Waiting. A Novella. (Part 1)

Wednesday 6 August  (DD -14)

Two weeks to due date!  Baby weighs 3.6kg so already mini-sumo. Chinese ultrasound doctor said that I can expect baby to be over 4kg at birth.   Felt whole body shudder uncomfortably. 

Thursday 7 August

In effort to spare my pelvis the trauma of birthing giant baby, began in earnest to self induce labour.  Drank 3 cups of raspberry leaf tea.  Burned clary sage oil throughout apartment (also helped at masking the smell of Ayi's lunch which was something with fish & garlic) and swallowed three evening primrose oil capsules.  Did my submersive jumping jacks with particular vigour at pre-natal aqua-aerobics class. 

Nothing.  

Friday 8 August

Was determined to spend quality time with Little A this afternoon - this is code for saying 'determined not to turn on Peppa Pig for four hours'.   Read three books.  Made one watercolour painting.  Sang Hakuna Matata at least 17 times.  Made salsa and guacamole together.  Washed dishes together.  Played with baby-doll and tried to convey inappropriateness of jumping on baby-doll.  At 7pm got text message from Mr Oh indicating that he was delayed at work.  Turned on Peppa Pig.  

Saturday 9 August

Looked up 'signs of impending labour' on internet.  Don't have any of them - except impatience.  

While attending neighbour's first birthday party, decided to through caution and diabetes to the wind and eat a cupcake (actually ate all my own cupcake, two bites of Mr Oh's and half of Little A's).  Blood glucose reading an hour later indicated that blood was mostly sugar.   Overwhelmed by guilt and remorse, spent next 20 minutes frantically trying to burn off excess sugar levels in gym.   Put on workout playlist for added energy.  Was enthusiastically 'vogueing' with my arms while belting away on the stationary bike for at least 5 minutes before I realised that the men in the security room with all the live- feed cameras were probably thinking this was one of the weirder scenes they had witnessed - dancing, heavily pregnant woman, cycling like maniac on a Saturday evening.  In any culture, it's probably a bit odd.  

Sunday 10 August

Spent the hours between 3 and 5 am  having relatively mild contractions.  Got quite excited when they were only ten minutes apart. Tried to inform Mr Oh but he seemed unwilling to wake up and chat. Then realised that the blue glittery flip-flops I had bought online to wear in the hospital hadn't arrived yet. Satisfied that this was an end to the matter, decided to go back to sleep.  

Had (mild) contractions throughout the day but flip-flops still not here so ignored contractions. 

Monday 11 August

Nothing.  

Flip-flops arrived.  Still nothing.  

Tuesday 12 August

Nothing.

Wednesday 13 August (DD -7)

10am - nothing.  I have high hopes for the afternoon.
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Tai-Tai Lifestyle

I have long aspired to be a Tai-tai. In Chinese, it means ‘wife’ but it’s so much more than that. It’s margaritas at lunchtime, having people to clean your house and watch your children. It’s Gucci and glamour. It’s my destiny.

I’ve waited a long time to be a Tai-tai. I ruined my chances the whole first year in China by studying. Schlepping a toddler and a backpack full of textbooks across town on a bus and spending the rest of the day sitting in a classroom that smells of cigarettes and pee is not a very Tai-tai vibe. Tai-tais don’t schlep. They don’t study (they do seem to make an exception for Chinese calligraphy classes) and they definitely don’t wear backpacks (Gucci doesn’t make backpacks).

Now I’m free of my educational obligations, the gate to Tai-taidom beckons. I have an ayi - Ayi - who cleans my house which is just as well because I can no longer see the floor nevermind pick things up from it. My lunches are sadly margarita-free but that can’t be helped either. I don’t have a car and/or driver (although I’m not sure what one would do with a driver but no car) so that’s not really working in my favour but I am within walking distance of the Gucci store so probably don’t need one anyway. I suddenly have a lot of free time.

It’s lunchtime in Shanghai. Little A is napping. Ayi is taking her daily shower in our bathroom. I
still think this is weird, although at least more understandable in the sweltering heat of summer after she’s been out picking Little A up from kindergarten. It was harder to reconcile myself to the showering during the mild days of spring when she didn’t have to step outside.

Also, she asked me to buy conditioner for her hair last week. Were it not for the fact that at some point over the next few weeks I may need to ring her at 3am and ask her to come in and stay with Little A while I birth Baby B, I would have indicated to her my firm belief that it is not the role of the employer to provide hair product for their employees. As it was, I bought the hair conditioner and kept quiet. I’m not good with confrontation. Plus, I feel bad because I won’t let her turn on the air-con despite the fact that it’s over 30 degrees outside. I’m not sure why I feel bad though because I don’t have the air-con on either and I’m harboring a human hot water bottle under my ribs. Like many Chinese people though, Ayi appears to be totally incapable of dealing with the heat and now I hide from her so I don’t have to listen to her complaining about how she’s too hot all the time. Oh my god, maybe I am a real Tai-tai - I have, after all, spent most of this post bitching about my ayi. She’s now out of the shower and is napping in front of the fan. I don’t feel bad anymore.

I don’t think she resents me for not being able to turn on the air-con. I told her that Mr Oh was the one who put his foot down. I told her about how I couldn’t sleep at night with the heat and despite being almost 9 months pregnant, he still wouldn’t let me turn it on. She feels sorry for me being married to such a despot. I sighed convincingly. The truth is that it’s just too expensive. Our apartment building is linked to a “hotel” out the back so apparently our building is also classified as commercial property and we have to pay for electricity and gas at 3 times the normal rate. I do question this explanation as a) I’ve never seen anyone stay at the “hotel”, b) the “hotel” is not advertised anywhere and doesn’t even have a sign saying it’s a hotel and c) what kind of “hotel” is located down a residential lane and does not have a breakfast buffet. The kind of “hotel” that is not a hotel, that’s what.

Now don’t get confused, I’m not suggesting that the “hotel” is a brothel or anything. I’m not totally obsessed with Chinese prostitution. Plus, this is a decent family neighborhood. I’m just suggesting that it’s not a hotel and that it’s no coincidence that our apartment building, having almost zero Chinese occupants, has to pay higher electricity and gas costs than other residential compounds. Most of the people in our building don’t pay their own bills anyway as it’s usually included in their expat work package…so no one really complains. I’m not complaining either, I’m just refusing to turn on the air-con and blaming my husband so that the ayi - who I’m secretly scared of - doesn’t hate me. That’s normal, right?

So now it’s almost 2pm. The temperature outside has hit 36 degrees. The pollution level is up to “unhealthy”. I’m starting to get windburn on one side of my face from the fan. Little A and Ayi are fast asleep. My feet are swollen. My hair is sweating. The Unbornicle has the hiccups and with every ‘hic’ I feel a little bit nauseous. This Tai-tai lark is not all it’s cracked up to be. Where are my glamourous lunches? My cocktails? Where is my Gucci?

Fortunately, in 1-20 days, my Tai-tai life will come to an abrupt end. I will throw off the chains of leisure and morph dramatically into a “stay-at-home-mom” which is good because stay-at-home-moms don’t have to brush their hair and the lunchtime margaritas are optional.




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