The due date that came and went

Well, it is three days past my official due date, and Bannock is not showing any interest in making an appearance on this terrestrial sphere. I knew before I hit the 40 week mark that it is quite common for first pregnancies to run over term, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the psychological toll this would exact. It’s kind of like running a marathon, and then having “someone” (*ahem* Bannock) tack on an extra mile at the end. Instead of a mini-me, I’ve been hanging out with this ugly dude:

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Only a mother could love this face…

Also my more-human, but less toothy Momalot, who arrived last Tuesday. Since she has no baby to cuddle, she has been forced to fill her time by cooking butter beef, and buying me ice cream. This is healthy pregnancy eating at its finest.

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Not quite sure how I ever fit in her torso

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Todd and I spent my due date at the hospital. My doctor wanted to make sure that everything was still looking normal, so he prescribed a non-stress test for Bannock. Basically, I had a couple of monitors strapped to my impossibly large mid-section in an effort to determine whether Bannock was still moving normally. While I appreciated the diligence, I could have answered that question on my own: Bannock and her best friend Placenta are throwing a rager.

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Only in Thailand do the birthing rooms and nurses look like they belong in a soothing spa.

I took the test in the room that I will most likely be giving birth in. It was nice to get a feel for it in advance, but also an annoying reminder that we weren’t there for the actual event. So I made Todd placate me with more ice cream.

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If you haven’t tried Haagen Dazs’s salted caramel flavour yet, do yourself a favour and buy some immediately. It may be trendy, but you won’t care once it’s in your mouth.

The rest of my recent pre-child days have been filled with bad photo shoots, bouncing on my birthing ball, and giving Bannock lectures about the importance of respecting other people’s schedules.

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In the battle of the bulge, Bannock is clearly dominating.

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Ok. That’s probably enough whining, and more than enough revolting photographs of me. I’ll try to enjoy these last, fleeting moments of butter beef bliss, and start preparing the ultimate sermon on punctuality that I will preach to Bannock throughout her life.

Babymoon in Pattaya: A psychologically jarring experience

Two weeks ago, T-bone and I decided to grab our last chance at a babymoon, and headed to Pattaya, a city 2 hours from Bangkok. We figured that if labour started, we’d have plenty of time to get back to Bangkok before the actual birth. And if not, Thailand’s police force is trained in the art of baby-birthing, so a perfectly pleasant taxi birth would be on the menu – basically just an all-around win-win situation. Proximity to Bangkok is the reason we chose Pattaya – this is also one of the two reasons that it is so popular with the expat crowd. Unfortunately, the other reason that Pattaya is a hotspot is because it is among the sex tourism capitals of the world.

The weekend ended up being pretty psychologically jarring. On one hand, we got to stay at a beautiful resort at the edge of town (I was reviewing it for a magazine article). Sugar Hut Resort is a series of traditional-style huts arranged around a pool in the middle of a huge garden. I couldn’t believe that such a serene place existed so close to the craziness of Pattaya. The bed was soft (unlike our bag-of-nails-covered-by-a-sheet in Bangkok), the coffee was decent, and the cold pool water was almost enough to compensate for the hot water bottle that I am carrying around in my belly. Plus, we got to watch peacocks and bats duking it out in the trees at night. We were happy campers.

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The glassed-in area by the pool is a sauna. For those days when 40+ degrees C just won’t cut it.

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A little tipple and a little marking – a math teacher’s version of paradise.

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The only time in the past month that my feet/ankles have been a normal size…

On the other hand, when we did venture into the city, it was impossible to ignore the sex industry, which raised many of the questions and debates that I have begun tuning out rather successfully after a year-and-a-half in Thailand. Before we moved here, I assumed that I would regularly write about Thailand’s sex industry, but when I look at my blog archives, I can’t find a single post on the topic. This isn’t because I don’t care about the issue – I think it’s because it’s so overwhelming that I’m not quite sure where to start, and so I fall into complacency. I think this attitude is fairly typical among expats. There is a tendency to accept it as a part of life in Thailand, and to sort of roll your eyes about it, or think it’s gross and try to ignore it, or even to crack jokes about it. And this is assuming that you’re not one of the expats who is actively enjoying it.

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A side street in Pattaya

In Bangkok, I generally tune out the sex trade – while it’s impossible to entirely avoid it, the bulk of it is concentrated in specific sections of the city (such as Patpong, Nana, and Soi Cowboy). In Pattaya, this wasn’t possible – it is literally everywhere. We walked by many go-go bars trying to find a restaurant for dinner, and when we strolled along the sidewalk by the beach after dinner, it was full of sex workers waiting for clients. While Pattaya sees a wide variety of foreigners (both tourists and expats), including many women and families, there is a distinctly male flavour to the place, and it is clear that many men are there to experience the city’s seamier side – “Good guys go to heaven, bad guys go to Pattaya” is a popular t-shirt. Things don’t always end well for these men(as evidenced by this article about expat homelessness in Pattaya), although I find it challenging to summon up much sympathy for them.

