Wednesday, January 12, 2005


The other two thirds of my family are still staying in the maternity after-care center. This is a ham-fisted translation of dzuo yedze zhong xin, the hospital to which the other two humans I live with were whisked three days after giving birth and having been given birth to (?). Or having had birth give to it? It's where the old lady and the batt-pup have been spending their time this month.

The first three days, Maggie rehabilitated herself to the point where she could walk unaided, and Franklin got to where he could dress himself for the cold, cold trip across the sidewalk to a waiting car which whisked us across town to the other place. I was given explicit instructions to keep up a constant dialogue with my son so that he wouldn't be nervous about relocating. It was a pretty one-sided conversation, apart from a few farts.

At the new place, Franklin was taken to a nursery with a whole passel of oddly configured little babies. Whoever said "All babies are cute" hadn't spent any time amongst these captive newborns. I hope and pray that Franklin hasn't picked up any of their wicked ways in the past month.
It's been about a month. The month after popping out, or whatever they do, kids in Taiwan enjoy 2-4 weeks of seclusion. Seclusion is relative, I guess. After 9-10 months in a womb the size of a box of hiking boots, I guess a classroom sized nursery must seem like Montana to the little fella. But seclusion is what they call it. The care Franklin has received these last 30 days has been incredible.

I have nothing to compare it to, really, having never been through this ordeal before, but I've seen the movies. I think in the States, a day or two after having the kid, everyone is sent home. Right? In Taiwan, mothers are supposed to eat a structured Chinese medicinal diet. The I-Ching figures into this somehow. There are no cold items on the menu. There's a lot of ginger and tree bark and orange seeds the size of kidney stones. My mother-in-law has supplemented this diet with a couple fresh crab a week.

No dessert for the mother, but the large bakeries all delivery cheesecake or cookie samples daily. Thirty days after the baby is born, cookies are delivered to coworkers, friends, clients, or politicians, so that they can share in the joy of the new bundle. With each bite, the joy one experiences is somehow transferred to the child. They do the same thing with weddings.

People who harbor bad feelings usually refuse to accept delivery of these gifts, and wouldn't eat a cookie even if the box was left open on the table and no one was looking. But, that's another story. Petty ain't just a stock car driver, y'all.

In the maternity hospital (I obviously don't know how to translate this word), mothers stay on one floor, and the babies are all on another floor. When the kids are hungry, mothers go downstairs to feed them. Most mothers do. Some just go downstairs to express milk and brusquely hand it to the nurses and tell them to feed the kids. There are a couple mothers there who haven't held their kids for several weeks. Then there are the ones who don't think they have to talk to their kids because the kids don't speak Chinese yet. It's like that old joke about the couple with a new baby and the neighbor asks what the kids name is. The couple replies, "We don't know, we're going to wait until he can talk so we can ask him what his name is."

Apparently that's how Picabo Street got her name.

When I look at a classroom of very vacant looking Taiwanese children, I can't help but wonder if this is what their first month on the planet must have been like. Maggie and I both hope to give Franklin all the love, attention, and stimulation that he can handle without going nuts.

Some mothers go to the nursery every time their baby wakes up for a feeding. Other, more adventurous mothers, go so far as to take the baby into their rooms for a few hours every day so they can get used to each other. Maggie has been a super sport and kept Franklin from nine in the evening til nine or eleven in the morning. I spend every other night at home, but from the nights I have spent there, I have gotten a glimpse of how tough this is going to be once Franklin moves in with us.

That boy, I'll tell ya. He's got a set of lungs on him like you would not believe. AND, he can pee across the room. I can't even do that.

I'm getting the house ready for his arrival. That day is now four days hence. The crib needs to be put together properly, the car seat needs to be installed, and I need to identify and eliminate all baby hazards.

Before that, I've got to go to sleep. There will be more updates, but who can say when?

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