Friday, November 30, 2007

Lady who lunches... or rather has a very hectic day

I have always wondered what the many ladies in HK who don't work and don't have children do all day. Very early on in my stint in HK I was at a dinner party (I was still playing the corporate wifey at that point and attending work functions with the Boy). At the dinner party I met a lady who, to all intents and purposes, spent all day pottering around. Her husband had a busy job and travelled all the time, she had no children, and did no charity work. We were sitting with a couple who are rather high powered lawyers and we were all a bit drunk. As a newbie to HK I was asked what I did, and we had a nice chat about the difficulties of setting up a business and the legal system in HK. Then the attention turned to the lady in question, and the perfectly normal question of "so what do you do?". Without a moments hesitation she told us all about her days spent at yoga, pilates, she was learning to play tennis, lunches with friends. Growing ever more incredulous, the lawyer lady cut her short with the question "but what do you actually DO?". After a further explanation, I was still at a loss to understand how this lady filled her days and found meaning in her life.

Anyway, I took a day off last week and spent it pleasing only myself and living the life of one of these ladies. Initially I had no idea how I would fill my time. Without meetings or calls or deadlines, how would I structure my day? Would I end up having endless hours sitting doing nothing - and could I cope with that?

It started off with me leaving the Boy (who was off work ill) at home and pottering into the centre of town for a croissant and cup of hot chocolate. When there I spotted a nice exhibition of items from the British Museum over at the HK Museum of Art so took myself off to have fun looking at random cuniform stones and the odd statue. Before I knew it, it was time to come back to town to go to my antenatal yoga class. Normally I go on a Saturday, mainly with other working ladies, but midweek I found myself with an entirely different set of very lovely ladies who were friendly, amusing, funny and we exchanged phone numbers and promises to meet up soon. After all this chat, I was nearly late for my special pre-natal massage (generously given to me by my wonderful friend R), where I was pummeled and stroked on a strange bed with a huge hole in the middle - more of that in another post.

It was then that I realised I hadn't had lunch, so just had time for a quick bite to eat before meeting the Boy for our visit to Dr D and then an early supper with another friend.

I didn't manage to do half the things I had planned for - I failed to make it to the baby shop to buy unmentionable items to cover my leaky bits after the birth, I failed to take something the Boy wanted to get fixed to the relevant shop, I even failed to go and buy the pair of very lovely Alexander McQueen shoes I have been coveting for a couple of weeks.

In fact, I had almost no "down time" at all.

The next day it was back to work and I found myself twiddling my thumbs a bit.

Perhaps I could take to the expat wife life more easily that I had initially thought. Let negotiations with the Boy commence.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

To C or not to C, that is the question

One of the biggest questions a soon-to-be Mum has to face are those surrounding the birth. There are a million ways in which you can choose to have your child, especially in HK where you get what you pay for, and a similar number of books, articles and people happy to offer advice about what to do. The options start with where to give birth (although in HK it is pretty much illegal anywhere but a hospital so this choice is removed anyway), and then move through drugs, intervention, water (drinking and sitting in), to whale music and hypo-birthing.

Yesterday the Boy and I went to see Dr D to discuss what would happen at mine. This is something I have been thinking about a lot because the options are so numerous. The biggest one is whether to go for an elective C-section or the natural birth. There are pros and cons of both, so the choice has been especially hard for me to make and I have spent pretty much equal amounts of time subscribing to both viewpoints.

On the pro side is the ease and timing argument. When the Boy only gets 2 days paternity leave and we don’t have the support of family nearby, the whole idea of being able to plan for things appeals to the professional career girl in me. It also means that all the stuff "below" doesn't get too icky afterwards, and it is arguably safer and less stressful for the baby. However the cons involve six weeks of recovery after major abdominal surgery (although Posh Spice et al have pretended otherwise, it is pretty major surgery), and in a town where I only get 15 weeks of maternity leave taking six weeks to be in pain and not be able to lift my baby, nor be able to start rowing and jogging again to get back in shape, doesn't appeal.

I don’t really care about the whole "participating in the experience" side of things. I am much of the view that we have modern medicine so we don't have to go through the unpleasantness of the Dark Ages anymore. However, although the natural birth thing will be exhausting, painful, very icky, and more risky, on balance I think probably better suited to me and so, after much discussion with friends who have been through it and some reading, I decided that a natural birth with as many drugs as humanly possible would be my preferred option.

