Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Sister is Knocked Up

            People who have talked to me in the past 2 months would know that my sister is pregnant. Yup. Knocked up. I’ve had lots of fun conversations with her about it. I think this might make for somewhat of an interesting blog topic. Note: All conversations were in the Khmer language, and have been translated into American English and American slang below (while keeping all important Khmer wordings).

            I first found out actually from my neighbor. My neighbor and my sister were talking, and I was upstairs hanging my laundry. The neighbor screamed up at me “heeeey! Guess what! You’re sister has a baby in her belly!” It was one of those moments where I understood quite clearly what she said, but I pretended I didn’t because I had no idea how to respond. So I just kinda made awkward noises and was like… what? So she repeated.
Neighbor: Your sister has a baby in her belly.
Sister: No I don’t.
*Then my sister walked inside in embarrassment for a quick second.*
Neighbor: It’s true, she has a baby. Ask her.
*Sister comes back*
Me: Sister, do you have a baby in your belly?
Sister: ….. I…don’t…. know…..
Me: What do you mean you don’t know?
Sister: My period is 5 days late…
Neighbor: See? What’d I tell yah. Knocked up.

Well, this was gonna change everything! For like a week or two I was in like shock. I asked her every week “so, do ya have your period yet??” I don’t know squat about babies. And my sister already works way too hard. Add a baby to the mix, and I’m just gonna feel too bad. She is not going to let me help her with chores and stuff. The baby is just gonna pee everywhere (in Cambodia, the world is a baby’s diaper). I was super dramatic about it and whined to my mother about it on the phone.

My sister’s reaction was actually quite similar to my own. She told me before she told her husband. Apparently it is Khmer belief that if a pregnant woman eats spicy foods, she will abort the baby. That night, she must have eaten like 15 raw chili peppers. She kept telling her husband how hungry she was for spicy foods, and asking him to buy her some.
Sister: Wow, I am SO hungry for spicy food. I don’t even want to eat rice, I just want to eat spicy. Diana, remember that really spicy thing we ate once?
Me: what? No…
Sister: Remember? We went to the Wat to watch a play, and we ate that spicy thing.
Me: Oh yeah.
Sister: THAT’S what I want to eat. Will you get it for me husband?
Brother: no.

She continued to eat spicy foods for a few days. Finally, the opportune moment came up, and I asked her about it.
Me: Sister, do you want to have a baby?
Sister: ehh… no. Having a baby is really hard. I will be very busy.
Me: I know. I want to tell you that if you do have a baby (we still weren’t sure at this point), I want to help around the house. Don’t be afraid to ask me for help. I could wash dishes and sweep the floors and…
Sister: you don’t know how.
Me: Yes I do! I’ve told you this already! In America, I washed dishes all the time. We didn’t have a machine until I was in College!
Sister: okay. But I won’t ask you.

            Eventually she stopped eating spicy foods, and told her husband that she suspected she was pregnant. One day when I came home for lunch, she told me it was confirmed, she is indeed preggers.
Sister: I’m going to have a baby, and it’s a boy.
Me: Oh yeah? How do you know that?
Sister: The fortune teller told me.
Me: *stifling a laugh* oh good, well at least we know now.

            About a week later, I came home for lunch again, and before I could sit at the table my sister stopped me and shoved a pregnancy test in my face.
Sister: Do you recognize this?
Me: Yes, I know what that is. Did you use it already?
Sister: Already.
Me: *takes a closer looks* Well, you’re pregnant.
Sister: yeah. Is this a good pregnancy test?
Me: I don’t know! But I’m pretty sure it’s right.
(She is always asking me to read the boxes of medicines and make-up and lotion that she buys so I can tell her if it’s good quality or not)

            Now that I knew for sure she was pregnant, I figured I should probably make sure she’s keeping the right nutrition. Especially since she was feeling so nauseous every morning and barely eating anything.
Sister: I want to throw up.
Me: You should try to eat.
Sister. What is good for me to eat?
Me: Fruits and vegetables are always good. And milk.
Sister: I know.
Me: And you should stop drinking coffee and coke.
Sister: okay.
Me: You should eat protein, so try to get some meat in.
Sister: No, the doctor said I should eat fish. Fish is really good for pregnant women.
Me: What? What doctor? You didn’t go to a doctor.
Sister: He said I should eat fish forever.
Me: That’s all you eat anyway!
Sister: That’s right. So it’s good for the baby.

