Saturday, May 28, 2011


I have spent another day of doing nothing and being extremely under motivated. It’s just me here in the house with my 9-week old belly and a fuzzy head full of what I once thought were important things to do and no energy to do them. 
I consider it a victory when I can accomplish one business-related task in a day now when before I used to sit at my desk and diligently be the self-employed person that I am—all day, sometimes for more than eight hours! Of course, those days disappeared when I came to China in my effort to get more balance and be healthier. I must admit, though, that I still rarely fell below the five hour mark as there was always at least five hours of work to do in a day. 
Now that I’m pregnant, I’m lucky if I get in two hours of work before all I want to do is stare into space, watch a movie, read a book, or think about the many things I could be accomplishing or cultivating but haven’t yet begun to do.
I realize that REST is paramount right now. I am surely and truly resting. There's no argument here. It actually feels as though I need a day of rest after I’ve had a day of tasks. Yesterday was a busy day with lots of cycling and appointments and so today, I am nearly comatose. My body is seeking balance and I am just listening. She's pretty demanding this body of mine.
The other problem I am facing (problem?) is my near complete aversion to Chinese food. I have been here, or at least been coming here, since 2007 and I have continually raved to friends and family back home that they’ve never really tasted Chinese food until they’ve travelled to China. The food here is delicious. I love so may different varieties of Chinese food, as well, and before I got pregnant, I found that the only time I’d eat anything remotely Western was when I was visiting Western friends’ homes who always eat that way.
Once, when I was first getting to know my friend Jess here, she invited me for breakfast at her house. It was early 2009 and I was still just slowly making friends and getting settled, like tentative little social steps beyond my relationship and quiet contemplation at home. She had me over for brunch and I arrived to a table full of toast, roated potatoes, scrambled eggs, the option for pancakes, an array of jams and real butter. I naively said to her, “Where did you get all this? Did you bring it from overseas or something?” She looked at me like I was an alien. “I bought it all the foreign food store,” she said and continued to look at me quizzically. “You can buy real butter in Beijing?” I asked, astounded. She nodded but hadn’t stopped looking at me and now so, too, were her shocked roommates. “Oh,” I said rather sheepishly, suddenly realizing how ridiculous I sounded. “I guess you can buy whatever you like in this huge city. I think I’ve become a bit Chinese here. I haven’t eaten Western food since I was back in the West.” They all smiled at me then and made me feel welcome, the sad little deprived foreign girl trapped in a Chinese existence.
The thing is, I wasn't deprived. It occurred to me even then that I simply hadn’t even wanted it. 
Still, I truly and earnestly enjoyed that brunch, though, and felt like another possible world had opened up to me. From that point onwards, I would get little “treats” for myself at the foreign food shops whenever I had an extra few dimes to rub together. You see, my husband and I aren’t exactly rolling in income as we’re both artists and are used to living rather hand-to-mouth. I live the Chinese style not merely out of preference; it’s also out of financial necessity.
That being said, I am currently craving things like peanut butter and jam sandwiches, even the fried egg sandwiches of my youth with ketchup to dip them in, macaroni and cheese, pasta with red sauce, lemon meringue pie, big fluffy white bread with butter, and copious amounts of ice cream. I went to the foreign shop the other day and spent a ridiculous amount of money there that came straight out of my rent fund on things that I haven’t eaten since I lived back home: granola bars, yoghurt, jam, even the typical impulse purchase of a jar of DILL PICKLES.
Yes, I have become a cliché. All I wanted was a jar of dill pickles and I guiltily spent almost 25% of that grocery bill on what would be the equivalent of an $9 500ml jar of average-at-best dill pickles. They are making me happy, though. Truly. They're a great mid-nausea snack.
I’m wondering about how this food issue is going to play out on my pocket book for the rest of the 31 weeks, but trying to remain optimistic that it will all be okay. I’ve got some more freelance work coming up and it will surely buy me some more dill pickles. I've learned that worrying about money doesn't help you earn it and so I've just let worry slip away in these past few years. Miraculously, it comes when it is needed. The other day, I was grateful for its presence to guide me to the foreign food store. My stomach is grateful too. My swelling belly, especially.
So, until the freelance work, I’ll do much more reading, writing, disappearing into films and ignoring the so-called important business things while I do more important things like grow hair follicles, a divided heart chamber, and the beginnings of what will form this little spark’s teeth. I mean, what can be more pressing than these tasks! I’m making life here! :-)

