Sick, Sick, Sick

My dear friend Jackie was visiting here for two weeks and I haven’t been blogging as much as a result. She just left this morning and I realize that I have so much to share!

I’ve crossed into my 14th week and I’m officially 14 weeks and 3 days pregnant. My bump is growing and visible. Fisherman’s pants and flowing shirts have been my wardrobe staple and will probably continue as such for the next couple of months as I brave this Beijing heat.

Temperatures have hit the high thirties and the humidity is heavy on my shoulders. I’m not a fan of air conditioners but I have had to relent several times and turn it on for a few hours at night. The heat has fanned its flames over my skin and only the light cool air has given me any rest. I’ll blame Little Spark for both the overheating and the lowered resistance to heat. What else should I expect from a creature I have nicknamed “Little Spark”?

A week ago and a half ago, I accompanied my friend to The Great Wall of China, a must for all first-timers here. The short day trip we took (to save me from driving and further exhaustion) was through IntrepidTravel. Rising at 6am, catching the bus at 7am, a full day of climbing and walking, and then not falling asleep until midnight as a result of catching up (yacking with Jackie!) meant for an immediate sore throat the next day. With or without a growing belly, I need my sleep. When I don’t get it, I edge quickly towards getting a cold.

Then, with lots of other plans scheduled for the rest of the week, I never really did recover from that outing and my cold developed into a raging and sloppy head cold and then into a rattling cough that is now in my chest and causing me to hack up green phlegm. Too much information? Sorry! Point being that:

I am sick and pregnant at the same time, which makes even Chinese medicine off limits.

All I can do is ride this out and hope that getting some rest and plenty of fluids will help me recover in the next few days.

A week had gone by since the initial sore throat and on Monday of this week, thanks to the abundance of English guides in this city, I sent Jackie off to see the Forbidden City and Tian’anmen Square without me. I tucked her safely into a cab outside my apartment complex, directed the driver, and then sluggishly bought some veggies and fruits and trudged my way back up the stairs, whining to myself and aching all over. I spent the morning sprawled on the couch with a roll of toilet paper in reaching distance for my nose-blowing and a lot of effective moaning and groaning to Guo Jian, a trick I have learned from him, by the way. And it gets results!

(Aside: Men really do whine a lot more than women when they’re sick, I’ve found. Okay, it’s a generalization, but am I the only one to have noticed this? As a result, I’ve learned that if I do about the same amount of whining that he would do, he’ll respond with about the same amount of care that he would want in the same situation. Presto!) 

Guo Jian had given me the shopping list in a sleepy daze before I left to send Jackie off. After I returned and did my requisite whining, before I knew what was happening, he was whipping up a variety of all-natural remedies to ease this ridiculous cold. The kitchen was a blur of the sounds of chopping and the clanging of pots. He poked his head out a few times to tell me to “多喝水” (drink more water) or to chastise me for not resting more and staying up too late with my friend.

(I’ve long come to understand that this is about love and care and not about criticism or blame in Chinese culture. It doesn’t help the solution to be chastised, in my Western opinion, but I know now to just hear it as his way of saying that he cares and is paying attention. In his culture, it seems to be part of the care-giving process.)

He emerged with the first of the delicacies, which was a tangerine that had been put in the oven with some salt on one side and the peel slightly open where it had been salted. He instructed me to peel it down fully and eat each piece before it got cold. Hot and salty tangerine! Kinda weird. I ate it, though. Obedient me.

Next, a bowl of steaming Chinese pear pieces and more tangerine slices, all of which had been boiled in water. These were really good. Once they cooled down slightly to eat them, it was a warm treat.

Then came a large tea mug filled to the top with tangerine peel and hot water and flavoured with rock sugar. This was also tasty, that is until it became bitter. “The bitterness is what cures the cough,” he said. I drank it.

Finally, a big bowl of broth came sloshing towards me as the final offering. It was the water from boiled white radish (daikon), ginger, and a large green onion (the thick Chinese kind). After so much in the way of sweetness, it was a bit shocking at first but then I also found it tasty and I finished it off.

After all of that, my chest actually did feel lighter.

I was a good patient. He was a good doctor. I still felt terrible, though. He headed off to a rehearsal and I headed off to a meeting with my album engineer, hoping that the remedies would kick in. The coughing continued but his sweetness and kindness was enough, really. Cured or not, I felt loved and cared for.

Now it’s Thursday morning. Yesterday, I woke up dry heaving and expelling toxins through the back end (or what we, on tour, affectionately called “butt pee”) and, though I apologize for the indelicacy of this paragraph, it is the truth of my morning!! I drove Jackie to the airport shaky and weak, but managed to get her checked in and sent off and to drive myself back home through rush hour traffic without more dry heaving and in time to collapse where there was a bed to catch me.

I slept until noon, went to a recording job, left early because I wasn’t feeling well, slept in the taxi home, then climbed the stairs to my bed, collapsed for the second time yesterday, and slept some more.

At around 7pm, I rose and tentatively put a few things in my stomach and then went back to bed. I slept from 8pm last night to 7:30am this morning, only rising to relieve my pregnant bladder. Now today, Thursday, with nothing to do except more resting, I am hoping to stomp out this illness for good and regain some strength.

Guo Jian says it’s about the heat and humidity as well, as pregnant women are prone to increased fire or “上火,” which is the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) term. He’s been pouring mung bean soup (绿豆粥) into thermoses and thrusting it into my hands as I leave the house, as well as making me drink boiled brown sugar and ginger water, both meant to help me ‘bring down the fire.’ Let’s hope it works!

After a bit more chastising today about running myself down and not taking care of myself and Little Spark while simultaneously driving me to my recording job, (again, super sweet of him), I agreed to do absolutely nothing last night and today.

And that is my plan: no plan.

My Mom told me awhile ago that she got really sick when she was pregnant with me. My sister was nearly three years old and was worried that my Mom was going to ‘cough up the baby.’ While I was hacking yesterday, remembering this story made me smile. At least Little Spark is safe in there!

In other news, my pregnancy nausea has waned slightly but has been replaced by this cold, so if I can just conquer the latter, maybe I’ll find that I can manage the former and those second trimester glory times will ease on in…

Wish me luck and send some strength. I need it!

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