On every visit to the hospital we always wonder if we will see any other expats. We’ve asked our translator and have been told there is only about four other western patients at this time. For a few appointments we did see another non-Chinese couple but were never brave enough to go up and say hello.
Of all places I met this other mummy-to-be at the monthly gathering of the Sauvignon Club. (Once a month we expat ladies gather for good food and wine at the St Regis Hotel.) The chairwoman had mentioned to me that she had another woman wanting to attend but not drink any wine (which is kind of the point of the club). I was so surprised to see the woman from the hospital appear and even more surprised when she said, “I know” after I introduced myself. It turns out that for about an hour into one of her appointments they thought she was me and kept calling her by my name!
It was really lovely to meet another pregnant woman and we have stayed in touch since. She has met up with our doula to go over a few things and we were able to have a birthing class together with her and her husband. I feel extra lucky to have met her as her due date is about 11 weeks before mine so she will be able to give us the low-down on labor and birth at AmCare.
We had been looking forward to this appointment, as we knew it was the time when we could find out the baby’s gender and so we expected a good view on the ultrasound.
It was a very standard appointment: vital signs, blood draw, ultrasound, Dr. consultation and FH Doppler. We had a bit of a hold up with the ultrasound as baby was not in the correct position and they could not see all the organs and get all the measurements. They asked me to go out and walk and eat to see if we could get the baby to change position. During this time we took the opportunity to have another tour of the hospital as our doula had joined us for this visit. It was nice to have a second look, knowing this time that we would actually be having a baby here. She was very interested to see what the facilities were like and was impressed with what she saw.
The funniest moment of the afternoon was after asking their policy of eating during labor (its the mother’s choice) we were told that a tray of snacks would be available including cake, biscuits and red bull. We just could not believe our ears, when we asked about the red bull the translators reply is that mum’s get tired in labor and need the energy! Not sure if red bull (especially not Chinese red bull) would be top of my list whilst in labor.
Back to the ultrasound room and after a bit of prodding baby did a little flip, which we got to see on screen (pretty amazing) and all the needed information was retrieved. In the end we decided NOT to find out the baby’s gender. It was something we had been going back and forth on since the start and we finally decided that we would like to be surprised.
Since our doula was with us we took this time to go through a long list of questions about labor and birth and were pleasantly surprised with the responses. In general they seem very supportive of natural birth and patients making decisions for themselves (taking into account that mother and baby are safe). At our 34-week appointment we will go through a detailed birth plan and tick our choices.
Four weeks until the glucose test…
After a lovely Christmas holiday in the UK we were off to the hospital the morning after we had flown back. We were a bit jet lagged but as always excited to check on our little baby. What on paper looked to be a fairly boring appointment was far from it and it took a turn of events you would only experience in a country that was not your own.
The appointment consisted of blood tests (which I had been fasting for), urine test, fetal heart Doppler, physical examination and consult with the doctor.
Things got interesting whilst the doctor was looking to find the heart beat with the Doppler. It seemed to take quite awhile, I myself was feeling quite nervous and that didn’t even compare with how Mr T was feeling on the other side of the curtain. Heartbeat found and we all breathed a sigh of relief! Our translator then proceeded to tell me that the doctor was having trouble with the Doppler due to the amount of fat on my stomach. She continued to say that the doctor was surprised, as my face looks quite thin, she would not have expected so much fat on my mid-section!
WOW! This only partially explains how I felt and the expression on my face at the time. Luckily I was able to laugh it off for a few reasons: 1 – I have always carried extra weight in my middle, I have thanked my parents and grandmother many times for this. 2 – I have even experienced strangers and co-workers asking if I was pregnant years and years ago when I wasn’t even close. Finally 3 – I have been abroad and in China long enough to know that things do get lost in translation and sometimes different cultures do not always express the same sensitivity about things that they would back in the US or the UK.
To continue our amusement during the consultation time the doctor showed concern about my weight. Since the last appointment (4 weeks prior) I had gained 4 kg/ 8.8 lbs. In the moment I felt a bit defensive as I had just been on a three week holiday, in which I did spend a lot of time indulging in my favourite English treats as well as being off work which means a lot less time on my feet walking around and chasing five-year olds all day. Even though I knew this and expressed this to the doctor I did take the weight comment to heart and was already thinking about how I need to ramp up my physical activity and be a bit more conscious about what I was eating.
We asked how much weight I should gain over the whole pregnancy and the doctor said 9 kg/ 19.8 lbs. It wasn’t until after the appointment that we were able to calculate and realize that 9 kilos over 9 months is one kilo per month. At the 16-week appointment I was up four kilos from the very start, which is in line with one kilo per month. This did ease our minds a bit but I wouldn’t soon forget the weight and fat criticism from the doctor.
Four weeks until our next appointment…
So far each visit to the Dr had included a prescription and purchase of prenatal vitamins. I had enough to get me through to our next appointment and thought I would take a look whilst in the UK and see if I could get them at a good price. I hadn’t remembered to look at what I was paying at AmCare but was quite certain that they would be cheaper in England.
I was pleasantly surprised when I visited Boots pharmacy and found their brand of vitamins at a great price.
Boots Pregnancy Support 30 tablets
I was able to stock up with enough through to this summer (12 boxes of 30-day supply) for £27.92 ($42.98/269 rmb). This amount was even more appealing when I arrived back in Tianjin and looked back at my receipts and found we had been paying 135.5 rmb (£14/$21) for each 30-day supply. In total we saved 1357 rmb (£140/$216) by stocking up.
