If we were meeting for coffee today, I’d invite you in to my home, and it’d become immediately apparent that everything is in a state of transition. There are boxes waiting to be used or broken down and stored. There are baby items out and organized, but shoved in random corners as they wait to be put in their final place. There’s all my parent’s stuff waiting to be transported over to their new home. And somehow, in the midst of all this, I keep trying to create pathways and maintain a functioning home.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel though. My parents have been spending every day this week over at their new home, getting it ready, with the promise of being able to move in within the next week or two keeping them motivated. It’s been a trial for them too as there is always some fresh disaster to deal with, like the workers pouring paint down the bathroom drain, ruining the drain, and causing it to need to be replaced, or the girl who came to sweep up the construction dust deciding it was a good idea to just shut the doors to various rooms instead of sweeping up in them. (Out of sight, out of mind?)
My parents come home each day and collapse in front of the TV, clinging to the life-giving force of their beers.
In other news, if we were really meeting over coffee, I’d have to tell you about this couple I met this weekend. I went shopping at one of the big local supermarkets to get diapers and wipes and a few other items that I’ll need for myself during the hospital stay and postpartum healing period. As I was perusing the newborn nappies, a worried-looking couple came up to me and asked me for my help selecting diapers. (Don’t ask me how I manage to look like I know what I’m doing with any of this…I don’t know!) I think they might have been Burmese, or maybe from one of the local ethnic hill tribes, because although they could speak Thai, they clearly couldn’t read it. The wife was asking me about a type of diaper and what age-range it was appropriate for, and I explained to her that it depended on the baby’s weight. Before I knew it, I was going through the whole baby section with them, trying to explain to them in my less-than-perfect Thai things like the difference between laundry detergent and fabric softener.
The whole time, I felt so sorry for them, because when you look down the baby aisles here, everything DOES look the same. By packaging alone, if you can’t read, the detergent is indistinguishable from fabric softener, as is baby wash from shampoo or lotion or oil. They asked me which detergent to get, and things got even more complicated when, following my knee-jerk reaction, I suggested they use one that is perfume-free in case their baby is sensitive or allergic to it. But I wasn’t sure which brand was the best because, truthfully, I bought Woolite because I used it in the U.S. and trust it to be gentle enough for use while our baby still has that sensitive newborn skin–but that’s only available at the expensive grocery store and cost about three times what the other detergents cost.
It reminded me of when I first moved here and what it was like to look at all the unfamiliar brands and have to re-learn how to shop. As bewildering as that was though, I didn’t have nearly the kind of stress they did because at least I could read English, and a lot of the packages have at least some English on them. Between the English and the pictures (and maybe a little help from the English-Thai dictionary in my phone), I could figure out most of what I needed. The only time I recall having to ask a clerk for help was when I was looking for a detergent without perfumes for myself because the one we had been using was making me sneeze.
I mentioned this episode to Toby and he speculated that our advantage and relative ease also came from having a basically normal middle-class upbringing: that we could tell what various products were because we were already well used to buying them and have had plenty of exposure to the differences between things like liquid detergent and fabric softener…unlike the experience of someone who might have only ever bought the generic laundry soap available at the little village convenience store.
I wonder how much that is true. Maybe it’s a poor assumption on our part. Either way, this episode stood out as a poignant moment to me, a kind of eye-opener to simple challenges others face in situations we might easily take for granted.
Anyway, all in all, things are chugging along here. I’ve been reading birth stories from a book on natural childbirth to reassure myself that things can and do go well, that my body is built for having babies, and that it’s possible to have a positive experience of it. More and more, my trepidation is turning to anticipation for that first moment they lay my little man on me, tummy to tummy, skin to skin. I don’t know for sure the whether and how of getting there. One never knows how these things will go. But I am starting to really look forward to getting there.