Like many expats posted in Beijing for several years, DD and I were hoping to start a family, taking advantage of our relative financial security and the good quality private health care that foreigners on insurance packages and very rich Chinese have access to. We were lucky enough to get pregnant earlier this year, and I’m now in my third trimester, waddling around with an increasingly cumbersome bump, or what one linguistically eloquent friend calls the cumberbump.
Through the nausea, the frequent peeing and the militantly healthy diet, what sparked genuine intrigue and drama for us was finding out the sex of the cumberbump. In China, it’s illegal to find out, presumably because the one-child policy puts pressure on what sex the parents prefer to have, which then encourages them to abort pregnancies when they’re disappointed. But private hospitals catering to international clients have been known to quietly relax this rule, and when we asked our doctor if we could find out once we reach 20 weeks, she gave a firm nod.
‘But some radiologists can be a bit conservative,’ she said, rolling her eyes. ‘So if they refuse to tell you, just ask me afterwards and I’ll get it out of them.’
The anticipation of ‘finding out on the sly’ wasn’t the only thing unsettling us in the weeks leading up to the scan. It seemed that every Chinese person we knew – from our language teachers to the lady who coordinates our house moves – would take one look at me and my cumberbump, and declare immediately and unwaveringly that it was a boy.
‘But how can you tell?’ I’d ask.
‘Because your nose has gotten bigger,’ said the house move lady, who last saw me briefly more than a year ago.
‘Because a boy suits you,’ said the teacher. ‘And she’s never wrong,’ her colleague insisted.
‘But… why?’ I’d almost yell. Never more than a knowing smile would be forthcoming, however, and I’d be left feeling amused and exasperated.
Of course, once we had the scan and our doctor grilled the conservatively minded radiologist, it turned out – it was a boy. I was furious that the nonsensical superstitions of our Chinese friends had been proven right.
‘But it was always 50:50,’ DD consoled me.
‘You owe me a coffee,’ laughed the house move lady.
Now that we’ve announced that our little cumberbump has a little cumbertinkle, our friends and relatives are sharing their wisdom with us.
‘Boys are much easier,’ said one.
‘Boys are much harder,’ warned another.
‘Boys are more fun,’ offered a third.
But the most useful piece of information came from DD’s parents.
‘The thing about boys is,’ they said, ‘you want to be careful when you’re changing their nappy. Just when you’re about to take it off, you need to put it back on for a few minutes. You see, being exposed to the cold air makes them want to pee, so you have to catch it.’
Protecting ourselves from being peed in the face – that’s pretty much the only thing we’ve learned so far about bringing up a boy. Here’s hoping we learn a few more before the cumberbump decides to pop.
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