This is not a decision I have made lightly or easily. However, yesterday I got a bit of a shock that threw this all out of the window.

My blood pressure is rising again. All women's blood pressure rises near the end of pregnancy, I am after all putting a huge strain on my system at the moment. However, mine is rising more than Doc D would like and as both my Mum and I have a history of high blood pressure, it is something he wants to watch carefully from now on.

With modern science and close monitoring it is nothing to be worried about, but it does put me at a greater likelihood of having to have a c-section - either to get Bump out early or during the natural labour because high blood pressure does rather complicate things.

So, I find myself today feeling a bit miffed. Having spent all that time and effort planning for the type of birth I wanted, convincing myself it wouldn't be so bad to dilate to 10cms (ouch) and have all manner of nasty things "down below", I am now back where I was about 5 months ago with not really having any decision made and no way of making it.

As Dr D told me pretty much in my first ante-natal appointment, there is not much point having a birthing plan because everything always changes anyway.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wacky races

I am off to Macau this weekend for my 5k waddle, so as all good athletes should I am tapering my training (i.e. waddle distance) so I just went for a short waddle before work.

To find that the gauntlet has been thrown down by the mad 90 year old woman with the flailing arms. Clearly annoyed that my sporting prowess and training efforts mean I now walk faster than she does she has started to walk backwards instead. Arms still waving madly about.

I find myself worryingly drawn to compete...

Friday, November 23, 2007

The sound of music

I was in the scary baby shop last week, picking up the car seat, and as I was waiting for them to find the right orange monstrosity with side impact bars (although if I am ever in a crash bad enough to rely on side impact bars in my baby's car seat then I am in some serious trouble) I saw a bunch of CDs at the counter that apparently you play to the baby in the womb and it increases its intelligence.

What utter crap was my immediate reaction. However, upon checking the books at home it seems that in fact bump can now hear lots and reacts to noise.

Firstly, there is nothing like the knowledge that your unborn can hear everything to put you right off sex...

Secondly, maybe I should give this a try and not be so dismissive. She already listens to my voice all day. I've had a lot of meetings this week so the Bump is by now presumably very well versed in the finer points of mutual funds, structured products and discretionary mandates. However, I suspect this isn't quite what the books have in mind.

Last week, when I was at a frightfully am dram production of the Full Monty musical (don't bother if you were thinking of it, the americanisation of the script has dumbed it down too far) she was very active during the show and seemed to like the music. So, today on the way back from rowing I decided to test the theory. I sing badly, out of tune and out of time, so a solitary car ride seemed a good place to trial the theory. CD in, I sat merrily singing at the top of my voice. Lo and behold, bump started moving and, I like to think, dancing along to the sound of my voice. It was all rather nice, and I think I will do it more often as she seems to like it and it can only help when she finally comes out and needs calming.

It was only, however, once I got home that I realised that I had been singing along to one of my favourite Wonderstuff albums which has, amongst other lines including naughty four letter words, a song entitled "Radio Ass Kiss". Hmm, maybe I should choose something a little more appropriate for next time.

Ouch # 2

I am starting to think the title of this post is going to be the second in a large number of similarly named posts.

I have just got off the phone from S, who I work with and had her second child just under a week ago. Her first email to me was quite simple "it was quick and painful". Well, one can't have it all, so I guess you sacrifice some comfort for speed. I didn't think much of it.

However, my phone call with her today started with "it's awful, don't breast feed, in fact don't let the baby anywhere near your breasts" and carried on along similar lines for half an hour while she regaled me with tales of how she had forgotten how tough and painful everything was for the first few weeks.

I've heard this before, but S is an incredibly practical, poised, sensible and down to earth lass. For her to complain takes real discomfort (she works for me so is used to putting up with a lot), and to hear her so vocal about everything has only managed to prompt more panic and fear in me.

I've changed my mind, I don't really want a baby, I want to go home and hide.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The path to true happiness is cut up fruit for breakfast

Living in Hong Kong is not real, it is not how normal people live. It is slightly frightening that the only difference between travelling between Hong Kong proper and Hong Kong Disneyland is the mouse, annoyingly perky music, and that everything is designed for people who are three feet tall. Hong Kong is a playground, where everything is easy and life is fun.

Transport works and is clean, taxis are as cheap as your average London bus ride, you can find pretty much anything you need here, for a price (except nursing bras in size 32H, but that is for another post) and you get invited to wonderfully glamorous parties where you can guzzle free drinks all night. Put simply, this place is not real.

