China Elevator Stories

A contagious family – Coming down with a cold

My in-laws stay with us in Shenzhen for a few weeks during my first pregnancy.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


One Saturday morning, I have breakfast with my husband and my in-laws. Like on most other days during the time my in-laws stayed with us during my first pregnancy in Shenzhen, my mother-in-law has gotten up earlier than us and prepared breakfast. 

Chinese breakfast is different from Austrian breakfast in that it’s usually cooked. The Chinese breakfast my in-laws prepare usually includes rice congee – often with different flavors (eg. pumpkin, red date, adzuki beans or black rice), two vegetable dishes and steamed buns or flatbread.

Preparing this kind of breakfast does take up much more time than preparing a simple Austrian breakfast. I would not mind having a simple Austrian breakfast, but my in-laws would not eat Austrian breakfast and since we currently eat breakfast with my in-laws, my mother-in-law has decided she’ll be the one to cook it.

In January, 2014, my father-in-law has a serious cold, as do my husband and I. When my husband asks his mother if she’s fine, she says yes.

After breakfast, my mother-in-law sits listless at the table. My husband forces her to take the temperature and we find out that of all four of us, she’s the only one who actually has a temperature. It’s not the first day that she has had a fever. This must have been going on for about 3 days. So this weekend, we order her to rest in bed. My husband buys her medicine and does most of the cooking. In the morning, my father-in-law prepares breakfast. We’re doing fine with the guys helping out.

My mother-in-law probably thought it’s her duty to prepare food for everyone. What she didn’t consider is that if she doesn’t tell us she’s sick, we can’t take precautions and might all end up sick in bed. When I went to see my gynecologist at a hospital on the weekend my mother-in-law came down with a fever, she still said she’d come with me. I was fast to tell her that I won’t allow her to go to the maternity ward with me, infecting all the pregnant women there. For once, she didn’t protest.

Have you ever been in a similar situation?

Follow me on: