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pregnancy

We are expecting! ETA September.

I don’t know how normal people react when they find out their pregnant, but for me, my thoughts were along the lines of 1.) holy shit and 2.) what do I do now??

So I did what I think most people would do. I asked a few friends. While I had no idea what the normal process at this point was, I quickly found out that everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has an opinion, often a very strong one, often clashing with my strong opinion.

There was the friend that insisted I spend (or waste, in my strong opinion) money on 3 at home pregnancy test just to “make sure,” even though I already KNEW the moment the first test showed it’s little two lines that it wasn’t lying. Afterall, my period was late, I was feeling super feminine, I had a violent aversion to questionable food, and I got severely loopy from a mere single glass of wine. I didn’t need multiple tests to tell me my system had been highjacked.

I did some research on the most natural friendly doctors in Singapore, and made an appointment for my chosen doctor’s earliest availability. Some friends were appauled that I wouldn’t see the doctor until week 11/12. Others insisted it wasn’t necessary to seek early care.

The opinions did not let up there. One friend insisted I go vegan, another insisted I start eating meat. A coworker lectured me on the importance of finding out the sex ASAP because it was important in case it was a girl so I would know how to wipe, nevermind that I have the equipment myself. There were those that insisted I stop riding a motorcycle immediately regardless that my office is 1.5 hours commute by public transport. Others didn’t see why I should have to give it up, after all people in Thailand, Vietnam and India ride at 9 months pregnant and even while wearing a sling. I won’t go into the riffs, eyerolls and exasperation when I shared my birth plan. I got called everything from naive to judgmental, until I got super selective in my sharing.

Among my American friends the opinions vary greatly, but add to that the even more diverse population of Singapore, its local and expat communities, and you get an even bigger range of customs, styles and traditions to wade through. For example, in the UK it’s so normal to have a midwife attended birth that Kate Middleton did it, meanwhile in Singapore it’s illegal to birth without a doctor present. C section rates in Brazil are 80 to 90 percent in private hospitals, about 30 percent overall in the US and only about 17 percent overall in Sweden.  In some countries doctors ultrasound frequently, some ultrasound hardly at all. While many in Asia insist upon the benefits of confinement practices, many of those from Western countries often perceive not leaving the house, not washing your hair, hanging out 24/7 with your in-laws and eating pig trotters as a quick way to achieve postpartum depression. Although rumor has it that the papaya fish soup is quite tasty.

So what DO you do when you find out you are pregnant as an expat in Singapore? Well, if you are asking my opinion as someone who is not a medical professional and you are not choosing to terminate, carry on reading. (If you are considering termination, it’s beyond the scope of my discussion here and you may find this post from AWARE more helpful.)

1.) Relax. Pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint. You are going to be at this for approximately 40 weeks. Assuming you found out early on, you have several months to rearrange your life, your home, your mentality and schedule all the little fun to do items (like maternity/baby portraits and babymoons) and not fun activities (like discussions with your work HR).

2.) Brace yourself for the opinions of others. Learn how to smile and nod while singing rock ballads in your head, say “thank you, interesting idea” as you let their words go in one ear and out the other, or stand tall with a hearty “Thanks for your unsolicited opinion” accompanied by a 30 yard stare. Your choice. I personally like to mix it up.

3.) Evaluate your insurance situation. My insurance is not very comprehensive (meaning it’s actually utter crap) so that limits my doctor choices. Here are the costs of typical vaginal delivery by hospital in Singapore and here are the costs of typical C section delivery by hospital in Singapore. It’s probably too late to buy insurance on your own now if you don’t have it, so relax because there’s nothing you can do anyway. Most policies require minimum 10 month waiting period before covering maternity costs and/or birth. You can still get insurance going from day 1 for your little one, although it likely won’t be cheap. Try contacting Expat Insurance for quotes if you aren’t sure where else to turn.

4.) Start thinking about what type of medical care you would like or need to have in your pregnancy. In Singapore, decisions tend to be deferred to doctors and OBGYNs often explain little and err on the side of intervention. If you are OK with deferring but like to be informed, you will likely have to lead the discussions, so come in with questions. If you prefer a less medicalized experience than the norm on this small island then you are not completely out of luck. It just means you may have to research more, select providers more carefully and be prepared to be treated like an anomaly. You will still have some restrictions, for instance I already mentioned that home birth with a midwife is illegal.

