15 April 2018

That Time I Won a Kitchen Appliance

This past weekend, for the second year running, Angel and I were asked to lead a group of teams to participate in an annual "Mall Hunt" which is run as a big fundraiser on behalf of a local hospice care organization.

Our first year, we brought 5 teams to the event, and all placed somewhere in the top 10 when awards were announced after the hunt. This year, because of all the tales of the fun we had last year, we ended up with 8 teams of two signing up for the event (which meant that this year it was the two of us adults in charge of 14 teenagers...running around a mall...while 200+ other people are doing the same thing...oh, and normal customers are simply trying to enjoy a Saturday at the mall).

Read on to see what happened this year!

This "Mall Hunt" primarily involves finding the answers to a bunch of cryptic clues while wandering the mall. Answers are always the names of stores in the mall--but you should not underestimate the mysterious reasoning that goes into the cryptic clues that we're given.

For example, in this year's hunt, these were a few of the clues and answers:

Clue: A Greeting with No Directions

Answer: SHINS <--This is the name of a store at the mall. I figured this one out because S, N, and S can all denote directions (South and North), and if you remove those letters, what's left is "Hi," a greeting.

Clue: You can mix a single gin here.

Answer: Smiggle. <-- The name of another store. If you mix up the letters in "single gin", it can become Smiggle, that is, if you assume that you can glue 2 n's together and turn them into an M.

I told you that these clues require a lot of mental leaps!

Clue: If you add whiskey, this turns into traveling salespeople.

Answer: Hakers <--The name of a store. If I assume that Whiskey is a reference to W in the Alpha, Bravo, Charley alphabet, and I add a W into Hakers, I can turn it into Hawkers, who are traveling salespeople.

Clue: It makes a late singer

Answer: Levis <-- If you rearrange the letters, they can turn into Elvis, who is a late singer.

Does your brain hurt yet??

The startling fact is that I am very good at figuring out these bizarre clues while wandering the mall and staring at the names of various shops. Our group, like many of the other larger groups that attend this event, takes a teamwork approach to the challenge--allowing people like me to figure out the cryptic clues and share answers with the rest of the group, while others worked on other parts of the challenge, which involve buying very specific products and identifying logos around the mall.

But our teamwork must be a little bit above average. There were 131 teams of two participating in the event this year, 8 teams of which were in our group. All 8 of our teams of two placed in the top 30, with one of our teams taking home FIRST place (the prize was 2 49" TVs!). My team placed 7th...and that's how I ended up winning a kitchen appliance!

Our 7th place prize was: a vacuum, an air fryer, and two pairs of knock-off crocs (everybody won crocs--and everybody won crocs last year, too. It's a tradition. We all wear them afterwards and call them our "Winner Crocs").

I asked my partner which appliance he'd rather have, and he picked the vacuum.

And that's how I won an air fryer.

Admittedly, I wasn't entirely sure what an air fryer was when I won it. Based on my research, it seems to be a cross between a deep fryer and a very fast oven.

I own very few kitchen appliances (no oven, no microwave, no mixer, no coffee maker, etc) so it's pretty funny that an air fryer is the latest appliance to be added to my minimalist kitchen, but we're excited to figure out how to use it to expand our dinner options.

Last night was our first night experimenting and we made roasted zucchini slices, potato slices, and lemon pepper chicken breasts. All of it was tasty. Do you have any recommendations on air fryer recipes? I heard you can bake potatoes in it which I'm really excited about because this oven-less girl loves baked potatoes.


So that was my weekend. We were gone for the hunt from 8 in the morning till 5 in the evening, and where was Cyrus this whole time? Chillin' with his grandma. That's by far the longest we've ever been apart and it was very weird. Apparently, though, he behaved himself very well. We start excessively young--when we pick him up, we don't ask "Did you have fun?" but rather, "How did you behave for Grandma?" Six-week-olds must learn that they have responsibilities, too. ;)

What's the coolest thing you've ever won? This is somewhere up there for me, although when I was a kid, I won a $200 gift card to Toys'R'Us from a calendar art competition and that was pretty epic for an 11-year-old.
03 April 2018

Life Lately: April 2018

+ The most exciting news for myself was that I majorly changed up my hairstyle:

It was a family project, as usual. I talked Mom through the haircut and Angel through bleaching my hair and applying the blue haircolor. I'd been planning on cutting off all my hair as soon as the baby was born for quite some time now, and the color change is fun!

