4 February 2011, by Tan Yi Lin
Chinese New Year went by pretty quietly this year.
One main reason was that I spent a good part of the event concussed in bed from first trimester fatigue.
Another reason for the placid festive period was that I no longer got riled up from having to answer a barrage of “So when?” questions from inquisitive relatives. Ever since one over-excited father-to-be let the cat out of the bag on Facebook, the news has spread like wildfire amongst my relatives. Toting a bun in the oven is akin to earning immunity on ‘Survivor’ or wielding a wooden cross in front of your chest in ‘Dracula’. You.cannot.be.harmed.and.will.escape.all.trials.unscathed.
However, unlike last year, the well-meaning wish of “zao sheng gui zi” was received with some hesitation this year now that pregnancy is in play – not a good thing if the baby comes earlier than it’s due right? But we thanked the kids for their well-intentioned words nevertheless. (On a related note, I was horrified to hear that one of my cousins was forced to induce labour for her first child on Chinese New Year Eve so that her son could be a ‘tiger baby’, because according to my aunt, “tiger boy will be stronger than rabbit boy”. Shudder.)
I’m glad that the Year of the Rabbit looks set to be a joyful, peaceful and cheery one. I can’t deny that it could be because I’ve got a bad case of Bunny Bias. Dan’s a bunny. My brother’s a bunny. My sister’s boyfriend is a bunny. My favourite uncle is a bunny. With other bunny cousins and aunties thrown into the mix, this baby is going to be the 8th bunny in the family. Lucky or what? I think the rabbit is my new favourite animal. Land animal, that is. I still have a strange penchant for jellyfish, which I think are just about the most mesmerising creatures in the world.
So I spent the quiet CNY period reading two books on pregnancy, which my colleague so kindly lent to me. The first was “What To Expect When You Are Expecting”, which is the equivalent of the Bible for first-time mothers-to-be. Judging from the illustrations and writing style, the book looked like something that my own mother may have read when she was expecting – it’s that old. My guess wasn’t too far off – the first edition was written in 1984, just 5 years after I was born.
I think that this book is written to be more of a handbook that you occasionally look to for specific information, rather than something to be read from cover to cover for enjoyment. It’s an informative but not particularly engaging read. Also, the bulk of the chapters are arranged in chronological order (i.e. the 1st month, the 2nd month, the 3rd month, etc.) so you kinda feel compelled to pace your reading with your pregnancy (I find that the facts get all mixed up anyway if I try to read the chapters all in one go.) It’s easy to read in that it’s written in a straightforward matter-of-fact style and that you can quickly skip through the irrelevant chapters, which for me are alcohol (I don’t drink), smoking (I don’t smoke and neither do the people around me) and erm, marijuana use…
I found the second book, ‘The Girlfriends Guide To Pregnancy” by Vicki Iovine, a much more interesting read. Written in an incredibly witty and humorous fashion, it’s as if the author is a really close girlfriend who has been through everything from pregnancy to childbirth and is sharing everything – gory truths, emotional breakdowns, insane behaviour and all – in a no-holds barred conversation with you. Chapters are arranged according to topics that span across the whole 9 months (or is it 10 months?) of pregnancy (e.g. Pregnancy Insanity, Looking the Best You Can, Exercise and Pregnancy, Sex and Pregnancy, etc) so it’s easy (and tempting) to finish the book in one sitting. I started today and I’m two-thirds through already (would have finished it if I hadn’t slept so much…)
At first glance, I had written it off as some bimbo-trying-to-be-funny-and-not-very-useful book and thus went straight for the more serious-looking pregnancy Bible instead. I mean, look at the bright red cover and cartoon illustration of bras and babies:
But the comic delivery and smart humour got to me straightaway, even in the early chapters of the book. For example:
There’s a section on ‘Sharing the Wonderful News’, in particular “telling Daddy”. You are reminded that this is the very first time in your entire life that you are declaring to your dad that YOU ARE NO LONGER A VIRGIN. Before that, everyone could just pretend or remain in denial. I thought I might have skirted the issue since ours is an IVF pregnancy. But nooooo. During CNY breakfast with the entire family yesterday morning, my dad jokingly chided Dan for neglecting to invite my parents to start eating before tucking into the food himself (a habit that impressed my parents to the heavens when Dan first met them) and threatened to take his daughter back. Dan smugly declared, “Well it’s too late! I HAVE ALREADY IMPREGNATED HER! RAWWRRRR!” and stopped just short of ripping off his shirt and beating his manly chest. I’ve never seen 7 people snatch nian gao off a plate and stuff their mouths so quickly before. Silence all round…
The book also reassures you that you did not morph into a pig within weeks of getting pregnant simply because you now need to eat every couple of hours. It gives useful advice on how to curb hunger pangs which can now strike with such voracity that your stomach actually feels like it’s gnawing itself to death unless you eat NOW. I had a near hunger crisis during CNY. Yes, there was loads of food around, you say. But I didn’t want snacks. I needed real, hot, cooked food NOW NOW NOW, so much so that I was almost crying in desperation (majority of cooked food stalls are closed during CNY, remember?) So glad was I to see fried bee hoon on the table of my in-laws’ home that I issued a mass greeting to everyone present – “hello happy new year gong xi fa cai sorry ah I’m very hungry I’m going to eat now” – as I gravitated towards the food and proceeded to plant myself at the table and eat my way through five helpings of noodles. Crisis averted in the nick of time.
The book also offers you comfort in knowing that pregnancy insanity and mood swings are perfectly normal. Like it’s okay to cry during diaper commercials. I recently cried when rereading the children’s story of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ because I felt so much for the dear little rabbit. That’s mild. Two weeks ago, I finally decided to tell a friend what I really thought of her new boyfriend – which did not have too good an outcome. Needless to say, I haven’t seen her or her boyfriend since.
The author also addresses the husband’s take on this whole unfathomable pregnancy business. She suggests ways a pregnant woman can help her husband understand what she’s going through, so as to reassure him that the sexy woman he married has not been replaced by an eating, sleeping, gassy, growing cow by the Body Snatchers. Thankfully, Dan has been completely understanding with regard to my new life goal – to be in bed by 10pm every night. He has even given me a new Native American pet name – Crawl-Into-Bed. His new name for himself is Crawl-In-With-You.
Although the content is written quite simply, it succeeds in helping demystify some of the pregnancy lingo and smaller matters that I’ve been wondering about but have been too lazy to look up in a medical dictionary (not that I even own one.) For example, I’ve finally decoded the difference between a “gynaecologist” and an “obstetrician”, two words that are simultaneously used to describe one single person – my doctor. It doesn’t help that some pregnant friends refer to their doctors as “obgys”. Very simply put, the “gynaecologist transforms into your obstetrician on the day you find out that you are going to have a baby” and that later on in life long after childbirth “when they give you oestrogen pills for menopause, they magically transform back into gynaecologists.” Ahhhhh. Understood.
In conclusion (because this post is getting very long and it’s waaaaaaay past my 10pm bedtime), these two books go quite perfectly with each other. One gives you the hard facts and answers all your medical questions as well as your doctor would. The other takes you by the hand and walks through all the crazy, emotional, “I look fat in every single thing” moments like a close girlfriend.
If anybody has any other good books to recommend, please feel free to leave a comment on this post. I look forward to reading more about parenting and child-rearing. Secular versions (vs religious) are preferred since I can’t claim to be a very holy person except for the occasional blog entry dedicated to The Big Guy Who Lives In The Clouds.
Thanks in advance!