Birth of Zoe

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      Sitting in VIP room 13 at the Qingdao women’s and children’s hospital, watching Zoe sleep, I reflect on the day’s events.


      It started out like any other baby story, I’m sure. The midnight contractions, the call to the doctor, grab the bag, out the door and on our way.


      To give this story proper context, you have to understand the unique health care network we had in Qingdao. Eleven and I used an international private clinic called Bellaire. Bellaire services the expat community, accepting major US health insurance coverage for its patients and then handling payment and billing with the local hospitals. Bellaire also provides an English speaking nurse as a translator and coordinator between us and the hospital staff. In this case a capable young women named Anna.


      So as worked out before hand, even though in most Chinese hospitals, husbands are not allowed in the delivery room, I was granted approval, by the head of Obstetrics, Dr. Wang to be present during the birth. Arriving at the hospital at 6am, Eleven’s contractions growing quite fast, we were directed quickly to the delivery room. As Eleven was pushed through in a wheel chair she turned over her should and said “my husband is coming with me” to which she received a polite “sorry, husbands are not allowed in the delivery room.


      Ah yes, of course, TIC (This is China). I quickly turn to Anna and said in my most restrained voice “Can you call Dr. Wang and see if we can sort this out…somewhat quickly please”. Anna worked the phones and the hospital bureaucracy and 10 minutes later a nurse can out and invited me in to the delivery room, where in typical Chinese fashion, once I was approved, I was treated like an honored guest.


      From that point on, while the birth was a spectacular experience for me and exhausting for Eleven, it was probably quite normal and ordinary, even by U.S. standards. The baby came out, the doctor cut the cord and a nurse cleaned Zoe, wrapped her in a warm blanket and held her out to me to see, it was a wonderful moment and short lived. Because then chaos erupted.


      What happened next felt like a cross between Alice and Wonderland and and an Abbot and Costello comedy routine. Just as the nurse took Zoe away to weigh and exam her, two other nursed walked in to the delivery room, holding babies Eveybody, the doctors and nurses attending to Eleven and to Zoe, cooed and awed as each new cute baby entered the room. I was not cooing, I was thinking “what the hell are these babies doing in our delivery room, because this could get confusing.” And that’s exactly what happened. Nurses started tossing babies back and forth from one station to the next, weighing this one, holding that one, examining the other one. All the while, I’m trying desperately to keep track of Zoe as she is tossed from one nurse to the other. I go up to the nurse holding Zoe and I stare at my new daughter, trying to imprint any distinguishing characteristics. I look at Eleven who is exhausted and not paying attention to anything at this point, so I give up trying to alert her to the issue, and when I turn back to the nurse holding Zoe, Zoe’s gone!, Ok, ok, I see her now, there she is, then she is picked up again and around she goes. This is insane! Finally, I see them tag and footprint Zoe and my heart calms down.


      I’m now sitting in the waiting room. Eleven and Zoe are recuperating, and I’m waiting for them to come out, as well as letting my heart rate fall back to normal. I can’t believe I’m a Dad, I can’t believe what just happened, I’m sort of in shock at this point. Then Ms Ding comes up to me holding a cooler.


      A few days before the birth, Eleven and I decided to bank Zoe’s cord and cord blood. The stem cells from the cord can sometimes be used later in life for certain diseases. We contacted the company, signed the contract with a nice lady from the cord bank, Ms Ding and arranged everything with the hospital and Bellaire. So, why is Ms Ding standing before me with a cooler. I ask my translator from Bellaire. The answer is simple, I should have known. She has my baby’s cord and blood and wants to deliver it to the cryogenic plant to be frozen, but she needs to be paid. Yes, paid, right now, not later as I had thought, but right now. I don’t have the money on me, so I ask Ms Ding what we can do. She responds, “we can go to the bank and you can wire the money directly” So here I am, a brand new father, waiting for my wife and daughter to come out of the delivery room, and I am walking down the street next to the hospital, Ms. Ding beside me, carrying my baby’s cord and blood, and we are looking for a bank. Yes my friends, This is China.




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