Archive | November, 2016

Make Hong Kong your village

Make Hong Kong your village

Posted on 22 November 2016 by hulda

When I had my first two kids, I lived in a village.  Most mornings I walked to the bakery and bought fresh breads and had coffee while I watched the fellow villagers pass by and my baby slept in the pram.  Then it was the swimming pool where it was perfect to go for a soak where the older one could sit by himself and the other one was attached to me. Friends would gather there with their kids at the same time each morning usually. Sometimes it was quite hard work when there were two of them (14 months apart), pushing the pram in the 20 cm high snow.  I managed to get a seat to attach on top of the pram, so that one could sit there while the other one slept.  For lunch, luckily, the village was so small that my husband could come home and we all had lunch together and then one of the kids neatly would vomit on his jacket before he set off again for work at 1pm.

 

New mum

It takes a village

We usually slept in if the kids allowed it.  Everyone woke a little when my husband went to work but then we all continued to sleep a little longer because we had after all woken twice to feed in the middle of the night so we were tired.  It was not like there was anything particular that needed to be done, aside from the housework, which I have no memory of enjoying, but somehow mostly managed to do. I think my father in law found my lack of housewife skills slightly alarming, but probably also understood that when people are tired, doing the dishes is not priority.

 

Sure, it was sometimes tough.  Breastfeeding was not easy.  Guilt.  Going to the gym?  Tell me another joke.  The first time I went to the volleyball exercise that I had wanted to do for so long my 18 month old son ate 20 contraception pills that I of course was taking (as not wanting to have three kids in 3 years), pills that I thought I kept well stored in the bathroom cabinet.  But he had no problem climbing up there.  The doctor, when I called him, told me “well he might develop boobs”.

 

What was so good about the village then? 

Well, people somehow look after you.  They notice when you don’t show up in the pool many days in a row, or in the mummy mornings on Wednesdays.  They pop in unannounced and have a short coffee.  Your family and friends sometimes babysit.  People care.  Distance is short, so time spent on traveling is short. You meet your family for lunch.  And so it goes. Even when it snows, you still go out with the kids, just for the fresh air or change of scene.

 

I meet many mums who are semi-happy in Hong Kong.  They find life here difficult.  The taxis are not fitted for car seats.  The heat. The rain.  The steps.  The people on the streets.  The urban setting.  Long workdays are not family friendly.  “Well you know, it is Hong Kong” – they say.  This is why it is important to find the village side of Hong Kong.  It is true that many things here are not easy.  Maternity leave here is short and paternity leave hardly exists.  Plus, no matter where you live, life can be pretty tough with a newborn.  But there are things to do that can make our big city a village too, and somehow we seem to forget it at times.

 

  1. Take it easy.  A confinement period is not so silly to do.  You may want to adjust it to your needs, but Hello Magazine offers a very unrealistic picture of the new mother, all perfect and busy straight after birth.
  2. Sleep in. Wake up if you want if you have a partner that is going to work, but then try and get a few more minutes in bed if you are tired.  After all, there may be help with the housework.
  3. Once you feel ready, go out every day, at least once.  Is there a swimming pool in your building or district?  Around 4 weeks after birth you can go and at least enjoy the outdoors, and soon enough dip in.
  4. Too hot by the pool, even if you are in it?  Why not find a windier place.  The circle around the Peak for example, or the promenade in central or Pok Fu Lam, – or any promenade for that matter. Babies tend to sleep very well in prams.
  5. If you live close to one, beaches tend to have wind too.
  6. After the first weeks, meet your partner for lunch.  Every day.  Or every other day. He/she too, needs to eat.
  7. Have an afternoon nap.
  8. Meet a friend regularly, within slightly flexible timeslots though.  Someone who also has a baby and is understanding of how long it may take to get out of the house.  Great it if it someone that you can walk to meet.
  9. But on that, have a bag ready by the door with all the things needed for an outing with a baby and just leave, when you want to.  No “what if he needs to feed”.  Just go.
  10. Give yourself time to be not-so-perfect.  Take one day at a time and do little things that please you.
  11. Taxis do fit car seats.  It just takes you one extra minute to fit them in than it would in Melbourne.
  12. And yes the baby gets hot in a carrier. But that does not mean you cannot go out, just do short walks at a time.
  13. It is also perfectly acceptable, if you like it, do do nothing for days, except just enjoy your baby at home.
  14. Dinner is often more enjoyable if the appetizer is given, then baby is fed, then the meal is had.  Otherwise you may spend the whole dinner trying to settle a half hungry, half tired baby.
  15. The baby needs very little stimulation from classes and hangouts.  It just really needs you.  So pick your activities based on what you enjoy doing. A happy parent usually makes a happy baby.

 

The truth is that sometimes you have to create the life you want to live.  Find ways to be balanced and happy as a person, mother, in your family.  Pregnancy, birth and the period after often throws unexpected challenges at us and it can be easy to not see simple solutions that will make life more enjoyable.  Latest research shows us that the infant years have very strong effects on our lives later on.  It is hugely important to be alerted and alarmed, equipped and supported so that postnatal depression will not develop, or if it does, to be able to seek help and assistance as easily as possible.

For some the strongest prevention is ordinary life, in a village, with kind people in it.  That village may have to be created by you.  But it is worth it.

Hulda Thorey – midwife

November 2016

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