Pink Puke

So, this is my second last entry in this blog. As you know, I’m no longer “preggers in China.” I’m now “mommers in China” (!) and have a brand new daughter named Echo.  As the moon month is so much a part of pregnancy and birth, I decided to keep this blog running until the month is up and then call it a wrap. Once again, I really want to thank you all for following (and being so supportive) of this journey.

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I’m in my third week of the moon month and my own parents have arrived (as of last night) and met their first granddaughter. It was a teary and beautiful moment. They’re soaking her in like sunshine.

In the last week, my mother-in-law and I have found much more harmony together. We’re learning each other’s pre-explosion pressure points and we’ve each been more generous with each other. I’m really impressed by us both, actually. We’re so mature!

Additionally, my nipples have indeed gone into peace talks while Echo continues to feed at great frequency. (Hurray for not being in pain anymore!) I just wish she wasn’t interested in cluster feeding between two and five in the morning!

I’ve also found myself settling into the rhythm of a life in confinement, remembering what I need to do when she’s sleeping and how to pace my day, and I’ve even gotten in some exercise on the side…

After about ten days, I was going a bit mad and so negotiated some stairwell walking. We live on the sixth and seventh floor of an old-style apartment building. There’s no elevator. I argued that I was still within the rules of the moon month if I walked the stairwell but didn’t “enter the wind” (进风 jinfeng) by going outdoors. They relunctantly agreed (more to keep me from losing my mind and thus having to deal with me, I’m sure) and they make sure I bundle up excessively before my walks each day just in case I catch a cold. There are 84 steps and I can now do ten rounds of up and down. 840 going up, 840 going down. After one week, I’m feeling much better for it.

I have to admit a degree of impatience for my body to stop looking pregnant. I realize that Echo is only 19 days old as of today and it took a total of 281 days to transform my body into what it was when I gave birth. I should be more patient. Friends have told me that my face has already thinned and yet, last night, while I was liberally lamenting these body woes in English, my Mother told me that my face is still “round” but that I look “soft and happy.” These weren’t the words I wanted to hear, I must admit, but it’s proof once again in my life that one can’t rely on others to make us feel better; it has to come from within.

So, I’ve given myself between 3 and 6 months to get back into shape. I think that’s generous. I’m active and disciplined and… I’m breastfeeding. I hear this is a sure way to help one’s body recover. I’m being optimistic and attempting confidence and positivity. Wish me well.

And, onto another  topic (much less likely to depress me), and quite definitively my favourite one these days: my daughter.

Yes, I have a daughter.

Let’s talk about the fact that she’s a girl, shall we? How do we know she’s a girl?

Well, no matter who is meeting her for the first time, the discussion about her starts with how “pretty” she is. They speak of her beauty first and foremost. If they’re Chinese, then they also exclaim happily that she has a double eyelid and isn’t that wonderful for her! (A common cosmetic surgery here is to make a single eyelid into a double eyelid, like the Western eye, as it’s considered more beautiful. Of course, it’s almost only women who have this operation done and my mother-in-law is one of those women!) Then they go on to exclaim that she has cute features and nice skin, a round head and rosebud lips. It’s a full scale review of her future facial assets. After all, she’s a girl…

And then we move on to the discussion about gifts, and my own mother arrived with a suitcase full of PINK. In fact, one of the outfits is one she has been saving that my paternal grandmother made before she passed away. It’s knitted Pepto-Bismol. I love the history and significance of that little sweater and blanket and hat, but I had no idea that my mother had stuffed these away and out of reach of boy children until now. On top of these items, were pink dresses, shirts, quilts, booties, you name it. The suitcase positively threw up bubble gum while my Mom cooed and ooh’ed and handled each item like a piece of precious doll’s clothing before passing it over.

My friend here in Beijing also arrived with a pink hat and told me that from here on in, my child would only be getting pink-coloured items from her. She also insisted that she be the “auntie” that gets to buy Echo her first Barbie. I looked at her blankly and she didn’t wait for a confirmation before continuing to coo over her. I shuddered inwardly.

A Barbie? Yikes.

