A Rare Day

The maid and the nanny both called in sick this morning. A sentence I never thought I would write, let alone say out loud. It did, however, mean that I got to spend a rare day with The Boy.

IMG_5217

An afternoon stroll.

Rare, not because I never have time with him – quite the opposite, I spend the whole time at work desperate to get home to play, and we are together for the majority of every weekend. No, today was rare because it was a weekday, we were on our own at home, and there were chores to be done.

I work as a full-time teacher at an international school, where the maternity leave is a mere six weeks long and a part-time job is not an option. Financially I must work, for my sanity I must work, but I still long to be able to spend at least half my week being a stay at home mum. My mother did forewarn me that parenthood would be a balancing act and that guilt would become the norm, and it continues to be a tough adjustment to make. Even when I am lucky enough to be in a position where my son is cared for by an amazing nanny, and that I rarely have to iron a shirt or empty a bin.

On an average day I spend from 5am (ish….) to 7am getting The Boy, The Husband, The Cats and myself ready for the day. This involves making bottles with one hand and putting mascara on with the other whilst blowing raspberries and eating a bagel. The nanny arrives, we go to work. Approximately eight hours later I attempt to rush home through treacle-like Bangkok traffic to spend the last two or so hours playing with The Boy before bedtime.

So today was a taste of the lifestyle that I long for. My Boy and I played lots of games; we took a walk to the supermarket (albeit on a pot-holed pavement alongside a smoggy three-lane highway. Thanks, Bangkok); we had breakfast and lunch together; we watched Charlie and Lola; I watched him try to crawl and land on his nose; I kissed him and made it better; I put him down and woke him from naps; in short, I had a perfectly normal day of parenthood. Oh, and I did the chores – three loads of laundry, the ironing, the mopping of floors and the changing of sheets. The mundanity of it was marvellous.

Perhaps the idea I have of being able to enjoy work and still feel like I am investing enough time into my child is both fantastical and impossible, but I hope that one day I will be in a position to at least try. However hard it is to give up coming home to a sparkling kitchen floor and underwear that is ironed and colour-coded.

A Pregnancy Abroad

When I found out I was pregnant, I assumed that my experience would be very similar to the one I would have had, had we been living in the UK. So it was with great surprise that I spent the following nine months often confused, sometimes amused and primarily wondering what on earth was going on. Here are some things that I learnt along the way:

Obstetricians are not Midwives

In my mind, midwives are like your Mum. They give advice, hold your hand, feed you tea and biscuits and generally make you feel like you are a normal pregnant woman. In contrast, my obstetrician was clinical, brusque and whilst efficient, certainly lacked a ‘gentle touch’ either physically or verbally. In appointments I mostly felt confused and/or violated. But she did give us a 4D scan of the baby for free, so that redeemed the situation marginally.

Hospitals are like posh hotels

The waiting rooms were plush, with free drinks, soft chairs and free Wifi. No matter that appointments regularly required a 1 hour wait, there was a Starbucks and an Au Bon Pain downstairs as well as a man playing soft jazz on a grand piano. What more could you want?

Maternity wear has not left the 1970’s

It seems that as soon as Thai women discover they are pregnant, they ditch their hot-pants and sequinned heels and don a sack-like denim smock. The like of which my mother wore in the 1970s. Despondent after searching high and low for something vaguely flattering for my expanding belly, I found a small section of maternity wear in one branch of H&M. Which was full of winter clothes.  A credit card, the internet, my mother and a Fed Ex parcel later, I finally had clothes that fitted as well as flattered.

206754_10150136266121650_1351149_n

My Mum’s maternity wear, circa 1978.

P1030478

My maternity wear, circa 2014.

Babies should not be big

I come from a family of big babies. So does The Husband. So when my bump was growing exponentially we were neither surprised not shocked. However, our maid was convinced I was having twins. The Thai office ladies at work could not stop touching my ever growing belly with the wonder of something never seen before. My obstetrician actually went into hysterical laughter of disbelief when the screen showed an expected birth weight of 4.5kg. I felt like a freak-show.

Exercise is plain weird

I was determined to stay fit and healthy, but there was not even a sniff of anything resembling a ante-natal class anywhere nearby. So I kept going to the gym. All I got was confused and slightly disapproving looks from the staff and members, which I could ignore. Until I was 37 weeks, and the manager was so entertained by my sweaty pregnant self on a cross trainer she decided to take photos. It was clearly time to stay indoors with a pre-pregnancy yoga video on You Tube.

Heat is your enemy

9 months pregnant. 79 kilos. 40 degree heat and 95 % humidity. These are not a good combination, ever. Even the swimming pools are as hot as bath water. Air con and a fan were my constant companions for at least a month.

10175633_10154033639165301_1370513319_o

Big. Hot. Only 35 weeks.

Fish Sauce makes you sick

The smells of Bangkok are overwhelming at times, and worse when pregnant. There were days when a heady scent of fish sauce, frying garlic, rotting rubbish and blocked drains had me running at full speed through our compound just so I wouldn’t throw up in a hedge. Thai food is not your friend when you are struggling to hold down a plain cracker.

Vaginal Births are for peasants

My obstetrician (here she is again!) looked like she had been slapped with a wet fish when I told her I was going to give birth naturally. I was utterly confused until a nurse said, “But no-one wants a natural birth, it is too messy”. If you have money, C-Sections are the norm here. I doggedly stuck to my British, “l am not too posh to push” guns, until a brush with gestational diabetes meant l had a C-Section anyway. Ah, the best laid plans.

IMG_3509

The Boy and I, In our “hotel” room.

Of course, all of this resulted in the most lovely little boy a mother could want, so it was worth it. However, I am sure I am not the only one to find myself in this situation, there must be more of you with tales to tell….