When I became pregnant with my first child, I knew that I would go through many changes both physically and mentally.
But I never understood that the journey of becoming a mother would also instill in me a strong need to reconnect with my Asian roots.
When I was young, my best friend said it was like I had two different people living inside of me — the Canadian that I am, and the one growing up in a traditional Chinese family. Even my laugh was different, when speaking in Mandarin versus English.
When I started researching different prenatal classes, I found myself drifting more towards asking my Asian friends for their recommendations, rather than my non-Asian friends.
That led me to taking a class in Mandarin, a language that is not my mother tongue, because I thought it would make me feel better prepared to raise my child as a second-generation Asian Canadian. I also thought it would allow me to understand some of the cultures or assumptions from the older generation, such as my parents.
In the months leading up to the class, I caught myself becoming nervous and needing reassurance from my husband and friends while doubting whether to attend taking a class not taught in my native tongue.
In hindsight, my fears of not fitting in or understanding the class material were unfounded, as I am fairly fluent in speaking, reading, and writing Chinese.
After finishing the classes over two weekends and a total of 20 hours, I realized that the content was most likely similar to what would be taught in English. A few cultural concepts were mentioned though, such as “sitting in period.” This referred to the one month when new mothers would have someone cook traditional Chinese herbal foods for them.
Most of the parents-to-be in the class were likely new to Canada as well — judging by how I was the only one to speak Chinese in a North American accent — with some of the material tailored to helping them become accustomed to the medical care system in Canada.
Now that my baby is here, I realize that nothing can really prepare you for motherhood and this major life transition — the prenatal class is just the start, whether in English or Mandarin.
As for reconnecting with my heritage now that the baby is here, it’s about finding resources in both languages and come up with my own parenting methods with a happy medium of Western and Asian cultures … but that’s a story for another day.
Help us uplift Asian diaspora voices
Support Cold Tea Collective with a monthly contribution to help ensure stories for and by the next generation of the Asian diaspora are here to stay.