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September 3, 2010 at 7:17 am #1293KimMember
Keturah, my second child, was born at Amcare Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Beijing. We chose Amcare because their prices were about 1/3 of Beijing United’s, we felt confident that the doctors were well trained, and the facility was very nice. We also ended up appreciating their very straightforward accounting department. We paid for a package upfront because it’s a better deal, and after Keturah was born and my husband went to settle the bill, they gave us money back. They’d been keeping careful track of which services I’d received, and refunded us for any test, exam, or service that I hadn’t used!
As we had with my son, we went to Beijing early to wait for Keturah’s arrival. Moyer’s birth had been very straightforward, and my husband Patrick thought it safest to be nearby to the hospital in case our daughter’s birth was significantly more straightforward. (It’s a good two hour drive to the hospital from where we live.)
On the Monday before her due date, we were getting ready for our day when I had a slight period type cramp at around 8:00 a.m. It was just a twinge, and it was the day before my due date, so I noted it, told Patrick about it, then went on with our plans for the day. Throughout the morning we made plans with friends to eat lunch in the city (we were staying with friends on the outskirts) at one of the only Tex-Mex restaurant options in these parts. As the morning progressed and it was about time to begin the long trek using public transport into the city, I continued feeling these slight period cramps. Patrick and I decided to continue with the plan—the restaurant was just a block from Amcare, so if I was in labor and it did progress, we'd be in the right place.
So we met our friends, and toted Moyer, our then 21 month old son, on a short walk, public bus ride, light rail ride, and taxi ride to the restaurant of choice. We were supposed to meet other friends there, but caught them at the tail end of their meal—all of the waiting, transfers, stairs, etc. had taken us a tad longer than anticipated. It had turned out not to be a small undertaking. The entire time I felt these “baby” contractions.
Once settled in with my chicken guacamole wrap, I didn’t feel a single twinge. We spent some of our lunch conversation debating whether I’d been in any kind of labor at all, and wondered when the anticipated event would actually happen. During lunch, one of our little friends took a minute to sit right in front of my big belly and politely requested Keturah to come out and play. Too cute! By the time lunch was over, Patrick and I, though we were regretful that we’d been so close to the hospital during what we thought might be labor, thought it wisest to go directly home to put Moyer down for a nap. The morning’s transport and lunch outing had worn him out. So we went back (our friends went on to other activities) the way that we’d come.
During the trek back, the contractions resurfaced. They remained constant, but not intense, so we didn’t change course at all. Within just a few minutes of putting Moyer peacefully down into his pack-n-play for his nap, however, Patrick saw “the change.” Patrick had been not only taking mental notes on my “contractions” all day, but had been looking for the emotional signposts of the stages of labor as well. At about four p.m.he watched me not only stop and breathe deeply during a few contractions, but noticed a change in my feelings about what was going on. In a matter of moments I had gone from “I wonder if this is labor or not,” to “Patrick, I cannot do this. I can’t do this.” I was feeling “real” contractions now, but was not in any significant pain. (The intensity of this labor was very different from my first one.) Patrick went into immediate action. He arranged our ride to the hospital, an interim sitter for our son, and got me checked into Amcare just after the daytime staff had gone off duty.
Including the translators.
Patrick and I both have ‘decent’ Mandarin. But neither of us are fluent in medical terminology, and we’re not necessarily any better at communicating successfully when under any kind of stress. The staff present, though, thought our Chinese was “just fine,” and didn’t bother calling back in one of the translators until we specifically requested having her there.
One such “just fine” interaction went like this:
Just after checking in, laying in the bed in my private room while the doctor checks my progress:
Doctor: (in English, very broken, consulting her self-scribed English phrase book) I think . . . you will . . . deliver a baby. (pregnant pause, while she looks back down at her note pad) Tonight.
Me: (in Chinese, very directly) How many centimeters?
She laughed, answered my question, and consulted her phrase book for some more chit chat. She also informed me that they’d be taking me to the delivery room on the next floor.
I protested. I was far less than ten centimeters, and I didn’t want my movements restricted by being “checked into” the delivery room. I only wanted to be there for the actual birth of my baby.
Patrick stopped me. “Hon, I think she knows what she’s talking about. You’re about to deliver.” The doctor told us (in English) that she thought Keturah would arrive in “one hour,” or “maybe two.” I was incredulous. Patrick gently helped me change into the hospital clothes and get ready to go the the delivery room.
The next couple of hours in the delivery room are a blur of Chinese personnel in blue scrubs chatting away in Mandarin, the video screen on the wall opposite my bed offering me a view of Keturah’s entrance*, paperwork being flung at Patrick to sign, awful “soothing” Western music played on an old style boom box that I demanded Patrick to turn off, the fluorescent lighting that I didn’t bother to demand anyone to turn off, intense contractions that left me enough time in between them to actually debate with my husband whether or not this was actually happening, me informing the nurse in the room that I’d need the chucks pad changed out because I just peed myself**, me insisting that it was not time to push when the doctor on duty told me that I could start anytime . . . “I’m only at eight centimeters!” It was my second baby they assured me, go ahead. So I did. I pushed hard every time after that that I had a contraction. I remember vividly having enough time between pushes to argue with Patrick about whether or not he could actually see our daughter’s head. I recall that the translator arrived once it was all ‘over,’ and remember the stitches as the most painful part of the entire ordeal!
(*When she actually arrived, I couldn’t see Keturah on the screen at all—just a whole lot of blue scrubs blocking the camera’s view as they welcomed her to the world!)
(**I hadn't peed at all. It was my water breaking. Both Patrick and the nurse suggested that may be the case, but I was irrationally sure that it was only urine.)
