Pregnancy Update: Week 40 {Done. So Very Very Done.}

I’ve been having false labour for almost three weeks now. Sometimes it’s just run of the mill Braxton Hicks contraptions. But sometimes, and especially in the past week, it’s call the doula, pack your hospital bags, stock up on gatorade, clutch your abdomen in pain type of contractions that happen every eight minutes and last for 16 hours. Only to fizzle out and leave you tired and sore in a pool of disappointment and frustration.  

 

 

Needless to say, I’m so over this.

 

It’s one thing to be uncomfortable, crampy, and contractiony when I’m on my own. But it’s a whole other circle of mum-guilt hell when there’s another kid involved. Basically all I want to do is lie in bed, eat cookies and drink ice cold water from a mason jar while watching episode after episode of The Good Wife.  But I have a child to feed, entertain, and enrich, and sadly she’s just not interested in hanging out with the electronic babysitter all day long. She wants to play pretend. Every day. Always.

 

And yesterday it kind of all came to a head.

 

It was our Monday Lady Date Day, so I took Stella out for fancy cake. But I was short on patience, and the most I could muster was a half-hearted game of restaurant-restaurant while we ate our cake.

 

We got stuck in stop-and-stop Jakarta traffic on the way home, and I capped off little outing by snapping at my poor girl, who was intent on playing midwife-midwife in the back of a taxi “OMG I JUST CAN’T RIGHT NOW PLEASE JUST DON’T TOUCH ME MUMMY CAN NOT OKAY JUST STOP!!!” And that may or may not have happened more than once. Because. Aggggghhhh!!!!

 

Back at home I thought I could make up for my cranky mummy mood by agreeing to feed Stella pancakes and maple syrup for lunch, and sure why not? I’ll let you be independent and pour your own syrup…oh shit, so, there goes half the bottle of imported spendy like gold syrup all over your plate, oh well, there’s no saving it now, I guess I’ll just let you eat your syrup with a little pancake on the side. I mean, oatmeal kamut pancakes, that's like a balanced meal, and, really, what’s the worst that could happen?

 

And that is how you end up, 39w6d pregnant, besieged by false labour, and the sole adult responsible for a pre-schooler literally bouncing off the walls, beds, floors, all flat surfaces, in fact, on the sugar high of her life. 

 

And so I called my husband home from work to look after our frenetic sugar addled child, fed her room service for dinner (again!) and then cried so hard at my failings as a parent and my asshole uterus that I literally made myself vom. Oh pregnancy. You're really a peach, aren't you. 

 

And now, for what had better be my last pregnancy update.

 

How Far Along:

40 Weeks. Today. OMG. DONE.

 

How Big is Baby:

Baby Boy is measuring about 3.3 KG. Which, if you ask me, is big enough. SO, YOU CAN COME OUT NOW.

 

Movement:

Things are getting pretty cramped in there, but not too restricted to throw some nice pokey knees and elbows at my right ribcage!

 

Total Weight Gain:

I don’t even care any more. A lot. Probably close to 25 kg. In the past couple of weeks I’ve just been like, okay! finish line in sight! I’ll eat all the things, and also my feelings. Which taste like an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies! And you know what? I haven’t gained any weight since about 37 weeks. Contrast that with my first two trimesters wherein I ate nothing and basically gained a third of my bodyweight. Eff you, pregnancy, you make no sense.

 

Sleep:

Well, I know many of your pregs really don’t sleep at all in the final weeks, and also I know full well the all night human milk buffet shift that is waiting for me on the other side of this, so I really shouldn’t complain. {but it's what I doooooooooo}I will say, though, I’m developing a superhuman ability to sleep through contractions, and if things continue like this I’ll probably be able to be unconscious during transition. So. 

 

Maternity Clothing:

Ahhhhahahahahaha! Isn’t that cute? You think I actually put clothing on my body at this stage? Nope. It’s all leggings and sweatpants, all the time. And I feel like I should feel bad about that since I live in a super fancy hotel, and there are appearances to keep up and stuff. But nope. I don't. 

