Saturday, July 30, 2011


My time in Canada is coming to a close. I have spent the last ten days being nausea-free and feeling like a human being again. In that time, I have attended a beautiful wedding reception in Rhode Island (dipped into the US!), had an incredibly magical gig with two songwriters I love and admire in Toronto, and learned that an old friend and amazing poet & musician passed away suddenly at the young age of 43. 
So it's been a powerful and intense time.
It was a beautiful gift to attend the wedding event, and really was the reason I travelled across the waters this summer. I was there without my partner, sadly, and saw many people from my former community, many of whom have long circled out of my orbit (as I have theirs) and some who were as thrilled to reconnect with me as I was with them. I wished Guo Jian could have been with me, absolutely, but I was grateful to have Little Spark there, at least, to psychically absorb the beauty of my friends’ love (the gorgeous married couple) as I rubbed my belly in wonder.
It’s amazing how carrying the next generation can make a person (me) see everything with clearer vision, crisper edges, brighter colours. 
I saw a purity of love between my friends who got married that I truly want Little Spark to witness and experience. I saw other things too, like social dynamics and pressure that I hope to protect Little Spark from for as long as possible. I saw the ocean and smelled the dawn seaside air and wanted Little Spark to feel that on his or her face. I also hoped the ocean would be even cleaner than it is now by the time he or she is old enough to run wildly into it, laughing. 
As I watched the sunrise last Sunday morning, I could only feel excitement for the world that is unfolding for us both as I become a mother and he or she becomes a being about to be born. Fierce pride and resolve were with me all weekend as the summer colours of the hydrangea flowers popped everywhere I looked. I also discovered my healthy dose of “mama bear” protection instinct too and it made me smile, knowingly. I guess I'm experiencing the real beginnings of parenthood.

All of this was blanketed in a subtle and warm joy that I haven’t experienced yet in my pregnancy.
I mean, let’s just analyze for a second the physical reasons why the second trimester, (or in my case, the 16th week or 4th month onwards), can be so joyful and exciting for a mom-to-be. It is often described as the “best time in one’s pregnancy.”
Fact #1: she finally doesn’t want to retch on people’s shoes during a conversation.
Fact #2: she starts feeling in her body again, like recovering an old friend, and this generates such gratitude for feeling well.
Fact #3: she is starting to show a little belly and her pregnancy starts being something that others can experience too, visually. And that’s just fun! (It’s always nice when people know you’re pregnant and don’t look at you as though you’ve been eating too much pizza for far too many months.)
And, in this case, the "she" is ME and so that me is happy. 
So, last weekend was divine and it was followed by a return to Toronto where I had the chance to gig in Toronto and announce publically, on stage, that Little Spark was the silent, 6th person up there. It was a songwriter-in-the-round with Layah Jane and Sara Kamin, two great artists from Toronto, as well as backing musicians Oliver Johnson and Cheryl Reid. We all had a beautiful time and I truly felt that “pregnancy glow” that people talk about. It was all around me. I felt it in the music, the air, in the shape of my own smile, the lilt of my own good mood.
Damn, it’s good to be back.
I had just received the news of David Blair’s passing, though, a brilliant poet and songwriter from Detroit. He and I had shared a night of music on October 30th last year and spoke of doing more shows together this year. We’ve known each other for over a decade and used to perform together more regularly back in the day. Reconnecting with him was a highlight of my fall tour and the news of  his sudden passing (of natural causes) at the young age of only 43 sent me reeling with disbelief as it did all those who have had the gift of knowing him.
In a way, I think the magic of that evening gig was David-inspired. Maybe he sent it to us.
That day, I asked my belly if Little Spark had settled on a spirit yet. I mean, it’s possible that there’s still a debate in the spirit world as to who is going to take on this body that is forming in my belly. Little Spark, like all fetuses, is (my perfect and welcomed) parasite. So, if there’s a possibility that a spirit doesn’t really definitively take up residence until this creature exists outside of its host, there may still be a vacancy!! 
So, naturally, I invited Blair to come back if he wanted to and I reminded him that I had the perfect vehicle growing in me for his safe return. That is, if there are no other drivers yet. And, of course, if he’s not otherwise engaged! Knowing him, he may have already launched a spirit-level mission to inspire change in the world on even higher levels than poetry and music. After all, he's always been a man with a project.
He is, and was, a beautiful spirit. We miss you, Blair.
Who knows who will arrive in January in this Little Spark bundle, but death and life, side by side, teetered ever so slightly this week and then settled perfectly into the calm, balanced pondering above.
My belly is growing. And, my heart is too. (Forgive me for the mushiness of that statement, but it's true!) This gift of life that is becoming more and more visible everyday is just, well, AWESOME. There’s a human being growing in me! It’s surreal and astounding all at once. I exist daily as a carrier of another human who will have a name, a personality, a favourite ice cream, a family, ….  a future!! What my female body is capable of doing, growing,  and BECOMING for the sake of the next generation is completely astounding
Bewilderingly beautiful. 
And I finally feel well enough to appreciate it. 
It’s all a huge gift.
Thank you.
to Life. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011


