Last Friday, my school hosted a baby shower for me and two other colleagues who are also expecting their first children (both baby girls) in May.
During the shower, I was unexpectedly asked to say a few words, and at first I stalled because my brain went completely blank.
After a second or two, though, I knew exactly what I wanted and needed to say: thank you.
While we conceived in America over summer break, we had no idea we were expecting until we arrived back in Taiwan. I had a sneaking suspicion for much of early and mid-September that I was pregnant, but we did not confirm it until late September.
From that point on, we have experienced every single facet of our first and what will likely be our only pregnancy abroad.
Let me tell you: it has not been easy, especially due to the serious complications I developed at 26 weeks.
However, a multitude of people have come out of the woodwork and have gone out of their way to make this easier on us, and that is where my grateful heart comes from.
Some were expected-- like my mother.
You guys, I have the best mother in the whole wide world.
In less than a month, she is flying to Taiwan and will spend all of May and June with us.
Beyond that, she has sent us so much stuff over the past few months.
When we had trouble finding reasonably priced baby clothes here in Taiwan, it was mom to the rescue. When I wanted certain products from America because their directions would be in English rather than Mandarin, it was mom to the rescue. When I needed maternity clothes shipped to Taiwan because no stores here sell my size, it was mom to the rescue. When I craved Kraft macaroni and cheese, it was mom to the rescue.
I cannot wait for her to arrive so we can share the last few weeks of my pregnancy together, not to mention the time we will have with Ruby.
And then there were other expected people: friends from back home.
In all likelihood, I will be having a scheduled c-section. I had a ton of questions and knew exactly whom I could turn to: one of my childhood best friends. She gave me so much peace of mind and great advice about recovery and motherhood in general.
And there were more expected people: good friends we have made here in Taiwan.
When you hear really scary and potentially terrible news at the doctors office, what you want and need are people who will just sit with you in the ugliness of the situation. The day after our scary doctors appointment in which the word terminate was used, a dear friend came over and just watched movies with us. That same friend took two maternity photo shoots for me. She is also hosting a baby shower for me this weekend.
But there were also so many people who took the initiative to step into our lives-- people who had no reason to do so-- and they have become great friends too during this process.
There are the expecting ladies at work whom I never spoke much to before this. Now we Facebook each other often. They are both locals, and they have provided me with so much guidance about where to buy certain items and second opinions from their doctors. It has been so helpful to use them as a sounding board because they are going through this alongside me, but at the same time they have a much better grasp of the culture in Taiwan surrounding pregnancy and childbirth.
There is the administrator at work whom I emailed way too many questions to: if I feel sick like I have a cold, should I see my OBGYN or can I go to the clinic down the road? And she kindly responded to every single one. Trust me, I asked a lot.
There are the people who hear me say I am craving Mexican food, so they invite us over for a Mexican feast. We have been invited over to so many people's homes for dinners recently. Dinners made especially for me with my strict dietary guidelines adhered to, and that is no small thing. There are the people who go out of their way to bake me the most delicious and healthy treats (that don't taste healthy and instead just taste delicious)!
There are the expat mothers who also went through what I am going through, just a decade or so ago. They listen to me ramble and offer sage advice. Their experiences and stories are so valuable to me, and I am dying to take them out for coffee when this is all said and done and just chat about something other than babies and hospitals-- mostly for their sake since that is all I can seem to talk about these days.
There are my friends/colleagues who carry my heavy bag full of teaching materials all the way up to my fourth floor classroom just so I don't have to-- and then make sure a student will bring it back down to the office at the end of the period. There are my other friends/colleagues who keep a stash of healthy snacks in their desk and make sure I know exactly where they are in case I get hungry and have no snacks. There are even more friends/colleagues who donated so much money to the school baby shower that we got every single thing we requested and an envelop with $250 USD worth of cash in it because there was so much left over after purchasing the things we asked for like a high chair, baby cutlery, clothes, baby play stations, mobiles, toys, etc.
There are the guys who stepped up to the plate to give Sean fatherly advice and just listen when he needs to express his concerns-- often over a beer sitting down by the lake.
There are people who drove us to baby stores on multiple occasions to help us buy things like a stroller, baby carrier, car seat, etc, and each time was a painful, hours-long ordeal often requiring Google translate.
There are people who offered to come to my doctors appointments (which is no small sacrifice as each one lasts 1.5-3 hours) or be on standby ready for me to call if I need something translated.
There are the people who donated their gently used baby clothes to us.
There are the people who keep asking again and again what we need and how they can help.
There are people who hear great things from other parents about a particularly useful product and then purchase us coveted items like a MamaRoo.
There are the parents of Sean's students who came together and gave us 20 beautiful picture books. They also want to throw us a baby shower! Can you believe that? Three baby showers!
All of these people made a huge difference over the last 35 weeks.
I cannot believe we are almost there.
More so, I cannot believe how lucky we are that so far away from home and family, so many people still rallied around us to take care of us in this special albeit trying time. I partially think this happened because we have been a part of our small school community for half a decade now (which is still hard to believe), but more importantly because the people we are surrounded by are just some seriously amazing, caring, and generous people.
How did we get so lucky?!