In my last post, I forgot a vital piece of information that I should share. Before I even had an inkling I was pregnant and had just returned from Africa, I went for my usual reflexology massage in my favorite area of Beijing. I always made a point to ask for the same person when I went, which was at least twice a month, sometime more often. I developed quite a rapport with my masseuse and I came to consider her a friend. Anyway, it was my first massage since I had been back from Africa and my masseuse started working on my feet and asked me right away if I was pregnant. I laughed and said no. Joke was one me. On my next visit, I confessed that I had indeed discovered I was pregnant and got a look from the masseuse that said, “I told you so”. She said she knew because the bones in my feet felt different. Later, I found out that pregnancy hormones do make a woman’s bones soften and separate in preparation for birth.
Back to picking up where I left off in Part One.
After I found out I was pregnant and still in the throes of morning sickness, I had to make the Long March to my glucose test.
Not only did I have to get up very early that morning, I couldn’t eat anything until my glucose levels were tested. This test is a normal thing for expecting moms and I knew to expect to be starving. At this stage in my pregnancy, if I wasn’t throwing up, I was ravenous.
The bus and subway ride took and hour and a half during rush hour one weekday morning. It was an agonizing ride. Not only was I starving, I was nauseated and needed to lie down. But no, it was standing room only in a crowded subway car and the whole time I prayed that I didn’t ruin someone’s day.
All along the way I kept telling myself, “You’re a tough one!” “You can do it!”, until I came to the last stop. As I exited the train en masse I could tell my stomach had had enough. It was time to rebel.
My brain said to my stomach, “We’re almost there! Buck up! Be a man! Have self control!” To which my stomach said, “Bleh”.
The subway stations in the Beijing CBD (Central Business District) are very nice and clean places; shiny interiors and clean floors that make you feel as if you’re not in China. The thought of throwing up in a clean place like that, with about a thousand other people around, wasn’t my idea of starting off the day on a good note … for me or innocent bystanders. But the stomach does what it wants to and so I threw up. Thanks to my cat-like reflexes, I caught it by clapping my hand over my mouth and exited the subway station that way. As soon as I was outside I found a semi-private location, which means about 100 people around instead of a thousand, and did some quick maneuvering. With one fast swoop of the hand, while spitting at the same time, I managed not to get any throwup on my clothes. Then with one hand I took off my coat and sweatshirt, used my sweatshirt as a napkin, put my coat on, stuffed my sweatshirt in my bag and continued on my way.
Throughout my morning sickness, I left my mark on many a sidewalk and gutter in Beijing. My husband was a patient companion at those times as he tried to shield me from the curious eyes of people wondering why the strange American woman was hunched over the hedges on the side of the road.
I found Beijingers to be very accommodating and caring, especially when I lost my lunch in public … which was frequent. Nice subway workers even encouraged me to throw up on the shiny floor they had just mopped when I had to leap off a stop early on the line to head to the nearest bathroom. I came to find out that stop didn’t have a bathroom, and I would never have made it anyway. The comforting ladies told me that I wouldn’t feel sick forever and patted my back as I leaned over.
One thing I enjoyed was getting seats on buses and subways once I started to show. It was a great way to start conversations and practice Chinese. I also got perks that I wouldn’t have otherwise received, like whip cream added free on a smoothie or extra strawberries from the man with the horse drawn cart near our subway stop.
I think it came with assumption that since my stomach was larger, it meant I could fit more food in there. We went to dinner with some Chinese friends and the well meaning hosts refilled my bowl with pork and mushroom soup until I thought I would explode. I really did try to tell them I wasn’t hungry for more, but I was at a disadvantage. My limited language skills didn’t enable me to argue fluently in Chinese. So I let myself be mothered by the Aunties who knew it all about everything. They would always end their advice sermons by saying whatever they thought I should do was because it was best for the baby.
Our Chinese friends also often debated about whether or not I was going to have a boy or a girl. Each time I saw them, I would be looked over for any clues that would tell them what I was having. It was a matter of weekly discussion among our Chinese friends. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I hoped for a boy. My husband waffled back and forth between wanting a boy or a girl. Then the day finally came when we would find out. A good friend of ours came along with us to my appointment to handle the video camera. We wanted to make sure our friends and families back home were able to see the big reveal.
My OB, despite being trained in the States, was not allowed to tell me the sex of the baby or administer the ultrasound that would show it. This is because it is illegal for pregnant women in China to know the sex of their baby before it is born. It’s China’s way of attempting to stop girl infanticide, so that families get more boys … but the Chinese still find out by slipping their doctor a bribe much of the time. Because I was a foreigner I didn’t have to do that. I could know the sex of my baby, but a specialist had to be called in. It was very clear almost immediately that we were going to have a boy.
The rest is history. The very active baby that had hiccups the same time every day in utero and kicked me incessantly, came to be the baby that still had a lot of hiccups after being born and that still prefers to be on the go all the time. We’ll have some good stories to tell him when he’s older and asks where he comes from. “Why, you come from Africa”, we’ll say, “where only the best blond haired blue eyed Chinese babies come from”.
See Myra’s personal blog: The Interactive Expat