Today, I am 20 weeks + 3 days pregnant. 20 weeks pregnant, living in Shanghai, China.
I first suspected I was pregnant around May 20. I had been very busy with my cake business and just assumed stress was what was causing my irregularty. A few days later, May 23 to be exact, I decided to take a pregnancy test, just in case (so I could continue drinking all the wine and eating sushi). I got out of bed right before Chris, rushed to the bathroom, to take the test before he left for work. During those 5 minutes, I kept saying to myself “you aren’t pregnant, don’t even get your hopes up”. We definitely weren’t trying to get pregnant, but deep down I knew I would be so happy to see those two lines show up on the stick. 5 minutes passed, and a very faint pink line had appeared. Not sure if this result was likely to be a positive test, I went straight to google. “Faint line on pregnancy test mean positive?” Google said yes, so I shot out of the bathroom and said “Chris, I think we might be pregnant.” With a slight smile Chris said “what?!”. Justified, as he had just woken up and this wasn’t exactly something he was expecting me to say. After the big grins and nervous laughs, he left for work, while I scheduled a doctors appointment for the next morning.
The next morning, we left early to get to RenAi Hospital, an international hospital we had been to a few times for minor colds and pulled muscles. I was very nervous, mostly from fear the doctor would tell me the test was a false positive. When we arrived, the receptionist said the international gynecologist was not in today, (eye-roll) so I would be seeing the Chinese doctor along with a translator. The translator then took us to a back door where we exited the nice fancy “foreigner-friendly” building, and walked into the “less clean, no english” Chinese hospital. It still humors me how Chinese “international” hospitals can trick you into paying expat-prices for standard chinese-services. Either way, we made our way to the ultrasound room, where the translator asked me to first use the restroom. Being in a hospital, you just expect clean bathrooms…this was far from it. Strong incense masking the smell, and of course only squatter toilets and no toilet paper. After washing my hands with a sorry excuse for soap and having to dry them on my own pant legs, I walked out expecting Chris and I to head straight in to see our baby-a-cookin’. Unfortunately, no one other than the mother is allowed in the room, including your husband and father of your child. It was a bit of a let down, but something I should’ve expected. Once the ultrasound began, I was unable to see the monitor myself, so I asked how it looked. In broken English, the translator said “I can’t see the baby”. “You CANNOT see??!”, I said worried. The translator responded, “I CAN see, its right there, very small.” pointing at the computer screen. Whew. A sigh of relief. I asked about a heartbeat but they said it was still too early to detect as I was only about 5 1/2 weeks along.
As soon as I met with Chris in the waiting area, I assured him that we were indeed pregnant. We both giggled, and smiled in disbelief. After all was said in done, we paid around 1,800RMB (270USD) for an ultrasound, blood work, prenatal vitamins and translator fee…without insurance. These prices were NOT an option for the long run. Luckily, we knew a few friends who had given birth in China, as well as my closest friend here, Claire, was also pregnant, about 8 months along. After bombarding her with questions, she had me come with her to her next doctors appointment at Shanghai First Maternity, a local Chinese hospital. She showed me all of the stations, introduced me to her doctor (who speaks English), and even helped me to register with the hospital and set up an appointment for when I was around 12 weeks. Without her, Im not sure what I would’ve done. That place can be overwhelming, even when you know where to go and who to talk to, going in blind would have been absolutely terrifying.
So far, I have had 2 appointments at First Maternity. The first at 12 weeks, Chris came along, even though I knew he wouldn’t be able to participate much. This hospital, and probably all other local hospitals, are very self-service. First, I paid a 100RMB appointment fee at the front desk with my hospital money card that must have 6,000RMB on it at first appointment (6,000RMB/$920USD is the expected cost of all prenatal care). Then I ask for a tube for my urine test at the nurses station. The bathrooms at First Maternity are a bit better than RenAi, only because they actually have a regular toilet option and normally have toilet paper and paper towels available. After you have your tube filled up, you place it on a rack, along with 10-15 other urine samples, where an Ayi (cleaning lady) will come and take to the laboratory. Then on to the do-it-yourself blood pressure machine, wait for it to spit out a paper with your results and hold onto it for your doctor. Next, (yes, so many steps) I visit the nurses station to get a number to wait in line for my ultrasound. Once you are up-next, you actually wait inside the ultrasound room in a wooden chair behind a curtain which is the only barrier between you and the girl that went in front of you. Oh, and no, Chris was not allowed to come in for this either. But man do I wish he could have, this time baby Bump actually looked like a baby, and not a speck. He/She was moving his/her little legs and arms around, and jerking all over the place. (This could have been from all of the Sprite I had just consumed.) It was so exciting to see. I tried to video the monitor in front of me with my phone, but the technician promptly told me, “no photos”. Well actually I wasn’t taking a photo, lady. After getting my ultrasound sheet with the size of the baby, confirmation that there was only one in there, and a grainy photo on computer paper, I finally made my way to Dr. Jiang’s office. Chris was able to accompany me into her office, to ask questions, and answer any that she had. I also had an examination, and a heartbeat check for the baby. Keep in mind, this is not a normal doctors office where you go in and the door closes behind you, and you have an intimate private conversation with your doctor. Other patients are constantly streaming in, trying to make sure they are next in line, or asking a quick question. The only privacy you get is the fact that you are speaking English and no other patients are likely to understand.
