Kanika Chadda Gupta

Parenting

Our First Family Photo shoot

We had our first family photo shoot when our twins turned 7-months-old. This was a special day for us since if felt like our life had come full circle. Sunil and I actually met on a photo shoot. We both submitted our headshots (he sent in his Friendster profile photo. Throwback to 2005!) for a casting call for Indian models in New York. Don’t get me wrong, neither of us had aspirations of walking the ramp in Paris, we just wanted to have some professional photos of ourselves. We were both selected and assembled at renowned wedding photographer Jay Seth‘s studio with a group of other young working professionals. We were told the photos were going to feature in Bharat Matrimony’s new spin-off magazine, Desi Match, and as billboards for Khazana boutique in New Jersey. Jay picked Sunil and I out of the lot and said, “you two are going on my cover.” We went in to hair and make up (by the one and only Sushmita Patel), and I donned a pink and gold wedding lehnga and Sunil a gold sherwani. Here we were, pretending to be a newly-married couple on the very first day we met.

I laughed nervously, but Sunil put me at ease. He whispered, “Relax. Let’s have fun with this.” He still has a unique way of making me feel secure and bringing lightness to any situation. 

 

After the shoot, Sunil and I went our separate ways. We reconnected five years later and went on our first date. We reminisced about our shoot and then just hit it off as we talked endlessly about growing up as Indian Americans, our love for all things Punjabi from bhangra to rajma chawal, and our take on what truly matters to us in life. We married (for real this time!) in 2013 and of course Jay was our wedding photographer of choice. We enjoyed our newlywed years, and had our twins, Krish and Suhana in 2017.

Jay was so thrilled for us and said when the kids are sitting up on their own, let’s do a big Gupta family shoot. It turned out so well. They get it from their mama and papa! Here are a few of our favorite shots.

 

Here are a few things I learned when it comes to photographing kids:

  1. Be prepared. Pick out their outfits, backdrops, accessories (headbands, sunglasses) the night before so you have seamless transitions from one outfit or location change to the next. 
  2. Let there be light. We shot indoors with natural light and no flash (this is distracting for the kiddos and they will inevitably blink). We also shot photos outside around 11:30 when the sunlight was not too harsh, yet they still got to rock their little sunnies.
  3. Stick to your schedule. All kids are happiest in the early morning after they’ve had their first feed of the day. We blocked 10:00 – 12:00 pm for our shoot which was perfect timing. Their tummies were full from their 8:00 am feed, we gave them a bath, and they were active and energetic by the time we were rolling. They got a bottle at 11:00 am at the halfway point and then we went outside for the second half of the shoot. As soon as we came back home, they were put down for their nap and they slept soundly. Whew! 
  4. Play with your built-in backgrounds. Our best shots were on our bed with colorful throw pillows in the background. I used a grey wood vinyl backdrop I found on Etsy which we hung from the foot of the bed and had them pose on our shag rug. These photos looked like they were in studio! We also captured the babies on their play mat, doing what they do best – jumping, bouncing, and giggling. 
  5. Do a monkey dance. In order to get your little ones to look squarely into the camera, you’ll have to entertain them! Use jingling toys, rattles, bells and shake them near the camera lens. Their gaze will be fixed on the toy and if you sing, dance, shake, rattle, & roll, you’ll get them to give you their million dollar smiles.

Doing a photo shoot around the 7-month-mark is best since babies are able to sit up on their own and even crawl around a bit, but aren’t walking and getting into everything. We loved this phase of their lives and are going to cherish these photos! Thank you Jay Seth Photography for your matchmaking skills, and capturing these family memories.

Mompreneur Spotlight – Rupa Parekh

 

I am always on the lookout for educational, cultural toys to teach my kids about our Hindu religion in a fun, captivating way. When I attended Brown Girl Magazine‘s “Mimosas with Mom” event in New York (thanks for hosting Trisha Sakhuja!), I was thrilled to meet fellow mompreneur Rupa Parkeh. Her company, Umani (named after her daughter Uma and son Niko), creates beautifully-crafted, simple learning tools that introduce our Indian culture to new audiences with modern flair. Rupa told me about her first product launch, the Jai Jai Hooray flash card set, which showcases the nine deities of Hinduism in a SAY-SEE-LEARN framework enabling anyone to be a teacher or student. I thought the concept was brilliant and bought a set for my twins.

Rupa and I stayed in touch as she relocated from New York to Houston and she included me in a focus group for her next launch, The Goddess Power Tower.

Wasn’t that inspiring? I’ll give you a second to wipe your tears and blow your nose. This commercial pulls at my heartstrings too and makes me think of all the strong women in my life, especially my nani who taught me to follow my sanatan dharma, or “the right way to live.” The Goddess Power Tower poignantly conveys how each goddess in Hindu mythology is a mother (Mata), and is synonymous with virtues we should aspire to, like Sarawasti Mata symbolizes wisdom and Durga Mata is a fearless warrior. We all face mom guilt from time to time and underestimate ourselves and our abilities, but the truth is, we are real-life goddesses and make an impact on our children in so many ways.

