Friday, October 12, 2012

Birth Story of Alexander John

I will warn you in advance this is a very long post and a true birth story. Feel free to skip it if it isn't of interest to you.

Pregnancy and birth are amazing. Not always pleasant, but always amazing. My three pregnancies, labors, and deliveries have all been very unique, which is really interesting to me as well. This pregnancy was unique in that all of it took place in China, including the delivery. Our experience was quite a unique one for a few reasons. We actually chose to go to quite a small hospital because a friend of ours knew the administrator,and she agreed to work with us in ways most won't even consider here. She actually really wanted us to deliver there, so she was willing to be flexible with us. Foreigners delivering at their hospital would be quite prestigious for them, so they agreed that my husband could be in the room and that we basically had the right to refuse anything we didn't want, both of which aren't usually allowed here. If we didn't have this relationship, we first off wouldn't have been delivering there, but neither would we have been so able to insist on having things our way.

With this pregnancy, I had been having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions (non-labor contractions), and they had been coming more and more frequently the closer we got to the end. This was making us think that maybe this baby was going to come early. Then we found out that my husband would get a whole week off of Mandarin classes for Moon festival and Chinese National Day, and my tutoring students all canceled for the first weekend of that break as well. This was also the weekend of my calendar due date. It sure seemed like it was being arranged for us that that should be the weekend of the birth of our third baby. This wasn't to be though, and in the end the timing for all of the people and things that needed to come together for this birth worked out perfectly. This proves once again there is Someone who knows infinitely more about how everything should work out.

So, I'll say that early labor started officially on Sunday, September 30th, the night of my calendar due date. I had walked a lot, and after heading to bed, I got contractions that got close together (about 7 minutes apart) and even started to get rather uncomfortable. I started to get a bit excited and told my husband, but also thought I had better try to get some sleep because I was so tired at this point. So after asking that everything would work out in the right time, my husband and I went to bed. Well my contractions spaced way out and, although they continued all night and most of Monday, they never turned into real labor. Now even though this was when I wanted to have the baby, it wasn't the best time for two reasons. It wasn't the best time for our friend who was going to be translating for us. Also, Andrew (our 2½ year old) came down with a slight fever and threw up once on Sunday night and remained cranky through Monday, so it wouldn't have been really nice to have to leave him with friends then.

After all of these contractions, I really thought that perhaps if my body just got a little jump start I would go into real labor and I could get the delivery over with and enjoy a little longer rest while my husband was on break. So I tried basically all natural methods of starting labor except for castor oil and strong herbs like cohash. I even tried eating two pineapples, including the cores, in a day. Everything that would supposedly start labor naturally, including the ridiculous pineapple, did actually start some regular contractions, but they would always die out.

Friday, we went walking around just a little in our apartment complex, and I noticed once again that the contractions would always produce a ton of low pressure, but mostly in my tailbone, not in the right direction. Only this time, I also remembered reading about a technique on Spinning Babies to help direct the baby's head into a better position to start real labor. So after we got home I looked this up again and tried it throughout the evening when I would have contractions. At this point, the contractions were very mild and spaced out, and I was pretty sure I was never actually going to be able to start active labor by anything I was doing, but I just wanted to help get the baby in a better position for whenever it was actually time.

Well that evening, my husband had some work to do, so I put the boys to bed and then tried to go to sleep myself. However, I was starting to get more contractions again. I thought I wasn't going to get excited this time and just tried to sleep, but at midnight I realized the contractions that had now been coming rather regularly were quickly becoming uncomfortable. Shortly after this my husband finished up his work and was coming to bed, so I told him I was going to get up to see if this was going to be the real thing or not.

We puttered around for a while getting things ready for if we would have to leave. I eventually realized that these contractions were getting painful and close, so they are probably not actually going to stop this time. We timed a few contractions and realized that they were in fact about 3 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute, so we decided to call everybody because we wanted to make sure to be able to get to the hospital in plenty of time since my second delivery was rather quick.

At 2:00 AM, my husband first called our friend who be translating for us, so she could call the driver from the hospital and make sure there was no confusion with that. She called the hospital and then got in a taxi to meet us there. My husband also called our friends who were going to be helping us to let them know it was time. The mother is a good friend who is a labor and delivery nurse. She was to go with us and help me like a doula. Her teenage daughter was going to stay and babysit our older boys. They said they would come right away, and they did, but it took them a little longer than normal because the road was being repaved. They ended up having to drive over some construction flags to make it through, but still made it in rather good time. It ended up taking the driver a little bit too, probably also related to the construction, but he arrived soon after. Then my husband, my friend the nurse, and I were off to the hospital over and through the road construction. In between contractions I joked that I couldn't go to deliver a baby without riding over bumpy roads (in Texas, we had to drive over gravel roads both times).