Until recently, I have firmly subscribed to the feet on the ground principle and tried to make my life as normal as possible. I have done the weekly shop on my own, run my own errands to the immigration department, tax office, or to licence the motorbike (when there are endless people happy to be paid to do so for you). I try to always cook when I am at home in time, and try to tidy up after myself. The Boy does the washing and we clean the cat's litter tray (she, however, does nothing).

However, things are changing. I am about to have a child, have a busy full time job, and a husband who travels a lot. Something has to give, and I am determined it will not be my sanity. So, I have done something I thought I never would, and employed a full time, live in, "helper".

In HK "helpers" (maid/housekeeper/nanny) have to live in and most are required to work 6 days a week, pretty much 24 hours a day. They tend to come from the Philippines or Thailand and are paid a pathetically small amount. We didn't even have a cleaner growing up and so I was very hesitant about having someone. We investigated all options, but in the end this was the only practical one.

I needn't have worried, it has changed my life. I was lucky in that H had previously worked for two colleagues of mine who were leaving HK, and looked after their small children so came with a great recommendation. She is in her early 40s, has had her own children and I am becoming rapidly convinced is channeling my Mum. Not only is the apartment always spotless, but she takes care of me in the absence of the Boy and this morning even cut up fruit for me for breakfast (unasked, I would have been fine with Special K) because a few girlfriends came round for pizza and chick flicks last night so H had decided I wasn't eating properly and should have fruit this morning.

H has completely changed my life, however pathetic that sounds. She is organised, caring, looks after me and the mad cat, and we get on brilliantly. We chat over brekkie in the morning, and she gives me my space in the evening.

She is rapidly, even after a couple of weeks, becoming such a part of our little family that all the worries I had about handing over my child to a stranger are diminishing. Once bump comes, H will move firmly into nanny territory and the Boy and I will get back to doing the shopping and washing ourselves at least some of the time, but for my final trimester H is just what I need.

So, if anyone wants to know the path to true happiness, she is living in my apartment right now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


As I sat watching the Bump move around while I was on a conference call this morning (which I still watch with a creepy fascination as my own body moves without me doing anything), I realised how big she is getting. A nice warm and fuzzy thought that my Bump is growing.

Followed by a horrible thought that in a few weeks time, when she bigger still, she will have to find a way out of my body.

Now I feel sick.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Vroom vroom

One of the main areas of argument between the Boy and myself has been over what it is and isn't safe for me to do when pregnant. However, due to our slightly insane view of the world as one long sporting endeavour it would appear that he is fine with all manner of sporting activities, but worries a bit about me carrying the shopping.

The largest bone of contention has been my motorbike. After many years of sitting astride the back of the motorbikes of various leather clad boyfriends, when the Boy and I got together he decided it was time for me to get a bike of my own and shoved me down to a freezing cold school car park in Croydon one winter to do my training and get my licence. A good few years later, and I am in love with my motorbike. I love the freedom it gives me, and the fun it brings to someone who has always found driving a chore. I hate cars now, and would rather get too hot, too sweaty, too cold or too wet than get into something with 4 wheels given the choice of something with 2.

However, even I admit that the liklihood of me having a serious accident on the bike it higher than in a car and so since we found out I was pregnant he has not been happy about me riding and has been making strange disapproving noises whenever I grabbed my helmet and left the flat.

Until Bump started to stick out, I carried on riding. She was, I reasoned, well protected and I wore all of my safety gear religiously. However, about 2 months ago the Boy started making stronger noises about me being on the bike and so I struck an agreement with him that if he rode her once a week for me then I would stop.

My beautiful bright blue 400cc motorbike is now sitting, looking forelorn, in our car park at home - having been ignored for 2 months (except when I potter over to stroke her).

This morning, when I was sitting on the bus to work, I was overtaken by two very lovely, shiny looking motorbikes and I realised how much I miss riding my own.

Only 8 weeks until I can...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The latest brood

I have never really been a broody person. I have generally held the opinion that life would be equally good with, or without, children. As a result, my pregnancy has been something of detatched fascination so far. I admit I rather enjoy sitting watching the bump perform gymnastics, and have been distracted a few too many times in meetings as a result, but it still feels like something that is occuring to me rather than something I am actively embracing.

Until the last few days.

