Sunday, July 24, 2011

How are you doing?

A little more than 4 years ago, I created this website with the initial idea of using it as a platform to tell some funny stories of mine since I was that someone who spoke very little English trying to make a living in this wonderland.  However, after 4 years of being a mother of two little Americans, I lost memory.  This memory loss is so severe that I can't recall most of the funny stories that I had in mind at that time.  Plus, I no longer feel like a foreigner.  The kids have become a bridge between the Americans and me.  We attend birthday parties, we invite play dates, we talk to whoever we meet at playground, we go to malls just to ride on fake horses turning round and round.  We cerebrate Christmas, we bake turkeys, we even find ourselves enjoying the fast food from the food courts... But before the kids make us take them to MacDonald, let me at least tell you one story here.

Have you ever wondered what the first thing that we Chinese discover about you Americans?  We find you funny: because you always do small talks by asking someone how he/she is doing when you really don't give a damn to how anyone lives his/her daily life.  Okay, this did not come out right, let me try again.  You always ask the same old question when you just expect the same old answer.  This had been so meaningless to us foreigners we often make fun of you guys behind your back.  Just as you make fun of our Chiglish behind us, I guess.

The first town that I lived in the U.S. is a very small university town in Mississippi State, and most of my daily encounters were white and well-educated people.  They were always properly dressed, girls would not get out f doors without their makeups.  They held doors for others, they said thank you back if others did the same, they always smiled at people.  Relevant to this post is the fact that they never failed to ask me how I was doing!  I, of course had learnt this was only a sentence that American people used to greet others.  However, each time when I was greeted by "how are you doing?", I felt awkward.  I took it as a real question that deserved real answer.  But most of the greeters were stranger, which made me often wonder how to answer this "personal and caring" question.  Can you imagine that I would tell my life stories more than 10 times a day with, "Oh, I went to the supermarket the other day and I found myself lost in the huge amount of the choices.  In China, we don't have supermarket, we always have to buy things from real people..." "I locked myself out this morning and don't have my bike key with me, so I walked here and it took me 20 minutes.  In China, we bike everywhere..." or "I made some pork and shrimp dumplings last night. You know, in China, we only make dumplings in Spring Festival..."

Anyway, most of the times, I just simply answered "I am doing fine, thank you.  And you?"  But "how are you doing" just did not seem to be a simple greeting to me.  Plus, I was keen on telling people what a great China could offer.  I was feeling very sorry for most of my daily encounters since they had never been to China nor any other countries.  I was obligated to fill in the blank in their body of knowledge with how great a country China was and its people were.  It was fortunate that our Mississippi fellas are very patient and most of the times, they don't mind my broken English.  More often than not they allowed me to finish my stories.  This explains why "how are you doing" has remained to be a very personal question to me, for a long time.

The second city that I lived is still more or less a university city, but this time, it's a city that has a medical school and hospitals, not a small town anymore.  That means, I met more people with different colors and clearly different rankings and social standings.  Than I started to discover myself talking to elevator walls or the empty halls when I was still answering a simple greeting question with real answers.

Now 20 year has passed since I first arrived here as a naive student.  I am still a very warm and chatty Chinese inside, but I have also learned to enjoy "I am doing fine, thank you" after living in 5 different places of 4 different states.  I think it's finally time for me to get an American passport now.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Egocentric or Altruistic - a challenge to overberring parents

Zhuzhu does not look like someone who is afraid of anything in life.  She speaks, laughs, cries, jumps up and down wherever and whenever she feels like doing AT HOME.  However, she is a completely different person outside.  As long as someone says hi to her, she freezes, hides, or turns her head to another way from the voices.  She acts embarrassingly "impolite" as if she had never been taught any magic words.  It goes without saying that she doesn't greet anyone, not even her teachers if they are out of their respective classrooms.  Even at dropoff everyday, she would pretend that she does not know her teacher.  She acts like those teachers are no longer worthy of knowing if they are not within their territory.  I usually just tell people that she is too shy, which is followed by my repeating the same thing, over and over again, "Mia, you would have really made XYZ happy if you had said thank you when she told you that she liked your dress." "But Mama, my mouth was busy, I was talking to you." "But Mama, I could not do it because she was already gone!" "But Mama, I did not hear her."  She never fails to identify a "reasonable" cause that has nothing to do with her. 

