Opinion / From the Readers

China love story: a baby changes everything

By Rosie Zhao ( Updated: 2015-09-21 14:20

China love story: a baby changes everything

Rosie Zhao and her families pose for a photo at home. [Photo provided to] 

Before I came to China, I had been somewhat unlucky in love. Days before my departure for Shanghai in 2005, my cousin made a prediction. “You'll fall in love in China,” she said, without the slightest bit of irony. I laughed it off. If I couldn't find the man of my dreams in my own country, how was I to find him in China? The truth is, I never even considered dating in China a possibility. I didn't think I'd be attracted to Chinese men, or them to me.

I met my future husband at a Chinese gym, of all places. It was a somewhat awkward place to meet and he approached me as I attempted to lift free weights. He fumbled through some incredibly rudimentary English, trying to correct my form. I more or less blew him off, figuring a relationship of any kind was pointless as we had little means to communicate. I thought that would end things, but I was very much mistaken. He pursued me for the next couple weeks and his persistence eventually won me over. Before long I was head over heels in love with him, a local Chinese man.

The challenges we faced in the beginning of our relationship were typical—deciding where to live, worrying over visas, dealing with my parents' skepticism—but manageable. In time, the situations resolved themselves naturally without too much work on our part. When others would make comments about how tough it must be to marry someone from a foreign country, I quickly went on the defense, trying to convince my questioner that marrying cross-culturally is really no different from dating within one's own circle. After all, every relationship faces hardships, I reasoned. I was confident in that conviction for a long time. But as parents love to forewarn parents-to-be, a baby changes everything.

Our son was born in spring of 2014 and my world was turned upside down. In many respects, he was a very easy baby to care for—he cried little and slept well at night. My struggles in caring for a newborn were negligible in comparison to the other pressures I faced. I was routinely admonished for not strictly adhering to postpartum confinement (zuo yuezi), a practice completely foreign to me. I was forbidden from taking the baby outside until he was 100 days old, for reasons I still don't fully understand. Everything I did to care for my son was up for debate, from the clothes I picked out to the way I swaddled him. I suddenly felt like everything I knew and did was under constant attack.

Since giving birth, I've learned that compromise is often more complicated than it seems. If you give up too much of yourself, you may end up resentful. If you compromise too little, you may be stuck in a constant battle. At times, I've felt both guilty of sacrificing too much of myself and my beliefs, while also not trying hard enough to accept Chinese customs. In a realtionship, we may unexpectedly find that our values or beliefs are at odds with our partner's, but with some patience and empathy, I think most difficulties can be overcome. As for me, I may never have expected to fall in love with a Chinese man, but now I can't imagine myself being in love with anyone else. For that reason, I will keep on working to better understand his background and beliefs while never forgetting my own.

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