I came across this unpublished blog post from 2013. It was written mere days before I became pregnant with Benton and my life drastically changed in an instant. I am trying not to edit these words and keep them preserved as fresh.
I am missing China a bit extra these days and I cherish these memories…
My cousin Brooke flew back with us and she is staying for 6 weeks! We are having a grand time and I believe that she is enjoying herself as well. People often ask what she is doing all day. I cannot speak for every minute but I am quite proud to announce that she has successfully read 1 book and finished all THREE seasons of Downton Abbey (that’s right ladies and gentlemen, season 3 has debued in China) other successes have included; going for runs, getting massages, napping, pedicures, and journaling.
Our social life in Shanghai is like college only better because we have regular incomes, which support our shenanigans. Since we have been back this semester we have been out every Friday and Saturday. Three birthday parties and a German Carnival have kept us busy.
The German Carnival was quite memorable. Our Irish friend Patrick invited us to go with he and his wife. He mentioned last minute that we would need costumes. Costume parties in China are quite fun because it is so easy to have something made. With less than a week however, we didn’t have time to have something made for the three of us. We had to use what we had in the closet, which included an Audrey Hepburn costume (I had it made for our Christmas Party) A blue tuxedo, and an apron. Together we were fabulous.
The party had all you could eat German food and all you could drink beer. We had a good time. Brooke had a wooden spoon to add to her 1950s housewife persona. At one point while dancing, Brooke obtained a toy gun off of one of the many cowboys roaming around. She was stirring the air with her spoon and shooting into the air and shouting proudly “I don’t know where I got this gun!”
I turned to Matt who was seemingly feeling left out of singing along to the German music. He was making up his own lyrics with all of the things he knows about Germany. “You have sauerkraut. You make good sausages. You have good beer. You lost World War II.”
Back to Brooke, she is now spanking Spiderman with the afore mentioned wooden spoon.
Matt; Now has a hat with fringe on it.
Brooke; using her backside as a weapon to fight super heroes.
Matt; singing loudly “You have good sausages!” (now wearing cowboy hat.)
Brooke; Spiderman is defeated.
The night went on like this for several more hours until we finally made it home to Facetime Lynn.
Fun times. Making memories.
We have officially been repatriated for two years. It seems the longer it has been, the more I hold the experience close to my heart.
When meeting a friend from high school for a drink the other day, she said to me “Why are we always talking about our kids, you lived in CHINA, let’s talk about that.” I sat up a bit straighter and smiled. Talking about our time abroad is one of my favorite topics but one that I hardly speak of.
Living overseas changed so much of me; the way I look at the world, my definition of family, the way I parent, the way we choose to spend money, our plans for the future, what we value for our kids, etc. etc. I changed so much in three years. I want to be very clear; I didn’t become better than anyone, I became a better version of myself.
We visited ten countries in three years, taught students from over 60 different countries, made amazing friends, established a community, added a baby to our family, were immersed completely in a different language and culture for three years.
Honestly, I didn’t love every minute. In fact, there were days and weeks that I absolutely hated. But it stretched me, challenged me, to find joy in the middle of winter when we hadn’t seen the sun for weeks. It was a tortured relationship that I cherish.
People in my former life expect me to be the same person that they knew and loved before China and in many ways I am, but when something emerges that no longer resembles my old-self it becomes an awkwardness and time and again I find myself swallowing what I really want to say for the sake of not making myself seem pretentious.
I grew up in rural Colorado and I am very proud of these roots and it is where we happily returned to, but let’s just say there isn’t a huge population of people that can relate to our experiences abroad. The home cooked values of this country life are a thing to respect and I cannot ignore them even if I wanted to. One of these is a true disgust of pretension. This translates into a problem because I don’t know how to talk about China, travel and adventure without sounding like I am being boastful. I long to seem humble when speaking about the experience that transformed me but I am constantly at a loss for words.
I see the look on people’s faces when I mention the scooters topped with families of five careening through the back roads in Vietnam. Or how the chinese shave their babies heads so that their hair comes in thicker. I feel obligated to defend these foreigners we encountered from the judgements of the people I am sharing my story with and because of this, the point that I am usually trying to make is lost.
