Birth Story

The good news has arrived! I’m no longer “preggers in China”! Our sweet little one is here and I’ve written out the birth story for you all. I warn you: this post is LONG! I wanted to remember as much as possible and so I wrote it out in the first two days of motherhood, in between feedings.

After this post, I’m considering keeping you up to date on some postpartum and moon month details and then providing some resources for others who may be about to take this journey in China, and then wrapping up this blog in February. Thank you so much for your ongoing support and hopefully you can all meet this little bundle before too long!

-es

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Little Spark,

You had been growing in my belly for 39 weeks and 6 days, when exactly one day before your official due date, things started to rumble. On the morning of the 31st of December, 2011, you started to give me twinges in my lower gut. And, as I said in my last post “Final Prep Steps,” I felt them like small waves in the distance, the way the ocean sounds when you live two blocks from the sea. Just a surge off and on but not something that distracted me from my day if I didn’t focus on it. Because the sensation was slightly achy and cramp-like, I took a bath and felt it float even further into the distance by late morning.

I also felt prickling in my feet most of the day, lights of sensation the way an old-fashioned switchboard lights up with many phone calls over the holidays. It made me finally believe in what they say here about the danger of foot massages in third trimester pregnancy as they can cause induction. After all, it seemed to me that many spirits and energies were calling me to tell me that you were coming. They were using my feet and its many pressure points as the chosen communication portal.

That evening, we went to my friend Valentina and Liyang’s place for a low-key New Year’s Eve celebration. They were the two Beijing friends who came and stood up for us at our Zibo wedding and they just live five minutes away. There were about 10 other people at the party and Valentina made a lovely meal. People were really friendly, warm and loving towards us despite the fact that we didn’t know anyone besides the hosts themselves. I had some great conversations with a variety of their friends. It was a last-minute decision to go out, but I’m glad we did. We ended the evening by 12:30pm after hugs all around to welcome in the new year: 2012. I was exhausted and, besides, I had already had a few stronger surges while at their house (were they contractions? I wasn’t sure!), and I was really feeling the need to be back at home where I felt comfortable.

Funny enough, there was a guy at the party whose chosen English name is “Spark.” We all laughed at this coincidence. He gave you an extra special hug that night.

We came home then and I felt those ocean-like surges coming closer. I was fairly certain you were on your way but I tried to sleep nonetheless. I finally did manage to fall asleep for about an hour and a half, but was awoken around 3am with a sharp pain. It was like the other pains earlier, but had come closer, the waves at my doorstep. Best described as a menstrual pain on steroids.

I had already told our doula, Robyn, that my body was feeling strange all day and so, by five am when the pains were less “menstrual cramp-like” and feeling more pressing and distracting, I sent her a text message and asked her advice.

Guo Jian (your daddy!) was extremely nervous because her earlier advice had been to wait until any contractions were around five minutes apart before heading to the hospital. At this point, I had finally realized that I was experiencing contractions and had started timing them. They were 3-5 minutes apart over a half-hour period and Guo Jian had thus spun into action and loaded the car. He was very anxious and excited. When he found out that they were only 3-5 minutes apart, he actually lept out of bed, jumped up and down and clapped his hands like a toddler. It was the cutest thing I have seen in a long time.

Robyn suggested I take another bath rather than going to the hospital right away so that I could first see whether that dulled the contractions or not.  Afterwards, I was then to time them again and see if anything had changed regarding intensity or frequency. So, I sent Guo Jian back to bed after he had finished his preparations and I re-filled the tub for the second time that day. Guo Jian had boiled extra water to make it just right, temperature-wise, before heading back under the covers. It was super sweet. I then sat in the bath for about an hour, enjoying the warm water and letting my body relax. By six am, the frequency and intensity had not decreased, but I was very, very clean!

