This blog has been moved over to my main website. The link to it is here:
PREGGERS IN CHINA
I hope you'll continue to follow this story! If you'd like that, please feel free to click on the RSS feed for the blog specifically. Thanks so much for your support.
You may also be interested in a new blog that I've created called:
QUEER GIRL GETS MARRIED
That one gives a bit of the back story! ;-)
All the best,
Saturday, September 10, 2011
So, let’s talk about breasts.
I really had no idea.
I know I’ve mentioned before that my breasts are enormous and that I’ve wondered what random woman has inadvertently swapped breasts with me. I’ve asked people openly, “Who’s breasts are these? I mean, they’re not mine!” and this has made everyone laugh and openly acknowledge the mountainous masses on my chest rather than discreetly marvel at them, cameras on hand, like shy tourists do at the base of Mt. Everest.
Recently someone answered that question: their Little Spark’s.
The truth is that I like my (normal) breasts. Since about my mid-twenties when my weight regulated, I have been quite comfortable with my particular rack size. Not too big, not too small. Suitable for most clothing. I could push cleavage into place with the right undergarment equipment but I didn’t have to worry about its constancy. I was happy with their shape and their overall appearance. In other words, I didn’t fight with my breasts.
Now, however, I feel like a cartoon and I keep waiting for the giant pencil eraser tip (that’s the size of my head) to descend down into this page of life and erase these practical jokes that the cartoonist has drawn on my body. Anytime now!
I know that pregnancy hormones affect breast size. The thing is that I have seen other pregnant women who don’t seem to have been attacked by their breasts the way I have. When I know them and can launch into this discussion, as you can imagine I’m not getting the least bit of sympathy. This has been baffling. Do most women crave larger and larger breasts? Breasts that can topple large buildings? Breasts that need dump trucks for bras? Am I rare to have been satisfied with mine? I’d like to see them deal with breasts like these that are only slightly smaller than their baby bump and the aching shoulders and upper back that accompany them!
Speaking of upper back, mine’s not that broad. When I squeeze these monsters together as tightly as they can go, you can still tell that I actually have a small frame. (I think my upper back and my elbows are the last evidence of that, however. Everything else has puffed out like Popeye on spinach.) But try as I might, I can’t find a bra that will do that for them, and even if I could, I fear that the tray I’d create would be freakishly weapon-like and likely to inflict bodily harm on mid-size children if I turn suddenly in a public place.
People keep telling me this: “Just wait ‘til your milk comes in. They’ll get bigger!” This is no form of encouragement. What’s more, I am honestly not sure how that’s possible. These suckers (haha! pun intended!) are just slightly smaller than my skull size and there are two of them! Soon I’m going to look like a three-headed alien whose two superfluous heads have slipped slightly south of the neck!
It’s made me consider the letter “B” though. “B” is for breasts. “B” is for baby. When you look at my profile, it truly looks like the letter “B.” The upper curve of the letter is just a wee bit less enlarged than Little Spark’s bump, but it still reads clearly! I wonder if there was subconscious connection to this when the image of this letter was settled on in the alphabet…?
Things I’m missing related to these cartoon boobs:
· Sleeping on my stomach
· Walking quickly down stairs without injuring myself with the slap back
· Not having constant cleavage and the annoying stares it elicits
· All of my normal shirts, especially cute t-shirts
· Positive (rather than negative) nipple sensitivity
· Dancing comfortably
· The joke!
And then, after people have told me that my breasts will only get larger (so LOOK OUT!), they follow that up with the lovely reminder that after Little Spark has sucked them dry, they will be floppy and saggy and never recover. People are so naturally encouraging, aren’t they? I even had someone say to me recently that I shouldn’t complain that they feel like rocks because very soon they will feel like empty sacks. Then they added, “Sort of like large scrotum.”
As long as the cartoonist can just shave the weight of them down, I’ll be happy. Everything else can be aided and augmented through fashion.
“So, did you hear that hovering cartoonist? I know you’re out there! Get that eraser tip ready because I’m going to need some adjustments over here! I’m the one waving my arms from the white page on the drawing board in a mayday signal! Yeah, me over here, the one who keeps tipping over!!”
I think I figured out whose breasts these really are.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
In just a few short hours, I board a flight back to North America where I'll be until October 18th. I have a long tour that stretches from Ontario/Quebec into the US Midwest, down as far south as Virginia and back up through the New England states. This is the release of the first baby this year (my new album) and then I'll be coming home to Beijing to rest for my final two months before the release of my second baby this year: Little Spark.
As I type this, however, I'm sitting here propped up against pillows on the bed with a hot water bottle positioned at my lower back accompanying my new found daily companion: BACK PAIN. Only in the last week have I started to feel like my lower back was going to remove itself from my body and run away screaming into the distance like a figure on fire.