Going up the stairs
Since there was no traffic, we still made it to the hospital in really good time, arriving about 3:00 AM. Our translator friend had beaten us there and met us at the hospital gate. They opened the gate for the driver, and we all went in. Now, my husband says I have to include this next part of the story, so I guess I will. The Labor and delivery ward happens to be on the 3rd floor of this small hospital, and there is no elevator, not even a wheelchair. This means you have to walk up 4 flights of stairs to get there. This is another reason I knew I couldn't wait too long to go to deliver this time. Well, I had a contraction at the entrance of the hospital and decided to stop and wait through it. But then I made it up all the stairs without any problem, just as the next contraction was starting. I was really happy to have actually made it to the right place without any trouble. Yea!

They checked to see how far I was dilated at that point and I was at a 6. I felt kind of ambivalent about this. Not really sad or defeated, but not really happy either, because I knew that it could possibly still be a long time if I couldn't relax and let the contractions do their job. But the nurse and doctor said I was almost done and should get ready to go to the delivery room right away. It was then that we realized that the entire night shift was different. We hadn't met any of them before, and they hadn't been briefed on what the day shift had all agreed on. This led to us having to reiterate things that we didn't want and insist rather firmly on a few things.

At this point, I really had to go to the bathroom (no it didn't feel like that, the contractions kept pressing on my bladder so I had to go every couple minutes), and I told them I was going there instead. They told me not to push to hard, and I promised everyone not to push at all and not to have the baby in the squatty potty.

Labor room
After I came out, they wanted me to go to the delivery room again, but my friend the nurse and I both insisted that it wasn't time yet, and I wasn't going there yet. So, I stayed in the labor room and began to work through more contractions. My friend noticed that I was having back labor and suggested I try getting on my hands and knees through a few contractions to see if I couldn't get some of the pain out of my back. I said I'd try, and, even though this hadn't helped at all with my first labor who was also in the same ROA position, it did really help time, and I was making it through a few more contraction just fine. Then I had to use the bathroom again, once again assuring everyone that squatting was not going to produce a baby just yet.

When I got out, I sat down to rest a little, and my husband and our translator friend had to go off sign paperwork. Another nurse came in to check my blood pressure, heart rate, and the baby's heart rate. All fine, and we're thankful for that. The contractions started to get harder fast, and my friend the nurse talks me through a few that are starting to get bad. My husband and our translator friend come back and my nurse friend tells them my contractions are starting to change. My husband says he knew that would happen if he stepped out for a minute.

The doctors still really wanted me to come into the delivery room, but I didn't wanted to go next door and lay on that table until it is really time to push the baby out, and I wasn't going until they raised the head of the table up because I can absolutely NOT lay flat on my back with this back pain. Because of this and some confusion about the urge to push with my first two labors, I am really doubting myself and how far I am along.

This is the point where I am most grateful that my friend the nurse came along. She said to try to work through a couple more contractions here, tells me how with her third baby she went from 5 to 10 in only about 10 minutes so I could very well be complete now, and began talking me through the next couple of contractions. My sweet husband is encouraging along too, and I asked him to rub my back hard through the contractions. With my first, I asked for lots of counter pressure early, and then it ended up hurting too much to do counter pressure later on, so I did want any up until this point, but now I needed it.

Delivery room
About two contractions like this and I said OK you were right, they are definitely changing, and I had to fight to not push. We all tell the doctors through our translator friend that I'll come in there with my husband if they raise the head of that bed up. They finally do and my husband helps me walk in and around to the table at about 4:00 AM. My nurse friend gets pillows for the bed to let me sit up even more. They really want me to lay back more and start to lower the table some saying the baby won't come out like that. My husband locks the bed up and holds it there while I am telling them that as soon as I get all the way on the table the baby will indeed come out.

Of course they can't understand this because I am talking in English the whole time, because no Chinese words are forming at this point and I am not bothering to try. I do give them credit for putting up with stubborn foreigners when they aren't used to being questioned or any "doctorly" advice being turned down at all in their culture. If we were at dinner, I would have absolutely been trying not to offend them and respect their culture, but that wasn't the circumstances.

Well sure enough, the baby could come out in that position. As soon as I got up there, the bag of water bulged and burst and with that contraction the head crowned. The term "ring of fire" is aptly coined, and I definitely yelled at this point, the Chinese doctors are rather loudly telling me to relax and let the baby come, which is very helpful advice considering the circumstances. My husband is encouraging me and telling me what is going on and so is my nurse friend who is at the door to the anteroom. I do manage to relax and push the head out with the next contraction. One more set of yells, being told to relax, relax, good job, contraction, push, and the rest of baby is out.