 

Cravings:

Not being pregnant. Ice cold water. Chocolate chip cookies. Bed. DVDs. Zero responsibility. Not having to play midwife-midwife. Silence. Hibernation. 

Linking up with Erica and Toi. Better late than never, right?

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Feathering

I'd like to think of myself as a doer. I want my lists long and my days full. I want out in the thick of it, messy traffic and all, seeing, doing, tasting, hearing, fingers in everything, outside, alive.

And I'd like to think of myself carrying on like this, despite a swollen belly or new babe in arms. I'd like to think of myself that way, especially, in opposition to local traditions that keep women (feeble they are!) confined for their pregnancies and cloistered during the first postpartum weeks. I'd like to think of myself as separate and apart from that. Stronger. More vibrant. 

Except, I'm not. 

These days I have little desire to open the front door. My territory doesn't extend much beyond my bedroom. Days and days of rain keep me at home. False labour has slowed my pace. Little projects, even computer-based ones don't much interest me. 

These days a pot of soup on the stove feels like a coup. A few answered emails are a triumph.

I'd rather be feathering my nest. I'd rather stay in bed wehre I whisper secrets with my girl, and play "sleeping party" under the blankets. A cup of tea on the bedside table, messy sheets, and a dvd playing on my laptop is about all I want.

And I'm trying to be okay with that. 

I think i've forgotten how to blog.

 

I used to come here and write my words down on the screen. But now, if it’s not pictures, and it’s not pregnancy, I just don’t know how to write it. Six months ago it was nauseous exhaustion. 

Now, thoughts are too hurried. Fingers can’t type out stories, they can only google “pre-pre-pre-labour signs” and “second pregnancy shorter?” and “how to tell if labour is near.” I can concentrate only on tabbing through endless images of totally essential minimalist Scandinavian baby accoutrements: leggings with the perfect understated modern esthetic; plush toys of the softest, quirkiest alpaca, and whimsically tasteful objects d'art. The simple monochrome brings order.  

 

And now, tonight, with my husband in Singapore and my girl fast asleep, I have the time to linger here, but all I want to do is go cocoon myself in the white sheets next to my sleeping big girl and prepare for the varied and sundry ways in which our life will be turned, ever so gloriously, upside down. 

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Pregnancy Update: Week 32

In lieu of a belly picture, becaue I JUST can't take a good one, here's my "mifwife" examining me. She does house calls. Which is great. 

 

Well, here we are at 32 weeks, with that same cocksure swagger that I adopted last time around. “I”m totally the best preg around! The third trimester is cake!”

 

Don’t worry though, at least this time around I fully expect that the pregnancy gods will give me a good punch in the teeth sometime around week 34. At which point, if history repeats itself, I’ll give myself frostbite by being too vigorous in the application of ice packs on my sore, painful, pregnant back. (I’m not even joking. That totally happened. And then the massage therapist lady that I eventually saw was like, WHAT DID YOU DO TO YOURSELF????)

 

Anyway, buckle up. It’s pregnancy update time.

 

How Far Along?

Thirty Two weeks (tomorrow), and predictably I’m kinda doom-spiraling about all the fact that I MUST DO ALL THE THINGS but actually have done none of the things, and here we are in the single-digit countdown stage with eight weeks left to feather the nursery with (totally necessary) charming Scandi inspired sundries that can take up to 12 weeks to arrive thanks to the efficiency of the Indonesian postal service. You know.

 

How Big is Baby?

At last check-up, about a week ago, he was about 1500 grams, and measuring exactly in the 50th percentile for everything. Stella measured big, like huge, at the same stage. I wonder if it was because my doctor was using a Japanese standard? I dunno. 

 

Movement: 

Lots. Alien-like undulations, that I’m sure are visible from space, are now a regular thing. 

 

Total Weight Gain:

Shutup. Gigantic. Forty week weight gain achievement UNLOCKED! (At thirty-two weeks. I am an overachiever.) 

 

Sleep:

THE BEST. I’m not even joking. Here is where I’m like exceptionally skilled as a preg. I wake up twice a night, and otherwise am just comatose. 

