So, Mr. Mostafa and I have been baby shopping a little bit, just trying to get ease ourselves into the onslaught of baby items that will inevitably make their way into our home.
Having a baby is exciting, but intimidating. Car seats and strollers are two especially baffling things. We went to Mothercare in the Granada Mall and after looking at all the different types of strollers (and how much they cost) I just wanted to go home and take a nap.
However, we did come home with one exceptionally awesome baby item, scouted at H&M. We discovered it post-stroller shopping, and thus we were both exceptionally cranky when we stumbled across it.
But this made it better.
Yes, it’s an Elvis onesie. We are a house of serious Elvis fans. Are we nerds? Yes! Do we care? No!
But in any case, after the stroller shopping debacle, I found myself studiously observing anyone with a stroller. Brand? Type? Wheels? Handles? It felt like I was doing some sort of sociological experiment.
The next day, Saleh and I decided to head to Piatto for lunch (I love love love their pizza). While we were sitting and waiting for a table, I watched a family with two small daughters who were also sitting near us–or, rather, I watched their stroller. I leaned over to Saleh and said, “See, now whenever I see a family with a stroller, I study them.”
He laughed, and the blonde lady sitting next to me, whom I hadn’t really paid much attention to, leaned over to me and said in a British accent, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt, but are you expecting?”
I admit I was a little shocked that she was speaking to me. I’ve written at length in a previous post about my experiences thus far with expats who are not married to Saudis, and quite frankly, they haven’t been encouraging. But here was a British expat actually talking to me! Without me speaking to her first! And not speaking to me like I had egg all over my face!
I answered, “Yes.”
She then proceeded chat with me! Even though my head was covered and I was obviously with a Saudi! She gave me all kinds of wonderful advice on buying a stroller, especially in Saudi Arabia (don’t get one with tiny wheels; they will just tip over. And don’t get one with wheels that have the front wheels very far from the back wheels; they’re a nightmare to maneuver). We chatted about about a thousand things, including car seats (her advice: despite what the instruction booklet might say, everything on a car seat is washable, as long as you can remember how to reassemble the thing after you run all the cloth parts through the washing machine), about all the different accessories that are available for strollers (she explained to me what a “carrycot” is–I’d never heard of this thing before I came here, and I’d never seen one in the States), baby feeding (“It’s good to try to breastfeeed; we all know that’s the best. But here are millions of kids raised on formula; they’re fine and they’re still runnin’ ’round. If you can’t breastfeed, don’t beat yourself up about it”), the differences between having a baby in the American healthcare system and the British National Health Service (apparently, after you have a baby in Britain, the midwife comes by your house to visit and check up on you and the baby), and that antibiotic eye ointment that all American newborns–and apparently, Saudi newborns–get just after birth, regardless of whether or not they actually need it (her: “Be careful, because they put that eye stuff on the babies here and they won’t tell you about it.” Me: “They do that in the States, too.” Her: “Why? So unnecessary!”).
I’m learning a lot of British baby lingo (for example, what we Americans call a “crib” is called a “cot” in the UK and Australia) because it seems like the English used for baby things here is mostly British. It helped to have this conversation, because I felt like I wasn’t quite catching on to baby things here like I should have been.
But mostly, it helped to have this conversation with someone who knew what it was like to be a Western parent in Saudi Arabia. Our experiences as parents in this country will probably be pretty dramatically different (she’s married to a fellow Brit, I’m married to a Saudi), but still, it was wonderful to get her perspective on things, and honestly, it was wonderful just to have a chat with a random someone who has wisdom to share. That doesn’t happen often here; not only are Western expats often hesitant to interact with me or my husband (the day before Thanksgiving, I sent Saleh to Tamimi to bring home some last-minute ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner, and he came home with this story. An American man shopping there was trying to find something. Saleh tried to help; the man tried to ignore him. Saleh said, “Happy Thanksgiving!” The man looked at him like he was a worm. Saleh was pretty shocked by that treatment; despite what I’d been telling him, he didn’t really believe me about expat rudeness until that happened to him), people mostly keep to their own groups here, especially in public places. (I’ve never seen two Saudi families chatting it up while waiting for a table.) Having that conversation, it felt like a bit of my American-ness burst out, a bit of American-ness that I wasn’t even really aware that I was stifling.
It was great, and I was really cheerful for the rest of the night because of that conversation. Sometimes, it’s the little things.