After I gave birth to my daughter in January 2012, it only took a few days for people to begin asking my husband and I about a second child. I don’t mean just one or two people; our Chinese friends and family members did not seem to think this line of questioning to be inappropriate in the least, which increasingly started to irritate me.
Before long, I found myself barking “不可能!” which literally translates to “not possible,” but is closer in meaning to “not going to happen!” My tone quickly silenced the enquiries. Eventually, my husband and in-laws started to politely deflect this question on my behalf.
In my opinion, asking a woman who has just endured the trauma of childbirth about the next time she was planning to endure it is like asking someone who has just been hit by a truck (but was then awarded an exorbitant settlement fee from the trucking company) exactly when they were planning to get hit by a truck again. Yes, the baby in my arms was worthy compensation but the memory of childbirth was still too fresh.
However, I certainly understood why I was being asked. I am a foreigner living in a country where a second child is not permitted for locals except under special circumstances or after undergoing a financial penalty. Despite her half-Chinese ethnicity, my daughter’s Canadian passport meant she didn’t count as a Chinese citizen.
So there I was, struggling to lose the 25kg I had gained during my pregnancy (it would ultimately take 11 months of jogging and staying away from cookies). I was continually embittered by the question of a second child. Having a baby had changed everything: my lifestyle, my body, my entire world view. Add to this the idea of doubling my workload as a mother; it was enough to make my eyes widen in horror. “I’m already exhausted!” I’d gasp.
Most importantly, having a second child just because we can is the wrong reason to go through with it. As locals restricted by the one-child policy, the Chinese friends and family who continued to ask the question seemed to be living vicariously through us.
Of course, their rationale was never so transparent. They’d say things like, “Kids need someone else to grow up with” or “When they get older, they can entertain each other!” While those reasons are valid, I still couldn’t shake the frustration that their early questioning had cemented in my spirit. I adamantly rejected the idea of more children. “One perfect child is enough,” I would say, smiling at my daughter. (By then, I had mercifully lost the bark.)
So you can imagine my mixed feelings when I discovered I was pregnant again when my daughter was only 14 months old. Privately, my heart had already opened itself to the the possibility, but I was sheepish about how I was going to explain it to our Chinese community. My husband and I had decided to leave it up to fate, prevention-free, so it happened almost immediately after our daughter stopped breastfeeding. I took a deep breath before sharing the news.
There were some shocked faces and occasional punches to the shoulder. My prior resistance had been extremely convincing. But, overall, everyone was very happy that our family of three was to become a family of four.
Now that people know we’re pregnant again, the line of questioning has only changed slightly. These days, we are often asked how many children we’re planning to have in total. I hesitate to answer definitively.
“We didn’t even plan this one!” I tell them, laughing as I pat my protruding belly.
illustration by Sun Zheng
This article originally appeared on p57 of the beijingkids October 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com