 

Maternity Clothing:

The worst. I continue to believe that leggings are pants, since I won’t actually WEAR mat pants. And if you don’t mind me, I’ll just continue to be a sartorial hot mess for the next, ohhh, six months.

 

Cravings:

Ice cold water. Can’t get enough. Wild times up in here, let me tell you.

 

Symptoms:

I am the weepy-ist. Also braxton-hicks make me worried about peeing my pants. 

 

So now that I’ve shared THAT special little piece o’ info you, I’m linking up with my name twin, and fellow expat mama, who is ALSO expecting a boy. Go! 

 

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So, I'm a birth brat, okay?

You guys, I think Japan has ruined me. RUINED!

 

I’m now officially a spoiled rotten birth brat, and that’s all there is about that.

 

I had a lot of anxiety regarding prenatal care in Japan. Part of that was due to legitimate gripes (here’s one GREAT OMGHATTTEEEEE example), and part of that was your run of the mill first-time-momhood-holy-shit-this-kid-is-being-born-in-a-foreign-country-what-am-I-even-doing-oh-gawd stuff. While I still look back on the prenatal care I received with a mixture of quaint affection and downright frustration, the birth experience and post-natal care was amazing. Like really.

 

Stella was born in a birth centre. There were several OBGYNs on staff, plus a full house of midwives and nurses there to attend to my every need. 

 

I laboured comfortably in a big, bright room. I didn’t have to be hooked up to any monitors; I could move around, choosing positions that felt good. I could eat and drink whatever I wanted. And though I had no interest in food for the majority of my labour, the nurses still brought me trays with beautifully presented bentos, which I’m pretty sure my husband ate? Probably?

 

A midwife was assigned to help me through the entirety of my labour, and she stayed with me almost the whole time I was doing the hard work of bringing a human into the world. She monitored the baby closely but was always working around what made me feel the least horrible. When the option of moving to the delivery room with a hospital bed was floated, and I was all …NOPE…, there was no further discussion of that foolhardy idea. 

 

So, the birth was great. But then the after care? That’s when shit got golden.

 

Can we talk, for a moment, about a huge, luxury 5 star hotel room, which I shared with zero people? And maybe some aromatherapy treatment? And how ‘bout in-house postnatal massages included in the “package”? And food so good that I was actually kind of stoked for mealtimes, which in a hospital setting is like, huh?

 

(Also, it should be noted that upon registration at this birth centre, I had a 45 minute long interview re. my dietary preferences. I’m not kidding. There was a whole meeting with a kitchen representative and a midwife to go over exactly what I, as a non-fish-eating person, would in fact consume. I don’t know if food is given similar weight in other birthing institutions in Japan, but it was serious business at this place. Serious. Business.)

 

I stayed at the birth centre for a full five-day recovery period. Which is on the short side of things in Japan. Most women stay seven days for a normal birth. And it was great. There was always someone around to help me if I needed help, and if I didn’t need anything, there were no interruptions or intrusive midnight vials checks. 

 

 

Now, cut to Jakarta. 

 

On Monday, I went on a tour of the hospital where I plan to birth this baby boy. It was nice. Clean, airy, bright. I’ll have a private room. The nurses were super friendly and encouraging. They’re down with my natural birth hopes and general hippie nonsense, and seem generally accommodating and totally fine. 

 

I should be all, THIS IS AMAZING CAPSLOCK!!!1111!!! But actually I’m like….but where is my aromatherapy treatment? Where’s the massage room?  And what about the artfully designed, perfectly appointed recovery rooms? The twinkle-star light feature? And the wabi-sabi bento boxes? No? Well, how EXACTLY, do you expect me to have a baby without them? Huh???!  

 

 

Of course I am beyond thankful that I can go to this hospital in Jakarta; it’s one of the best, and a far step better than what most Indonesian women experience. It’s even better than what I’d have if I were in North America. 

 

But, Japan, you sure did set my standards pretty high. So basically, god help me if I ever have to birth a human in North America. 

