I’ve only been in this parenting game for less than six weeks and, already, I have a new understanding and appreciation of so many things in my life. Tonight, I was trying to sneak in an 8pm nap while my dear husband was faithfully bouncing my “witching hour” baby up and down on a yoga ball when I had a sudden inspiration to write about my parents and my expanding appreciation of their sacrifices for me. You see, my parents and I didn’t really having intimate conversations until these past few years, and I can already tell that our relationship will continue to change—hopefully for the better–as they see me raise my daughter. Whenever they come over to visit me, I ask them for more stories on what I was like when I was a baby and what they did as young parents.
The other day, my father told me about the conditions of hospitals in post-war Vietnam: unsanitary, crowded, and a dangerous place to deliver your babies. Communist rule had it so that hospitals (as were most other public services) were underfunded and overrun. He claimed that many of the hospital doctors were young, inexperienced yet put in positions where they were unsupervised and responsible for people’s lives. Fearful that they would be under the care of one of these intern doctors, my parents rounded up a substantial amount of money and gifts to offer to a senior doctor at the hospital to guarantee that he would care for my mother when she went into labor—apparently this was common practice in the 1980s in Vietnam. They would ask for the address of the senior doctor, knock on his door and convince him to take in the mother and baby as his patients. Once at the hospital, families would also pay the nurses to ensure that they were getting the best care as well as the security guards if you wanted to access the hospital room after hours. My mother had me via c-section and I was a healthy baby. My mother was able to breastfeed thankfully, as formula was unaffordable to common people. and babies were often fed nearly-expired cow’s milk if the mother was not producing sufficient milk.
This is only one of the stories that he has told me about my birth so far, and I expect that many more stories will spill as time goes on.
I moved to America when I was three and I had a very typical first-general Chinese-Vietnamese-American childhood. I did a lot of homework, I stayed indoors mostly, and I was used to not having my parents home because they worked restaurant hours. I used to resent my parents for not giving me the idyllic childhood that I wanted. I never attended dance lessons, never learned how to swim until I was an adult, was not allowed to sleep over at my friends’ houses, and did not have the sort of relationship with my parents where I could go to them with my life questions and be listened to. Even though I would’ve greatly benefitted from a more secure and emotional attachment to my parents, I—now having been responsible for a human being for six weeks—have the new understanding that the fact that I was kept safe, warm, and fed from birth to adulthood is a miraculous feat! Sure, my parents were not affectionate and were distant. However they never resorted to physical discipline, never neglected us and instilled in me strong morals and work ethic. Considering that my parents came from a war torn impoverished country, had little education, and were immigrants to this country, what they provided me was way more than I could ever ask for.
The beautiful thing that comes with the way my parents raised me is that I have a bigger and better idea of what parenting can be & that I have the ability to provide a different experience for my daughter.
The pains of pregnancy and labor, the nighttime feedings, the loss of sleep (and some sanity), the financial investment, the loss of freedom that was once enjoyed…all of these are the physical and emotional sacrifices to raise a child. This is only the beginning of this adventure for me.
No parent is perfect. No parent can EVER be perfect. I guess we all do the best we can considering what we have and what we know.