~ Merry Christmas!
As you may have guessed, my journal posts have been delayed by the early(ish) arrival of the littlest elf. This is the entry I was getting ready to send when we headed for the hospital; stay tuned for our birth story in the next week or so…
It's 10 pm on Christmas night here in Beijing, and since Mik's gone to bed (and has to go to work as usual tomorrow), I suppose Christmas is now officially over for us. It was really a very different kind of Christmas this year, but a nice one nonetheless.
I had been saying last week that it was tough to get into the Christmas spirit here in China, and even up til the end of last week, I was still feeling like it was just going to be like any old winter weekend. On Friday, though, the commercial aspect at least seemed to swing into place, and out of the blue, every waiter, front desk clerk, and security guard was in a Santa hat, and a tinny 3-minute loop of Christmas carols was blaring out of every restaurant and shop. Mik and I finished up our food shopping on Friday afternoon, hitting the western supermarket one more time and the German butchers for the ham before getting some pizza at a Belgian restaurant and churros and chocolate at a Spanish café.
We had already decided that the two of us would have our Christmas dinner on Saturday early evening, and skip the Filipino tradition of Noche Buena, which is to have the formal meal at or around midnight, since there was no way I'd be able to stay up that late. Since there was only going to be the two of us and everything eventually needed to be eaten, we pared it down to only our very favorite foods. Swedish köttbullar (meatballs) and Filipino leche flan (crème caramel) made it on the menu, but we skipped all of the other things that we prepare for Christmas dinner, like red beets and carrot & sweet potato stuffing, that then usually sits in the fridge until it finally walks to the compost heap on its own around Groundhog Day.
Mik was a superstar and made 95% of dinner, and then did all the cleaning up afterwards as well. I lit the candles and downloaded the "Crooner Christmas Carols" collection from iTunes, and that was the bulk of my contribution. Afterwards, we opened presents and then quickly got ready to go out and put our coats and shoes on before food coma had a chance to set in. We went to an Irish friend's party, where the only person we knew was the host (who was stuck in the kitchen cooking the turkey), but met some interesting people with whom I hope we'll keep in touch.
Christmas day brunch was also the same type of situation - a table of 18 at the St. Regis, organized by a rugby friend of Mik's, with a few other guys from the rugby team and their families. After about four hours of amazing food, free-flowing wine and champagne (for everyone but me) and conversation, we finally rolled on home, at which point I had to have a nap, and Mik headed for the club to sit in the hot tub and sauna. Though of course we really missed our family and friends from home, it was also nice to have a really chill Christmas weekend with lots of snuggling and relaxing, appropriate for the last one with just the two of us.
It seems like all the new people I've met over the past few days have been exceptionally sweet: women who've had babies are the best, reassuring me that I look great, and reminiscing about the last few days of their own pregnancies. The dads I've met have been really cute as well, particularly the big beefy rugby player dads, for whom the belly seems to bring out their nurturing and sensitive sides. No one has yet to pull a "Wow, you're huge!" (except for my brother, last time I saw him a couple of months ago, but that doesn't count since I can just whop him across the back of the head).
Mik gets visibly excited every time I mention a "sign" of false labor that I've noticed, so lately I've been keeping more of them to myself. But all week, I've been having a few symptoms indicating that we're getting close: a dropping belly, suspicious chunky bits of mucous, a different "feel" to my Braxton-Hicks contractions . . .