Our life is weird.
Exhibit A: Michael and I are in Thailand right now. We’ve been here a few weeks, busy weeks and (mostly) long days filled with meetings and class, but as of yesterday, we’re taking a few days of much-appreciated vacation before heading back to CQ this weekend. Glory!
This is what it looked like when we left our home city…. and when we arrived in Thailand.
Our first week was spent in Bangkok, a city about which I have very mixed feelings. It’s big and cosmopolitan and has lots of delicious food options (Thai and Western) and much, much less polluted than our home… but there’s also a dirty, grimy feeling to it. Not physical dirt (although there’s some of that), but a general seaminess and ugly feeling of exploitation, as it seems every alley is filled with shops offering massages and bars spilling out old white men and beautiful Thai girls not far out of their teens. While the sunshine makes me happy, I can’t help but hate so much of what I see around me.
Still, we were thankful for warmth and to have a chance to visit Bumrungrad, an amazing hospital in Bangkok that feels more like a visit to the Model UN than a trip to the doctor. I’ve never seen so many women in burkas and heard so many different languages as in the waiting room at this hospital. Apparently it’s a medical tourism hotspot for all of Asia (the world??) and we were not the only ones taking advantage of Thailand healthcare. (All is well, we were just taking advantage of the first-rate medical care while we had the option.)
At any rate, we were too busy during our week in Bangkok for very much but quick dinner excursions to grab fruit shakes and Pad Thai (yum!). The best part of the week by far was catching up with our friends Matt, Kelly, and their little one Barrett.
Out for dinner with Kelly and Amanda.
Matt was in town on business and Kelly is allowed to come on one international trip per year, so she chose this one and we were the lucky recipients of their company. (They stayed at the same hotel where we were so we saw a good deal of them during meals and our free afternoon.) Kelly and Matt were in my city–dating/engaged but not yet married–the first year I lived in East Asia and it does my heart so much good to catch up with them. They are the kind of friends that make you laugh the whole time you are together… a rare gift but a precious one.
It was especially fun to visit because they now make their home in Chattanooga, just a couple of miles from where Michael and I will live this summer when having Baby Boy Gregory. Kelly is pregnant with their second, another boy, and due a month before we are. I am way excited about more time with them this summer in Tennessee.
There’s more to catch up on but this is a free day, the sun is out and my Kindle is calling, so this little blog must wait. I’m off!
That’s what little boys are made of.
We’ll find out soon enough, for little Baby Greg is a boy! We’re thrilled, and knowing that we’re (90% sure to) have a little boy makes everything seem more real.
Boys are par for the course in the Gregory fam: Michael is the middle of three boys and his older brother and his wife have three boys, capped off with one girl. For me, though, boys are foreign territory. In my maternal line there hasn’t been a little boy in probably a hundred years, as I’m the oldest of four girls, my mom is one of two sisters and her mom is one of two girls, and not one boy to be found in the bunch. Even my dad is the only boy in his family and grew up with two younger sisters. I can’t wait but I’ve truthfully no idea what to do with a baby boy…. although truth be told, I don’t know much about raising humans, period. I guess we’re about to find out!
Our families in the States had this feeling it was going to be a girl (well, except for my mom), but our friends here are not even a little surprised. I think I had one Asian friend tell me she thought it was a girl, compared to about 15 guesses for boy. Most based it on a feeling or the way I look, but several also said it was a boy because of what I’ve been eating (sour and salty, not spicy), which I think is the same way people guess in America.
We’re just grateful we got the chance to find out what baby is–because of the one-child policy and a strong cultural preference for a son, the birth ratio here has been skewed in favor of boys for years now. As a part of the government’s attempt to normalize the birth ratio, ultrasounds to determine gender are illegal for locals. However, because we are foreigners and our doctor is also a foreigner who is not worried we would abort if it was a girl, we were able to sidestep the regulations.
We truly could not be more excited about baby boy Greg. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness every single day, and am just so.darn.happy. about this amazing gift with which God has blessed us. So thankful to think that in just a few more short months we will actually have a tiny son.
My heart is full. All is grace.
On a Wednesday morning in mid-October, I screwed up my courage and took a pregnancy test. Eight or so minutes later, I came back to the bathroom and looked. And there it was: a second line, faint but undeniable. With teary eyes, I woke up Michael and he knew before I said a thing: “It’s positive, isn’t it?” he said.
Yes. Oh yes, thank you God, yes.
We were grateful, but nervous, especially four days later when the cramps started. Normal, according to that highly qualified health care provider called the Internet, but frightening. A phone call to our international health hotline didn’t help, as they told me, in a worried tone–small things matter when you’re already tense–it was possible I was having another miscarriage. The next morning we rushed to the doctor (we see the Global Doctor, a Bolivian man married to a Malaysian woman whose office is in the Hilton: yes I know our life is weird) and he did an early ultrasound, where he found the little peanut, just a blip on the screen. (I couldn’t help but think of Rachel on Friends, the episode where she cries because she has no idea where her baby is on the ultrasound. That was me.) Our doctor, who I am very grateful for, operates on the conservative side of the spectrum and he advised me to lay low.
