In 2007 our son was one of 15.6 million babies born in China that year, according to the CIA statistics that 12.31 births per 1,000 population (Baidu says 15.9 million!). We didn’t feel that way though. He was our first. This year 2012, we’ll give birth to our second baby in America which surprisingly has a higher birthrate than China though Americans only make 4.25 million babies per year (also according to the CIA and MX’s amazing math). Our daughter will be one of those millions. There are a few differences between having a baby in China and (preparing) to have a baby in America. The differences range from cultural discrepancies to family differences and traditions.
1. I’ll see the birth if I want to. Back in Shanghai when we had the boy oh so many years ago (4 years ago) I was not allowed into the C-Section operating room. Now that I’ve lived a few more years and talked to a few other fathers, I’ve heard that it was really a blessing in disguise. So there I sat with my mother-in-law in the make-shift waiting room outside the elevators near the multi-color tarp covering up the dusty construction zone. This time though I’ll be able to see everything, unless of course I faint.
2. I know so much more information this time. Back in Shanghai the first time around it was all in Chinese or a little Shanghainese to spice things up a bit. There were many things that I would never have known that even MX didn’t know at the time. We were both 4 years younger and what that means to the human body (especially the female body) is important. There might have been a few concerns the first time around but this time we’ve been surprised about all the information that the nurses, technicians, doctors and assistants are telling us. We’ve had genetic testing, percentages thrown at us, warnings and visions of imperfect babies. We left some of those meetings thinking to ourselves, “Gosh, I didn’t want to know those details.”
3. appointments are a breeze. When MX and I went to have an appointment in Shanghai it was a madhouse. There were no lines to speak of, well, ok I take that back. There was a line. A really really really long one that snaked around the entire floor. Pregnant ladies were sitting, standing, rubbing bellies, fanning themselves, husbands looking on, feeding wives water, mothers fanning, looking worried and some were downright melodramatic. When we got closer the lines devolved into nothingness, just masses of people with paperwork and louder voices. I try in those situations to notice different people and their reactions. The nurses behind the counter took it all with ease but it seemed they were beginning to go a bit kookoo. In the states the waiting room is quiet. Our boy runs to the fish. Cheesy magazines are there. Mx is called usually within minutes (never long enough that I can get anything read.) We never push, we never shove. There’s no melodrama.
4. if I don’t understand stuff this time it’s my fault. When we were in Shanghai having the boy I had to learn a number of new vocabulary words. Such as diaper “niaobu” or pee cloth. It was a whole new world opening up to me. What is breastfeeding in Chinese? I didn’t know. What is a bronzed foot in Chinese? I didn’t know (I also didn’t know what a bronzed dinglehopper was but never asked) And what was that thing the nurse asked me to go out and buy for MX so that she wouldn’t be in so much pain? I hadn’t a clue. Now with our daughter in America: gosh, if I don’t know what the heck is going on around me, I’ll just blame it on the lack of coffee and not enough sleep! Plus, I’ll be explaining many a thing to MX. I think Google will continue to be my best friend. Either Google or Baidu or maybe I could find a Pregnancy Chinese/English Dictionary where it can help me translate “AYA!!!” when MX let’s it fly.
5. it’s a girl. Our first child was a boy. He’s four now. You can read his bilingual antics on our twitter feed. Our American friends threw a baby shower for us but this time we haven’t had a shower. I guess it’s customary for only first children to get a shower and for the second child it’s not a big deal. We’re really excited for a little girl. We both were really excited to hear the news a few months into the pregnancy which of course was also a big difference. With the boy, MX couldn’t know, or wasn’t told, about the gender of the baby. This is typical in China but hearing and seeing our little girl (and getting pictures) has been a great aspect of this pregnancy that we didn’t have with the boy.
5 More Differences is here.