**I tried to include a lot of info in this post, so I hope it flows smoothly and makes sense to you. As always, thanks for stopping and reading. It means a lot!
All pictures were taken on CNY’s Eve.**
The Element of Surprise
Surprises that are totally unexpected are the best. You know, the ones that catch people off guard and have them feeling a whirlwind of emotions inside. The type of surprises in which a person’s reaction turns from shock and surprise to pure happiness and uncontained joy. Surprises that are gifts and memories – the ones that you look for the perfect moment to share. The special times which turn into stories that will be talked about for ages and last a lifetime.
But, on the flip-side, there are those awkward moments. The incidents which make sharing your surprise a little tougher. Those moments which make you uneasy because sharing your joy may cause others pain and grief. You find it hard to contain your excitement, but you keep your secret safe and sound inside for just a little longer.
Yes, yes!! There is a reasoning behind my rambling and I am getting to the point now!!
Announcing a Pregnancy in Taiwan
I can’t speak for all Western countries, but I know that North Americans usually wait until the end of the first trimester before sharing the news that they are expecting. Of course, there are exceptions, but most people usually stick to the rule as the majority of miscarriages occur during the first three months and once you get passed that point, statistics show that the risk of loosing the baby decreases to three percent.
From what I have heard and witnessed over the years, most Taiwanese don’t follow this rule of thumb. I have had people tell me that they were expecting at six weeks, even before their initial visit to the doctor. Some have waited for as long as five months before revealing the news. Others do indeed announce after three months. Then, there are people like us who wait four months until they know everything is OK. However, like I will tell you below, some don’t even make sure before announcing – thus, leading to a little awkward situation for me.
The Story of My Awkward Moment
My husband and I had been tight-lipped about my pregnancy since November. With the exception some friends that I had to tell during Christmas, the news had been under lock and key for nearly twenty weeks. It was our decision to wait until the end of the first trimester like most couples do, but then we decided to postpone it a little longer until we got the results of the tests we had done back.
In all honesty, we really wanted to tell. We wanted to shout it out loud, but we were more interested in making sure everything was OK before telling the world. I, personally, didn’t want to get anyone hopes up and then have them come crashing down.
Also, I know what my Taiwanese mother-in-law is like. She has been asking for a grandchild since we got married. She has stated over and over how our kid would be ‘the cutest kid ever.’ And I knew once she knew, the world would know [OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but she loves sharing news with everyone she knows.]
However, during our ‘waiting’ period, my husband’s older brother announced that his wife missed her period and may be pregnant. And that was followed by two weeks of my mother-in-law saying ‘Maybe she is pregnant, too early to tell, not sure yet, could be, don’t know yet, etc.’
Then, one day she said to my husband ‘They got me happy for nothing.’ Disappointment was written all over her face.
All along, my husband kept his game face on and didn’t spilled the beans. He said he nearly let it slip one day, but he didn’t.
It actually made me feel a little uncomfortable about telling my in-laws that we are expecting. We had always planned to make our baby announcement a special one because we always love the element of surprise and we knew how much joy it would bring to my husband’s mother. But at the same time, I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad.
That is when our revised plan came into play. We would share the news with my mother-in-law privately.
It’s All about Good Timing – The Surprise
We got the test results back three days before Chinese New Year’s Eve and everything is fine, and we took it as a sign. We couldn’t think of a better time to share out wonderful news. Chinese New Year’s Eve is a time for family. It is a time for joy and happiness. It is a time of coming together. It is a time for good luck and fortune. It is a time for new beginnings.
The following day, Friday, we faxed our cake order to Costco, so the words ‘We are having a baby’ would be written on it in Chinese. We picked it up late the next evening and we were all prepared for the big announcement the next day.
Taiwanese & Surprises
I may be going out on a limb here, but most Taiwanese are not as creative with their wedding and baby announcements like most Canadians [and Americans.] Usually a phone call will suffice. Maybe a visit to tell the news in person. But, usually it is nothing too extreme. It could be because they don’t really show their emotions or express their feelings like most Westerners do.
But, then again, they do share their joy in other ways. The giving of engagement cookies to the bride’s side make people aware of her intent to marry. A cake or box of cookies is given to relatives and friends when the baby turns a month old.
What we did may not sound like much to some. However, for Taiwanese, it was indeed unique because traditionally, there is no element of surprise which was what made our cake reveal ‘different and special.’
My mother-in-law arrived at our house early on Chinese New Year’s Eve to begin cooking the feast. She must have opened the fridge umpteen times that day, but paid no attention or made no remark about the cake sitting on the top rack of the fridge.
When my mother-in-law and husband arrived back from ‘bai-bai’ing [worshipping], my husband took out the cake, placed it on one end of the island in the kitchen, pressed record to start the video, and said in Taiwanese ‘Ma – cake’ and motioned for her to look at it.
She looked at my husband with the uninterested expression – something like a sarcastic Oh wow! A cake.
But, she look at it.
Read the words.
Looked back up. Processed the words.
And then her head shot back down again to make sure she wasn’t dreaming and she read the message right.
Shocked was written all over her face when she utter the words ‘Zhen de ma?’ [Really?] to me.
Smiling, I said ‘Zhen de.’ [Really!]
Then, she did a little happy dance and clapped her hands together before she became all emotional as she fought back her tears.
Her reaction brought tears to my eyes and stop the presses, my husband even shed a tear or two. [I am all emotional these days, but he NEVER cries.]
As she stood there shocked, speechless, and overcome with emotion, I kind of felt like I had to do something as we were both standing up watching her and I did what I would for anyone I love – I went over and gave her a hug.
When the initial shock had worn off and she came back to her senses, she asked my husband, ‘How long?’
‘Four months,’ said my husband.
Then, as the family arrived, she had her moment. They weren’t even in the door when she shouted ‘Lao san yao dang baba le. Wo tai gaoxing le.’ [Loosely meaning: The third oldest son is going to be a dad. I am so happy.’]
And before the meal ended, she said she hopes it is a girl.
But, does she get her wish….??
To be continued….
Since then, she has recounted her CNY surprise countless times. I even lined a picture of her and the cake to the family group, so she can show her friends and other family members. [Line is a chat app which is quite popular in Taiwan. And fun fact, my mother-in-law had a smart phone before I did.] I am so happy that we could make the moment so special for her and for us. Plus, our little baby can see how Grandma reacted to the news in future years.
Have you ever surprised someone? What was their reaction?