It really does take a village to raise a child. In our case, an expert/expat village. We’ve received lots of support from friends, neighbors, and coworkers. This post is one tremendous THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this time in our China lives easier and who helped welcome Baby K “home” to Haiyang.
We found this thoughtful surprise on our door the day we brought Baby K back from Shanghai.
The mothers in the village have offered a lifetime’s worth of advice since I found out I was pregnant way back in February. Even the non-moms got involved in July to help throw me a baby shower. Truthfully, I had hoped that being pregnant in middle-of-nowhere China would give me a pass on this rite of passage. It didn’t work but at least the ladies in the village know me well. We skipped the overly cutesy “fun” games I’ve suffered at other women’s traditional baby showers and spent a day out in Yantai. We shopped at malls that weren’t even here when we first arrived. We sipped on sugar-laden Starbucks drinks and dined at a passable pizza place called Bellabello. Baby K got some cute (a ceramic sheep-shaped piggy bank!), some practical (diapers!), and some downright over-the-top (a stroller and a bumbo seat!) gifts. She got one-of-a-kind crocheted baby booties from one woman and a baby blanket and matching winter hats from another. Yet another neighbor had a pair of pink baby shoes handmade for us.
Baby K’s first ride in the stroller. BTW, that’s not pollution in the background, just an overcast day.
Unexpected support was received from Iggy’s coworkers. His Chinese counterparts placed orders from Taobao for us and provided translation services on more than one occasion. The Americans, most of whom are single guys who don’t have kids, brought us back tons of stuff from the U.S. I’m not sure I would’ve been so thoughtful back in my single, non-parent days. Thanks to them we were able to stock up on quality baby items that aren’t available here in China. Or, if they are, require an exorbitant amount of Maos to purchase. Some of the guys even accepted care packages from our families and friends stuffed full of clothes, toys, books, and even a rocking bassinet.
A sampling of the loot our family and friends back home sent us that was delivered by Iggy’s coworkers.
We feel spoiled by all the gifts and deliveries, which have gone a long way to making my pregnancy and our transition into parenthood that much easier. The intangible support has been even more important. I’m one of the last in our families and among my friends to have a baby, which, it turns out, works in my favor. When I’m struggling, I’ve got a handful of women to turn to. Using their tips, I’ve tackled a range of glamorous pregnancy and baby related issues: How will I know when I’m in labor? How do I comfort our gassy baby? How do I get a pacifier into her resistant mouth? How in the hell do I get an otherwise cooperative little girl to do some tummy time? What in god’s name am I supposed to do with this kid all day? When can I stop checking on her at night to make sure she’s still breathing?
The questions never end; there’s a new one every week. Not to mention, new feelings. It’s been this way since I found out I was pregnant. Pregnancy and motherhood can be a lot of things — wonderful, easy, surprising, overwhelming, tiring. On the good days, which outweigh the down ones, there’s a whole group of people I can shoot off photos to of Baby K doing something new — pulling a new face or showing off some new trick like sitting up (with some help) like a big girl. On the shitty days, the ones where I’m worrying or cursing or damn close to crying, I try and remember all these people who have helped us and provided support. Or I turn on TV. With shows like Jane the Virgin and Catastrophe, I know I’m not alone in dealing with the ups and downs of becoming a first-time mom. Then there’s reddit. I used to think it was a website for people with too much time on their hands (sorry Iggy!) but now I’m hooked thanks, of course, to Iggy. The parenting and beyond the bump forums have saved my sanity on more than one occasion.
But I’ve been lucky. So far, I haven’t had to make any SOS calls to our neighbors here in the village or family members back home. I’m sure a time will come when I do and I know they’ll be there for me. For us. How? They’ve already been there throughout this whole crazy experience of having a baby in China.