The same thing happens when I mention how much I miss our Chinese nanny who had become part of the family. It is so difficult for so many to relate to, it is a real conversation stopper, so I just don’t bring it up. What I have learned is just because something is different doesn’t mean that it is wrong and I feel exhausted trying to explain that.
My mom likes to remind me that I am not practicing what I preach. These people have chosen not to live overseas or to move away from home and “just because they are different, doesn’t mean that they are wrong” I get that. I need to be doing a better job of getting to know people that I think I know. At the same time I just want someone sitting in my living room say to me “I know exactly how you feel.” and mean it.
Motherhood is often lonesome. From day to day it can feel like I am at it all alone and feeling like I am ignoring a hugely important part of my life makes it even more isolating. My husband and I talk about Shanghai with increasing sentiment. Approaching the second anniversary of our departure makes me miss our friends, the city and the culture intensely. I have been having many dreams of visiting the city and the first thing I do in EVERY dream is go eat peanut noodles at my favorite place.
It is hard to answer the question “what was China like?” but I appreciate it being asked.
Missing Shanghai and all that was, is a silent mourning and I will keep it to myself.
The toddler has taken to calling me Sweetie from time to time. Which is pretty adorable. Lately, he will also shout from another room “Sweetie, don’t come in here!” Which translates to: Come as quickly as you can because I am doing something that I absolutely should not be doing and it is probably dangerous.
Here are a few things I have walked in on:
-Climbing the bookshelf
-Stuffing large amounts of toilet paper in the toilet
-Eating my chap-stick
-Spraying the fabreeze air freshener in his hair
-Eating popcorn he found in his toy box. (I can’t remember the last time we made popcorn)
I love how genuinely surprised he is when I arrive at the doorway, like I somehow foiled his genius plan. I really hope his complete inability to be sneaky lasts through adolescence.
If the state of underwear that is deemed acceptable to wear is a reflection of how one values oneself, I might need some support for my self-image.
I have been married for five years now, and while this doesn’t make me an expert on a successful marriage, it does make me knowledgeable about one very important topic; undergarments post-marriage/post-babies.
When I got engaged, along with other parties my dear friends threw me a personal shower where I received a wide range of bras panties and lingerie. These were all beautiful indeed but since I got pregnant a year or so after I got married, the life of these dainty unmentionables is sadly over.
I don’t have to go into detail about why they have been banished but thanks to pregnancy, let’s just say, some things are bigger, some things are smaller but all things are different. As much as I would like to pretend, none of these items will probably fit ever, ever again. May they rest in my dresser drawers, just in case, in peace.
After being pregnant with my second child I bought some very comfortable cotton undies. I liked them so much I thought I would write a review on Amazon. I read through the other reviews and I found this gem: “When my wife put these panties on, I knew without a doubt that she never wanted to have sex with me again.” Luckily it wasn’t my husband that had written this review but none the less I got the message. While I don’t believe in wearing something just for your partner, I do believe that feeling pretty or feeling worthy of something pretty is something I am in need of these days. Even if those pretty things is covered by yoga pants and a spit-up stained tee shirt. Looking back, I would do some things differently, and here are those thoughts in regards to panties and such.
- Ask for IOUs instead
While I didn’t have money to spend on these things then, two kids later, I certainly don’t have money to spend on them now. I would tell my eager friends, “thank you so much for getting me prepared for marriage by buying me these sexy items, but actually please wait to buy me anything until I am done with pregnancies and breastfeeding. You are most welcome to still call it a shower if that is still your thing in five-ten years, you can also call it a clothing drive if that seems more appropriate. All I know is, at a certain point NONE of my underwear will fit all at once and I am going to need your help.
2. Get boudoir pictures
Your body will never look as good as it does TODAY. So go ahead and pick one or two of those outfits you couldn’t stop friends from buying you, drink a glass of two of wine and make a friend take your pictures. You can even wrap it up in an album and call it a wedding present for your future partner. One day I imagine completely creeping the grandkids out by showing them how lucky grandpa was when he married grandma.
3. Wear everything, don’t save it for a “special occasion”
Even if your legs aren’t shaved and your in-laws are visiting go ahead and put the good china equivalent of your undies on. All too soon your pile of panties will resemble the rags you use to dry your car and will have clips on them for easy access (for your infant not your husband). Seize the moment you sexy thing!
