Having a baby in China: 36-week appointment

Another intense appointment…

We were squeezing in our appointment around what is called a birth rehearsal class. We arrived to first have a fair amount of blood taken for several different tests, which I had to be fasting for. And for the first time we remembered to bring our own breakfast as boiled egg and prepackaged cake is not my favourite thing to eat. We then had our 20 minutes of fetal heart monitoring, heartbeat was strong and steady, though the monitor itself seemed to jump from very low to very high and there was nothing being recorded on the sheet. At this point we had to go for our class so we would return for more monitoring later.

Birth rehearsal class consisted of about 8 other couples, all Chinese. We of course had our translator with us, though I am sure I did not get all the info. Luckily I do feel quite prepared for birth based on my own reading and support of our doula. The important bits of the class were to know when to call the hospital (when contractions are 5-1-1, or when your water breaks), what phone number to call and whether or not to go in the main entrance or into the emergency entrance. We had another tour of the room we will labour in and stay in after the birth and then we were brought up to see the delivery room. We were pleasantly surprised to see the room looking very similar to the labour room, wood paneled walls, and soft colours. The difference from the labour room was the size (a bit smaller), and the bed (designed specifically for delivery). The teacher spent a lot of time talking here about the stages of labour. We were also informed that the operating rooms are just across the hall in case of any emergency.

At one point in the delivery room they asked all the men to go stand in either the bathroom or the closet so each of us women could have a go at sitting in the pushing position. It was quite funny seeing Mr T ushered into a tiny room with a bunch of men he wouldn’t even be able to talk to! I gave the teacher a bit of a scare when I asked if I could push in any other position, and demonstrated by turning around, getting on my knees and facing the back of the bed. I thought she would have a heart attack. The answer to my question was that I would have to speak to my own doctor.

That was the end of the class and we were back down stairs to finish the rest of our appointment. We had 20 more minutes of fetal heart monitoring, which was more successful this time. We were a bit confused about this as the nurse said they couldn’t get an accurate read if the baby was not active, but surely we thought the baby should have a heart rate whether active or not… just another thing we had to trust them on without understanding exactly the meaning. I then went in for an ultra sound as doctor wanted to check the baby’s position. Mr T stayed with me for a few minutes and then our doula joined me in the room (she had come along for the class and wanted to have a look at the baby’s position as well). The most important bit was that the baby is healthy and has a strong heartbeat, but seeing the confirmation of the baby’s head cuddled up against my upper right ribs, really hit me emotionally. I tried my best to not let anyone see, but I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Coming out of the ultrasound room I had to sit for a minute and have a good cry. It is just that I know my body was built to give birth naturally and I felt upset that I might not be able to do it. This compounded with having no support or encouragement from the doctor. I knew in a few minutes we would walk into her office and she would be ready to schedule my cesarean.

The visit with the doctor was quite grim. All the same comments about the baby’s position and the way forward remained the same. I asked if I could get acupuncture as I have read and spoke to several women who it has helped to turn the baby and the doctor flat out said no, don’t do it. We continued to hold our position of wanting to go into labour naturally and then proceed to cesarean if necessary, she seemed to accept this though not agree with us. In the midst of this my pulse was rising due to the fact that the translator in the room was proving to be very weak. She could not articulate acupuncture, and had to be corrected by a doctor’s assistant in the room when reporting results of our blood tests (she said your kidney results are normal, when actually it was liver, not the biggest concern of mine however it made us wonder about other inaccuracies she may be reporting back to us). At this point I was adamant that the other translator return to help us.

So there we were sitting with four stone faced Chinese women in front of us and things turned even worse when I returned to the questions from last week’s birth plan discussion. The first point was Could our doula be with us for labour and delivery? flat out answer: no. This completely devastated us, it is something we had been clear about since the very beginning, she had attended an appointment with us and never had the doctor said she wouldn’t be allowed. At this point we both just felt so disappointed and felt there was no sense of trust. The only sympathy we received was a tissue passed to me by the doctor’s assistant (who we had only seen for the first time today) to dry my crying eyes. Our translator went through the remainder of the questions though I don’t really recall what she said as I was so upset. I had asked last week for her to prepare a list of procedures that are normally carried out on the newborn baby and she had not prepared it, so the doctor sat and wrote it as we watched, and the translator begin to rewrite it in English but I said don’t bother and took the doctors notes.