+ I also got a new dress. For 30 RM ($8)! I haven't really shopped for clothes, other than the 4 tunics I bought to wear during pregnancy, since last May. Last May, I bought new clothes while I was in the USA and then promptly was pregnant. I can now wear those clothes after quite the long break...but the problem is that I have a long-standing preference for dresses, woven materials rather than stretchy materials, high necklines, and not wearing layers. None of these preferences are terribly ideal for feeding baby. I have yet to figure out what to do about this, but this wrap dress is one foray into an attempt on compromising my fashion preferences with baby's fashion preferences.

+ We celebrated Easter with the family.

+ This year, Easter and my Dad's 50th birthday coincided, so on Easter Sunday we had a small party with longtime friends and neighbors to celebrate. There were a couple big surprises we'd lined up for his birthday--one being a book full of birthday messages that I'd decided to compile. Because contacting everyone Dad knows and scrapbooking a book full of birthday messages and photos and facts about the year 1968 is exactly the sort of project you should take on during the month you have a baby. I feel like I could have gotten more people involved if I hadn't been quite so sick or so distracted with my miniature person, but I ended up getting 35+ people involved in the project and the book contains a nice variety of birthday messages, stories about the hijinks he got up to in the past, old photos, drawings, and a copy of his AARP card, so that's all good. I think he was pretty shocked by the book! But he was especially surprised by the party entertainment we'd prepared--which consisted of about 75 photos of his childhood and teen years, collected by my grandpa, who, when he heard about my plans for Dad's birthday surprise, went through all of his old slides and used the very practical method of photographing them while they were being projected so that we'd have pictures of Dad throughout his life to share at the party.

(In case anyone's ever wondered why I'm ridiculously skinny...I come by it honestly.)

+ Also, at the party, we were talking about how all the party guests should line up in order of who had known Dad the longest. Of people at the party, Mom obviously had known Dad the longest, somewhere around 30 years, but I was runner-up, and for the most recently introduced, the winner was one party guest who had never met us before but came along with friends to the party, followed by Cyrus, who has only known his grandpa for a month. I think this should totally become a party game at milestone birthday parties!

+ Season 2 of A Series of Unfortunate Events is now out, and I've only seen two episodes so far, but it does not disappoint. The Baudelaires pretty much defined my childhood the way Harry Potter defined many people's childhoods, so my excitement for seeing the stories acted out cannot be underestimated. I love those books so much. "All nights are dark days, simply because night is simply a badly-lit version of day."

+ Cyrus's funniest toy that was given to him is a giant Minnie Mouse. Someday he'll be as big as Minnie Mouse, but not today. I've pretty much decided that this is the toy that ought to become his best friend, am I right?

+ I was laughing so hard at Cyrus's non-photogenic facial expressions while taking these photos of him and Angel that I could hardly keep the camera still. He wore pants in honor of Easter Sunday. It just didn't feel right to take him to church with no pants on. Grandma tried to buy him a pair of dress pants, but the smallest pair she could find weren't small enough to fit yet. So he wore the only pair of pants he has that fit: sweatpants. What my family always says about sweatpants is: "Sweatpants tell the world: I don't care." 
So I guess that was Cyrus's mood on Easter Sunday, if it weren't obvious from his face.

+ Other times, he's a bit more camera-friendly. I think in the next week or two we'll start moving from newborn to 0-3 month size clothing. Which I'm not too sad about. Everyone says they don't hardly need newborn clothing and they grow out of it so fast, so I believed them, but he's five weeks old tomorrow and his entire newborn wardrobe consists of 12 onesies and one pair of pants (Entire newborn wardrobe supplied by Angi C., my sisters Anna and Rebekah, and Angel's mom). Given that he wears at least three onesies a day, I'm about ready for a couple new looks at this point. When do babies normally grow out of newborn clothing? By the way everyone talked, I definitely thought it wasn't a whole 5 or 6 weeks first. We haven't actually bought this boy any clothing ourselves yet, other than the onesie we used in our pregnancy announcement, which we bought before he existed, so I'm not sure that counts. Even that onesie is a six month size so it'll be a while before he wears it...
I always just figured I'll wait and see how big he is and what kind of clothes he ends up needing. The great thing is that there's no need for seasonal clothing here--summer baby, all year round!