So, I’ve been in Canada now for about a week. It’s been so lovely to be here surrounded by my family and friends and to have people notice my little baby bump with a warm smile and a cooing lilt to their voices.
It’s week 16 and I am starting to feel better, at least better (less nauseous) compared to a month ago when I just wanted to curl up and die. The thing is, no one really can sympathize with a pregnant woman going through the retching and overheating and fatigue and mood swings and sore breasts (among a list a mile long of other issues) because, after all, this is what we wanted!   
And, I felt reminded of this every time I complained about how awful I felt. I was afraid I was somehow being ungrateful. Fate finally gave me this gift of Motherhood—something I have wanted my whole life—and I was bitching about it? I added self-loathing and self-criticism to the pile of things that were making me miserable.
And my blogs don’t convey it. I really was miserable. I was more miserable than I was happy about being pregnant. And I hated myself for it.  
And miserable doesn't mean regretful. I wouldn't change this for this world. I'm thrilled to be becoming a mother, so please don't misinterpret my words here. I also told Little Spark every day that I wasn't upset that he or she is growing in this belly of mine, but I was just feeling like crap because of it. In fact, I have been rallying Little Spark to please make it easier on me. It's the beginning of negotiations between mother and child.
Then, I got sick with a cold and that awful flu (or maybe it was food poisoning). I’m still coughing as I type this. Almost a month later, I am still hacking and spitting up phlegm and trying to get through a whole night of sleep without gasping myself awake with throaty coughing. I’m actually glad that Guo Jian isn’t with me on this trip because he’d surely be annoyed by the perpetual sleep interruptions. Hell, I’m annoyed and I’m also the one that’s got to do the hacking!
(Yeah, and everyone I tell that to says, "Well, it's good training for when the baby arrives! Your sleep will be interrupted constantly!" (Then they laugh) To them, I want to say, "Shut up! The baby's not here yet. Give me a break!!")
At the last pre-natal visit, the doctor gave me some safe Chinese medicine for the coughing and I’ve been taking it religiously, but it’s a three-week dose of small little glass viles of sweet, minty, brown liquid that I have to suck through a mini straw twice a day and I only got it two weeks ago. Who knows if it’s working, but I suppose I’ll just keep on sucking it back and hoping for the best.
I’m reading a great book that my friends Sarah and Suzy loaned me called “Bear With Me: What they don’t tell you about pregnancy and new motherhood.” (by Diane Flacks). The author is from Toronto and I’m loving her writing. She, like me, had a rough first trimester (worse than I did, actually) and she writes about how she felt after a dinner party with friends:
“When I got home, I was bleak, depressed, and couldn’t stop crying. I just wanted to be alone, but was terrified of being abandoned. I wanted to talk of nothing but the baby, but was afraid of being trapped with it. I wanted people to know how debilitating this first trimester felt, but didn’t want to be pathologized. I was a mess.”
Really, I could have written that. I have had all of those feelings and then some.
Recently, I learned that Guo Jian’s band will have an amazing opportunity to tour New Zealand for ten days in February on a fully-sponsored tour through the Arts & Culture department of the Chinese government. It’s like a golden egg for Chinese bands—a truly coveted chance for them to promote their music internationally. It would be their first international tour, as well.