 

 

 

 

 

Pregnancy Weight Gain and other tales of woe.

Hi. So, um, can we talk about something totally vapid and trivial for a bit? Yeah, I know I specialise in the vapid and trivial, but still. I’ve got an extra dose for you today. 

 

Pregnancy weight gain is an asshole.

 

 

As of my last check-up at 24 weeks, which was almost a month ago, I’ve gained 10 (okay maybe 12?) KG. Which is basically about as much as you’re supposed to gain for you’re entire pregnancy. 

 

So, HORRAY! Advanced pregnancy weight gain achievement unlocked! I guess?

 

 

Weight gain got a lot of play in my previous pregnancy. In Japan, pregs are closely monitored and poundage kept in check. A good preg gains only 8 KG.  Suffice to say, I was not a good preg.  

 

At each and every prenatal appointment my caregivers would make a big production of determining the exact extent to which I was expanding. As the weeks wore on, disapproving remarks evolved into stern talking-tos as the scales clicked ever upwards.

 

Admonishments notwithstanding, I did pack on the pounds. I started pre-pregnancy at about 56 KG. I ended up weighing something like 78 or maybe 80 KG by the time I delivered. That’s about a 50 pound weight gain, you guys. 

 

This despite walking EVERYWHERE, and maintaining a pretty healthy diet of whole gains, vegetable matter, and the occasional home-baked treat.

 

 

I hung on to my post-baby weight for a few months, but as my postpartum period progressed, the pounds started dropping. By month eight I was nursing a hungry kid who wouldn’t eat solid food, and no matter how much bacon I shoved into my mouth, I couldn’t keep weight on. I dropped below my baseline weight, and stayed there, basically until Stella was eating like a real human.  

 

I tell myself that I’m a juicy preg, that I need to gain a little extra weight. It’s just the way my body works. That it’ll come off easily this time just as it did last.

 

Still. For a lot of complicated reasons, this whole weight gain thing is kind of hurting my fee-fees.

 

It’s not so much the size that I am now which bothers me. I mean, I’m a fine size. But it’s the transition from being smaller to bigger that bothers me. And I’ve given a lot of thought as to why.

 

There’s the pragmatic problems that come with figuring out how to dress a body that is bigger than normal. And the fact that fatter calves make it harder to sit in lotus position. We all know the the medical costs of weight gain (omg gestational diabetes? Are you lurking in there somewhere?) These things all contribute to my less than gleeful realisation that I’m getting heavier and heavier. 

 

There’s deeper stuff going on, too. Certainly there’s standard story of weight, media, body image, and self-wroth is weighting (hah!) on my mind. Despite knowing better, I do think that images of skeletal models selling me luxury handbags do creep their way into my consciousness. 

 

 

But this stuff is pretty standard issue. What’s really bothering me is that weight gain is also tied up in a complicated web of social status and morality. 

 

<ironic distance>

 

In the West being skinny means that you have extra resources to devote to your body. You have disposable income to invest in yoga memberships and 400 dollar juicers. If you’re skinny, you have the time and the smarts to investigate the many and sundry benefits of kale and chia seeds. You’re clever enough and enough to have a pantry stocked with the latest super foods and a brain stuffed full of the most recent thinking on optimal nutrition. You probably shop at Whole Foods, and care about the detrimental environmental effects of industrial pig farming. In the same way that your Pia Wallen blanket draped over your Eames chair announces your exceptionally good taste, your skinny body sends a message about exactly the kind of upwardly mobile, socially engaged smarty pants you are.

 

</ironic distance>

 

I admit that I buy into this nonsense. Being bigger than normal conflicts with my self image as a nutritional high achiever. I judge myself for getting so much bigger so quickly and worry that others cast a disapproving eye in my (gigantic) direction. 

 

And then there’s morality. And this is the one that really kicks me in the pants.

 

According to conventional wisdom, weight gain is ALWAYS a calories in - calories out equation. If you’re waistline is suddenly ballooning, it’s definitely  because of sloth and gluttony with maybe a hint of greed and lust thrown in? If you’re gaining weight, it’s because you don’t have the self-control to stop shoving peanut butter cups into your face hole. And also, PS, you’re a listless and lazy layabout and maybe you should turn off that TV and go for a walk.

