mercoledì, ottobre 17, 2012

International baby making

The baby's head is now descended. The midwife reckoned that's just normal, and that it's still not likely to come out until sometime in November, but my colleagues in Shanghai are sure that means it'll pop out any time now. I do get the impression from research of east Asian maternity practices, though, that they're generally in a bit of a rush there. In traditional Chinese medicine, 36 weeks is considered full term, versus 37 weeks here; in Taiwan, episiotomies are the norm (basically the only way you get away without one is if you push the baby out before the doctor can find a scalpel); and my colleagues, most of whom have had their one babies (many of them in this auspicious Year of the Dragon), seem to have got induced much more often than mummy friends here.

Induction talk is interesting talk to me - my blood pressure is good and steady at a decent level but it's pretty likely I won't be allowed to keep Ren inside much past our due date because of it. Sounds like a bit of a kick in the bum. Of course, the whole thing sounds like a bit of a kick in the bum. Last night I read some of The Birthing Partner, which is meant for the F-word of course, and it was rather - frank.  I suppose to prepare the menfolk for what they're about to see. It doesn't look like on TV. We have a friend of a friend here whose woman just had a baby, and the other week we bumped into his mum; she described how he spent most of the 24-hour labour and subsequent c-section sobbing in the corner. Even she was scornful. I reckon the F-word is more resilient than that, but who knows. I really hope he is. I'm not sure how you summon up the healthy amount of loving respect for a man who spends your difficult delivery sniveling in the corner like a 5-year-old who's not getting a pony for Christmas.

Nonetheless, after another incredibly hot day here yesterday, no matter how gruesome delivery looks, I have to say I'm looking forward to it. Looking forward to meeting the baby, looking forward to beginning to drop weight instead of continuously packing it on under a hot Australian sun, and looking forward to not being pregnant anymore. The second trimester was a lark; this one is for some other kind of bird.

In the meantime, I'm trying to cobble together my assignments for the Chinese politics course, and working on one at the moment about social security there. It's pretty interesting, both on paper and in practice. On paper it's lovely, and for many people no doubt it is lovely, but in practice it gives a total miss to the informal sector and suffers badly in that much of Chinese society is still not contract-driven. Maternity leave there looks rather better than it does here, and if you work at a big company you'll even get what you're due. If not . . . well. Not. It's interesting.

Pensions, too. All over Asian developed countries they're hitting a wall in terms of elder care as the birth rate shrinks but in China that wall is already hit. With the one-child policy 34 years old now and a low birth rate before that, we're getting into the generation of professionals who are taking care of themselves, their kid, two parents and potentially a bunch of grandparents - exacerbated by the older generations having got uprooted by the Cultural Revolution or the suddent death of the iron rice bowl in the 80s or agricultural land expropriation for industry.

And yet, especially since the US and EU economies made a nosedive into the toilet, the economic plan in China is to stimulate domestic spending to keep manufacturing high and unemployment low. It's hard to think of a place with a greater need for a good pension system. They will have hard work to do to provide it. No doubt they'll manage something eventually. It must be awfully handy that all the money insitutions are government owned and controlled.

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