I was a little upset that I’d torn. With my firstborn, I’d had an episiotomy, and so with Keturah I was going for no cut, no tear. I was hoping for some help from the delivery staff in getting everything stretched out enough to accommodate Keturah’s head—but no dice. I think they were all so excited (Patrick included) to see her head, that no one bothered coaching me to “ease up” at all on my pushes. In retrospect I could totally replay in my mind a few of the nurses exclaiming in Mandarin, “Wow, she’s pushing hard!” I had assumed that if they were telling me to push, that I should keep exerting more effort until they stopped telling me to push. Anyhow, it would have taken a little longer, but she would have made it out just fine with a little less force, and probably without a tear either.
I also vividly remember examining the placenta. I’d been worried about it’s delivery due to an unusual issue with my first birth, and asked to see it once it was out. I was not the only one checking it out—the nurses gathered around the end of my delivery bed too, handled it, and exclaimed over how large it was—it had landed in the same spot that Keturah had been just minutes earlier.
After the trauma of the stitches was over, Keturah had been checked out by the pediatrician in the room, and she was successfully nursing, we asked to be taken back to our room. My in-laws had been informed of Keturah’s pending birth, had come to Beijing, picked up Moyer, and were waiting in the lobby to meet her. Keturah had been born at eight p.m. (just twelve hours after my first “twinge” of contractions!) and now that all of the activity had settled it was close to nine, and I was very aware that Moyer’s bedtime had come and gone. I really wanted him to meet his little sister before heading out with his grandparents to their hotel for the night.
Although there was absolutely nothing else to do, they said, “no.” I couldn’t believe it. “Why not?” The nurse on duty explained that no one leaves the delivery room for two hours after giving birth. I was not sure why it mattered what room I was in; we’d be in our room just one floor down and they’d know where to find me, right? I’d been holding and nursing Keturah in the delivery bed, much like I’d be doing in my room downstairs. There were no IVs, poles, or any medical equipment at all hooked up to either me or my baby. But the answer was still, “no.”
“Well, can my family come up here then?”
“No.” Only one family member (in my case, my husband) was allowed to be present in the delivery room.
I told Patrick in quiet English that I was going downstairs now. He also thought the rule a little ridiculous, but by nature is a “rules follower,” so protested my plan.
I got up anyway, explained to the baffled nurse keeping watch over us that my small son needed to go to bed, was waiting for me downstairs, and wanted to meet his sister before he got too tired. Since he couldn’t come up to me, I would go down to him. Once she saw that I was seriously just going to carry my still-nursing new born right out of the room, she called for assistance. She and Patrick helped me put more clothes on around Keturah—who was still attached, then a gurney was wheeled in. I looked at the nurse like, “what’s this?” The staff wielding the gurney looked at me like, “how do we transfer her from the delivery bed to the gurney when she’s already standing?” I informed the nurse that our birth plan stated that I would walk from the delivery room back to my own room, and that I would do just that. Again, she was baffled. One guess is that not a lot of their patients choose sans-drugs childbirth, and therefore just aren’t able to get out of bed after delivery. At the time, I got the impression that I was one of very few American patients as well. In Chinese culture the new mom isn’t allowed out of bed for a month; culturally it’s more than just a little odd to walk around immediately following labor. She did let me, however. And I even got to hold Keturah. (Insisting on carrying my own daughter was the last battle I fought–just after I was given a pair of slippers for my bare feet on the walk back.)
Once we got back to the room, we decided that I’d be the one to escort the family up. We’d heard from a Korean friend that it’s helpful when introducing a small child to their new sibling for the Dad to be the parent holding the baby. That way, Mom’s hands and attention are both free to warmly greet her firstborn, affirming that he's not lost his place to the baby. Then Dad introduces the new baby sibling. We don’t know if there’s anything to this theory or not, but figured that it certainly wouldn’t hurt anything. Patrick waited in our room holding Keturah, and a nurse (who insisted on grasping my elbow) walked with me down to the lobby. After greeting everybody and telling them that the labor went really well, and that Keturah was waiting for them upstairs, I carried Moyer (only about 20 lbs at the time) back to our room. The nurse still accompanied, but was unsure now of how to physically assist me. I heard lots of chatter in general from the Chinese personnel about my uncustomary post-labor tour of the hospital as well as my unprecedented insistence on carrying my son. Personally, I found it all more than a little amusing! (Honestly, I was thrilled myself to be doing so well; after giving birth to my son and having some unexpected difficulty with my placenta, I was in no condition to even visit the toilet by myself, let alone pick up my toddler and walk around!)
So although Amcare didn’t actively support all of my Western ideas of how childbirth should be, they certainly allowed me to follow through with my birth plan, and even quietly applauded this very different cultural take on post-natal care.
The rest of our stay was very pleasant. We were allowed twenty-four hour a day access to Keturah, including having her room in with us. (Our only complaints were that during bath time, we were only allowed to watch through glass, and during one of her injections, she was taken into a sanitary room that had no venue for observation at all.) Our room had both a roll away cot and couch available for Patrick’s sleeping arrangements, and we set up our own pack-n-play on the enclosed, attached balcony, so that Moyer could have his own little private space for naps and bedtime. The TV and DVD player came in very handy for keeping Moyer occupied when needed, and the hospital grounds themselves made for nice little outings for Patrick and Moyer as well. All of my Western meals were catered by an Italian restaurant just down the way, and we were able to host many guests right in our room over our three day stay. I also appreciated the gentle care that I was given twice daily on the site of my stitches; clearly not a Western custom, the warm water cleansing and treatment was unlike any care I received after the birth of our son at Beijing United.
Here is our sweet daughter, Keturah Jade. She was 7 lbs 5 oz, and 20.5 inches, born on December 29, 2008 at 8:00 p.m.
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