I reacted to the news without the graciousness of a fellow artist who understands opportunity, but with the fangs of a scared dog afraid of being abandoned and kicked and starved, all at once. I pictured myself with a month-old infant (or younger, if Little Spark comes late!) and completely alone, without her privileged male partner (bastard!) who doesn’t have to breast feed and is “free to go” (bastard!) while I would be completely trapped and house bound by a mini human stranger who couldn’t tell me why he or she was crying.
I was inconsolable. He was upset. I was upset. It was messy.
Luckily, we separated and both sought support from outside of our relationship and when we came together again on the issue, he was calmer and I was more reasonable. Ten days is doable. He’s not going to abandon me or Little Spark. He said he’d make sure I had support and asked if I wanted a friend to come from overseas and he’d contribute to that. He even said he wouldn’t plan anything else that required travelling until the baby was at least three months old. And that's the way it should be, I think. I mean, I can't suddenly decide to go on tour!!
Besides, these are things you can milk, right?
So, maybe he will experience a type of breast feeding after all!!! LOL!
Anyway, all this is to say that moods, emotions, physical instability and the overall overwhelming nature of being pregnant for the first time and in one’s first trimester (and just into the second) is, well, BIG. It’s bigger than I ever realized. It’s HUGE. (Not unlike my breasts, if you can even call them mine!) And, I think it’s okay to complain once in awhile. I mean, I’m growing a human being inside of me right now!! I think I deserve a few breaks from the sunny disposition that I’m supposed to have as an excited pregnant new-momma-to-be!  <fer fuck’s sake!>
My crabby moments have lately been soothed by access to lots of yummy Western foods thanks to being in Canada, like candies that I’ve missed and chips (I know, I’m all about junk food these days!) and, of course, the comfort foods of home like sandwiches and simple pasta with red sauce and perogies. YUM. Okay, I’m hungry now. Like usual.
I’ve also been soothed by NEW CLOTHES. My Mom took me shopping on the third day of my visit and we scoured the regional used clothing stores for maternity shirts and pants that hold in my newly grown hips and ass and don’t squeeze my belly. We found lots of great things for super cheap and I now have a collection of both official maternity clothes and just bigger clothes for bigger me.
But, most of all, besides the coughing and hacking from this perpetual cold (thank you pregnancy hormones for suppressing my immune system!), I’m feeling more comfortable than I have in months. So, it’s a good time to finally be able to say to people, “I’m feeling good, actually. Right now I don’t want to dry heave or curl up in the back seat of a stranger’s car feeling like death’s slave. So, that’s great!”
People’s reactions are funny.  They are so relieved to know that’s not how you feel right now because no one knows what to do with the honesty of physical discomfort in the moment—it makes people so uncomfortable and it’s not worth their squirming. I know. In fact, I stopped telling the whole truth and started just changing the subject, walking away, or sweeping it aside in a weak joke. 
So, the biggest progress at week #16 is just the ability to finally, happily, be able to deliver the words: “I feel pretty good.”
Oh, and let's not forget these words, "Check out this baby belly!"
I no longer look like I just ate too much pizza and got chubby.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