My husband tells me it's a boy, Alexander John! We had agreed on a boy name before. I say, "He is out?" in a state of wonderment. It's 4:04 AM. All of this very long story up to this point happened in about 4 hours.

They tie off the cord and my husband takes the scissors and cut it. They take the baby to get weighed and measured and then wrapped up. Alexander tips the scales at 4.2 kg (9 lb 4 oz), quite literally in fact as their scale actually begins to tip over under our baby's weight and they have to catch him and steady it. They wrap him up and put him in an isolette in the anteroom where our friend who has been translating the whole time for me is still waiting and she happily watches over him for us.

The nurse gives me a shot of pitocin and I am working on getting the placenta out. Eventually we let the doctors gently pull and it comes out completely. After they check to make sure that there are no pieces of placenta left inside of me, and making sure my uterus is firm (so I won't be bleeding too much), they tell me I can go back to the other room to rest. This is my first delivery where I haven't torn at all and my bleeding was by far the least as well.

My husband helps me back to the other room and my nurse friend also helps me get comfortable. They get me set with a Gatorade and ibuprofen. My husband brings the baby in and our translator friend joins us. I nurse the baby and eat a sandwich while our translator friend thoughtfully shares crackers with everyone else. We are all so happy and thankful that this delivery really couldn't have gone any better that it is almost like a party.

The nurses come in a few times to check vital signs, but for the most part they leave us alone for a while. My blood pressure is doing good, quite normal blood pressure for me any day of the week actually. I really want to go home at this point so I can sleep in my own bed, not this rock hard bed. My husband and our translator friend go to try talk to the doctors about leaving. Eventually they agree to let us go and we all want to go before shift change.

We get the bill paid and they tell us that they will get us a driver so we can leave. Now I just have to get down all those stairs. I ended up looking kind of comical because standing all the way straight up was making me dizzy. I was completely fine: my blood pressure and bleeding were totally all normal, but the lack of sleep combined with everything else made it so that I just couldn't stand straight up and walk down all the stairs. And besides, if I want to stay any longer and go to a post-partum room to sleep there instead I would actually  have to go up another two flights of stairs to the forth floor. This was something we didn't know until after delivery, but we never were planning on staying long. So I just hang onto my husband and the railing and walk bent over at a funny angle. A friendly nurse decides it would be much better for me to hang onto her than the railing, so she takes my other hand.

And thus we begin our funny parade down the stairs, the three of us in a row, my nurse friend with the baby, and our translator friend carrying all our other stuff. We make it to the van and get in and we wait for the driver. It is about 8:00 AM now. The nurse calls the driver's phone, and we here it ringing on the dashboard. So we wait a lot longer for a driver. Eventually, a different guy comes and drives us home. When we get back to our apartment we learn he isn't really a driver (which we should have suspected when he backed into a motorcycle), but we made it. Another semi funny parade, and we are inside.

Our boys slept through the whole thing, making it an easy babysitting job for our friend. We thank her and tell her that although we had to be firm on a few things, everything went incredibly well. And truly everything did go very well. After I had slept a few hours and ate some more, I felt incredible for just having had a baby. This recovery has been so much better, Alexander has been eating like a champ and doing great from day one. We are so blessed.

We are incredibly grateful to everyone that helped to make this birth experience go so well. First, we are most thankful that He was watching over and guiding the entire process. We are so thankful my friend the nurse was able to come and help me through labor and double check that everything was fine after delivery. We are so grateful for our translator friend who translated for us during the whole birth as well as prenatal appointments. We are thankful for the willingness of our friend to could and help with our boys. And we are thankful for the friendship with the hospital administration and their willingness to work with us. But mostly we thankful that we have to have our wonderful, healthy baby on the outside.

Linking up to My Pregnancy Journal at My Joy-Filled Life.


  1. Congrats! You have a wonderful family and group of friends. Thanks you for sharing your experience!

  2. What an awesome story! Welcome, little one! We love you already!

  3. This is absolutely incredible! #1, you had to walk up STAIRS while in labor?!?!?! #2 I thought the labor room looked scary- but when I saw the delivery room, I almost peed my pants. It would have been awesome to have gotten it on video and seen everyone yelling in different languages, and Nate trying to hold the head of the bed up lol Congrats to you!

  4. Wow! What a story! I think just being in China would have made me very anxious and tense during labor and delivery! You handled everything great! Praise God that He was watching over the whole thing!

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    Congrats to you whole family!



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