We left for the hospital at 6:30 and were there before 7:00am. They didn’t have any patient rooms available at that time but told us we could wait in the labouring room. It was a very clinical space that I had already decided that I never wanted to spend any time in after having toured this section a few weeks earlier. They had given me their blessing to labour in a private room (as all the patient rooms are private) and so this room had actually left my consciousness until we were in it that morning and stuck there. There were three single beds, each separated by a hanging curtain, and no other elements that made it anything but a large, clinical hospital room. The bathroom was down the hall. It felt pretty depressing, to say the least.

We did manage to get them to give us a birthing ball, though, and I made good friends with that ball that morning as each contraction filled me and taught me about breathing. I leaned forward on the ball and rocked my hips back and forth as I kneeled on a pillow. I felt quite empowered by my ability to ride each wave like a surfer who never falls off her board.

I was given a vaginal exam upon arrival and they told me that I hadn’t started dilating yet, but that my cervix had fully softened and dilation would then follow. I was also whisked downstairs for an ultrasound and they told me that you were right there, waiting at your doorway, and had dropped into position. All was looking just right for a birth on your due date. Even the ultrasound technicians predicted it would be soon. Dr.Yumei came to see me after that and also predicted we’d meet you before the day was out—good timing on your part! You’re definitely the child of two musicians!

By 9am, Robyn arrived after having secured caregivers (on a holiday!) for her two sons, one who is four and the other who is just over a year old. Her husband owns a bar and had been out all night for the New Year’s Eve event and so she truly had to organize and juggle to make accompanying us happen.

I was relieved when she arrived and immediately grateful for her calm and easy presence. Sadly, we were not yet in a private room, but there were no other people in the labouring room with us and it thus acted like a private introduction to the hospital dynamics as doctors and nurses came and went (as the room adjoined one of the operating rooms), travelling between the four scheduled C-sections that day.  It was January 1st, 2012 and considered an auspicious date to be born. Others parents had chosen it and it seemed you had too! At that moment, I was the only woman going through a natural labour that day, however.

By 12:30pm, we were in our private room and Guo Jian spent a good part of an hour making the space more like home by setting up music, lighting, gathering food and snacks, etc. I was impressed by the little details he had packed in his bags and immediately felt much more comfortable than I had been in the labouring room.

The contractions had intensified over the morning, but I had learned to ride them out fairly well. They were painful, but not impossible. In fact, I even commented to Robyn that I felt that contractions were actually rather compassionate in that they give a woman a minute or a minute and a half of discomfort but then offer a respite in between. I was feeling confident and capable. After all, it was all happening just as I had imagined it.

I was given a second exam at 1pm that indicated I had opened about 1cm. Robyn reminded me that the first 3cms take the longest and to stay patient.  Then my doctor, Dr.Yumei, came to see me around 5pm to let me know that she was soon getting off work and wouldn’t be able to attend my birth after all. The next day, she was on holidays. I was disappointed but I understood. The worst part of that visit, however, was that she gave me another exam and it only indicated that I had dilated perhaps 1.5cm, but nothing more despite an entire afternoon of rocking on a ball and sweating it out.

At this point, Robyn went home briefly to breastfeed her youngest and was back by early evening.

After Dr.Yumei left, my contractions progressively lessened in both frequency and intensity. I tried to figure out why and here is what I came up with:

Guo Jian’s mother came by in the afternoon and stayed until about 8pm. Her presence was awkward for me because she was watching each contraction carefully and I felt shy about the intimacy of what was happening to my body as you were preparing to arrive. For awhile, she gave me a great back massage, but I could only enjoy it because I was not seeing her, just feeling her give me the massage with my eyes shut and leaning over the back of a chair. In fact, at 8pm, I actively asked Guo Jian to take her home while she was standing right there and said, apologetically to her, that I really needed to concentrate on the labour and not have it be secondary to the conversation in the room. She understood. Up until then, when I had had a contraction, I was having them quietly and off to one side while they were all socializing. In other words, because of my shyness, I had actively stopped making my labour the focus of that environment and that was just silly.

