Week 7: The Response

A week later, we decided to inform our parents of the exciting news. I was nervous about informing anyone because my mother used to say that it was very superstitious to spread the news during the first trimester. The risk would be miscarriage. It was believed that speaking of the pregnancy would chase the baby’s spirit away, thus leading to a loss. I don’t think it really is that way, instead it is more so that the first trimester is usually unstable, and so it’s best to wait until everything is stabilized before informing family and friends of the good news. However, I wanted to inform our parents so that I can get advice on how to take care of myself to prevent a miscarriage in the first trimester. The traditional Chinese health practices follow a very strict diet throughout pregnancy, but most sensitively during the first trimester. So I really needed that advice, on what I shouldn’t eat or do. Call me dumb or whatever for believing in superstitions, but this is how I see it: I would do anything to protect this little one. It was my motherly instinct kicking in, so I didn’t care at that point how others would view me and I will consider this approach with reason. Besides, it’s not asking me to eat some unconventional diet like snake skin or turtle blood. It’s just avoiding certain foods that may increase a risk of miscarriage, such as the well-known pineapple. At most, the rejuvenating type of food that I will be taking in more than usual would be traditional Chinese recipes of healthy soups that use meat, dried dates, dried herbs and plants. Yum!

First, we called my in-laws. The response was a warm and happy one. That was when we heard our second “Congratulations”. We inform them by saying it was suspected, and that the doctor’s checkup isn’t until 4 weeks later. So my mother-in-law started giving advice on what I shouldn’t eat and drink. Overall, it was a good assurance. She just asked me to be happy, rest more, and eat well. Then, I called my parents. First, I spoke to my mother, and her response was not … the most welcoming. I did feel a little disappointed, but my husband assured me it was probably because they were outside in a mall, and it was very noisy. Plus the fact that my mother is very, overly superstitious. She felt that I shouldn’t have informed her yet until after the first trimester. But she didn’t understand that I wanted her to know. I wanted her advice, I needed her support. She mentioned that when she was pregnant with me, she did not even mention it to my grandfather until after 3 months. It was all because of the superstition that may cause a miscarriage. Perhaps, it was just her way of keeping expectations low until the doctor’s visit confirms the pregnancy. My dad was neutral about it, although he was more tactful with his response. After I hung up, I felt sad mostly because of how my mother responded. It took me a while to remind myself that it was just the way my mother is. I guess I was expecting excitement from them, but all I got was “Are you sure? The test kit may not be right. Have you seen a doctor? Why did you tell me first, you don’t have to tell us so early …”

Sigh. Anyhow, I got the advice I needed from my mother-in-law. The type of food I have to avoid is generally ones that have a “cooling” effect on the body. Traditional Chinese health practices are based on the concept of keeping the body balanced. Just like Qi (life energy). If it’s balance, then one can expect a smooth, healthy wellbeing. Therefore, once it is off-balance, it means the body is either “too cooling” or “too warming”. Usually, a woman’s body should stay on the “warming” side to be healthy. Of course, not too much of it as it will cause other problems. As for a man, his body should stay on the “cooling” side, and as mentioned earlier as long as it is not to the extreme. I believe this may stem from the Yin and Yang nature of men and women in Chinese belief/culture. Females are generally Yin (negative) energy, and males are Yang (positive). So to balance each other out, they each need the opposite effect as a complement for balance. I’m no Chinese medicine and health expert, but this is what I understood from my mother. I’m sure to some extent it still relates back to Western health and diet practices quite similarly, just in a different lingo that’s all. The way I see it is the Chinese methods look at the overall effects, the big picture, while the Western methods focus on the details, the actual composition such as the nutrients it contains in scientific terms. Therefore in any context, too much of anything is always not good. It’s the same concept as eating too much meat in our diet … or eating too much vegetables. Extremities are not part of balance even though science claims an type of food contains a lot of antioxidants. Balance is the key. When it comes to conceiving a baby, the Chinese believe that a woman’s body should already be warm and strong to hold and grow a baby. Literally speaking, I’m sure babies loves a fuzzy, warm environment to grow in! But here, we are talking about the health of the mother, as a healthy mother will give birth to a healthy baby. This doesn’t only apply to pregnancy. We women menstruate every month, and that’s a lot of blood to lose quite often even if it’s for a short period of time and the blood does regenerate red blood cells. But during this crucial few days, the body starts to cool down even more during and after each menstruation. That’s why we experience a loss of energy, and so it’s always best to avoid “cooling” foods to maintain a healthy reproductive system. Therefore, foods that are considered to have a “cooling” effect are:

  • all kinds of tea, especially green tea
  • Ice water (chilled water with no ice is fine)
  • all kinds of melon, especially watermelon and pumpkin
  • watercress vegetable
  • typically vegetables that have a hollow stem
  • Pineapple

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t mean that these food items above are completely forbidden from my diet hereon. One or two bites is considered alright. Eating a whole watermelon to myself is not alright. That’s the idea of balance again, just that in the first trimester I was advised to just cut down more than the normal serving. In addition, I had taken the advice of Western health practices to avoid foods such as coffee (caffeine), raw fish, seafood, and processed meats. I did not find any clashes between the two cultures when it came to looking after my diet for a healthy pregnancy. I thought it was pretty reasonable. At this point, my mother-in-law advised me to eat more meat. I think from a traditional practice point of view, meat is important to keep the mother’s body “warm”. I believe from a Western point of view, meat has a lot of protein to support the development of a healthy fetus. So all in all, I was satisfied with the outcome and ensured I was eating the right things for myself and my little one. It is such a wonder to experience a living cell grow into a tiny little human form. Our human bodies are really one of a kind. Who or what really created this complex yet amazing system?? Life is full of wonders 🙂

Love Letters to my Baby – Week 9

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