Monday, May 23, 2011


Okay, so now I’m officially 8 weeks pregnant and I was reading my faithful “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” and in the ‘What You May Be Feeling’ section, I discovered that if I were to take a “How-Pregnant-ARE-You?” test, I’d get a serious A+.  These are the things in the list that I am experiencing:
·      Fatigue and sleepiness
·      A need to urinate frequently
·      Nausea, with or without vomiting and/or excessive salivation
·      Heartburn, indigestion, flatulence, bloating
·      Food aversions and cravings
·      Breast Changes – fullness, tenderness, darker areolas, etc.
·      Occasional headaches
·      Occasional faintness or dizziness
·      Tightness of clothing around the waist and breast, enlarged abdomen
·      Emotional instability comparable to PMS but more pronounced including irritability, mood   swings, irrationality, weepiness
·      Feelings of misgivings, fear, joy, elation
There is only one other item on the list and it’s
·      constipation
That’s the only one that I haven’t experienced (knock on wood). I’ve never had that problem and so happily it hasn’t descended upon me now. I’ll count my lucky stars. The rest of these clear symptoms of pregnancy get giant check marks next to them and I get a serious gold star.
PREGGERS, with first class honours.
How could anyone really not know that they were pregnant after 8 weeks along? I have heard stories that sometimes people don’t realize it unti they’ve been pregnant for 2-3 months! These incredible changes in two weeks are amazing to me; what’s going to happen in another month? It will surely be constant discoverey. It would take a person extremely disconnected with her body to not have a sense of things changing as rapidly as they do. I have sensed these changes since almost the first day after conception but here I am still collecting changes like an out of control snowball and it’s only accelerating it seems as time rolls on. I’m getting thicker, too, just like a snowball.
Last night, I felt my hips and they seemed to be someone else’s, as though they’ve been placed differently on the tops of my leg bones all of a sudden. It felt really strange and I found myself walking differently. And then I realized that I wasn’t just walking differently, I was walking pregnant!  The thing is, even though I’m not really showing (although the bloating could be mistaken for triplets!), I can feel my alignment has shifted and I now understand why some women walk like they’re six months pregnant long before you can see a bump on their abdomen. Everything just feels a bit weird, re-adjusted, off-kilter and I couldn’t help but notice my body’s natural adjustment to these shifts as though I had no say in it. I tried to conscious walk normally and that feels even more strange.
Could my hips have moved so soon?
And these breasts…
Whose are they? I feel as though I must have unwittingly stolen some other woman’s breasts and swapped out my old ones. Though, why would anyone steel oversized, hard, itchy, sensitive rocks that hate being touched and that won’t fit into bras comfortably? Yes, it would be “unwitting” theft, for sure.
After 8 weeks, is this normal?
And even though it’s kind of nice to have a cleavage when my former, mutinous breasts were always just a bit small for that, the extra curviness doesn’t come with a feeling of extra sexiness. It may make my sweetie excited to see me filling out a bit, but I don’t want him anywhere near me, let alone anywhere near my breasts! I keep assuring him that it’s not personal; it’s just the reality of this pregger lady who is bewildered by her own boobs and feeling a bit like an imposter in someone else’s body.
And what do other women tell me every time I mention these things?
“It’s only going to get worse.”
Great. Thanks. Love that line of encouragement…
The good news is that I’ve told several friends around Beijing and have felt a lot of really warm support from them. I’m only 8 weeks along but I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The support has felt nurturing and encouraging, even if the words and stories aren’t always that way.
The next step will be informing my distant friends back home. It’s just too bad that this kind of news can’t be shared in person. Email just seems so… strangely stale somehow. But there’s nothing to be done about that. I’ll reach out soon.
Until then, watch me waddle.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


So, I'm 7 weeks and 4 days preggers right now. The fact that I can figure that out is amazing to me, considering that yesterday I was completely convinced that today was Friday and even baked a pie to take to the lunch party I've been invited to. Now the lemon meringue pie is patiently waiting in the fridge for tomorrow.

