Avantika Khan talks motherhood, love and the importance of appreciating life’s fleeting moments
BY CHARLENE FLANAGAN
So, tell me, how has So, tell me, how has motherhood changed you? What has your experience been like?
Avantika: The first, and probably the most important way motherhood has changed me, would be by teaching me patience. Ask anyone who’s known me and they will tell you that patience is not one of my virtues. Honestly, I’m one of the most impatient people you’ll ever meet but in the past three and a half years, I’ve truly learned to be patient. Especially now, when kids get to this age, it’s literally a question a minute. I probably hear the word ‘mumma’ an average of 200 times a day. It’s “mumma, mumma, mumma,” at any given moment. But, on a more serious note, motherhood has given me perspective. When you’re younger, you tend to give a lot of importance to unnecessary, trivial things. Once you have a child, you don’t have the bandwidth for that anymore because a child will occupy the most prominent position in your mind. So you tend to stop sweating the little things, you start to let go of petty things and you start to realise what is actually important and of true value in life. Fame, money and celebrity are just there, but truly, it’s family, love and making sure Imara grows up to be a good human being, and experiencing everything that she wants to.
So when you decided to start a family, did you and Imran sit down and talk it out?
Avantika: No, not at all! Imara was an accident! Before we found out, people would always ask us when we were going to have a baby. Invariably, we always told them that we weren’t ready yet or whatever other excuse people tend to use. But after we got pregnant, I realised that you’re never going to be ready. If you sit and think about it, there’s always going to be something else that takes precedence over planning a baby. I think the best way to do it is to be thrown into the deep end like we were. When we eventually took the pregnancy test, we were like, ‘Oh my God, so this is happening, and that was that.
How did you find out you were pregnant?
Avantika: Actually, I have a very interesting story about how I found out I was pregnant. I was getting severe fever for two or three days before that. I was burning up at night and when I called up my doctor, he asked me if there was a chance that I could be pregnant. He wanted to know because he wanted to put me on a course of medications. Now, I wasn’t sure so just to be certain, I wondered if I should do a pregnancy test, just to eliminate the possibility. So, I did the test and it was positive. Then, I went to my gynaecologist to do the blood test so that we were 100 per cent sure. They drew blood and on the same day they did a pregnancy test and a dengue test. The next day I was called and told that I was pregnant but I also had dengue. So, I found out I was pregnant and had dengue on the same day! Naturally, this meant I couldn’t really take any heavy medications, just paracetemol or crocin to monitor the fever, but nothing stronger.
So what was your first trimester like with the dengue?
Avantika: The first month was really hell for me. I was extremely sick. I was already battling morning sickness but dengue tends to make you really nauseous anyway. So I couldn’t really eat anything, I lost four kilos during my first trimester, so it was tough. The months after that were great. I mean, I have nothing to compare since this was my first pregnancy but I’d say everything was pretty standard, or the way all pregnancies are. I don’t know about me but some women love being pregnant, some glow. I put on 25 kilos; I was not glowing, in my opinion; I had acidity towards the ends and horrible backaches. I mean, it’s a different experience for different people but it wasn’t that much fun for me.
What about any pregnancy classes? Did you read any books?
Avantika: I didn’t go for any classes per se, but I did read a lot of books. I read books to the point that I think it was to me detriment. My advice to most expectant mums would be ‘calm down’. You don’t need to read everything; read a couple of things that you think are of value to you but it doesn’t have to be accepted as the Gospel truth. Motherhood is instinctive and you need to go with the fl ow; whether you’re ready or not, when the baby comes, you’ll just know what to do. It’s a fact that most women, out of nervousness, read everything. In retrospect, I really wish I hadn’t read so much. I read so much that I wanted to put her on a schedule; I was practically obsessed with it till I realised that she’s a baby. She’s going to cry when she’s hungry, dirty, uncomfortable and I can’t really stop that. So that’s when I calmed down. But, some of the books that I read were The New Contented Little Baby, What to Expect
When You’re Expecting and Bringing Up Bébé. Did you have a baby shower?
Avantika: I had a very big baby shower actually. It was in April and it was very hot. That’s my memory of it. We had it here, at home. There were a bunch of games. I don’t particularly remember them because it was a while ago. But, mostly, I just remember the heat.
Did you and Imran go crazy with the baby shopping?
