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)

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