Podcasts Bashi Kumar-Hazard on the power of mothering the mother, going with the flow, and her experiences with her first two little ones Help us keep this resource FREE for families who need it! Donate to help us produce another season Listen/ Watch links: Enjoying the show and you'd like even more? Become a Patron! SUMMARY- Bashi shares her take on what birthing parents need to thrive post-childbirth, including support from family, and health services workers who will provide empathy and support instead of rushing to quick fixes and problem-solving. Bashi also shares her experience with her firstborn, chilled out little one, and shares what was impacting her second child's sleep, including the risk to her health, which was missed by medical professionals until she was 13 months old. You can find the Human Rights in Childbirth Facebook page here: (https://www.facebook.com/HumanRightsInChildbirth/) Full Episode Transcript: Carly: The Beyond Sleep Training Podcast- a podcast dedicated to sharing real tales of how people have managed sleep in their family outside of sleep training culture because sleep looks different with a baby in the house and because every family is different there is no one-size-fits-all approach to take. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this podcast is being recorded, the Kalkadoon people, I pay my respects to the elders of this nation and the many other nations our guests reside in from the past, present and emerging. We honour Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, water and seas as well as their rich contributions to society including the birthing and nurturing of children. Carly:Welcome back to the Beyond Sleep Training podcast. I’m your host, Carly Grubb, and with me today is Bashi Kumar-Hazard. And Bashi is an Australian lawyer and a principal of B W Law, a legal practice established to support and assist women and children, and also the chair of the Human Rights in Childbirth organisation, internat… sorry, the International Lawyers’ Network, and all-round amazing human. Some of you may have seen the recent documentary called Birth Time. I was lucky enough to watch a screening of it, and Bashi was one of the guests in that documentary. Her work around human rights in childbirth is legendary and I am super grateful to also know Bashi. As I was setting up our Little Sparklers board she was able to give me a help as we established ourselves. So welcome to the show Bashi. Bashi:Thank you for having me Carly. It’s lovely to be here. Carly:Now for Bashi, I… I have heard her story before, but I am really excited to bring it to the show. So I would love to hear, Bashi, do you mind introducing just who is in your little family. Bashi:So, I have three kids and my husband. My eldest is Declan, he is 17 now. My daughter, Karsha, is 14, and Connor, our youngest, is 10. Carly:Lovely. Bashi:So it’s a full family and they’re very different, each of them. They were different from the day they were born, as anyone who has more than one child knows you… each one of them is a unique little individual in themselves. Carly:Beautiful, and I love that your babes are that bit older now too, because for our listeners who are deep in the trenches at the moment it’s always fantastic to be able to hear how things were as they got older. And your babes are well and truly getting to that bigger stage now. So, before we get into that though, can you tell me how did you think you were going to handle sleep before your first baby arrived? Bashi:Oh look, you know, I was practising full-time as a lawyer in a large firm at the time and I guess for me it seemed like a problem that was easily solved. It’s structure and organisation and, you know, planning, and it was all going to fit really well. And within a year he would be dressing himself and getting himself off to childcare while I went to work. That’s the preconception that I had. And it would be fair to say I don’t have any family here, so I think… and I think my parents were very cautious not to scare me because they knew exactly what I was like as a lawyer. So, I had no idea what was coming and I think, you know, it took a fair bit of adjusting to do that. Carly:Fair enough. So, you’re in Sydney. Were you in Sydney when you had your first babe? Bashi:Yes. Yes I was. Well, I still am. Yeah. Carly:You still are, yeah. And so your family lives internationally from you. Bashi:Yes. So my parents actually left Australia when I was 17, shortly after I finished my HSC. And I had a… I could have gone with them but I had already decided that I was going to law school and so I stayed here. Yeah. By myself. Yeah. Carly:And so when your babe actually came along… oh, well actually before that, had you prepared like a nursery and things like that in preparation for his arrival? Bashi:Look, we got things, but