Linking up with What's New With You?

How was your Easter? Have you been doing anything fun recently?
28 March 2018

Baby: One Month

And just like that, he's already looking less and less like a tiny wrinkly red newborn!

Likes: Hanging out on his belly, being carried in the Ergo, dancing with Angel, baths given by Grandma.

Dislikes: diaper changes, being hungry, baths given by Angel

In real life, he's almost constantly in motion, so this is what he looks like in real life, seen in a variety of videos from his first month:

Daily routines with Cyrus so far:

- We've intentionally started a bedtime routine--every evening, after he's fed and changed, Angel dances with him, usually first to some upbeat Spanish songs (La Chona and Ya Llego) followed by a couple of hymns sung by Fernando Ortega or some Rich Mullins music (i.e. Grace and Peace and Let Mercy Lead), afterwards getting swaddled and then rocked in my arms until he's asleep enough to go into his playpen. Some nights this process is faster than others. Sometimes he falls asleep pretty quickly, other nights it might be 45 minutes or so of rocking him and wandering around the house while he opens his eyes every other second to see if I'm still there. Once he falls asleep, he usually sleeps for about 4-5 hours the first time, wakes up to eat, and then wakes up sometime around 4-5 a.m.

- Angel went back to work after our first two weeks, and the jump to taking care of him on my own for long chunks of time took some courage! Now that he's at work, I make sure to fill my early mornings as efficiently as possible--usually after I feed Cyrus sometime between 4-5, I put him back down, or give him to sleepy Angel, and quickly eat breakfast, shower, start laundry and cut up veggies for dinner--whatever I can get done while Angel's still home is great, because when it's just me and Cyrus, I can't count on having two hands free at once for long periods of time. Once Angel and Cyrus wake up, sometime between 5 and 7, Angel gives him a bath and plays with him a bit, or reads to him from the Bible--lately, the book of Romans, because you might as well start with hardcore theology, am I right? Then I take baby while Angel gets ready for work, and we say goodbye before starting the day's adventures. I started putting him in the Ergo while I hang up laundry or do other chores a few days ago, and that's worked great, but I still can't do anything dangerous like cooking. Babies teach you to be energetic and efficient! He's pretty much awake most of the day, but given that he sleeps so well at night, I think it's totally great for him to be awake all day.

- He wants to eat all the time. In fact, our new slogan about Cyrus is: "He's always hungriest right after he eats." He's determined to be a chunky baby. Feeding hasn't come so easily for me, but it's pretty much his favorite thing to do. There is nothing exclusive about the way Cyrus eats. Formula, breastmilk, whatever, he eats it all--really trying hard to keep it to primarily breastfeeding with an extra bottle or two in the afternoon/evening when he has his "hunger rampages," as I call them. We only have two bottles, one for formula and one for the pump. I've noticed that only owning two bottles really helps keep you on top of washing and sterilizing bottles frequently. #minimalist

- We often go visit my parents in the evenings so that Grandma, Grandpa, and aunties can get their daily dose of Cyrus. I often strategically do this while Angel is out for his evening run so that there are a few extra pairs of arms to cuddle him with during that hour or so. Grandma often gives Cyrus his evening bath, this two-bath-a-day baby (necessity of living in a tropical climate!).

- We've just begun to take him out a bit more often for errands, etc., though I've tried to keep him home as much as possible during the first month to minimize germ exposure. We also asked for no visitors, which, simply given how rough I've felt this month, was a very, very good idea. Easter will be his official debut at church. He appears to be a baby who likes adventures--he likes his carseat as long as the car is moving (his feelings about heavy traffic are the same as ours) and generally he's quiet and stares at everything when we're out somewhere.