On Sunday, we went to the hospital for check-up #2.

Once again, we got there in the morning and I was impressed by the greeting that ushered us to the correct counter, explained that we would only need to flash our "Mary's card" each time we came and it would be this easy from here on in. They swiped the cards and explained which floor to visit.

The moment we stepped out of the elevator on the second floor, an attending nurse (or perhaps she was a receptionist) confirmed we were there for pre-natal and then walked us to the right room. We felt very 'swept in' and comfortable.

I didn't wait long. Again, I was weighed and my blood pressure was taken. This all happens in the waiting room and the results of these tests are not personal. It reminded me a bit of being in a locker room after swimming practice with my gym class--everyone else was naked and so why should I feel strange about being naked? Likewise, in that waiting room with the plush purple chairs, all the other pregnant women and their partners knew my weight and blood pressure and I knew theirs, so why should I care? This was how I rationalized the sudden embarrassment, that is. It's funny the cultural hang-ups I carry with me without realizing it, like the notion that blood pressure and especially weight should be private information. Who really cares?

When we were taken into the doctor's office, I noticed that it wasn't the doctor who had met with us the first time. I pointed it out to Guo Jian as the doctor was discussing the previous patient with the nurse. He scrunched up his eyes as he was trying to remember their different faces and then tentatively asked the doctor if "余大夫" (Doctor Yu) was coming today or not. The doctor said that she was a replacement--(another woman in her mid-fifties that looked a bit similar)--and assured us she was qualified and then dryly asked, "Is that okay then?" "Sure," we responded quickly, and then she nodded at me and briskly said, "Well come on then, let us listen to the heartbeat!" while pointing to the bed with her chin.

I scrambled up, laid myself down and she put a glob of goo on my belly like it was an ultrasound, turned on a small hand-held instrument, and then suddenly I could hear the slush, slush of my insides, followed promptly by the sound of a churning freight train. She stopped then, left the microphone there, and said, "There it is!"

"Guo Jian, listen! That's the baby's heart!" I called out, and his eyes widened and said, "Really? It's so fast. It sounds like a drum loop!" The doctor explained that it's twice the speed of our adult heartbeats and he laughed in wonder. So did I. The doctor finally cracked a grin at our excitement.

When I sat back down, she told us to ask her anything. I began with the series of questions that I had prepared and was impressed by her straightforward manner and intelligence. She handled every question beautifully and efficiently. Guo Jian inserted his worres about the flights I was planning to take during the pregnancy, about me riding my bike, and about me driving the car with my "pregnancy brain" and she swept them aside like mosquitoes. "没事!" (That's nothing to worry about!) I gave him a little shove and said, "See, I told you!" and she inserted that at about 7 months pregnant, I may feel the steering wheel to be uncomfortable at my belly, but that there was no reason I couldn't drive or ride my bike or fly on an airplane.

The other things I learned is that I will be able to negotiate people in the birthing room and their loose policy of "one at a time" is just a guideline. It's all negotiable and won't be a problem. I'll also be able to control the environment with lighting and music and insisting that no one wear masks as though I'm a sick person. She reminded me that it was early yet to ask these questions but assured me that this was no problem. I even got to ask about the placenta and my access to it. She also felt that whether I produce dried placenta pills through a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor or not, it would make no difference to my general health, but she said I could have access to it, no problem.

She went on to explain that we should attend the music classes at the hospital, asking whether or not we listen to music or sing at home. After learning that we are professional musicians, she said that she still thought we should attend but that perhaps we could give the instructor some tips and pointers while we were there! At this, she winked. I liked her.

It was at this point that I was able to tell her about the incident at the music venue and she smiled and explained that 15 weeks is early but that it's quite likely that I did feel the baby move, noting that I must be very sensitive to my body's rhythms, and that having a physical reaction to music while pregnant is definitely the baby's way of telling us what he or she likes or dislikes.

After leaving the office, Guo Jian had to give blood (which he was dreading and then subsequently didn't even realize had happened and was over, much to his delight!) and then we had an appointment with the dietician. While we were waiting, I realized that I'd forgotten to ask the doctor something and rushed back to see if she was free. She was.

I asked her about amniocentesis and whether or not I would require further testing, mostly due to my age. She said that if my blood work had shown nothing unusual, that I wouldn't require further testing and not to worry. She explained that further testing only gets us so much information, as well, and that there are several health issues that simply don't show up in fetal testing, like deafness or blindness and a few other diseases whose names I didn't understand in Chinese. She finished with "别担心" (don't worry) and I returned to the waiting area feeling better.

