From China to eternity part 2

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I felt hellishly smug that I had finally got some value for money out of an insurance company. I figure even with a lifetime of the maddeningly futile ‘private health insurance’ that we are forced to pay for and never use in Australia, I may still yet come out on top. Strangely the insurance company did not feel as happy about their 7 to 1 shortfall. When I enquired about renewing my policy the next year, not only had the premium increased to about $5000USD, maternity had been capped at $18,000 and there was a new clause whereby I had to buy TWO policies (one for my husband also) as maternity was no longer available on a single policy. So I may have been single handedly responsible for screwing international health insurance for the rest of you. Sorry about that.

Anyway, home with Archie, parents visiting from Australia, getting on with finding out how to be a mother. I did suffer from early baby blues, but took some action which really helped me feel better. I invited a friend around for a glass of wine, had a chat to the GP and bought some feel good DVDs (in a shop that may or may not have been legal). Finding Nemo cheered me up so much that it will always have a very special place in my heart. I started to find that motherhood was actually fun. I remember thinking how tiring and exhausting it was at the time. Oh you, I think now. All tired with your one little baby.

Generally speaking, the custom in China is that the mother and newborn baby do not leave the house for the first 30 days. This is mainly to ensure that the baby and mother do not get sick and to help the mother recover from childbirth. It makes sense, on many levels, but it wasn’t something I would consider. I was told by my husband’s boss that because I wasn’t housebound and swaddled in warm clothes that I would suffer from arthritis later in life. Can you imagine the ruckus I caused at the local supermarket when I took Archie out at one week? I had a gaggle of squealing (yes, actual squealing) Ayis (older ladies considered to be about my Mum’s age) flapping their hands to their faces like they were about to faint. Anyone would think Justin Bieber had just swanned in.

This brings me to the curious case of pseudo celebrity. Prior to Archie, we were an anomaly that was worth a good stare whenever we went out in public. After Archie, we were a travelling freak show. I was completely uncomfortable with the almost frenzy to touch, look at, photograph and fuss over my baby. Once, I heard running steps behind me on the street and suddenly a breathless young girl appeared and tried to shove her camera in his pram. Another time, we were standing at a hotel check in counter and the pram was beside me. I noticed too late that the lady standing next to me had reached in under the shade cloth and was gleefully snapping away. Once, while changing Arch in public (partially hidden behind some shrubs, I turned to see a line of women watching. Even young men would go silly in the presence of my mini celebrity. At an art gallery a super cool group of 20 something dudes were giggling and pointing like schoolgirls. At our local shops, next door to our apartments, Archie was known by name. As we’d walk past, a line of Ayis would gather on the verandah above calling out his name as we passed. I could go on and on.

It is important to me that I don’t sound as if I am trashing China. It’s an amazing place with some really incredible sights, people, customs and history. Some of the challenges in living there were hard to overcome, and this was the hardest as it went so much against what I was used to, how my own country operated.  In our own country, we largely close the doors and get on with the business of raising our children alone. Customs, history and the advice of others be dammed. In China, the child is kind of like communal property. You only get one shot at it (for the most part) so it is a hugely exciting thing that everyone wants to share. And with that one shot, why take any chances of infection and illness, especially in brutal winters with no heating in your house. Hence the 30 day confinement. It’s easy as a foreigner to deride antiquated or strange customs. Thinking about where those customs come from and the intent behind them though often reveals that we are the ones doing it strange.

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