probably we were unpacking and trying to figure out the cot the night before I was, you know, going to get induced, and it all just seemed like… There was a lot of focus on that. There was a lot of focus on, you know, getting the nursery and the pram and those sorts of things. And actually, in hindsight, we didn’t really need any of that. We just, we needed to just accept it that we had to put aside three months and just be. Just kind of go with the flow and just be. And we [5:00}… we were very unprepared I think. And you know, we also had… my in-laws are close by and I think they too were kind of in that space of, I’m hoping you guys will work this out. And we… and we did, but it did take a little time. Yeah. And my hospital experiences didn’t help at all. Like, I was so unprepared. Yeah. Carly:I was going to say, so how was it welcoming him then? Bashi:Um… he was the best part about it I think. The actually, so entire birth experience was an absolute nightmare and I was completely unprepared for any of that. And I guess, and I think our care providers know that. And then you set your eyes on that baby and you think, well, I’m going to… I would give my life for my baby anyhow. And so you think to yourself that you can manage and that, you know, you will overcome those obstacles, but they do catch up with you because you’re already in a weakened state and then you’re sleep-deprived and, you know, you’re hungry and you’re lonely and you’re all of those things. Particularly having a baby in Australia I think we all, you know, we’re all sort of migrants in ourselves. Like many of us don’t live near family and we move to other states or, you know, we’re doing… we’re following or chasing work and so many of us live just in that nucleus of the immediate family, and that can be very, very hard for women because when you have a baby you need a community. You need people around you who, you know, don’t ask questions. They just know when to step in. They know when to help. They know when to just, you know, be an ear or to make you a cup of tea. That’s what we need. Carly:That’s so true. That, that mothering the mother Bashi:Yep. Carly:And actually allowing you to recover. Bashi:Yeah, it’s so critical and so, you know, because we don’t acknowledge that, we don’t have service… we don’t have health services that respect that, and then we don’t have care for mothers who are mothering babies that acknowledge that. And, you know, it’s all just really at arm’s length. It’s hostile. It’s problem-solving. It’s never just about, you know, taking a deep breath and going with the… the whole experience and accepting it for what it is. Accepting your baby for who they are. We don’t do that. Carly:No, you’re right. We really don’t. And it’s a part… it’s almost like you’re constantly pushing back against it rather than leaning into it. But to be able to lean into it you need to be able to feel safe in that vulnerability, and that’s what’s missing for most of us at that time. Bashi:That’s right. I mean, you know, my… I have family in Malaysia, so my sisters-in-law are both surrounded by their families. You know? And there’s always someone - mother-in-law, you know, a grandmother basically – who is just on standby and they’ll scoop that baby up and hold them close while mum’s having a nap, or they come over with food. You know, there’s some of them, they will… we have this tradition in most Asian cultures where for the first 40 days mum just has to lie down and rest and breastfeed, and everything else is done for her. You know, somebody cooks the most nutritious food. The women in the family will share that load. There’s always somebody there or on standby who spends at least two hours with mum a day. You know, and there’s generally not just a cultural but a health, from a health perspective, that you mother the mother. So… Carly:And it must… it’d be really interesting to hear, do you know what the… like the outcomes are in general as far as like maternal wellbeing from those kind of cultures looks like compared to Australian culture? Bashi:Well, they don’t actually have, you know, postnatal depression to the extent that we have. And I know that here there’s health professionals who say, you know, there’s predispositions and stuff, but let’s… let’s not, you know, beat around the bush here. Even if you have that sort of history it requires triggers, and there’s a lot in the journey from being pregnant to having a baby and then raising that baby which are triggers. They serve as triggers, and they actually come from, you know, the various services that we… we try and seek to support ourselves through this very kind of life-changing event. And so women in… in… most of the professional women or professionally educated women that I know who live in Malaysia go back to work within 18 months, but with