I've also been struggling with a minor bladder infection all week. Usually, I can douse these with cranberry juice, lots of rest, and lots of water, but my usual techniques for staying well have been thwarted by a compromised immune system (a la "Little Spark"), and so when my back started hurting I started to panic! I immediately imagined it must be a kidney infection and with my impending trip I wondered if I was going to need to delay departure, how I was going to deal with an infection without medication, etc. etc.
Turns out, I was just a panicked Mother. The back pain emerged because it was time for it to emerge. My considerable weight gain for my small frame, the fact that I'm nearly 6 months pregnant, and the fact that I've been doing a lot of computer work this week in preparation for the tour all are contributing factors to my back pain and just coincided with this mild bladder infection. It's not a kidney infection. There's no fever. I'm okay!
(In fact, I went to see the doctor just in case! They told me it was fine, but they did prescribe a mild antibiotic if it didn't clear up soon. Apparently this won't hurt the baby if I only take it for three days...)
So, I'm thinking I'm going to pack the hot water bottle and take it with me on this tour. I'll have a lot of long drives. I'm guessing my back isn't going to suddenly stop hurting from prolonged sitting. That experience starts with the 12-hour plane ride today!
The other thing that's been happening in the "aches and pains" department is cramping. At night! Yes, in the middle of the night I have been jolted awake twice. Once it was from a charlie horse in my left calf. I screamed as I woke to the pain and Guo Jian freaked out in his half-asleep state as I was speaking English (uhm, okay, swearing and exclaiming!) and he was yelling in Chinese and trying to help me with my leg when he had no idea what was going on! The word in Chinese for cramp is: choujin (抽筋, two 1st tones), but if you think I could remember that at five in the morning as I was trying to stretch and bounce and dance and rub my way through the charlie horse then you're very wrong about that! haha! That might be an early indication of what my language skills will be like during labour! Of course, it did eventually calm down and I was able to go back to sleep, but what a crazy experience.
The second time was a cramp in my toes, this time in my right foot that woke me up at about seven in the morning, a little too early for me! My toes felt like they were bent the wrong way and my foot seemed rubberized and unable to do anything about the strain in my toes. All I could do was get up, walk around, breathe my way through the cramp, and just will it to go back to normal. This time, I didn't scream so Guo Jian didn't wake up, but the experience was just as jolting for me.
After each cramping episode, I spent the whole day periodically stretching the strained areas and so far it hasn't happened again. I've also started to do research on back stretches and how to do different exercises to accommodate this huge beach ball that I'm carrying around my midriff. I'm hoping to implement some of those stretches on the plane today, in between movies! :-)
When I asked the doctor about the cramping, she said it was very common with pregnant women and that the best thing to do is to make sure that my legs are warm at night. There's something here in Chinese ideology that immediately blames all ailments on cold. Either it's the breeze at night through an open window, it's the air-conditioning in a work place, it's the cold water you drank or the icy treat you ate that day (etc.) that gave you whatever symptoms you have. She may be right, though, but while I cover up a bit more to sleep, I think I'll also do more stretching and walking around as an extra health insurance mechanism!!
Speaking of health insurance, do you know how hard it is to find health insurance for a pregnant woman? That's my task this week once I'm in a North American time zone and can make some phone calls at reasonable hours. I'm heading to the "gauge-you-with-hospital-bills" zone called the United States and I really don't want to be caught there without insurance, especially if something goes wrong. The problem is that only obscure pregnancy complications are covered in the few plans I've found online like ectopic pregnancy (which I don't have) or premature labour (which I hope to not encounter!). Wish me luck in finding a reasonable travel plan for me and the bump!
Okay, see you in North America, I hope! Me and Little Spark and my hot water bottle are taking to the skies!
Much warmth to you all,
Saturday, August 27, 2011
We went to the hospital again this week. This was supposed to be our 4th check-up, but since I was away for most of July, it's just the 3rd. I think that's fine, though. Chinese hospitals are far too stressed out about pregnancies and that has everything to do with the single child policy. "Just one child" has to be the perfect child and so they check and double check and triple check. I realize this may be my only child, but I feel more relaxed in comparison. Maybe it's just my Western background showing through.
We were there for just after 8am and left at 11:30 but it felt like an especially long morning because I couldn’t eat beforehand. “Why?” I wondered, but when they fed me two cups of absolutely ridiculously disgusting sugar water after getting a blood test, they told me that they had to test me for gestational diabetes. I burped sugar water for at least an hour. I found out later that I’m all good—perfectly healthy and no diabetes. The baby danced in my gut from the sugar high for at least an hour. I think he or she takes after me in that regard!