What did that mean, exactly? Well, not much. As in, don’t do much. At all. Go sit in class (although this year I have a tutor and not formal language class), but don’t do much of anything else. Don’t walk the dog, actually just don’t really walk, don’t stay on your feet cooking dinner, just sit there. Try to stick around home as much as possible.
And that is what I did, for the next seven weeks or so. It worked out well, I suppose, as my energy quickly disappeared and there was not much chance of me cooking when the smell of food made me gag. But those weeks were frightening, nerve-wracking. I was not on bed rest, but instead on what my doctor called low activity, a nebulous term with seemingly fuzzy limitations. (A friend who has been on both bed rest and low activity throughout her pregnancies helped by telling me that low activity was in some ways more difficult because she was uncertain of her restrictions and found it hard to walk the line between wisdom and fear-driven caution.) And deep down inside, although I love our life in Asia, I couldn’t help but think: I would feel more secure if this was America, if I had a doctor whose native tongue was my own, if I just trusted my health care a little bit more.
At the end of each day, Michael and I would pray, thankful to have made it through one more day. Soon, the days added up to weeks, and then months. And although I can’t say I enjoyed the mandatory slow-down, if it helped even the slightest I am so grateful for it.
In mid-December, we reached that magic 12-week marker and Dr. Denis released me to return to life as usual… well, life as usual for a pregnant woman. The day we saw the second line on our test we were glad, but that day, the day our doctor told us it looked like this was really going to happen, my heart sang.
Our celebration dinner? Lunch at Pizza Hut with our chauffeur. Oh, the fancy places our life leads us.
Before I forget… this is how we saw out 2012 and welcomed in the new year.
Downtown, Times Square-style.
OK, maybe not Times Square…. but the press of people reminded me of the insanity of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. (Not that I would know… never been and hope to never go.) Along with some other friends, we left our little suburb for the evening and rented a room in one of the big hotels in the city center.
Michael and I figured this might be our last year for a long time to do something crazy for the New Year (babies apparently have a way of liking early bedtimes and consistent feedings and calm environments… ok, all things I normally value as well) so we wanted to do something a bit more exciting than usual. Well, we succeeded!
After dinner at a Japanese steakhouse (don’t remember the last time I was so stuffed), we wandered around the square soaking in the environment before our large group got split up. This is me and my friend Amanda earlier in the evening, before I lost her in the crowd.
Michael and I ended up with those who went back to the hotel lobby for some awkward lounge singing and entertaining people watching before heading back on the streets around 11.30. It was insane!
This was actually not my first time to the city center for New Year’s Eve… last time I came, about 5-6 years ago, the crowds brandished plastic bats and spray bottles. This year, things were still raucous but much tamer: instead of bats for beating one another up, everyone carried balloons. At the stroke of midnight, everyone released their balloons and, I assume, made a wish. (Not versed on that particular cultural norm and not really sure if the crowd was either… everyone had a balloon and somehow we all knew that 12 o’clock meant letting those suckers go.)
Although I’m sure the local birds and wildlife didn’t appreciate the million-balloon release, it was beautiful.
Is it sad that after all this excitement, we managed to fall asleep by 1 a.m.? Oh, well. Happy New Year, anyway!
In 2013, we will (Lord willing) become parents.
There! Finally! The announcement! At the end of June, we are expecting a third, and grateful seems a weak and paltry word to explain the joy and thankfulness that we feel.
I’ve wanted to write about this hope we have carried since the autumn morning we first began to dream, but it’s only now, nearly 16 weeks later, that I feel confident–I think?–enough to put my thoughts in the form of a thing as concrete as words. It will be two years next month since Michael and I began to hope we could grow our family, two short years that stretched long as we were in the midst of them.
In the summer of 2011, we experienced two miscarriages, both very early, one following on top of the other. Losses that were painful at the time, yes, but which grew to hurt much more in retrospect than my heart allowed me to feel in the harried heat of the moment. It was only after the second miscarriage that I started to worry, fearing that perhaps these losses were not just a normal part of life but indicated a deeper problem, an issue with me, an unfitness in my very body. Nearly a year and a half of silence followed, and during that year I struggled: to hope for myself, to rejoice with others, to trust that God is good to me and Michael and that his plans for us are created out of infinite love.
(Oh, and I fear that I sound like a whiny child. There are so many others who have experienced much worse loss, much deeper fear, life events that are more difficult and even harder to explain and accept. And there are others I know who have walked this specific road of frustrated longing far longer and with far less hope than I. All I can say is: I know I am fortunate. I cannot explain it, but we do not, not anymore at least, take this hope for granted.)
The truth is this: our Father does care for us, and even our deepest hurts–wherever they lie–can be taken up and made into something more beautiful than would be possible without those very pains. Just look at the Cross! I believe this, I hold to it, and I think (hope) that now I can even say I am grateful for the rocky sections of the path he has chosen for us.