To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Especially white people. When I was up on a ladder moving basketball nets off the courts, a volleyball dude called up to me, “Okay, Autumn, we’re friends so I can ask – are you pregnant or are you just getting fat? Because maybe you should take it easy if you’re pregnant.”

“You’re wrong. We are not friends,” I informed him. “Also, I’m pregnant AND fat – at least according to my father-in-law. But I’m still gonna block your ass. Now catch these screws, I’m coming down.”

Yes, I was up on a ladder a few times a week while seven months pregnant. Because I was impatient and no one else was moving the damned nets.

When Andy and I hosted a BBQ, combining both of our visiting families, I dragged around tables and carted chairs. My ExStepmother nervously asked if I should be carrying so much stuff. I rolled my eyes and told her I was fine. “Besides,” I added, “Andy’s busy cooking and who else will make sure my in-laws are happy with their seating arrangements?”

My Chinese-American in-laws, of course, never once offered to help or expressed concern that I was doing too much physical activity. Perhaps their mindset was firmly rooted in the old school “daughter-in-law is one step up from a servant.” Or perhaps they enjoyed being waited on too much to complain.

When Andy and I went to Utah for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I ignored the altitude and walked around the local track. On one drive home, Andy got pulled over for doing 90 miles an hour. Then our dog Woofie wanted to “play” with the Utah State Trooper, which resulted in Mr. Trooper grabbing his holster. We had a few tense moments while Boyfriend-Stealing-Baby Sister wrestled Woofie all the way back into the car as I explained to the officer that a) my husband was an idiot who should know better than to speed with a pregnant wife, and b) my dog was also idiot but really harmless and mostly a goofy Labrador even though, yes, he certainly looked terrifying with that big, almost black head.

We escaped with our dog intact and a regular speeding ticket. Andy was grumpy and depressed. I took the wheel at the next stop.

We hit standstill traffic between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Repeatedly. It took us 9 more hours to get home. Stuck behind the wheel, I was ready to kill.

Thankfully, Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister was used to road trips and studying to be a music teacher. She insisted we sing songs and came up with all kinds of games. No one was killed. We even laughed.

When I finally collapsed on the couch at home and looked down at my ankles, I was horrified. I’d had always had long, slender legs. I’d been nicknamed everything from “Legs” to “Pretty Legs” since I was 15. And now? My legs were so swollen I no longer had legs. I had tree trunks.

“Honey!” I wailed. “Oh, my God. Look!” 

Andy took one look and recoiled. “What happened?!”

“This is what I get for driving. I sat too long in one position and the blood pooled. Shit.” I swung my tree trunks legs around and put them up the wall. “I have absolutely no definition between knees, calves, and ankles. I’m like one of those massive linemen that John Madden used to point out – I have ‘cankles’!”

Andy and I laughed. I called my Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister.

She didn’t laugh. “You utter idiot! How could you have been so stupid. You’re lucky you didn’t get a clot! Why didn’t you change places?”

“Uh, I dunno, we were in the middle of the Interstate?!”

“Why didn’t you pull over?!”

“There was nowhere to go. It would have taken an hour to inch to the side of the road and an hour to get back on the road.”

“Never do that again, you fool. Don’t you remember why you can’t fly after 7 months? It’s because you can’t move on a goddamned plane. When you’re pregnant, your blood is more likely to clot so you don’t hemorrhage during delivery. So you’re already at risk for deep vein thrombosis, where blot clots in your legs or pelvis, and it can turn into a pulmonary embolism and kill you. And you sat in a car for eleven hours? You might as well have flown to fucking Finland already! I can’t even with you. Stop thinking you can do everything you used to do. You’ll kill yourself and the baby.”

In a very small voice I said, “Okay. Got it.”

That week, I sent someone else up the ladder at volleyball. 

The week after that, I put my gym membership on hold. 

I still walked the dogs, but either with Andy or one at a time. That way I was less likely to trip and get dragged

Like I said, we aren’t good at coddling in my family.

But we’re really good at kicking each other’s asses.

Even if it’s to say, “You should fucking coddle yourself.” 

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

18 thoughts on “To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)”

  1. It’s funny but I can relate to this. I didn’t have a large family. Both my brothers are so much older that they were out of the house when I was very young. My dad also died when I was young so it was my mother and me. I didn’t have to fight for food but I had to learn how to wallpaper and paint ceilings. We didn’t have a lot of money for things like repairmen or contractors. We moved the ginormous doghouse and did a lot of things that girls my age didn’t do. (Their parents were more concerned about their baby making equipment!) I both learned a lot and never pampered myself. When I retired, I learned how to play the “old card” to get out of things. I’m enjoying that although I still do all the painting and papering. Some habits die hard.

