time we learned that I was going to be induced. As a matter of fact, my OB pretty much asked “what are you guys doing tonight?” I wanted to respond “Pregnancy Pillow, Netflix & attempt to chill?” or at least “well I didn’t think I was going to be having a kid”, but I spent most of the rest of the day in quiet shock. A blur of a day later, we got in the car and I put my head on Daddy’s shoulder as we drove to the hospital in a lot of silence. I couldn’t talk or think clearly. I was so terrified of labor and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met you – THE Sophie Kaur Behniwal.

When we did finally meet you on October 10th – it was the most surreal feeling in the world. We instantly went from being Raji + Husband, to “Mummy” and “Daddy”. And I’ll never forget the moment when they handed you to me –  watching your red little face crying, with your legs and feet outstretched and toes curled. I was a hot mess. You were a hot mess, but you were our hot mess.

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I awkwardly hugged you, I was so, so scared of how delicate you were – I was so afraid of breaking or hurting you. Oh, Soph.. Daddy hates when I speak for him, but I can safely say it was the purest, most innocent and incredible moment of our lives when you entered our world.

The last year, I kept wondering “what will I write to her on her 1st birthday?” jotting down notes here and there, but now that we’ve reached this milestone my heart feels heavy. I’m crying in parts as I write this letter, because I am overwhelmed at this past year. I’m in wonder of how much we learned and how hard this year was – emotion-filled tears, the frustration of recovery post-labor, the process and pain of breastfeeding, confusion about almost everything, sleepless nights, blowouts (I’ll never forget what you did to my blue t-shirt), and definitely some moments of sheer exhaustion. I also feel overwhelmed because of how grateful I am for you – you’re our baby – who makes us laugh at the silliest of things, loves Sesame Street, music time with Daddy, the train, and birds. You’re the reason for so many smiles at home, you’ve brought everyone together. You’re the reason for so many “firsts” both for yourself and us. And your smile. Oh god that little smile. You’ve given us so much love, how can we ever repay you, little baby? I wasn’t counting on falling in love with you so deeply – but it happened.

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I’ve been trying to snuggle up and cuddle with you tons extra this month, but since you’ve discovered walking I know you have other priorities. As you grow older, I hope you know that we want you to be a happy, good-hearted, kind person. One day, you’ll be able to read this for yourself. Here are a few values I want to share with you for the future:

 

  • We’re not perfect, Soph. We may lose our patience at times, or not have enough energy to play every single moment you’d like (although we try).. we may say things to you in a way that will upset you – but know that deep down, we are trying our best in this journey of parenting. Along with your birthday, we are celebrating 1 year of us making it as parents [this is a bigger deal than I could have ever realized]. As you grow, you will learn, and as we grow, we will learn. But we’ll all learn together. IMG_0752
  • DREAM AS BIG AS POSSIBLE: In 2018, things are a bit crazy in the world. We have a yucky, gandha “president”, and women aren’t being treated as equals. I want you to jump past any and every inequality or shitty expectation and break some mother-effing barriers (remember Mummy told you she wasn’t perfect? Bad word, sorry). You achieve as much as you want, walk past anyone and anything in your way, and take everything in this world that you can earn.
  • Do everything with kindness, empathy, and & grace. IMG_2893
  • Say HELL NO whenever you feel like it. I want you to be able to say no, and even “hell no” if you need to get your point across. Boundaries are everything, and I support you saying no if anyone ever crosses yours.
  • Get angry when things aren’t fair. So at the time of writing, you’re 1 – so like if you could tone down the temper tantrums with mummy and daddy, we would appreciate it. But when you deal with the real world, you don’t need to take the high road as much. Screw it – get angry. Because sometimes anger can be powerful, it’ll keep you focused on whats right, and fuel your journey.

There’s tons of other advice I can think of, but the waterworks are starting up again and I should save some ‘wisdom’ for next year’s letter. One more thing, Soph (and to anyone who may read this), Anita thayeeji gave me the best, best words of wisdom and advice when you were first born. She said “When it gets hard, remember that it’s temporary”. That completely changed my life. When things were their hardest this year, I would silently repeat the advice to myself. It’s this advice in fact that makes me cry today – that you’re only a baby temporarily. One day, you’ll be grow to be intelligent, empathetic, compassionate, beautiful young woman  – which is why I treasure every single day of watching you blossom. I treasure the simplest of our moments and your sweetest of smiles.  Sophie, Happy 365 days to you.

