Meet a How Do You Do It? author

Natasha Devalia

I am mum of twins Leila and Rahul. I recently moved to Koh Samui, Thailand (Jan 2013) with her children after spending 7 years in China. My husband travels back and forth for his work. I have started practicing my yoga more regularly again, and even teach a few classes a week, after a three year break. I blog at Our Little Yogis http://natashadevalia.com and at Multicultural Mothering http://multiculturalmothering.com

Dragon Phoenix Twins

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“Are they Dragon Phoenix Twins?”  I am asked every day, everywhere, and by everyone around me in Chengdu. “Yes, they are,” I reply.

“Waaaaa” they exclaim with glee, and huge smiles, “You are very lucky. How happy you must be.”

Twins generate as much or dare I say more excitement here in China as anywhere else; in particular, the Dragon / Phoenix (boy/girl) combination. The ancient Chinese emperor was symbolised by a Dragon, and his wife by a Phoenix. And so since boy / girl twins have the honour of being called the Dragon and Phoenix, they are associated with being at the top of the hierarchy, the best outcome possible, and so the highest blessing.

Total strangers seem genuinely happy for me, and always remind me of the gift of having them. They smile, caress the children, and try to carry them. Almost without fail I am told: “how cute, what curly hair, and big eyes they have.”  This line sometimes reminds me of the scene where the wolf pretends he is Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

But I have yet to come across someone who is envious or jealous. This is amazing considering the One-Child Policy in China.

Quite the opposite in fact. People here associate twins with joy and luck to such a degree that almost no one seems to realise that at times raising two same-age babies can be tricky and tiring.

Our ayi (nanny ) once asked, “Isn’t it strange that out of all the people who stop to talk to you and the children, no one ever mentions how much work it must be to take care of them?!” This came up on a day when both L and R were sick and in need of extra attention. My husband was out of town for work.  Our ayi and I were exhausted and had to laugh at that thought.

Only once, a mum playing with her two year old son in the kids area of a neighbouring housing complex asked if I wasn’t exhausted taking care of two. Almost immediately the three mums around us responded for me: “It’s pure joy to have two, and especially if they are a Dragon and a Phoenix.”

Had my Chinese been better, I would have answered myself: True I complain at times because I am tired from lack of sleep, or irritated by L and R’s constant hair pulling, biting, snatching… But man am I happy to have my Dragon and Phoenix.

How would you have answered the mum in the park?

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Full Circle – with my Heart and Hands Full

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I’ve come full circle, back in Koh Samui, at Samahita Yoga Thailand (SYT) two and a half years after my last serious training here. This time I’m here with my husband M, and my 21 month old boy/girl twins Rahul and Leila.

Right after my advanced teacher training course at SYT in 2009, I spent three months in my grandfather’s home city in India. It was there, in the peak of the summer, that after a round of IVF I got pregnant. There was the usual pregnancy stuff – fatigue, dizziness, and some vomiting. Overall, ok though. I had a long nap on my yoga mat every afternoon! Before the end of the first trimester, I insisted on returning to Chengdu, my current home city.

At 16 weeks things became more complicated. I had a major bleed, and spent the next four months in bed. The first month was spent in two Chengdu hospitals. I needed help. My mum flew in and without warning was roped into spending the next 9 months with me. Yoga helped too. The breath work calmed me through many sleepless nights.

At 26 weeks, upon the advice of doctors we flew to HK. The medical facilities there are outstanding.

From the 29th week on, I was in hospital again, being pumped with medication to keep the contractions down.

Then on a Sunday, at 31 weeks exactly, L and R seriously wanted out. I was transferred to another hospital, one with an NICU. They were born in an emergency natural delivery at The Queen Mary Hospital. R spent 3 weeks in the NICU, L spent 6.

As expected, life during the NICU phase was rather stressful, filled with fear, anxiety, and isolation. Thankfully M was there for the delivery and spent the first 2 weeks after the birth. He then managed to return to HK every weekend for the next five months.

Only after both the babies were safely home, and upon M’s ceaseless insistence, did I get a yoga practice in once in a while. Mostly it meant a few minutes of feeling out my body, and then a half an hour nap on the mat. It has gradually changed as the weight dropped, and the flexibility, strength, and focus have come back. This me-time was only possible thanks to my mum and MIL who were with me.

We returned to Chengdu when L and R were 5 months old. The four of us were together for the first time. We were happy, but of course there was some anxiety as for most new mums, and a feeling of isolation.

It’s around this period of time that I began surfing the net while feeding in the middle of the night. I found this site, HDYDI and other personal blogs where MoT’s told their funny stories, their touching stories, their “How to deal with…” stories, I could finally relate. I wasn’t the only one exhausted, stressed about premature babies, their weight-gain and illnesses.

There were undertones of stress in my system for a long time. It was only when L and R were 14 months old that I consciously made the effort to ease up. I couldn’t do it all, couldn’t be perfect and shouldn’t need to be. One insight from a MoT stuck with me. With two, she quickly let go of the expectation for perfection.

I also had to let go of expectations: that I would be able to give equal amounts of attention to each child at all times, that I would always be calm and level-headed, that I would have breast – fed directly and not pumped all the milk into bottles, that I would have lost more weight by now, that I would be practicing and teaching yoga by now, that I would be going out with friends more…and on and on.

A good friend of mine often brought up the fact that I wasn’t doing anything for myself. After some reflection, I realised that I wouldn’t pressure myself, but certainly needed some outlets. Another friend of mine, mother of 4, and ex Chengdu International Women’s Club playgroup coordinator once told me, “if it’s not sleep issues, it’s going to be something else. You just got to make time for yourself somehow.”

Her words rang true. So to start with, I filled her position as playgroup coordinator when she left Chengdu, a small task, but a big step for me. It was my first connection with adults in a long time. Soon after, I started a blog. I have always been a private person, so it’s a big deal. Some nights I write in the middle of the night. But it’s my thing and I enjoy it. It’s my way of organising and expressing my thoughts; and then letting go of them.

I am signed up for an On-line Features writing course. I have always romanticised writing, and until now, didn’t have the confidence to do any of my own. I’m not planning to become a writer, but I am thoroughly enjoying the class.

In the mean time, yoga has gradually seeped back into my life. Being back in Koh Samui at SYT practicing daily, trusting my body’s abilities again, makes teaching in the near future seem realistic. M takes care of L and R while I breathe and move at my own pace from 8-10am every morning.
I have let go of many expectations of myself, but feel more motivated than ever to do the little things that make me happy and feel fulfilled. Being here with M, R and L is certainly one of them.

So as MoM’s with never enough time in a day, what do you do for YOU?  Did you have to “let go” of expectations you put on yourself?

These are some related posts and a challenge, that stuck in my mind:

Taking Control (www.goddessinprogress.blog.com)

It’s the simple things (www.seanasmith.com)

52 weeks of ME! Challenge (www.dolli-mama.blogspot.com)

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