I have her dressed in the clothes that were passed down to her or that were given to her before her birth. They’re mostly blues, greys, greens and yellows with some whites and reds thrown in. I especially think she looks cute in her red outfit with an airplane on the front. It’s one of the few outfits that fits her as she’s still so small. Already, a few friends have remarked that she looks like she’s dressed like a boy. “No, she’s just dressed like a baby,” I say with a smile. Weird to me how anything that isn’t pink and isn’t frilly is automatically boy’s clothing?!

And even more strangely, since she’s been born, I have had a few moments of thinking of her with the male pronoun. I found myself thinking in English the other night and saying in my head, “Why isn’t he eating?” when she was being fussy and refusing the boob. I also find myself de-gendering her with the Chinese “ta” (which, when spoken, means both “he” and “she”) even when I think in English—i.e. replacing the she with “ta” in my head. I also often call her “little buddy,” an expression often reserved for little boys.

And funny enough, both of my parents, separately, called her “he” by accident today, on their second day with her. Coincidence? Leftover habit from their grandson? Hhmmm…

I guess my point is that I haven’t felt her gender yet (and may not for several years until she begins to express it) and so I haven’t really assigned her with one. And perhaps I’m not the only one! I realize that she’s a girl, but only when I see her little girl parts as I change her diaper. Otherwise, she’s an infant, a baby, a hungry little peanut, a pickle, a little angel, a poopy mess, my sweetie piepie, etc.

But, to small degrees all around me, I am watching the theatre of her gender assignment being played out by those grown ups who encounter her. I can only hope that I’ll continue to parent her with the freedom and openness that I feel now towards how she eventually chooses to express the gender that’s right for her.

I wonder sometimes if I’ll over-compensate in the opposite direction. Yes, of course I think she’s beautiful, but I’m sure I’d think my male child were beautiful too. I tell her she’s strong and brave and tough and silly and stinky instead, though. I want her to always know how important she is for a multitude of reasons, and not focus on her looks. And anyway, I married the most beautiful man I have ever seen and so beauty is just going to be hers by virtue of genetics. It will probably be just a boring reality for her!

But, really, do boy babies get this much attention for being “pretty”? (Besides my partner Guo Jian, of course. And he gets that attention from me, really! He’s an exception…)

<sigh>

Echo, you are an echo of both your mommy and daddy. May you be able to walk the stairwell ten times and enjoy working up a sweat like your mommy. May you fawn over your dreadlocks like your vain daddy. May you play guitar better than your mommy. May you gracefully carve the air with your Tai Chi prowess that outshines your daddy. May you love dirt and trucks and kite flying and wrestling AND love dolls and baking and sleepovers and lullabies.

And may you do all this dressed in whatever colours you’d like, despite the explosion of pink that will undoubtedly continue to surround you like lava from a girl-shaped volcano. Pink puke to wade through. Blech.

Because, no matter what, you are loved.

And that love is multi-coloured*, vibrant, brilliant, and alive.

[... ya little gremlin, you.]

 

 

*multi-coloured=includes but is not limited to pink! <wink>

9 Responses to “Pink Puke”

  1. Blues Doctor

    Great imagery & wordsmithing! Plus I teared up a tad with the near-final paragraph, your wishes for Echo. Lovely as always, m’dear. Love your expression of your experience, & your insight. Much Luv to you all.

    Reply
  2. Chris

    My daughter Gaia is 4. I’m in the film business and marketing so I’m keenly aware of branding and assignment. In my household for her first two years there was no brands, no sugar, no TV, NO DISNEY, no barbie—you probably get the picture. Instead neutral colors, neutral clothes, neutral toys.

    I sense you’re guessing where this is going, yup, she’s a girl and started making long robes out of dishtowels, she would use them to make long hair. She wants really long hair, pretty things and to cook for all of us. Dress-up, community and care-taking, I’m amazed at how intensely nature does not mess around with the skill set required to be a mother.

    It has also been a scary wake-up and annoying how many people around my daughter want to project their belief onto her to make themselves feel better about who they are. I now sadly think that most humans want everybody to be like them, I’m guessing it seems safer that way. They forget that, it those who think differently that save us and can save us all.

    So for Gaia, I do what I learned as an athlete, train weakness and maintain strength. I don’t have to encourage her pursuit of girly things, I have to help her understand balance. I look for and encourage balanced behavior when I see it. What’s been interesting is that Gaia is developing into the person I saw in the first weeks of her life, at the time I didn’t know what the specifics would be. Now I’m starting to find out.

