At Baby Hero we believe parenthood is one of the great threads running through society, allowing us to connect across nationalities, languages, and ethnicities. In our Hero Parent series, we interview mothers and fathers around the world about their experiences becoming and growing as parents.
Meet Hero Parent Claire Bhatia. Claire is a doctor, specialising in sexual health and HIV medicine. In Hong Kong she worked in Emerging Infectious Diseases as a Research Assistant Professor and is about to start as a clinical research fellow in Singapore. Claire is mother to darling little girls, Anoushka (2 ½ years old) and Bella (7 months old). Read on to learn how Claire (raised in London) and her husband Kirit (raised in Kenya and England) are bringing up their girls with an appreciation of their Jewish and Hindu heritage, have managed international relocations and favourite toddler outings in the cities they have lived in.
I think being a doctor means that you know more about when to worry about changes and what is ‘normal’ for pregnancy, but it certainly doesn’t make you immune to all the hormonal changes you feel and the natural worry every woman has that her baby will be healthy. Having seen and assisted at many births I knew exactly what to expect with my delivery, but going through it from the other side as a mother is a whole different ball game!
During my first pregnancy, I attended antenatal classes with my husband and read a bit about breathing techniques. I tried to listen to a pregnancy meditation CD at night before bed, but ended up falling asleep every time! Yoga and pilates really helped with breathing through the birth and I used the techniques I had learnt during delivery. I think the breathing techniques just helped me to keep calm and focused as I ended up having a really quick delivery the first time, so didn’t have much chance to use painkillers! As with most women, my second delivery was a lot less prepared than the first, but I managed to do some pilates through the pregnancy which just gave me a bit of time to myself and focus on the new baby.
I arrived in Hong Kong at 7 months pregnant with my first daughter. I had just finished working full time and hadn’t had much time to think about the move. It was a bit of a shock to the system, arriving heavily pregnant in the middle of the blistering Hong Kong summer. Fortunately, my husband had already found us our flat so we were able to move in quickly and get settled. It wasn’t much fun traipsing around the furniture shops as we arrived with no furniture at all. For anyone doing a similar move, I would definitely recommend setting up as much as possible before arriving in the city. I was so glad that I’d ordered all my baby stuff from the UK, which was shipped over to Hong Kong with the rest of our things. It took away a lot of the stress of preparing the flat for the baby in a few short weeks. Before I was pregnant, I was sure I’d be fine running around everywhere until I gave birth, but when the time came (in the heat of Hong Kong) I found that just getting to the shops in a new city was a mission.
I wouldn’t have it any other way! It’s a wonderful, eye-opening, challenging way to live! There are, of course, significant challenges to raising a Jewish/Hindu family. On a day-to-day basis, some things are different from the life I’d have had if I’d chosen a Jewish husband; my husband speaks Gujarati to the children and we eat a lot more curry! But probably the most challenging aspect has been and will continue to be how to ensure our children feel part of both the Jewish and the Indian communities without feeling isolated and different. By teaching them about both cultures and religions and taking the most positive lessons from both, we hope to be able to give them strong, solid identities even though they will not be exactly the same as their cousins or friends.
Funnily enough, we believe that the ideals and family values from both cultures are very similar. We are always learning and questioning the practices of both cultures and as a result we decide which rituals are important to our own family. It certainly makes life interesting! Of course, you can’t beat sitting down to a family home-made curry. That is one ritual we both believe in!
We are both totally exhausted most of the time with a baby and an early-rising toddler and going out as a couple can easily fall lower down on our priority list than catching up on sleep! Our roles have changed since we became parents, but we do try and spend time just the 2 of us, going out for dinner or drinks. We still manage to laugh and smile together through it all, even when we are totally sleep-deprived, so I count myself as very lucky.
Being in Asia, we have the advantage of affordable childcare which makes life as a working mother much easier. Childcare in the UK is ridiculously expensive and sometimes makes working a more expensive option for women than staying at home with their children. I am lucky to have found part-time work in both Hong Kong and Singapore and as a mother it is important for me to be able to spend time with my children as well as working. There is no right answer to your question, it is always a balance. Asia is easier for help with childcare, but you have to find the right job to suit you and your family.
On a (rare) glorious sunny day in London there is nowhere better for children than a walk in one of the London parks – my favorite has to be Hampstead Heath which is near to where I grew up and there are plenty of ponds to feed the ducks. Children just love it.
In Hong Kong, we lived on the south side of the Island and often went to the beach in the late afternoon in the summer. Our daughter loved the beach and splashing in the water. Happy memories.
My favorite place so far in Singapore for toddlers is the zoo. Our daughter has absolutely loved it every time we have been there and even my husband has wanted to go back! You can happily spend several days there seeing all the animals, it is far and away the best zoo I have been to.
We did all the usual talking to her about the baby and reading her books about being a big sister. She seemed to be as prepared as we could hope for, but she was only just 2 when the new baby arrived, and she found it tough to have to share her mummy with a new baby. She has always been loving and kind to her sister but for the first few weeks she became quite withdrawn and quiet. It was heartbreaking. We noticed at home that she didn’t smile as much as usual. She flitted between being clingy to me to ignoring me completely. We made a conscious effort to spend time with just her, and after a few weeks she became herself again and now she is totally doting and protective of her little sister and calls her ‘MY baby’!
I am a completely biased mother and so cannot be objective at all in this question! Anoushka is a wonderfully warm and caring little girl, has a wicked sense of humor and a great sense of play and fun. She goes out of her way to make us laugh with her funny expressions and chat. She already looks after us all, making sure we are eating properly! Bella is only 7 months old, but she is a very smiley and laid back baby. She reserves her loudest belly laugh for her sister’s antics, which is just so sweet!
Probably no different to most parents - to be healthy, happy, independent young women.
Bella is wearing the Baby Hero Zhob onesie in Orange stitch
First and foremost, I love the product, the onesies look great and are soft to touch. They are a perfect, natural material for babies. There are so many choices when it comes to baby gifts nowadays that I think giving a present with a charitable twist makes it stand out. Knowing that I am helping less privileged mothers and children whilst giving to my friends makes it special not just for me but also for those who receive the onesies as a gift.