Life Finds a Way
Every January, I set myself targets for the year ahead. You could call them resolutions, but I find that sounds so…inflexible. I prefer to think of them as declarations of intent. I usually try to avoid making them too specific.
Last year my main goal was to run a marathon. In the end I ran two. In the process, I reinforced a passion for running that I first developed along the banks of the Min river back in Fuzhou.
Running, for me, is a wonder drug. It’s a pastime that gets me outside, surrounded by nature. It gives me the time and space to think, but doesn’t insist that I use it. For all of the physical benefits that running undoubtedly brings, it does wonders for your mental well-being too.
As such, it’s a pastime that I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to proselytise; despite my best efforts, my wife remains steadfast amongst the sedentary, heathen crowd, leaving my hopes for weekend family runs pinned solely on our future progeny.
Which, waffle now out of the way, leads me squarely onto my other goal—besides passing my bi-annual employment grade review and learning Vietnamese (one of which went far better than the other)—starting a family.
We were hoping that 2021 would be, as I put it at the time, the year that we “increase our family membership by somewhere in the region of 50%”. Alas, the year came to a close with that goal unfulfilled. Or so we thought.
In January, after a missed period triggered the time-honored ritual of weeing on a stick, we discovered that Nhung was pregnant. While we’re not sure about the exact timeline, pregnancy is calculated from the final period, so I’m calling that a December conception and giving myself a “Resolution Point” and a shiny golden star.
We’d been trying for just over a year by then and were starting to discuss the necessity of making a hospital appointment to have everything checked out. Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary, as our very own little bundle of kicks turned up just in time.
I can’t really describe the first time I felt the soft bump of a kick through Nhung’s stomach, other than to say it was much the same feeling as the one I got the first time I saw them, all tiny, gray, and mostly human-shaped, on the ultrasound screen at the hospital.
As this is China, and there’s enough of a history of, well, let’s just leave it at “human society in general has a track record of terrible things”, the doctors here aren’t allowed to tell us whether we’re having a boy or a girl. By law.
We’re hoping that’s more of a technicality than a strictly observed rule. In a modern, affluent city like Shanghai, in the post-One Child Policy era, it seems somewhat outdated. We’ve certainly heard rumours of doctors telling parents what colour clothing to prepare.
As it is, the current COVID lockdown has been preventing us from visiting the hospital for any further scans. Who knows, by the time we’re allowed out again, the baby might have developed enough for us to see for ourselves on our next ultrasound scan. (Must research what to look for.)
For now, I’ve been tasked with coming up with a list of both boy and girl names for review by the Supervisory Committee on Child Naming (Nhung). I’ve never been comfortable giving people names — to this day, I still haven’t decided on a Chinese name for myself — but I’m wondering if something gender neutral like “Oi”, or “Kiddo” might work.
*Nhung has suggested “voi”, or “elephant”, as a nickname. Apparently using nicknames for children is incredibly popular in Vietnam. Our niece, for example, is “sweet potato”. Nobody uses her actual name.
On a more serious note, I have a few names in mind, but I’m keeping them to myself for now. Perhaps it’s because I’m not particularly fond of either my given or family names, but it just doesn’t seem that important to me.
I’m far more excited by the idea of actually meeting them, when they’re finally ready to make an appearance. To get to know them, watch them grow, subtly nudge them towards becoming a runner with their father’s taste in music.
Again, I jest. As much as I don’t want to let the dream of family jogs in the park go gently into that good night, I know there’s just as much chance they grow up to like skydiving, knitting, or, god forbid, golf. (That particular defective gene has family history.)
What surprised me most about finding out we are going to have a child, is how utterly un-terrifying the prospect of becoming a father is, now that it’s happening.
I had thought the responsibility of looking after something so small and vulnerable would scare the living bejesus out of me. While I was near-constantly paranoid for the first few months, that didn’t have much to do with my own ability as a parent.
I couldn’t be looking forward to this new chapter in mine and Nhung’s life any more than I already am, and I can’t wait until life here is back to enough of a semblance of normality for us to head down to the nearest hospital and see our little ball of joy once more.