Seriously, I Have No Idea What I’m Doing: Notes on Being Knocked Up Whilst in Transit

This week, it’s apparently a dragon fruit.


Back when we first found out I was pregnant, about a million years ago in Shanghai, we thought it utterly rational to carry on with our plan to pack up and leave our jobs, our flat, and China, embarking on a road trip down to Mexico where we would while away the autumn months until… until we decided we’d had enough whiling.

Perhaps in December. Perhaps in January.

Maybe we’d hit up Burning Man on the way down the west coast. We’d buy an old beater and drive through the desert. Maybe a convertible. I’d wear a Marilyn Monroe head scarf and pedal pushers and pretend to smoke cigarettes with an absurdly long cigarette holder. Or maybe a pick up truck with a gun rack, with the radio blasting ironically bad country music! We could eat deep fried butter and live on Slurpees and gas station hot dogs until we puked.

We’d rent a little house somewhere in Mexico- maybe Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead?- and write amazing things whilst stuffing our faces with pumpkin blossom enchiladas. The fact that I was to be between 15 and 30 or so weeks pregnant during that projected period of time seemed irrelevant. I’ve never been one to fuss over details or formalities and this adventure promised to be no different. Everything would resolve itself along the way, as it always had.

And then, weirdly enough,  I kept on being pregnant.

I was still pregnant in Canada, which was where we first landed after leaving China in early July. As a non resident due to having been away far too many years, I couldn’t easily access the public medical system. I crossed my fingers that a doctor wasn’t someone that I officially needed yet. We went camping up in the wilds of Vancouver Island and I drank dreadful alcohol free beer and hoped none of my accompanying extended family had noticed this freakish, out of character habit.

And then I was still pregnant when we landed in England a few weeks later.

I wondered if I ought to, say, actually get the whole thing confirmed by someone other than myself, with only the proof of 3 very positive Watsons home pregnancy tests to show for it at that point. The instructions had been in Chinese. Perhaps I had read them wrong. Hell, I hadn’t really even read them at all, as my Mandarin literacy skills are limited to geographical or urban features, certain animals and insects, and food, particularly noodle related dishes. Home pregnancy tests from Watsons contained no such vocabulary, as far as I could tell from the squinty scanning of illegible instruction pages. I just assumed that two lines was positive and one line was negative because I’d read that somewhere. I think. After years and years of living in countries where my literacy skills were frequently on par with a kindergartener, I was used to feeling fairly comfortable with knowing and understanding absolutely nothing.


Cant read

Yeah, no.


During my first trimester, I had almost no nausea to speak of and hadn’t gained any weight by that point and was slowly, irrationally convincing myself that I was making it all up. Surely something ought to be noticeably different by week ten. Aside from the surprising amount of bosom I’d recently acquired. Aside from the exhaustion that felled me like a brick every afternoon. Aside from the tiny, unexpected bouts of barfiness that crept up if I allowed myself to get even slightly hungry, requiring emergency cracker rations in my handbag at all times.

No symptoms whatsoever. Definitely imagining things. I was sure of it.

How embarrassing that would be.

I managed to reach just over twelve weeks before it was actually confirmed.

By that point I was absolutely certain, in a fabulously counterintuitive way, that it was all in my head. Somewhere around week 11, whilst staying with the boy’s family in rural Leicestershire, we thought it might be a good idea to pop in and see a doctor, just to make sure everything was in working order. Like a regular pregnant woman living a normal, stable life. Maybe check that there were no signs of imminent pineal explosion or spontaneous combustion or whatever the risks of being in the first trimester are.

And to check to see if there was actually a baby lurking somewhere in there.



There is a medical surgery here somewhere.


I registered as a temporary private patient at a tiny surgery in a tiny chocolate box village not far away, and was instructed to come back the following morning to see the obstetrician. After waiting in the crowded waiting room for an hour with the sun in my eyes, doing the word jumble in a kids’ colouring book from the local farmers’ association (beef! poultry! barn! etc!), I was called into her office. When I was half way into the room, she barked at me to shut the door behind myself. I was obviously born in the aforementioned word jumble barn. Then she barked at me to lie on the examining table, poked at me wordlessly, then walked away, back to her desk, leaving me on the table with my shirt pulled up in an undignified manner.

‘Do twins run in your family?” she asked.
Yes, I replied, on both sides.
“I see,’ she nodded, then started typing furiously without any further explanation.

