Indian postpartum care – Finding help in the Bay Area – Part 1

Photo Credit: Kanoktham Massage

Who does not like a massage? Pretty much everybody I know, except Aaron, does. What’s not to like? Apart from massages being known to be uniquely therapeutic, healing, and rejuvenating, they just feel pretty darn awesome!!

I started looking for a helper in the last few months of pregnancy. What I was asking for in that helper was nothing short of an all-in-one mom. In other words, I wanted my mom who helped me recover during my post-partum phase with J to be here with me. I was devastated when my dad tentatively, wondering how I might take the news, given taken-for-granted expectations Indian kids have of their parents and all, told me hesitatingly that he and mom may not be able to visit us to help with my post-partum phase this time around. Suddenly, the comfort, care, and undeniable dependency that I had well…taken-for-granted, that I had expected from my parents, especially my mom was not an option. I did not let that be shown though. I guess in some ways, I was just expecting it.

For some time now, my mother has been unwell with ongoing health issues related to arthritis and other issues that particularly make the long travel from India to San Jose full of discomfort. She was struck with a major sciatica issue weeks before returning to India last time and she never forgot how much that inconvenienced me. She felt guilty for being dependent on me somewhat when in her mind, she had come all the way to help me with my post-partum needs and it was unfair that the tables of care were turned. As selfless as she is, she could not bear the thought of something like that happening to her again and the fact that this time, I would have TWO kids and her to care for. I got it of course. I wasn’t going to push the matter. I respected their decision and I knew that, that would not have been an easy one to make. I can only imagine the two of them having long conversations about the doubtful nature of their being able to come to the US for me this time and going back and forth with that decision while debating also about how to break that news to me. They needn’t have worried. I am a big girl and I took the new well.

That being the reality meant that I needed to look for a mom replacement, however close or not she might be to the ideal. When a friend’s contact failed to return my calls, I posted an ad on Within minutes (yes, minutes!), I started getting responses – phone calls and emails. Almost all of the callers were students who had come to the US between 4 months – year and wanted some extra cash on the side working as my helper.

My biggest need was that of a massage, a postpartum massage that my mom had provided for me last time and for which had set the standard pretty high. My second biggest need was for a cook, specifically someone who could cook simple, vegetarian post-partum food. While I didn’t really have categorical recipes or dishes in mind, using my mother’s meals for me as a guide, I wanted someone who could cook lots of greens and veggie subzis. I did not plan on eating meat for the first month. Because I had such a terrible experience with Baby J’s gas and tummy issues last time, I wasn’t going to risk eating anything that could even remotely cause Baby E any issues and even though I wasn’t sure what that meant, I for sure wanted someone who knew what she was doing. My third, and this was optional, need or more of a nice-to-have was someone who could also do baby massages and clean around the home as needed.

Photo Credit: Valentina Powers via Flickr

SO – the problem with all of the young women I spoke with, the students who called me, was inexperience. Now I have been a student in the U.S. working on minimum wage as a graduate assistant and even with that aid and fully paid tuition, I knew what it was to live paycheck to paycheck. It was tough in 2001 and it can only be tougher now, in San Jose. So I get that these students want to take on these helping jobs for cash. However, the inexperience with handling a baby was something I could not quite come around to accepting for no fault of the callers. The ladies who called me, in their very early 20s, some of whom had never held a newborn, simply weren’t what I had in mind. They may be fine as baby sitters down the road and in fact, I have saved the phone numbers of some of them, but early in my post-partum phase, I just didn’t want to have to train someone on how to properly hold a baby.

Among other callers, I had two masseuses, one charged $50/hour and another one $60 but gave one free massage with 10 paid ones. Hmm..okay. If I could only get massages done and do everything else myself, these might be good deals. In no uncertain terms, I told Aaron that I WAS definitely getting post-partum massages and there would simply be no negotiation about that. If he wanted a healthy and strong wife when we were 60, we better invest in some good care now. He was on board of course and didn’t really need convincing. [I called the $50 lady from the hospital a day after Baby E was born. She did not seem that interested in trying to match our schedules so she could come over to massage me. We went back and forth twice on figuring a day and time for her visit but she never tried to accommodate me even though I tried to work with her. If that’s how she does business, she has a lot to learn, fail, and learn again.]

A few other older or seemingly older ladies with experience also called and I told them I would get back to them should I decide to hire them. Among them was B-aunty, a woman determined to get hired by me and whose tenacity I do admire. In talking to her the first day, she mentioned that she may have another possible offer. I hate it when people try to manipulate you. Don’t you?! It’s like realtors telling you untruthfully that the very house you want to make an offer on, has two others coming so you better get your act together and make an offer soon. As if! Anyway, this was late-January and Baby E wasn’t due until late March so I told her that I wasn’t going to make any decision until the end of February. She called me the next day at 7:00 a.m.and left a message. I called back. She asked if I had decided on whom to hire since she now has another offer. I said, cool, good for you and “You should take that job because I am not going to decide until the end of February” pretty much reiterating what I had already told her. I didn’t hear from her after that until I called her at the end of February…to be continued.

Published by Suchitra

I am a former Communication Studies professor turned stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) to two multiracial kids. I write about my adventures in parenting and living a multicultural life with my family. Blogger at: Follow me: @thephdmama

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