This was also the day for the “彩超” or “colour ultrasound.” Guo Jian got to come in with me and we marveled at the image of the baby, all four limbs intact and waving around, Little Spark’s little face turned to the camera as though he or she was perfectly aware that we were peeking in. In fact, at one point, we saw Little Spark’s mouth and it really appeared like a smile. Truly! We were mesmerized.
After the ultrasound, we headed back to the doctor’s office where I had my initial list of concerns ready to go. I have been reading, as you know, and doing a lot of talking to women who have had both positive and negative birth stories. I’ve paid particularly close attention to those who have birthed overseas and extra-particularly good close attention to those who have birthed here in China.
In the office, the doctor checked the baby’s heartbeat herself with a Doppler monitor, checked over all my charts, told me everything was normal and said that we were free to go. She was just about to wave the next couple in when I stopped her and said I had some questions. At that point, our session had been no more than ten minutes.
Of course, she put down her pen and turned from her desk towards me and told me to ask whatever I liked. I had the feeling that not many women do so. I swept that thought aside quickly, though, and launched right in.
“Will you be the one to deliver the baby?” I asked. Turns out the answer is “no.” There is a hospital appointed midwife that will be delivering the baby, accompanied by a doctor on call in the event of any emergency, an assistant midwife and a nurse. Usually, she said, no more than three attendants will be with me at any time.
I was shocked. All this time we have been building a rapport and then it won’t be her between my naked legs? I used rather crude Chinese to express this and my expression of horror probably did the rest. She assured me that she could arrange a “special meeting” for me and the midwife before delivery and I was likewise amazed that this would be a special request. “I know that my labour could be stalled and slowed if I am not comfortable and if I don’t get along with this woman," I said, adding in a panicked staccato: "Of course I want to meet her, maybe more than once!”
She assured me she'd arrange it. I was rattled but Guo Jian nudged me to move on.
“Will I be able to control the environment of the birthing room? Bring special lighting or candles, our own music, have three people in there with me, for instance, like my friend (doula), partner (Guo Jian) and my Mom?”
The response to this one was convoluted. First she rambled about having to control the environment for hygiene and cleanliness. I listened for the first minute but then interrupted her and asked why any of those suggestions would compromise hygiene? She was focused on the candles, it appeared, and I agreed to just bring an electric light that would dampen the hideous fluorescent lighting. She then assured me that we could have the three in the room, but too many would be too confusing so limiting it at three would be ideal. That’s fine with me, actually. Three is probably enough.
Then the music: she knows we are musicians but still proceeded to say that there is an expert on staff who provides music for labouring women. We could bring some of our own music in and give it to this expert but then she would choose which music would be most appropriate for the delivery.
I think my jaw hit the floor at this comment. I picked it up without much grace, surely, because my facial expressions have lost all filters since I got pregnant. I took a deep breath and managed to calmly reply, “Excuse me doctor, but with all due respect to your hospital, I am not seeking your expert’s permission regarding the music that I can listen to while I’m labouring. I want to control the music. I want to decide what I listen to.”
I’m guessing that she hasn’t met a lot of women like me. But, to her credit, she deals with hormonal “Mumma Bears” every day and she smiled gently and said that that would not be a problem. She looked amused by my shocked expressions. I mean, by now, she'd seen at least three of them!
Now, I realized that I would need my list to continue. I had painstakingly prepared it the night before in my messy Chinese writing, the calligraphic poise of a Chinese preschooler. When I took it out of the folder, Guo Jian slipped it from my hands and directly handed it to the doctor. “She wrote this list,” he said, standing and outstretching his arm across the expanse of her desk, “And maybe it would be easier if you just read it first.” As he settled back into the bench beside me, he nudged my shoulder with his in support. My initial embarrassment over what could be illegible written Chinese smoothed out like a cloth finding the table's edges. As she read it, she nodded silently. She took her time.
Here’s what the list says:
1. 除非十分必要，我希望尽量不要剖腹产 Unless absolutely necessary, I truly hope not to require a C-section。 *note on this: Do you know that the rate of C-sections for this hospital is between 50-60%? I am aghast. That's the average rate in China in general, too.
2. 除非十分必要，外阴切开术我不要 Unless absolutely necessary, I don’t want to have an episiotomy.
3. 我想自由， 我不要一直躺着， 想走动，随便改变姿势 I want freedom, I don’t want to be always lying on my back. I want to be able to walk around and to change my position whenever I’d like.
4. 我不要任何痛药 （催产素）I don’t want any pain medication whatsoever (ocytocin/pitocin)。 *note on this: I put these hormone in brackets as well because I also want to avoid taking those. The doctor said that after the baby was born, they advise them to birth the placenta. I would be more agreeable as long as the baby wasn’t going to be affected.
5. 我不要一直有胎心监护在我的身上。 I don’t want to always have an Electronic Fetal Monitor on my body.
