Sunday, 22 May 2011

Radiation shields and keeping secrets..

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments on my 2nd beta :)

This post is a bit mixed in terms of content, some of it makes slightly difficult reading, so just wanted to give you a heads-up...

My partner in pregnancy was also at the clinic on Saturday getting her 2nd beta (this is the girl who had her collection and transfer at the same time as me). I was a little surprised to see her already wearing her maternity smock. But in China, this is not uncommon. As soon as women get pregnant, they begin to wear a 'radiation shield' smock.

There is some debate about the make-up and purpose of these delightful items of clothing. At first, I thought they were worn to announce your pregnancy to the world and encourage people not to push and shove you on the subway/bus. Also, it makes it more likely you'll get a seat on public transport!  But people have also told me that they are made of some kind of metal fibre that protects the wearer from radiation.. imagine the lead aprons they wear to shoot X-rays. I've done a web search and there does seem to be some evidence to back this up... evidence that they are sold as radiation shields that is, not that they actually do anything!

But this all got me thinking about announcing pregnancies. It's clear that, here in China, lots of people do not keep this secret to themselves until the 2nd trimester. It's public information from the start. This is backed up by an awful example of an Chinese ex-colleague of mine (CAUTION - sad story ahead). She and I were supposed to attend a meeting together one day. She sent me a text message saying she couldn't attend, because she'd had an abortion and would be off work for a week. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I presumed that there was a translation problem and she meant a miscarriage - after all, she was recently married and I knew she wanted children soon, though I hadn't known she was pregnant. I was surprised for her to share something so personal and as it turns out I had presumed wrong. I later found out that there had been a problem at a scan and she'd been advised to end her pregnancy. This was backed up by her email auto-reply, also stating that she'd had an abortion. I was horrified.. horrified at what she was going through, but also that it was now public knowledge all around our large company and possibly to external clients.

But should I have been so shocked? Should the biggest events of our lives, whether happy or sad, be kept from others? Why do we choose to keep this particular secret, yet other societies clearly don't? Does it come from living in such close proximity to one other in countries like China, where privacy is hard to find and not necessarily desired? I mean, in the olden days (and still in some parts of the world), several families lived under one roof and 'bodily functions' such as sex, just went on under the cover of darkness, not in a separate room. 

This doesn't mean I'm about to run out and buy my smock (though I have considered wearing one to my clinic, because seeing them seems to give others hope)... I'd not even planned on telling my siblings or my Bloke's parents yet, though that might be difficult to avoid this week for reasons I'll explain in another post. But this certainly got me thinking...


  1. Hi! Here from ICLW and I think this post is fascinating. I've also often wondered if I was in another country would I be struggling so silently? I think America is a bit stuffy about so many issues, especially one that flies in the face of the "white picket fence" picture that every American is supposed to have by a certain age. Thank you for the thought provoking post!

  2. Thanks for your comment... I'd be interested to know more about how open Chinese couples are about fertility treatment. I don't speak enough Chinese to ask girls at my clinic and don't know any local English-speaking couples going through it. Having A child (given the one-child policy) is so important here, but I can't decide if that would make it worse to 'admit' you need fertility treatment or better that you're doing something about the problem...

  3. You're so right in asking why we keep this information secret... I've often wondered that too and have usually told others pretty much straight away. This also helped after my losses b/c others knew what was going on... so I've never been one to wait too long. Always hard to know what's the best thing to do though... this next time I'm wondering about not telling others straight away... not sure. Love to you and bub xoxo

  4. It's definitely hard to know what to do.. I think if we could be confident all would be fine, then there would be little reason to wait to tell people, but that's never 100% is it? xx

  5. It's an odd issue. I know a lot of people who have announced really early, and have made no secrets of their miscarriages either. I guess it depends on how much you personally are willing to go through in public.

    I know Koreans are more open about abortion. On my first clinic visit she asked if I had ever been pregnant, to which I replied 'yes'. She then asked me directly if I had had an abortion. Not miscarriage, abortion.

    Out of interest, does the one child policy in China affect you as foreigners?

  6. No, the one child policy doesn't affect us. But China is much more open about abortion because of it (people want to have their one child in exactly the right circumstances and single mums are not very common or well-provided for).. on my Chinese-made HPTs, the only guidance given is that, if the test is positive, you have to get confirmation from your doctor before requesting an abortion. It doesn't mention pre-natal care or anything.. just that.

  7. That's a really good looking smock btw... you should totally start wearing one!

    That hpt guidance is really upsetting, though I do understand wanting to have the 'perfect' circumstances for your one child. Don't Chinese people need to get a license also?

    Thinking about it, does the one child policy affect how many embies they put back and whether they store them after a successful IVF cycle? I read an article about how having more than one child is OK if it's multiples, so some women in rural areas take loads of clomid in order to have more than one child.

  8. oh do I have long post about this subject!
    This smock is a pretty good idea. I would wear it if it protecting my baby. My own not tell them..because it just seems too hard to have to tell and all the family about the sadness if something does go wrong and have them look with pity. But this is just my opinion after I have told many of my family and friends and family. But also it is about being able to tell everyone. In my family if you tell one person it goes around so lose the chance of announcing it to people! sorry..I am very passionate about this subject

  9. @Kat.. the rules for embies are 2 for under 35s, 3 for over 35s. Not sure if this is anything to do with the one-child policy.. seems generally in line with the UK and US anyway. But yes, having multiples is OK and considered very lucky :)

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