It is true. They are tiny. They are helpless. They can’t hold their own head up. For goodness sakes, they can barely open their eyes for more than 5 minutes. And yet they hold more power in their teeny tiny right pinky toe than I have ever possessed in my adult life.
What are these powers I speak of? There are many, but let me outline the 3 most important:
1. The power to freeze people:
Newborn babies have the power to make people stop whatever they are doing and take notice of them. Man, woman, child, adult, black, white, protestant, atheist. It does not matter. If you pass a newborn baby, you will stop dead in your tracks and stare…at least for a moment. And most people, once they start staring, can’t physically look away for at least 5 minutes.
Additionally, while frozen in this catatonic stare state, people will inevitably start to smile and talk in a high-pitched voice. They can’t help it. They might be having the worst day ever but just staring at a newborn baby is guaranteed to make the down-turned corners of their mouth head straight for the northern border of their face. Babies are powerful like that.
Super hot women also seem to have this power. The difference is that hot women are trying, wearing revealing clothing and not shitting in their pants. Babies can have the exact same effect with a fresh load of poo seeping from their diaper. Now that is power.
2. The power to dictate your every move:
Newborn Baby (NB) “talking” to mama: You were planning on sleeping? WAHHHHAHHHHHAHHHHHAHHHHHH. No you aren’t. You are gonna need to cuddle me and pat my back for at least 45 minutes to an hour. STAT!
NB: Oh, you were planning on leaving the house to make it to your doctor’s appointment on time? Nope. I don’t think so. Do you hear the noises coming from my little bum bum? I just destroyed my diaper and will most likely pee on you the second you remove it to change me. So good luck with that.
NB: And seriously, who are you kidding, trying to wear nice clothing? Is that a challenge? Go put on your yoga pants. Yeah, the ones with the dried spit-up. You are not here to impress others. Your only purpose in life is to grant me my every wish. MUWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (FYI: that is supposed to be an evil laugh).
NB: You wanna go out and have social life? Uh-uh sweetie. I am gonna need to eat like every 30 minutes or so or your precious boobies will erupt like Mount St. Helen’s circa 1980. So you, missy, you are stuck with me. And don’t even think about pumping. I will ruin those plans faster than you can say nipple confusion.
The little dictators. They just stare right through you as if to say “Dance monkey, dance.” And, by golly, we dance.
3. The power to turn people into insufferable judgers:
It happens almost immediately. As soon as you pop out that little peanut (Peanut. HA! As if.), people start having really strong opinions about your life. Unfortunately, it is not enough to just have opinions; people also feel the need to share those opinions with you. Fact: Newborn babies turn good people into professional judgers.
This power is effective on everyone but seems to be especially effective on Chinese people. This may sound culturally insensitive or maybe even a tad racist. I would agree with you, if it weren’t actually true. Here is the thing, the “rules” of having and raising a baby are different here in China than at home. Thus, if you are an expat and you have a baby in China, you are inevitably doing it all wrong. And it is some random Chinese person’s civic duty to tell you all about it.
The harsh judgment would almost be cute if it weren’t so gosh darn annoying. These days I have to gear up and arm myself for a bit of battle every time I leave the house.
But you can’t let yourself get too annoyed. It is a cultural reflex. Seriously, they can’t help it. Asking a Chinese person to not judge your parenting style would be like asking an American to not: use the word ‘awesome’, give high fives or call tissues ‘Kleenex’. Impossible.
There are some ways to avoid this child-rearing judgment. Here are your options:
- You can stay home until your baby can successfully drive a stick shift.
- You can dress your baby up in animal costumes and hope no one notices that what you are carrying in that bag/stroller/car seat is actually a baby, not a poodle or an abnormally shaped ferret.
- You can raise your baby Chinese-style.
No brainer. C right? Seems like the obvious choice, I agree. But ohhhhhh… before you commit…let’s review what “raising your baby Chinese style” would involve.
In China, as with most places, the child-rearing judgment actually starts at conception. So let us back up a tad and break it down from there.
Things you should do or avoid doing while pregnant or else your baby will die and so will you (according to Chinese people):
- You should not drink coffee, or take any medicine or drink alcohol. EVER!
- You should eat balanced meals – meat and vegetables. And these should be warm dishes. You might even want microwave your salad to ensure the proper temperature.
- You should not make photocopies or use your cell phone. If you do have to do these things you should wear a special apron like shirt to protect you from harmful radiation. It is made of 100% cotton.
- You definitely should not use your laptop on your lap or anywhere close to your lap.
- You should walk, but not exercise. You definitely can’t run or ride a bike. You can do gentle tai chi but not yoga. No way…not yoga!
- You should never get a foot massage because it will make you go into premature labor and, again, your baby and/or you will die.
- And whatever you do, do not dye your hair.
Once you have your baby, things get even more
weird culturally different:
- You must only rest and relax. You cannot do any heavy work or lift heavy things. Or really anything. Don’t lift anything that weighs more than a hot cup of green tea.
- You can’t cry during the first month. If you do, it will harm your eyes for the rest of your life.
- You cannot touch cold water or be in direct contact with cold air. Cold water/air will seep into your bones and muscles and you will have joint problems for the rest of your life.
- You also cannot take a bath or shower for the first month after giving birth — even if it is with hot water. You definitely can’t wash your hair.
- If it is summertime, you can turn on the air conditioner but the cool air can’t blow on you directly. Again, your bones will basically break and you will die.
- You cannot leave house for 30 days after giving birth. You are weak. You are vulnerable. Do I really need to explain this to you again? You can only rest.
- When you finally do leave the house you must always cover your feet. Even in the summer, you need to wear socks. Bare feet = sure death.
- You cannot drink cold water or, God forbid, anything with ice. You also cannot eat cold food. Everything ingested must be hot or warm.
- And the granddaddy of them all…do not bring your baby out of the house for 100 days. Or they will die. If you are a rebel and bring them out at say 30 days, you better make sure they are completely covered from head to toe. Even if it is sweltering hot.
How do you feel about Chinese-style child rearing now? No shower for 30 days after giving birth? Ummmmm…how about NOT CHANCE ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH.
I am pretty sure, without exception, that I have broken every one of these “rules”. Some of them **cough** foot massages, coffee, leaving the house **cough** I broke or break on a daily basis. This explains why I have resorted to dressing my baby in ferret costumes when I run errands.
Nah. Just kidding. It is way to hot for that nonsense. My baby is barely dressed at all when I leave the house. Hence, I am often scolded by old Chinese ladies. And hence why I am sitting here writing this blog post about how annoying the judgment is.
Seriously. Do Chinese babies not have sweat glands? How do they not die of heat exhaustion?
Ah well…it drives me crazy, but again, I really can’t blame ’em. It is those damn newborn babies. I’m telling you, they have mystical and magical powers. They are basically adorable, little Avengers with Mussolini-like tendencies. You have no choice but to stare, smile, bend to their will and judge.