The other reason is perhaps, most obviously, my disappointment that Dr.Yumei was not going to be able to catch you after all. I tried to be rational about it and remembered that she hadn’t promised but had only said that she’d try to be there.  As well, it was a public holiday and she had just performed four operations in one day! But, I had to admit a feeling of worry after she’d left that perhaps my plan wouldn’t be fully honoured or that whomever was going to catch you wouldn’t be as competent and qualified.

By mid-evening, when Guo Jian was driving your Nainai 奶奶 (his mother) home, Robyn and I were having great conversations about China and love in between each rush and I realized that the experience of the contractions was either getting easier or I was getting better at dealing with it. When Guo Jian got back, he and I even had a make-out session (Robyn gave us space and time for that!) as this is said to help move things along in a natural labour, but sadly that didn’t seem to make a difference to the slowing pace of my contractions. By 11pm, the three of us were exhausted and Robyn suggested trying to nap collectively. We all fell asleep, Guo Jian and I on the bed and Robyn stretched out on the couch.

I slept until around 2:30am without waking, which was proof that my contractions had tapered right off. Following that, I woke about once every half an hour with a contraction that I had to breathe through, but I managed to continue falling back to sleep until 4am. Then, I was awake an hour on my own and I let the other two continue sleeping. The contractions increased then, but it was nothing that I couldn’t deal with alone through breathing and rocking.

At 5am, the intensity ramped up and I suddenly realized what I had been missing. The fact that I had been able to sleep when the contractions came on as intensely as they did in the morning was nothing short of a miracle. Let’s just say that I broke my surf board! Robyn and Guo Jian both jumped overboard to help me through it and throughout the whole morning, it felt like my lower back was on fire! My whole body seemed on the verge of splitting in two like a huge tree trunk in a raging storm. Guo Jian held my hands and counted with me through each breath while Robyn laid all her strength into my lower back with her hands as I breathed and cried and groaned my way through what is the absolutely most intense pain I have ever experienced in my entire life. My theory about contractions being compassionate went out the window.

By around 8am, another doctor was on the scene and insisted on a vaginal exam and I found out the extremely disappointing news that I was still only about 1cm dilated or maybe, at most, 1.5 during a contraction. No change at all. I suppose it wasn’t surprising considering the respite I’d had that night, but it was incredibly discouraging. Robyn suggested holding off from another vaginal exam until around noon because the contractions were getting yet closer and more intense. I agreed. I couldn’t deal with more bad news and I was already in another mental dimension.

The room and world had fallen away. They call this “Labourland” in the Birthing From Within tradition, and I understand it now. It’s a blurring of reality that happens through prolonged pain. I lost my ability to sense the edges of the situation and was just being thrown between crashing waves in what felt like an endless tempest of pain. I had moments of better control and successful surges, meaning that I successfully implemented some of the techniques for handling pain that I had committed to memory from all the reading I had done about the experience, but there were other moments, though, when I wasn’t so strong and I lost all my bearings. I was truly lost at sea.

At 12:00pm, the same doctor gave me another exam, something Robyn suggested as the best way to see if there had been any change. Each doctor may have a slightly different way of measuring a cervix, not to mention the fact that this doctor’s earlier exam would provide a clearer opportunity for comparison.

I collapsed into tears when I learned that my cervix had only opened to 2cms after four more hours of exhausting effort. Of course, tears were not new in the situation, but now they were tears of despair. At this point, my contractions were around 2-3 minutes apart, (4 minutes apart if I was given a bit of a rest before another huge wave hit), and after at total of 30 hours in the hospital (36 hours if you count the time from the first real, identifiable contraction at home before coming to the hospital), I was utterly exhausted and had spiralled into a state of mind in which all things were tinged with dark and negative thoughts. I was unsure of my ability to do anything, sure it was because of my age that I couldn’t do this (too old!), desperate for relief from the exhaustion and pain, and actually, (and I’m ashamed to admit this now that I see you, my precious little one) wanting to die. I know that sounds dramatic, but I figured if I just stopped living, at least they could quickly cut you out and save you and all would not be lost. After all, I thought, I’ve had a good life and so will you. It’s shocking that I had that thought, but pain puts us in terrible places sometimes. I had descended there.