The Saturday prior to the last, we took Zhuzhu to the Zoo for Kakiko's birthday party.  Kakiko is the daughter of a colleague and 8 months older than Zhuzhu.  These two girls often see each other at swimming pool on Saturday mornings.  Contrasting to Zhuzhu, Kakiko is the kind of girl who greets and plays with everyone at any place (I know, I would have worried about it too, if Zhuzhu was like her!)   She has made Zhuzhu her friend pretty quickly after the first few times they met about two years ago.  I had not expected that Zhuzhu would have freaked out in her frined Kakiko's birthday party.

But she did, as she had done in every other times previously when I took her to her other friends' birthday parties.

When we arrived the Jungle room where the private party was held in the Zoo, every one already sat in a circle listening to the animal stories quietly, watching and touching the lovely a yellow snake.  Zhuzhu who usually loves to pet little animals refused to join the group.  She would not touch the lovely opossum either when the little guy was shown to her later.  Kakiko tried few times to ask her to join the group of kids later in the fun games.  Zhuzhu was frozen the whole time while we were in the Jungle room, hiding behind the Daddy peeking her 2 yo little brother Niuniu running, laughing, and chasing bigger girls' tails.  When I pushed Zhuzhu to join her own age-matched crowd, she said, "But Mama, I don't know how.  I prefer to stay here with you and Daddy."  "Why don't you go and play with me."  She told me that when I asked her to join them again.  I had to give it up.  We stood there and watched together with her, for oh, the whole hour?!  After the birthday cake, we got out and started a 20-minute guided safari, she then began to believe that those 5 year olds would not eat her alive.  She showed slight willingness to interact but remained to be distant from everyone.  Just when I was about to give up everything and ready to take her home, she suddenly discovered that she knew who the Kakiko was and proceeded quickly to hold Kakiko's hand as soon as other kids waved bye-bye to Kakiko.  The two of them made up and had a lot of fun riding the Wild Animal Carousel and jumping, running, and chasing each other like crazy on the Jungle Gym together.

Did Zhuzhu not like to be treated as a number?  Did she simply demand the full attention of Kakiko?  Or she was just simply too shy?

It took almost two hours for Zhuzhu to warm up and she waited until everyone else left the scene.

On the contrary, her little brother Niuniu has always blended right into all sorts of funs without fear.  He does not waste a single minute to have fun and he does not even mind everyone else in any type of groups is older or younger than him.  

Have you ever wondered from where your little ones get their characters?  Zhuzhu and Niuniu should possess almost identical genetic makeups - they are practically twins, except that Niuniu had been kept frozen when he was a two-cell embryo for two years before being broght to life

From my "twin" brother and sister, I feel hard to believe anybody's personality is formed through parents' or environmental/educational influences.  Kids are born with their own distinctive traits. Believe me, we cannot and should not take too many credits nor blames for what our little ones dos and donts.

Relax, parents!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Speaking softly

In China, loud speakers are everywhere, they don't know they are loud.  They walk around like 1.3 billion of normal people!

Having speaking loudly habitually, I have lost my hearing over time.  Wait, maybe it is the other way around, having lost my hearing since childhood, I became a loud speaker over time.  Regardless, the reality is that I no longer can hear you if you speak to me softly.

On the contrary to what's in China, low talkers are everywhere here in the U.S..  They mumble and they assume everyone has normal level of hearing.  So I nod and smile often to thses low talkers.  It does not matter since most of the conversations don't necessarily lead to daring me waring puffy shirt anyways.  Naturally, when I talk, people will either step back to protect their ears or simply tell me they are not deaf and I don't have to shout!

So I usually feel a bit ashamed to be a loud speaker, especially in public area.  Therefore I often try to lower my voice, so long as I remember to.

This morning was different.  At the women's locker room, I was chatting casually with my 17-year old niece about tampons.  She came to my University to give research a try for 6 weeks this summer.  Since she had never used tampons prior to this visit, I felt that she had to take the advantage of this great invention for us sport-loving women. "Imagine in my youth, I could not go swimming when we had periods..."  I was talking shamelessly as if no one else was in the room.  Then I realized that I forgot to bring the very thing we were talking about for the imminent activity.  I shouted helplessly, "Oh, no, I forgot tampons at home. I can't go with you into the pool."

Swimming on Saturday mornings has been our family routine since I was pregnant with Zhuzhu 5 years ago.  I have never missed this beloved sport unless I am out of town.  I would have hated to miss this one particularly since it's the last Saturday that my lovely niece would spend with us this summer.  While I was feeling sad and hopeless myself, I heard this soft voice behind me.  I turned my around and found a lady at the end of the room handing me a light green plastic stick, "Did anyone just said that she needed a tampon?" she repeated.  This time I "heard" her with the help of reading her lips.  What an angel!  I thankfully accepted her kind offer.