The dietician was thorough and spoke as fast as is humanly possible. We both had to slow her down three times! We sat in a room with others who listened into our meeting with her and, again, I had the locker room feeling of being exposed. It was fine, really, because who really cares if they know that I'm vegetarian and that I don't eat fish or seafood. She advised lots of eggs and nuts and soy products--nothing I hadn't heard before. It would be great if people weren't especially interested in what Westerners eat and I didn't feel everyone's attention to my answers, but in the end, I just dismissed it as cultural curiosity and tried to focus on the task at hand: our appointment!

The only thing that rather poked at my ribcage was when the dietician asked my original weight and then my current weight. Altogether, I have already gained 4-5kg (about 10 pounds). She said, in Chinese, "Oh, you've gained a lot of weight!" However, in Chinese, the only way to say this is the literal: "Oh, you've gotten really fat!" (你胖了很多!)I have to admit that hearing the word "fat" in any language when the adjective is being directed at you is an immediate buzz kill. She then went on to add that my original weight was quite thin so perhaps my body was preparing itself for pregnancy and therefore packing on the weight quickly at first. It felt like little consolation while the word "fat" still rang in my ears, but I nodded. She still advised no more than 15kg of weight gain overall. I left with a renewed prescription for prenatal vitamins and a resolution to eat less ice cream.

Once again, I didn't notice a single foreigner in the hospital despite all its promotional material featuring beautiful foreign women and their beautiful babies (see banner above). I did feel comfortable, though, and I know we made the right choice to go here. Everyone who spoke with us was kind and respectful and attentive.

As we were leaving, one of the nurses ushering us out (yes, they even send you off!) explained that the replacement doctor was in fact that head doctor at the hospital--the hospital president, the 院长!  I suppose I chose the right person to whom I should ask my questions regarding the birthing environment! Now I know that if anyone gives me trouble, I can assure them that their boss told them it would be fine!!  I commented that I liked her 干脆 (straightforward or direct) personality and the nurse laughed. "She's definitely 干脆!," she said.

I love this word because it is a compound of the adjective for "dry" (干 gan, first tone) and the adjective for "brittle" or "crispy" (脆 cui, fourth tone). To me, this is a super clear way of expressing that "straightforward" or "direct" personality trait. The words a "干脆" person uses are dry and sometimes brittle, but they're not swimming in subtext or soggy with emotion. Perfect. Especially perfect for a doctor.

When we got home, I set to work on other things and Guo Jian started his daily routine of Tai Chi study. About an hour later, I received a phone call from the hospital explaining that they had forgotten to advise me to take additional tests as a result of my age. I was confused. The nurse explained that it wasn't amniocentesis but was further blood tests that would then have to happen at a different location and would not be covered by our pre-purchased, prenatal health plan card. When I inquired as to cost, I learned it would be "两千多" or "more than 2000RMB," which could mean anything from 2001RMB to 2999RMB, or about 350-500 Canadian dollars.

I was shocked. "Why didn't anyone tell me about this when we were there?" "Sorry," she said, "but we forgot your age and we're sorry for the inconvenience." "But, the doctor--the hospital president--said that my blood work wasn't unusual, so why would I have to come back to give more blood?" "This isn't at the same lab," she explained calmly, "and so you'd have to give blood again because it's elsewhere. We will give you directions to get there." I sighed. I realized that if I were still 34 years old, I wouldn't be getting this phone call. "Can I choose not to do this?" I asked, with a distinct 干脆 (straightforward) tone. At this, she paused and said, "Well, yes, you have the right not to do this, but we have to legally advise you to take these tests and so this is the purpose of this call."

At this, Guo Jian, annoyed to have his Tai Chi interrupted by this phone call beside him and also aware that I had been struggling with the topic and the language of the call, impatiently snatched the phone from my hands and asked her to explain it again to him. I was irritated by his frustration, but also relieved to be assisted. After he had asked the same questions that I had (argh) and a few extras (thankfully), he politely declined the service and explained that I was from Canada and if I really wanted the testing that I could walk into a hospital in Canada and get it for free there in the next few weeks. And then he said good-bye and hung up. Especially 干脆 of him!