    Oh, one other thing I thought about the whole “he” “neutral” thing. I think Echo looks a lot like your partner, natures way to make him care more. So you’ve been associating that look with a male for while, makes sense that you still are. Lastly and I since I’m lecturing now, sorry. I’d suggest being weary of your need “to get your body back”. Nature, Mothering, breast feeding and high quality foods does a great job. What I’d like you to be aware of, is that part of you as a woman knows a lot of your power comes from what you look like and you want it back. Be careful with that, it’s one of your strengths, maintain it. With a child we’re always being shown our weaknesses and we need the energy to train those.

    Thank you for inviting us into you life. It’s beautiful and you’re doing great! I also know that everybody has their opinion as to what you can do better. Like read “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”, the book that saved my family. Sorry can’t help myself. Hugs.

    Reply
  3. Adrienne Gaha-Morris

    I dressed both my girls in blues, greens, grays, yellows, reds, pinks etc, and I was really surprised one day when I first was about 3 months, dressed in blue and green, a woman started referring to her as a girl when speaking to me at a shopping center (as every other stranger was referring to her as a boy). I cut her off at one point and asked how she new and she said you can just look at her face and see. It was a beautiful moment!

    Reply
  4. Vanessa

    I once again caught up on all your blogs and read you birth story. It was all ready exciting to read especially since my own baby’s birth is approaching. Well not that soon. I’m only 21 weeks but already feel like I’ve been pregnant forever. When I went home for Christmas I stocked up on gender neutral baby clothes: Lots of yellow, green, and white. I love anything yellow especially with duckies on it. People keep asking me about my baby’s gender and I’m starting to wonder if people care a lot more than me. And then they tell me that when I find out, I’ll really wish I had gender specific baby clothes. I really don’t see that being the case because I don’t particularly like pink and if it’s a boy green will be just fine. We plan on moving to another apartment in a few months since I really want a nursery. I love decorating. Well hopefully I will be able to afford a 3 bedroom and can have guests visit me. So if you ever want to visit Shanghai let me know!

    Reply
  5. Jack

    That’s strange, I thought I read it here (or some other blogs) in China they dress the babies the same regardless if its boy or girl. Babies are just babies in China, where in western country gender assignment start early with the strong emphasis on gender specific clothing for babies.

    Also, I am wondering without any sort of guidance, would it create gender confusion in the child’s development? If you guide her one way she is going to be more incline towards that way….the whole “nurture” vs “nature” thing.

    BTW, I burst out laughing while I had food in my mouth reading about your gripe on Guo Jian’s dreadlock! You cost me a keyboard! Hehe.

    Reply
    • emberswift

      Hi Jack, yes in this blog in an earlier post I explained that infants in China used to all get pink, regardless of gender. But, things have changed slightly in this generation, though. Regardless, all of the pink explosion came from my Western side this time with the arrival of my parents to China with a suitcase full of gifts for Echo! In any case, she’s too young to care which colour is wrapped around her and so I am taking it all with a grain of salt. Hope your keyboard is okay after all! :-)

      Reply
  6. YJ

    hi ember, the whole pink thing is something else, huh? if i bought our baby’s clothes myself i would have allowed pink to make up maybe 5% of her wardrobe. but since we’re operating on hand-me-downs and lots of gifts, i find myself choosing her outfits from her 95% pink wardrobe, but grateful for the clothes.

    actually china is definitely a better place with the babies and the gender-free clothing issue- many people have asked me whether our baby is a boy when she is a wearing hot pink.

    when we first moved here and i needed to get sandals for the boys i couldn’t believe the ‘feminine’ collection. the best i could do was blue with pink trim! we’ve since gotten used to the fact that boys articles CAN include pink and be acceptable! their school uniforms are even pink polo shirts!!!

    so glad things are better with the MIL– really amazing!

    i totally echo your sentiments on barbies and other such toys/ clothes/ accessories– any ideas on how to refuse such gifts without offending the giver? we’re having trouble with that one ourselves…

    congrats on almost being done with your moon month! we’ll miss your blog!

    Reply
  7. Gabrielle

    This is my first time at your blog, and I love it for two reasons – one, I have a daughter and I hate pink, rarely dressing her in it, fighting against all the stereotypes, etc; and two, her name is Ember.

    Reply

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