That morning, I had spoken to Robyn about my options and we settled on the following, in between my writhing in pain and counted breaths of these close, evil contractions: I could either (a) take pitocin, which would make my contractions more intense and speed up the opening as a result; (b) have the doctor actively make my water break and hope that it helped the cervix further expand by bringing the baby’s head into closer contact; or, (c) get an epidural, which would ease the pain but not necessarily speed things up. In fact, often epidurals slow things down and then lead to have to take pitocin and/or other interventions.

When we asked the doctor her thoughts, she was hesitant. She had seen my birth plan that expressly asked for no interventions of any kind. She didn’t suggest any of the above scenarios and only said that I should keep going, that there at least had been progression even though it was minimal. Later, Robyn told me that she had heard this doctor say to the other woman with her (either a nurse, midwife, or another doctor, we’re not sure) that after I had reached 3cm that they should break my water regardless. This comment is not one that I heard. I was probably writhing when they said it. Later we learned that this is standard practice in China; if a woman’s water has not broken by the time she reaches 3cm, they simply break it. Of course, that’s not how we do things back home.

In any case, I couldn’t imagine choosing (a) because if pitocin brings on more intense contractions, I was already under the gnarled fist of pain that had left me shaking and crying and soaked with sweat and completely out of my mind with delirium and exhaustion. I also thought that (b) might be scary as well, considering that you were supposed to have already been in position as per the ultrasound and that it would suddenly make my situation come under the clock—labouring when one’s water has already broken apparently has a time limit and could have compromised your safety, not to mention threatened a C-section. I was no longer confident that it wouldn’t take another day to get you to come out and I couldn’t handle anymore bad news. I chose (c) because I really wanted relief. It was that simple. We all agreed that if an epidural didn’t help things move along, that we could then break the water after that to see what happens. They also told me that it would be a temporary respite because I’d have to feel the contractions for the final pushing stage anyway. I understood.

The doctor didn’t encourage the epidural (didn’t even suggest it!) but also agreed that it would be alright to do it. If it slowed things down more, I knew there’d be more decisions to make but it was a risk that I was willing to take. I suppose what I discovered is that my tolerance stops at 36 hours. Frankly, I don’t blame myself. I look back on it now and consider what I endured to already have been heroic, even if I did get that sleep break in between.

The epidural, despite not having been on my birth plan, was a lifesaver. I had to go to the delivery room and leave my private room sanctuary to get it done, though. As I looked at the clinical walls and curled onto my side in the rigid hospital bed with ugly leather stirrups and wires and cables running to machines on each side, I cried big, fat silent tears as they were inserting the needle into my back. There was a distinct washing over me of failure and regret and self-chastisement.

As the medicine took effect, though, I felt myself slowly glide down to earth again, like a helium balloon that has lost its inflation. Less than ten minutes later, I was asleep, my legs not fully numb but tingly, my contractions absolutely indiscernible but still going on, as strong as before. The relief that flooded through me before I fell into a hard sleep immediately rinsed off any doubt that this was the right choice.

I slept for about two hours. When I woke, Guo Jian was by my side and had food and water waiting. He fed me and stroked my hair and told me how brave and strong I was and how glad he was to have seen me sleeping. The doctors came in then and checked to see how far I had dilated. I felt as though a marching band could have entered my heart with celebration to hear that I was already at 6cm. They broke my water then, (which I was disappointed to not be able to feel because of the epidural’s effects), and within another hour they discovered that I was already 9cms dilated. This is when they turned down the epidural drip and I felt the tingly sensations slowly lifting away, like steam rising.