Love you dearly, Mummy ❤️

8 Things I’ve Learned During My First Year of Parenting

Ahhh parenthood. ❤ Last week, I published my first post in over a year – the introduction. I have been itching to share my parenting experiences, curious to see who relates and who thinks I’m batshit crazy. October 3rd is an important day (no, I’m not wearing pink. Lindsay Lohan has lost her damn mind again, she needs therapy not meme-royalty money). It’s one week from Sophie’s birthday. In one week, my little doll is going to turn 1.

HELLO HORMONES. I could sit here and write down my feelings, but then this post would be unfinished due to me drowning in a puddle of my own tears. So I’ll try something different, an empowering reflection of things I’ve learned over the past year of being a parent:

1)    👏👏👏MAMA TRIBE for the win:  Think about the journey of a brand new mom. You spend months pregnant, your hormone levels shift making you cry at every sentimental cute thing Chrissy Teigen posts (hmm just me?), body contorting and expanding every coming day, trying to fathom what your little one is going to look and feel like. Cut to when the baby arrives – you have eight different types of swaddle blankets, your body feels like you’ve gotten mauled by a really rude tiger, and you no longer get to sleep in. Ever. What comes to your rescue? For me, it was my tribe of beautiful mamas.

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Whether it was my cousin whose sweet little daughter was born a few weeks before my own, or my wombie whose gorgeous baby boy was born a few weeks after – I went to them with every little question I had. I was thankful for my experienced mama friends here in Dallas and the Bay Area who were checking up on me at all times, asking how I was, and reassuring me that whatever I was going through was normal. These beautiful women  sending me a simple text of encouragement, or calling to check up on Sophie meant the world to me. New/First Time Moms (or Dads), understand the importance of fellow parents  – chances are they have gone through (or know someone who has gone through) a similar set of emotions and experiences. In a culture where we’re connected via the internet and our phones, it’s an excuse to reach out to people within your own mama tribes, and allow people to come to your rescue when might need it most.

2)    Baby Blues/PostPartum Depression are a REAL THING. These feelings deserve to be talked about, processed, and understood. I did not have postpartum, but for months after Sophie was born, there were some tough days where I’d walk in to my bathroom or closet, and literally cry my heart out. I wasn’t feeling right. I wasn’t feeling like myself mentally, I didn’t feel witty (like sometimes I can be funny, but man my jokes would not hit), able to communicate properly, writing for pleasure was difficult, and I did not think anyone in the world understood my exact situation. It was during this time, that I realized I wouldn’t just “get over it”, that I needed to talk about it. A friend once shared that if after the baby, I ever felt like I was sinking or off, it would be crucial to talk through these emotions and remember the role of hormones – and that I’m not just going loony. This was something I internalized and I would tell husband anytime I was having a bad day, and we would talk. Some days I needed to cry, and other days I just needed to vent – the important part was that I was understanding and talking about my emotions, that helped getting them out of my head. Credit goes to my husband for his patience during these times. A few soon-to-be mommy friends asked me what was needed on their registries – in hindsight, I would tell them that it’s more important to have an honest discussion about postpartum emotions with their significant other before baby shows up – setting up a foundation for discussion, and even a course of action for what to do if some days get tougher than others. Image result for postpartum depression

3) Baby bragging is annoying. Even humble baby bragging. Not all parents or babies are created equal – so be kind, and be mindful of what you say to one another. Every birth story and parenting journey is unique and this is a gentle reminder to let every mom and dad know, that there is no reason to brag or judge one another. We are all just trying to raise good people.

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4)    That bond may take a while, and that’s okay. From the second that Sophie was born, I felt this instinct to protect her at all costs. Aggressive, I know, but it’s true – that was my experience. Other moms have shared how in love they are with their babies the second they show up – that’s their experience. I’m here to assure that those bonds will form, in their own time – to not compare your bond to anyone else’s. Comparison is stupid.

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And for what it’s worth, when that deep love does hit – it’ll be remarkable. I’m in love with my little baby. She is everything. ❤

5)    ME TIME. #GETYOURS Part of being a good mom is to have some time away from the baby, to indulge in things that make you feel like you again. Pending you have time and childcare is handled, whether it’s a 5-10 minute walk around the block, getting brunch and a pedi with friends, or grabbing drinks (FYI, being hungover and taking care of a baby the next morning.. I shudder at the thought) – do something that makes you happy. You’ll be a better mom for it, returning back to your baby mentally rejuvenated and ready to take on a blowout diaper or three.

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6)    Nurture your marriage. Date night has never been more important.

