Sensing Toxins

I think I’ve figured out why so many mothers seem a little obsessive over chemicals and toxins their children are exposed to – pregnancy.

Pregnancy increases sensitivity to everything. I have a super sense of smell and can smell the tinniest hint of cigarette smoke or food gone bad. Breathing in a bit of windex is enough to make me light headed and need to sit down. I suddenly had to switch my laundry routine because the products I used before caused me to itch. Supposedly this increased sensitivity is supposed to keep the baby safer by being more aware of dangers. Either that or because a pregnant woman’s immune system is depressed, it’s a matter of self preservation. Either way, a pregnant body has toxin sensing super powers.

My brother kind of summed it up best. We bought new carpet for our house and I couldn’t be in the house for a few weeks to give it time to off gas. I checked on it a few days after the installation and just a quick visit gave me a headache and sore throat. My brother saw this and said that if I’m just more sensitive to it, that means that there is something being released by the carpet and he wondered what that meant for him breathing it in. Does not having a reaction make it any safer?

It has made me question a lot of products that I use. I’m definitely worried about what my baby is exposed to and that is making me a little crazy. I refuse to buy cheaply made products for baby. Everyone tells me that the baby won’t care, he will be comfortable in anything, but why would I give my newborn something that made me sick? Maybe in a few months I’ll change my mind and go back to chemical cleaners, heavily processed foods, and flame retardant man-made fabrics.

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Race – unknown

I’ve had quite a few people tell me that I am not in an interracial relationship and my baby isn’t of mixed of race. The reasoning is that my husband isn’t black. I find this kind of puzzling. Isn’t Chinese a different race? He speaks a different language, has a different cultural heritage, and is from a different geographical area. It seems more interracial to me than two people born in the same country.

The issue of race in America is complicated. It is probably a matter of perspective. The people who have told me race is only black and white have been people who classify themselves as either black or white. Plus I live in the south.

The government considers us to be different races most of the time. We are asked about race on standard forms where my husband and I check different boxes. If different race boxes are checked, doesn’t that make us interracial? I always thought an interracial relationship was one where two people of different races were in a relationship together. It apparently depends on which races are checked. Some are more applicable than others. Continue reading

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Oh Boy

I have fulfilled my duty as a daughter-in-law by selecting the Y chromosome. My 18 week ultrasound confirmed that my little baby is a boy! My in-laws said they would have been happy either way, but they only said this after we found out we are having a boy. They are quite happy to say the least. After all, there is a shortage of Asian men in the world.

My sister-in-law was not so happy though. She is four months further along than I am and didn’t find it fair that we found out the sex of our baby before she did. Yup, it’s illegal for doctors to tell a couple the sex of their baby in China. In fact, this caused a bit of confusion because after we announced we are having a boy to the Chinese world, everyone wanted baby pictures and congratulated us on the birth. Continue reading

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oh Baby

Big news: my husband’s little sister is pregnant! She was 3+ months pregnant and didn’t even know it. It was the pickled cucumbers 凉拌黄瓜 cravings that cued my mother-in-law to thinking she might be pregnant and she is! How difficult it must be for my husband to have his little sister expecting her first child before him. We are already failures of reproduction in China because we have not produced offspring within the given time frame of 1-2 years after marriage and then in the age hierarchy, our future unborn children will forever have to call husband’s younger sister’s child “older brother or sister.” It’s messing up the generational hierarchy here. To add to the town gossip, conception was before the wedding. Simply scandalous! It’s big news and I’m very happy for her. My mother-in-law is very happy for her, but I feel kind of bad because I’m sure there is talk in that small community and I’m sure there is a pang of disappointment that baby’s a 外孙/女 “outside” grandchild and not a 孙子/女 grandchild within the family name.
Oh the pressure this puts on us! Except we live halfway around the world so we don’t have to care what anyone says and we kind of enjoy our carefree DINK lifestyle. That, and about a month after she found out her news, we discovered that I am pregnant! These things must be contagious or something. It puts everything right in the world again, sort of. Mother-in-law is happy – I will have fulfilled my traditional obligation as a daughter-in-law. Our baby will always be about 4 months younger than sister-in-law’s, which would mean they are the same age in America, but it means he or she will be considered younger in China. On the American side of things, I don’t know what we are going to do with a one bedroom apartment or how I’m ever going to finish grad school, and how does one take care of a baby? Nor do I foresee the two cousins being very close since they will grow up so far away from each other.
Well, we are very excited. No idea how we are going to handle a baby. At least I get to experience the joys of pregnancy with my sister-in-law though she is half a world away going through the experiences very differently.

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Will that be Cash or Credit?

When a Chinese person buys a wallet, he/she looks to see how much cash it will hold; when an American buys a wallet, he/she looks at how many credit cards it will hold. (Useless fact: Chinese wallets are actually larger than most American wallets because 100 RMB bills are larger than US dollar bills) The entire concept of money seems to be different between the two cultures.

As soon we came back to the states, I started building my husband’s credit. I found a credit card with a terribly low limit but no fees, and we bought a car with a high interest rate even though we had enough to buy the car in cash. Sadly, the bank representative told us this was very common. As she explained, even though immigrants often have plenty in cash to buy a house or a car in full, without credit, they can’t get a loan. I’m sure there is logic in there somewhere. So we paid interest to have a credit score because credit is king. Continue reading

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Contraception in China

So my parents-in-law have been coming up with lots of theories of why I have not produced a grandchild. The one that they are sure of is that because I once took birth control pills I must therefore be infertile. I laughed at it because it was absurd, but it made me kind of angry with no way to educate them on how birth control pills works. That’s when I realized that their assumption was not entirely uneducated. What exactly is considered “the pill” in China?

A long long time ago, I was a student in Xi’an with a 6 month stock pill of my American birth control pills. I ended up staying in China for longer than 6 months though and did not want to disturb my cycle or hormones by going off the pill. Too bad you can’t refill prescriptions by international mail. So I grabbed one of my Chinese girlfriends to take me to the pharmacy to buy a month’s supply of birth control. Simple enough. We told the pharmacist what we wanted and she handed me a box with one pill. I looked at both my friend and the pharmacist and explained that it was not right. My friend laughed and said that it was the right medicine. “You take this pill once a month and you will not get pregnant.” It took a few seconds for what she said to sink in. In my hands was the morning after pill.
Continue reading

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Day 9: luxury

Some things that I really missed about living in China were the indulgences. Today we enjoyed getting pampered.
In the US, I can never seem to find time to cut my hair, and while I get pretty terrible hair cuts in China, they give really nice head and shoulder massages while they do it. It is some seriously nice papering.
I tend to avoid mani-pedis in the US because they never keep. My nails do not like polish; it always chips after a day, even gels. Something about the way they do it in China, probably some serious chemicals, but my nails stay perfect until they grow out. I think they actually superglue plastic nails on and then cover them with a gel polish; whatever they do, it stays beautiful and doesn’t chip. I really only get my nails done in China. I was able to get a full set of french tips and a gel pedicure for about $20 and it is better than what I could get in the US.
I also missed bubble tea. It was so nice relaxing with friends while drinking yummy milk tea. More and more milk tea shops are opening up in the US so I can get it there, but it just isn’t the same.
It’s true that my hands and feet became immediately dirty from the dirt roads and factory air and my hair was a tangled mess as soon as I stepped out into the wind, but I felt momentarily put together.

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