Within ten minutes, I could feel contractions again, increasing in intensity until it was time to start pushing. This is about the point when my birth plan was suddenly pulled out and everyone started fussing about what position I was going to be in to push the baby out. I was shocked that no one had expected this! I didn’t want to lie flat on my back. I also didn’t want to sit diagonally (worse!) and I got up and did a partial squat/kneel, with one leg up and the other under me and got through some of my early pushes this way, much to their flurry of worry about me falling down, etc. I also got on all fours at one point when I was dry heaving and wanting to vomit, but I never did get to vomit anything (just like early pregnancy!) and just retched and spat into a pail they brought over. All of this was happening on the narrow hospital bed, perched and precarious. That was the compromise with the birth plan, that I could use an alternate position but that I couldn’t be on the floor for reasons of hygiene and access to light and equipment.

The problem with these alternate positions, however, was not just their scuttling around me about the fact that it was unorthodox or that I wasn’t being very cooperative, it was that they wanted to continue to examine me between contractions, check the baby’s heart rate, etc. Every time they wanted to do this, they would make me lie back down again so that their angles worked better. After about a half an hour of this back and forth, the contractions were too close together and I couldn’t find the strength to fight with them anymore. I couldn’t get up in between—I could barely breathe let alone choose another position in that minute of rest.

I stayed on my back then, having refused the stirrups (and made them remove them), I held my legs up around my ears with each push and let them fall in the gaps between and just closed my eyes and tried to imagine myself somewhere else.

I distinctly remember feeling like a wild animal that just wanted to wander, crazed expression in her eyes, circling the room, finding the corners, looking for a dark place to yowl and birth. I wanted to get away from everyone. There were far too many people around and many I had never met before, besides the doctor who had examined me that day. They were yelling instructions to make me push without releasing my breath and without making any sounds but I just wanted to groan you out or else maybe breathe you out, trying the relaxed method that I had read so much about. I hated being barked at! It was very unpleasant. I had lost all sense of myself and felt completely out of control. Even though your coming into this world is such a beautiful gift to all of us, I was not conscious enough to be celebrating your arrival yet; I could only be intent on getting through the dark tunnel with you—mine was of pain and discomfort and yours was the unfamiliar birth canal.

So, it was easier to cooperate. A wild animal tamed into submission.

Then Dr.Yumei arrived. She came especially to deliver you and I had no idea that she would be there. Robyn exclaimed, “Dr.Yumei is here! She’s come to be with you at this moment. You’re doing it! You’re really doing it and she’s here with you! Look!” and I turned my head to one side and there she was, smiling at me and ready to be the first officer at the helm of this birth ship otherwise known as my body.

I was flooded with gratitude to see her and felt so much better. I’m sure that her presence sped things up, too. I have no doubt. It was so kind of her to come in on her holiday. I have a lot of respect for her, as a doctor and a person, and so when it was her who was calling out instructions and orders, I could take it all in stride and knew that she was going to lead me towards your freedom from my insides.

At one point, an older woman came to my head (who we think was the pediatrician) and started to speak to me in heavily accented English. She said I was doing “very good” and then asked me if I was from Germany. She didn’t look like a midwife or a doctor and I had no idea why she felt this was an appropriate time to practice her English. I looked over at her in my minute of rest between contractions (that she was rudely disturbing) and barked at her in clipped Chinese: “Don’t talk to me!” She went away and I later learned through Robyn that the other doctors and midwives made her leave and were angry with her for her inappropriate presence and interruption. And so it should be.

Throughout this whole pushing experience, too, I couldn’t understand almost anything that was being said in Chinese. I kept asking Robyn, “What are they saying?” “What’s going on?” and she would patiently and efficiently explain in English. Robyn was truly heroic in this experience. I really couldn’t have done it without her. Her presence on my left side and Guo Jian’s presence on my right were the perfect balance of support and love.