My thoughts on being one month postpartum: People sure talk a lot about losing the baby weight and stretchmarks. They talk less about being so ridiculously weak. I was never worried about weight or stretchmarks, and I don't seem to have acquired either one thus far. But getting up and down off the floor with baby is still hard and I still have to use my arms to pull myself up from lying down and walking for any distance can get me out of breath and/or shaky/dizzy. I was too sick to eat for about 10 days after he was born, so my under-nutrition probably didn't help matters. Looking forward to being able to slowly add exercise back in once I've healed a little more so that I can rebuild my strength. I'm open to listening to any advice on getting strong again after baby! I've been sipping bone broth and eating more normally and reminding myself to be patient--patience is not entirely my greatest strength, but then again, neither is actual strength at the moment...
25 March 2018

When a Baby Needs a Country (Consular Report of Birth Abroad Experience)

Malaysia is a country that doesn't have birthright citizenship. I've found that our American community often assume that Cyrus automatically has the possibility of being a Malaysian citizen because he was born here, since that's the way it works in our country, but nope, for the first three weeks of his life, Cyrus was sort of a man without a country.

Because we are both foreigners, the responsibility was on us as his parents to get him documented as a citizen of our home country. We researched the application procedure before his birth, and collected and prepared as many of the documents as possible even before he was born in order to make the process a bit easier once he actually arrived.

Registering an American citizen who was born abroad requires a THICK stack of documents, and a variety of originals, notarized copies, and copies. There's a few major categories that you have to have evidence for:

1) Proof of the parents' citizenship, i.e. passports. 

2) Proof that at least one of the parents has resided in the USA before--one option is college transcripts and diploma, but there are a variety of potential ways to prove residency.

3) Proof that the parents are really the parents and that the mom was actually pregnant with this baby, in the form of receipts for hospital bills, ultrasound photos, medical records, hospital bracelets, and photos of the mom while pregnant and in the hospital with the baby (good thing I took those bump photos periodically, right?), marriage license if the parents are married, proof that the parents are in the same location, etc.

4) Proof that there is a baby, i.e. birth certificate, the baby himself, passport photos, etc.


So, here's what happened.

Angel was like a paperwork tornado on our first day home after Cyrus's birth, and got his application mailed into the US Embassy first thing Monday morning. After a series of emails with them, our appointment was set for three weeks after his birth. We needed to get passport photos taken of him, and we'd heard that they are quite picky about newborn passport photos, so we painstakingly made sure his eyes were wide open and his head was straight for his photo (not easy when he had the neck control of a 10-day-old baby).

{Spoiler Alert: This is not his actual passport photo, but I wish it were. And thank you, Angi, for the "Baby Bear" onesie, it's famous now.}

We live about a 5-hour drive from the U.S. Embassy, and I'll be entirely honest, the idea of a long road trip, 10 hours of driving in a day, with a tiny baby, was rather intimidating. Thankfully, Mom was able to join us for the trip--little did we know at the time exactly how much three adults would be needed!

The drive down went smoothly. We were in the car by 4 a.m. and stopped once to feed Cyrus. Angel got just slightly turned around when trying to find a place to park near the embassy, and we ended up parking at a mall about 1 kilometer from the embassy. The walk from the mall to the embassy was brutal in the blazing hot tropical sun. It wasn't even 10 a.m. yet, but in this part of the world, it doesn't have to be the middle of the day for the sun to be scorching.

We made it to the embassy and through security (cannot bring any phones, laptops, or even car key with an electronic tag inside), and then through the second set of bag checks. The guard laughed at us for having so many bags--I had a purse, Mom had a purse, Angel had his satchel, briefcase full of important documents, AND we had a well-stocked diaper bag for baby. I joked back that it's not like we could opt to leave the diaper bag behind!

Once inside, we took our number, and when we were called up, went up to the window with baby and all of our paperwork. First they took all of our documents, then asked us to go and pay, before sitting down and waiting for the interview. We probably waited about 40 minutes before getting called back up--Cyrus behaved himself pretty well during the wait because Grandma could walk around with him, but of course as soon as we all got called in to a tiny glass room for the interview, he started crying, and the interviewer said that Grandma could take him out to walk around again. He likes to take thorough tours of every location he visits. Angel and I had to take an oath that everything we'd reported on his application was true, and then answer a variety of questions. One that slightly stumped us was "When was the first time you left the USA, where did you go, and for how long?" I guess answers like, "Ummm, I was probably about 4 or 5, and my parents took me to Mexico, and I was probably there for a week or two?" and "I used to live in Michigan, so my family went to Canada a bunch of times when I was young." sound legit enough. Angel also got asked what his middle name was, they asked if I went to college in the USA, why we were living in Malaysia, how long we've lived here, where we both were in May last year, if we'd ever lived abroad before, etc.