Well, speaking softly may never be in the list of my virtues yet in rare cases speaking loudly gets me what I need.

The moral of this story is to remind myself to embrace who I am.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Birth story II

At the time that I became pregnant for the second time (or third time), I was relatively more relaxed and confident. I was able to sleep better than the last time. Given this, I started to make a perfect birth plan at the end of the baby incubation process. I wanted do-over natural birth. I even had chiropractic care to have the baby turned from breech to head down position so that I could give birth all by myself. Since my pragmatic husband did not seem to be the fan of any birth plan, I started to look into hiring my own supporter - a doula. After few interviews, I ditched the idea since I realized what I truly wanted was my mother. Yet I could not have her since she had rested in heaven for many years now. So, eventually I settled down and compromised to have my father, who came here a month ago from China to wait for the birth of his grandson, to be the supporter.

At 9 pm on January 29th of 2009, while emptying my bladder, I found that I could not wipe off the residue urine, it kept coming! It was sticky! It was transparent! And it was VERY STICKY! What the hell was that? I shouted loud to my hubby Fabrice who was getting ready to bed. As expected, he could not care less since this is the man who would not show any emotions unless someone just died here. "Could I be losing the mucus plug?" I suspected. A half of a roll of toilet paper later, I was still trying to clean off these transparent and sticky streaks of secretion. After continued failing, I decided to clean it with hot water shower. Yet after the shower, the liquid still kept coming and I could not stop it. Now I had no doubt that my water was leaking, again, just like the last time! Since I experienced the exact same thing about 2 years ago and I was determined to stick with my perfect birth plan, I was calm. Then I walked to the bed to report Fabrice this news. It was 5 days prior to my son's due day. Knowing how much I wanted a natural birth, he agreed to my "wait and see" strategy. It was not a big flow anyways. So, I went to bed at 11:30 pm with a thick period pad. At 3:00 am, I was woken up by a gush of liquid coming out of my vagina, I was then at high state of mind and could not go back to sleep any more. I got out of the bed to avoid further loss of the precious water. I was not willing to inform the hospital to avoid repeating the last birth story. To pass time, I turned on the computer and started to read birth stories of other women about their wonderful and jealous-inducing VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). In between those stories, I also tried to get some work done since there were few deadlines to meet, such as some paper reviews. At 6 am, ZhuZhu woke up and I told her that daddy would drop her to the daycare today. Mommy would need to stay home. She was understandably nodding her head as if she knew that Mommy would have a big day ahead!

However, contractions did not develop into regular ones quickly. I was disappointed. I absolutely did not want to be induced again like the last time. I then went out to have a walk. At the front patio, I found my father doing his morning exercise. He was surprised to see me in PJ. "Why aren't you going to work today?" he asked. I said flat out but calmly, "Because the baby is coming." He was not prepared for this news, "Oh, are you okay? Are you in any pain? No, how do you know the baby is coming? Why aren't you go to the hospital? Is Fabrice coming right back after dropping off Mia to take you to the hospital?..." He was now completely overwhelmed by the possibility that the baby could just drop out to the floor any minute. "It will take a while for his coming and I will keep close attention to his movements. No worries!" I tried to calm him and myself down. "I am going to have a walk, would you come with me?!" I asked him. He happily followed my lead and the two of us walked, miles after miles. What I did not tell him was that my water already broke and I was secretly counting the frequency of my slight contractions. One hour passed, no labor; 2 hours passed, still no sign of labor...

At 11:30 am, Fabrice came back from work and said it's time to check me in. I said, "They will again just induce the labor." I refused to go with him. Looking into my eyes, he knew that I would not change my mind. "You should at least call the ob's office" He said. I then made the important phone call. "What, your water broke 15 hours ago?" The receiving nurse this time did not seem to doubt my judgement and she asked me to come to the office immediately!

At 2:30 pm, Tammy, the very nice RN who I had seen twice recently at weekly check ups confirmed the water was broke. I was admitted into the Labor and Delivery directly.

In the hospital birthing room, I was monitored with the blood pressure, baby’s heart beating rate, and contraction status. As I suspected, no regular pattern of contractions, still. Out of desperation, I started to perform the acupressure that I learnt from Dr. Google to induce labor, but no help. My ob, Dr. S, then suggested not to prolong it any longer. "We would use tiny amount of pitocin to initiate the active labor," he said. Seeing me with no intention to accept his generous offer, he added,“The water had been broke for quite some time now, we really need to take some action to prevent complications.” But somehow he did not rush me into this. At 7:30 pm, I was starving and had some cake that my best friend Ling brought me behind the nurse's back. Ling was on the way to replace Fabrice who was then at home feeding ZhuZhu. She also came to bring back some news to my father who was anxiously waiting at home.