When your head finally was crowning, I reached down and touched your skull that was still inside. This was a powerful moment. I could feel that you were real and that you were nearly here. After the next push, Guo Jian, too, was so excited to see half of your head out of me that he started to excitedly blabber about it into my right ear where he was holding my hand. I told him to “shut up!” then, in English, because he was talking over one of Robyn’s translations of what the doctors were saying, and I still didn’t know what he had been saying to me until after you were already born. Apparently he was just excited to be nearing the time to meet you! But, your daddy didn’t hold that rudeness against me, though. He said he expected I might swear at him or hit him or worse, but being told to “shut up!” once was hardly a problem. I still felt bad about it, but I just couldn’t share in his excitement until your head was finally out of me! After all, this is when it hurt the most!

I almost forgot that they had to give me a small diagonal cut in my perineum to get your head through. It wasn’t a full episiotomy—too small to even compare to an episiotomy,  Robyn said—but stitches were still needed. I didn’t mind. At that moment, I just wanted you out so badly that I agreed without hesitation. I so wanted to meet you. And, after a few more pushes, your head was out and Guo Jian was exclaiming, and then your body was out too, having slid out in rush of pure wonder.

The thing is that you were posterior, or what they call “sunnyside up.” This explains the incredible back pain and also may explain some of the slow progress in the beginning. You probably weren’t posterior during the ultrasound but turned yourself sometime that day and just decided that you wanted to come out looking up. When they realized you were posterior as you were heading down the birth canal, they hoped you would turn yourself on your way out, but you remained face up right to the very end. The extra snip down there helped you get through anyway, though, and that’s all that matters. Your mommy was also posterior in 1974, so perhaps you knew that and wanted to take after her? In any case, I’m so glad we didn’t need to reach in and turn you because that might have been painful to your brand new little head.

As you sped out, Dr.Yumei caught you with expert ease and I watched you rush into her arms, the whole length of you flashing before me and then you were immediately put onto my chest, in a wiggly, squishy mess of beauty that took my breath away. I didn’t cry to see you there, like I thought I would. I was too emotional to cry, I think—or else too stunned. I just immediately held you with both hands against my breasts and spoke to you in English that I was here and that you were okay and to not be scared, Mommy’s got you and everything was going to be okay. The entire world clarified in that moment, as well. Every word in the room was audible and I understood both languages clearly.

You were huffing and puffing but not crying and they were really worried that you weren’t okay yet. I was loudly instructed to blow into your mouth and I immediately did. They told me to suck at your nose to make sure it was clear. I did. The rude woman who had practiced her English was rushing forward with suction tools and the other doctor (who had examined me earlier and had stayed for the delivery as well) pushed her back and reminded her that I didn’t want to use those instruments on you. You weren’t crying yet, but I knew you were okay.

Dr.Yumei reached forward between my legs and grabbed your feet and loudly slapped them to get you to cry, but you still didn’t scream. You were making noises and slip sliding all around my chest, but you only eventually gave a small few cries and calls to show that you were breathing. They then relaxed. You were just exactly where you needed to be, is all. No need for a traumatic, screaming entrance into the world. Very Zen!

Someone asked then if you were a girl or a boy and so I lifted the heated blanket they’d put over top of you and discovered my daughter, born on January 2nd, 2012 at 6:40:48pm. You weighed 6lbs, 6ounces or 2900g. We think your birthday is perhaps even better than your due date would have been because it’s 01/02/2012! Seems like a lucky day to me. After 43 hours of labour, I was so happy to meet you!

As I birthed the placenta (more contractions and pain, but much less, thankfully!) and then was stitched up, I had to remain on my back in the same position as I’d been for the labour. But you were on my chest almost the whole time. They took you for just a moment to weigh you and check your length just a few feet away from me and I kept my eyes on you. You came back to me immediately and only cried when they were weighing you and stopped when you were returned to me. I desperately wanted to sit up and see if you could nurse, not to mention stare into your eyes, but they wouldn’t let us adjust the bed until everything was fully done down there. I found a position to turn you so that I could see you and you could see me, but I couldn’t fully lift my neck and head. When our eyes connected, though, I knew you had been waiting for me to do just that. I knew you were there and that you knew who I was and, most of all, that you knew how much your Mommy loves you.