 

Its this underlying stream of thought that has me feeling the need to shout to everyone “Hey! I’m just a juicy pregnant lady! I gain a lot of weight when I’m pregnant! It’s just what I do! But don’t worry! I’m eating all the fruits and veggies! I’ve eaten maybe three burgers and fires in the past six months. My grocery cart is stuffed with whole grains and there are no store-bought snack foods in my pantry at all! Promise!

 

So. That’s why I’m feeling so sub-awesome about getting bigger.

 

Now is the time when I conclude with a hopeful and thoughtful message. But sorry guys, I don’t really have one. I know, intellectually, that weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy. I realise that while I could do better in the nutritional department, I’m already doing pretty well. I trust that post-baby, my body will snap back to normal after a leisurely recovery period. But I still feel like a gigantic glutinous rhinoceros and I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. 

To the Sea

My 20 Week Ultrasound in Singapore

This picture has kind of nothing to do with anything except that it's in the Singapore Airport, and it's Stella and she's kind of the best, so. 

I'd gotten pretty used to the laid-back approach to pre-nantal care in Jakarta. I go to my clinic, pee on a PH stick, get my blood pressure checked, get weighed (they don't even COMMENT on my enormous weight gain, TAKE THAT, Japan), and then pop in for a quick visit with the Doc. It's a brief "Hello, how are you, any problems, okay ultrasound time!" And then we're done.

 

(This compared to my Japanese appointments which always had an elaborate ritual of blood tests, cups of pee, belly exam and measurements, and scolding for being too fat.)

 

When I showed up at the clinic in Singapore for my anomaly scan, I had to go through the  registration process. They ask a lot of questions. Like they want to know every detail about both parents' lives, occupation, place of employment, and religion. RELIGION??? What? Excuse me. How exactly does this impact my medical care?

 

Oh, and another favourite of mine: "Name of husband/guardian."

 

Guardian??? GUARDIAN? Is this real life? Is this the 21st century, Singapore? What you're saying is that if I didn't have a husband I'd need a GUARDIAN?? And anyway, how exactly does my marital / guardianship status influence the doctor's ability to evaluate my pregnancy???

 

Because I'm such a pedantic peach, I obviously took this is an opportunity to point out the absurdity of this question, but passive aggressively because that's how I roll. So I circled that offending part of the registration form and cover it in exclamation points. You know.

 

 

Anyway, my Singapore doctor did not bring up either my religion or my guardianship status. Thank Feminism. He did, however, complete a super thorough exam of the baby, the likes of which I'd never before experienced either in Japan or here in Jakarta.

 

It's funny. When I went into see a doctor while on vacation in Canada when I was pregnant with Stella for reasons having to do with FIRST TIME MOTHER FREAKING OUT, all the doctor did was to have a little chat, have the nurse get out the doppler, and take a quick listen. Brush hands and done.

 

In Japan, and here in Jakarta, it's all ultrasounds all the time. Wanna see if you're really preg? Let's do an ultrasound at six weeks! Eight week appointment? Ultrasound. Worried about your pregnancy for no good reason? Come in for an ultrasound, NBD! 

 

And Iet's not joke around, I kind of love that. Before reassuring kicks to the bladder become a regular thing, it's really nice to actually see the baby and know that all is fine. And also, it's great to check in on things later in the pregnancy and make sure that all looks good. You know? I think North America should get on this ultrasound train.

 

Anyway, my Singapore ultrasound. When it was all finished, the doctor typed up a five (FIVE) page super official report including graphs and measurements and other science things and handed it over along with a DVD containing all the images form the ultrasound. Which totally surprised me. But shouldn't have. Because, duh, it's Singapore. 

 

What's the deal in the US / Canada / Europe / Elsewhere. Do you get multiple ultrasounds? A five page post scan report? Graphs? Quizzed on your religion and who owns you? Just curious. 

