Autumn’s Arrival│There are certain days in life that literally change everything… forever. The birth of your first child is definitely one of those days. Weddings are amazing, beautiful, and heart-warming, but a birth is something that is hard to describe. In many ways it is so much bigger than any planned celebration. It is raw, it is painful, it is messy – but is also beautiful and a miracle, no matter how it happens. After this day, your role on this earth, your relationship with your spouse, and your view of those around you… all change! Becoming a parent is something from out of this world. And this week we got to share in this experience while supporting some friends. In the process we relived our own experience of having a child over here in China.
On Monday morning, I got the call to head to the hospital to meet Claire and Hao. Over the space of about two days Claire’s contractions had been getting closer and stronger together, but only at about 8pm on Sunday night were we all sure that baby was going to making her appearance pretty soon! We had met on October 1st, which was Baby Autumn’s due date, and even then Claire was having mild contractions every ten minutes.
When I got to the hospital, the nursing staff told us that only one person could be in the room with Claire while she was laboring. Hao had been in there for three hours already, so I took over. He went to rest in the waiting room, and I stayed with Claire for the next three hours. We were not alone in the room though, which was dramatically different from my birthing experience. There was another woman, also in labor, at the same time. The funny part was how differently Claire (a Westerner) and the other woman (Chinese) labored. We were baffled at how still this lady was lying! She barely moved a muscle the whole time, and she even lay on her back through all the contractions (which is by far the most painful position). Claire was huffing, puffing, and even shedding tears – as you do! – as those extremely painful contractions rolled in harder and faster as the hours went by. I know that labor is different for everyone, but personally I had the most excruciating contractions when I was giving birth. There are no words to describe the pain that I felt before I had Eli. To think that anyone would be able to lie completely still during that… well, it is mind-blowing. Hao told us that Chinese women are reluctant to express pain, and will often use a “mind of matter” type of power to get through contractions. Imagine the look that Claire and I gave Hao when he said this…. !!!!!! I can only imagine that she wasn’t that far along in her laboring, because there is just no way to lay still through all of that.
If you don’t follow me on Instagram, here are the images that I posted throughout that day:
Claire eventually decided to have the epidural, and the hospital also advised Pitocin since she was dialing, but at a slow rate. Piton is the synthetic version of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that runs around your body to make your uterus contract. Under ideal circumstances, you’ll make enough to get that baby out on your own. Problem is, not every labor is ideal. That’s why somebody invented pitocin, to give your natural oxytocin stores a boost. It’s the drug of choice in most inductions and augmentations (when you’re in labor on your own but need a little help). Claire was the latter of those two. Although she was doing a great job, her body needed a little help to get her moving along.
When Claire was moved to the delivery room, Hao took a break to go get some food. At this point I was in the delivery room with Claire and it was clear that the big moment was coming soon. I stayed with her through a few pretty intense contractions, but as I was leaving – to make the final switch with Hao – Claire let out the most painful moan I had heard all day. I quickly sprinted to get Hao so that he didn’t miss any of those final moments. By then Justin was waiting up in the recovery room, along with Hao’s mother and a couple of close family friends.
Above, The private recovery room. This is where Claire and Baby Autumn have been recovering, with Hao, since Monday. In many hospitals in China, women might have to share recovery rooms but this hospital was nice and the rooms all seemed to private for each new mother.
Below, Some pictures of Claire while she was nearing the final stage. This was the delivery room, which was also not a shared room. It was only the labor room which was a shared room. I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures there since there was a another woman in the room. You know, the ninja-focus lady who was laying down and smiling through her contractions. Yeah, that lady! #NotNormal
This is the post-epidural face!
In the past two weeks, Claire and I have spoken a lot about my experience giving birth here in China. Much of what I said, she immediately saw, so it was good that she had some “warning” on those things. One thing that I told her was that epidurals in China are NOT AT ALL like those that we see/ hear about back home. Over here, you think you’re getting an epidural to take away the pain… WRONG! The pain is still there, it is minimized a lot, but it’s definitely still there! I remember being very disappointed that I could still feel the pain of the contractions, but compared to the unbearable contractions that lasted a minute, with only 10 seconds of “rest” between, I was happy with any sort of relief that I could get.
Epidurals in China are no where near as strong as in the West!
Above, Oh the pain! Poor Claire was extremely fatigued and really hurting here. She was also VERY annoyed by the constant belly-pokes that every nurse kept doing. Even watching them made me frustrated. It must have been at least every three minutes that someone would come over and feel her stomach.
Below, Justin arrived at the hospital with this cute bunny for Baby Autumn.
It was a day of waiting, as many birth days are, but eventually Baby Autumn arrived, and there were many happy faces waiting to meet her. Claire and Autumn were moved to another room (and mini-recovery room) where her stomach was massaged for almost two hours. Let me point out that this was not done to me, so I don’t know why they did it to Claire.
By this point she looked like she wanted to kick someone. She wanted to hold her baby, and the nurses kept telling her to lie down and rest. For us Western mothers, those first hours of close contact with our babies are so vital, but Claire was made to lie down.
Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, and despite being told not to, I moved Autumn’s crib over to Claire so she could look at her daughter. I love the above picture – Claire was looking down at Autumn, and her face was full of love and admiration. In fact, in the the pictures below you will see more of that… New parents proudly watching over their baby.
We are very grateful to have been able to help and support on this special day. There is something uniquely bonding about sharing a day like this with a couple. Three years ago, Justin and I were with my cousin, in the States, while she delivered her first child. I’ll never forget that day, and how amazing it was to see my God-son being born. Monday was a reminder of that day. It was also a reminder of the day that Elijah was born – and how much love was showered onto us by our friends. Seeing Autumn wrapped up in a blanket with the same print that Eli was when he was born, brought back so many memories.
Congratulations Hao and Claire!
And Welcome to the World Baby Autumn!