I had a bunch of stuff to do yesterday, too, but I simply couldn't concentrate on anything. I feel like my brain is covered in a sticky mush--a meringue--like when you take cold medication because you just can't stand the sniffles anymore and find yourself floating through your daily scenes like an observer rather than a participant. This pregger fuzz is not as prominent as the cold medication fuzz, but it's there. It's enough to make me both incredibly lazy AND restless, a strange combination.

You'd think that baking a pie represents energy, but it's one thing to bake a pie when you have a day of work to do (like I did yesterday) and another thing to bake a pie when you're avoiding that day of work to do (like I did yesterday). I officially did nothing but bake that pie yesterday and today I find myself way behind in my business and still feeling that brain stickiness.

My friend who has a six-month old told me that "pregnancy brain" is really normal. She remembers having to write everything down and mixing up her schedule regularly. My Mom said that she remembers putting things that are meant for the fridge in the cupboard and cans of soup in the fridge. She added, laughing, that this tendency never really wore off, even after we were born!

What I wish, though, is that I could get used to it. I realize that I'm not even two months along, officially, but that I'm still not figuring out the rhythm of this shift in my brain. I am a person who generally has her body rhythms figured out, and these rhythms are moving too fast to transcribe them and then predict them. I guess it's the dance of the hormones; they're too fast for me and they're multiplying too quickly as this little tadpole takes up residence in my gut. Just when I think that I know what these feelings or this body energy is telling me, it will be telling me something different,  something new. It will be into a new movement, dancing without me.

The other option is to just give up, give over to it, forget about trying to track this strangeness in my brain and emotions, and just sail into it like a wave on a majestic ocean. After all, no one would ever suggest they could tame ocean waters, especially if they've never sailed before. It takes experience to know the waves and I was born inland, far from water, far from surfing.

And while I know I have to do that, it's a struggle nonetheless. A lesson in trust and letting go, acceptance and receptivity.

Happily, though, that bout of nausea I wrote about in the last entry has mostly gone away. Just little waves again (speaking of waves) and I guess I've learned to surf these fairly well. Wow, I suppose I'm learning after all!

Now, if I can only restrain myself from eating that pie today....

Friday, May 13, 2011


It’s the feeling sick without the vomiting that is starting to kill me. I mean, a few waves a day in the first few weeks were just fine. In fact, they’ve been here since the first week after conception. Each of those waves just came and went away. But, this, on the other hand, this sort of hovering on the edge between vomit and feeling normal, is just cruel. 
They call it morning sickness, but this is me at night. I'm great in the mornings! I wonder if that has anything to do with the time difference here in China being twelve hours apart from North America's EST? Perhaps my bio rhythm is my home country's rhythm after all? Ha!
Anyway, I have a weak stomach. I always have. Barfing is not unfamiliar to me in the least. When I have felt like this in the past for other reasons besides this preggers thing, I used to be able to just make myself sick. I don’t mean finger-down-my-throat sick, I mean that I could just stand in the bathroom and stare at the toilet and that would be enough to make it come out.
Currently, that’s not working. I’m staring at the toilet bowl and all I see is that it needs a good cleaning and I am yet to get rid of this nausea.
Now I’m lying on my bed rotating between feeling nauseated and feeling fine.
Back to the bathroom.
Ten minutes later, back to my desk.
The screensaver on my computer is a dictionary that rotates the meanings of less commonly used English words. The word that appeared before I sat down here to continue writing was “sully: to defile or sour or spoil.” Yes, that is definitely what is happening here with my new pregnancy experience: nausea is sullying my experience.
Oh, and top that off with the consistent “hating the world” theme that seems to have settled and stuck itself to my mood like fly paper to a helpless insect and you have a not-so-happy Mom to be. Shouldn’t I be full of love and joy and excitement to soon be bringing life into the world? Shouldn’t I be happy at least?
Maybe if I started puking it would help? At least I could think of that as a release of sorts and imagine all the toxic, negative energy that is creating these black moods as being vomited out of me at the same time as the food I will have just consumed. I could flush it away with a “good riddance” and talk myself through the blackness into the sunshine.
My in-laws phoned tonight just to check on me. They didn’t even want to speak to my hubby. They told me I shouldn’t be riding my bike, watering the plants (higher ones on my balcony requiring a step ladder), or eating any leftovers. I was conciliatory, but I certainly won’t stop riding my bike, watering those thirsty upper plants or throwing away perfectly good food anytime soon. It’s a good thing they live four hours away.
They are lovely people, though. They’re very caring and concerned and really do treat me like a daughter. Their style of concern is what sometimes rubs me the wrong way, but I don’t begrudge the caring. The different style is just about different cultures. The spirit of the care is pure and all about love.
So I shall continue to teeter on the uncomfortable edge of barfing on this line I’ll call “The Uptight Rope” in hopes that I will either start barfing (which would be better than this!) or simply stop feeling this way altogether sooner than six weeks from now (ideal!).
Wish me well. Throw me a blow up raft with your mind, will ya!? A big, bright yellow one with a happy face on it will do nicely! :-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

