Introducing Daniel Martin Adams
I am finally worthy of this column’s title. I became a Beijing baba at 10.37am on April 26, when our son Daniel Martin Adams/Su Rui (苏锐) was delivered by caesarean at the Beijing OB/GYN Hospital (Beijing Fuchang Yiyuan). Showing an early propensity for the forward somersault, our germinating gymnast flipped himself the wrong way up in the 36th week – hence the caesarean, which went well. If readers are anything like my mum, they will be dying to know that Daniel was born 51cm “long” and weighing 7.2 jin. (And in case, like my mum, you thought jin was a drink, you might like to note that it is a Chinese measurement equal to half a kilogram.)
The joy Daniel’s arrival has brought us is indescribable, so I won’t try to write about it. Instead of singing my son’s praises, then, I’d like to focus on my family. Readers may recall that I was worried about the many culture clashes I suspected would come to the surface once the baby was born. My fears were of crossing swords with my Chinese in-laws over how many layers to wrap the baby in and the right to open my window with a newborn in the house. Moreover, like many Chinese, my relatives express their love forcefully – with actions, not words – and as a mild-mannered Englishman, I was worried that they might love the baby a little too vigorously for his own good.
Based on events to date, I needn’t have fretted about any of this. In fact, rather annoyingly from the point of view of writing this column, Daniel’s grandparents and the rest of the clan have been unbeatable: supportive, but not bossy; keen to help, but not interfering; and generally there when we want them to be and not when we don’t.
At the beginning we played it safe, attempting to do everything ourselves. And for the first, tiring month, we pretty much did. One of the perks of being a freelance writer (a euphemism for “unemployed,” skeptics might argue) is that I have enjoyed the freedom to take some time off in order to make the most of the first few months of Daniel’s life and do my bit to care for the missus during her recovery. Since Su’s caesarean left her relatively immobile, this new baba spent more time than usual in the kitchen those first few weeks (though I am ashamed to admit that I never got around to making the requisite black chicken soup). Sadly, my culinary abilities are such that Su was not content being catered to, and took over as soon as she safely could. I take comfort from the thought that the motivation to get me out of the kitchen accounted in part for the speed of her recovery.
Our DIY attitude to childcare that first month gave us a lot of confidence, and seemed to impress the in-laws. But a month of nappy changing, interrupted sleep and my cooking is enough to wear anyone down, especially Baba when he has to earn some bread. So for the second month, mother and child reverted to Chinese tradition, and spent a lot of time at Su’s family home in Beijing. Much as I missed them, I confess I had been missing sleep more.
And another confession: even before Dan was born, I had the odd pang of jealousy at the thought that he’d be monopolized by my Chinese relatives. But it turns out that watching Daniel get cooed over by his Chinese grandma and granddad – not to mention the many uncles, aunts, “cousins,” and great-grandparents – warms the cockles of my heart.
Another unanticipated perk has been watching my father-in-law mirror my own transition from bumbling beginner to semi-competent caregiver. The first time he held Xiao Rui, the man I call ba appeared to be in danger of dropping him. But now grandpa is not only a skilled baby carrier, he has even taken on those new-fangled disposable nappies. Indeed, to his ultimate pride, ba is the only one of us fortunate enough to have been sprayed during nappy changing; the little golden rainbow hit him square on his right cheek. And as he is all too keen to share with friends, family and strangers, his grandchild’s pee turned out to be completely odourless. (Not to boast, but I have been hit by more toxic matter, of which the same cannot be said, unfortunately.)
Some things – and some substances in particular – are not meant to be shared. But I am glad to report that sharing the first few months of my child’s life with our Chinese family has proven an unexpected pleasure. I look forward to sharing the coming ones with you on these pages.