My partner Paul and I were expecting our first child. We had had our 13-week scan and everything was looking fine and so it was time to tell Mum and Dad that I was not just plump but also pregnant.
I wasn’t quite sure how the scene would play out. I’m from a Chinese/Australian background and the Asian part of my pedigree put the brakes on grand displays of affection. For example, when I was frantically cramming for my final high school exams, Dad didn’t do any carpe diem type speeches. Rather, he roasted me some almonds, painstakingly skinning them as well. Or after I’d accidentally burst into tears at my Grandmother’s funeral (emotional fail right there, the Australian part of me having cracked), Dad, quietly distressed at my distress, offered to buy me a new tennis racquet.
We are what the experts might call ‘physically reserved’. Hugs and cheek kisses aren’t the done thing.
We are what the experts might call ‘physically reserved’. Hugs and cheek kisses aren’t the done thing and we don’t end phone calls with a breezy ‘love you!’. Instead, we prefer to express our emotions by suppressing them or by stuffing enormous amounts of food into our faces together in total silence.
So, with our family’s emotional range being quite limited, I was slightly nervous about the baby reveal. Our exciting news would of course convey the tacit admission that I had not kept myself nice, that my partner had had his wicked way with me. And what if he did?! We only did it once and neither of us enjoyed it.
Would Mother accuse me of skulking? Or would Dad reach for his meat cleaver and stare us off the back patio. Or perhaps the worst of all possible scenarios would occur: tears, sentimentality and physical contact.
Paul and I had a few ideas on how to tell my parents, from taking them out for a pizza at the restaurant ‘Baby’ to hiring a big band to play ‘Isn’t she lovely’. But then Dad couldn’t get his rice fix at a pizza restaurant and Mum wouldn’t know that song. So in the end we got really imaginative and decided to just tell them, with me wearing a mini ‘baby on board’ badge pinned to my t-shirt.
As we sat on the couch, I shimmied my ‘baby on board’ badge into their line of sight by thrusting my chest forwards and back. While Mother rattled on about curry recipes and orchids, my peculiar upper body wriggling went unnoticed.
I kept waiting for a lull in the conversation, but with Mother, there are none. Finally, we resorted to just pointing at the badge. Mother came in for a closer look and did a Grandmother!-type squeal, while Dad squinted at the badge (he's a touch short sighted, you see), wondering what all the noise was about.
Mother lumbered toward me for a full-frontal hug. Dear God, I thought. We’re huggers now just because I’m pregnant?
After an in-depth explanation that only just stopped short of a re-enactment of the conception with subtitles, the news finally sunk into all parties. Mother lumbered toward me for a full-frontal hug. Dear God, I thought. We’re huggers now just because I’m pregnant? Stunned by this realisation I did the mature thing where I plaster my arms to my side and pretend to go all rigid like a plank of wood.
Dad was positively crazed with emotion (well, for him, that is). He slowly raised his arms three centimetres from his body and leaned forward 25 degrees. It looked like a hug was imminent. I had to take control of the situation NOW and did the only sensible thing possible – a spine-defying Matrix-like swerve. Then I firmly announced that we’d be doing a high five. I raised my palm up in the air and he slapped it. Phew. Hug averted.
After this excessive outpouring of emotion, everyone went back to normal. I assumed my usual position in front of the pantry. Paul sat on the couch nervously clearing his throat in a most un-rapacious manner, Mother made tea and Father went off to wash my car for 50 minutes.
When we left, Mum insisted we take 24 rolls of toilet paper and some braised tofu. And thankfully there was just a cheerful wave and a healthy 10-metre gap between my parents and me.
Kelly Eng is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.