WEEK 6 (or is it "WEAK 6"?)

I was tired before, but not like now. It keeps easing up in intensity to the point where I actually feel a draining of energy in my bones, the likes of which I have never felt before. The other day, I spotted a stone step outside a closed shop and I wanted to spread out my jacket and curl up there. It was all I could do to not do it.

I've never had a hard time with sleeping, often getting 8-10 hours a night. Now, though, I can't seem to sleep past the eight hours, but I can't keep my eyes open in the evenings. I've been getting up early as a result and enjoying the morning view of seven and eight a.m. It's truly gorgeous at this time of day. I joked with a friend recently that I previously didn't even know there was a seven a.m. Amazing to make its acquaintance!

I've also been incredibly moody, sometimes feeling completely at odds with the world--angry even, and hopeless. I've found myself thinking about the uselessness of our inventions, our goals, our ridiculous technology and I've been critical of the stupidity all around me all the time. I feel like Oscar the Grouch with a garbage can around my waist and something big and controlling (a person's hand?) up my ass! Haha! I realize that this is a good analogy, because I'm being controlled by hormones and I am their puppet, but when that wave of negative emotion swirls around me, I have found myself wishing there actually was a garbage can nearby that I could kick hard enough to feel the sound waves rattle off walls, crashing into my eardrums.

It's not the sexiest state of mind, that's for sure. 

Other progressions include fielding much advice from the in-laws like to stay away from the computer and/or to wear an lead smock that will protect me from its rays. I did a bunch of research and there's no evidence that computer rays will harm a fetus. I'm totally confused by the paranoia here. What about the cell phone rays that are constantly all around us? Isn't that worse for us and our unborn?

When I first thought I might be pregnant, my partner suggested I should stop riding my bike. I balked at him. "What's wrong with cycling?" I asked. He said it could cause a miscarriage. I suppose if I were hit by a car (knock on wood that I won't be) then I can understand that fear, but lightweight exercise (even hardcore exercise if that's what you're used to, which I'm not!) is good for a pregnant woman! I am not suddenly going to become sedentary just because there's a backwards notion here that cycling will adversely affect me.

Then there's the issue of the cats. In Chinese culture, cats are dangerous to the child. Pregnancy is not the issue, but once the child is born the cats should be sent elsewhere, usually forever but sometimes for up to two-three years! That's crazy! I have been working on this myth for a few years with my in-laws and luckily no one has mentioned the cats since the announcement of our pregnancy. I'm planning to protect them and keep them as part of our family. No one is going to send away my furry kids!!