5.) Book an appointment with a doctor that you feel best suites your needs, whether that be degree of planned intervention, location, cost or simply availability. You can treat this first appointment like an interview. If you do not connect with this doctor, you still have time to change to another one. You don’t have to stay with a doctor you don’t like.

6.) Celebrate. Because you are a freaking life carrying goddess. Enough said. 🙂

Oh yeah, and congratulations! xx

See also:

What to Expect When You Are Expecting In Singapore: Belly Henna

Oliver and company at Eyes to the Front threw a pretty badass (and free) party at Sofitel So Singapore last Saturday. The boutique hotel pool setting with DJ tables and skyscrapers  made for good ambience and great eye candy.

DJ Victoria

DJ Victoria

As the crowd got rowdier and drunker, my sober self was ready to move on. I even texted a friend to meet up at a different location for some grub, despite the Sofitel having delicous looking bbq available for purchase.

Then Jeck Hyde came on the decks, and well I had to text my friend “Sorry, music got really good. Can’t leave.” All of a sudden the crowd seemed friendlier.

Jeck Hyde

Jeck Hyde

Sober as I was (and I may have been the only one), I was on my feet and dancing. The icing on the cake was the National Day practice going on overhead featuring formation flying and then this lovely scene:

eyes to the front fireworksMore things are on the schedule for Eyes to the Front and it’s collection of artists. Check out their Facebook page to see what’s next.

One thing about having interior designer friends is you get a totally different perspective on building design and public spaces.

For instance, I had long ago succumbed to the fact that establishments in Singapore don’t always have their own bathroom. You have to leave the premises to find a shared bathroom used by the building. While I find it a little off putting but just one of those quirks about living in Singapore, my interior designer friend was highly annoyed.

“How can an establishment this big NOT have a toilet?” moaned Lee.

“I don’t know, but speaking of, can you tell me where the toilet is?” I answered.

She pointed me out the building and around the corner. While there, I snapped a photo of this.

Clean Bathroom CampaignI sent the photo to my friend in the US who has spent some time in Singapore and also finds these campaigns fascinating. As I have mentioned before, the number of campaigns in this country is staggering.

“Hrm… is that really a problem?” she asked.

“I guess so,” I answered. “Otherwise there wouldn’t be a campaign for it.”

I shared the conversation with Lee and the other folks at the table and received back a unified “Yes, yes, YES. It is DEFINITELY a problem.”

“There you go,” I answered.

Here in Singapore, sometimes the loos are completely spotless, like at Changi Airport or the Zoo. At other times, not so much. It really shows you what an effort is put into keeping the clean ones clean. The next time I use the facilities at Changi Airport and am asked to rate my experience, I am giving the attendant full marks. It’s not an easy job to keep the loos clean, and often a thankless one.

xenu_scientology

Back in March I watched HBO’s much talked about documentary, Going Clear, which had me thinking about my own run in with Scientology over 15 years ago.

In 1999, my high school best friend and I packed up her car and drove off for the dorm rooms of the University of Texas. After unloading her car with the meager two boxes of possessions each that since then have morphed into full houses, we decided to take a stroll down The Drag.

The Drag is an Austin, Texas institution – a segment of Guadalupe Street that lines the edge of campus. It is home to MSG laden cafes, book stores, coffee houses, gimmicky shops and an eclectic mix of homeless kids, many with similarly eclectic dogs.

This is when we stumbled on the exact thing my mother feared we would find, well one of the many exact things my mother feared we would find. The Church of Scientology.

We were greeted by two employees of the center offering us stress tests on the sidewalk outside. Sure, we were game. We didn’t know what Scientology or stress tests were but we had 20 minutes to kill. We gripped onto the e-meters and prepared ourselves for a wild ride.

The questions ranged from the benign (name and age) to invasive (any past drug use and general fears). The two test administrators shared knowing glances at our answers. I sat in wonder as to whether anyone was ever going to explain to me what the heck Scientology was.

“If you could change something or improve something what would that be?” asked my test administrator.

I thought for a few seconds before coming up with something that I felt was an acceptable answer. “I wish that I was better at interacting with strangers. I wish I could talk and really connect easily with people,” I said.