 

I was honored to be a part of Jai Jai Hooray’s #SheisaGoddess campaign where nine women were featured to represent the nine goddesses. Rupa chose me as her real-life Parvati, the ambassador of motherhood and fertility; You can read more about it here and check out photos here.

I am so pleased to have met Rupa and convinced her to share her story on Musings of a Mompreneur. ;) Originally from Buffalo, she attended Northwestern for undergrad and earned her MBA from Wharton. Her husband Emre is Turkish American. Rupa has been working in tech, design, and innovation for the past 15 years and aims to help children, and adults alike, learn and play better.

What does motherhood mean to you?

Being a mother to Uma and Niko has been such an honor and blessing. They are growing up to be such clever, funny and creative kids. Our first and second thoughts nearly everyday that we wake up as parents are: “wow, I hope we make them proud” and “how long before they realize we have no idea what we’re doing?!”

When did you become a mompreneur?

I come from a family of business people. We talked about customers and clients at dinner; we geek out about ads. Everyone in my family is sort of a sucker for good marketing.

Umani and Jai Jai Hooray was inspired by the family I’m starting to grow. Both my husband and I are connected to our culture, but we’re not experts. It’s an overwhelming feeling to have children and suddenly you’re supposed to be a teacher of language, customs, and heritage. When Uma was a baby, I searched for tools, games and activities that were both engaging and well designed. I couldn’t find much. Not about India nor any other culture. We saw a gap in the market and went for it. Umani was born.

You believe that every day is Mother’s Day and designed the Goddess Power Tower to serve as a reminder.

Absolutely. Moms, by definition, can do more! It’s astonishing to think about the amount of thinking, feeling, planning, loving, dreaming and nurturing a mom can do all at once.

Celebrating mom just one day out of the year isn’t enough! We thought it would be really fun to create a toy that makes it easier for families to treasure mama. Afterall, for little ones, mom is the center of their universe–she IS a goddess. (Unfortunately, I think that wears off fast as they become tweens!)

Our favorite part of the Goddess Power Tower is the poem that builds when you stack each block. It’s an ode to mommy that should resonate with any family, regardless of their cultural background.

We loved your mom Rashmi Parkeh’s feature. How did your mom inspire you to start your business?

My mom started her small business when I was 6 months old. She is a force of nature–at 69 she has more energy than I think I will ever have. She is also our families culture keeper. Even before we had children, I always wondered, “how do I bottle up my mom and all of her tips and stories?” Umani and Jai Jai Hooray are a first step toward doing that.

Who is your inner Goddess?

Great question! What’s really cool about the Goddess Power Tower is that it brings to life that women have so many personas. On some days, I feel like a warrior (Durga) and other days I’m more calm and fluid (Ganga).

What are your hopes for Umani for the future?

Toys, books and media are simply not diverse–certainly not in the United States. We want to help families feel more culturally connected and we’re only just scratching the surface. We’ll be experimenting with digital learning and play in the coming year. Stay tuned!

What are your top tips for mothers and mompreneurs.

  1. Be patient with yourself. The chips are unfortunately still stacked against moms so we have to create our own opportunities AND set our own pace.
  2. Get better at vocalizing what you need and want in real-time. With your colleagues, boss, spouse, friends–be transparent about what you’re feeling, what you need and what could help you. Moms are optimizers not festerers!
  3. Make time for date night, girls time or solo sanctuaries. If we’re lucky, life is a marathon. Newborn and toddler years are exhausting. Don’t burn out when you’ve just begun!

 

My First Mother’s Day

Dear Krish and Suhana,

It’s because of you, I’m a mother. Unlike the other facets in my life from my career to how I maintain our household, I thought I could plan exactly when I wanted to take on this role, but the universe had different plans and you took us by surprise. These three months have been the most fulfilling in all our lives. You have given us newfound purpose and the will to keep striving, the intention to be kind human beings, and hope for a brighter future. 

I still remember the day I surprised your Papa with the news that I was pregnant. It was our 3-year wedding anniversary and we were on our way to Cape May, New Jersey. I kept this big secret the entire 3.5-hour car ride. When we got to the lovely bed and breakfast on the beach, I surprised him with a card and a small box. I told him to turn on his phone and record the moment. This wasn’t unusual since we recorded the moment he proposed to me too. When he opened the box, he found a ring of plastic baby keys. You see, Papa keeps many spare keys at home just in case we have house guests and he gives them a pair so they can truly feel at home. In my card I wrote, “Don’t worry. I already made spare keys for our new addition.” He was ecstatic. We hugged and cried and basked in what was to come.

Ten weeks later, we went to our first ultrasound appointment. The technician wanted to make sure there was a steady heartbeat. “Sounds good.” She said. “Um, wait a minute, I hear something else. There are two heartbeats. You’re having twins!” She brought in our doctor to take a second look and lo and behold, she was right. We stared at each other in the dark room in total shock. I can still hear the cadence of the heartbeats in my head. We’re going to be a family of four! A few weeks after that, we found out that we were having a boy and a girl. “We EACH get a clone??!” We were so excited.