a, you know, having a baby who is strongly not just bonded to her but to her mother and her mother-in-law and to all the women in the family who are there and ready to step in. And it’s what grandparents love to do. It keeps them involved in the family, and I don’t know if you know, there’s [10:00] all this research around grandparents or older people, that if they hear the sounds of children it keeps their brains highly stimulated and, you know, much more active and engaged. So there’s a lot of that. There’s a lot of, you know, women who maybe have worked and retired who are just ready to… to help and give forward, pay forward to their own daughters and nieces and daughters-in law. And everyone benefits. It’s… it’s really quite a… an amazing, you know, and I think instinctive and strongly embedded cultural base that… that we need to learn to acquire here in Australia. I think we need to spend a lot more time and focus on it than we do now. Carly:I 100% agree. There are so many learnings from that, because we know for a fact that there’s so many flaws in the current way our society and culture is set up in Australia and the US and Canada and the UK, all the places that don’t have this strong attitude, or even just hold no value for what that experience of postpartum is for the person who just gave birth; the mother. Bashi:Yeah. Yeah. Carly:And so I… I really appreciate you sharing that, because I think for our listeners listening along who’ve perhaps struggled through their postpartum, to hear that there are alternative ways we can build a culture around caring for the mother, I think that’s really powerful. Thank you. And so with your little fellow, when you brought him home what… what happened? Bashi:Oh. Well, just, you know, I was so in love with him anyway, but he was… looking back now, I think he was an angel baby. I think, you know, these are the rare few that he… he would sleep, you know? And he would happily sleep. And even when he woke up he’d just be chattering and squawking to himself. I’d had to go and kind of, you know, bother him basically. And he, you know, he… he just, he enjoyed his sleep and he also enjoyed lying with me. So we had him in the cot next to us because that was the start of this whole you can’t co-sleep and you can’t, you know, do anything really except put them… And in fact I was advised to put him in a separate room. And luckily for me both my mother and my mother-in-law on the phone just, were just aghast. You know, they were saying ‘wait? You know, what if a snake goes into that…? You know, this is… this is not very good’. They were like, ‘You need to be in the vicinity of your baby at all times. That is crazy.’ You know, ‘nobody puts a baby in another room and closes the door and can sleep easy’. So, I thought, well, I don’t care then. I’m putting him, you know, right next to me. And I’m glad I did because, you know, through the night when he wanted to feed it was just about sort of, you know, reaching out, picking him up, putting him between us and giving a feed. And my husband took on the job of sort of pick, you know, bringing him to me and putting him back, and he became quite obsessed with the perfect swaddle and that was his thing. So, you know, just it was our little microcosm and we loved it. We, you know, we slowly kind of adjusted and got back to… actually, thinking back now, you know, it was crazy. My husband went back to work at four weeks, and he never did that again. Like with our subsequent children he just took more time because he realised there was just so much magic in that first two months. And we did whatever we could, saved up all our leave, all of that, to try and make it happen for the next two babies. Yeah. Carly:Beautiful. And so he was a pretty cruisy guy. What was daytime sleeping like for him? Was he still able to go down? Or what was that looking like? Bashi:Yeah. He was… he was actually quite good. The afternoon nap was a thing that he gave up first. He used to really, because we, you know, my husband was up at 7 so he could hear us and he’d be up too and, you know, the day would start quite early. But by sort of, oh, 10, 11, I could see. I learned to kind of pick up on his cues as well. He sort of was, he was quite… he’d get very jerky when he was… he was very active so he… and so we put him… He never really put up a fight. He just enjoyed that time, you know, going to a cool room and he’d be snuggled up and, you know, I’d hold him for a while and then I’d put him down and… and he slept. But he… that… those… it wasn’t so much that he didn’t need them. The times got shorter. So he’d have like two 45 minute naps during the day by the end of it and sort of gave up most of that by the time he was 18 months old. But he, by that time he was down at 6:30 and up at 7:30, so he was… he was great. Carly:Wow. What a