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7)    You are not “just a parent”. Explore your interests. I’ll be the first one to admit that getting back to my passion of writing has taken me forever to do. It not only took me time, but the confidence to get back on track. Having trouble figuring out what you want to do? Start with exercise. Exercise does wonders for the soul. I got back to Hot Yoga, which for me has been a full-on mental cleanse.

8)    Cut yourself some slack. You’re not going to do everything perfectly the first time (or even the 12th). Your baby may cry for no reason. Not every baby has a chill temperament. This parenting shit is HARD WORK. And parents who are putting in that hard work, day in, day out deserve a HUGE round of applause.

Holy shit, I wrote an essay. I knew I should have split this up, but I was on a roll. Who knows, maybe I’ll still do a Part 2. 😀 Did I miss a good point? Send me a note!

And I think I will write that piece about Sophie turning 1 next week after all. 🙂

 

Writing About Sophie

Sunday morning was beautiful. Not only did we experience a semi-rainy, colder weekend (a MUCH welcome break from Dallas’ uber hot temps), but Sophie slept in past her normal time. As she laid there (horizontally – with hubby and I teetering on the edges of our own bed btw) between a cozy comforter and pillow it hit me as it has been for a few weeks now – my sweet little baby girl is growing up. With her first birthday right around the corner, this mummy has been morphing into emotional mush (think Alex Mac and a puddle of emotions).

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It feels as if she’s learning new skills and her personality grows on the daily. For ex. Hubby & I were standing in the kitchen two weeks ago, and #StandingSoph decided to let go of the coffee table and take 10 or 11 steps towards us as she became #WalkingSoph. The triumphant happiness on her face + ours – THOSE are the moments of parenthood that people talk about. I honestly didn’t get it at first – after having Sophie, I knew I needed to protect her with everything I had, but the deep-rooted bus of love didn’t run me over like I had read about. Right off the bat, I was okay with that. My goal is to be a good parent to her, the best I can be.

My goal with Sophie is twofold: I want to raise a happy child, with a good, clean heart. Whether I raise the next nuclear physicist or a writer whose poetry rivals Rupi Kaur’s, it’s all irrelevant to me. I want my child to explore, understand, and empathize with the world – and to live joyfully, doing things she loves – creating contagious happiness wherever she goes.

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Sophie is going to follow my actions more than my words. It’s human nature, and I need to practice what I preach. That’s made me think a lot about who I am and what I want out of life, so I made a list:

  • I ultimately want to write. This is a goal I don’t talk much about, in fear of failing, but this is my way of putting it out into the world, and now I have to stay accountable to this goal. (So hold me to it, friends! 😃)
  • I love sharing my experience/thoughts with those who might benefit from them. My hope is that if a reader going through a difficult time can relate, and my experience and words might help them out – I’ll feel accomplished. For this reason, I am committing to consistently blogging, because lord knows that support for fellow parents is needed everywhere.
  • I want to be a good parent. When I got married, I rose to the challenge of my new role as a spouse. I call it a challenge because my own parents were divorced and I had very skewed views entering the union. Upon meeting husband, I knew there was nothing else I wanted than to be his wife. I felt natural as a wife. Switch to, when I found out I was pregnant – I was in a state of shock. I had literally no clue what that was going to look like. I couldn’t imagine myself as a parent or what things would be like. This turned out to be a huge advantage – I had ZERO baby-related expectations and made myself go with the flow. Being a good parent and being adaptable go hand in hand. There are SO many days I am exhausted, cry, want a break – but I never project this onto Sophie, so I consider this a win.

I’ve tried to write a blog post many, many times the past year. I have SO much  to say and share, but I was having trouble starting all over again. Anything I wrote didn’t feel very “me” and I realized because I was missing this. This fundamental introduction to my friends + family, of Raji the parent. So here it is – and here it goes. Welcome to reading about Raji’s life as a mom. (Cue: Allow me to re-in-tro-DUCE-myself).

Some Parental Advice for Sophie

I always wanted a sister, or experience one of those BFF relationships with my mother – just a close female counterpart who would do anything for me, and vice versa. I’ve had my fair share of blessings, but haven’t had one of those bonds.. yet.

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Enter: Sophie. The day I found out that we were having a little girl, I had just woken up and received a voicemail from my OB’s office saying they knew the gender. I jumped out of bed, ran to Hank who was getting ready for work, and immediately called back. I was trembling, pacing, and my voice was shaking – an overall anxious mess. When we found out it was a girl, Hank gave my already in-tears self, the biggest hug – and essentially supported my weight. He’s a damn gem, I tell you.

