Raising Kids in Thailand Part 3
About four days after the caesarian, one of the staff offered to get my husband a wheelchair so he could take me to see my younger son. I thought if it was so easy, why was this the first time anyone had ever suggested it?! I had just started trying to breastfeed my older son, and I tried with my younger but wasn’t very successful. I thought, that’s ok – I’ll keep trying until we both get the hang of it.
A few of my husband’s relatives came to visit me. Little did I know that their visits brought a taste of things to come. One great-aunt asked me whether I was breastfeeding or not (this became one of the first questions anyone – and I mean everyone – would ask me over the next few months). I replied in the affirmative. She asked me if I had enough milk for two babies. I replied that it would seem so. She said, “Well, you know how to improve production, don’t you?” and the little old lady stepped towards me and started putting her hands on my breasts trying to demonstrate how to express milk. I was in shock and wanted to scream at her to remove her hands, but she was oblivious and I knew that anything I said could reflect badly on my husband so I kept my mouth shut.
My husband’s grandmother came to visit and asked me, “Now you didn’t drink any water for the first two or three days after the operation, did you? So-and-so did that and her wound rotted from the inside and she died, you know!”
This time, I couldn’t stop myself and said, “Yes, I did drink quite a bit and I’m still not dead yet – yung mai dtay ka!”
Her eyes boggled a bit, and then she decided she mustn’t have heard me right and changed the subject.
On the fifth day, the doctor came back to visit. He said that usually women were discharged on the fifth day, but as I hadn’t been with both babies at once or tried breastfeeding them simultaneously, I might like to think about staying another two nights with both babies in my room. I wanted to go home, but I knew that would be the best for me and my sons and said so to my husband and mother-in-law. My mother-in-law was unhappy and complaining to my husband about the cost of me staying the extra nights. It had nothing to do with her! I didn’t know that she and my father-in-law had another motive for getting me home quickly – they had a party planned. Before I knew what was happening (again), I was being bundled from a wheelchair into a taxi with my mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and two tiny premature babies. My husband was back at work.
We got my sons into the house and my mother-in-law put them on a mattress on the floor of the living room and rugged them up with woolen beanies and a thick cover over the top of them – we didn’t even have an air-conditioner. My mother-in-law has diabetes (among a long list of complaints) and thinks December in Thailand is freezing! I couldn’t even get down on the floor to attend to them, so I had my first look around the house I had left a week earlier. My mother-in-law had been staying with my husband – and it was an absolute dump! What had happened?! There were dirty dishes and utensils on the floor, clothes draped over every surface, and you could see your footprints in the thick layer of dust all over the floor. The babies were asleep, so I thought I should probably try to rest. I went into the bedroom and lay down, and my mother-in-law came in and started dialing someone on the phone which was in our room. She called some relative (maybe my father-in-law?) and was giving them a blow-by-blow account of the hospital bill and complaining bitterly about how expensive it was! What the?!! I couldn’t understand why she was harping on about it. We were paying – not her! It was none of her business!
I thought, right – I can’t just lie there feeling sorry for myself. I got up and shifted the boys onto my bed and took their beanies off and covered them with a light sheet (they had clothes on, too). MIL started protesting, but I parried her protests and she went out for awhile. When my husband came home, his uncle and aunty came too! My house was a mess, I was trying to get the hang of breastfeeding, and I hardly knew his uncle and aunty. I took him aside quietly and said, “Now is not the best time, you know?
He said, “I know, but this is Thailand and I can’t say no to them.”
I said, “They haven’t even considered if this is a good time or not, and in our country when a woman gives birth the relatives bring a plate of food or wash the dishes or do something other than gawking!”
We had to entertain them for the next half hour during which his uncle commented admiringly on how my usually-never-on-show breasts which were now partly exposed were “as white as the pith of a banana tree trunk”. I had lost count of how many people I wanted to murder by then.
Another family came after that (only females this time – small mercies), MIL came back, and then we could lock the door. It was the first night my younger son had been properly breastfed by me and he screamed all night. Stomachache? Colic? I had no idea. My husband was exhausted and asleep. I was exhausted and sat on the edge of the bed and cried.
The next morning, MIL hit me for six. She said her husband had been planning a party for the seventh day after the birth and 200 people were invited to her house (two hours’ drive from my husband’s house) the next day. She told me to get ready because her husband would come to pick us up soon. My husband was going to work and wouldn’t be going with us. I saw red at how utterly ridiculous the whole situation was – were they stark, raving mad?! Had they taken leave of their senses?! I said I was sorry, but that I was just not ready to go at this stage. I hadn’t slept all night and my younger son was still unsettled. And on top of it, I was still in pain. I tried to reach a compromise – you go today and I will try my best to get in a taxi and go tomorrow. She started crying and saying how unfair I was being – everything was all planned already!
My husband was shocked to see her cry. He said, “I know you don’t want to do this, but can you do it for my sake and peace between my parents and us? I’m exhausted too, and I’m not ready to have a big fight with them over this.”
What could I say? How could I fight?
So I agreed on the condition that I could have my first proper shower since giving birth. Then at least I could try to go in a proper state of mind. My FIL arrived while I was in the shower and asked what I was doing – we had to go now!!! He had preparations to make! He was in a bad mood because I was making him late and he was worried he would get stuck in traffic. With one son on my lap in the back of his dual cab, and MIL with my other son on her lap in the front of the dual cab, we started off. The ride was agonizing. Sitting cramped in the back with my stomach tearing each time we went over a speed bump – I wanted to die. FIL asked MIL what the hell was wrong with me – “Mun ben arai wa?” She answered how the hell would she know – “Ja bai roo reu?” Who were these people I had thought I knew…
This story brilliantly demonstrates the huge differences between Thais and Westerners!