6. 我想呼吸和使劲吧孩子生出来，我不要任何方式把他／她拉出来. （产钳 ／ 胎头吸引术）I want to use breathing and my physical strength to birth the baby, I don’t want to you any tools to pull the baby out (forceps/suction).
7. 三分钟以后（不再抖动后）我希望我的丈夫可以剪段断脐带. After 3 minutes (when it’s no longer pulsing) I would like my husband to cut the umbilical cord.
8. 孩子一出生的时候我希望把他抱在我的胸前， 肌肤贴着肌肤。As soon as the baby is born, I would like the baby placed on my chest, skin to skin.
9. 我不要给孩子任何药，包括免疫。 I don’t want to give the baby any medicine, including immunization *note on this: In China, they immediately immunize your baby when it is born as a policy, without even asking the parents for permission!
10. 请在我面前给孩子进行检查和处理 Please do not take the baby away from me for any examination or treatment.
And those are just the initial points. I imagine that my final list may be twice this length and hopefully organized a little more logically into labour, delivery, and special circumstances. If I do require a cesarean, for instance, I'll need to be clear on my desires for that experience. I have more Chinese homework to do!
When the doctor looked up from the list, she again smiled warmly and said that all of these issues were negotiable. She was concerned with not immunizing the child right away, but said she would respect our wishes. She also noted that we should make a copy of this list and keep it in our folder to then distribute to those in attendance so that everyone has the information in advance.
My biggest fear (and I expressed it right then and there in her office) was that all the work that I will have put into organizing, negotiating, making my desires known (etc) will be for naught when new people come into the picture. I'm concerned that, having never met me before and not feeling any attachment to the rationale in these requests, etc., they will undermine my authority. Worse yet, I am worried that my foreignness will be the source of the dismissal. It's not uncommon to encounter prejudice for being a foreigner who "really doesn't understand" [what is best for my child] because I'm not culturally or ethnically Chinese.
The doctor again heard me clearly and just assured me that our "special" meeting with the midwife in advance of the labour would hopefully clear up any issues I might have. My doula, Nan, suggested that I photocopy a few of these lists in advance and then tape them to the outside of the door as well as hand them out in the early stages of labour. I like that plan! And it will be written in both languages, as well, so that everyone around me can understand it and reinforce the requests just by emphatically pointing to the item on the list. Myself included!
I thanked her as respectfully and sincerely as I could and told her how much I appreciated the time she had just taken with me. Her patience and her manner was consistently open and warm. I left the office feeling like a huge step had been taken without any incident. Phew.
And then I ate the banana in my bag with hungry relief.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
So, the week has gone by fairly quickly. The last time I wrote, I was pretty wrapped up in my Husky (cat) drama. He’s fared well on the treatment at the International Veterinary Hospital here in Beijing and I honestly will never take my pets anywhere else in this city. They’re fantastic. They can’t guarantee us full recovery for him, but they’re optimistic. We are too.
I go there every day and have become quite friendly with all the staff. Yesterday, one of the doctors, with a type of bold shyness I have come to admire in Chinese people, started asking me about my pregnancy. She’s also in her thirties but hasn’t had a child yet. The glint in her eyes reminded me of the feeling I must have had in my own eyes when I would ask other women about their pregnancies. I asked all throughout my adult life and those questions (and the yearning) only ended just five months ago now, so I recognize it intimately. It’s still so clear. We shared a warm connection about it all.
When Guo Jian and I visited the doctor today, Guo Jian asked what may have caused Husky’s decline that led to this “fatty liver” ailment. Of course, the fact that he was overweight was a main reason, but couple that with his extreme sensitivity and our last five months of absorption in Little Spark, and it’s not surprising that he has felt neglected and then suddenly decided to stop eating.
In fact, exactly five months ago, he stopped cleaning his back and developed a few dreadlocks. We laughingly decided it was because he wanted to look like his Dad—to emulate Guo Jian’s dreads. But, now that I think about it, I think the cat was aware of a new life having taken root inside of me and felt left out, maybe even jealous, but certainly depressed. Animals can sense these kinds of changes much more readily than humans, so I wouldn’t be surprised. He was my original baby after all. (See video below from 2008 when I had to bottle feed him as a kitten!)
I do think he’ll recover, though, and I think that we’re going to be one happy (not depressed) family. I keep telling him how much Little Spark wants to meet him and he has to get well so that he can be the “guard cat” in the house. I’m pretty sure he’s agreeing with everything I’m saying! :-)
So, here I am writing this and up the stairs in our apartment (we have a two level) bounds Guo Jian excitedly calling out my name and saying, “Ember, Ember, we have to be careful in the hospital when giving birth! I just saw this article on Weibo! It’s shocking what’s happening in China!” (Weibo is the Chinese Twitter and has more users here in China than Twitter has worldwide.)