I seem to have finally (and some may say not a bit too soon) become maternal and broody. I feel a real connection with the Bump, and am looking forward to her arriving in my world - however hard it may prove to be getting her here and then the next 18 years. It is also, however, having a very strange effect on me generally, and I am finding myself being maternal about all my other "broods" too.

At 5am today I found myself dragging myself out of bed, in the pitch dark, to get in a cold taxi halfway across Hong Kong. Unable to paddle the massive Around the Island Race (which is, as the name would suggest, a race that circumnavigates HK island), I offered to be safety officer and coordinate the crews on the day. If the truth be known, all of the hard organisation has been done by other people, but nevertheless I found myself this morning collecting waivers, checking radios, programming in endless emails and phone numbers into a Blackberry, and even hunting down a spare speedboat. All this I expected, however I did not expect the enormous sense of pride as my 10 charges sat in the middle of the harbour, on the start line, exactly where and when they should have been, to start the race.

Throughout the race I found myself, mother hen-like, checking on their progress. One crew flipped and righted their boat, but let me know they were OK. Another had an injured crew member but I stayed in touch until I knew it was all fine and that she was on land. The winning crew, comprised of the type of men the word "strapping" was created to refer to, let me know when they were in the harbour and I made sure all of the safety boats were in the right place should any ferries choose to take them out.

I admit, a bit pathetically, that as I ticked off my final crew when it came safely home and sent out the "all safe home" end of race message to my charges, I started to well up a little.

Perhaps I won't be quite so bad at this motherhood thing as I thought. So long as the Bump comes out as being about 6'4, Hawaiian, tanned, and paddling a large canoe.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Countdown begins

Eight weeks to go now and, so my book tells me, if Bump were to come into the world now then with the help of medical science she would most likely be fine. In some ways this is very comforting, but in other ways the immediacy of the whole thing petrifies me. Especially as my colleague, S, had her bouncing baby girl this morning. Her due date has always signified to me the impending arrival of my own.

I have, however, finally admitted that I need to slow down and so yesterday only paddled one race rather than two (although we did win), went home to sleep after the races, and had a night at the theatre with the girls rather than going out to play with the visiting crews. I have decided not to rush from my duties as the outrigger safety officer for the HK Around the Island Race this morning to watch the rowing crew I have been coaching race in the north of Hong Kong this afternoon but rather go home and sleep instead, and only go to the post race party tonight if I am not too tired.

So, finally, I am being good and taking things a little easy. Sort of.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Waddling along

Despite the fact that on paper my impending 5k waddle around Macau is perhaps one of the easier races I have ever done, I am treating it seriously. So, at 6.30 this morning I was out for another training waddle. I am trying to do three a week, two short (on weekdays) and one long one at the weekend.

So far, so good. I am getting faster, have figured out some good waddling music (Marvin Gaye, U2, Wonderstuff and Gorrilaz if you are interested) and am now managing to overtake the 90 year old mad woman who flails her arms as she walks.

However, it was with a subtle irony, that as I panted up the steep hill to our apartment I looked down and realised I was wearing a top I had bought a couple of years ago at the Leander Club in the UK. For those non-rowers, Leander is pretty much the best rowing club in the UK (home to Redgrave, Pinsent and most of the GB squad). Their mascot, which adorned my top, is a rather plump, happy looking hippo. How apt.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Do not go gentle into that good night

One of the biggest problems with the third trimester is the complete lack of sleep. I appreciate the dress rehearsal for when the bump comes screaming into my world. However, all the baby books currently tell me that I am supposed to be resting before labour and getting as much sleep as I can - clearly this was written by a different author to the one that tells you that you will manage 90 mins, maximum, without needing the loo at any time of day or night.

One of the books I have suggests that you take afternoon naps. Great idea, except that during nap time this afternoon I had a one hour conference call with our Head of Indonesia - I doubt he would have taken me dropping off mid conversation all that well. Although I doubt what I was saying was all that interesting.

Sleeping on my back is out (cuts of blood supply to the baby and is a bit like sleeping with a large laptop on your front). Sleeping on my side is fine, except it gives bump something nice and hard to kick against (the mattress) with me in between feeling more beaten up than usual. Were I to be breeding the next Becks, oh god forbid, then it would be perfect, but it does not make mummy sleep any better.

So I spend most of my nights now in a semi-coma, with exhaustion being the only thing that finally brings me to something resembling slumber. When I get there, I want to stay there.