We were told that everything was in order for his application, and it could begin to be processed right away...IF we got a new passport photo taken and turned in today. Because they couldn't accept the photo we'd turned in, as it wasn't "sharp" enough. 

No....this was what I was nervous about! But I'd thought his passport photo looked just like a passport photo, so we were not prepared for it to be rejected. They handed us a map of the area with places that offered passport photo services marked. The closest one was supposed to be 1 km away, and we were told we could walk it.

So, we walked it. Only...we could not find the place that was listed on the map. And I'm good with maps. We even asked some construction workers for help, and they couldn't get us there, either. This is where the day got rough. We crossed multiple roads. The sun was getting even more fierce, Mom and Angel were trading off carrying Cyrus with a blanket over his face. I was sure I was getting sunburned since I'm the only fair-skinned one of the three of us and I hadn't slathered on sunscreen that day, assuming incorrectly that a visit to the embassy would not involve excessive sun exposure.

I was growing more and more exhausted and lightheaded as we searched for the place to take passport photos. I hadn't packed any snacks or drinks for myself for the embassy, not wanting to carry anything extra beyond what we already had to carry, and the sun and the long walk after about 9 months of little-to-no exercise felt like it was going to kill me. I'd had it in mind that we ought to just grab a taxi and head to KLCC (aka the mall at the base of the famous Petronas Towers). KLCC was on the list of places that had passport photo shops, but because it was about 2 km away, we hadn't wanted to try for there at first. When we finally did reach a taxi stand, we were within sight of KLCC and probably half a kilometer away, but we asked the taxi driver if he'd take us. He looked at us in shock, pointed it out and said, "But it's so close!"

We must have looked very desperate and bedraggled. We pointed out the extremely sweaty newborn baby, and I know I was looking in very bad shape, as near to fainting as I was, and he took pity on us and drove us to the mall. I know taxi drivers don't like to take such short fares because it's not worth it (the meter rang up at less than $1 USD), but I was at the point where I don't think I could have made it to the mall otherwise (remember that whole giving birth three weeks ago and having a rather rough recovery thing? Yeah. I wasn't doing well.).

We got to the mall, Angel went straight to information and found out where we needed to go for passport photos, we got there. I was feeling distinctly dizzy, so I stumbled to the closest place where I could buy a drink, which happened to be a ridiculously expensive cold-pressed juice shop, but I didn't even care, I grabbed a bottle and started sipping it--at any cost I didn't want to end up on the floor of the mall (I have fainted before and that history--plus the weakness I've dealt with post-birth, plus the fact that I hadn't had access to food or drink for several hours, plus the long hike in the hot sun...were not a good combo).

Cyrus, who had slept the entire walk, decided that the last thing in the world he wanted to do was to take a passport photo, and began screaming. I held out hope that KLCC, one of the nicest malls in Malaysia, might actually have a baby care room of some kind, so we took him toward the nearest bathrooms, where, lo and behold, there actually was a baby changing room that had chairs for nursing moms! Amazing! I fed him, hoped that would make him happy enough for a passport photo, and then remained curled in the chair, sipping my juice, while Angel brought him back to the picture place. This failed, because Cyrus was not happy enough after only one feeding (I told you this baby's nickname is "Milk Monster" because his enthusiasm for milk rivals the Cookie Monster's enthusiasm for cookies, right?). Angel brought him back, I fed him again. Angel went and bought peanut M&Ms in hope of temporarily reviving me while I was feeding Cyrus. This time, when baby was done, Angel brought him back to the photo place once more, I stayed curled in the chair, and we were successful! He got a photo with his eyes open!

Now Angel was off and heading back to the embassy as fast as he could to get those photos turned in. Mom and I were starving--juice and M&Ms can only do so much, and had this idea that we deserved a nice sit-down lunch after such an ordeal as we'd just been through. We tried to go to Chili's, but they had a long, long line of people waiting for tables. So did every other sit-down restaurant in the mall. Then we tried the food court, but it was so crowded that my first thought was, "This is the sort of crowd that could cause a panic attack." And I don't even normally mind crowds all that much. I've lived in China, for pity's sake. Did I mention that KLCC is one of the most popular malls in KL? We eventually realized, a bit too late, that there would be no nice restaurant lunch for us, and opted instead to head to the basement again, buy an Auntie Anne's pretzel each, and hide out in the nursing moms' room to escape the crowds. 