In case you’re wondering why Chris wasn’t allowed in the ultrasound rooms, the reason for this is because the abortion rate is so high in China. Because of the One-Child-Policy, (which was recently removed) over the years its been known that women often abort children that they know are girls, because only being allowed to have one child, which is a girl, would not further the family name. So not only is the father not allowed in the ultrasound room, the doctors are also forbidden from telling the gender of the child. So much so if a doctor is reported for breaking this law, they can have their medical license removed. I have another ultrasound appointment this week, where normally you find out the gender. I am hoping to get some sort of hint from the doctor, but we shall see.
I know, so far, this whole having-a-baby-in-Shanghai thing may not sound great, but let me get to the parts that are. Firstly, on a regular visit to the local hospital we spend an average of $30 (sometimes less) without insurance. This would be impossible in the States. Not only is it cheap, these doctors really know what they are doing, they deliver babies constantly. They are able to make this happen for such a low cost is because of the procedures they have in place. So, where the bedside manner may be lacking in comparison to doctors offices in the States, the patient care is definitely not. We also have a midwife helping us along the way. Dr. Jiang speaks English and definitely ‘knows her stuff’ but sometimes she can be quite blunt and doesn’t seem to tell you all of the options up front. Sarah and Audrey are apart of The Midwifery here in Shanghai and so far they have really helped ease a lot of the stress I have had. The answer any questions we have at any hour, and provide us with lists of things to be thinking about as well as items we need to bring from the States that you cannot find here in Shanghai. They also offer 6 classes with their package which we will take in the 3rd trimester that will prep us for birth!
1st trimester (weeks 1-13) I never really had any morning sickness. I only had nighttime-nausea, but i never actually got sick. One thing I dealt with a lot though was being bloated. My stomach felt so full all of the time, very uncomfortable. I was also always hungry. And a lot of the time I would eat way too much in one sitting and be miserable for the rest of the day. One day in particular, I was really craving guacamole so, I start mashing my avocados, tomato, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice and BAM, guacamole complete. I was sharing with Chris but he stopped after 10 chip-dips or so, but I just kept going. I was SOO hungry after all, and I really wanted that guacamole. An hour or so later, and an entire bowl of guac gone, I was feeling awful. Lesson learned…until the next craving.
2nd trimester (weeks 14-26) So far I am only about half-way through the 2nd trimester. This is when my hip and back pain began. Anytime I sat in one position for too long, my lower back would become painfully stiff. Sleeping also became a challenge. I normally sleep on my stomach so having to change to my sides was harder than expected. I would wake up in the middle of the night with cramps in my butt and sharp pain in my hips. After a bit of research, I figured out a few ways to sleep easier with about 4-5 more pillows giving me support (and taking up most of Chris’ side of the bed). Yoga has also been helping. I try to do my flow at least once a day, along with extra stretching, and a little weight lifting, and squats to strengthen my lower back.
Just 2 weeks ago, I started feeling a cold coming on and everyone knows summer colds are the worst. But it quickly worsened, as a fever set in, and body aches I’ve never quite felt before. Being pregnant, there are very little medicines to choose from for fever and body pain. And because of the hour, there weren’t any pharmacy’s opened. I tried to reduce the fever with ice packs on my neck and head, lukewarm showers/baths, cold beverages, anything google suggested. The next morning, my temperature had reached 101.8F and we got a cab to the doctor’s office. After testing my blood pressure, blood for infections, nose swabs, and throat checks, we got the news that I had the flu. I couldn’t believe it. I had just been talking to my midwife about getting the flu shot before we fly home in October. Too little too late. The doctor prescribed Tamiflu, a flu pill (safe for pregnant women) that I had to take 2x a day for 5 days. He also gave me paracetamol tablets (acetaminophen, also safe for pregnant women) to help reduce the fever and the awful body aches. All in all, influenza while pregnant sucks!
Hopefully my next update will have news of the gender! Fingers crossed.