Just over five years ago, my littlest brother came into the world. I must say, I was not prepared in the slightest. I watched my stepmother plod around the house, her weight steadily increasing along with her belly. I watched as she brewed batch after batch of foul-smelling Chinese herbs – designed to cure everything from nausea to back pain. I got so used to her being pregnant that I began to consider it a permanent state. Then Edward was born.
My father already had two adult children: me and my brother Huw. A baby sibling put us more in the position of aunt and uncle than elder brother and sister. Huw took to his new role like a fish to water. He was in the hospital when Edward was born; he was there when Edward was safely delivered home; he was the first to show the baby what a car radiator was (whether or not that sunk into little Edward’s brain is another issue).
I came into my baby brother’s life much more slowly – cautiously even. In all honesty, the level of care Edward required scared me. My stepmother was up at least three times a night to breast-feed, console or check on this miniature human. She became a shift worker. Aside from doing the dishes and bringing her cups of tea, I mostly felt in the way.
I played around the edges of this new family unit, watching Huw puff up with pride as Edward crawled toward him, eager to explore his giant 6.8ft frame. I liked Edward, I thought he was just fine, but I couldn’t connect with him the way Huw could. Until the first time I gave the baby a bath.
My father and stepmother sat beside the little plastic bathtub and watched as I cradled Edward’s head like a flotation device. I cupped warm water over his protruding tummy and watched his eyes move unfocusedly around the room. He was like a little furless seal, content to simply bob around in the water. Then, without any warning, this little seal looked me right in eyes, focused, and held the gaze as if to let me know that everything between us was as it should be. My dad, being a shutterbug, whipped out the camera instantly, taking a photo of his infant son and adult daughter making "googly eyes" at each other.
As Edward grows up in Australia, I’ve watched him from a distance – all the way over here in China. I get photos every so often and he calls me to tell me about his new Bob the Builder trucks. With all my heart, I wish I was there to play with him.
So, in the spirit of bringing life into the world and watching it grow into a messy, loud human being who loves trucks, this month’s issue is about pregnancy. We’ve included a guide on giving birth in the capital, detailed your natural birthing options, investigated postnatal depression, asked moms why they chose to have kids later in life and gained some insight into China’s long history of childbearing traditions. This is always my favorite issue of the year, so I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. And to little Edward: Keep on truckin’ buddy.