Kareena Kapoor: I think it’s nice for every woman to know that things are as normal for me as it is for her
“We women place so much pressure on ourselves – we want to do it all. But everyone needs a little help. Take it.” The queen of Bollywood and now mom-of-two, Kareena Kapoor Khan, has universal advice for a universal experience. Celebrity or not, nothing really prepares a woman for pregnancy. The unexpected novelty of it is the grand equaliser here.
Penned with Aditi Shah Bhimjyani, Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Pregnancy Bible (published by Juggernaut Books, August 2021), covers aspects of being pregnant which will make you grim and grin. A host of experts add weight to the reassuring and no-nonsense celebrity-pregnancy narrative.
The Telegraph Online caught the new mother between naps for a quick jaw about babies and books.
What motivated you to write the “ultimate manual for moms-to-be”?
I think we were missing an all-in-one, really comprehensive book on pregnancy for Indian moms. I remember I read a few What to Expect type of American / British guides online when I was pregnant with Taimur, and while these were all excellent resources, Indian doctors and Indian families have their own approaches. Plus, Indian moms have their own issues. This book provides almost every bit of information that we could think of – down to at what week you need which vaccine! Self-care, nutrition, fitness, blood tests, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, what happens at the hospital, shopping for the baby, buying maternity clothes for yourself, what you need for the nursery and how to modify your bedroom for the baby if you are sharing, why you’d need a C-section; this book is as exhaustive as we could make it just so that no new mom feels lost in this nine month whirlwind.
Every pregnancy comes with its own ride. And mine wasn’t spectacularly easy or glamorous – as much as a celebrity pregnancy might look from the outside. I think it’s nice for every woman to know that things are as normal for me as it is for her.
Before writing the book, you decided you wouldn’t hide anything. But when you got around to writing about all the hard parts of being pregnant, was it difficult to pen the words or even revisit those moments?
I wanted to be honest. What’s the point in making it all sound rosy? I wouldn’t say it was difficult. It just felt like another time altogether. I was another person – a belching, burping, pizza-guzzling pregnant woman with big thighs and swollen ankles. Taimur’s pregnancy was easy; the weeks post delivery were extraordinarily hard though. With Jeh, I was sick through most of the pregnancy, but I was a more confident and hands-on mom when it came to handling him.
I remember when I undressed in front of the mirror a few days after I had Taimur, I was broken, puffy, scarred, fat, exhausted. I was depressed that I was struggling to breastfeed him. That feeling was so… I don’t know … alienating. And it’s hard not to fall down that slippery slope. I know this rough post-delivery phase hits many women very hard. But I powered through. I kept my eyes on the prize, as they say! I beat myself up over breastfeeding too. I didn’t lactate right away with Taimur. I recall those nights, sitting on a chair, my nurse or mom standing over me, wondering where the milk was. I shudder when I think of those days. But I know it will strike a chord for many women who have also been there.
Your book is both a medical and emotional handbook for pregnant women. While all your information came from personal experience, did you have to talk to other women to gain insight into what a wide cross-section of expectant mothers needed to know? If so, how many women did you talk to and what were the most common concerns?
In this book, I have presented the personal experiences of my 40 weeks, childbirth, my post-delivery phase, shopping, planning the nursery, and my nutrition, self-care and fitness routines (or the lack thereof) where applicable! But, with all of that, you will also find a strong research-backed voice that presents all the potential information that a to-be mom may want to know. Besides my own pregnancies, most of my closest friends and family, even my editor (Chiki Sarkar) and co-writer (Aditi), have all been through multiple pregnancies. This is the fruit of our combined experiences and we also spoke to multiple experts across every field including specialists who work with me like nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar and fitness coach Namrata Purohit.
And when it comes to the most common concerns, breastfeeding woes and fears of the actual childbirth come out on top. There are also so many common pregnancy complications with moms, like spotting, hypertension, gestational diabetes, haemorrhoids and reflux. When does it happen, what you can do, what are the red flags -- this book has it all. I can go on! EDD, LMP, SPD, NST, quadruple marker – sounds like an exam? I am only naming a handful of things you need to consider through your nine months! Then there’s 4D vs 3D vs 2D vs Doppler. When do you take the TT shot? Do you need maternity pants and when should you shop for your baby? Will you hurt your baby if you have sex? Can you work, can you drive, can you bend down and pick up a ball? Pregnant women have just so many questions – our heads are full; and this book has attempted to cover it all.
What books were you reading during your pregnancy with Jeh, both for information as well as to unwind?