So that's what we did. I'll even honestly admit that as much as I tried to repress them, I was in tears as I ordered my original-flavor pretzel and lemonade from Auntie Anne's. Every part of my body hurt, I was exhausted, starving, only somewhat less dizzy than I'd been an hour before, and I was denied even the possibility of a real lunch after the day's ordeal by hundreds of other people who, I was certain, needed lunch far less than I did. (Did I mention I was feeling a bit dramatic?)

We hid out in the nursing mothers' room and ate our pretzels and drank our lemonade and I fed the baby until I got word from Angel that they'd accepted the new photo, and he was headed our way to pick us up from the mall in our car.

I don't think we'd ever felt more relieved than when we got back inside our little orange car and were finally on our way home.

On the way home...we stopped about 40 minutes in so I could feed Cyrus again (Milk Monster), and then he slept for a good long time. We got stuck in quite the traffic jam just 10 kilometers from the bridge that reaches our island, and by the time we reached our island, Cyrus was demanding his next meal. 

It was good to see home at about 8 p.m. after leaving at 4 a.m. It was quite the 16 hour trip!


So, that's the story of baby's first road trip. Let's hope that the next one involves somewhat less paperwork. And less passport photography. Honestly, baby did pretty good--it was really only the photo thing that made the experience into such an ordeal. Next time, I'm coming prepared with multiple passport photos in case of rejection. And snacks for myself, to prevent bursting into tears at Auntie Anne's.

Also, the day of our embassy appointment was the 8th anniversary of the day Angel and I became official. Happy 8 years to us!
20 March 2018

My Experience with Prenatal Care in Malaysia

It must be noted that the comments in this post reflect my perspective: as an American expat in Malaysia. Though I haven't had any babies in America, I've heard plenty of tales of prenatal care in my birth country from family and friends, so that was the main reference point that I came into pregnancy with. Now I'm reflecting on what seemed interesting or different about the care I received here in Malaysia.

Malaysia has both public (government) hospitals and private hospitals. Where we are, doctor's offices are located in the hospital itself, and I went to a private hospital for all of my prenatal appointments. We chose our doctor based on the fact that she was the only female OB/GYN who had an open appointment on the first day we wanted to get in to see the doctor {super scientific method}.

Insurance: Malaysian private health insurance does not typically cover wellness care for expectant moms, at all. I was surprised by this when we were looking into switching providers and buying local health insurance and meeting with insurance consultants last year. We ended up buying our health insurance through an international provider, but there is still no coverage for prenatal care, which means that the total cost of doctor's visits, tests, treatment, and birth is completely out of pocket. One reason that we chose the international insurance provider, though, was that they did offer an option to cover complications of childbirth and newborn care--that's what we want to have insurance for, the extreme situations that you can't plan for, and we're glad we opted for that insurance choice, and also glad that we didn't need to use it.

Appointments: We have always found it very easy to make or change an appointment with our doctor, usually with only a few days' notice. No need to get my name in many weeks in advance. For my doctor, you do need an appointment, but an appointment is just for a certain day, not for a certain time. It took us a while to figure out the system, but patients are seen based on who arrived at the hospital first and registered and took a number. We finally figured out that the way to get an early number, so that you don't have to wait hours to be seen, is to send Angel to the hospital, arriving at 6:30 a.m. when registration opens, so that he can get one of the first few numbers, and then he'll return home and we'll have breakfast and then come back at about 9, which is the earliest my doctor might arrive. She might not be in her office till 10...or 11, but this strategy cut down wait times from about 3-4 hours if we arrived at 9 in the morning to take a number, to about 1-2 hours with the 6:30 a.m. strategy. On several occasions, the doctor rushed out of her office, and the nurses would come out and tell everyone in the waiting room that we could leave and come back in an hour, because the doctor had left to do an emergency surgery. So, we quickly learned to plan on doctor's appointments taking a good half of the day. We started seeing the doctor early because of my history, had 3 appointments during the first trimester, and after that, once a month appointments up until the 3rd trimester, when appointments shifted to every 2 or 3 weeks.