+++ 

Oh, I've kind of majorly dropped the ball in the Top Baby Blogs department. They reset their numbers and I'm like totally slipping! Can you give us a vote? I'd super appreciate it!!!

 

Thanks and candy!

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On the Road Again With Links

A stationary rock grows moss...or something? Isn't that an expression? An old Chinese proverb???? I could google it, but, well. Whatever.

I'm traveling again, visiting my aunties and collecting some wonderful Grannieisms for you all. Believe me, I have a few shockers in my back pocket. Anyway, all this means that I'm going to be out of theinterwebular loop for the next several days.

However, if you're jonesing for some Stella cuteness (because obviously you are, I mean, knowing what we are up to clearly is a major and significant issue at the forefront of EVERYONE's mind) do not despair. 

There is a wonderful post (ha! I wrote it!) over at Mummy in Provence on my experience having a baby in a foreign country. Go read it! Please! And comment! Lots! 

Mummy in Provence is a fab blog (fablog?) for all you granola-friendly multi-cultural minded mums.Ameena (an English-Egyptian Dubai-born France-living granola entrepreneur rockstar) writes about baby-led weening, Elimination Communication, and third-culture kids. She also has a weekly feature exploring the myrid cultural differences to be found in the way different cultures go about birthing babies. 

Also, in case you missed it, my first NSEW: Expat Dispatches post wherein I feign having thoughtful insights, parenting wisdom and a large vocabulary. Check it, bitches. 

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Expat Parenting: Adjustments, Accommodations, Acclimatizations

Surely all parents can agree that there is a nugget of truth to that familiar expression, "I was the perfect parent before I had kids." In my case, it is more a boulder than a mere nugget. 

 

I've had baby fever since as long as I can remember. In fact my first word was BABY. I started my parenting research at the tender age of 12, reading my parents' copy of "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk" and dreaming how I would be an unerring progenitor with flawless technique; my perfectly adjusted children the envy of parents everywhere. And then I got knocked up the week we moved to Japan, and suddenly everything changed; for expat parenting is nothing if not an exercise in being flexible and adjusting your parenting ideals*. 

 

At first I resisted the notion of adjustment and flexibility. An unhappy trifecta of homesickness, culture shock, and pregnancy crazysauce had me flailing for control of the fundamentally uncontrollable process of growing a baby. I was convinced that everything, from pre-natal care to nursery decoration to cloth diaper purchases had to be done exactly by the (North American) book. Ultra-sounds at every OB visit? WRONG! For that is not the way it is done at home! Japanese cribs? Obviously a DEATH TRAP for babies, and therefore we must purchase one from Canada at great personal, emotional and financial expense. Thus went my line of reasoning.

 

I continued in this manner, until about three weeks before my due date when it dawned on me, "you know, it's a lot of work resisting the Japanese system. I’m tired. These guys deliver healthy babies every day. I need to trust them." And so I did. And when the arrival of our daughter was imminent I agreed to procedures and interventions that would not likely have been administered in Canada, but you know, it was FINE. The world did not stop turning. And I was happy.

 

These adjustments, of course, continue as Stella grows. I'm introducing food to her diet that, if I lived in a whole-grain, raw-honey, crunchy granola mecca, I would not otherwise allow past our threshold. We make do with what is available and Stella occasionally eats white bread. I drop Stella off at daycare, where I am not allowed to enter the baby room and settle her before I leave. But that's the way it's done in Japan, and I value my working time too much to bristle at this. 

 

I'm sure that as Stella grows, and as we find ourselves in new and different surroundings, our choices will continue to be shaped by the culture around us, and we will grow more flexible as time stretches our beliefs. Will I permit her to eat shark fin soup? Or walk to school on her own at six years old? Or start pre-school at three? Who knows? It will depend entirely on the circumstances we find ourselves in. So in that way, expat parenting is a lot like life; you grow and change and accept things you once held as unacceptable. Raising children in a cross-cultural context forces parents to make these adjustments and accommodations more deliberately. And I'm actually thankful for that. 