Can I?

I suppose I can. The problem is that I don't really know what it is I'd be asking for and I'd be coming through the Canadian hospital or clinic doors without a referral or a GP in Canada. And what is it that they're going to test for anyway? Do I really want to know if there's something wrong with Little Spark? Would it change whether or not I carry this child to term and become his/her Mother? These are huge questions and not ones I really want to answer. The truth is that I'd rather trust that he or she is perfect in there, no matter what his/her physical situation is. Little Spark is perfect because Little Spark is ours.

I'm not sure I will go and get this additional testing in Canada. The jury's still out on that one. Besides, I don't even really understand what kind of testing it is. Maybe it's not free in Canada after all!?

I set about preparing for my departure to Canada with these questions hanging around my head like buzzing insects. I wished the hospital 院长 (president), with her 干脆 (straightforward) personality were nearby to sweep away these questions with her impatient hand and a quick “没事” (It's nothing!). The thing is, I had run back to her office to ask her this very question and she had already put my mind at ease about it. Why the sudden scary phone call?

The buzzing insects remain.


It was Saturday night. Guo Jian wanted to go and catch one of his friend's band playing at a local venue. I have heard their recording and wasn't thrilled with it, musically, but I realized that I've been seriously anti-social at night and decided to go with him. The problem isn't that I don't want to socialize; it's that I'm too tired by eleven o'clock to enjoy being out on the town. What's more, the fact that China isn't smoke-free is an issue. Every time I'm anywhere where there is smoke--restaurant or bar or music venue--I feel claustrophobic and guilty to be exposing my Little Spark to secondhand poison.

I went along, though, mostly because I wanted to be with him and I was tired of seeing him go out without me. We would soon be separated for three weeks with my trip to Canada and so every moment seemed precious now. Besides, it was preceded by a nice meal out after I had done a recording job that was more lucrative than I had originally expected. We were both full of yummy food and happy, ready for some more positive vibes.

We got there at about 10:15pm and the first band was just setting up. His friend's band was the second band, but we had already worked it out that I could take the car back home early if I got tired and he would catch a taxi after the show.

You see, my fatigue is like a tarp that moves over me and suffocates the waking. I start to feel its shadow about twenty minutes before I simply want darkness all around me and to suspend myself in the unconscious beauty of rest. I have wanted to curl up and sleep in alleyways and under vehicles in these frantic moments, figuring the discomfort of stone or asphalt as my pillow and mattress would be quickly erased by the unconscious peace that my body was screaming for. There have been times when it's been that extreme and I'm not exaggerating. Pregnancy has delivered a type of fatigue that is unique to any I have ever experienced--unique in its own distinct way not unlike jet lag fatigue is unique. You just slip away. You have no choice in the matter. Pregnancy hormones slip in and unplug my fuses without my consent.

So, I had the keys in hand and I knew that if the dark flap of that fatigue tarp started to edge nearer, that I could be home in fifteen minutes and asleep in twenty.

We stood in the fairly packed room and I thanked the rafters for being high up and allowing the cigarette smoke more space to rise. I like the venue (Mao Live House) for its rawnchy, rockiness and I felt nostalgic for the day that I actually met Guo Jian in that space, June of 2007. I mentioned it then and in his characteristically Chinese way of not being verbally nostalgic, he listened and smiled, acknowledged he remembered and then promptly changed the subject. We then socialized briefly with his friends and before long the guitar raged to life on stage and the rest of the band took position.

The first song began and by the end of the first verse I felt a rumble in my stomach that I had never felt before. I thought it was a hunger pain at first, but then I realized that it wasn't actually pain and it just felt strange like something had shifted or was shaking in there. And then it dawned on me that:
We had passed the first chorus and were into the second verse when this all hit me along with the simultaneous message delivered directly into my conscious mind like a bullet that the baby was hating the music. To be honest, I wasn't digging it either but I was trying to be open-minded. As I felt more movement, though, and my hand rested in the spot on my belly where it was all happening, I could almost picture this little creature beating its hands and feet at my insides in protest and frustration.