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My brain went into overdrive at the thought – what would I do with a girl? Growing up around younger brothers, I knew more or less how to interact with them. But a girl? I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ve had a few months for this to settle in and through much conversation and support from the hubby, I feel confident that together we will figure it out one step at a time and try our best to raise a strong, intelligent, and enigmatic little girl. I started taking mental notes/wishlist notions along the way on how I wanted to raise her and here are a few pieces of advice I’d like to instill in her:

(Disclaimer: I know. Before you say it, I know. I can’t control her or how she’s going to react to the world, but these are some ideals I’d like to keep in mind as we raise her) 

Hi Sophie,

1.You’re A Girl – And That’s Badass: Our culture skews towards the male privilege. Hell, the entire world does. I remember when I told someone your gender, the response was “Oh it’s okay that you’re having a girl”(I’ll refrain from sharing my thoughts in response). There will be a lot of people who will try to undermine you and your gender – just know that we want to see you grow to be so powerful and impactful, gender be damned. Between boys & girls, one gender isn’t better than the other (Although this whole pregnancy thing is making me see women in a whole new light). All you need to focus on is being a genuinely good-hearted and focused person, and watch the opportunities unfold.

2. Be Curious Like Your Dad: Your dad has incredible curiosity and a rich desire to constantly learn. Since we’ve met, he’s taught me to look deeper at things – check facts and verify sources. So whether it’s me one day telling you that I’m the coolest person in the world, or a teacher in elementary school telling you that Texas is the best state (tehehehe, my blog, my jokes), or a friend telling you that the Warriors are not the best team in the game – if what you hear doesn’t make sense, then question it. But question it to learn the truth, not to argue, not to judge. And for the record, I will be tied for coolest with your dad, California is the best state, and the one thing you better not question is the greatness of the Warriors.

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(pictured: me and Uncle Jesse. Yes, Sophie is going to have an Uncle Jesse just like from Full House – have mercy!)

3. Social Media Does Not Dictate Confidence: Look kid, I’ll be honest. I don’t think you’re going to be allowed to have an Instagram account till you’re like 26, and who knows what the hell social media will have evolved to by then. But if and when you do figure it all out, please know that social media is not that serious. Likes and followers should not enhance your self worth or confidence, ever. Let your confidence come from your accomplishments and self-respect, not from your Instagram pix. Girls who post pix without many clothes on repeatedly for attention, just need someone to give them $50 for a sweater, mommy promises. And for the record, we’re not letting you hang out with any Beezy Aunties either. #thethirstisreal

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4. You Don’t Need To Be “Extra AF”: Piggy-backing off of Social Media for a sec – I don’t get why millennials like the concept of “Extra”. I’m sorry that being themselves is not good enough. Daughter, we’re going to spend a lot of time hanging out with you, getting to know you, and teaching you about life – you won’t need to overcompensate. I hope you know that you’ll always be the best version of yourself, just the way you are.

5. Empathy Is Everything: You’ll learn how to sing your ABC’s and the quadratic equation eventually, but I truly hope you learn how to be empathetic. Feeling empathy towards others will help you understand people so much better. And Sophie, that is important. Being kind, not judging others, and understanding their feelings is key in life, and empathy helps you get there.

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6. Defend Yourself: As much as I want you to be kind, I want you to learn that you don’t have to take shit from anyone (except me and Dad). I’ll never push you to accept bad treatment from anyone – no matter who they are. If they’re a friend, family member, or anyone – we will expect you to defend yourself and have your back, always. Life isn’t about dealing with toxic people – it’s about filling your life with people who inspire your happiness and success. Don’t let anyone piss you off, baby girl – it ain’t worth it.

7. Daddy Probably Won’t Let You Wear Makeup Ever – This is just more of a fact than it is advice. Daddy believes in natural beauty. Mommy loves makeup, but Daddy’s even gotten through to mommy a bit – and it’s true natural beauty is precious.

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8. PRACTICE PATIENCE: This will help you deal with #7. I’m not very patient, but I have a feeling you’re going to teach me a thing (or 2000) about patience. Instant gratification is not realistic, nor will it help you achieve personal satisfaction or success any faster. Know that you’re going to have to work hard, practice, and constantly refine your skills. Life isn’t a race – you’ll achieve your goals as long as you pair your intelligence with your patience and focus.

I think I could have easily kept writing another 30 pieces of advice, but I’ll settle on these for now. This was a fun piece to write and slightly distracting for me as well. See, it’s nearing the end of the road, and I’ve been quite emotional as I’m officially 36 weeks.. 4 more weeks till we meet our little one – and I can’t believe it. I know I can’t dictate advice to her, but I hope we’re able to give her the best set of morals & values possible!