I have some very exciting news; I have been chosen to be a part of the cast for 2016 Listen to Your Mother Boulder! To be honest, I am having a hard time convincing myself that I am worthy but like most things I’ve done in life, I guess I will fake it until I make it… If you are a mother or you know one, you should come to this show. Tickets are on sale now.
It is going to be pretty amazing.
Today was one of those days where I know that I should have really had more patience with the toddler. I spent a little extra snuggle time with him during bedtime and when I got up to leave I kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear that I love him and that I am proud of him. He took his pacifier out to say something so I leaned in closer. He whispered “I’m a baby chicken.”
It seems as though my failures are either of no consequence or I should seek out help now. There is really no grey area.
As I was nursing my baby my son came to me to undo his pants because he had to pee. He had been potty trained for 6 months so I knew further assistance wasn’t required. In the next moment he walked over to the ipad where he had been watching too many episodes of Daniel Tiger and He. Peed. Directly. On. The. Ipad.
I was at a complete loss for words. I moved as quickly as I could to him to stop the river of urine that was now splashed on the couch, rug and all over his pants. The baby was still attached to my boob. He finished just as I got there and said to me “Mom, my pants are wet, change them.” I was frantically trying to wipe off the ipad so that it could survive yet another toddler encounter when he cupped my face in his little hands and said “Mom, my pants are wet, change them.” I swear that he was smiling just a little.
Hey Remember that time when Matt and I left China with a newborn like bats outta hell?
We came home for Christmas this year and it was a fantastic trip. It was great to introduce Benton to so many people that love us and now him. Leaving for the trip did not go exactly as planned. The day we were scheduled to leave Matt had school. He was at work and I was working on packing at home. I had nearly everything laid out to pack but was waiting on Matt’s shoe decision before I began putting stuff into bags. The driver was going to pick us up at 4:00pm which would put us at the airport 3 hours early because we wanted to make sure we got the bulkhead seat that had a bassinet and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time for error having not traveled with a baby before.
Matt text me around 10 and said that our flight was delayed 2 hours which meant that we would miss our connecting flight in LA and we would have to stay the night there. I was so sad. This meant that we would miss nearly a whole day at home. Matt got on the phone with United and after getting cut off their Skype connection more than once he THOUGHT we could get on a 1:30 flight. This was great news…. Only it was now 11:45 and we live an hour from the airport.
Now picture the scene from Home Alone when they are late for the airport. That was us. Run run Rudolf should be playing in your head right now.
We packed stuff in 15 minutes. After about 10 minutes of us running around like crazy people Xiao Ma said “you leave now? You leave 4:00?” When we said that we leave now she laughed at us and helped us get our stuff. She had to come with us to the airports so she could bring the carseat back to the apartment.
We weren’t able to get the driver on such short notice so we had to get a cab. We had 2 large checked bags, 3 maximum sized carry-on bags, 2 personal bags, a stroller, a baby, an Ayi, two adults, and a partridge in a pear tree. Matt didn’t think it would all fit and I kept insisting. Finally, Xiao Ma and I rode the hour to the airport with the stroller on our laps. Who needed to see out anyway?
When we arrived at the airport Matt ran in to try and get our seats. The cab driver pulled up to the curb in the nearest lane, which was three lanes away. The inner two lanes cleared while we were getting organized so me and my 55 year old Ayi were dragging 50lb. bags from the middle of the street to the curb, meanwhile Xiao Ma is yelling. “get the baby inside, it is too cold” (it is 48 degrees) This all wouldn’t be such a problem with roller bags but Matt insists on using duffle bags for maximum packability. ‘It won’t be a problem Bri, I will carry them’ he says. I digress. Matt reappears just in time to push the airport cart into the airport. I had just enough time to strap Benton in his Ergo baby carrier. “I think we are going to make it” Matt says. We are rushed to the front of the line and our bags are checked. We then have to go through immigration and security and our flight was boarding. Matt, Xiao Ma and I are running through the airport. We paused outside of customs to tell Xiao Ma she couldn’t come with us any farther. She kissed Benton’s head and says “I love you baby boy”. I think she wasn’t sure if we would survive the trip.
