Enter The In-Laws

I am one day from 36 weeks pregnant. My due date is January 1st and so when I crept into December this week, I felt a little tingly at the thought of it just being one month away <gasp!> … ONE MONTH! Pregnancy is almost over (give or take a few weeks) and I’m soon going to meet Little Spark! From here on in, it could be anytime…

I can’t wait!!!!!

I’m in the final leg of the race. When you can see the finish line, it makes the long distance strain of pregnancy seem like a faint memory.

My in-laws arrived yesterday evening for a short visit before their intended long visit scheduled for just after Christmas and stretching into February. My Mother-in-law, who is a tornado of energy at the best of times, has swooped in to help us tidy, sort, transform and construct our space into a baby zone. They’ve brought a crib (that I believe they purchased long before we ever got pregnant—ach-hem!) and many other things that I’ve yet to lay eyes upon. A proud “Nai Nai 奶奶” already (paternal Grandma in Chinese), she has been in preparatory mode for months and nothing I can say about how much I have also prepared has been able to influence (read: curb) her shopping sprees for her future “grandson 孙子.”

Each time I hear her say “grandson 孙子,” I correct her and say that it could very well be a grand daughter (孙女) in here. I’m told that it’s just a Chinese language convention that isn’t really about gender, but here’s hoping she won’t be disappointed if Little Spark is a little girl! Tonight, she told me she was sure it was a boy because I’m carrying less “round” and more “pointy.” I laughed and told her that the opposite is said in the West—rounder pregnant bellies are considered the boy babies! Everyone laughed when they heard me say that. We all realized that, in fact, no one really knows! We’ll have to wait and see…

The first thing my Mother-in-law said to me when she arrived was this: “Well, you’ve gotten quite fat!” She proceeded to tell me that I was much fatter than she was when she was pregnant with Guo Jian. I was reminded of my own Mother who told me in July that no one could ever tell she was pregnant from behind (for both of her pregnancies) and that she only gained twenty-five pounds each time. She repeated this several times to me and so I eventually asked her to stop telling me how little weight she gained and how thin she looked from behind because it was just making me feel bad. But, she’s my Mother. She realized the impact of her words and immediately apologized. With my Mother-in-law, however, I know it’s a cultural difference that I’m never going to be ever to explain to her. After all, even the Chinese doctor told me I’d gotten fat!! I’ve taken to seeing it as an opportunity to grow a thicker skin and proclaim pride in my pregnant body no matter how fat it has become! So, my response was this: “Yup, I’ve gotten so fat and that’s just what my body wanted to do. Oh well! Every body is different!”

But despite fielding these kinds of comments, it’s nice to have them here. They are full of excitement and energy. I, on the other hand, am dragging my butt and trying not to be overwhelmed with anxiety about the nesting yet to be done and the general disarray of our home. My friend who is also pregnant and due on the same day as me (Kim!) described her state as “encumbered.” I second that. It’s the perfect word. It’s the type of encumbered that is felt mentally, physically and emotionally.

What’s more, Guo Jian has been incredibly busy with his recording work and so the excitement and energy that he may have for the baby’s impending arrival has been in fits and starts. I can see his anxiety too in his hectic schedule, but I miss him. In other words, I needed an influx of anticipatory energy and, gratefully, it burst through our door less than a day ago.

Since then, we now have a crib set up, my new air-cleaning plants have mostly been re-potted with fresh soil (a job I couldn’t have done alone), they’ve gone on the hunt for better clothing wardrobes for us as ours have both broken (no closets in this apartment, sadly), my Mother-in-law has re-stocked the staples in the kitchen (like flour and rice), and the house looks like a chaos epicenter with stuff everywhere.

First a place must get turned upside down before it can be tidied up, right? Right.… [she says to herself to calm her nerves about it!]

To tell you a bit more about them as people, let me start by saying that both of my in-laws are incredibly kind, generous, warm, intelligent people, but I have to admit to having a calmer relationship with my Father-in-law. We can work together in near silence and are very comfortable with one another. For instance, when we re-potted the plants today, we spoke very little but developed a good rhythm in our system and had some good laughs.

My Mother-in-law, however, is a bit of a powerhouse and sometimes I find myself exhausted by her energy. She’s easily excited (not unlike her son!) and therefore infectious when she’s happy, which is often, but she’s also incredibly intense when she’s not. In other words, she has a big energy. Also, in terms of space, let’s just say she’s a tad controlling.

To be fair, it’s cultural. In Chinese tradition, the home of one’s child is one’s own home. When they come over, this space is more theirs than ours. She takes over the kitchen and does all the cooking, re-organizes cupboards more logically (in her mind), cleans the house from top to bottom, does laundry, and generally calls all the shots. This is the Chinese way. I tolerate it and appreciate the good parts (like the clean house and yummy food), but I can imagine that when the baby arrives, there may be a different kind of need for space. I hope that she and I will be able to strike a good balance. I try to see our relationship as having coming into my life so that I can learn to practice more patience.

After all, in traditional Chinese culture, when we got married we would have had to move in with his parents and then subsequently raise our child in the ‘family home.’ Thank goodness times have changed!

Instead, in more recent times, after a child is born, parents often “temporarily” move in with their children for sometimes up to a whole year. As you can imagine, this was something that I could not agree to, knowing that our space is too small and the vibe would be too strained. Luckily, no one suggested it.

My in-laws have henceforth decided to rent an apartment in our housing complex—a decision that even they deem to be the healthier one for harmony all around. That way, they’ll have a place to retire to at night and a way to give us some three-person family time with Little Spark, not to mention separate time with my own parents when they arrive in mid-January for a month. This newly rented apartment may or may not become a more permanent residence for them, as well, since they’re planning to provide partial childcare to Little Spark, the traditional way of fulfilling the role of being grandparents in China.

How amazing that they are planning their lives around this new addition to our family? But, a little overwhelming too. Their constant presence will be something I’ll have to get used to, but their assistance will be wonderful. Advantages and disadvantages.

What’s more, Guo Jian is excited. He hasn’t lived in the same city as his parents for nearly fourteen years. He keeps talking about his Mother’s cooking and all the meals we will enjoy at their place and how much we’ll save from not eating out. Apparently, there’s an expectation that we’ll go to their place for meals every day, sometimes twice a day. My head spins at the thought. She’s a great cook, though, and so I’m sure Little Spark and I will be hard-pressed to decline the offers!

All of these familial changes are to be expected with the birth of a baby, and so I’m bracing myself. I know there will be transition but I have a good feeling that we’ll all find our balance and rhythm together without too much fuss.

And the best thing of all is that they are so excited. Little Spark is already loved so much and he or she hasn’t even emerged into the light yet.

Lucky kid.

(Private Note From Mommy: You’re welcome anytime! Hurry up already!!)

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