Monday, September 22, 2014

The things people say..

Awhile back I shared some of the cultural differences that Chinese have regarding pregnancy. The differences don’t stop there! After the baby is born there is a whole other set of rules to abide by for both the mom and the baby. In lieu of writing out a list, I will instead share with you all some of the advice, criticisms, warnings, whatever you want to call them, that people have been sharing with us. 

Baby leggings are not only cute, but also keep all the Chinese grandmas
from telling me my baby is cold. Win-win!
1) “Your baby is cold.” We have also heard, “Why is the baby not wearing clothes?” or “Is she cold?” Chinese don’t allow newborns to have any skin showing - at all! Even in August when it’s 90+ degrees and humid and your baby is sweating, they will still ask if the baby is cold because her legs aren’t covered. And Atalie? She is never cold. That girl is a furnace (just ask my mom). Our friend who came and did newborn portraits for us is trying to expand her photography business in China but is having difficulties because of this rule. Newborn portraits are a lot cuter if the baby is naked (or almost naked). She was telling me that she has to appeal to the grandparents because they are the ones who make all the decisions regarding the baby (another cultural difference - what grandma says goes), but hasn’t been very successful so far because no good Chinese grandparent would allow their grand baby to be undressed for that long of a period of time.

2) “You should take off your wedding ring, it can hurt the baby.” I’m not really sure if this is just a nurse being overprotective or if it really is a cultural thing. Either way, I was told this at the hospital. And no, I did not take off my wedding ring. 

3) “Your baby is hungry.” We were told this by the nurses every time Atalie cried at the hospital. Even if I had just fed her. And new-newborns aren’t starving, although nurses in China would have you think otherwise. In fact, right after Atalie was born she didn’t want to nurse (she had to have her stomach pumped, I’ll explain more when I post her birth story), however, the nurse on night duty insisted that Atalie nurse. It got to the point of Atalie screaming for an hour. Why couldn’t she just let her sleep? In China, it is also widely believed that colostrum is not good enough for the baby. Many hospitals supplement with formula until the mom’s milk comes in (if the mom breast feeds at all) and, I would guess, the majority of Chinese women don’t breast feed. If you don’t want them to give your baby formula, you have to be forceful in communicating that you will breast feed only. 

This past weekend at the park we drew a crowd,
along with a lot of questions, advice, etc.
(Atalie is in the yellow stroller)
4) “Don’t put your foot so close to the baby, she can smell your feet.” This was told to Steven by one of the nurses at the hospital. This is just funny. It’s his baby! I think Steven can put his feet wherever he wants near his baby…well, as long as I say it’s ok. ;-) And, for the record, Steven doesn’t have smelly feet. 

5) “What does she have in her mouth?” Chinese don’t use pacifiers. I’m not sure why not because some babies love them! It took Atalie awhile, but now she goes to sleep much faster when she has her pacifier. I’ve also been told by several random Chinese that the pacifier will “ruin her mouth.” I’m not sure where they heard that or why they think that. I just reply by saying that my doctor says it’s ok. 

6) “She must be one month old.” Or two months, four months…Chinese love to guess the age of your baby. And there’s a rule - neither the mom nor baby are supposed to leave the house for the first month. So, of course, when they say she is one month old I agree (to avoid getting yelled at). And when they ask her age I say one month (even though she won’t be one month old for another week). I’m glad Atalie is a long baby because she looks older than she is.

7) “There is no point in breast feeding your baby past six months. You should stop at six months.” This advice was given to me by a woman who I know, but not well enough for me to feel that she could make this comment. The cultural difference here is that other people feel it is their responsibility to give a new mother advice about everything - even if they don’t know what they are talking about. I’m not saying this person doesn’t know anything about breast feeding, she does have two grown children, but this is just one of the many pieces of advice she kept giving me when she came to visit. And she provided no reason for why you would stop breast feeding at six months. Sometimes I think Chinese make up advice to give you so they have something to tell you since giving advice is appropriate and expected. 

Awww! She’s so cute. But even with that bow we
will be questioned on if she is a boy or girl.
8) “Boy or girl?” Even when there is a flower or bow in her hair. I’m not kidding. On Sunday, we took her to church for the first time. I had three different people ask me if she was a boy or girl and she had a flower covered headband in her hair and was wearing a dress. This is just something I need to get used to answering. Chinese dress boys and girls in the same clothes when they are infants. That changes as they get older, but when they are babies there is not much gender difference in clothing, if any. 

These are just a few of the differences I have experienced so far with having a newborn baby in China. It’s hard at times to accept the differences and be polite instead of wanting to correct their misunderstanding or brush them off for unwanted advice, but I’m trying. 