We arrived home that afternoon feeling the gravity of the choice we have made to have our baby overseas. I found myself thinking maybe having an optimistic, adventurous outlook may not suit all of life’s important decisions. It took a few days and many discussions and explorations of our options for us to calm down and accept our situation. I did clarify that our doula could be with us in the labour room and must wait outside the door of the delivery room, which did mean something, albeit it would have been nice for someone to say that in the appointment.

We will be sticking with our hospital, but with a very clear view that we need clear communication and know that what we want or expect may not be what they will do.

-Mrs T

Having a baby in China: 28/30/32 week appointments

I am grouping these three appointments together as they have all been very straight-forward and similar. At 28-weeks we began visits on a two-week cycle rather than four-weeks, this will last up until 36-weeks and then appointments will be every week until birth.

At each of the last three there have been vitals, uterine fundal height, abdominal perimeter, fetal heart Doppler and urinalysis. Two of the three appointments included¬†a blood test and one had an ultrasound. We have continued to receive ‘normal’ results in all testing, and baby’s heart rate has remained at a similar rate all through pregnancy which is great.

The ultrasound at the 30-week appointment was a bit long and uneventful (I nearly fell asleep a few times). They again struggled to get the measurements they were after as baby wasn’t in the ideal position for them. We did get one nice silhouette of the head but just for our viewing in the room, the images they sent home with us were of the spine and some unidentifiable (to our eyes) body parts.

The 30-week ultrasound did start with the Dr informing us that the baby was in breech position and if it doesn’t move they will schedule a C-section. This was again repeated at our 32-week appointment upon Dr’s palpations. As we are planning for a natural birth these are not the most encouraging words, however I have had lots of great ideas from my doula and books and we are doing what we can to make room for baby to move around. I will say though I have been a disappointed in the hospital/Dr to not have even suggested anything to turn baby, or let us know there is still plenty of time. At least we know the position and can give proper effort to share our position with them. (Of course I will do whatever is medically necessary to ensure baby and mother are safe and healthy, but I strongly believe in the nature of labor and birth, our bodies know exactly what to do!)

Additionally, comments about my weight (gain) have decreased significantly since I spoke to the translator about being a bit more sensitive. At our last appointment we were even told that my weight was perfect! Mr T and I had a big giggle then and saw a bit of a laugh from the Dr, we thought there was even a hint of sarcasm!!

This week I will begin to scale back on my workload just a bit. Still feeling lots of energy but the heat and demands of a class of six-year olds is beginning to get challenging. I will begin my maternity leave at 36-weeks.

We are looking forward to next week’s appointment where we can check baby’s position, go over our ‘birth plan’ and organise a delivery room tour.

-Mrs T

Having a baby in China: The big reveal

As starting a family was something I have wanted for as long as I could remember, there was no waiting to find out if my dream had come true as soon as we started trying. It was a Sunday morning the day my cycle should have began and I didn’t wait a moment to open up the home pregnancy test (Watson’s own brand) and have a go. When a faint second line came up we couldn’t believe our eyes. I was straight on the phone to AmCare and had an appointment for that afternoon. One more home test before we left and there it was again, that faint pink line.

The service at AmCare was fantastic. I was greeted at the desk by the translator, my weight, blood pressure and temperature were taken and then my blood work was done. It would be a few hours before any results so we headed home and got a bite to eat. It was an exciting afternoon with a mix of excitement and disbelief. Whilst out for lunch we had a phone call from our translator, she said the levels were quite low and I needed to come in for another blood test in two days. I got off the phone feeling deflated and a bit confused. Were we really pregnant? Was there something wrong? Needless to say the rest of lunch was quite quiet. I had to call her back and ask, “Am I actually pregnant?” She said yes, the hormone levels were just quite low.

Not exactly the, “Congratulations! You’re pregnant!” you see in the movies.

We went home and with a little bit of research we found the hormone she was talking about was HCG, my levels on that first test were less than 200. If when I went back two days later it had increased by at least double we could be sure of the pregnancy.

Two days later I was back on my own for more blood work. Again service was good and I was in and out very quickly, straight back home to wait for a phone call. My HCG levels had increased to 713; we were definitely pregnant! But again it was no big deal to the translator; she was just reporting a number. Next step would be to come in for an ultrasound in two weeks.

That first appointment was paid for out of our pockets: 755 rmb (£81/$123). And the second was the same. Bear in mind that we had paid 1510 rmb for two 10 minute appointments.

Our pregnancy journey had begun!

-Mrs T