Sunday, October 4, 2009

Diagnosis: "You Have Joy"



In April the unit commanders took their English test, and my regular Wednesday night English lessons ended. The base was still on high alert, and all leaves were cancelled. One afternoon in May, Liu Yuni came home while his unit was watching a movie. I was back from Taipei and getting ready to go teach at the Gloria English School. We all sat and talked in the living room, and then I hopped on my red scooter and headed off for class. When I got back, Liu Yuni was still home. I was surprised because when he had movie leave, he was supposed to return before the unit headed back to the base from the theater. He said that he was tired of not being able to see his family, and he was planning to go AWOL. He wanted me to get on a midnight bus with him and head to the South of the island. My parents-in-law and I told him that it would be foolish for us to flee together because I was such a noticeable target. We suggested that he return to the base. Finally, we all went to bed. I suspect my father-in-law called the base and spoke to a commander, but I will never know for sure. In any event, Pa Liu was not terribly surprised when early the next morning, Yuni’s Company Counselor (something like a chaplain/psychologist) and his Unit Commander showed up on our doorstep before breakfast. We all finally convinced Yuni that it would be better for him to return with them to base with no consequences besides extra KP duty, than to let them go back alone and have to send the MPs after him. They also told him that the commanders had already received word from the high brass that the state of emergency would soon be ending and that all military personnel would be given make-up leave for the preceding months. The officers said they could not guarantee that Yuni would get an entire week of leave at one time, but he would have several three-day weekends over the next few months. With that assurance, the three of them drove back to base.

The commanders had not been lying; in June the state of emergency was cancelled, and all personnel began to have leave again. For the next few months, Liu Yuni got three days at stretch every other week. He would come home and sleep for the first 24 to 36 hours, but then he would still have two days when he was well-rested and could interact with the family. He was in a Guard Company, and they had to stand watch for two hours at a time 24 hours a day. He is not a person who does well on interrupted sleep. It took him more than ten years after his tour of duty was over to recover from that kind of a schedule.

I began my all-day teaching schedule in July when school let out. (Taiwanese schools usually started their summer vacation on July 1.) Life was good. I had a great job. I enjoyed being with the family. I was seeing my husband several times a month. I had lots of new friends among the teachers. I enjoyed my students. And then, I started getting this horrible lower back ache and my arms and chest began to ache. I didn’t throw up, but I was definitely queasy, and I kept burping at the most inopportune times. I told one of my TAs, who was older and married. She said it sounded like I was pregnant. I grabbed a calendar and counted off days, and sure enough, that was a strong possibility.

My friend suggested that I get my mother-in-law or sisters-in-law to take me to the doctor. I really did not want to do that. After the brouhaha with the aunties and the family’s reaction to my vomiting after eating food cooked in pork lard (they had the nearest sister-in-law take me to the clinic immediately for a pregnancy test), I was afraid that if this was a false alarm I was in for more lectures about how terrible it was for a woman to be infertile. Finally, my friend offered to come spend the night with me and go with me to the clinic early in the morning before our first class. We made the appointment and got our number the evening before on our way back to my house. Then very early the next morning, we went to the clinic and I peed in a cup. Several minutes later, the doctor came back into the examining room and told me: “You have joy.” That is the literal translation of the Chinese euphemism for “You are pregnant.” He figured that I was about 6 weeks pregnant.

My friend and I went on to class, and I continued with my life as usual. I decided to wait for Joshua’s next leave and tell the family all together. Needless to say, they were quite excited. These would be the first “inner” grandchildren for my parents-in-law. (“Inner grandchildren” have the same last name and carry on the family line.) Then after getting everyone so excited, I started bleeding the very next week. I took a day off school and went back to the doctor’s. He did an ultra-sound to see what was wrong, and he discovered not one, but two pulsating blobs with heart-beats. I was not only pregnant I was making up for lost time and was going to have twins. The local doctor suggested that I transfer my file to a major hospital because twins were considered a “high-risk” pregnancy. So the following week, my in-laws took me to the Chang Geng Memorial Hospital for my first official pre-natal exam. The doctors there pronounced me healthy, and the excitement in the home was palpable. My mother and uncle from the States made arrangements to come visit me and bring American prenatal vitamins (the kind that are big enough for horses).

And the following week “morning” sickness set in for real. But it was not just morning sickness, it was morning, noon, evening, and night sickness, and it lasted for the rest of the pregnancy. I continued teaching, but I had to develop a strategy. We had breaks on the hour, but the line for the bathrooms was quite long. So I would will myself not to vomit until 5 minutes before break time. Then I would give my students a quiz, rush out of the classroom into the nearest bathroom, empty my stomach before the bell rang, and run into the teachers’ lounge for a cup of tea to settle my nerves and stomach. The owners were quite accommodating, and they even instructed the managers to hold off on ringing the bell for break time until I was safely out of the bathroom. Later ultrasounds and exams showed that the problem was the placenta of Twin B pressing upwards on my stomach. There was nothing I could do but eat frequent, small meals; drink lots of fluids; and make sure I always had a clear path to the restroom. Aside from this one minor matter, the pregnancy went pretty smoothly. I worked up until the week before the babies were born, and for the most part, I felt wonderful. The Chinese term for “morning sickness” translates literally as “harmed by joy.” And I guess that’s a good term for it.

7 comments:

murat11 said...

To have and be harmed by joy: there's a dissertation in that pair of opposites. What an ordeal for you, all the vomiting, but how exciting to have those two babes swimming inside.

Have to admire Liu Yuni's insistence that he needed to be with his wife; I thought for sure we were about to be off on another Bond adventure on the midnight bus.

What a great story, Teresa...

Teresa said...

Hi Murat,

Thanks for the "joy" idea; I may be able to use it in my final paper for my History of Asian Women class. Not quite a dissertation, but 10 pages nonetheless.

In the Chinese culture, "children" are expected to grow up and act as adults after they are married. For women, in particular, this means they must consider the good of the family as a whole and their responsibilities. Even though, I had not "joy" at that time, I was still responsible for making the mortgages payments, so no more Bond adventures until after the children are grown. (Guess that means I'm about ready for another one soon...)

murat11 said...

I believe the Batmobile is revving up in the Batcave...

Teresa said...

I was thinking more along the lines of Mrs. Pollifax...

Cloudia said...

And just look at your "header" to see the joy blooming, Teresa!



Aloha, Sister

Comfort Spiral

Teresa said...

My header? You mean the kids all grown up?? They are my joy!! Probably always will be.

Joannalynne said...

yayy!! now we're getting to the good part of the story.