Being the sane one between the two of us, Fabrice asked me not to insist on the “natural” plan. At 10:30 pm, I finally caved in. By then, I had a new nurse Helen and new ob Dr. R. "Why have not I met you before?" I asked Dr. R while Helen was injecting and adjusting the dose of pitocin. (The tone of mine must have been accusatory. In order not feeling like strangers to each other, every pregnant woman is given the chance to meet every ob in my ob/gyn's office in a rotating manner at end of the pregnancy. Since my ob/gyn's office has 5~6 obs who take turns to be at the hospital to deliver babies each day.) Dr. R seemed to be very attentive and understanding, which was the opposite of my own ob Dr. S who delivered ZhuZhu and he definitely scared me! "Oh, maybe I am scheduled to see you at this week's check up?" He answered dutifully. "I only came here about a month ago from K state." He added. True, it was still 4 days prior to my due day and I could have just happened to have missed my last check up to meet Dr. R. before the baby decided to kick my water bag wall! Nurse Helen then told me that she would stop the pitocin once a regular contraction pattern was established and my body would take over at that point to produce oxytocin. At 12:30 am, the contractions started to become regular, like once in every 5 min. The pitocin was started at 1 mU/15 min – meaning every 15 min, it was increased 1 mU. At 7 mU, 1 hour and 45 min from the start of induction, my contraction still did not reach the goal of every 2~3 min/contraction so they kept pumping more pitocin into my system...

The rest of the birth story became fuzzy since the contractions started to hurt like hell before I even reached 4 cm dilation. I was fighting but failed. I begged for epidural so that I would not have to cry in front of people. Following the epidural, both Fabrice and I fell into deep sleep and by the time I remembered that I had a birth to give, it was like noon next day! What, what just happened? Was the baby in the womb even alive?! I did not remember seeing anyone other than Fabrice sleeping beside me.

At 4 pm or so, I began to believe that VBAC was not the best for the baby. The longer I waited, the more drugs they would pump into me and the baby. I said to Dr. R at his last check up, "Could you please tell me that a Cesarean is not that scary" He said, "No, it's not that bad." Obviously he knew I was ready to let the dream of a natural birth go. He then told me that my contractions were good and the baby seemed to be doing alright, but my cervix refused to open further than 4 cm! He did not believe another 2 hours would make any progress. "But one never knows" he said. At that point, I found myself became anxious to meet our dear son. "Okay, let's get him out now!" I willingly announced. I could feel the whole room suddenly lightened up by all the smiling faces of Fabrice, the nurse, Dr. R, even two anesthesiologists who magically showed up. As I really liked Dr. R and I did not intend to wait for the next random ob to deliver our son. We then went over the details of C-section and I made Dr. R and the anesthesiologists promise me no gaging and no stapling this time.

There, I was sent to OR and a brief Ceasarean was performed smoothly. Either they had been exceptionally good or overdosed me, I had no memory about the C-section part. Although months after that we met the attentive anesthesiologist at cafeteria and Fabrice was thanking him, which kind of reminded me he was standing by me the whole time and watched and monitored the whole process patiently...

The only thing that I did remember was what came from the mouth of the proud father, "I think we have gotten ourselves a very smart little fellow!" Somehow Remy was born with his eyes open and even made an eye contact with his Daddy already right after birth. Fabrice, the man who had never bragged about any of his achievements in life made this statement on the very day of Remy's birth. Seeing my jaw was dropping, he added, "Trust me, his eyes can talk!"

Do you think nurse Helen pumpped some of that pitocin into the Daddy by accident?

“Done! Our baby boy was born on January 31st at 5:46 pm by C-section, following 24h of unsuccessful contractions. The mommy has been great and is in a good shape as well as the baby. He is quite big, 9 pounds and 89 ounces, 54 cm, and full of hair. That's a man already...Nobody cares about the daddy on this occasion but I'm doing quite well too, thanks you..." Fabrice's email was out few minutes after.

After meeting Remy, I realized that he could have never made it out naturally anyways. He has a head size of an earth - he was practically a head with 4 tiny limbs and there was no way that head of him could have passed my petite pelvic opening!

My do-over birth story repeated the last one almost identically, except that I was not sad nor disappointed about c-section this time around. In fact, I wish I had made a Cesarean birth plan at begin with, which would have saved so much trouble and my NiuNiu would have not been drugged by the pitocin and excess epidural!