Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Moo Moo's and Lead Aprons

This whole "resting" phase of the pregnancy is great for blogging. I've never had so much time on my hands to bore the sense out of you all with my fun pregnancy details. To pay homage to the fact that this blog was originally a means to communicate our experience here in China, I figured that I should include a segment on what it is like to be a pregnant foreigner living here in Shanghai.

Allow me to start out by telling you about pregnant women in general here on the mainland. It is a phenomenon that one can barely wrap their brain around. The following may offend some, but please be assured that I mean this in the most respectful way possible; just putting a humorous (albeit slightly offensive) spin on it.

Phil and I have lived here in Shanghai for close to 3 years and it has taken me being pregnant here to begin to understand (on some very small level) what previously confounded me. For example, why did a perfectly adorable, fashionable, slim young woman almost instantly transform into a moo moo wearing waddling invalid the moment she found out she was pregnant? And what was with the apron that so many pregnant women donned in their maternity wardrobe? After a little while I started to think that there was a level of "living it up" playing into the psyche of Chinese women. I began to wonder if the fact that so many women here can only have one baby caused them to celebrate and often times milk their pregnancies for all they were worth. Not knowing what birth restrictions are like in my own life, I thought I might do the same if I was in their situation.

Now I typically hesitate when it comes to "us and them" talk; but trust me when I tell you that pregnancy is one experience that highlights the vast difference between women in the Western world and China.

The fact that I wear pants, carry bags on occasion, exercise, eat spicy foods, and drink cold water while I am pregnant makes me a close cousin to a 3 headed monster. When I was training my new ayi- I had to explain to her that despite her strongly held beliefs that all of the foods that I liked and all of the things that I wanted done would harm my babies- we have been giving birth to happy healthy babies in the West for a good long time now. She conceded that I was correct, but deep down probably wondered if we did have as many healthy babies as we claimed.

So with some amount of reluctance- she began to cook our food with soy sauce and hot peppers (2 things many Chinese people believe is harmful during pregnancy).

Since becoming pregnant, I have discovered some answers to my questions (please keep in mind that these are my own narrow observations along with answers from some Chinese friends):

Why the moo moo? Because it is believed that pants will cut off blood flow and harm the baby.

Why the apron? Because it has lead in it and protects the baby from harmful radiation (now if you could just convince someone that the metals they get in their daily consumption of water and fish are way more of an issue #?!@)

Why the waddle? Because it is believed that massage is bad for pregnancy. (If I go more than a week without a massage, I waddle too.)

Why no spicy food? Because it is believed that people who eat spicy food will give birth to girls.

Why no soy sauce? Because it is believed that your baby will have darker skin. I have also heard this about chocolate. (Forget about genetics.)

As for the general "invalid" vibe that pregnant women give off- I have recently discovered the beauty and necessity in milking that for all it's worth. After all, we’re in a city of 22 million people- all fighting for themselves. Vehicles will run you and your 90 year old granny over without a second thought, and you are left to fend and fight for yourself in every arena of life. For the most part, pregnant women here do enjoy a status of respect and preference that one will never see again in her life. So who cares if you don't show until you are 6 months pregnant- if you're wearing your moo moo and lead vest- everyone knows you are. Heck, you might even get a seat on a crowded rush hour metro without having to ask. And that is certainly worth it.

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