      1. We each have our specialties. He rarely helps me with painting and papering but if for some reason he does, I am the boss. On the other hand if he is replacing a toilet, I am the helper. Somehow this works for us. The only conflict is when we both think we are “the expert.”

  2. To coddle or not coddle myself? In oldish age this annoying question rears up all over again. I detest it but you remind me that at this stage of life also, it’s not all about me. Like Kate I must learn to play the old card, if only to myself.

    1. It’s a tough call. At what point is self-care laziness? When does prudence turn into timidity and a life not lived? I don’t know the answers.

      Probably at least one sister does, though.

      1. A friend told me I was VERY selfish after a little walk in the bush and a big swing and gently letting myself down into a barbery bush. Thought about it. (We must listen!) Disagreed. What luck though: I have five wise sisters and there’s always one with the right advice.

  3. I used to work temporarily in a physically demanding industry (carrying heavy stuffs up and down the stairs) – 2 female colleagues had miscarriages and 1 female colleague was bed bounded throughout her entire pregnancy. One colleague with miscarriage had a very terrible personality. She was very jealous of others, always comparing salaries and resorted to inappropriate and often times mean tactics to get promotion. However, not only she didn’t get promoted but instead lost her baby. It’s my first time encountering a SHE-MONSTER. By the way, I’m very glad that Grab or Uber is available these days. I hesitated a lot when my pregnant friends requested me drive. Don’t want to give their husbands the opportunity to put the blame on me in case anything went wrong.

    1. It seems a little crazy that a husband would blame you for an accident that resulted in a miscarriage if his wife wanted you to drive. She asked you, it’s on her. What am I missing here?

      This week in the U.S., a female driver was stabbed and killed by her passenger. She was in her third trimester.

      A lot of men are a lot of awful.

      1. Ah… Let me tell you a famous Cantonese joke. We call out on people unwilling to own their mistake, “Is your surname Lai?” “Lai” in Cantonese means blaming others. It’s a very common reaction in all myriads of society. If everyone owns their mistake, the world will truly be a better place, even a utopia. Unfortunately, there are way too many psychos in the US. A study conducted wrote that there are more psychopaths in the US than any other parts of the world combined. If gun was legalized in my country, I can assure you that SHE-MONSTER would have pointed it to the temples of the HR-Manager or the Head of Department.

        1. We have a lot of angry, entitled, alienated white men, that’s for sure. And 60% of them would vote for Trump again, preferring to burn down their house than relinquish the smallest privilege.

          Which is why we need better gun laws.

          Ah, that is a fascinating tidbit about “Lai.” I should use it on my in-laws next time they nearly burn down the house and blame the electric tea kettle.

  4. Eleven hours in a car? Sounds terrible, even when you’re not pregnant. Singing always helps, though.

    When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I climbed on ladders to varnish the cabinets in the new house we were building. The fumes couldn’t have been good for her. When I was pregnant with my second, I rented a rototiller and attempted to till the vacant lot next door to plant a garden. I’m not good with machines (especially noisy, heavy machines), so I was glad when my Dad scolded me and did it himself. (We had veggies coming out our ears that year.) I’ve never been particularly strong or athletic, but I figured pregnancy didn’t slow me down much until the 8th month. That’s when my feet swelled up so much in a movie theater that I had a hard time putting my shoes back on.

    1. Oh, shoes. Shoes are a whole other issue when you’re pregnant. And sometimes the bane of one’s existence.

      Yeah, just sitting in a movie is enough to make you swell. Now they have these great recliners in theaters. People complain that it’s excessive and Americans are so lazy, but how awesome for the pregnant person!

  5. WOW!! This is a really frightening story!!! I had no idea that you couldn’t sit for long intervals when 7 month pregnant…!!! I’m so glad nothing happened to you–eesh, I would also cower if my doctor sister said that to me as well.

    Ladders + pregnancy also sound like a bad combo. I’m glad the car lesson encouraged you to kick back a little and put others to work. That’s probably one perk of pregnancy, right? You can guilt people into doing more stuff for you? 😉

  6. Autumn, I’m more and more convinced that your in-laws are not Chinese at all!! In China, pregnant women are the absolute queens of the household (or rare giant pandas as one friend used to call me) and they are pampered and told not to do strenuous activities (well, in the cities, at least. I guess many pregnant farmers have to keep working anyway). Heck, at first I was even told not to walk my dog…

    1. Right? That’s what I thought might happen. Ha, silly me. Maybe because I am a tough and strapping white woman? They didn’t even tell me not to drink anything cold.

      I wonder if it’s because Sunny got pregnant right when they were starting their new life in the U.S. Alone. With no relatives. There was no time for her to take it easy.

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