My Story of A Late-Term Prenatal Checkup
Scene: It is is the peak of Hong Kong summer, through which I have (obviously) become larger and more noticeably pregnant every day. It is 40ºC and 95% humidity (seriously). The weather is torturous. My curly hair is enormous and unruly. I constantly sweat like a criminal on trial and need to shower at least twice a day. All I want to do is sit in a pool and drink margaritas for the foreseeable future, though it seems this is frowned upon during pregnancy. I don’t sit in a pool; instead, I go to my regular checkup at the public clinic.
Me: [feeling good about myself] I’m 2000 weeks pregnant, and I am still walking from my office to the clinic. You go, Mama! [staring jealously at every red taxi that passes me] I am smart and fit. [hoisting up the sagging, soggy waistband of my maternity shorts] I am a capable, healthy pregnant woman.
I arrive early for my appointment but still have to wait an eternity because they book ten people for each time slot. I’m not exaggerating. My hair is plastered to the back of my neck and I am certain my butt sweat is visible. Thank goodness this place has air conditioning.
By now I know the drill. I check in then go into the little room to get weighed and submit my urine sample. I step off the scale and the nurse writes down the number on a little piece of paper, handing it to me to share with the next nurse.
Nurse #1: You have urine sample?
Me: No, I forgot.
Nurse #1: You bring container?
Me: No, I forgot.
Nurse #1: We don’t give container.
Me: Yes. Yes, you do. I know you do. You give me a paper cup every time I come here because I refuse to bring my own empty vitamin bottle filled with pee.
Me: Maybe you have one I could use just this once?
Nurse #1: I’ll make exception. You bring your own next time.
The nurse walks over to a cupboard, grabs one of a thousand little paper cups that are stashed away, and hands it to me. It is clear she’s doing me a huge favour.
Me: Unbelievable! [calculating, once again, there is no chance she can possibly run out of those little cups before my next visit] There isn’t a hope in hell of me arriving here with some random yogurt container of pee sloshing around in my bag.
Me: Yes. Of course. Definitely.
I walk to the bathroom, wait for a free stall, pee in the cup, and walk back to the nurse’s room. How many people have tripped doing this? Maybe it would be wise to bring my own container with a lid. Ha! I hand the nurse my sample. She dips her litmus paper in, notes the colour and then passes everything back to me to dispose of. I trot back to the restroom. The trash is overflowing with a mix of every variety of small container imaginable. The sign on the mirror reminds me not to toss my urine into the sink. I obey.
I sit down and take my blood pressure at the special machine (‘for use by pregnant women only’ the sign reads – oh, the privilege of my condition!), then sit down in a plastic bucket chair in the busy, utilitarian waiting room.
Me: Surely these seats are designed for children. [looking around at the other people waiting] Actually, they are a generous dimension for the largest possible bum width of pregnant Asian women. [seeing white plastic on either side of every woman’s pregnant hips] I am humongous.
My butt spills over each side of the tiny seat. The waiting room is literally standing room only. It’s like a game of musical chairs. Names are called. Women pop out of seats and in to rooms and out of rooms and in to seats through various stages of their checkup. Nobody sits beside me.
I can’t relax because I’m scared I’ll miss hearing my name get called and be late for dinner. I decide I will walk home in the heat and get a popsicle for early dessert. It will be a treat for surviving this appointment and a reward for my walk here: my commitment to pregnancy fitness. Look at me, leading a healthy and balanced pregnant life! Eventually my thoughts shift from ice cream as I become mesmerized by the ‘informative’ video of a woman breastfeeding her baby. The same video has been on a loop during every visit.
Me: [staring at the woman’s huge dark nipples in the video] This is x-rated. [looking around, every other person waiting is mesmerized too] We have all seen this video at least four times today. Why can nobody look away? [looking at many of the patients are joined by their male partners, who 100% can’t look away] This is outrageous.
I finally look away and down at my feet. They are so swollen that my skin has bulged out between each strap of my sandals. If I take them off I’ll never get them back on; I made that mistake once at work. I raise my feet and press them against the back of the chair in front of me in an attempt to alleviate some of the swelling. I notice a sign on the back of the chair that says “do not put your feet here”. I shift my huge feet so they cover all the words.
Waiting Room Attendant: “Lady, no foot on chair.”
Me: FOR THE LOVE OF DIM SUM. This woman’s job all day long is literally to be a foot-on-chair police. [Waiting Room Attendant walks back to her post and scans the room for more feet on chairs] How is this real?
I put my feet down. Finally they call my name. It’s the only one in English so far, as is typical, so I’m not sure why I was worried. I sit down at the Nurse’s desk. She reviews my weight, blood pressure and urine results, then looks at my chart.
Nurse #2: “Ohhhhh Missy, you gain weight.”
Me: “Yes, I’m pregnant.”
Me: [perching on my seat uncomfortably] I am positive this chair is even smaller than the ones in the waiting room. [feeling awful] I literally gained $*&@! 0.1% more than is recommended in this most recent interval. Why is everyone so strict in Hong Kong? Can she round down?
Nurse #2: “Ahhhh, you eat so much sugar.”
Me: “No. Rarely. I don’t eat sugar.”
Me: [reviewing my last few days food intake] I MUST stop eating a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast every day. Just because I can’t drink wine does NOT mean I can always say yes to dessert. So much for that *$K@! ice cream on the way home.
I lie across the exam table and roll down the belly band of my damp maternity shorts to reveal my sweaty stomach.
Nurse #2: “Ohhhhhh, Missy! Your feet and leg so big!”
Me: Now we’re talking about my limbs? [the Nurse pokes my legs repeatedly] Am I a science experiment? Am I the largest person to ever have a baby in Hong Kong?
Me, “Yes, I know. I walked here. It’s very hot and humid outside. And I’m quite pregnant.”
Nurse #2: “Missy, your legs this big before pregnant?”
Me: “NO! My legs NOT this big before pregnant.”
Me: [gritting my teeth] 1. Why do I always respond to Canto-English with my own strange version? 2. I could kill this woman. 3. I look like I’ve been inflated with a bicycle pump and she thinks that’s my normal body? 4. Could we check on the BABY please?
The nurse finally shifts her attention away from my swollen legs and feet and squirts cold jelly on to my belly. It is the coolest I have felt all day. She smears the jelly around while checking the baby’s heartbeat. It’s blissful. I love this woman. I close my eyes and pretend I’m at a spa. The baby sounds healthy and is measuring right on target. Each number and measurement could not be more perfect.
Nurse #2: Missy, you come back one week.
ME: Yes, thank you. I make appointment one week.
Me: Why am I speaking like this?!
I schedule my next appointment, knowing I will not be seen even remotely close to that time. Knowing, again, I will ‘forget’ to bring a bottle of morning pee with me. I make a mental note to bring my Kindle and, for once, avoid that insane boob video. I step into the ancient elevator and I breathe in the stifling, still air as the mechanism rattles down to street level. I swing open the door and a wall of heat hits me. HOLY DING DING IT’S HOT. My poor Canadian born and bred body will never get used to this heat. I consider going back up to the waiting room just to sit on a tiny chair in the air conditioning. That is actually crazy. I step outside. Instantly, a sweat moustache beads up on my lip; I don’t bother to wipe it away. I walk home.
Me: [trudging past a half dozen 7-Eleven stores, all of which advertise ice cream on massive posters covering their front windows] That whole charade again in seven days? Of course. Absolutely. Whatever’s best for the baby. FML.
Yup, all that and still no baby. Not even close. Check back for the next part of the story when I actually go to the hospital to get this baby out. Spoiler alert: the weather gets hotter and I get grumpier.