Of course, I immediately stopped writing this blog when I heard that and turned right around in my desk chair to hear what he was saying. “They do unnecessary operations,” he said, “they’ll cut you to get the baby out more easily just because they can charge more money for it, and they’ll advocate cesareans also because of the enormous extra cost for it. It's all greed! More than half of Chinese deliveries are done this way right now and it’s wrong! If they cut you down there, there’s greater risk of infection and it’s harder for you to heal. I don’t agree with that!”
“Uh, Guo Jian, this is exactly what I came back from Canada talking to you about! Remember, when we were laying on the bed that night and I had the dictionary out!? You’re talking about an episiotomy, aren’t you?” (That was exactly what he was talking about. Guo Jian sometimes has a tendency to not use the official term for things just in case I don’t know it, but then he switched to using it when he realized that I did know it.)
“Yeah, but now I know what you mean!” he said emphatically, “Now I understand it more. When we go into the doctor’s on Tuesday for our next appointment, we have to tell them that this is not acceptable. I even read that sometimes these operations happen without the woman’s consent. That’s not okay!”
“Yeah, but now I know what you mean!” he said emphatically, “Now I understand it more. When we go into the doctor’s on Tuesday for our next appointment, we have to tell them that this is not acceptable. I even read that sometimes these operations happen without the woman’s consent. That’s not okay!”
“Exactly my point!,” I replied, “and that’s why I’m scared they’re going to make me lay down all the time because that’s not aligned with gravity, it’s more painful, and then that creates a cycle of wanting drugs.” I stood up then and demonstrated that women have traditionally used several different positions to more easily birth children and I stressed that this is what I’d been reading about so much lately.
“But what does this have to do with drugs and pain? How can it be connected to what I just said?” He replied, suddenly sobered and confused.
“They scare women into fearing this pain of childbirth but then they position her on her back, which is proven to hurt more. Because there's more pain, they then encourage the use of drugs like the one in the spine (I forgot how to say epidural during the conversation) and then it makes a woman numb from the waist down. She can’t push then because her muscles don’t work when they're numb, so the baby doesn’t come out anywhere near as easily, and then it leads to needing one or both of those operations you just talked about. It’s all connected and it's all not okay!”
“Oh,” he said and stepped towards me to hug me in a tight, quick burst. “We can’t let this happen. It’s not okay. I won’t let them!”
And then he rushed back downstairs to resume what he’d been doing, and I stood there in his wake, sort of shocked and awed that Weibo had come along and saved the day. No longer were they “crazy Western ideas” that I had brought into our home from all my reading and talking with other Moms in Canada; these things are now to be avoided as best as we are able (unless there is an emergency) for the sake of a pure, natural birth and for the sake of my healing!
Thank you, Weibo! Whatever path gets us there, I’m so happy to be walking on it together!
So here I am, back writing the blog, feeling a renewed sense of possibility, togetherness, survival and family. While my belly gets progressively bigger and more and more people start noticing that I’m pregnant and engaging me about it, I feel stronger and stronger in this experience. We’re more than half way to the parenthood finish line now~ 21 weeks!~and despite all the not-so-great aspects of having my whole body taken over, I’m getting more and more excited!
Everything’s going to be okay. I can feel it.
We're a family!
Monday, August 15, 2011
Thank so much to everyone who reached out to me after reading the previous blog about emotions and Husky (my cat) and the doubting we all do as Mothers-to-be about our future ability to be good mothers. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for your kindness and love and support from afar. Thank you.
I know this is not a cat blog, but I just wanted to share this update, which I also posted today on my Facebook page:
Husky's condition has stabilized. This is me visiting him in the hospital. I'm going in every day. He's on a table and he had just crawled over and curled up into my shoulder... and so this is me all teary and grateful. They say they'll know how he'll fare in about two weeks. His official diagnosis is "Fatty Liver" or "Hepatic Lipidosis." We're hoping that love mixed with treatment will speed his recovery.
I think this picture proves that I'm already a good Mom... But, more than anything, I know it to be true. Proof or not, it's what we know in our hearts that constitutes our truth.
THANK YOU ALL, once again, for sending so much love and support!!
I'll write more soon
Friday, August 12, 2011
A couple of pieces of good news right off the top related to previous blog entries:
· My feet were only swollen for two days after the flight. Now they’re my feet again. Hurrah!
· I’ve pretty much stopped coughing. At least I’m not waking myself up at night coughing, anyway. The humidity in Beijing doesn’t help, but I’ve decided to consider this cold KICKED (after five long weeks)! Double hurrah!
Now, onto the harder stuff…
I arrived back to Beijing to a sick cat. We took him to the animal hospital where they immediately put him on intravenous for six days. He had to get drips twice a day for three hours a time. After the sixth day, they said there was no hope for him.