The moral of the story here, stock up on prenatal vitamins, and any other medications, from home if you have the opportunity to do so!
This was our first official appointment within our package and we couldn’t have been more excited. Due to our anticipation and the fact that I was required to fast we made a very early start with an eight o’clock appointment on a Saturday morning.
We were greeted with the usual cheery welcome, despite our translator not being in sight. We were checked in and I received my hospital issue wristband which they use to scan me into each area of the hospital. Vital signs were taken right away, as well as a urine sample and we were left to wait in the cafe area. We could sense a bit of worry amongst the staff members, and it looked as if they were typing away into their phone translators. I was impressed when someone came over with a preprinted form with Mandarin and English and pointed to the line that said, “May I take a blood sample?”
The nurse taking my blood worked quickly and steadily as they took more blood than I had imagined they could take at one time. I believe about seven different vials! Next to even out my blood sugar I was given a boiled egg, a piece of cake and some warm milk.
Our translator arrived just in time to join us for the ultra sound, this was the bit we were most excited for and it met our expectations fully. It was an amazing moment to see the actual shape of a baby on the big screen and to hear the heart beat for the first time. Any worries were washed away and I enjoyed watching Mr T’s excitement and our translator’s amazement of a husband so eager and interested.
We met with our Dr who examined me and took a pap smear for a few tests. She did have a go at using the doppler to hear the baby’s heart beat but she couldn’t get it. We didn’t worry much as we had just heard it in the ultra sound.
She gave a few instructions to eat healthily and take pre-natal vitamins and that was it! We scheduled our next appointment four weeks from then and left the hospital feeling so pleased and excited about the future.
We realise that embarking on parenthood means the start of constant financial responsibility for another person, however we never thought we would have to leave a Saturday brunch with the words, “We’ve got to go pay for our baby!” Which is exactly what we did late in November.
As we mentioned before we have no insurance coverage for maternity care so our best option was to purchase a package, which covers prenatal appointments and birth. You can visit the hospital and pay for each appointment individually, though buying the package allows you a discount from the al a carte prices. Additionally as AmCare is fairly new to Tianjin they have been offering their packages at a further discount.
As 12 weeks marks the start of official prenatal care we were gearing up to make the purchase at our upcoming appointment. In preparation I had contacted our translator to request that the weekly appointment details be translated into English as so far she had only been able to show us the documents in Chinese. She told me that the documents were only available in Chinese after several times asking I gave up. I accepted I would have to go by the oral translation given when we met and could have a friend translate the page later. I did feel quite disappointed in this answer but decided to not make a big deal of it.
It was a week before our 12 week appointment and whilst out to breakfast with friends we received a call from our translator saying there was a sale on the birthing package but it must be purchased before December (it was the 29th of Nov). We were not planning on heading to the hospital but for a savings of about 2,000 rmb (£210/$320) we thought is was worth a taxi ride.
We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived that our translator had managed to get the documents detailing the prenatal appointments in English. All but two documents were provided to us in English. Our translator went through all the details and answered our many questions.
We signed on the dotted line and with a heavy hand gave over our credit card. 36,244 rmb (£3,813/$5,809) and we had purchased 13 doctors visits and a birth!
Though we weren’t expecting to make a special trip that day it was nice to get the business out of the way. The next time we would visit the hospital we would be able to focus on the excitement of seeing our baby for the first time on the ultrasound and getting to know our Dr and translator a bit better.
(If you are interested in seeing any of the documents from the hospital please send us an email and I would be happy to share them with you: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The first store in the mall below our apartment has been revealed…
Surprise surprise, it’s Starbucks! I guess my Starbucks rewards card is going to get a good battering (and my bank account).
The waiting from the confirmation of being pregnant until the first scan at 7 weeks felt just unbearable. Looking back it was just two short weeks however it felt so much longer. In that short amount of time there was such surge of emotions yet we mostly kept it to ourselves, which was VERY challenging. Of course we were desperate to share the news with our family but we didn’t to rush into it just in case. I did decide to confide in one co-worker. I felt I needed to have someone I felt comfortable talking to, if I had any questions, who would be as excited as we were and was a mother herself. It was a great moment sharing this news and I will always remember her kind words of support.
On our third visit to AmCare the main purpose of the visit was to have an ultrasound to see if the pregnancy had implanted properly. We were greeted at the desk, quickly taken back for vitals and straight into the ultrasound room. Of course there was no baby yet to be seen but it was clear that there was implantation and Dr was happy with what she saw. The gestational age was 7 weeks 0 days, and it measured 6 weeks 1 day. We had a short consultation with the Dr, where we were given some general pregnancy advice and prescribed another months supply of prenatal vitamins.
We were of course elated and still a bit shocked that it had happened so soon. There were smiles and tears as we shared the news with close friends and family.
This appointment again was paid out of our pocket 685 rmb (£72/$109), and 135 rmb (£14/$21) for the prenatal vitamins.
Read this very interesting article, if only all countries could look after new families in such a way!
Why Finnish Babies Sleep in Cardboard Boxes
What a cracking day today in Tianjin. The pollution is the lowest it has been here since our arrival over a year ago. It was -9 at 9am though!
Perfect day for a walk…