We made it on the plane but we didn’t have seats together. Benton was starting to share his general displeasure of the situation loudly as I found my seat. When I wiggled my way to the window seat I unstrapped the carrier and what I found was no surprise. My entire midsection and Benton’s whole lower half were covered in poop. Matt had the diaper bag. We resolved that situation while I profusely apologized to the man sitting next to me.
Matt lost his ticket stub and was sure I had it. While I had a naked baby on my lap the flight attendant was on the intercom saying ‘there is a red bag and brown North Face jacket placed in an incorrect seat, please come collect your items or they will be removed from the aircraft’ Those are Matt’s things I think. Matt is trying to make his way against all of the passengers trying to find their seats. He is telling me to look for his ticket because he doesn’t know where to sit. The man next to me offers help and he digs through my purse to find Matt’s ticket stub. No luck. Eventually they figure out where he should be. (Matt finds his ticket in his pocket later)
Matt switches seats so we are able to sit next to each other for most of the flight.
Benton did amazing. It was as if he understood that it was just temporary. I used my nursing pillow on my lap to hold him. He slept fairly well. When we arrived in LA Matt tried to get coffee for both of us and I was going to hang out by the gate. Benton woke up from his nap and was hungry NOW. I was struggling to get the nursing cover from the bag below the stroller with a screaming baby. I finally got it out and was nursing when Matt came back with his pants speckled in coffee. He saw the stressed look on my face and we both decided not to leave each other again while traveling. He had dropped his coffee all over himself and it was time to board. I interrupted nursing to get in line and when we got to the front there was a problem. Matt was shuffled between two counters trying to get the ticket situation figured out. Finally, 15 minutes later I was burping Benton and Matt noticed white stuff on the carpet, then there was more. His eyes made their way up and I had spit up all down my back. Matt later said that he couldn’t believe that we were ‘those parents’ that just can’t get themselves together. We finally made it to Denver where we were greeted by my Dad and Jackie. We made it to Denver 6 hours earlier than our scheduled arrival. It was worth the craziness for an extra half-day at home.
Granny’s birthday was this week, in her honor I wanted to re-post her initial tribute:
One of the worst things about living overseas is thinking about what we would do if we lost someone close to us at home. Unfortunately we had to figure that out a few months ago. Matt’s dear Granny died. We got the call in the middle of the night and grief and the distance blanketed us for several days. Matt decided not to go home as Granny had so keenly insisted on him not doing so if something happened to her or Grandpa Don.
Granny (Frances Snodgrass) was a very special sort of lady. When Matt was introducing me for the first time to his family he made it clear to me that it was Granny that could make or break the deal. If she said that she didn’t like me, the gig was up. Luckily she loved me and so Matt and I were able to continue our romance.
Granny worked as a lobbyist for the Kansas Legislature until she retired. This resulted in her always being informed in political current events and she expected those around her to be educated on things that matter as well. She would ask questions like ‘what are your thoughts on the new supreme court justice’ and I was always thanking my lucky stars that my mom is a news junkie and I was able to give a semi-educated response.
The way Granny listened to answers and opinions was beyond respectable. She cared what we thought and why. She would take quick notes as we spoke to ask further questions. Considering the evidence and opinions of those that mattered to her she would then form her own opinion and she certainly wasn’t afraid to share it. Her politics always seemed to lean left of center, which aligned nicely with mine. Granny’s progressive view on the world was beyond her generation and it warmed my heart. When she wanted to make a point extra clear to ensure I was listening carefully, she would gently take my hand in hers and look me in the eye as she told me where a certain Politian could shove it. She was a walking contradiction of sweet and sass.
She made a mean friend chicken dinner. Although she couldn’t make it up and down the stairs to their basement anymore, she kept a sharp mental inventory of her pantry that Grandpa Don was charged with running. She and I both loved Downton Abbey and The Good Wife. She loved hearing about our adventures from abroad.
Granny was a type of tough-old-bird that only seems common with women of her generation. She lost a son too soon and that grief made her love those around her deeper. Matt was exceptionally close to Granny. I am forever thankful for her for the influence that she had on Matt. There are so many parts of her that I see in Matt daily. Their commonalities are uncanny; Their sharp intelligence, their constant search for truth, their love of cooking for others, their careful family prioritization, their desire to root for the underdog, their thoughtfulness, their true love of their spouses, and their desire to learn.