 

 

*I've been at this for OVER A YEAR, so obviously I am an expert, OKAY!?

 

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Wherein I Get Knocked Down a Peg or Two

I have to admit that I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Pretty, pretty, pretty proud indeed. I stepped onto the scale and saw a number that I haven't seen since long before pregnancy. And oh boy was I thrilled. I thanked my mother's good genes, just to show my humility, but smugly told myself that my healthy eating habits and weekly (?) runs around the park were paying off.

I boasted of my success on twitter, proudly announcing that after six months, I was back in my skinny jeans. I bragged about it to Mr. Chef. I thought about changing my Facebook status to declare to the world my triumph over the baby weight, but decided it was to boastful so instead I daydreamed about the new wardrobe possibilities that were now open to me.

On the weekend we were invited to a Christmas Party at a local orphanage, and so I put together a cute little outfit that was modestly preppy, yet stylishly quirky, and was feeling good. There was fun, there were games, and some delicious cakes were decorated. As the party was winding down, some of the girls gathered around Stella and me. They spoke next to no English and I speak no Japanese. We were making do, muddling through a conversation, until they asked me a question. It was not one of the questions that I am routinely asked by strangers admiring my cute foreign baby. So I leaned in closer, squinted in concentration, and tried to decode their message.  

They repeated the question.  

I stared blankly.

Finally someone started to mime. Arms cradling, rocking a baby. Then stretching out, mimicking a large, pregnant belly.  

"Yes, yes," I replied, "Stella was in my belly! Yup, she's my baby. I know, I look pretty good for having just had a baby. But you know, its because of my healthy lifestyle and..."

Oh, wait. That is not what they mean. They're pointing at my mid-section. They're holding up two fingers. Two babies, they're saying. They're asking me if I'm pregnant with another baby. Shit.

Not so skinny after all, you jerk.  

 

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A Foreigner in a Foreign Land

Life as a foreigner in a foreign land can be truly wonderful, full of adventure, awe, surprises, delight, and inspiration. It can also be incredibly confounding. Like playing a guessing game where every question is rhetorical and you'll never get a clear "yes" or "no."    

When talking to people I find myself questioning whether the message I received was the one which was intended to be communicated. Did that "yes, maybe" mean yes, maybe, or did it actually mean "HELLS NO!"? What, exactly, did he intend to signify when he sucked air though the side of his teeth and paused after I asked a question? Did that laugh and sideways glance mean, "Oh boy, you're funny" or was it more of a, "Oh my GOD, this is so uncomfortable! Doesn't that barbaric foreigner know she just stepped on a minefield of taboos there?"

I'm sure that this is true wherever expats might find themselves, but I feel that this sense of bewilderment is especially strong as a foreigner living in Asia. Especially when you are fresh off the boat, and don't yet have a feel for the rhythms of language in your new country. Quite often hilarity (or, in my case, bat-shit-crazy hormone-soaked, tear-streaked tragedy) ensues.  

Like last year. Around this time, actually. I was both newly arrived and newly pregnant, hormonal and homesick. A bad combination. Craving a taste of home and armed with a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, I planned to comfort myself by revisiting tastes of my childhood. All I needed was a carton of milk.

Off I trundled, to the grocery store. Inspecting all the different varieties of milk available to me, but unable to read the labels, I resorted to a decision-making process that has served me well in the past: choose the one with the prettiest package. Ooooooh, this one has happy cows on a mountain pasture! Its just like Switzerland! This one is the milk for me!

Returning home, and ready to indulge my pregnancy cravings, I poured the milk into the pot thinking, hmmm...it's a little thick. But that's okay.  I'm sure it's just because the cows who made it were extra happy. Or perhaps its Jersey milk. Happy-mountain-cow extra-thick Jersey milk. Delicious.

Upon tasting, however, I realized just how wrong I was. The soup was sour and completely inedible. For my milk was actually yoghurt. Down the drain went the soup, along with my dreams.

What I lost in food-based mood stabilizers, I gained in perspective: I now feel just a little closer to understanding what it must be like to be illiterate.

 

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