Human Interest, Humor

Pregnant in Beijing: Part One

by Myra Brien – The Calculated Adventurist

Before I start with the telling of my true story about being pregnant in Beijing, I will remind you of our life circumstances when we first arrived to Beijing in 2008. We had quit our jobs, sold our home and made off to China with two suitcases and a good nest egg in a CD account that had a great interest rate for three minutes before the recession hit. My husband got me to go by saying the China experience would be a year, but I knew deep down that since we sold or given away everything we owned, we probably wouldn’t ever be back for good. We had decided long before that we wouldn’t have kids. I valued my sleep too much. Besides,kids are expensive.

Fast forward to December of 2009. It was the dead of Winter in Beijing and we were eagerly anticipating the trip of a lifetime. Not only were we going to get out of Beijing for a couple weeks, we were getting to go to South Africa where it was Summer time. I had never craved warmth so much as I did when I lived through two Beijing Winters. Yes, I’m a sissy Californian who had never lived in cold temperatures and snow, so going to South Africa was a huge deal. I would see me some sun!

I’ll gloss over the details of South Africa since I think this is a family blog, but we wined, we dined, we went on an amazing safari and had too much fun.

Back to Beijing.

I got sick mid-January. No big deal. It’s Winter time, I thought. My husband was sick too. We both had a strange cold thing and felt sapped of all energy. It was around that time that we had plans to travel around China to see some friends. My husband and I were both feeling so drained and unwell, we considered canceling our trip. But we pressed on because our plane tickets were non-refundable.

As soon as we arrived at our friend’s apartment where we were to stay, I was an incredibly rude guest and went straight to bed. I got up only when needed. That’s the week when I started throwing up. No, I didn’t have a clue, in case you’re wondering.

When we were leaving to go back to Beijing, the flight was delayed and we stayed in the airport lounge with about thousand other Chinese people. I thought I was going to die. The smoking, the loud talking, the jostling all bothered me. When we got onto the plane, the meal that was served made my stomach churn and I choked down some plain rice and a Sprite.

Upon landing in Beijing, I not only lost my lunch, but probably a lung. I was still heaving as the rest of the passengers were exiting the plane. Then I was so ravenously hungry, all I could think about was eating something, anything. That’s when I had a inkling something wasn’t quite right. I ate two personal size pizzas from the Beijing Airport Pizza Hut in the car on the way home. It wasn’t good, but I needed some kind of food.

I distinctly remember talking myself out of taking the Pregnancy Train of thought that week as I lay on the couch. Looking back, I did it because I didn’t really know what to do. I also didn’t mention anything to my husband. As you can imagine, any unplanned pregnancy for a couple is going to be a complete shock, but an unplanned pregnancy while living in a foreign country is a shock on a completely different level. I didn’t even know where to get a pregnancy test.

After a few more days, I couldn’t take it anymore and marched myself into a store that’s similar to CVS here in the U.S. I had looked up “pregnancy test” in my Chinese dictionary and asked where they were in the store. I got blank stares from the girls who worked there. Even when I showed them the Chinese word for “pregnancy test”, they confusedly led me to the store’s selection of condoms. Then another employee came over to see what was going on. A crowd had gathered, as they often do in China, to help the foreigner. She knew what I was looking for and so I bought my test and went home.

The next morning, I took it. It was positive. (Of course, right? Otherwise there’d be no story). By then it was only confirming the dread I had been feeling for a week. And so, on my husband’s way out the door that morning as he was saying goodbye and I was prepping for another day on the couch, I chose to say “See you later. And by the way, I think I’m pregnant.” My husband’s response was a deadpan, “I’m leaving and not thinking about that now.”

Yeah, hindsight is 20/20. I would have done it differently had I been thinking straight. But hey, I was pregnant. I blame it on Pregnancy Brain.

We didn’t talk about it for another two days. It didn’t seem strange not to bring it up because I did take a cheap Chinese brand pregnancy test. Just that alone should mean there would be a large margin for error, but I wasn’t getting better. So, I broached the subject with my husband again and it was determined I would have to go buy more cheap Chinese brand pregnancy tests. I bought 2 more. Took them. Both positive. My husband and I stared at the tests sitting on the bathroom sink trying to wish the lines away.

“Maybe the lines will disappear”, said my Husband.

“Ummm, that’s not happening. OMG! What are we going to do?!” Then I started some hysterics that I will also blame on pregnancy.

After 10 minutes of sobbing while my husband verified I had taken the test correctly, I called an American friend who had lived in Beijing much longer and she was smuch wiser … she had three grown kids of her own. She knew exactly what to do and gave me the number of a Western OBGYN office. I was able to get in the next morning and she went with me. My doctor turned out to be a really cool Chinese woman who spoke English and had been trained in the States.

When I reminisce with my friend about that day, she still laughs when she says it was the best moment ever when I took out my 3 pregnancy tests and showed the doctor. I now realize that was pretty gross. A true professional, my doctor wasn’t fazed and said we should make sure because cheap Chinese pregnancy tests can’t be trusted. My instructions were to pee in a cup and wait 10 minutes for the results.

The doctor came back less than 5 minutes later, “You are so pregnant”.  Gulp.

My husband was supposed to be arriving any minute, but was running late, so my friend went out to meet him and told him the news. Looking back at all the crying and hugging going on at the time, I will never forget how wonderful my friend was. She was so positive and encouraging and it made all the difference. I went from being scared out of my mind to being cautiously excited … still scared, but not so much.

And so began our greatest adventure … to be continued in my next post.

See Myra’s personal blog: The Interactive Expat

About The Calculated Adventurist

My name is Myra and I lived in Beijing, China for two years. I consider moving to China one of the best decisions my husband and I ever made. I get many questions about our China experience and thought it would be fun to start a blog so everyone can have an idea about what it's really like to live there.


8 thoughts on “Pregnant in Beijing: Part One

  1. I know this post is from a few years ago, but it relates to me..we are moving to Beijing for 2 months and I am pregnant! My doctor wants me to have one appointment while over you happen to know if your OBGYN is still in practice and if so could I could the info? I have no idea how to find a Western OBGYN except by word of mouth! TIA!!

    Posted by Laurel | May 27, 2015, 8:26 am
  2. I always love your experiences of life in China, especially since we know of others who have moved there as you did. Helps me to appreciate the sacrifices you and others have made.

    Posted by ddh | March 28, 2012, 4:55 pm
  3. It’s like you intercepted my nightmare and posted it here! Using different names of course.

    Posted by April | March 27, 2012, 11:31 pm
  4. I love that you took the tests to the doctor! I’m sure it’s not the grossest thing she’s ever seen. :)

    Posted by Jonalyn | March 24, 2012, 11:12 am
  5. Great post Myra. We went through similar multiple testing, though the other way, as we were trying to get pregnant and were disappointed once or twice that we hadn’t hit the mark. I guess cheap Chinese pregnancy tests could work either way, but I’ve always assumed the margin for error was generally more false negatives than positives, as it would take something to make it change to a line, but potentially a poorly made (or expired) test wouldn’t react as it should.

    Either way, am looking forward to reading the next post!

    Posted by Ryan | March 24, 2012, 1:06 am
  6. Discovering you are pregnant is a turning point in anyone’s life – loved your description of the shock and denial you felt when you discovered your were expecting.

    Posted by Anonymous | March 22, 2012, 7:07 pm

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