The two administrators invited us inside for more info. BFF and I exchanged looks and shrugged. I still didn’t know what Scientology was and there didn’t seem any harm in going inside the building.

Once inside, my administrator began his sales pitch. “Hey. Hey. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just…. talk to anybody?”

“Yes,” I answered. “That’s what I told you outside.”

“But… but… wouldn’t it be cool if you could.. you know. Talk to ANYONE?”

I looked over at BFF to see if her test administrator was any sharper than the one I was paired up with. My guy had one sales tactic and he was going for it.

He then showed me some basic printed information on courses that I could sign up and take through the organization, all of which would devour the $200 of waitressing cash I had in my pocket. The $200 needed to last me a few weeks, minimum. That is, if I wanted to eat.

“Um,” I said. “Isn’t there a cheaper way to just find out what Scientology is? Or maybe you could just tell me.”

Defeated, he pointed at a collection of Dianetic books written by L Ron Hubbard on display. “Oh cool,” I responded. “I can have one of those?”

“Those are actually for sell,” he answered.

“Hrm,” I said. “Maybe I’ll check one out from the library. Do they have them there?”

The man shrugged as he stood up and tucked in his chair.

I turned to BFF who was already collecting her things.

“So did you ever figure out what Scientology is?” I asked once we were outside the building.

“Nope,” she replied.

“Me neither,” I answered.

I’m not sure where we went from there. If I had to guess, I would say it was somewhere with a 99 cent menu so that we could spend 1/200th of my hard earned cash on a burrito or hamburger and ponder what it meant to be rejected by the Church of Scientology.

Obviously they were much less interested in recruiting BFF and I than Cruise or Travolta. I don’t know whether to be grateful or offended! I’ll say neither and go with amused.

A post-dinner cruise through Chinatown had myself and a few friends stumble on this site.

20150208_193749

“Huh,” we thought. “Is this legit?” Stephanie immediately chucked the boxes out of the way and sat down for a try.

20150208_193818

Unfortunately, the massage chair didn’t work. Massage chair uncle in his most stylish tee came out to troubleshoot the situation.

20150208_193855

Ahhhhhhhh. There we go.

20150208_193906

A few minutes later we were on our way having made a few new friends in this ambiguous shopfront.

20150208_194121

I love everyday life in Singapore Chinatown.

Lizards in the Toaster

Lizards in the toaster.

Pale tails tripping fuses.

Electroshock therapy divine.

 

Lizards in the toaster.

It’s morning and my coffee is lonely

But these little guys have a new home.

 

Lizards in the toaster.

How much for a new toaster online?

The shops on Orchard are crowded.

 

Lizards in the toaster

They hide so snugly in crevices.

Sigh, I’ve given up my taste for toast.

 

Bastille in Singapore

Bastille

Bastille played the Hard Rock Coliseum Friday, January 9 on Sentosa in Singapore to a room full of dancing cell phones and a unicorn.

Shanghai In Photos

My first trip to China was a long weekend in Shanghai last year. I found myself intrigued by Shanghai’s style and culture.

I started my time in Shanghai with a walk down the Bund, the colonial riverside of Old Shanghai lined by historical buildings on the west and the Huangpu and financial district on the east. In the morning, the air was clear but by 4 pm, the haze had rolled in and the buildings weren’t very visible. Luckily, I had a chance to snap these shots in the morning.

Along the Bund.

Along the Bund.

Still along the Bund.

Along the Bund.

Worker

A Chinese worker has a smoke break near the Bund.

In China, red symbolizes prosperity and joy while white symbolizes death and mourning so it’s only fitting that a Chinese bride should wear red. This bride and groom were having their wedding portraits done along the Bund.

Bride

Bride

The riverfront walkway along the Bund underwent a major reconstruction in March 2010. The benefits are clear.

The Bund

Along the Bund.

the bund

Along the Bund.

I took a similar photo of a bull at Wall Street in NYC a few years ago.

Capitalism

A Nod to Capitalism

Continuing my walk, I ran into these fun guys dishing up some street snacks.

Durian

Weird fruit

I stumbled into People’s Park and found a man practicing his Mandarin characters.

