Birth Plans: Beijing

Since last Sunday, I haven’t written and there has been so much that has happened!

First of all, I’m so grateful for my extended family here (my partner’s parents) for not putting pressure on me regarding hospitals. They all gave me a couple of days to just let my thoughts simmer after my breakdown in the second hospital.

Last Tuesday, I agreed to go in for a check-up (at least) at the first hospital where they had been kind and I had felt comfortable. The experience was really positive. No one treated me like an outsider. Everyone spoke to me at normal speed. The doctor who I was assigned is an older woman in her late fifties who was gracious and gentle and incredibly respectful. There were no raised eyebrows about my foreignness, my age, my biracial partnership, etc.  In other words, I felt normal. Relief.

Since it was the hospital called “Mary’s,” I suppose I can accurately insert a “HALLELUJAH!” in here!!!

While I was sitting in the (plush, comfy) waiting room with my husband, both of us snuggled into big purple couches like chair-shaped “Barneys” were personally hugging each of us, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the idea of several months alone in North America without him.

You see, to give birth in Canada (my home country), I would have to remain there after my work that is already scheduled for a month’s period between being 5.5 and 6.5 months pregnant. In other words, I have to be there anyway and so flying back to China after my work is finished and then returning again to Canada before the 36th week (airline restrictions) really doesn’t interest me. Spending 12 hours on the plane is already uncomfortable enough and it just makes me nervous to fly so close to my due date.

My parents, of course, said their doors are always open and that they’d take care of me in my 7th & 8th month before my partner could come and join me and wait for the birth. Because of his work, he’d only be able to come towards the end of my 9th month and stay for 6 weeks in total to give us time after the birth as well. But, regardless, timing is unpredictable and who knows when this Little Spark of ours will decide to emerge?
As nice as it would be to hang out with my parents for an extended time, two months is too long to be away from him. What’s more, that would be an exciting time in my pregnancy with lots of movement and growth. I really can’t imagine him not sharing in that. I would also have to switch medical caregivers half-way through my term. And, like the distance to Mary’s from our Beijing apartment, the nearest hospital to my parent’s house is fifteen minutes away by car. That is a really small hospital, as well, and they both suggested it would be wiser to drive forty-five minutes to a larger center for the sake of better access to equipment, etc.

Still, one big draw is that in Canada, all the medical costs are free…

But, after meeting this lovely doctor at Mary’s, I turned to my partner and said, “Let’s just do it all here. Let’s deliver in Beijing.”

It was an instinctive feeling and I went with it. He readily agreed, relieved that I wouldn’t be leaving and happy to hear a decision come forth after two days of uncertainty for everyone.

And then, the real miracle happened:
My in-laws who had accompanied us to the hospital disappeared and came back with the full cost of all of the treatments and delivery paid for. Paying for it all at once saves money overall, but that was not something we would have been able to do on our sporadic and unpredictable artist wages. They handed me the receipt with a smile and said: “You two shouldn’t have to worry about money at a time like this. Everything is taken care of. Now just relax and enjoy this experience.”

I was overwhelmed by the generosity, kindness and love. So overwhelmed, in fact, that I again nearly burst into tears. They patted my arm and shoulders and were quick to change the subject as they shuffled me off to my first ultrasound while chattering about where we’d all go for lunch, their treat. I followed, dazed and enveloped in a sense of calm–a completely new feeling about this whole experience. It felt cloud-like and dreamy. A psychic massage.

Then, I heard the baby’s heartbeat!  The technician said the baby is a bit small and so the doctor changed my due date to January 8th from the 1st. Since I’m 99% certain of the exact day we conceived, I still vote for the 1st of January, but I didn’t contest. I was just happy to have heard the life in there. And the heartbeat was so fast!! It was a magical moment.

The only drag to the whole day was that no one was allowed in with me to get the ultrasound. The room was fairly small and the experience lasted no more than five minutes with a long queue of women before and after me. Still, I think this is something I will speak to the doctor about the next time I’m there so that Guo Jian can see the screen with me. The truth is, they didn’t even show me the screen, just the pictures they printed out of a blurry blob that I couldn’t distinguish as a baby at all! Still, it’s in my head that he should be there in the ultrasound room. It’s a Western hang-up, surely, but maybe something can be done about it.

But, to be honest, I was feeling so blessed by all the other positives of the day that I didn’t complain. I figured it was a small thing and not worth puncturing my “calm cloud.”

I emerged with a smile, waving the printed images at my family and thrilled to have had visual and audio proof that Little Spark exists inside me…

Also, it appears that there’s more flexibility regarding birthing experience at this hospital than I had originally thought. Everything is negotiable with the doctor and I would very much like to push forward with my plans to have a non-restricted, gentle environment, with family and friends and no hospital staff wearing masks!  The presence of my doula is something I have to negotiate, but all of this will be a discussion for the next check-up on the 12th of July (early because I am heading back to Canada later in the month).  Regardless, I know she can attend as “my friend” and that’s reassuring. Worst case scenario is that no one at the hospital will be made aware of her status as my doula and she simply attends as my friendly support. In the end, it’s about what I want and not about hospital policies.

Nothing’s impossible.
Half-way through my morning at the hospital~before I decided to stay in Beijing to deliver~I got a call from a friend here in Beijing. It turns out that she has discovered this blog AND she’s only 2 weeks behind me in her own pregnancy!

That call was very important and the timing couldn’t have been better. I instantly had a feeling of camaraderie and community here and I knew that I was going to get the answers I needed through my existing network in Beijing–and in English! Having already had a child here, she has first-hand experience.

That night, we had a great phone conversation and she told me about a variety of groups I could join, information sessions I could attend for free, people I could contact, etc. It was totally reassuring.

Overall, I feel I made the right choice.

So, it’s going to be Beijing.

This child will have a Chinese birth certificate and a Canadian passport. A good combo! Apparently, that birth certificate will come in handy for reduced school fees…

Yes, we’re already thinking about this kid’s education and he or she doesn’t even have all body parts formed yet!!

Stay strong, Little Spark. You’re loved.

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