            On another occasion I was hanging out (sit playing, as they call it) with my sister, and she confided this in me
Sister: I don’t want my baby to be black.
Me: Your baby will be beautiful like you.
Sister: Yes but my husband is black. I don’t want my baby to look like my husband. I want it to be white and look like you.
Me: *awkward laugh*
Sister: The ladies at the market told me the baby will look like you.
Me: Why?
Sister: Because you live here. So the baby will have a long nose and white skin.
Me: I… don’t think that’s how these things work.
Sister: So the baby won’t look like you?
Me: no. The baby will look like you and your husband, and the baby will be smart and beautiful.

            Most recently, I was sitting at the dinner table with my whole family. They were all speaking in rapid Khmer. Usually when I do that, I completely tune it out and eat dinner in what is usually much needed silence. But this time, I heard bits and pieces, and I just had to interject.
Me: Sister, are you saying that you have stopped drinking coke because you are afraid it will make your baby black?
Sister: Yes, and I need to drink a lot of soy bean milk to make it white.
Me: uh..huh.. and who told you this?
Sister: the market ladies.
Me: right… and are they health workers?
Sister: no. Why, is it not right?
Me: HAHA NO! That’s not true at all! don’t listen to them! I mean, you shouldn’t drink coke for the same reason you shouldn’t drink coffee, but coke won’t make your baby black!
Family: LOL
Me: You’re eating a lot of chili peppers over there. Are you going to have a red baby?
Family: LOL
Me: And how about your favorite drink, the green Mirinda? You know, if you drink that you’re baby is going to be green!
Family: LOL
Sister: hey! She knows how to make fun of me!
Family: LOL

            Now it is a running joke in my family. Every time she eats something particularly colorful, I tell her what is going to become of her baby. I’ve also upped the ante a bit to include smells. I told her if she keeps eating stinky food, her baby is going to be really stinky, to which she laughed and replied that it’s okay, she’ll just give her baby a bath.

            Now that she is over 2 months pregnant, the whole family has kind of gotten used to the idea. I would even say we could approach excited as we get closer. Well, excited in a completely different way. Having a baby isn’t like in America. It’s not as big of a deal. But we’ll be excited for Cambodian standards.

            She did eventually go to the Health Center for a check-up. The Health Worker gave her vitamins and told her she is due in October.

            I’m sure there will be tons more awesome conversations with my sister about it. Just wait til she actually has the baby! Did you know that in Cambodia, when a woman gives birth, they cook the mother? Quite literally, they wrap the mother up really tightly, put her on a wooden bed, and then set a fire under her. But maybe at that point I won’t be having witty conversations with my sister about pregnancy superstitions. Maybe I’ll just be there with like 500 liters of water making her drink every two seconds.

Here are some pre-pregnancy pictures from a day trip the three of us took to Kampong Cham a few months back:
Me and my Sister

Brother and Sister, husband and wife. These are the stairs to the top of Phnom Srei

Phnom Srei means girl mountain. There is also a "man mountain" but the girl mountain is taller. The khmer folk tale says that the men and women had a contest to see who could build a taller mountain before the sun came up. The women tricked the men into thinking the sun was coming up, and while the men were resting, the women continued working and won the contest when sun actually did come up.

At the top. After stopping every 5 steps so that my sister (in high heels) and my brother (the smoker) could take a breathing rest.

The view.

Of course, there is a pagoda at the top. This is a list of donators to bulding the wat, I believe.

My brother in front of an ancient temple

Exploring the ancient temple.


  1. Wow. Just wow. "I don’t want my baby to look like my husband." Heart wrenching! And the chili peppers... Yikes.

    Thank you so much for sharing, as appalling as it was to read.

  2. hahaha, I love the way you tell your stories - they are so creatively written. It'll be cool to see how she's coming along when we come to visit.

  3. Thanks for sharing Diana! I couldn't stop laughing at how they thing the baby will be black etc. Good stuff. I hope you are doing well! Love ya- Aunt Kitty & Uncle Allan