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: 34 week appointment

This was an interesting and intense appointment. It included vitals as normal including urinalysis, also ECG and pelvic examination. We had our first non-stress test, which was me sat in a comfy armchair for 20 minutes of fetal heart monitoring. It was relaxing and reassuring to just sit there and listen to the baby’s heart beat, also so interesting to watch the rate change and wonder what was the cause. The doctor’s examination confirmed our thoughts that the baby has yet to turn, seems to be lying transverse across the middle of my belly. Cesarean was brought up again. After a bit of conversation we were able to get across we do not intend to plan a cesarean and would like to give this little one as much chance as possible to turn. If we get to a point that labour has begun and there is no sign of baby moving into the right position we will of course take the safest route to have a healthy baby and mum, which here in China is a cesarean. The doctor seemed agreeable to this.

It all got interesting when we began to discuss the birth plan. The hospital provides a booklet with different options (written in both English and Chinese) regarding your time in the hospital through the birth. The sections include:

Environment (Accompaniment/During labor/Mobility and positioning/pain relief) Labour (Episiotomy/Placenta/Patient transport from the delivery room to the patients room)

Newborn Care (Immediately after delivery/Umbilical cord/Newborn’s vernix)

Cesarean Section Delivery (Cesarean Section Planning/Anesthesia during the cesarean section/ Medication after the cesarean section/Company during the cesarean section)

Postpartum (Breastfeeding/Nursing interventions and newborn care/Meals/Visitors.

Within each section there are several options to choose from and an area for remarks. Mr T and I had spent considerable time going through it, as well as going through it with our doula. We handed it to the doctor, and she slipped it into the file and continued on with the rest of the appointment, from that moment we knew we had a bit of a battle ahead of us. We had to ask to go through it, and each time after we discussed a point, she began to close it up to put it away, whilst I had to say, next point please.

From the very first point, accompaniment, there was a problem. I had selected partner and friend (doula), and was told only one person is allowed. I found this frustrating, as we have been very clear since we started visiting the hospital (34 weeks ago) that we had a doula and she would be attending the birth with us, which up until today had not been an issue. The long discussion over the whole birth plan ended with a very red faced mama-to-be and a list of things that the doctor would be applying to get approval for. We will have to wait and see what types of accommodations the hospital will be able to make at our next appointment.

As you may know from previous posts we are looking to have a natural birth. I believe that a woman’s body is made to give birth and knows exactly what to do. I would like all opportunities to allow my body to do what it needs to do to birth this baby. I have read many positive natural birth stories and have the support of a doula that has given birth naturally and attended many natural births. If I were giving birth in America or the UK I would be opting for a home birth or going to a birth center. (I of course will accept interventions when medically necessary to ensure baby and myself stay safe.)

That being said we know we may face some challenges delivering in a hospital, in China. But we remain hopeful that with good communication and clear information we will have a happy healthy baby before we know it.

-Mrs T

Having a baby in China: 20-week appointment

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…

-Mrs T