I made my way back to her desk and sat down. She scribbled something on a piece of paper. An appointment with a midwife for a few days later, when we were due to be in Birmingham to see friends. Then she said I’d be scheduled for my 12 week ultrasound by that midwife some time in mid-August, with a follow up appointment with her to discuss the results at the end of August.

Which was going to be a bit of a problem as we were only going to be in the UK a few weeks, leaving by the 13th of August.

I explained this to her, saying I really only wanted a basic check up to make sure everything was in working order and that I wasn’t harbouring triplets (and that, indeed, there was actually a baby in there). A twelve week scan would be fine, as it fit into our time frame, but I’d need the results back within a few days, otherwise I’d be already on a flight back to Canada. She curtly repeated the plan she had arranged for me, ignoring my carefully explained travel itinerary, adding that she’d also like me to come back monthly after that. I explained, again, the situation. She repeated her plan for my entire pregnancy’s worth of visits, her voice increasingly cross. Obviously, I was being difficult by refusing to cooperate. My lack of geographical stability was not to her liking.

Finally I just nodded and went out to the front desk with my little slip of paper to make the appointment with the midwife that I knew I couldn’t keep. The receptionist handed me a massive booklet full of rather invasive checklists that was to be used by the midwife for the next six or seven months of my hypothetical stable Leicestershire pregnancy.

We went to Birmingham as planned. The booklet went into the recycling bin. We booked my upcoming 12 week scan with a private clinic in London’s Harley Street, as we were planning to be in London that week anyway. For 180 pounds you could get your Nuchal scan done by the completely lunatic guy who had actually invented it. Results back in an hour. No need to be yelled at by the village doctor who couldn’t fathom anyone with anything other than a geographically immobile lifestyle.

But, as I left the tiny rural surgery in late July, I realized that I still hadn’t even had anything confirmed. Not only had she not said there was even a baby in there, but she also hadn’t reacted in any way when I had acknowledged my genetic predisposition toward twins. I could be, I realized as we drove back to his parents’ village, either having a hysterical, imaginary pregnancy or I could be harbouring a bevy of babies. At 11 weeks, I still knew absolutely nothing and I was surprisingly comfortable with this. I felt like I was skirting around the edges of it all. Again. It was a very familiar feeling.

Maybe I could do the whole 9 months like this, just bumbling along without any outside intervention or input. It was certainly less stressful than I’d heard it could be, especially given my age (dauntingly, nearly geriatrically, advanced, if American online articles were to be believed).

Right now, I’m coming up to the end of my 18th week.

I haven’t seen a doctor since the lunatic at the clinic in London confirmed that I was indeed with child (a very, very active club kid on a shitload of speed, judging by the scan) and then proceeded to insult my funky cat shoes and to start a painfully awkward conversation about eugenics and racial intelligence, all with my shirt shoved up and my belly covered in ultrasound jelly.



Apparently, it’s a wonder I was ever able to get knocked up- what man in his right mind would go for a chick wearing these shoes?



The Lodger is starting making its presence known now. I’m trying to decide whether I look fat, slightly pregnant or in the early stages of a very promising beer belly. I’m veering toward the latter. I may have to invest in some tight, poorly fitting beer-branded t-shirts.

We still don’t know when the UK visa for me will be processed or where we will end up in the UK when it does come through- or what we will do if I’m rejected. It’s an odd feeling, being so precarious, so unstable, so open ended. After mid-November, it will become increasingly difficult for me to be even able to book a flight.

For now, we are happily hiding out in the forest, but we can’t do this indefinitely.

Shouldn’t I be more settled by now? Shouldn’t I be, like, going to pre natal classes or shopping for nursery things or something? All we’ve done so far is to make up absurd names for the kid (Hello, Titanium Armourplated Spitfire Witcomb! Hey, Cornea Hiatus Millepede Oxendale!) and remind each other that the Finns keep their babies in a cardboard box for the first few months of life. All we need to do is find a nice box and everything will be just fine.

The funny thing is, I feel remarkably fine with this uncertainty, this ephemeral floating around the edges of things. I almost don’t know what to do with myself when anchored and tethered. This should be an interesting experiment.

I must now go look to see if Amazon sells inflatable travel-sized white picket fences. The quest for normalcy has to start somewhere.

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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog’s title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.