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In this day and age where we women depend on maids for all household chores, hiring a “maalishwali” (a woman who massages and bathes a new born) is a very common practice. My family was no different so as I got closer to my D day, the search for "maalishiwali" began at our home. While the to be grandma was busy gathering references through acquaintances, the to be father being the way he is, was hooked to the internet to get some tips. And slowly the internet search which began with "What things to take care while hiring a maalishwali" ended up with "Should we really hire a maalishwali" and with a straight "No" as an answer.
Yes we decided to do it ourselves but this wouldn't have been possible without the help and support from our families. Post delivery my near and dear ones made sure that the only work I do is taking care of my baby and feeding her. They would have fed me too if that would have helped the overall situation. But with all this help it still was not an easy feat. As much as you read and go through expert articles on baby care, the thought of bathing your days old baby is rather alarming. But ask yourself isn't it more alarming to handover your tiny little baby in a stranger's hands? A stranger who is most likely living on a meager earning and hence has a questionable hygiene parameter? What more, add illiteracy and superstition to that and imagine what a deadly mix you will have.
Here's a quick peek into some beliefs a maalishwali carries -
"More the pressure, stronger bones and a flexible baby"
FACT - There is no connection of the amount of pressure with the strength of bones. In fact you should be careful in applying pressure as it may be painful for the baby, which brings me to the next belief.
"A baby should cry during massage (and I am talking about the one they do at top of their lungs which rips your heart out). A good cry helps strengthen their lungs, so apply as much pressure as you can."
FACT - This is a complete nonsense. Crying is only way for small babies to communicate their needs or distress. It certainly does not help their lungs.
"Rubbing besan (gram flour) during massage will help remove all facial and body hair"
FACT - Facial or body hair are determined by your baby's genes. Applying besan or any other external ingredient cannot reduce it but on the other hand it can cause allergies or irritations as their skin is sensitive.
"After the bath, make a “dhoop” (you light coal and put some scented powder in it) and hold the baby over it upside down. It’s like a ritual with no explanation"
FACT - Do I need to state the fact how dangerous this can be?
These are some of the beliefs we came across but they surely scared the hell out of us. You may think we overreacted, after all we could have always supervised and controlled the whole routine and made the maalishwali do things as per our requirement. But as I stand today cherishing every moment I spent caring for my daughter, I am glad we took this decision. The instant connection and amount of love and bonding it created between us cannot be put down in words. We use to have the happy Johnson baby moments they show on the TV. Yes, my daughter did not cry a single day during the massage and bath routine, in fact she thoroughly enjoyed it all. Initially she used to just stare at me intently but with a blank expression and with no clue of what's going on. As the days passed, she knew what to expect and the dumb glances quickly transformed into happy smiles. Her coos and giggles were enough encouragement for me to know I am doing everything right. While at it, I used to sing to her or constantly babble about something or the other and slowly she started responding with loud and happy noises.
I do not attribute all this solely to the fact that I am her mother and there is some magical connection between us. Though experts say it’s true and I do believe it, I have a more logical reason for my baby enjoying the otherwise dreaded routine. I used to bathe her when she is in a mood to and not because it’s "bathing time". The mother in me used to ensure all her basic needs are taken care well so that she can truly enjoy this time with me. I will admit there were days when I have skipped giving her the massage or the bath or both as I was too tired to get up but I don't feel guilty about it. After all babies don't go out to get dirty neither do they sweat like we do. I was sure, she is not going to remember I missed her to bathe once in a while but she is truly going to enjoy the stories, videos and photos of the numerous moments we spent together and she does that today.
Sadly I don't get positive reactions from people when they hear my proud declaration. Though not all are vocal about their thoughts I can sense them brand me as another smart ass .... "yeh ajkal ki ladkiyaan". But do I care about what they have to say when I have created such beautiful memories with my daughter .... Absolutely Not !