Giving Birth in Du Jiang Yan

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      Giving birth in China!
      by Sean Walker on Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 5:09pm
      We arrived at the hospital at 8:30 AM, Monday morning, April 28, and spent the first hour filling out paper work (including a waiver that we did not want the placenta after the birth) followed by a 20 minute monitor of the baby’s heartbeat which took place in the labor waiting room. At that hour, there was another woman in labor in that room so Sean waited in the hallway. After that, a doctor checked my cervix and said I was 0 cm dilated. That was a bit disappointing considering that I was already 5 days past my due date. With previous pregnancies, I’ve been 2 or 3 cm dilated a week or two before my due date. At 9:30 AM, I was taken to my private room and hooked up to an IV. The doctor said I would not have to go to the labor waiting room until I was 3 cm dilated. It took 45 minutes for my contractions to start and then they were 10 minutes apart. By 11:00 AM, my contractions were fluctuating between 3 and 6 minutes apart, but they were still completely dependent on the inducement medicine dripping into the IV. Any time the tube got a kink in it, my contractions would fall out of their pattern. At 12:00 PM, my doctor told me I was 0.5 cm dilated, and I was starting to think my labor would go through the night and into the next morning! I ate a little stir-fried rice for lunch, and around 2:30 PM my contractions got as close to 3 minutes apart as they ever did during the whole day. I also started feeling pain with those contractions and decided that that was about the time my body probably started overtaking the inducement drug and actually going into labor on its own. At 4:15 PM, my contractions were coming 2 minutes apart, and I was feeling sharp, strong pain for about 30 to 50 seconds with each contraction. At 4:45 PM, my doctor told me I was 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced. The quick, short contractions kept coming, and I was getting pretty discouraged. I thought the contractions were doing very little because they were so inconsistent and that I was experiencing more pain than I needed to for being only 2 cm dilated. I have to confess that I really started to doubt the Father at this point. It had taken me 7 hours to get to 2 cm, I was experiencing more pain than I thought was even being effective, and evening was approaching. I was getting tired and very cranky. I asked Sean if we could just call it a day, unhook the IV, and go home or to bed. He was very patient, loving and encouraging to me when I probably just needed a good spanking! I asked the doctor about stopping the IV drip and starting again the next day, but she said that she was sure the baby would come quickly. She left to perform her second C-section of the day, and I decided to keep my chin up and try to cooperate with my support team—Sean, Maggie, and Laura (my translator). I tried some different positions for comfort, and a little after 6:00 PM, we stacked some pillows at the foot of the bed and I sat on my knees and rested my chest and head on the pillows. In less than 10 minutes I felt a little pop during one of the contractions, and sure enough, my water had broken. My first thought was, “there’s no turning back now!” I was very afraid too, because I knew I would be sent to the labor waiting room at this point, and my mind was telling me that I couldn’t be more than 3 cm dilated. I realized at that moment how much I needed Sean to get through this experience, and more than that, how much I wanted him to be there with me. It took my doctor about 10 minutes to come, but as soon as she checked me, she said, “10!” My translator confirmed that the doctor was saying that I was fully dilated to 10 cm! She said we had to go directly to the delivery room! I’ve never been more relieved, confused, and terrified all at the same time! My mind was telling me 3 cm, but my body was saying 10 cm! I had dilated from 2 cm to 10 cm in 1 hour and 15 minutes! After one more contraction, I put on my slippers and robe and walked about 50 yards, down the hall past the nurses’ station, past the doctors’ office, past the labor waiting room, and into the delivery room with Sean on one side of me and my doctor on the other side. I very specifically remember looking into the labor waiting room as I walked past and thanking the Father for His sovereign plan that I had been complaining about all day! By dilating slowly in the morning and quickly in the late afternoon, I had avoided the labor waiting room altogether! I made it up onto the delivery table just in time for another contraction. By this time I had the undeniably strong urge to push, but the doctor said to wait. Doctors and nurses started scrambling, lights and equipment appeared, and finally, in walked Laura and Maggie in scrubs and face masks. Now I was told to push, and I felt the baby descending and progressing with every contraction. After about 5 contractions, Sean said he could see hair on the baby’s head, and he only crowned through 2 contractions and was delivered on the next push! This was a new experience for me because some of my previous babies have crowned for much longer. I was so very thankful for the fast delivery of baby Caleb! In China, it is very rare for husbands and/or friends to accompany women into the delivery room, and Sean was told before hand that he should stay behind me and not expect to be involved. He stayed by my side the entire time and was only asked to step aside once. However, when it was time to cut the cord, the doctor handed him the scissors and let him have the privilege of cutting Caleb’s umbilical cord! We were surprised to see that his umbilical cord clamp was a simple little white string tied in a knot! Caleb Andrew Walker was born at 7:02 PM, and we were out of the delivery room and back in our room by 7:30 PM. Sean was the best husband, father, and birthing coach in the world—once again! Maggie was a wonderful coach, supporter, and photographer! And Laura, who seemed to get more and more nervous as my pain increased, did an absolutely wonderful job translating and keeping us informed of everything happening without delay! I can honestly say I don’t think this could have been a better birth in America or anyplace else in the world! A very gratifying moment for me came a couple of hours after Caleb’s birth, when Laura’s best friend (who is also pregnant) came to visit us. I was amazed at the expression, emotion, and excitement in Laura’s voice and body language as she retold all of the events of the day in Chinese. I still know so little of the language, but I heard her telling her friend how I had wanted to go back home, and how my pain increased. Then I could see how moved she had been to witness live childbirth as she told about my quick dilation and the events of the delivery room. It erased all of the feelings I’ve had over the last several months of being a burden to poor Laura. Other Chinese friends have also told us that Laura told them she was very impressed to see the amazing amount of love Sean showed to me in my pain and how impressed she was to see him in action in the delivery room. She told us shortly after the birth that now she has courage to deliver her baby naturally as opposed to having a C-section. She also told us that she wants her husband to be present with her as well when she gives birth. This means so much to us because we have been building this relationship for the last 18 months, more specifically for the last 9 months. Our hospital stay lasted 3 and a half days, and the treatment we received there was very good. We have been learning a lot about Chinese culture surrounding pregnancy and delivery of a baby. One of our older more traditional Chinese friends visited us at the hospital and brought us a very traditional gift for the birth of a son—eggs—96 eggs to be exact! Another interesting tradition we learned about is giving a special money gift to whoever drives mother and baby home from the hospital. The day we were coming home, another Chinese friend brought us an empty, little red envelope. She told us we needed to put 12 or 24 yuan in it and give it to the school’s van driver before we left from the hospital. She said that if we were taking a taxi home, no driver would take us without first giving this money gift. It is a symbol of luck for the driver. We came home on Thursday afternoon, May 1st, and spent the 1st week in survival mode. Caleb is eating well, sleeping well, and seems to be a happy little baby. I am feeling better and better every day and getting back into a normal routine. Some more Chinese traditions of postpartum recovery for new moms include not leaving your home for 40 days after the baby is born, not taking a shower during the same time period, eating chicken soup every day, and not drinking or even touching cold water. These are traditions I respect and appreciate learning about, but I decided not to follow them strictly (especially the no showering tradition)!

      Caleb Andrew Walker was born on April 28, 2008, in Du Jiang Yan, China. He was 21.5 inches long and weighed 8 lbs 1 oz.

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