Granny will be missed so dearly and as Matt put it; It just seems like the 30 years he had with her weren’t quite enough. And as Winnie the Pooh says ‘How lucky am I to have had something that makes saying goodbye so hard’
I became a mother in Shanghai, China. 6,798 miles away from family. My husband and I taught there for 3 years and As people like to point out, my baby was, in fact, made in China.
With a positive test we found ourselves giddy at our first appointment at the women’s hospital A large sign greeted us directing the way, below the Chinese writing was the English Translation; This way for cunt Examination.
Upon entering the exam room for my cunt examination the nurse took great care in making sure that my husband did not see me naked. I wondered if they were keeping these young nurses in the dark about how exactly the babies came to be.
Back in the states, our families assumed their roles as alarmists listing all of the ways the situation could end badly including concerns about the baby not getting through customs, they made sure we knew their feelings on us bringing their grandchild into the world on the other side of it.
As I reminded my mother, she gave birth to me in a 1979 Ford Econoline, so how much worse could a Chinese hospital really be?
1st trimester nausea was made worse by the unique smells of Shanghai. As foreigners in the touristy parts of the city we were used to having our picture taken by Chinese tourists. On my husband’s birthday we headed down to the bund and the cab ride made me especially sick feeling and as soon as he stopped, I handed my husband my purse and heaved onto the sidewalk. He watched and said “yep, this is actually happening” meanwhile a small crowd of Chinese Tourists took pictures of a pregnant foreigner puking on the curb while her giant white husband watched. I would like to say to those people… you’re welcome.
We came back to the United States for the summer and left again for Shanghai when I was 28 weeks pregnant. I had dreaded the family goodbyes all summer long. Hugging my mom I was overwhelmed knowing the next time she saw me, the baby would be on the outside of my body.
“It will be okay babe” she tried, “It is only three weeks…” This gross miscalculation of time was my mom’s coping mechanism. When we were away for months at time it was always just three more weeks until we got to see each other again. I learned long ago that it is best not to correct her math.
There were, of course, cultural differences in pregnancy from the US to China. Cold drinks are believed to be very hard on a pregnant woman’s body and when I rejected boiling hot water for my beverage in August at restaurants and politely asked for bing shuay, ice water it caused a parade of wait staff watching me drink the shocking and dangerous cold water. I liked to live life on the edge.
When I went into labor, we waited at home as long as possible and upon arriving at the hospital, I learned of how rare my body was because I was fully effaced but only .5 cm dilated. I labored naturally for over 24 hours and still was only .5 cm dilated. It was excruciating, exhausting and beyond frustrating. When my wonderful all natural supporting doula suggested an epidural I knew things were serious. After 50 hours of active labor and 2 hours and 45 minutes of pushing Dr. Xu took a look at things and announced to the room “I am now certain that the baby will fit through” Had I known that there was a possibility that the baby wasn’t going to fit, perhaps I would have suggested that we cut the baby out, I don’t know… 51 hours ago… just a thought.
Just after my son “fit through”, my husband filled with joy and relief picked our 90 pound doctor up over his head as though his team had just scored a touchdown.
A few days later, as planned my mom and stepdad arrived in Shanghai. I cried upon them entering our apartment in anticipation of them leaving again 10 days later. I hadn’t felt further from home in three years than I did in that moment.
Those first few weeks after bringing my little home from the hospital where unremarkable compared to other women. However, my world cracked open. It was unbelievable to me that so many women had gone through this time and didn’t end up in the nut house and that in most cases they did it AGAIN to themselves! Despite the overwhelming love I felt for my son, I said to my husband many times during those weeks… “Maybe we should have just gotten a cat.”
I had no idea what I was doing. Between the hormones, milk coming in and the lack of sleep I felt like my life was unrecognizable. I stared out of our 10th story apartment at the people walking by and I wondered to myself if I would ever just be able to walk around like a normal human again. Step by step and with the grace and support of my husband it started to get better and somehow I began to feel a bit more like myself and find some joy in my new place.
The truth I found was; Becoming a mother is moving to a foreign country. You love it some days, you hate it some days but it is always an adventure.