Recently, I was reading in the Psalms after a late night feeding and found a passage that really spoke to my heart about the goodness of God as our Provider: 

Psalm 36:7-9
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

In the midst of being overwhelmed by motherhood, exhaustion and navigating a culture that sometimes rubs the wrong way on my values, these verses are a reminder to take refuge in God and allow Him to sustain me with feast and drink. To submit myself to be washed in His fountain of life - to see His light. This is my prayer for the coming months as I continue to transition to motherhood (a hard enough task) in a culture that is not my own. May God show me His light so I may find His abundance and delights in the everyday. Even if I don’t like it.

Just one more. Because she really is the sweetest.
(This is her first Starbucks experience)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

She’s Here!

Less than a day old. Look at that face!!
She finally made it! Atalie Joyce Wallace was born on Monday, August 25th at 10:10pm. And no, I did NOT have to be induced. I woke up early Monday morning with contractions. Praise the Lord! I’ll save the rest of the story for a special “birth story” post, but we’ll just say it was a long day and worth every second. 

With Dr. Huebner, who oversaw the delivery
(a midwife actually delivered Atalie)
We spent the first three days in the hospital. It was a blissful state of day running into night and hanging out getting to know our new little one. Besides the nurses asking multiple times a day if she had pooped yet, there was little to get frustrated about. Although the nurses did have some great things to say. I need to do a post on all the different “advice” we were given while in the hospital, some of it was pretty funny. Our room was like a hotel room with a huge walk in shower and kitchenette. All the lights and thermostat were controlled on an iPad (it sounds cool until you are in a state of exhaustion trying to turn on the light by the bed in the middle of the night). The food was amazing, I’m not kidding. Steak, chicken, fish, pizza - it was all delicious. And the desserts, oh man, superb. I’d heard that Redleaf had good food, but it exceeded my expectations. Steven ordered most of his meals from a delivery service because though my meals were free, it was expensive for him to add on a meal.

Our hospital room. Yes, I know, it’s fancy. (And that’s Louise, our doula)
The wing of the hospital we stayed in. Would you guess this is a hospital?
We got back to Nanjing on Friday after spending a few hours at the US Consulate that morning to get Atalie’s passport and citizenship all sorted out. I was so nervous how Friday would go, but everything was super smooth (besides being at the Consulate’s Office forever), and Atalie slept basically the whole day making it super easy. She wouldn’t even wake up to eat, I had to “zombie feed” her as I like to call it. She’s talented, what can I say! One high speed train later and we were in a cab headed to our home. 

Atalie’s first Burger King experience, she slept through the whole thing
Since being home, the weeks have flown by. How has it already been two weeks since we got back? My full time job right now is producing milk and making sure Atalie eats and sleeps. The first week was a little hard adjusting to life with a newborn, but everyday got better. She actually cried more in the hospital than she did her first week at home. All I wanted to do all day was stare at her. It’s still hard to believe that she is ours. We made her, I grew her, birthed her and the hospital let us take her home. Madness. Beautiful madness. 

After that first week home, our sweet little newborn started to have fussy spells. Over the past week and a half, there have been a few really hard days. Overall, she does great and usually gets into her groove eating and sleeping. I can’t say she is more or less fussy than other babies - in fact, based on what I’ve been reading she’s pretty textbook, normal newborn fussiness. It seems about every other day or so she has a prolonged spell of fussiness. Tuesday this week was pretty bad, I had at least five meltdowns. Fortunately, when the worst is over she’ll take a really long nap and twice now I’ve been lucky enough to have her do that at night. Last night, she was fussy and catnapped from 6:00pm until midnight. But when we finally got her to sleep at midnight she slept 5 1/2 hours!!! I actually woke her up because I really needed her to eat (if you know what I mean). 

Our friend, Nikko, came over and took newborn pictures for us
And breastfeeding is improving. We definitely still have our challenges, but she is getting better at latching and I’m getting more patient. We weighed her ourselves at two weeks old (we haven’t been able to make it back for a check up for her yet) and she already put on over a pound! Pretty impressive. So, I think it’s safe to say that breastfeeding is going quite well. By the way, you should see Steven’s design for weighing the baby at home…I’ll give you a hint, it involves a duffle bag, large tupperware lid and a luggage scale. 

Gotta get snuggles with both the baby & Sam

How I spent most of the first week at home (notice Sam also got some cuddle time)

My mom gets here tonight and I’m ready for the daytime reinforcements. Steven has started going back to work this past week and it’s just easier when there is someone else at home. I’ve also learned to switch my mentality from “I should get something done today” to “if I don’t get anything done but hold and feed my baby, that’s ok”. It’s made the days I don’t get anything done easier to swallow, although I haven’t really had much to get done (besides laundry). Friends have been bringing us meals, our fridge and freezer are full and Steven has been awesome at keeping up with dishes. 

Our first family selfie, taken just after arriving home
Life is different with Atalie here, and I love it. It’s hard for me to imagine life without her, even on the hard days. The sweet moments we do have are pure bliss and help to make the hard days bearable. I love getting to know her, loving her, rocking her and falling asleep with her in my arms (sometimes unintentionally).  

One of those blissful moments

Steven getting work done and snuggling with Atalie, a true multi-tasker