I leaned into Guo Jian's shoulder and turned my mouth to his ear to tell him that Little Spark didn't like the music and I had to leave. He looked incredulous and asked, "Really? How do you know?" "I just know. It's a feeling. I can feel the baby telling me we have to go!" My eyes widened in alarm. He nodded and pushed his hand at the small of my back to lead me out the door as quickly as he could. In moments, we were through the smoky lobby and seated on the front step out front of the venue.

He asked me then exactly what happened and I explained as best as I could. The strange sensation in my belly went away as suddenly as it had started and I felt much more peaceful out there on the outside, the clanging cymbals and driving guitar raging on the inside. We sat out for the rest of the first song and into the second before Guo Jian said he had to go back and support the band and suggested I head home. It was time anyway. I had just started to feel that flicker of fatigue edging closer and I was thinking the same thought. It was 10:40pm.

I was in bed by 11. I fell asleep smiling at the thought that Little Spark already was an opinionated music listener. "Way to go, Little Spark," I whispered. "Good ears already!"

About an hour and a half later, Guo Jian crawled into bed and whispered almost the same thing to Little Spark as he wrapped his around me and cradled my belly. He said, "The band really wasn't that great, Little Spark. You were right." And then he added in English: "Goodnight baby. Goodnight baby's Mom." Lately he's taken to calling me that and he thinks he's really clever to have realized he could do that possessive grammar construction in English and to have thought it all up on his own. I just grinned a sleepy grin when I heard it. "Goodnight baby's Dad," I answered.

I heard him smile.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


My dear friend Jackie was visiting here for two weeks and I haven’t been blogging as much as a result. She just left this morning and I realize that I have so much to share!

I’ve crossed into my 14th week and I’m officially 14 weeks and 3 days pregnant. My bump is growing and visible. Fisherman’s pants and flowing shirts have been my wardrobe staple and will probably continue as such for the next couple of months as I brave this Beijing heat.
Temperatures have hit the high thirties and the humidity is heavy on my shoulders. I’m not a fan of air conditioners but I have had to relent several times and turn it on for a few hours at night. The heat has fanned its flames over my skin and only the light cool air has given me any rest. I’ll blame Little Spark for both the overheating and the lowered resistance to heat. What else should I expect from a creature I have nicknamed “Little Spark”?
A week ago and a half ago, I accompanied my friend to The Great Wall of China, a must for all first-timers here. The short day trip we took (to save me from driving and further exhaustion) was through IntrepidTravel. Rising at 6am, catching the bus at 7am, a full day of climbing and walking, and then not falling asleep until midnight as a result of catching up (yacking with Jackie!) meant for an immediate sore throat the next day. With or without a growing belly, I need my sleep. When I don’t get it, I edge quickly towards getting a cold.
Then, with lots of other plans scheduled for the rest of the week, I never really did recover from that outing and my cold developed into a raging and sloppy head cold and then into a rattling cough that is now in my chest and causing me to hack up green phlegm. Too much information? Sorry! Point being that: 

I am sick and pregnant at the same time, which makes even Chinese medicine off limits. 

