Jack’s Birth Story

About 1 month before going into labor, the only bump picture this time around!

So it turns out that when I’m pregnant I’m pretty much useless. I haven’t had horrible pregnancies; as far as pregnancies go I know some people’s have been much, much worse, so I’m not complaining. But I’m not riding a unicorn over a rainbow either. I tend to become an emotional basket case the moment I get pregnant, super sensitive and emotional. And super, super irritable and cranky. My brain basically shuts down and I go into survival mode. Like I said, useless. But I keep doing it so…

The day Jack decided to enter the outside world, there was a lot happening at our house. Some construction was going on in an apartment 6 floors down but it sounded like a jack hammer was above us. It had been going on a week and I was at a breaking point. Our internet was out and for half the day someone was at our house working on fixing it (does it ever really work well in China?). After dinner we realized we had a leak under our kitchen sink and had a workman in the house for a while. I talked to my mom that morning and was a “cranky crankopottomus” (as I say to my kids); I was upset at everything and generally un-enjoying life. She told me later that I really wasn’t myself, and looking back on it I realize, through hindsight for the third time in a row, that’s a sign that labor is coming very soon.
That evening, after getting the girls to sleep, Greg and I settled down to watch some TV. Around 9pm I realized I was having some contractions. Being my third time doing this I know what labor contractions feel like and thought I should pay attention. I started timing them to see if they were regular and sticking around, and after an hour I told the hubs that we should probably go to the hospital just in case. We live about a half hour from the hospital without traffic and I didn’t want to wait until too late and have a baby in a taxi in China!

As we got up and started getting ready I told Greg we should wait, “These are just braxton-hicks,” I said as I brushed my teeth. Then I had another one. “We had better go to the hospital,” I told him. 

We called a friend who lives in the building next to us who I had previously arranged to watch the kids if I went into labor and my house helper was not here. It was about 10pm when we called an uber taxi, and thankfully the driver spoke English and had a GPS. He turned on classical music and drove calmly and efficiently, telling me to relax and not to worry. He easily found his way to the hospital, which can be a triumph here in China with taxi drivers. Since it was so late there was no traffic and we got there in less than half an hour. 
On the way there I was talking and laughing in between contractions. By the time I got checked in and in bed I was not happy. The contractions were VERY strong and VERY painful, and coming close together. I started to feel pressure and like I was getting close to pushing. They didn’t examine me because we told them what happened when I was examined during labor with Addy, but rushed to call in the anesthesiologist and my doctor in order to prep for a c-section. As Jack was breech, I actually had scheduled a c-section for 39 weeks in case he didn’t turn, so a c-section was no surprise. 
It felt like forever until the doctor and anesthesiologist arrived and they started my epidural. It took a while to set in and they gave me quite a bit of drugs. During the process Greg was not allowed in the room with me, and my contractions were continuing to come quickly and felt very powerful. My doctor examined me and told me I was only 4 centimeters! I’m guessing things were happening extremely fast, because with Lucy I was at 4 centimeters for weeks before I actually went into labor, and with Addy I didn’t have any painful contractions until the very end and I was 9 centimeters when I arrived at the hospital. 
They did the c-section and out came Jack, breathing healthily but blue as a blueberry. Apparently that’s not uncommon with c-section babies. They showed him to me and then he and Greg immediately went to another room for some skin to skin bonding. I was very anxious during the surgery. When Greg was there I was able to hold his hand, look into his eyes, and focus on breathing, but when he left, I was in and out of sleep. I felt like things were taking forever. I was parched; I was SO thirsty that I couldn’t even get saliva in my mouth, but they wouldn’t give me any water except tiny drops. For some reason my nose was completely stuffed up, and between not being able to breath through my nose and my mouth completely dry, I had difficulty breathing. Not to mention that the blanket partition between my face and my body (weird out of body experience??) kept falling on my face. My arms were pinned down and I was unable to move the blanket out of my face. I was really anxious by not being able to move at all and feeling like I couldn’t breath. I had to keep telling myself it was almost over, everything was fine, and focus on my breathing. When they finally moved me to my recovery room and I saw Jack, I had so much medication that I could hardly lift my arms to hold him. They held him for me to help me try to breastfeed, which thankfully he did with no problems. 
I was thankful that I went into labor at night and that I could naturally sleep off the medication. I felt panicky about not being able to move, but Greg prayed for me and stayed in the room with me. Every time I woke up I had a little bit more feeling and movement, and I knew that the medication would continue to wear off. By 6am I had complete movement back and was able to try to breastfeed again. I asked for pain medication and a nurse rolled in with some ibuprofen. They didn’t want to give me anything stronger than 600 mg ibuprofen, although I had been assured that getting medications would not be a problem. I had to ask my doctor for a prescription when she stopped by a few hours later. If I had given birth in a local Chinese hospital, rather than an international hospital, I wouldn’t have been given any medication at all, even for a c-section.

When he was 24 hours old, Jack was moved to the NICU because his blood sugar was unstable. They kept him there for about 24 hours and then he was released to my room. They had told me they were going to check his calcium levels because he seemed to have some tremors that they thought were unusual, but they did not end up checking it. About 12 hours after he was released to me a pediatrician came to check on Jack and then told me she’d like to take him back to the NICU to check his calcium levels and monitor him. I got really upset, telling them they could NOT take my baby back to the NICU when they had told me they were going to check his levels when he had been there but hadn’t done it. I was so upset that in order to pacify me they did a blood test in my room and determined that his calcium levels were normal, and they did not take him back to the NICU.

I guess this was a bit anti-climactic after the last birth story, especially since this happened in China; that fact makes me even more thankful that it wasn’t a more exciting story! If you’re wondering what it was like to have a baby in China, overall it was not a bad experience. My obstetrician, who was educated in the States, was the best I’ve ever had and I wish that I had her as my doctor for all 3 births (with my both Lucy’s and Addy’s pregnancies I also saw an OB although my primary care was through my midwife)! The brand new international hospital was beautiful and like staying at a 5 star hotel. My room was SO nice, with L’Occitane toiletries in the shower and an iPad mini to control the TV, lights, and curtains. The customer service was terrific and I was well taken care of.

My swanky digs.

However, there were communication and cultural challenges that I imagine you would face no matter where you gave birth in China. For example, although the nursing staff was well trained, there was no continuity of care. Each nurse had a different opinion about breast feeding and c-section recovery. Some were happy to give me the medication my doctor had prescribed, while others argued with me about it. The pediatricians were Chinese trained and didn’t speak any English. Although I’m sure they are fine doctors, there were communication and cultural barriers that made it very difficult to navigate, especially while recovering from major surgery and being in the very early and very hormonal postpartum stages. I was very thankful that neither Jack nor I had any major complications.

Going home!

Jack was born at 36 weeks, 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 19 inches long.

Read up on all the mini-macs! Find Lucy’s birth story here and Addy’s here.

Check out the Camp Patton birth story link up here.

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