Now he’s home and hiding under the couch constantly. He won’t eat and hasn’t eaten (himself) for about two weeks. We’re feeding him with a syringe and I’m willing him not to give up.
And it’s breaking my heart.
People say that all creatures have their destiny. Perhaps his was this liver disease, but here I am pregnant and already paranoid about my ability to be a good Mother and here is my furry baby on death’s door.
Husky (the cat) is the first cat that I’ve ever really had as an adult. All the others have been my ex-partners’ cats that I’ve adopted and loved but never raised. This little one came to us from his litter a bit too soon and so, there I was in 2008, bottle feeding him several times a day until he was big enough to take solid food. It was my first experience with the responsibility of feeding an “infant” and I fell head over heels in love with this kitten.
Fast forward three years and he’s now so ill that he looks lost. And I’m lost too. I spent the last three days trying to keep it together and just keep up with the regular feedings, keep a rational head and love him as tenderly as I can, but last night I completely broke down. There I was, sitting on the floor with him in my lap after having tugged him out from under the couch, tears falling on his head while I gurgled away in my human language to his sad little eyes.
What’s making this worse is the constant pressure from extended family to control my emotions. All week while Guo Jian was away, my Mother-in-law has been in town and she was an amazing help with the cat. She left yesterday afternoon. Throughout her visit, I kept it together. Then, back in town, Guo Jian forgot that he needed to help me with Husky and wasn’t back home until well after midnight last night. I was exhausted, unable to do the feeding on my own (someone needs to hold him, someone needs to squirt food into his mouth) and I was incredibly bitter and angry that my partner hadn’t even thought about our cat and was missing in action.
What if this was our child? Is he going to put his work issues above our child’s issues? Would he be there to nurse our child back to health? Would it all be my responsibility?
These were the questions that were haunting me when he came home and found me a bawling mess on the floor with the cat. Of course, this wasn’t met with apologies or compassion or open arms as I would have liked. Instead, it was met with chastisement and warnings. “You have to control your emotions!” he barked, “You’re going to hurt the baby. Get it together!”
Well, this just made me angrier and cry more, of course. Nothing like pressure to put a cap on emotions to bring out a Cancerian’s claws. What’s more, what about release? I have been carrying this grief for over a week. Can’t I get it out? It infuriates me that my natural emotional response is considered unhealthy for the baby. This baby has to know love and grief, joy and sadness. And what about me here? Don’t I count anymore or am I just a human incubator? Is my heart’s state now rendered irrelevant?
So, the breakdown became a fight with my partner (who did help with the feeding, by the way) and then an extremely late night and fitful sleep. The good thing about Guo Jian is that his initial gruffness is usually temporary. He eventually did put his arms around me and show me and the cat the gentleness that we needed.
But this morning my heart is still weary and the cat is still hiding.
And, of course, there's the contrary voice in my head that wonders if I am hurting my baby by being upset about this. I'm sad about one baby being ill and I may actually be damaging the development of my other baby, the one growing inside of me? I've scoured the internet for information about negative emotions felt by the Mother and fetal development and what I've learned scares me. And there's another one I'm adding to the list: fear.
So, if I am hurting Little Spark's development by feeling what I'm feeling, then everyone will blame me when the baby is born. I'll be a bad Mother before I'll have even given birth.
And what kind of a Mother am I going to be anyway when I can barely keep a cat alive?
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Look at us go!
So, today is Little Spark's 19th week "not-yet-been-birthed" day. it's the beginning of the 20th week, or the final leg before I reach the half-way mark in the average human gestation period of 40 weeks.
I’ve been back in Beijing for less than a week and jetlag has its claws firmly on my body and doesn’t seem willing to let go. I have spent the week having to nap in the afternoon for 2-3 hours and then unable to go to bed until after midnight. Then, like today, I find myself wide awake at dawn.
This morning I woke up ravenous. I lay in bed for a good half and hour before I got up at 6 and made myself two eggs, four veggie sausage links, two pieces of toast & butter and then poured myself a big glass of chilled homemade herbal iced tea. I was satiated with lots of protein by the time it was even 6:30am. Now, I’m just waiting for that drowsy feeling to come over me during digestion and maybe I’ll sleep some more before the day begins.
I guess Little Spark was hungry!
Now, getting down to business…
Something I've been wanting to discuss here about being pregnant that I find so fascinating is how much it has become MY JOB. By this, I mean a “project,” or an obsessive use of my time that calls to me daily and requires my attention and learning and engagement. Of course, it’s an unpaid job, but as a musician I am familiar with this territory! So, for me, "job" is a choice that I make every day rather than something I have to do.
Each day, something else pops into my head about the baby or the upcoming birth and I push everything else that I'm doing aside to research the issue online, for example.