cruisy dude. Bashi:Great. Yeah. Carly:I’m sure there’s people listening along going what? That is amazing. [15:00] Yeah. Bashi:He… so he had the 2am and the 5am feed. Like he had those. Oh, and 11 o’clock. So he’d do 11, 2 and 5 through the night. And then he sort of dropped the 5, but he still did 11 and then he’d sort of grizzle at 3. And then he dropped the 11 but the 3 stayed on for quite some time. And we just let him. Yeah. Yeah. Carly:He sounds like a clockwork baby. Bashi:Oh, he was fantastic. Carly:Like, so predictable. Bashi:Yeah. And we could, you know, after a while you sort of, your sleep patterns adjust to that as well. So you know, I could hear him grizzling and I was already half awake and… and I couldn’t go back to sleep until I’d fed him, so it was quite, we were very much in sync. Very much in sync I would say. Yeah. And… Carly:Well, that sounds like a beautiful way to ease into parenthood. Bashi:I know. I know. Looking back now how lucky were we? And the other thing I did, so I also made the decision that the children would wean. So they would decide when they would stop breastfeeding rather than… and it’s not that I didn’t… I did introduce food at about six months, and then he was… again he was easy because by about 18 to 20 months it was me who was sort of urging him to have comfort feeds, because he was so busy, so busy trying to, you know, take on the world, that he kept forgetting and I’d have to, you know, particularly at 6 in the evening when after his bath, I’d be like, ‘Oh, you know, you sure you don’t want to have a little..?’ Carly:Poor baby. Bashi:Yeah. Mummy needs you to hug her. Carly:Yeah, Mummy’s not ready yet baby. Bashi:No. I was not ready. Yeah. Carly:Oh, I understand that. So tiny. And so tell me, like did your second and third shake this up a little bit? Like what was the reality when you welcomed the second and third? Bashi:Well, my second baby I think is the one that really, really clarified things for me. So, she was very sick, which we didn’t know. So, she was… she was quite unsettled. So, she, you know, was like the kind of newborn who would cry for three hours nonstop in, you know, and that usually happened at about 2 in the morning. And there was nothing you could do except just hold her. And she was fully breastfed till she was about 6 months old, and then when we started introducing food something started to happen. She started getting… vomiting overnight, particularly in her cot. And initially everyone told me it was reflux. I also noticed that she wasn’t growing. And of course I was told that she was small because I was small. And that went on for about 12 to 13 months and then, very fortunately for us – and this is our local health nurse as well sort of giving me those reassurances – but we had this really sage and, you know, a retired midwife who’d come to the chemist on Fridays and just do baby weighing and chat with mums who were having trouble settling their babies. And by the time, you know, I’m seeing her the queue would stretch out, you know, outside of the shopping centre. That’s how popular she was and some… Carly:Wow. Bashi:… yeah, with newborns just going to her and saying, you know, can you help me? And her advice was amazing. Now she was the one who said to me this baby is not… she’s not putting on weight and she’s not well I can tell and I need you to go back and see a GP. And so I went back and saw by GP and then it was just this situation of, you know, the vomiting’s too extreme. And it was. Like she was by this point eating copious amounts of food during the day and then vomiting it all up through the night. Carly:Oh darlin’. Bashi:I know. And you know, no one… everyone just told me, oh, you know, raise her mattress and do this and do that, and none of it was working. It got to the point, you know you adapt right? Got to the point where I would stack like four sets of cot sheets next to her bed every night. Carly:Oh Bashi. Bashi:Yeah. Carly:My gosh. Bashi:I know. Carly:And they normalise this so much that you were doing this for… Bashi:It went on for months. Carly:Oh my gosh. Oh my heart. That’s so rough. Bashi:I know. And you know, the thing is by the time she was 13 months she was still the weight she was at 6 months. So she’d gained and lost it all. Carly:Oh Bashi. Bashi:And then I started to realise there was something really wrong. She was losing hair. She hadn’t really… she couldn’t really sit up for very long. And she was… she was with me all day. I was very protective of her because I was quite worried about her. And every time she had the flu it was really quite, like or she had a cold, she was sick for long periods. So we did all of the usual, you know, the blood tests, the urine tests, the samples, and by this time she was out of her cot and next to me. So by the time she was about 8 to 9 months