Which led to a particularly testy exchange with the Boy this morning. I have been rather proud of the fact that while my other similarly pregnant friends have kicked boyfriends and husbands onto the sofa or spare room, I continue to allow my restless slumber to be shared by the Boy. Until last night. Apparently I snore (I always have, he knew what he was marrying). However last night he felt compelled to gently shake me awake each time. Of course, sleep is such a rare event and getting to sleep so hard that what I need in the middle of the night is to be woken up a few times by the father of my unborn.

I made it clear, perhaps a bit too clear, in the car on the way to work that he will just have to put up with it for the next two months and if he dare wake me again I will resort to physical harm.

He is off on a business trip tomorrow for two weeks anyway, and the cat doesn't seem to care if I snore or not.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pees in a pot (this post not for the squeamish)

Up until now my visits to see Dr D have been all rather normal, fun even. We have our little routine whereby he checks me out, cracks a joke, complains about the hideous overcrowding in HK hospitals due to the volume of mothers coming from mainland China to have their babies here, prods and pokes, tells me I am doing well and sends me on my way.

The whole process has been mercifully free of icky stuff. Other than an injection in my bum, one blood test, and the plastic car jack (ladies who have pap smears will know to what I refer), it's all been quite straight forward. I have been particularly impressed by the lack of giving "samples". It would appear that along with being able to keep babies alive after 28 weeks, medical science has given us the far more important, to my mind, invention of a small stick of card upon which one pees to have your pee checked for glucose, or hormones or something (I have actually never asked what it is for). This makes the whole process surprisingly acceptable - no danger of spillage, no need to carry a warm pot of pee back through reception to the nurse. It is quick, discrete, and very 21st century.

Until today. I went to see Dr D and was horrified to be handed a small plastic pot by the receptionist rather than the usual strip of card. Aghast I asked what she had given this to me for. The receptionist, looking at me as if I was mad (with hindsight it was a bit of a stupid question when presented with a pot clearly designed to hold pee) and told me that now I was late in my pregnancy they request a pot for a more accurate test. I stood there looking at it with shock. The one and only time I have ever had to do this before had been in the comfort of my own home and with the aid of a large jug. This was a tiny pot, that I had to pee into with accuracy - missing the pot was too horrible to contemplate as I had ducked out of work for half an hour - via a part of me that has been completely obscured by the bump for the last few weeks, in a public loo.

I stomped off to the loo. Selected one far away from the door (I had enough performance anxiety as it was without needing to worry about anyone hearing me) and got on with it. In the end, I admit, I was very proud. Completely accurate aim and not a hint of spillage. I have mastered the technique at the first go.

I later had blood taken (I faint at the sight of needles) and it was brought home to me that if I feel a sense of indignity at having to pee in a small plastic pot or having a few mils of blood taken then the labour will give me post traumatic stress. As if I wasn't scared enough of the whole process anyway.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'm in the mood for dancing

Last night I went, with the Boy and about 20 friends, the the yacht club ball. It sounds far grander than it is. If the truth be known, I'm not much of a fan. The times I have gone I tend to spend most of the evening wandering around wondering where the party is. If it were not for my fabulous friends making it great fun (and couldn't we do that more cheaply in a nightclub somewhere?) I probably wouldn't bother to go. However, the Boy decided that we needed to be more sociable this year, due to impending death of our social life, so tickets were bought.

Here came my first challenge. As a girlfriend (who I dragon boated with yesterday) said, I am still in a state of semi denial about the Bump, so it came as no surprise that I ended up at 6pm last night looking at my wardrobe while various naughty four letter words ran through my head. Being in HK, I am blessed with a slightly larger number of party frocks than I was in the UK, but none are designed to accomodate an extra few kilos of bump stuck on my front. However many times I skimmed through the wardrobe, nothing seemed to get any bigger, however hard I willed it. Until, wonder of wonders, I came across a very stretchy dress I bought in a dingy shop in Oxford about 12 years ago for a cocktail party when still an impoverished student. It is a chong sam in design, but made from lovely dark blue unfeasibly stretchy material. It worked like a dream, except that heavily pregnant women probably shouldn't wear dresses with splits up to the thigh on each side, that hug every curve (leading to a comment from a drunken kilt-wearing twit later that I had "Nice bumps, all three of them").

Then came the choice for shoes. Of course I am supposed to wear flat shoes blah blah blah. So I went for 6 inch heels with a 1 inch platform Kors hooker shoes (they do what they say on the tin). I looked a lot like a lady of the night in Saigon circa 1920, except bigger.

