Waiting For Godot (or a Baby): Notes on Identity, Change and Public Presentation

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Drying nappy inserts whilst contemplating the world

 

Any day now, I’m going to have a baby.

Like, an actual baby that I get to keep indefinitely. Which is, admittedly, an awfully long time.

I still haven’t wrapped my head completely around this concept, even though I’ve been quite pregnant for many wine-deprived and sushi-less months now.

Little Thwacky McKickerson, currently 2 days late and counting, ย has been wreaking increasing havoc on my insides this season, growing to the point where I am indeed sporting the archetypal, unforgiving bowling ball strapped to my midsection, which renders previously casually easy movements (like, say, sitting or turning over or putting on shoes and socks) not so easy. ย I feel like an ungainly arthritic dugong most days.

Did I mention that one unexpected side effect of this whole gestation thing has been ridiculously arthritic joints? Like, to the point where I have to do hand and finger flexing exercises for half an hour every morning just for the privilege of being able to bend my fingers enough to, say, hold a tea cup or turn a door knob? Did I mention the headaches? The exhaustion? The desire to just curl up into a quiet ball and hibernate indefinitely like Gerald T. Bear?

This is why I haven’t written much this season. Not because of the bowling ball or the creaky granny fingers, no, but rather because I’m very self conscious about what I choose to focus on in my writing here and in my overall public self presentation. This is still technically a travelly expatty personal blog with an Asian focus- I have yet to change the title or the design or the descriptors even though my current life doesn’t match any of them.

Sorry, guys.

I feel very self conscious now when I write about what I’m doing or thinking (or rather, start to write, as my drafts folder is bulging with attempts at writing that quietly petered out and were left forgotten). ย I have an unspoken fear that if I write about my current life, I will either freak people out or bore them or annoy them. I will not be the person they expected me to be, the person I had presented to the world for so many years.

 

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Admittedly, there have been groovy little day trips around the shires. Here we are, gongoozling at Foxton Locks.

 

You know, the one hijacking the black pirate taxi in that third tier city somewhere in China. The one begrudgingly doing shots of toddler-face baijiu at banquets attended by low level communist party officials, trying to work up the courage to eat the braised bear paw on the plate, rather than just the greens and garlic in the sauce (for the record, bear paw tastes like fatty cartilage and the greens and garlic are the most appetizing part of the dish). The one on the back of a motorcycle taxi in [insert country here], or the one trying to navigate the local bus system in a script she is wholly illiterate in. The one trying to learn Turkish, Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish. The one documenting the secret lives of Chinese mops or deconstructing ingredients in comfort foods so they can be recreated using what is found in an Asian market. The ones who does things, goes places, experiments with daunting and discomfiting options, then writes something really long and dryly snarky about it.

I’m not really that person these days. I mean, I’m still the person that did those things in the past and will probably do them again in the relatively near future, but I can’t really be that person right now.

 

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Domesticity, I’m all about you.

 

The person I am right now is 40 weeks pregnant, tired and achy, barely leaving the house (it’s grey and wintery anyway), happily spending days reading and baking bread and drinking tea, living a very quiet and stable but happy life in a terrace house in a slightly granola bohemian inner suburb of Leicester, surrounded mainly by my husband’s (I have a husband! Holy crap!) massive circle of family and childhood friends. Any day now, my time will be filled with baby wrangling and sleeplessness and further disorientation when it comes to matters of identity and perception.

I’m not just talking about introducing a kid into the picture. I’m well prepared for the madness that brings.

What I’m really trying to wrap my head around is how to articulate this abruptly altered version of myself that others know. I’ve avoided writing about my pregnancy because I didn’t want it to define me. I didn’t want to do a week by week photo montage of bump shots. I didn’t want my physical condition to become my temporary identity. This isn’t a pregnancy blog. The same goes for the changes I’ll be dealing with any day now. How can I write about my life and experiences and observations without it turning into a single track Mommy-blog?

For probably the first time in my adult life, I’m experimenting with a remarkably domesticated, stable, fairly ordinary, family-centred approach to living. It’s rather nice. In a way, I feel like those people who, at age 40, quit their jobs to go sailing around the world or to teach English in [insert TEFLy country here) or to write a novel whilst on the road. It’s an inner shake up, a necessary change.

I just need to figure out how to incorporate my current incarnation into the messy patchwork of all my previous incarnations so that I am still recognizable as myself, as a multi-dimensional person with a complicated history of experiences and experiments and an unwritten future that I’m determined to not allow to become tedious and predictable.

I still want to learn how to make proper aged cheeses from raw milk and daunting peasanty breads from a levain. I want to learn Arabic and Spanish. I want to learn how to work with glass, both stained and blown (ooh, kinky). I want to start drawing and painting again. I want to travel a lot. My list is still long. I want to move to new countries and be forced to learned a million new things, over and over, until I reach the end of my rope. I want to write. Maybe a book, maybe a spin-off of the mop blog, maybe a weird and subversive collection of stories for kids. I want to buy a cheap and crappy old property somewhere far away and figure out how to make it lovely.

I want to do a lot of things.

I also want to figure out how to integrate a kid into all of these wants and I want to be able to see the big picture clearly enough that my world doesn’t become too small, too focused on just one aspect of it all, that I lose sight of what is out there.

Ceci n’est pas un Mommy-Blog.

I just don’t know what it is yet.

Bear with me while I work this one out. It may take some time.

 

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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.