old she was next to me all night. And the one thing I would do is just feed her all night. [20:00] Because I noticed that when I was there with her – and some nights she didn’t want to, she got too hot and she wanted to be back in her cot and that’s when the throwing up was quite intense – but if she had her mouth open and she was breastfeeding or just, you know, just feeding on and off through the night, she wasn’t so bad. And so we did adapt and adjust, and then finally the blood tests were not revealing anything and she was declining. And we got to the point where, you know, I was told by emergency services – because we were there all the time with the vomiting – and they said, oh look, the next time she has a nasal infection or, you know, she’s sick we’ll probably have to keep her here. So they were more or less trying to suggest that she was… there was this… there’s this condition that affects babies at around 13 months, or 12 to 13 months where apparently they just start deteriorating. It’s a brain disease of some sort. Anyway, I think we tried… Carly:My gosh. Bashi:I know. Carly:You must have panicked at that point. Bashi:I was losing… I was in despair. And then everything from then, of course, Child Services contacted me because they wanted to come and keep an eye on me. So, we agreed that every Friday they’d come and have lunch. Because I was saying things like, you know, this baby eats all day. I’m telling you she eats all day and now, but then she’s throwing up. Of course, no one believed me, right? So, I was very keen for Child Services to come and sit with us and watch, you know, what was happening. And then it just so happened that we went to the neonatologist who had been seeing her for a while, and he was getting quite frustrated. He said to me, you know, I just think you should wean her and put her on a bottle. And I said to him, she doesn’t like it. She doesn’t want it. And… and he was like, well, you just have to make her. You know, like grow up kind of thing. And I thought, eh. Oh why, you know? Anyway, next time we went to see him, by this time my baby was phobic about white coats. So when he… when she saw him she started screaming and wriggling because, you know, they have to pierce their bladder from outside. Carly:Oh my gosh. Bashi:To get samples. Yeah. And.. Carly:Oh, poor baby. Bashi:Four or five blood samples, you know, and I’m holding her down. It was just awful experiences. And they were saying to me, oh… So he was sort of saying, you know, she hasn’t improved. What are you doing? And then I said, look, she’s… I’m sorry that she’s wriggling and she’s screaming at you. She’s not well. She’s had a cold again and, you know. And I said, and she’s snoring quite intensely, so I assume she’s very congested. And that’s when his head popped up and he was like, wait a minute. She’s snoring? And I said yeah. You know. She’s snoring. How do you know that? And of course I didn’t want to say to him because she’s in my bed next to me all the time and I watch over her all the time, you know? So I said, oh, you know, she’s… she’s in… we brought the cot into our room. And he said, well, babies don’t snore. I have to refer you to an ENT specialist. And so sure enough we then had a sleep study and she had acute sleep apnoea. Acute. She could have… Carly:And so… Bashi:… died in her sleep at any time in those 16 months. By this time it was 16 months. Carly:Oh my gosh. Bashi:Yeah. Carly:And so the vomit… the vomiting tied into the sleep apnoea? Or how… how did that work? Bashi:Yeah, that’s what... What happened was that… so according to the sleep study she’d never slept more than two minutes in her life. And she… her heart would stop beating every ten minutes because of the oxygen deprivation. And her diaphragm would basically pump at her heart to get it going again, and that meant that she had to empty… she woke up nauseous and threw up. Carly:Oh my gosh Bashi. I’m like literally, I’ve just got goosebumps. Bashi:Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And it was… it was very drawn out… Carly:Your poor baby. Bashi:… when they did the studies, yeah. And, you know, she was fighting to survive. Absolutely fighting. Yep. And you know, the solution was so straightforward. She had, you know, really enlarged adenoids and tonsils, and that was probably part of the, you know, of some early infection that had never left her. So they removed that. The other thing which we hadn’t realised is that because of all the repeated infections and the congestion her ears were completely glued. So she… and she wasn’t. She wasn’t talking because she was almost 95% deaf. And, of course, we were very worried about that window, right? Of not being able to hear. We didn’t know how long it had been. But fortunately for us, and probably the longest part of the surgery was the fact