I’m not totally sure where I’m going with this post (maybe that’s obvious…) – maybe just feeling guilty about being complacent. When we first moved to Bangkok, I tried to get involved with an organization that helped sex workers leave the trade, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t work out. And I don’t think that new-motherhood is the best time to be looking for new volunteer opportunities. However, I know that I want to lose the complacency. Sometimes it seems that everything about life in Thailand encourages a sort of inertia – the climate, the general “sabai sabai” (“take it easy”) attitude towards life, the expat bubble – and I want to start moving again. I am still trying to figure out what that might look like.

Our weekend in Pattaya felt like a bit of a metaphor for life in Bangkok – it can be easy to live in a cozy cocoon, but that doesn’t change the reality of what is going on outside the resort.

My Hospital Stay – AKA Getting nurtured to death

Nope, Bannock has not yet arrived. She is still firmly ensconced in my womb, unaware that she is about to experience the worst day of her young life. I like to remind myself that no matter how painful/traumatizing labour might be for the mother, it has to be infinitely worse for the poor baby who is being squeezed from a warm amniotic sea, through an incredibly small tunnel that will actually make pieces of her skull overlap, and into the cold, cruel world. Todd and I often watch Bannock happily kicking my ribs, and say “Poor munchkin. You have no idea what’s about to hit you.” And then we have a good laugh. There’s already some great parenting happening right here…

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Todd learning to be a father at our hospital’s birthing class.

We have had several weeks full of fun, assorted sicknesses. For me, it started out when Todd flew to Singapore for a weekend conference. As soon as he was safely out of the country, I got hit simultaneously by the flu and false labour. I’m sure that anyone who has previously given birth wouldn’t be too concerned with the false labour, but as a first-timer, the first taste of contractions is pretty shocking. Todd started looking for earlier flights home while I was busy hacking up a lung and phoning our doula. In the end, Todd made it home, Bannock decided to bake a little longer, and the doctor gave me antibiotics for a throat/chest infection.

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Too bad he couldn’t give me a prescription for my swollen feet/cankles.

A week later, I had mostly recovered, when Todd and I decided to eat street food for dinner. We kept exclaiming over the delicious chicken satay, which is ironic considering the utter havoc it wreaked on our guts. After 24 hours of intestinal distress, the situation was basically under control when I visited my OB/GYN for a regular appointment. I mentioned the food poisoning episode, and – this being a private/for-profit hospital – he eagerly referred me to a Gastroenterologist. The Gastro then eagerly informed me that I should really spend the night in the hospital for rehydration and monitoring. I figured, “what the heck. Might as well get some serious bang for my baht/buck out of this insurance policy,” and agreed to stay.

No sooner had I murmured the fateful words than the nurturing began. Suddenly, an orderly with a wheelchair appeared to take me to my room. I started laughing, and said that I could walk, but the nurses looked appalled and said “you are pregnant.” So I sat in the wheelchair, and tried to look like an invalid. Once I got to my room, a steady stream of overly-attentive nurses appeared. They took my blood pressure, inserted an IV, and inquired about the content of my guts. They then informed me that any time I needed to use the facilities, I had to call the nurses station: “Madam. You go pee-pee, you call.” Considering that pregnancy makes me “go pee-pee” approximately 30 times a day, this was a bad joke, but the cute nurses were unrelenting. I drew the line when one of them tried to come in the bathroom with me, though.

I spent the next 24 hours lying in bed flipping through a truly dire array of tv channels – when you are excited by the opportunity to watch the same episode of “Cupcake Wars” twice within 12 hours, you know it’s bad – and eating the same meal in four slightly different formats. Apparently, the gastroenterology department has decreed that chicken and mush is THE appropriate food for distraught intestines. The first time, it was ok – mashed potatoes and a slab of some sort of ground chicken. When I woke up to the same slab of ground chicken and gravy accompanied by something that looked like potatoes but tasted and smelled like rotting eggs, I was less than pleased. Lunch was a bowl of broth with a few noodles and ground chicken balls. To end the cycle, I was served the exact same dinner as the previous evening immediately before I checked out of the hospital. I never want to see ground chicken again.

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The first of many…

The nurses fluttered in and out of my room throughout the day and night, and at one point even offered to shower me (I firmly declined their generous offer). As the day dragged on, I started to wonder when I would ever be allowed to leave. After being visited by various insurance agents and doctors, I assumed that my stay must be over. As if on cue, the steady stream of nurses slowed to a trickle, and I was left to contemplate Adam Sandler’s acting ability for several hours with no interruptions. When a nurse finally set foot in my room again, I asked her when I could leave. She looked surprised, and said “You want to leave?” Yes, yes, I did. 30 minutes later, I was finally allowed to put my own clothes back on, and, miraculously, walk out of the ward (although a wheelchair was offered).

The humid air outside the hospital tasted like pure freedom. Next time I get food poisoning, I think I’ll drink some Gatorade and take a nap.