I have also spent the past month reading voraciously and I have a list of recommended books that I have either been sent in the mail, loaned by friends, or picked up in my journeys. (Thank you to Angela, Allyson and Sharon!) They have been so amazingly helpful in contextualizing my experiences as a pregnant woman against the experiences of others, not to mention in helping me to formulate a rough plan in my head for my hopes and expectations of the birth experience.
The Reading List:
- Birthing From Within (by Pam England & Rob Horowitz)
- Spiritual Midwifery (by Ina May Gaskin)
- Hypnobirthing: The Mongon Method (by Marie F. Mongon)
- Active Birthing: The New Approach To Giving Birth Naturally (by Janet Balaskas)
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (by Ina May Gaskin)
I’m not reading them in order or one at a time. I’m picking them up randomly and surely mixing the theories, but somewhere in the middle of it all I am formulating my own.
When I arrived back from Canada, I told Guo Jian that I wanted to talk to him about all that I’d been learning with all this reading and research. He encouraged me to share it with him, but it was before I had created my glossary list for reference and so I had to fire up the computer and perch it on my thighs while we lay in bed, the online Chinese-English dictionary loaded up and at my fingertips so that I could even have the conversation. I mean, how often to do you learn words like "episiotomy" in another language?
My point exactly.
I talked to him about how I really didn’t want to take any drugs during the procedure, particularly how I wasn’t interested in getting an epidural (硬脑膜外麻醉 yìng nǎomó wài mázuì) because I really want to know what it feels like to give birth. I don't want to be numb from the waist down.
He nodded, dubiously.
I then explained that I want the freedom to move around in the hospital room and I don't want to be hooked up to an EFM machine (Electonic Fetal Monitoring). This was tough to translate, but I managed to make it clear when I said it was a machine for listening to the baby's heartbeat that would be attached to me, making it impossible for me to move around because of the cables.
"But they have to make sure Little Spark is okay!" he protested. I ignored this and continued talking.
I then explained that I feared them forcing me to always lie on my back in the hospital, especially since this often slows delivery and then necessitates the use of forceps ( 胎儿钳子 tāi'ér qiánzi) and/or increases the likelihood of them performing an episiotomy (外阴切开术 wàiyīn qiēkāishù). Not to mention the fact that it hurts more and often inspires women to actually get those epidurals. It's a vicious circle.
He shuddered at the first two ideas and then said that he thought I was going to have trouble convincing them that I should walk around rather than lying in bed, not to mention the fact that he thought I should trust the doctors because they know what they're doing.
"They should listen and trust me!" I fired back in a desperate tone. "It's my body!"
Obviously, I was starting to get irritable and defensive at this point in the conversation. He was supposed to just agree with everything I said and not fight me on this! I wished we could be reading these books together but they're all in English and I have no idea where to find translations. I was sure if he could read them, he’d agree with everything! He’d understand more fully and completely what I was trying to say, surely.
I took a deep breath and forged ahead. He let me speak.
"I believe that the best place for me to have this baby would be at home, but it's not legal here in China and so I want to wait until the very last second to go to the hospital," I said. "I think I will be able to know when to go and how long I can stay at home. Comfort and familiarity are the most important conditions required for a healthy delivery."
"But what if there's an emergency?!?" he said with alarm, sitting up in bed.
"It won't just be the two of us," I explained. "My friend Nan (our doula) will be here too," I reminded him. Besides, I know that the process of labour can actually be stalled or reversed if there are a lot of unknown people around. That reminded me to mention that I want to know in advance if the doctor I've been seeing will be the one to deliver our baby and whether or not we can restrict the number of attendants. He agreed that we should ask these questions but I could see he was putting up walls to what I had to say and was starting to doubt my sanity.
That's about the point where my voice cracked and I burst into tears. (Thank you hormones) My volume and pitch accelerated as I told him he had to listen to me, he had to support everything I wanted, and he had to accept my choices! It was lacking in logic, but so was I at at that moment. Like usual, with lots of emotions, my Chinese goes out the window.
He looked at me quizzically and then he broke the tension by laughing. My initial shock at this reaction melted quickly, though, and then I began to laugh too. It was ridiculous, really, with me jetlagged and bawling and him bewildered at all these ideas that he hadn't even started thinking about yet. I was firing them at him in quick succession and expecting his complete compliance. I'm the one who's been away and buried in books and he's never even imagined birth in his whole life. It must be a guy thing. Why would he ever have to! What's more, he's got to know that he simply has no leg to stand on here. It is my body that is going to be giving birth, not his.
In the end, in sloppy English, he said, "Okay, okay, I will stand by you" (Thank you lyrics for teaching him that line!) and he then lovingly called me a "crazy pregnant lady" to which I laughed even harder.