My partner, who doesn't often do things around the house on his own volition, actually has been cleaning the cat litter (as he knows I'm not to get near it) and doing up the small collection of daily dishes if we haven't been eating at home. I am trying not to praise too highly or exclaim too loudly at the comparative beauty of this behavioural shift, but instead to just absorb it into the realm of "normal." So far so good. I'm liking his increased attentiveness and sweetness. The truth is that he's always sweet to me, but there's a lilt in this sweetness that I haven't heard before and it curves around his smile like bending rays of light. He's quietly excited. I can tell.

And I'm bloated. I already feel like I must look like I'm expecting, but I guess I don't to the average eye. My breasts are exploding off of my chest and my gut area is expanded outwards like a severe case of PMS that won't go away. My one friend said that this feeling continues for ten months and I'd just better get used to it. I was cycling the other day and stopped to pump up my tires and, while watching the bike repairman pumping air into my tires, I realized that I feel exactly like someone has done that to my body. If I could just loosen this valve a little...

All that comes from the hyper sensitivity I have, though, and this is the very sensitivity that made me righteous to have been able to tell right away that I was pregnant now four weeks ago. So, I shouldn't begrudge it now. It's a great tool to have in this experience and I can't start complaining about the weight of it in my tool belt. As it hangs around my mid-region, I've got to start feeling tough rather than pudgy! Girls with tools! HARUMPH! :-)

The final thing that I've noticed this week is how anticlimactic it can be to tell people such vital news. I know that it's vital news to us and not vital news to others, but I've been amazed at how people's responses, while kind and open and congratulatory, don't seem to embody the significance that I feel this news carries. It feels flat somehow, like a three-dimensional image that gets flattened into a two-dimensional image by some outside hand, without any warning.

What's more, I have tried to reach certain friends and have been unable to, which strikes me as a fitting extension of this two-dimensional squashing of my news. There's no way that they know I am trying to reach them, yet there is also no way that I can say, "Look, please reach me, I have some news for you!" because that will just give it away entirely.

I've shared the news with two of my friends and was hoping to share it with two others, all of whom are living overseas, and will hold off before sharing the news here in my Beijing community. I'm not sure I'll be able to make it twelve weeks, but at least I should get used to the idea myself before I have to field a lot of questions and before people who I don't even recognize start to congratulate me. When you ask people to keep news to themselves, I've found that only a small percentage actually do. They always have to tell their spouses or partners and then the flow of information can't be stopped. At that point, it's just public knowledge. I'm not ready for that.

Not yet anyway.

Monday, May 2, 2011

PREGGERS: It's Official

I just found out that I’m  pregnant today. I knew it. I was aware of a shifting in my body from about the first day after ovulation until now. Not that I was exactly sure of my ovulation date, however, but I do remember the shifting feeling like uncomfortable travellers in hard-backed, bus station, poured-plastic chairs when they have to wait too long. My belly was twisting like that. One leg over the other, switch, looking one way, looking the other, no place to really lean and no place to really go.
My gut has no place to go except out.
And I have been waiting too long. It’s been nine months of trying and so it’s no wonder that I am getting twitchy. The day after ovulation (or my predicted, non-scientific ovulation), I felt a tightening in my gut and a surge of extreme emotions that made me feel like I was stoned on the largest pot brownie known to human kind. I was ready to burst with tears and laughter but it came out in the unfortunate angry liquid form (i.e. yelling that liquefied into tears). I was inconsolable after I let it out. My partner was the lucky recipient. He, at least, didn’t blame me for it. He walked away. Hormones make a good excuse sometimes.
Since then, I’ve had waves of nausea (although nothing has stopped me from eating), lots of hunger, incredible fatigue at night, moodiness, bloating, blurry mind, etc. I looked online and I was sure that I was experiencing the early symptoms but you have to technically wait until you’ve missed your period. On the day I was supposed to bleed, I took the test and made him stand by only to be presented with a big fat negative and the sobbing that oozed out of me as a result.
I was a mess. He held me. He said we could try again and that it would happen when it happened. Grief is sticky plastic cling wrap and it clung fiercely to my eyes and weak smile for the next couple of days.
Then, another week went by. The symptoms continued. He kept saying that it was probably a faulty test. We bought another one and planned to test it on a morning when we had nothing to do. The trick was to plan some celebration or mourning time to follow. I’ve learned now that emotions are part of the results. They’re clearly sourced from a little window in a white plastic stick that glows either a pink or an absentee line; the pink line triggers celebration in multi-coloured plastic blow horns and streamers; the absent line triggers sobbing in tear rivers of blues and indigos.
We took the test this morning and it said nothing. Not even a test line. It was broken, I suppose. We both went back to bed. Luckily, the blank results had a blank emotional equivalent.
But we had a contingency plan.
We woke up and headed to the hospital for a hospital test. We live in Beijing, by the way. I forgot to mention that. There are choices here for foreigners that cost ten times more and then there are Chinese hospitals that are confusing but just as technically sound. We chose the latter and spent a total of $4 Canadian on all the layers of services we did today. That included opening a file ($0.75), going to the gynecology department and then being told to pee in a cup, heading to the laboratory and peeing ($2.00), and then the cost of parking ($1.25).

