As the world embraces the news of George and Amal Clooney’s twins, there’s someone closer home in the UAE who is expecting her second set of twins.
Celina Jaitly, Bollywood actress and goodwill ambassador with the United Nations Human Rights Commission, is in her second trimester and isn’t daunted by the prospect of looking after four children. Her boys are now five years old now and she’s expecting to deliver in October again.
“For the first weeks we had no idea that we were carrying twins again. At first, they weren’t visible on our first ultrasound… but it came as a pleasant surprise to us. We were shocked at first, but we felt truly exhilarated, once we overcame the shock,” said Jaitly in an interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
Jaitly is married to Dubai-based hotelier Peter Haag.
For those wondering at the double triumph/trouble, the history of conceiving multiples run in both their families.
“In my family it is very normal to have naturally conceived triplets, too. So expecting twins is OK, because imagine it could have been five kids at one go,” said Jaitly with a laugh.
Her Austrian husband and his family aren’t strangers to naturally conceived twins either.
“So the Austrian side is as responsible as our Indian side,” said Jaitley.
Laughter comes easily to the former Miss India and in our chat she comes across as a person who doesn’t let anything or any twin overwhelm her.
We spoke to her about gearing up for multiples, breastfeeding and body shaming — the fruits that spring up after a painful labour (pun intended). Jaitly, who made her Bollywood debut with the 2003 thriller Janasheen and topped it up with comedies such as No Entry and Golmaal Returns, spills some of the life lessons she learnt along the way.
While they may say there’s no manual for parenting, Jaitley — who has thrived after raising her twin boys — is a good reference point for mothers of multiples. Here are the key takeaways from our candid chat with the actress who’s working on a book about pregnancy and childcare…
1. Books (related to pregnancy) can be your best friends during that phase
“I am an avid reader and I always found immense comfort in reading books related to pregnancy. I am pretty old school and I still love reading tonnes and tonnes of material rather than newsletters in my inbox. And mine is a unique case because I am expecting twins for the second time and that’s very rare. The agonies and ecstasies that every mother experience may be unique, but you will find a lot that will resonate with you in books on that subject.”
2. Tough it out even if you are struck down by terrible nausea in the first trimester
“Oh my god, my first trimester was very challenging. I had to be taken to the emergency for dehydration because I was suffering from severe nausea. But once I hit the end of first trimester, the nausea magically vanished. It’s like magic. So hang in there. I promise it will get better with time. Now, I am back to being my energetic self.”
3. Organise, organise, organise
“One of the biggest challenges that you face as a new mother is that you are constantly overwhelmed. The key to get over it is to organise yourself well. There’s no shortcut to good organisations. If you have a sibling or a toddler to take care of, then it’s your only way out.”
4. Don’t be afraid to seek help
“One of the biggest forces that helped me survive my first twin pregnancy and my second is the unstinting support of my husband. It’s very important for our partner to be involved in the parenting. After the birth of our twins, I got back to work, but we did everything by ourselves together. Be sure to be on the same page when it comes to parenting, scheduling and child care. If that’s sorted, then your life will be a lot smoother. We also got tremendous help from my mother and Peter’s family too.”
5. Post-partum depression is a reality
“I did experience a low phase, but it wasn’t depression that needed treatment. But that low phase made me realise that this was an important issue that shouldn’t overlooked as a passing phase. You have to get treatment.”
6. Be prepared for a lifestyle change
“It’s going to be heart-breaking to say goodbye to my Range Rover. But we need a car that’s safe, durable and can accommodate four babies at the back. Although I love my car, it will not fit two extra car seats and there’s no room for strollers, so I will have to give it up. Parenting can bring a full change to your lifestyle.”
7. Body shaming is cruelty and shouldn’t be encouraged
“There are horrible men who come up to me at airports and ask: ‘can you please teach my wife how to look like yourself?’. Those men are immediately reprimanded with: ‘What have you done in the last few years? Look at yourself, she has given birth to a child.” Exerting pressure and body shaming new mothers is unpardonable. All you mothers out there, ask yourself three questions: Do you love yourself?, Am I eating right? Am I doing justice to my body? If you haven’t ticked any of those boxes, then just work on it. Don’t work on it because somebody else tells you to, do it because you want to.”
8. Breastfeeding should be encouraged
“Breastfeeding is very important for your baby and the mother. According to new research, it protects a mother from cervical cancer and has tremendous health benefits. I breastfed for six months and I intend to do the same too. The antibodies and immunity that you build lasts for a lifetime.”
9. Sexist attitudes towards new mothers taking a break should be stopped
“When a female actress takes a sabbatical, like the way I did by moving to Dubai and staying away from the limelight or the fancy frills that come with the wonderful job of acting, she’s then asked question about when she will make a comeback. But if a hero or a mainstream actor does the same to prepare for a movie, nobody questions it or terms his next project as a comeback. Now, many men in the acting industry take a break to spend time with their kids and it’s completely OK. But I wish the protocols — which is different for men and women — are broken. I haven’t gone anywhere to make a comeback.”
10. Follow your dreams
“I am working on my book on childcare and pregnancy and I don’t [want] anybody to ghost-write it. Writing a book doesn’t happen overnight. This has been my precious child in the making for the last five years. But I want it to happen organically. Motherhood and the changes that come with it are universal. And I hope through my book, I can make a mother or a primary caregiver’s life easier.”