that they had to flush her ear canals out and that took a long time. And then her recovery was extraordinary. Like, I’m telling you it was extraordinary. Yeah. She slept a lot after that. I can tell you that. [25:00] Carly:I bet she did. The poor little darling. Bashi:Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Carly:Oh my gosh. And to think, so can we just like… I’m just backtracking to the bit before you mentioned the snoring and he was just saying, oh, just wean her. Did he think that it was somehow behavioural or something then? Like was that what he was thinking, that there was like a link? Like what’s his reasoning there? Bashi:Well, it was quite extraordinary for a neonatologist to assume that like bottle feeding would put on her body weight better than breastmilk. Carly:Oh, so that… Bashi:He was basically assuming your breastfeeding is inadequate and you need to wean her properly off the breastfeeding, put her on bottle milk and, you know, make her eat more. And I was saying to him, she eats a ton of food. Like she used to eat… I used to cook two whole corn cobs and puree it, or sort of half mash it, and she’d eat those through one day. Carly:Yeah, wow. Bashi:So that would be basic. Then she’d eat sweet potato and she ate anything you put in front of her. That’s how hungry she was all the time. And then we just would go through this process through the night where she’d throw up most of it. Or every time she napped anyway she would just throw it up. Sometimes in the afternoon as well. And I’m talking large quantities of food. Like, you know. Carly:Oh, the poor, little darlin’. It must have been so distressing for both of you to be going through that repeatedly for so long. Bashi:It was. Carly:I’m just, yeah, that is intense. Now I’m just looking at our time. I can’t believe it. We’re already at the end of the first episode. Bashi:Oh wow. Carly:Is there any chance you’d be able to stick around so we can hear the rest of your story… Bashi:Of course. Carly:… in another episode? Bashi:Of course. Absolutely. Carly:Oh, you’re an abs… you’re an absolute gem, because I just have to hear how things turned out once you got her well. Bashi:Okay. Carly:So, but before we finish this episode off then, would you be able to share a tip for our listeners? Maybe something you wish you’d heard as a first time mum? Bashi:Do you know I think nobody said to me just go with the flow. Expect nothing. You know? And you don’t need stuff, you need – I mean I say stuff – but you need people around you. So you need someone who is emotional support and someone who just gives you unconditional physical support. So somebody who’s willing to come around and, you know, just put things away around the house a little bit, or spend a couple of hours with your other children, just so you can just say I got this. I got this, but all it involves is kissing my baby, holding them, feeding them and getting a lot of sleep together. And you know what? I… I have to say, and co-sleeping with my baby saved her life. Carly:Oh mate, I could… so once again just got goosebumps again. I’m just picturing your little darlin’ and I’m so glad you had her close through all those nights when it must have been… ooph, so very rough for both of you. Thank you so much for sharing that pearl of wisdom. I’m sure it will help many people listening along. And I’m really excited to have you back for next week’s episode as well so we can hear how this all turned out. Bashi:Wonderfully. Carly:But thank you for coming along to the show. I’ll be sure to drop your links for the Human Rights in Childbirth International Lawyers’ Network into the show notes. You’ve also, there’s Facebook pages for that as well, isn’t there? Bashi:Yes, we have a HRIC Facebook page. Yep. That would be great. Yeah. Carly:Brilliant. Yeah, and I’ll also do your B W Law link as well, just in case anyone actually wants to get in contact with you professionally as well. So thanks for coming along for this episode Bashi. Bashi:Pleasure. The second part of Bashi's story Carly: I really hope you enjoyed the podcast today the information we discussed was just that information only it is not specific advice if you take any action following something you've heard from our show today it is important to make sure you get professional advice about your unique situation before you proceed whether that advice is legal, financial, accounting, medical or any other advice. Please reach out to me if you do have any questions or if there's a topic you'd really like us to be covering and if you know somebody who'd really benefit from listening to our podcast please be sure to pass our name along also check out our free peer support group the beyond sleep training project and our wonderful website www.littlesparklers.org. 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