We then agreed that a list of wants and requirements in both languages would be a good idea so that he could be my voice in the delivery room. This would also allow him and Nan to communicate about the important points by conferring over the list.
Even though he's not going to invest in this learning, I still have the support I need. Would I prefer it if he were right beside me in the education part of this process? Yes. He probably would be if he were my female partner, but then again his passive presence in the area of decision-making allows for me to fully control the experience (or at least attempt to with as much grace as possible). He has stepped back and is at least willing to be there for me. Let's just hope his trust in doctors doesn't trump his willingness to "stand by me" on the day of the event. Our cultural gaps come out in times like these and my "wacky Western ideas" (in his mind) are sometimes overwhelming to him.
But he'll be there. He'd better be. I told him he'd better not leave my side the whole time. When the baby is born, I want him to be able to cut the umbilical cord (脐带 qídài) and then make sure I can hold my baby straight away. I'm scared they're going to whisk Little Spark away!! If for some reason I can't (like if I had to have an emergency operation or something), I told him he'd better be prepared to whip off his shirt and put the baby next to his bare chest immediately. "The baby needs skin on skin contact," I said sternly "and you're the next best thing!"
At this, he laughed again and agreed.
I shut down the dictionary and the conversation came to an end. It's the first of many of its kind, but good to start them now. I officially have 21 or so more weeks to memorize this vocabulary and teach Guo Jian (convince him of!) everything I'm learning, in translation.
It's okay, I'm on the job!
Look at us go...
Thursday, August 4, 2011
There’s been something I’ve been meaning to talk about for the past two months or so but keep forgetting to mention: MY FEET.
Yes, my feet are so strange now that I’m pregnant. In fact, I'm not sure whose feet these are. Let's just call them "pregger feet."
The first thing I noticed about my feet was their temperature. I realize it’s summer and extremely warm in Beijing, but throughout June and July, my feet felt like they were on fire. This was particularly happening just as I was going to bed at the end of the day.
At first, I decided it was about dryness and started a regimen of creaming my feet before bed. This helped, marginally. The best part of the process turned out to be the breeze from the fan that hit my feet the minute I had creamed them. It was the contact from the moving air with the cool cream that momentarily quenched the flames. It didn’t last, though. Once the cream was absorbed, the fire resumed.
Eventually, I began a habit of bringing a cool, damp towel into the bed with me. Guo Jian didn’t like this. He occasionally found the cloth with his own feet and it freaked him out with a jump and a yelp. He said it felt like there was some sort of soggy creature in the bed with us (scaredy-cat boy that he is!) and so I told him just to keep to his side and leave me alone about it (pregger wench that I am!)…
I would wrap these cool cloths around my feet like I was wrapping an infant, keeping my feet tightly bound together and quenched on both the top of my foot and on the fiery soles. When the towel got too warm, I’d adjust its position to a cooler section. It was heavenly. Only then could I fall asleep without feeling like my feet were going to explode in a volcanic mess.
Then, I went to Canada. There, my parent’s home features a basement guest room set into the Ontario rock and my feet were finally cool again, tucked under flannel sheets in July. Perfect.
That is, until I was at friends’ homes in Toronto where the heat raged to 38+ degrees Celsius. Feeling slightly self-conscious about using their towels as my volcanic foot rags, I found myself improvising… with spit. If I spat into my hands and then traced the saliva along the soles my feet in a vertical line, it was like a wee bucket of water for the flames. I could almost see the steam rising in relief. Usually, since I was so exhausted with all my running around over there, I would fall asleep quickly before the moisture from that temporary measure had evaporated.
Yeah, I know. It’s gross. What can I say?
The second thing I've noticed about my feet is that they walk differently. They're sort of pointed differently, at weird angles, and are acting so unlike the feet I have looked down at while walking my whole entire life. I guess they're responding to the change in my hips' alignment, or so my inner scientist tells me, but when I look down at my feet I feel a little queasy, like I'm being transported on mutinous limbs without my consent.
And now I’m back in Beijing experiencing the first of the swollen feet syndrome. Yesterday, my feet were pulsing and puffy. I kept them elevated most of the day and then did some yoga for pregnant women that focuses on the circulation in the legs. It helped a little.
The swelling struck me as a cruel joke. I mean, haven’t I already experienced the near-bursting due to overheating? Do I need a visual reminder of this as well?
I looked down at my feet yesterday and felt another wave of grief as I whispered to them, “Not you too! Where have you gone? Come back!” I already don’t recognize my breasts, my midriff, my hips, my ass, my thighs! At what point do the changes stop? At what point can I just grow a belly here and not have to get pregnant in every other part of my body too?
After ten hours of much-needed jetlag sleep, the swelling has gone down slightly and hopefully it was just a result of the long flight back home. If not, I’ll have to go shoe shopping too.
Do they even have maternity shoe stores?