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Empi's Pregnancy Journal

Week 18 ~ August 14, 2005
~ Mickey Mouse Club Maternity Wear?

Adios, favorite suede skirt! See ya later, tailored suits! Little black dresses, buh-bye, buh-bye, buh-bye…

Had to do some closet-rearranging this weekend (so my poor husband doesn't have to get dressed in the front hallway every morning, as most of his clothes were living in the front coat closet), and since we have limited closet space here in the Beijing apartment, I thought it would make sense to put away some of the clothes that I wouldn't be using for a while. Just for kicks, as I was folding and packing them away, I would try on some of the more promising items--you know, the pants with a little extra stretch, the dress that always had a little bit of breathing room)--and pretty much struck out every time. So after weeks of being frustrated that I didn't seem to be showing any visible progress with this pregnancy thing, here I am, reeling from the fact that all of a sudden, 90% of my wardrobe no longer fits. And who knows how long that remaining 10% will be able to hang on?

The thought of shopping for maternity clothes here in Beijing terrifies me. When making the decision to spend the majority of our time here over the next three years, we never considered that the availability of certain consumer items would be an issue--after all, if you were to take a look at your clothing tags or underneath any manufactured item at arm's reach, three times out of four, it would say "Made in China." The reality is that most of the familiar American or European brands are not widely available for sale here, and when they are, they are sold at the posh shopping malls, where you end up paying more than you would in the states, with half the selection. Of course, since I'm relatively new in town, it's also possible that there's some fantastic market or street that I just haven't heard about where I can get next season's designer wear at 80% off… but that's just a little fantasy I periodically have, normally after I've spent 2 hours trying on every item in a local clothing store's line and realizing that I couldn't have fit into their size XXL even when I was 19 years old.

"Weeellllll," the more reasonable among you might be saying, "Chinese women certainly get pregnant and they must have to wear maternity clothes. Why don't you quit being a Pea in the Pod snob and go shop at those stores?" And this is where we enter the world of the Mickey Mouse jumpsuit.

Despite China's increasing affluence and emergence as an economic world power, outside the metropolises of Hong Kong and Shanghai, women's fashion here is still struggling with birthing pains of its own--and I'm not just talking about maternity wear. Certainly there are women here with terrific fashion sense, who dress with panache and style, but bless her heart, the average Beijing pedestrian (notwithstanding her porcelain skin and slim figure) is more typically an unmitigated eyesore from her chartreuse and hot pink striped ragged-edge neckline down to her flesh-colored ankle-high nylon- and silver 4-inch-heel strappy sandal-encased toes. At the other extreme (and more salient to today's discussion) are the scores of lovely pregnant Chinese ladies who insist on (or perhaps are relegated to) wearing denim overalls emblazoned with Mickey Mouse or similar nonsyndicated cartoon character on the bib. We were out for a day of sightseeing once, and were convinced that we were seeing the same woman at all the museums and tourist sites that we visited. "Oh, look, honey, there she is again! How did she beat us here? Man, I hope I can walk that fast when I'm 8 months pregnant."

Luckily, on my last trip home, there were a few items I purchased as an afterthought from Gap Maternity--a super stretchy black skirt, black pants and a pair of jeans with the demi-panel thingy-even though I had no belly yet at the time. Along with my track pants and not-too-fitted tees, those are going to have to tide me over until my next trip home in a month and a half. Just another incentive to keep that weight gain under control, I guess, otherwise, it's the Mickey Mouse Club for me.

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At my appointment last week, I was stunned to find out that my weight gain has actually stayed under control. I had been studiously taking the "I'm just going to eat well and let the scale take care of itself" approach, which was greatly aided by two things: 1. we don't even have a bathroom scale, and 2. going back and forth from China to the U.S. would require constant conversion between pounds and kilograms, which despite decades of education is simply beyond me. Don't bother to tell me the conversion factor; whatever that number is, it's gone in one ear and out the other each of the 8,000 times someone's told me, even before I was pregnant. It's like I'm allergic to it or something.

I didn't gain much weight during my first trimester, not so much because of the morning sickness, but probably because the additional calories I was consuming in potatoes and butter was just supplanting my former beer and wine calorie intake. I probably caught up a couple of weeks ago, though, when it seemed like the only thing that would curb my nausea was to keep snacking. Except that the "snacks" I craved were more like full-blown meals: pasta in mushroom sauce, a whole loaf's worth of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches in a single day, and more boiled potatoes and butter. For about a week and a half, I was at the trough all day.

With the easing of the nausea, though (I had faith, and the day did arrive!), my appetite has waned substantially, but it hasn't dulled the specificity of my cravings: ginger pork noodles from the noodle place next to my husband's office; a specific Japanese restaurant's beef teriyaki with garlic dipping sauce (3 times this past week); strawberry Haagen-Dazs (an obscene $11 a pint in Beijing).

If you were to ask my husband, though, he might venture to say that these food obsessions aren't pregnancy-related at all, and that I've always been very specific in my feeding requirements. To which, I would say, "Phbbbtttt, babe, and don't forget to pick up the garlic naan along with my chicken tikka masala."

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