I took my pregnancy in stride. I didn’t complain once. I wanted you both so badly and wanted to be strong from the get go. We kept the fact that we were expecting twins our little secret. Part of me wanted to protect you against the evil eye of others and another part was just nervous as hell at how things would pan out. On the day of your delivery, I was alone at home. At 3:00 am, my water broke. Papa was on the west coast in Seattle for work. We thought we had at least a month to go so agreed it wasn’t a big deal if he traveled, especially since he doesn’t travel often to begin with. I called him in a sweat. “Jaan, my water just broke.” He couldn’t believe it, “You’re kidding!” and then quickly got into problem-solving mode. “Ok. Now what?” I said we should call the on-call doctor, then Dada & Dadi to take me to the hospital, and then Nana & Nani so they could drive from Maryland to New Jersey. Everything progressed like clockwork. It was a rainy night in January, which reminded me of Lord Krishna’s birth and how his father Vasudeva waded through the river during a torrential storm to leave him with his dear friends Nanda and Yashoda in Gokul. He and his wife Devaki made the ultimate sacrifice for their son. That is why we named you Krish. Suhana, we came up with your name because it’s similar to your dad’s – Sunil. Anyway, I digress. Dada and Dadi drove me the hospital, I walked right up to the maternity floor and when the doctor did a sonogram, she said I was contracting. I couldn’t feel a thing. She said, “We have to operate on you within an hour. Baby A is head down, Baby B is breached. We’ll be doing a C-section.” Monu masi was by my side by then and said she would scrub in. I was rolled into the OR, had an epidural (which was the most painful thing ever!), and soon after felt calm since I was numb from the waist down. The nurse asked me what I wanted to hear on Spotify and I told her to play Jagjit Singh bhajans. “J-A-G-J-I-T…” I spelled it out for her. Another nurse said we could do a video chat with Papa, so Monu opened up Google Hangouts and called him. She panned the phone so he could see the 2 doctors and 10 nurses hovering over me, the curtain that demarcated the surgery, and my smiling face (in my silly hospital gown and blue cap). I was feeling drained from the series of events and asked the doctor, “Will I be able to sleep?” She responded, “It’s going to go by fairly quickly sweetie.” As the song, “Hey Govinda, Hey Gopala” resonated the room, we immediately heard crying. Krish, you were out at 7:24 am. Two minutes later, we heard Suhana’s cries. That was it. Monu Masi squeezed my hand and we both welled up with tears. All of our lives were forever changed.

Your Papa took the first flight out and got to the hospital around 6:00 pm that day. He was in awe when he saw you both. When I held you skin to skin, you two held hands on my chest and ever so slightly moved your tiny fingers. It was the most beautiful sight. Thankfully your Papa and I have photographic memories; We can recall every instant since your birth. We are so thrilled to be your parents and feel humbled that we get a chance to learn and grow with you day by day.

Happy 1st Mothers Day to you, my sweet children.

Love always,

Mummy 

How to Soothe a Crying Baby

 

Hearing your little one cry can be absolutely heartbreaking and can leave you feeling helpless, confused, and just plain down and out. If you’ve already checked out the obvious reasons for crying (hungry, dirty diaper, cold or hot, sleepy), and there aren’t any other factors at play like a fever or dehydration, then fear not! I’ve come across some easy ways to calm your baby down. The idea is to recreate a semblance of the womb. That was your baby’s happy place. Take him back there and show him that he’s safe and sound. 

  1. The 5 S’s. In the bestseller, The Happiest Baby on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp uncovers the 5 S’s to soothing a baby: 1) swaddle, 2) side or stomach position, 3) shush, 4) swing, and 5) suck. Each kid prefers a different combination of these tactics, but believe me, they all work. Read the book. It’s a miracle worker.
  2. A warm bath. My babies love bath time. They are mesmerized by the faucet of flowing water and are so blissful when I pour warm water over their bare tummies. Just like us adults, they feel relaxed after a bath and are calmer when you follow up with a feed or putting them down to sleep.
  3. Skin to skin. Babies want to feel close to you and much like their first few days of life, skin to skin time works wonders long after infancy. Remove your baby’s clothing (leave his diaper on along with a cap if it’s cold) and place him gently on your chest with his arms and legs in a froggy position. Not only does skin to skin provide warmth, it helps regulate your baby’s temperature, heart rate, and even boosts breast milk production for mom. Read more about the benefits here. Daddy and other loved ones can do skin to skin too. Babies can never get enough!
  4. Sing. Sing to your little one. I watched a Ted Talk called “What Babies Learn Before They’re Born” where speaker Annie Murphy Paul explains that a baby learns to identify his mother’s voice before he’s born. Singing songs that you sang during your pregnancy will sound familiar and nostalgic and might just be what they need to hear.
  5. White noise. Bookmark this YouTube link, White Noise for 10 hours, stat! It claims to help colicky babies calm down. I play it for my twins and it puts them in a trance. It’s hypnotizing. I believe it’s because this whirring sound is what they heard when they were in the womb, and it causes them to reset. 

Over time, you’ll find that your babies become easier to read. Above all else, always trust your gut. You know your baby’s needs better than anyone else.

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