Giving birth in a Chinese hospital
As you might have guessed (or seen on Instagram), I finally gave birth! Baby A. was born August 31 and according to Chinese people this is a very good date as it is the cut off date for starting kindergarten. This means that Baby A. will be able to attend when he has just turned 4, and the children in his class will all be born between September 1, 2017, and August 31, 2018, meaning he will be the youngest. I’m not sure this is a good thing! And yes, I just gave birth and people are already thinking about when my baby will start kindergarten. Sigh…
Today I wanted to write about my birth experience in a Chinese hospital. Most foreign women choose an international hospital when they give birth in China, but I’m not too keen on them because they are ridiculously expensive. Besides, I speak Chinese and I don’t need the doctor to speak English, so I chose to have my check-ups and delivery in the Suzhou Municipal Hospital, which is also known as Maternity Hospital and the place all the local women want to give birth in. Also, if I’m not mistaken, it’s the only hospital with a neonatal ICU, which fortunately we didn’t need to use.
My due date was August 27 (according to the 24 week ultrasound, August 18!!!) and when that day came and passed, everybody started asking when I was going to give birth. Well, it’s not like I can decide… and, besides, I read somewhere that many first time mums don’t go naturally into labour until week 41. But on August 30, during my week 40 check-up, the ultrasound detected that my amniotic fluid was a bit low and the doctor decided the best course of action was to induce my labour that same day as my cervix was already effacing and I was 1 cm dilated. I panicked a little (and I had not brought the hospital bag!!) but in the end this was a good idea as I could get a family room that had just been vacated. If I had gone into labour naturally in the middle of the night I wouldn’t have got a family room, as they are the most sought-after (and, remember, this is the most popular birthing hospital for locals). So I went directly to sign the admittance documents and stayed in the room while C. went back home to pick the things. While he was outside, a doctor came and wanted to break my bag of waters at that very moment. I panicked a little bit more again and told her my husband was not there (I didn’t really want to go through it alone). After considering the other test results from my check-up, the doctor decided we could wait and see if my labour started on its own during the night, and if not I would be induced the next morning. I spent that night in the hospital and, guess what, I had again the shenanigans of nurses coming to listen to the baby’s heartbeat at 12 am!
My labour did not start and the next morning at 8:30 a.m. a male doctor, after asking twice if I was ok with having a male doctor, broke my bag of waters. This didn’t hurt and not a lot of liquid came out. The worst part was that I was not allowed to get off the bed to avoid risking a cord prolapse and I had to pee in a bedpan. At 9:30 a.m. I got an IV with Pitocin to get my contractions started. From this point, the midwife was with me all the time monitoring my contractions. Her name was Chen Ping and looked quite young. I hated having to stay in bed and contractions were quite painful that way, so after a while she allowed me to get on the birthing ball. This was a bit better but after a couple of hours on Pitocin, when I was dilated to 3 cm, I asked the midwife if she had used the epidural herself, how was her experience and if she had had any side effects (I had read some horror stories in books about natural birth). She told me she had it and everything was fine so I asked for it. At 1 p.m. I had the epidural inserted (it didn’t hurt that much either, why do people like scaring pregnant women?) and it was a great relief. I could still feel the contractions but they were bearable, and I could even wiggle my toes (I thought I would not be able to move at all). I got quite relaxed and one hour later I had dilated to 8 cm!! The midwife was very excited and said I was progressing faster than anyone else in that floor (I wonder if the midwives make bets on who will give birth faster each day!!).
At 3 p.m. I was told I could start pushing when I felt the urge. I would have liked to be in a more upright position for pushing, but I couldn’t really move my legs at that point (and I couldn’t stop laughing when I found out!) so I had to push while lying in bed. I pushed for almost an hour (but quite calmly, to be honest) and by this time the room was full of people and devices. There were at least 6 or 7 doctors/nurses/midwives or whatever they were! There was a bit of an emergency situation at the end when one doctor said the baby’s heart rate was slowing, I was not pushing hard enough and I needed to get him out asap so she shoved herself onto my stomach (which didn’t hurt but I almost couldn’t breathe so couldn’t push much either). Luckily this only lasted a couple of minutes and Baby A. finally made his appearance a bit before 4 p.m.! The cutting of the cord was delayed until it stopped pulsating, as I wanted, and after towelling the baby a bit they put him on my chest and he latched on! While this happened, my midwife was sewing up a first degree tear I got. I don’t know how many stitches it was but she took her time! When I asked, she said she was sewing very carefully so later on I wouldn’t even know where the tear had been. After some skin to skin time, they did some tests on the baby and my belly was massaged to help the uterus shrink. One nurse pushed so hard I peed! It was a very weird sensation and I might or might not had a laugh attack again. The midwife proudly confirmed that I had been the fastest giving birth that day in our floor, even faster than the women having a second baby.
We stayed in the hospital for two more nights and were discharged on Sunday morning. Even though the birth did not go as I had planned (I wanted to go into labour naturally) I am very happy with how everything turned out and very satisfied with the level of care I received in the hospital. My midwife was amazing and everything was done as I asked. For example, I told her I wanted to avoid an episiotomy and she did a great job during crowning so I only had a small tear and of course no episiotomy needed. Meanwhile, all my friends who gave birth in Spain had episiotomies. They also ensured I was able to breastfeed immediately and the nurses kept checking on how I was doing and if the baby was latching correctly. Also, the room itself was very comfortable and being in a home-like environment probably contributed to the fact that I was so relaxed the whole time. I definitely recommend Suzhou Municipal Hospital for any Chinese-speaking mums to be! The price was also not bad at all: the bill totalled 13,778 rmb for the 3 nights we spent there, including everything from meals to the epidural.
And this was my positive experience giving birth in China!