Avantika: Yes, I did. But honestly, we got gifted so many things. Our daughter is really blessed because clearly, I’ve got so many friends who love her dearly. I didn’t go overboard. Besides, Imran is much more meticulous than I am when it comes to all this. Actually, all the researchbased purchases were taken care by him. He went through Lucie’s List and really did his homework.
He’d be like, “Look, I’ve checked out five different brands of strollers; this is the best one so I’ve ordered it. All parents seem to be saying that this Graco Pack n Play is the best, so I’ve ordered it.” Honestly, Imran really took the reins on that one. I was just pregnant, tired and, you know, being pregnant. Honestly, by this point I was so exhausted, I just wanted her to come out already. A month after she was born, I was like, ‘Go back in, go back in!’
How did you feel when you went into labour?
Avantika: I didn’t go through labour. We had a planned C-Section and there’s a medical reason for that. So, I don’t know what labour is like because I never experienced it. My friends who went through labour though… well, let’s just say I’m thankful. Fortunately, my post C-section recovery wasn’t as gruesome either. I was walking the evening after the delivery, maybe my doctor really sorted me out with good pain killers; I don’t really know what it was, but I was fine.
After you gave birth to Imara, what was it like for you in the first few days after bringing her home?
Avantika: I was really nervous after coming home from the hospital. I think I did have a fair amount of the post-partum blues. Again, this is something that’s really common and most mothers don’t talk about it but I really think they should. If you can reach out to another mother and comfort her by assuring her that she’s going to be fine, and that it’s not the end of the world, it would be really helpful. But yes, I did experience some post-partum blues and that was very difficult. But when it came to handling Imara, that wasn’t really a problem. I mean, I could do that. Honestly, the physical part of handling a baby is what you’re very afraid of but once you start doing them, you realise that it’s not as hard as you made it out to be in your head, because it’s instinctive. I also had a lot of help. My mum was around, my motherin- law was a great help too. I had a nanny to help around as well. But mostly, I’m grateful that Imran was a very hands-on father. He’s a phenomenal father. He’s truly a parenting partner and should be an example for other Indian men. Parenting is a joint effort and it needs to be done as a team. From feeding her, to bathing and dressing her and even dropping her to school, he participates in every single thing, equally. He spends every chance he can with her. I always knew he’d make a great dad, because I’ve known him for a long time, but despite that, he’s still managed to surprise me with how good he is. I’m defi nitely blessed.
So tell us about Imara. What is she like?
Avantika: Wow, she’s definitely her own person. Currently, though, she thinks that she’s a true life princess, so I don’t know what to make of that. Princess Marina. Recently, I took her to this play —The Little Mermaid—and in that play, there’s a princess named Marina, who’s a mermaid. And the moment we go home from the play, she gave us all characters. She was like, “I’m a princess, you’re a queen and papa is King Neptune.” She even bows and says ‘your majesty’. I think she’s going through some serious princess phase but other than that, she’s a really polite child. She’s kind, sweet and not at all bothersome. She’s definitely a good girl. I’ve never had any trouble disciplining her. I mean, I’ve taken her to countless restaurants and I’ve travelled all over the world with her. She’s just a very well-mannered child and I’ve never had any issues with her. She’s also very bright, smart, definitely intelligent and curious. She asks a whole lot of questions, so that’s always fun.
A baby always responds first to a mother. What was your experience like?
Avantika: After getting home from the hospital, I had my post-partum blues for the first month so I don’t think that I could engage with her in the way I would have liked to. Once I started feeling better, about a month and a half in, that’s when I really started bonding with her. By the time we reached four months, I was completely smitten, completely in and hopelessly in love—in a way that I’ve never been before. Honestly, people talk about motherhood in very romantic terms. I won’t deny that it does have a side which is very beautiful but at the same time, it’s also a lot of hard work and absolutely exhausting. So it’s definitely all consuming.
What future plans do you and Imran have for Imara?
Avantika: Most parents tend to have big dreams for their children but honestly, Imran and I don’t really have any big plans for her. We’re just going to let her take the lead on what she’d like. For us, it’s important that we bring her up right, instil the right values in her, make her a good and responsible citizen of the world and be a bit careful in the schooling that we choose. But other than that, we’re very laid back parents and we’re okay with letting her choose her own path. We know she’ll figure it out. |MB
My advice to most expectant mums would be ‘calm down’. You don’t need to read everything; read a couple of things that you think are of value to you but it doesn’t have to be accepted as the Gospel truth.