People's Park

People’s Park

It took me a while to figure out what was going on with the hordes of people below. Eventually I came to the conclusion I was at a marriage market. Every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m parents of unmarried adults gather to try and play matchmaker. The gender gap in China has widened to make finding a suitable bride more and more difficult for Chinese men. This market has been ongoing since 2004.

Marriage Fair

Marriage Fair

All this walking was making me hungry so I made my way to Jiajiatangbao (90 Huanghe Lu) for xiaolongbao. I arrived just in time to miss the long queue and sat across from a sweet local couple who gave me tips on the art of eating the dumplings without spilling out the precious juices or burning my mouth.

Dumplings

Dumplings

There are plenty of temples in Shanghai. This is Jing’an Temple just north of Jing’an Park.

temple

Jing’an Temple

temple

Jing’an Temple

temple

Jing’an Temple

museum

Pretty.

After the temple, we settled down into the lovely grass at Jing’an Park where we were promptly booted out by these officers. They were very strict about the “No sitting or standing on grass” policy. A shame, really. The grass was so nice and well cared for. I challenge you to resist temptation to sit on it.

Park police

The Law

We topped the evening off with cocktails and jazz, which is apparently live and well in Shanghai.

Jazz

Jazz

Until next time, Shanghai!

Editors note: Visas to China are required for many countries and can be expensive, particularly for Americans. If you plan on staying 72 hours or less, you may qualify for the 72-hour Transit Visa Exemption Program. Keep that in mind when booking tickets for a quick weekend and you could save yourself a few hundred dollars.

Aw, shucks.

badge_Singapore The wonderful people at Internations got in contact with me a few weeks ago to let me know that they would like to feature Texas On Thames as a Singapore Recommended Expat Blog. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are a global organization that hosts tons of great events to help expats connect with one another. I am super honored to be interviewed and listed among such talented Singapore writers. Here’s a link to my interview, go have a look and tell me what you think. 🙂

A few weeks ago Gillman Barracks celebrated their second anniversary with late night art openings, food, libations and music. I enjoyed my time at their first anniversary party so decided it would be worth a second go around. My friend, Radha, was keen as well so we met there and moved from gallery to gallery following the path of free wine.

Gillman Barracks Second Anniversary Party

Gillman Barracks Second Anniversary Party

Along the path of free wine at Gillman Barracks

Along the path of free wine at Gillman Barracks

When we arrived at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery we were really stoked to have stumbled across 38 large-scale prints of Annie Liebovitz‘s portrait photography. (editor’s note: exhibit closed as of 9 Oct 2014) .I had heard that she had an exhibition at the ArtScience Museum but had not yet made my way there so this was a great treat. Radha was equally as excited.

Sundaram GAGd Gallery

Sundaram Tagore Gallery

Whoopi Goldberg photo by Annie Liebovitz

Whoopi Goldberg portrait by Annie Liebovitz

The next holiday weekend, Hari Raya Haji, I was planning to treat myself to the beach. That is, until I saw the haze had crept in. Left suddenly with no plans I got out my trusty Google Machine aka computer and started scouring for events around town. Voila! The ArtScience Museum was having a free day in honor of the holiday. I texted Radha and we made plans once again to meet. (editor’s note: exhibit closed as of 19 Oct 2014)

True as promised, the ArtScience Museum was free to all that would brave the haze to get there. We perused the exhibition that featured both professional and personal photos, although Annie was very clearly portrayed as someone who did not have boundaries between the two. The story of her life and career was on display, including moments with her partner (referred to in the exhibit as “long-time friend”) Susan Sontag and Annie’s often clearly annoyed parents.

Quite chuffed with our luck, we ended our afternoon with a pizza at Pizzeria Mozza in Marina Bay Sands. Not cheap, but necessary. Especially after viewing the line at Din Tai Fung.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, because you may be a procrastinator like me and just realized that you have the day off work tomorrow for Deepavali. If so, you are in luck. The ArtScience Museum is hosting another free day. Although the Annie Liebovitz exhibit is now closed, Flux Realities: A Showcase of Chinese Contemporary Photography is still on display and offers 60 photographs by 7 different Chinese photographers ranging from landscape to fantasy. It’s definitely worth a look. Did I mention it’s free?

The ArtScience museum is open daily from 10:00am until 7:00pm, including public holidays. Last admission is at 6:00pm.