Testing: I got the impression that there are far fewer routine tests in prenatal care here as compared to in the USA. My doctor seemed quick to provide treatment without needing lots of testing first. I suspect that this may be related to the insurance factor--when patients are paying for every aspect of the visit out of pocket, there may be less feeling of a need for multiple tests or exams unless it actually appears likely that the results of the tests will be crucial. Actually, there were multiple times when our doctor advised on what she thought was/wasn't financially worthwhile as far as medical care (Angel asked if the hospital offered water birth, and she said they did, but that she didn't think it was worth the high fees charged for it)--for some of the medications I needed to take, she advised that we go buy them ourselves at a local pharmacy instead of sourcing them from the hospital pharmacy because it would be cheaper. I had my blood taken only once during my pregnancy and never had the infamous gestational diabetes test with the sugary drink. I think the standard testing protocol is not as intensive as it is in the USA, because there were a number of tests that I'd heard of as "required" in the USA that were never even mentioned to me. The only three things that were consistently checked at every appointment were my weight, my blood pressure, and the baby, via ultrasound. My actual appointments probably took 10 minutes each.

Ultrasounds: In Malaysia, you get a lot of ultrasounds. I had an abdominal ultrasound at every appointment and we were able to see the baby on an abdominal ultrasound from our very first appointment at about 5 and a half weeks. For me, the ultrasounds were very quick, probably 5 minutes or less most of the time, and performed right away by the doctor in her little office. Sometimes she printed photos to give us, sometimes she didn't. No 3D ultrasounds. We found out baby boy's gender when I was about 17 weeks along.

Interventions: I felt like my experience with prenatal care was minimally invasive and generally intervention-free. My doctor was proactive with prescriptions to help support and prolong my pregnancy during scary moments in the early weeks and the possibility of early labor in the beginning of the third trimester, but other than that, tended to be hands-off. We established early on that I was a good candidate for natural birth, and the doctor told me at one point she'd be comfortable letting me go to 10 days overdue without thinking about induction if baby was doing fine and in the mood to stay inside, although she suspected he wouldn't stay put nearly that long (he arrived several days before his due date, though, so no stress there!).

Communication: This is partially my own personality and preference, and also partially just the nature of busy doctors, but there was not much in the way of unnecessary talking or communication at appointments. And perhaps slightly lacking in necessary communication. We were surprised at my 34 week appointment when the doctor asked if we were planning on returning to America for the birth. When we said no, we weren't, we were staying here, then she handed us a birth plan form with lists of boxes to check or leave unchecked as far as preferences, and told us that if we went to patient services, we could ask to be shown the hospital's labor and delivery ward and a delivery room. At some point we asked where we were supposed to go if I went into labor and she told us to go to the Emergency Room, so that was good information to know. I was given steroid shots at the emergency room and it was rather confusing because it seems like all entrances to the waiting room say "Not An Entrance," but since we couldn't figure out how to get in, we just broke the rules and walked in through a not-entrance. I would say that our birth plan was mostly, though not exactly, followed--seeing as the plan was generally leave me alone as much as possible.


There are quite a few big differences in post-birth traditions when it comes to comparing Malaysia and the USA, but I don't plan to post about that since I pretty much made up my own "hybrid" tradition. The baby and I are pretty much staying home alone and not taking visitors for our first month, which is acceptable as far as the confinement tradition goes in this country, but that's where the similarity stops. Many, though not all, moms either hire a "confinement lady" to live with them for the first month post-birth, or else move into a "confinement rest home" with their baby for that month. Multiple people asked before Cyrus was born if I were planning on either of those two options, but I did not opt for either. I'm not eating any of the traditional foods that new moms are supposed to eat and I'm drinking iced water and wearing shorts and t-shirts and generally acting very American indeed--except that instead of bouncing right back into going on errands and getting back to the normal pace of life, I'm taking it as easy as possible and keeping the calendar empty while giving my body time to recover and Cyrus time to get a little bit bigger and stronger before facing the big outside world. Expat life often means taking a little bit of the best parts of different regions of the world and finding what suits your own lifestyle best.