I am just going to come right out and admit I had no time to myself when I was pregnant with Jeh. We were in the middle of the pandemic, I had a mischievous little toddler in tow, I was very nauseous for weeks on end, I had low BP and exhaustion, I worked until my eighth month and I moved homes towards the end of my term. My days were overwhelmed. Back in the day, I read a few articles online when I was pregnant with Taimur, but nothing heavy duty. I wish I had a one-stop-shop book back then; there are many things I would have been better prepared for.
Did Taimur know he was going to be an older brother? What was his reaction, when he was told about the baby and when he saw him for the first time?
I remember introducing Taimur to the concept of his to-be sibling by explaining to him how he came from my tummy and now there was another little baby brother or sister in there. I asked him to tell me what he felt. He was definitely excited. He was only sad I couldn’t carry him for the longest time. He was thrilled when we came home with Jeh. He didn’t feel any sibling rivalry -- at least he has not yet! He can’t wait to play “chor-chor” with Jeh. He will lie in bed with him and try to read to him. We never allowed Taimur to feel less important or excluded, which is why I think this was effortless for him. And this is just about me. In the book, we have also included paediatrician-backed advice on preparing your child for the arrival of a sibling with solid tips and great dos and don’ts.
You said the pregnancies were very different but how different are the two brothers in temperament?
I can already tell my two sons are going to be very different. Tim looks like Saif and he was a quiet baby at birth. But he is outgoing and flamboyant, quite a bit like me. Jeh looks more like me and he was feistier at birth – his screams resounded through the OT. But he seems more intense and quieter by temperament, like Saif.
Since the two pregnancies were in fact very different, what was most disturbing for you, while being pregnant with Jeh?
My low BP, my next-level exhaustion and the fact that I was nauseous for the better part of 18 weeks. I would beg my doctor for anti-nausea medication. I was older of course during this pregnancy and I really feel that made a difference.
You moved home less than a month before delivery and heroically showed up for a photoshoot in your eighth month. Looking back now, is there anything you would go back and change, or do differently?
As I’ve said in the book, you needn’t go as far as I did! My sister (Karisma Kapoor) said that she’d sometimes cry about me in worry because she felt I was really overdoing it! I like to push myself, I love my work, I wanted my family to be settled in our new home before I delivered -- I wanted to do it all. So, maybe I wouldn’t go back and do anything differently. Maybe I’d slow down a little bit. But that’s just me.
Did you have the time to binge-watch any movies and shows while pregnant? If so, which ones had you hooked?
When I was pregnant with Taimur, I was out and about -- travelling the world, working, partying, eating out. With Jeh, we were locked down but I had my hands full with my film and brand commitments, moving homes and being pretty low on energy. I think beyond the most ordinary television scrolling, I didn’t have the bandwidth to focus on much. One show I really enjoyed was Schitt’s Creek.
You’ve mentioned Kegel exercises, perineal massages and Lamaze breathing as having been very helpful. What did you like about these?
I was dedicated to doing my Kegel exercises – I did 60 counts every evening during both my pregnancies. But I have to admit I had no idea about perineum massages! We included it in the book when we were doing our research. Eventually, it was a moot point for me given that I had two Cs; but, yes, I can see why perineum massages can be helpful for vaginal births. And as for Lamaze, I honestly didn’t have time to do prenatal classes or practice Lamaze but I know from friends and family who have been through prolonged labour that patient and focused breathing can take you a long way.
You discovered you were pregnant with Taimur after signing up for Veere di Wedding, and then debated being part of the movie. Do you think women going back to work after having children, especially in a certain demographic, needs to be normalised in popular culture?
You know what motivated me to get my life back on track, to bite the bullet and get back to work after Taimur was born? (Besides of course that Veere di Wedding was kept on hold for me to return to it and for that I will always be grateful!) The fact that hundreds of women do it, globally, day after day. So can I. My work makes me happy. It makes me feel confident. My kids sense that. It is normal to feel guilty. I understand now how all women who return to work must ache for their little babies. But life is a balancing act. I don’t think my boys will love me less because I left them at home and went back to work.
The line that sums up the spirit of the book for us is, “There is nothing like doing what you want to do. I will have one kid at my hand and another in my lap. I will be a mom and I will go back to work. I will rock all of it.” And you’ve said this book is your third child, so which of your three kids has kept you up the longest, at night?
It will have to be Jeh. I have been so hands-on with him, despite the help I have had at home. I am a much more confident mother the second time around – I want to nurse him, change him, bathe him, carry him around; I want to do it myself. With Tim, I was practically on tenterhooks. I was nervous about him. Saif did a lot of the heavy lifting when it came to Tim.
(All photographs and captions are extracts from the Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Pregnancy Bible: The ultimate manual for moms-to-be, published by Juggernaut Books, August 2021)