The ball itself was the first time the Bump had been taken dancing. I love dancing, I do it exceptionally badly, but love it. However, because of my uncoordinated gait, I tend to have to get very drunk to dance. Hence I have not done it for 7 months. I took to the floor with a few rowing friends, tottering in my very high heels. A cover band playing Nickelback was probably, with hindsight, not the easiest place to start. A bit of gentle Sinatra while being supported by the Boy may have been better, but never being one to pass up a challenge I strode purposefully onto the dance floor.

To find my centre of gravity has changed, my muscles now wobble, and shoes that were hard to dance in before I was pregnant turned into torture instruments. A couple of my friends with whom I was dancing also attended the same pole dancing classes I did, so we tried our best "Pamela" struts and dips, but however hard I tried I had about as much coordination as, well, the Boy does. But, it was the ball, and everyone was too drunk to remember so I wobbled (only had to be caught once) through bad cover versions of the Stones, U2 and other soft rock music. The bump kicked along, and seems to like loud music, and I had a brilliant time.

And today I am the only person I know who went who doesn't have a hangover. There are some benefits to the Bump!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Waddling along

I had my first training waddle this morning. I got up early, donned my usual running garb, grabbed the ipod and set off on my former running route.

It just felt so very wrong.

For a start, walking to music is pointless. You are never in time and the beat is always too fast. I tried everything - 80s cheese, 90s indie, even a chilled out Buddha Bar mix, but nothing had the right velocity for waddling at speed.

Then there was the humiliation of people jogging past me. It's not that I am competitive or anything, but I hate someone overtaking me. Every time someone did I would find myself speeding up into a jog, until my muscles reminded me why I had to walk in the first place.

Finally, I have become one of the group of walkers who, in my area, tend to be either grossly overweight bankers walking with their lithe young girlfriends (reminding me of a story from LottieP about Mrs Merton interviewing Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee and asking "So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?), or old Chinese ladies with a bit of a stoop. Is this what the next 9 weeks holds for me? If so, where can I get a lithe young man to walk with me?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pregnancy joke (sorry Mum for the bad language)

I've spent the past few days in our Singapore office. It was the source of my only, and therefore best, come back to someone's comment about me being pregnant.

I walked over to the desk of a colleague who didn't know I was pregnant, D (male).

Me: Hello D
D: (pointing to my large belly) Fuck
Me: Yes, that's what got me into this state

OK, so it's not really all that funny. But I was quite impressed with my quick retort.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Big marathon

Paula Radcliffe won the NY marathon at the weekend. She gave birth recently too.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Flying the bump

I am on a business trip to Singapore this week. Although I travel a fair amount for my job, this is the first trip in a while and the first since bump became obvious. It was booked a few weeks ago, the company insurance has been checked and our team assistant had checked with the airline that they would take a hazardous load. All they required was a doctor's letter saying I was safe to fly. On the basis that Dr D is still encouraging me to do almost anything, he happily signed the letter.

Now, I must selfishly admit, I was rather looking forward to the trip (work aside). More so than Europe, Asia is incredibly child-centric. Being pregnant is viewed as a blessed state, and people usually bend over backwards to look after you. Asian airlines have amazing service, so what better than to be pampered and cared for in business class on the plane? Hmmm, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Clearly the ethos is that if you are silly enough to fly when you are 30 weeks pregnant then you deserve all the inconvenience you get. It wasn't helped by the fact that I was carrying with me 120 red envelopes with reports in, ten tin cans and 2 kg of flour, two huge A1 posters, a laptop, and a magnetic dartboard (it will take me too long to explain why).

At check-in the clerk had no idea what to do with me. Once she had established I was more than 20 weeks gone, she then stumbled through a series of screens looking increasingly worried until ultimately calling her supervisor who scrolled through a few more screens and eventually allowed me to check in. They made a huge fuss, and I wouldn't have been surprised if she had insisted I stick a "fragile" sticker on the bump.