The gynecology department wouldn't let men past the threshold. I went in alone and the curt female doctor who read my report asked me in super speed Chinese if I wanted the child, if it was my first pregnancy (at the confirmation of which she guffawed and asked me again as if a woman in her thirties must have certainly had a child before), and then she marched out to the threshold with me in tow, handed Guo Jian my paperwork, told us not to have sex for three months, ignored my question of clarity and spun on her heels and was gone. Not the best service, I have to say. Luckily, that's not where they do prenatal care. Gratefully.
But, yeah, no sex? Yeah, right. Chinese methods and foreign methods are totally different. I looked online and it says sex is fine. They say here that it could cause a miscarriage. I think it’s suggesting that sex is rough and upside-down, hanging from a chandelier while my hands are simultaneously tied to the bedpost in the other room. We’re not going to have sex like that anyway. Ridiculous. We both agreed that gentle is best. I think we were both relieved to agree with the other on that point and find a happy compromise.

This kid will be the compromise between two cultures, after all.
We left the hospital with my instincts confirmed, holding hands, and he proceeded to phone his parents who were really happy. Then he drove in the completely wrong direction while blabbering about it and I realized he was a bit scattered by the news and I laughed and told him to turn right towards home. He did. We both found it kinda funny.
It wasn’t news to me, though. I wasn’t really rattled or even surprised. I have known. I guess the difference now is that it is officially confirmed.
Then I phoned my parents and sibling overseas. Everyone was really positive and congratulatory.
I haven’t told anyone else yet. I think I’ll just tell two good friends. I’m told you’re supposed to keep the news under wraps until you know for sure that it’s going to be okay, but it is nice to know that there are a couple of people besides my partner who I'll be able to talk to--and in English. That's key. Sometimes I just need to speak English about it. Anyway, a person should make it through to her twelfth week before spreading the news freely. I am fairly confident this pregnancy is going to be okay. I think everything will be just fine, actually. Another gut feeling.

The bus will come.
But how do I feel? Irritable, perhaps. A little righteous about my supersonic ability to read my body. A little scared, I’m sure. Slightly bewildered about what the future holds. A little anxious that people aren’t going to support my working overseas in the fall when I’ll be 5 months pregnant. I say it’s no problem, but I hate the idea of people saying I shouldn’t go and being hyper protective. I’m going to go. I want to go. It’s happening. Period.
I guess I’m feeling a little feisty and bitchy.
By the way they calculate pregnancy duration, I’m officially five weeks and one day pregnant. From the time of conception, I’m fifteen days pregnant. Silly, really, that they just round it up. It doesn’t matter, I suppose. I prefer accuracy, though, for the most part.
And so here I sit, uncomfortable, twisting and turning, with a ticket to Motherhood on a bus that won’t come for another eight more months.
I have dull cramping right now. It’s a drag. 
But I'm officially: PREGGERS IN CHINA!! And that's worth having the jitters for.