Koi maan luuk was the first Lao phrase I learned in the new year, and you would have already known this piece of news for at least a month if you lived in Laos. You would know this because you would be the deceptively reserved-looking Vietnamese woman who runs our favourite grocery store and you would ask me the first time you saw me after I’d been away for Christmas: “So, any news to tell me? Any news about a baby?” And I would look totally stunned at being accosted with this query over a basket full of milk and pasta, and then shrug and tell you.
Or you would be Mike’s work colleagues offering me glasses of beer at an event – and there is apparently only one acceptable reason to turn down beer in this country. So I would shrug and tell you.
Or you would be some stranger meeting us for the first time and right after you ask us how long we’ve been married you’d ask us whether we have kids. And, then, when we answered “no”, you’d look worried and ask us whether we will have them? Whether we are, in fact, even trying? So I would shrug and tell you.
Apparently there’s none of this “waiting until three months” thing here, pretty much the minute you find out you’re pregnant, it becomes public knowledge.
I find this practice both refreshing and confronting. Refreshing because you then have a damn good explanation for why you’re always wandering around looking like you might throw up at any moment. And why you’re so wiped out sometimes that you can’t get up off the couch and go out with work colleagues. And, let’s not forget, why you can’t drink beer or homemade whisky.
But it’s also confronting to have this big life event out there as fodder for the communal discussion mill. Everyone’s so happy for you when they hear. They smile really big and say they’re thrilled, and that you must be, too. Often in those moments I wonder whether I look thrilled. I doubt it. I probably look confused, which is fair enough, really, because what I’m thinking is usually some combination of all of the following at once:
- Oh that’s right, I’m pregnant. I momentarily forgot.
- Yes, I’m happy
- No, I’m terrified
- Actually, I’m hungry
- Is it too late to push the reset button?
- Oh, wait, maybe I have to throw up. Yes, I certainly am pregnant.
- Yes, I am happy. Yeah. Happy.
- No, I’m terrified…
And so it goes.
I’m not terrified about whether or not I’ll be a good mother. Even though I’ve never really been a kid-person, I reckon I’ll be pretty good as a mother at least 80% of the time. Even if I’m not, Mike’s going to be a great dad, so the baby’s covered. No, true to form, I’m worried about me. I like my life right now. I like my marriage. And I’ve heard babies described as “hand grenades” in relation to both those institutions.
Oh well, I have nine months… scratch that, six months now… to get used to the fact that this particular hand grenade is coming. And that I have to give birth to it.
Gosh, I wish babies came out the size of hand grenades (healthy, of course). I mean, don’t you think koalas have it all over most other mammals in this area? Baby koalas slide on out of the womb when they’re about the size of a jellybean and (pink, hairless, blind, and without ears) nonetheless manage to crawl unaided up their mother’s stomach and squirm into that warm, furry pouch. Then they just hang out there for six months drinking milk until they grow eyes and ears and stop looking so much like a maggot. That’s so the way to do this birth thing. Plus, I bet koalas don’t get morning sick.
Morning sickness… don’t get me started. Next week I might tell you all about how Mike and I found out that I was maan luuk ourselves, and if you’re really lucky I won’t tell you about morning sickness (or, as it should really be called, all-day sickness).
Until then I leave you with a photo and a grandparent-anecdote. After I posted about playing with monkeys last week, my grandfather (who got an iPad and his first ever email account for Christmas) sent me the following…
It’s only me trying to learn to type. If anyone told you that an iPad was easy to learn, especially an 86 year old, don’t you believe them. I am finding it hard to find the letters as they are not in alphabetical order.
We have just been viewing your letter on the monkey visit. What good practice for you. He looks cute, but I think you may be able to do better than that.
We’ll see about that, Pa. We’ll see.