Once on the plane, I was hoping for a little special treatment. Not a lot, I am not that demanding, but maybe a hot towel, or offering to help me put my things in the overhead locker. I stumbled down the walkway, being shoved out of the way by huffy businessmen who were in a rush to get to their pre-assigned seat and sit there stationary for 4 hours. When I got onto the plane (with a helpful "mind the step" comment because us pregnant women are a bit stupid) I was shown to my seat and asked to make sure I put everything in the overhead locker. Then the stewardess walked away. The lady behind me clearly had her eye on my locker as well and started to shove as much as she could into it meaning that I would have to put my fragile lot half way down the cabin. Not one person, not a stewardess, not one of the many besuitted business men, not even the man next to me who called his children to say goodnight, offered to help me bundle my stuff into the locker.

It was just as bad getting off the plane. As is always the way, especially in business class I have found, the moment you are stationary, normally perfectly rational men in suits are shoving people out of the way to pull down their cases from the lockers. Everyone shoved and hustled past me while I tried to walk against the tide to get down my heavy bags. Again, not a single person helped me.

The same on the carousel, and with the taxi driver.

It was only when I got to the hotel that things changed. I went through check-in in super-quick time, they upgraded me to a super deluxe harbour view room, the doorman carried all my bags and the receptionist insisted, despite there being other people to check in behind me, on walking me to my room personally, checking I was OK and offering to send up a cup of herbal tea to help me sleep.

It continued this morning when I had to get a cab to another hotel for my meeting. When I got there, a doorman took all of my bags, insisted on walking me to the conference room, whereby I found 10 colleagues all more than happy to help me put up posters, climb under and lift tables, stick up dart boards, and set up for me. Then, when we had finished, I had the same number of colleagues offer to dismantle everything for me, carry it all down to my taxi, and make sure I would be OK getting to the office (one even offered to come with me and then return back to the conference afterwards).

My faith in humanity restored, I am now in the Singapore office where I have already fielded at least ten questions about why I am still wearing high heels. Different country, same bizarre ideas.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Mini marathon

In 4 weeks time I am off to Macau to watch the Boy run the Macau half marathon. At the same time my friend, F, is doing the full marathon and her husband is going along as a supporter too.

It was a few weeks ago that I found out that there was a 5k race in Macau at the same time. Pre-bump I used to run once or twice a week, always more than 5k. So, when I was talking to F's husband about what us hangers on would do at 7am while our spouses ran, and I had the bright idea that I would run the 5k and he would keep me company.

Now, this was a few weeks ago, before bump revealed her presence externally on my front, and when I was still happily running a couple of times a week. It would be easy, I thought, and so happily set my goal on the 5k race. Which, yes, takes place only six weeks before I am due.

A lot has changed since then, around 10 lbs to be exact, and is getting bigger each week. I've not really done much running since I got stuck up a hill about 5 weeks ago - hills surround our apartment, but I hate running them at the best of times and with the extra weight and wobbly joints it was all a bit hard. So I turned around and ran on the flat for 3 more km and it was fine.

But, since then, I've not run at all. I've cycled, rowed, canoed, even chanted and fallen over, but no running. So, today, I headed to the gym for 5k on the running machine just to make sure I could actually do it.

It started very well, I was at my usual pre-bump pace for about 1k. Then the problems set in. In fact one large, painful problem on the right side under the bump where something had stretched or pinged. I slowed down, bent over and ran with my bum in the air for a bit (the obvious response of stopping wasn't one I was going to consider), and then eventually started walking. After a few minutes it eased a bit, so I started running again, for about 30 seconds before the left side joined the party and I had to slow down again. I then spent the remainder of the "run" trying out various approaches to walking quickly - in the end finding out that slightly bending over and waddling rapidly seems the best. I may look very stupid, but I can keep up a sufficiently fast pace.

Of course I am now on the sofa, feeling a bit stiff and sore. However, with practice, the inelegant pregnant waddle technique should get me through the race just fine.

Of course the most blindingly sensible thing of not doing the race at all has never entered my mind.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The most fertile place in the world

It is with some sadness that I have today waved off S, who works with me, on her maternity leave. It comes at the end of a particularly tough week for us both, reminding me of why I love working with her and have asked her to join me in not one, but two companies since I moved to HK.

However, in our team meeting this week we realised that there is clearly something in the water they give our team (Evian, in case you were wondering). The HK portion of our team only has 6 people. Of these, 3 of us are pregnant at the moment, and one has recently found out his wife is pregnant. This leaves only one single girl and our team leader who are without child.

Two thirds of the team expecting at the same time has to be some sort of record.

It prompted a comment from one team member, however, that if we keep going like this we will need some form of quota system to ensure we have enough staff in the office. I hope he was joking.