On the morning of April 12, I woke up around 6am. The first words to my husband that day were, “Jeremy, my stomach hurts!” I had been having light contractions for several days, and my due date had been the previous day. By this baby, our third, I didn’t put a whole lot of stock in due dates though. After all, our first came 15 days late and our second 8 days late! I wasn’t expecting the baby anytime soon. And really, the pain I was experiencing in my abdominal area wasn’t anything like labor. I felt very sore, nearly to the point of vomiting.
My husband made it out the door to work, leaving me in the care of his sister. Shanyne had flown from the States to help with this baby’s arrival. As a trained wilderness EMT and firefighter, Shanyne’s mere presence helped me toughen up my mindset going into this labor & delivery!
Sure enough, as I got the kids ready for the day, it became clear that I was in labor. I had to stop every few minutes and lean on my giant exercise ball. After regaining control and breath, I bustled around the house—packing last minute items for the hospital, just in case. I timed all my contractions, but they weren’t the standard 3-5 minutes apart kind. I kept fighting back thoughts that maybe I was really in labor. No use getting my hopes up! My babies never came so soon after all.
Shanyne watched as another painful contraction wracked my whole body. I dug my fingernails into the back of the couch and left marks. “Yup, probably time to go,” was all she said. We made a quick plan for Shanyne to stay with my 2-year-old son, Ash, who was feverish and sick while I checked myself into the hospital and called Jeremy. Shanyne helped me to the front of our apartment complex where I hailed the first available taxi. Wanting to be discreet, I sat in the back, muffling painful cries and holding on white-fisted to the back of the passenger seat. I wasn’t entirely successful. The taxi driver asked me if my stomach hurt and if I was ok. When I could reply, I just told him to get to the hospital fast!
Due to the traffic around the Number 2 hospital and confusion about where to drop me off, the taxi driver left me several hundred yards away from the main entrance. By now, I was in agony. The driver unloaded my three large bags. (Why so many bags? In China, you are responsible to provide your own towels, toilet paper, baby supplies… everything you will need when you have a hospital stay! The weight adds up quickly.) I sat on the curb trying to regain the energy to move. I watched as the man drove away, wondering if I could even make it up to the fifth floor to labor & delivery.
Determined not to deliver a baby on the curbside, I moved as quickly as I could between contractions. I grabbed my bags and rushed toward the hospital. I made it inside, but I could no longer be discreet about my pain level! I quickly registered for labor & delivery, not even able to stand at the window the whole time. The lady at registration witnessed several contractions and argued vehemently that I should register for the emergency room instead. Knowing this was not an emergency and that I was on a mission, I wasted no time arguing. I hurried to stand in line for the elevator with everyone else. Contractions were now coming 1-2 minutes apart. I felt that this was indeed active labor and that I didn’t have much time! Everywhere, people pointed fingers at me and made comments in Chinese, “Look! A foreigner.” “What’s wrong with her?” No one offered to help me carry my bags or escort me to the right place. I told myself not to waste energy feeling angry—just focus entirely on getting to a safe place.
If you’ve lived or traveled in China, you may already know that elevators don’t necessarily stop at every floor. As soon as I entered the elevator, my heart sank. There was no button for floor 5! 1, 2, 3, 4, 6… I could barely walk at this point, so trying to find a new elevator was out of the question. I decided to get off at the fourth floor and take the stairs to the fifth.
My plan seemed to work beautifully at first. I quickly located a stairwell on the fourth floor and half-walked, half-crawled up to the fifth floor. As I reached for the door handle, something didn’t feel right. This door looked like it hadn’t been opened recently! Sure enough, the handle wouldn’t budge. The door was locked! A nearby cleaning lady reiterated what my brain had already registered. “Teacher, the door is locked. You can’t go that way!” she said in Chinese.
My Chinese is not fluent, but I used the words I knew to explain at top volume: “The baby is coming! Now! Fast! Where is the key?”
“There is no key! You must go to the first floor and register,” she replied, flustered.
I fell to my hands and knees, the pain and the disappointment too much to handle. To my utter amazement and horror, I began feeling the urge to push! Could I really be in transition already???
Through the tunnel of focus, I was vaguely aware that an assortment of cleaning ladies, nurses and doctors were standing in a circle around me. All were shouting their best advice: “There is no key! You must go to the first floor to register!”
I didn’t have the energy or desire to argue with them any longer. I had explained many times already: I did register, the baby was coming, I need help. At this point, one clear thought entered my mind. In my backpack, I had pulled my sweatshirt straight out from my dryer at home. That was the cleanest item I had, and I would use this to catch the baby for a safe delivery.
In that moment, all voices and even my own thoughts suddenly vanished in a cloud of perfect peace. I felt absolutely enveloped in love and serenity—a feeling so strong that it brings tears to my eyes reliving the moment. Everything was going to be ok. Nothing had changed about the situation, but I felt utterly assured that the Lord’s presence was with me powerfully.
And suddenly—things did change. From my position on my hands and knees, I looked up just in time to see my husband bounding up the hospital steps as fast as he could. Stuck in traffic, he had finally ditched his taxi in favor of a bicycle that could weave through vehicles faster. In an instant, he swept me up so that I was standing, leaning against him for support.
Jeremy used his Chinese to tell off the crowd of unhelpful bystanders, then helped me very quickly descend the stairs to the fourth floor. Somehow—we managed to cross the entire fourth floor and make it onto the correct elevator. As soon as we stepped out, my water broke, soaking my jeans and flooding the hospital floor.
Thankfully, everyone at the nurse’s station (along with all the waiting daddies and grandparents) witnessed this, so no one needed to ask what was happening! The bewildered nurses told Jeremy they didn’t have a room ready. Jeremy told them to get one ready. NOW.
Within a few short minutes, I was on a gurney being wheeled into the first room open on the left. I was groaning with pain, trying unsuccessfully not to push the baby out yet. I kept asking everyone if it was ok to push now.
The nurses pulled off my soaking maternity jeans and underwear and laughingly assured me it was fine to push! Within minutes, Jeremy told me excitedly that he could see the baby’s head. Rylee Anne, our third child and second daughter, was born at 10:39am, barely ten minutes after I had been wheeled into the room.
A gorgeous baby with blue eyes and curly black hair, she weighed in at 3890 grams. As I held her in my arms, I couldn’t believe she was there! I had been so focused on getting to the correct place—I had no time to fear labor! I smiled, feeling I had somehow cheated pain of its victory. Her name, “Graceful Courage” felt so fitting to her entrance into the world.
Rachel is an American expat currently living in Wenzhou, China, with her husband and three children. She and her husband moved to China 2012 and have lived in Jiangxi Province and Zhejiang Province. Rachel enjoys teaching, singing, playing piano, drinking tea, reading and camping with her family. She is passionate about education. You can check out her website at www.outoftheboxpreschool.com!