Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The birds and the bees.

When I was little, I liked to find out how I was made and where I was from. I kept asking Mom how I got to this world yet I'd never gotten a consistent answer. Some times I was popped out from the trunk of an old tree, other times I was left outside of the front door, yet another times I was given to her by a stranger on the street... I was quite skeptical and always curious about my origin. 
I stopped asking this question sometime around 8 yo. Because I had gotten an answer!

At that time, our family moved from the city Nanning to Gongcheng, a small county close to Guilin. Our life style changed drastically. One of the many changes was the way we got water. In the city, water came out of faucets constantly and seemly endless, as long as faucets were turned on. In the countryside, however, water was carried home with barrels by grownups from a very deep well far away. To save the water and labor, clothes were often washed either in a small ditch in the Spring when there were rains or in a river when rains were sparse. The river was far yet the small was just only half way to the river. Regardless, cloth-washing was a laborious task that could usually only be accomplished on sunny Sundays. Mom usually took my older brother Bing and I to the river in the Summer, she would stay ashore washing clothes while Bing and I dove in and out of the water to enjoy ourselves. One day, I thought about the same old question again and asked Mom. She stopped her work and looked far away upstream, then she pointed to a nest-like bundles of bushes floating downstream towards us and said with the most serious tone, "You see the nest? You came exactly like that. I found you crying inside the nest so I picked you up and took you home. That is why you were named after the river Xiang."

The answer was so convincing that I believed it for a long time - I mean that I believed that I was abandoned child by an unknown mother to the point even not suspected anything when I was told repeatedly that I looked exactly like Mom!

Little kids can be pretty dumb, you see. But in my defense, I was not that dumb because as a little kid, I watched a movie called "Liu Shan Jie", which was produced in 1961 and the main character Liu Zhan Jie was from a river! Not mentioning that she was also from the same hometown where I was brought up.  

Another drastic change in our life style after being sent to the countryside was that Mom and Dad were rarely home. They were often needed to help out peasants working on fields growing rice and other crops, especially in the Spring and the Fall - 2 busiest seasons for peasants. Bing and I were given tickets to buy food from the government owned/subsidized cafeteria and keys to our house to sleep at night. In the day time, we just went to school ourselves. Mom and Dad would come home from time to time to make sure that we were alive.

A chill run down your spine - I know - I grew up hell.  

One day when we were playing with other kids as usual, suddenly many grownups showed up. Some of them were carrying a stretcher and others were following the stretcher. We, the little ones, followed the stretcher, were cheering, shouting, guessing who was the one inside the stretcher. When we noticed the nervous and serious faces of those grownups, we sorted of slowed down a bit. At this time, one of the adults found me among those overly curious kids, he shouted out loud to me, "Your Mom is in danger. She is having a massive bleeding..." I felt my head was exploded, I could not hear the remaining things he said, I could hardly breath, then I bursted into a hysterical cry.

Mom is the one inside the stretcher. What is massive bleeding, is she dying? Mom was never been this sick before. What should I do now. I was terrified.

The remaining facts were fussy.

Later that day, Dad came home from the hospital. We (Bing and I) were told that Mom was okay. She had a Xiao Chan/小产/miscarriage, which was accompanied by severe hemorrhage.

Other grownups had blamed Mom for not telling them that she was pregnant. It was in the Spring of 1971. Growing rice at that time was a laborious work. It required people to transplant rice seedings (插秧) manually, which meant that Mom was standing bear-feet inside the cold (few degree above zero Celsius) and muddy fields, and in the mean time of constantly bending her body to insert rice seedings to the ground under the water. Mom should have never gone into the cold like that. Her body simply failed her.

Mom came home from the hospital few days later. She rested in bed to grow red blood cells and I was beside her bed whenever I came back home from school. I enjoyed very much to have her around then, since it was so rare to have Mom home with us. Dad was cooking for her, attentively. Mom possibly introduced me death at that time. She also told me that was not the first time that a baby died inside her. She said I would have had a little sister. I asked how old that my "non-exiting" sister would have been, she said "she" would have been just two year younger than I - now if I come to think of it, she must have been older than Bing - Mom has another man before Dad and it is a story for another day.

Few months after the miscarriage, Mom's belly started to grow and it'd gotten bigger and bigger.

It was then that I had my first lesson about human reproduction. Mom skipped the birds and the bees part, of course. She announced that we were expecting a baby. Mom would allow me to pat her belly and put my ears on her belly to feel the kicks. In the end of the pregnancy, Mom started to make tiny clothes, tiny pillow, tiny blankets (wraps) with collected second-hand adult clothes or blankets. She explained that those materials were soft and the best for the baby's skins. Mom knew so much about raising babies, it was amazing to me.

Yet even then I still believed that I was a child that Mom picked up from Xiang river. I thought that my brothers and I had different mothers.
Now it comes my turn to explain to my children where they are from. I sure do not want Zhuzhu and Niuniu to think that they are from unknown mothers. I also would skip the details involving the birds and the bees, which Anne Glamore had fun to talk to her son about. My version is simple and clear: you came from my belly, I told Mia/Zhuzhu when she asked me one day. Drs. cut mommy's belly open and took you out, I told my kids.

In fact, Mia/Zhuzhu more or less has learned by becoming a big sister. She sort of knows that she used to live in mommy's belly and then she became too big to live in there and had to be taken out to continue to grow in the real world. Plus, she had many peers in her classrooms that had become bigger sisters or bigger brothers in the similar time that she did, so she slowly understood that mommies can give births. Niuniu, however, knows nothing about such stories. 

Last night, when we were all playing in a bath tub, Zhuzhu asked to see my belly scar - she asks to check it out almost every time that I get naked with her in the bath tub and I often let her. 

"Could I see the scar on your belly, Mommy?" She asked.

"Why? You saw it millions of times already." I refused. I was in a hurry to put them to bed since Niuniu was not in his best state. He was making a fuss about everything. He was ready for bed. 

"I want to see where I got out of your belly." She insisted. 

Niuniu followed his sister's lead and said without knowing what he was saying, "I want to see your belly too!" He did not know there was a scar hiding under the fat belly.

"Okay." I took the chance. I wanted to stop his fusses. So, I immediately flipped the belly fat to expose the ugly scar to them - no no, I am not obese, but still, the scar is covered by turning into a skin fold.

The bathroom suddenly became extremely quiet. Niuniu was trying to understand why I had a scar on the belly. He, after having carefully and seriously examined the scar for a little while, asked, "Why did Dr. cut you in the belly?"

He likes to ask obvious questions to which he already knew the answers!

"So that you and Mia could come out of there." I answered with obvious answer.

"Oh." Niuniu asked the obvious questions simply just for saying this lovely and signature "Oh" - he gets Mom and Dad's lovely look each and every time he says it. He says it with an extremely cute and understanding tone.

Looked at his face, I knew I need to explain a bit more, "Mommy went to the hospital and then doctors cut mommy's belly open to take you out of there."

He then looked afar as if he was trying to visualize the event of his coming out of the world. After a little while, he asked, "Why did the Dr. take me out of your belly?" 

"So that you could grow to a big boy like what you are now." I answered briefly.

He then became concerned. He fell into a deep thinking mode. He might be very worried about the fact that I was hurt by the Drs, as much as his tiny finger tip was pierced by a stapler needle - yes, he tried to staple his fingers together one day while I was not looking.

To easy his concerns, I added, "It was okay, mommy did not hurt. The Drs put mommy to sleep before that." I comforted him.

"Why the scar is so small?" Zhuzhu asked, but before I could find a proper answer, she said, "Oh, I know, I used to be a very small."

I followed her, "Yea, you used to be tiny, but you drank mommy's milk and then a lot of cow milk to grow to be such a big girl now." Zhuzhu does not like milk, I could not pass this opportunity to put some ideas to her little head.

"Did we both come out of there in the same time?" Zhuzhu asked. 

Zhuzhu is a smart kid, but this question was a bit dumb, so I laughed at it gently and said, "No, remember you came out first? You came out two years earlier than Niuniu." I reminded her this fact that she speaks about whenever Niuniu is showing off his height. He likes to pretend that he is taller than his sister. 

My story of the birds and the bees does not involve any intercourse and is much less creative than Mom's, but I love to tell it to Zhuzhu and Niuniu over and over again. And each time, they always act like it was the first time that they hear about it.

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