The waiting room is so crowded I can hardly find a seat. The room is filled with pregnant women, one or two with a mum or husband in tow. In "good" years, local friends have told me to expect to wait more than an hour after your appointed time, and today's obviously one of those (doesn't happen every single time, but most). That's something, because this is usually-superfast-moving HK. In fact, no one takes more than 10 or 15 minutes with the doctor, so it's not like anyone's hogging.
I feel like I'm on an assembly line. Waddle in, waddle out. (Ok, I don't waddle yet, but still...) I also notice I'm the only one in (albeit low) heels - my Marc Jacobs find no comradeship among the flat-heeled knee or ankle-high Tory Burches, Uggs, Gucci..... And it's been cold, like 11-13 degrees Celsius, so most of us are in poncho-style knits (I'm wearing my new favorite from Eden Park, bought by Kings when he walked by a store on the way to work one day). I'm the only one in old maternity jeans though - everyone else in in tights or jeggings tucked into their boots. A girlfriend already commented they're "ugly" and recommended tights + dress, but I don't feel warm enough with tights.
Register (which btw is to make eye contact and wave at the elderly nurse at reception because she recognizes everyone) and get weighed and your blood pressure checked, then back outside where the portable air cleaner has a place of honor and rumbles reassuringly. Two more husbands come in, obviously having snuck off work. One obviously has a cold and I put on one of those paper face masks. After all the flu scares in HK, you don't feel weird wearing a face mask on the streets or in crowded, noticeably local places.
It's one of the "little" things I like about HK. You're sick, you wear a mask. You're worried someone else makes you sick, you wear a mask. In contrast, I've had Malaysian aunties say, "So embarrassing to wear mask. People look at you and wonder what's so wrong with you." I always think people who are sick and bother to wear a mask (and at least some people in HK do) are being pretty considerate - it's something I thought was quite interesting, given people outside HK in say, Singapore or Malaysia have said to me before how they find HK so dog-eat-dog.
Come to think of it I noted with satisfaction that even Rockstar's snuffly classmates put on face masks in class on occasion, and they're like, four. And it's part of standard school run to take your child's temperature every day before sending him off to school (though I hate doing it, lazy as I am - still, I guess it's to deter some of the helpers in particular from taking the easy way out and still farming a feverish child off on the school for a few hours and yes, helpers really have admitted to doing it - the school calls you to take your sick child home, btw. I'll never complain about it, cos I figure if they're tough with me, they're tough with someone else who might make my child sick too, and anyway I'd rather get called for umpteen false alarms than kick up a fuss and encourage any school to not call me and then God forbid something's up.)
Btw while I'm typing this sitting in a cafe, I just watched another woman in a nice haircut and fur-collared coat walk by - wearing a face mask. After my last bout of cough/cold with no recourse to medication (seriously-trying-not-to-take-anything!! If I could do that last pregnancy despite the long working hours, how can I not when I'm not working?) for which I'm almost resigned to a residual cough being around for the rest of my pregnancy, I don't care how dorky I look. I had a Taiwanese girlfriend living here who wore a mask every time she stepped out on the crowded streets.
There are times to build up resistance to the microbes in your city, and there are times to wimp out. When your resistance is low and you are determined not to take any drugs sounds like a good time. I'm probably never gonna see these people who think I'm dorky again. But if I get sick I'm gonna be feeling like crap for a lot more days and nights than the 2-minute opinion of someone I'm never gonna meet again.
So I AM DORK. HEAR ME ROAR.
After being tested for pregnancy diabetes (not too surprising, I don't have any - milk and juice make me sick and while I've never had that much of a sweet tooth, I currently loathe cakes and sweets), I inform the nurse of my hospital room choice. Her response is not reassuring, "We've just got to see what's available when the time comes, we already mentioned your preference for a single room." "But..." I struggle in broken Cantonese + English. (They all understand English, including at the hospital, just everyone very obviously prefers Cantonese). Some in the room perk up interestedly - a couple women are still in their first trimester. "There are 3 kinds of single rooms, the standard, the deluxe (extra HKD 2,000 a night), and whatever-the-next-is for extra HKD 4,200 a night). The hospital said to indicate which..." "Okok later can? You paid already right? They will at least try to keep something."
(We had to make a HKD 20,000 deposit during the recent Xmas hols to secure a room, we happened to drop by 7pm one Friday night to do it and after a quick phone call, they said there was a nurse free on the baby ward to show us around, what with the new renovations. It's one of the popular private hospitals among local Hongkies, and I can understand why - the staff are extremely efficient and helpful (not that we have a choice - this is just where our gynea goes) when not horribly overworked. I compared notes during Rockstar's Golden Pig year with local colleagues whose babies were born a year or two earlier and realized there'd been like, 5 or 8 times more babies when we were there - "they were probably going out of their mind!" my colleague snorted. In fact, she had happily extended her hospital stay to a whopping 10 days because she was getting lotsa "free" breastfeeding and baby care lessons from the nurses and just enjoyed her stay so much. She almost cried when she had to leave. In our case, Kings almost cried until we could "finally" leave haha.)
Sniffly dad-to-be coughs, rubs his runny nose with his hands (no tissue), and some of the other women flinch. I'm mildly annoyed too - at least put on a mask if you just have to be here, you're sitting in a crowded little waiting room with a bunch of pregnant women (all local Hongkie this round btw, from their conversations), many of whom I'm sure are also trying their darnedest to avoid taking any medication. Another woman takes a spray bottle of sanitizer out and cleans her own hands. Come to think of it, whose sniffly husband is this? I suppose his wife doesn't really want to claim ownership right now - I only discover who he's come with (she was quietly reading a book in a corner and not looking at or talking to him) when it's their turn to go in.
"So where do we go to book our room?" sniffly dad asks the nurse when they come out. I can't hear the reply, presumably something about going to pay the deposit after the blood test around the end of your first trimester.
Just before I leave, when the room is almost empty, the nurse volunteers, "In your final month, remind me to call the ward and check if we can get your room of choice," and I thank her.
We've "sold" Rockstar on an "adventurous" hospital stay (after checking with the nurse at the ward that we can bring him in provided we keep him quiet and out of sight most of the time) whereby he gets to see what the whole baby business is all about. He will be following Kings around on all the errands while I'm bedridden. For that experience alone, there's a good chance he'll be on his best behavior, but the less he gets in anyone else's way when it's crowded in the hospital next year, the better. It's so crowded we're worried we'll get kicked out... That was why we were a little fussed about the room...
And I still don't know if I'm carrying a boy or a girl. Gynea wanted to wait a few more weeks to be sure so we didn't even do an ultrasound this time round. But I don't think the baby has wings...