All I can do is ride this out and hope that getting some rest and plenty of fluids will help me recover in the next few days.
A week had gone by since the initial sore throat and on Monday of this week, thanks to the abundance of English guides in this city, I sent Jackie off to see the Forbidden City and Tian’anmen Square without me. I tucked her safely into a cab outside my apartment complex, directed the driver, and then sluggishly bought some veggies and fruits and trudged my way back up the stairs, whining to myself and aching all over. I spent the morning sprawled on the couch with a roll of toilet paper in reaching distance for my nose-blowing and a lot of effective moaning and groaning to Guo Jian, a trick I have learned from him, by the way. And it gets results!
(Aside: Men really do whine a lot more than women when they're sick, I've found. Okay, it's a generalization, but am I the only one to have noticed this? As a result, I've learned that if I do about the same amount of whining that he would do, he'll respond with about the same amount of care that he would want in the same situation. Presto!) 
Guo Jian had given me the shopping list in a sleepy daze before I left to send Jackie off. After I returned and did my requisite whining, before I knew what was happening, he was whipping up a variety of all-natural remedies to ease this ridiculous cold. The kitchen was a blur of the sounds of chopping and the clanging of pots. He poked his head out a few times to tell me to “多喝水” (drink more water) or to chastise me for not resting more and staying up too late with my friend. 
(I’ve long come to understand that this is about love and care and not about criticism or blame in Chinese culture. It doesn’t help the solution to be chastised, in my Western opinion, but I know now to just hear it as his way of saying that he cares and is paying attention. In his culture, it seems to be part of the care-giving process.)
He emerged with the first of the delicacies, which was a tangerine that had been put in the oven with some salt on one side and the peel slightly open where it had been salted. He instructed me to peel it down fully and eat each piece before it got cold. Hot and salty tangerine! Kinda weird. I ate it, though. Obedient me.
Next, a bowl of steaming Chinese pear pieces and more tangerine slices, all of which had been boiled in water. These were really good. Once they cooled down slightly to eat them, it was a warm treat.
Then came a large tea mug filled to the top with tangerine peel and hot water and flavoured with rock sugar. This was also tasty, that is until it became bitter. “The bitterness is what cures the cough,” he said. I drank it.
Finally, a big bowl of broth came sloshing towards me as the final offering. It was the water from boiled white radish (daikon), ginger, and a large green onion (the thick Chinese kind). After so much in the way of sweetness, it was a bit shocking at first but then I also found it tasty and I finished it off.
After all of that, my chest actually did feel lighter.
I was a good patient. He was a good doctor. I still felt terrible, though. He headed off to a rehearsal and I headed off to a meeting with my album engineer, hoping that the remedies would kick in. The coughing continued but his sweetness and kindness was enough, really. Cured or not, I felt loved and cared for.
Now it’s Thursday morning. Yesterday, I woke up dry heaving and expelling toxins through the back end (or what we, on tour, affectionately called “butt pee”) and, though I apologize for the indelicacy of this paragraph, it is the truth of my morning!! I drove Jackie to the airport shaky and weak, but managed to get her checked in and sent off and to drive myself back home through rush hour traffic without more dry heaving and in time to collapse where there was a bed to catch me.
I slept until noon, went to a recording job, left early because I wasn’t feeling well, slept in the taxi home, then climbed the stairs to my bed, collapsed for the second time yesterday, and slept some more. 
At around 7pm, I rose and tentatively put a few things in my stomach and then went back to bed. I slept from 8pm last night to 7:30am this morning, only rising to relieve my pregnant bladder. Now today, Thursday, with nothing to do except more resting, I am hoping to stomp out this illness for good and regain some strength.
Guo Jian says it’s about the heat and humidity as well, as pregnant women are prone to increased fire or “上火,” which is the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) term. He’s been pouring mung bean soup (绿豆粥) into thermoses and thrusting it into my hands as I leave the house, as well as making me drink boiled brown sugar and ginger water, both meant to help me ‘bring down the fire.’ Let's hope it works!
After a bit more chastising today about running myself down and not taking care of myself and Little Spark while simultaneously driving me to my recording job, (again, super sweet of him), I agreed to do absolutely nothing last night and today.
And that is my plan: no plan. 
My Mom told me awhile ago that she got really sick when she was pregnant with me. My sister was nearly three years old and was worried that my Mom was going to 'cough up the baby.' While I was hacking yesterday, remembering this story made me smile. At least Little Spark is safe in there!
In other news, my pregnancy nausea has waned slightly but has been replaced by this cold, so if I can just conquer the latter, maybe I’ll find that I can manage the former and those second trimester glory times will ease on in...
Wish me luck and send some strength. I need it!