At one point, the woman who had spoken English to me was back in the room and I called her over and, being much calmer then, expressed publicly that I was sorry for having been rude before and that, in answer to her question, I am not German but Canadian. She seemed embarrassed to be apologized to, but said in broken English, “You are good woman,” gave me an old-fashioned ‘thumbs up’, and quickly left again. I knew it was the right thing to do even though she had been so obviously inappropriate earlier.

When they finally tilted the bed up again, you latched on fairly quickly and drank from both of my breasts. One of the midwives was helping but it didn’t take long for you to get the hang of it. I then called my parents (your grandparents, who said they’d call my sister, your aunt) and left a message for Julie (your other aunt!) while you were feeding for the first time, and we stayed there in that position for over an hour. Then, a midwife came in to dress you (no bath so as to keep your skin healthy with vernix) and also to get me ready to go back to my room.

I needed to go to the bathroom and I got up and walked there, much to her shock, horror and amazement that I wasn’t too feeble to do so. I think, stereotypically, Chinese women have a tendency to assume the role of the “weaker sex” quite literally. Then, after I got dressed again properly, I walked back to the room with you rolling beside in your bassinet and with Guo Jian and Robyn at my side.

This was a particularly funny moment. Some nurses had heard that I was walking already. They were calling out to each other to come and look. Other people came out of their private rooms and more nurses emerged from behind the nurses’ station like it was a “walk of fame.” They kept exclaiming that I was so tough and strong to walk myself back. They added compliments to Guo Jian about his “choice in wife” (<puke!>) and may as well have thrown me a parade for the pinball of hype that was bouncing off the full length of the corridor. Despite having to go slowly, I was shocked to have been offered a gurney to get me back to my room! I suppose there are so many C-sections performed here that this is standard, but still, if a person can walk, shouldn’t they?  Anyway, despite its exaggeration, I took in the praise like a desert takes in rain. I was weary and needy. We take it where we can get it!

Guo Jian’s parents met us halfway down the hall to see us and you in your wee bed. We rolled into the room and spent the last few hours of the evening cooing over you and taking pictures. It was an early night. You slept for several hours before waking and needing a feeding. It was the beginning of what is now a beautiful rhythm you have with Mommy and Daddy, Nainai 奶奶 and Yeye 爷爷. The five of us have started your family and there are more coming soon to meet you, namely your Gramme and Papa!

And, Little Spark, your nickname will probably stay with you throughout your life, but we have now officially named you: 国如一 (Guo Ruyi) Echo Swift. Everyone seems to love your name so far, in either language. We can’t wait to get to know you!

Welcome to your family!

Endless love,
Your Mommy
XOXOXO

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A note on her name:

国 (Guo)is Guo Jian’s surname. In Chinese names, the surname is always said first. For that reason, his surname is first in the order.

如一 (Ruyi) means “consistent” in the dictionary, but it’s a phrase that is part of a longer Buddhist phrase that means living one’s life with the same authenticity and honesty on both the inside and outside. It also means being conscious and upstanding. “Yi” is the word for one (as in the number) but it also means basis or source, so there’s the extended reference that our child will not only lead an authentic life, but also have a consciousness and awareness of the source of things–their intrinsic meanings. Finally, having the numeral one in her name signifies that she is the first born.

Echo comes from the Greek story of a troubled nymph whose voice could only mimic the voices of others, however, despite its heritage, it has also become an English word and continually “echoed” in my head for the last two months of my pregnancy. I really wanted to choose a unique name that started with a vowel, that was two syllables, and that represented something musical as we are both musicians and, of course, hope she will be inspired by music as well. After awhile, I simply couldn’t deny that it would be the name I chose if she were a girl. Guo Jian and I have made a little ECHO of ourselves via our love.

Swift is my surname and in my culture, surnames go last. It was very important to me that this child have both of our surnames. Since she’ll live in two cultures, it will also make it much easier (read: linguistically convenient) for her to have a name that can be separated into its Chinese or English parts.

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