Birth, part 3

Our baby had been in the world outside the womb for 24 hours when a woman arrived. Her job is to look after women and their babies during the month-long confinement (“yuezi”) almost every Chinese woman goes through after they have a baby. This is not an unusual job. Obviously I was pleased to see her, and managed to get off home that evening to have a proper sleep.

The next morning I came back with a load of special yuezi food, V’s mother and M. While we’d been in the hospital V’s mother had noticed that M’s “neck was too hot” so she’d given him a haircut like Henry the 5th. He wasn’t allowed in the maternity ward, but V’s mother got around this by just picking him up and taking him in anyway. The nurses didn’t think it was worth the trouble to argue with her. M made friends with the baby, who he insisted was named “Momp.”

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The next few days were spent between the house and the hospital, trying to make myself useful in any way I could. V slowly got better, but it was still a few days before she could stand up and as I write this a week and a half later she’s still pretty far from full fitness. Here she is looking just about internet-post-acceptable.

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On the Thursday they decided to turf us out. The national holiday had begun, and she was off the drips and could just about walk – and the baby was doing great, of course. We had a bit of an ordeal getting home though – I went to the front of the hospital to get a taxi, then tried to direct the driver inside the complex to where V was waiting. Instead of driving the whole way though, he just parked about 50 metres away, then honked his horn and shouted at her to come more quickly. I tried to explain that she couldn’t walk well and that we had a newborn baby, but this just made him even more furious for some reason. When she got to the car he announced that we were too much trouble, he wouldn’t take us and I should pay the fare and leave. Obviously I didn’t want to pay him anything, but he refused to open the boot and let us have the bags back, and showed he was serious by starting to drive away, so I had to pay up, then he sped off through the hospital shouting various obscenities at us. We were a bit shaken by this, V called the taxi company when we were inside another (very friendly and professional) taxi, so hopefully something will happen to him.

I hope this doesn’t all come off as extremely negative. We’re very happy with our baby, and happy that V is out of danger too. I wouldn’t say the hospital was terrible either – for China, at least. We could have gone to a private clinic for ten times the price, but the likelyhood was that for all their expensive decorations and free tea, the facilities would have been worse, and we couldn’t take any risks. We would’ve liked to go to Hong Kong, but they hate mainland women giving birth there. We would’ve liked to go back to the UK, but V isn’t allowed to use the NHS, even when she’s risking her life to give birth to a British citizen. So that’s just how it went.

We’re a week and a half into ‘yuezi’ now. Our little flat is full of people, to the extent that I’m not really needed, and have cancelled my leave and went back to work yesterday. My job so far has been taking care of / entertaining M, which has been just brilliant, honestly. Usually I only see him in the morning / evening and at the weekend I just want to rest, but this week I’ve just taken him all round the neighbourhood and forgotten about trying to get any chores done. Writing this, for example.

And the baby, of course, shouldn’t forget him, though there’s not that much to say. He’s tiny (still under 3kg – he was born at 37 weeks, so basically a month younger than M when he was born), and he still doesn’t do much apart from sleep and drink milk. Even crying is fairly minimal. Now’s the time that people want to hear about him, but at 37 weeks there’s just not that much to say. We don’t need to register his birth for another couple of weeks, but I suppose he sort of has a name now. ‘Theodore’ on paper – either ‘Theo’ or ‘Ted’ (not ‘teddy’) in real life. No real story behind this one – it was just the name that neither of us objected to. Middle name is still TBD, as is his Chinese name. He has to be 梅书-something, we’re just missing that third character. Apparently 梅书馆 and 梅书房 are not acceptable.

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Birth, part 2

The “delivery” or “operation” had been scheduled for 7am, then was postponed to 1pm, then at 11.30am V was suddenly told it was time, and was wheeled away. I didn’t even really have time to see her as she disappeared, and there was a flurry of activity as I tried to intercept the doctor and the nurse sent both me and V’s mother on errands to buy the same thing from shops downstairs.

Eventually we reconvened behind the giant metal door on the stairwell that led to the operating theatres, and V’s mother cornered the doctor to ask what the situation was. He hadn’t seen her yet, but stentoriously listed his dire warnings and strode away. We hadn’t given V’s mother much detail before, so this was a bit of a shock to her.

Eventually we were shooed away and told to wait on the 10th floor obstetics ward.

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V’s mother sat on the chairs, I did some pacing for a while before giving up and sitting down too. Somehow I’d passed through panic into relative calmness, not something I really understand to be honest. We waited there for an hour and a half before the baby emerged from the lift in a bassinet, and got the merest of glimpses of him as he was wheeled to be weighed and measured. He was as white as chalk, though that quickly faded into a normal skin colour.

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We waited another hour and a half for V to return. Obviously I was excited about the new baby, but three hours in the operating theatre is just too long. I kept walking over to the lift thinking “she has to be coming out now, it can’t be any longer” and the doors always remained shut. Then suddenly she was there, hooked up to an astonishing variety of machines and looking the very essence of ‘pale and weak’. Later we found out that she’d needed well over a litre of blood.

Soon after V’s mother had to leave, and the longest shift began. V needed constant massage, changing of various drips and cleaning up of blood, and was in too much pain to get out more than a couple of words. The nurses would help, but that required going out into the corridor and nagging them, and there was that newborn baby to take care of too, of course. It was a long night, but amazingly we each managed to get an hour or so of sleep, mainly due to the fact that the nurses had moved us to a room with two beds.

We were sharing with a woman who’d had premature twins, both being kept in the intensive care unit. She had her sister-in-law staying on her fold-up chair, and she seemed to be either a midwife or a nurse, and was willing to help out a little when I realised how little I remembered about taking care of newborn babies. Together we got through the night.

The next day V was a little better, though still looking far from healthy. I was doing my chores on autopilot and waiting for sleep, and had barely time to take in how nice our new baby was being. Perhaps our expectations were set low after the baby in the 6-bed ward, but he seemed to like sleeping and drinking milk a lot, and wasn’t that keen on crying. My only complaint was that he kicked his bedclothes off every half hour, but he might just’ve been too hot (they really do love to wrap them up tight here).

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part three (the last part) is here

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Birth, part 1

The birth of our first baby three-and-a-half years ago seemed, at the time, to be packed with drama and incident. Now that he has a younger brother I think we can all look back at that time as basically a walk in the park, though infused with the sort of nerves you always have when doing something big for the first time. Then when it was over, of course there was a fair amount of relief mixed in with the joy. This time, though, the relief is almost overwhelming. This wasn’t a case of nerves any more, more like facing a real, powerful danger we were powerless to halt or even control. Everything is great now, but it was all so tiring – physically and emotionally – that it’s taken the best part of a week to wind down from it all and start to enjoy being parents again. The story here may induce a similar reaction – consider yourself warned.

I suppose the trouble started in August. Normally the second trimester is supposed to be the comfortable bit, but V was barely able to sleep from pain and discomfort. One night we were almost certain that the baby was going to arrive – this would’ve been more than two months before term – and had to have a trip (by bus!) to the terrible hospital we’d initially chosen. Fortunately this false alarm showed us why we needed to change hospital -the nurses were aggressive to the point of being openly contemptuous of their patients, the doctors were seemingly never there, and the minor research we’d done on the internet was enough to reveal that we knew significantly more about V’s condition than they did.  As is always the case, we had to reach out to everyone we could think of – friends, neighbours, colleagues, students at my school – in order to find an expert we could halfway trust to take things seriously. I shudder to think of what could’ve happenned if we’d failed to find someone.

For most of August and September V was supposed to be on “bed rest” – this meant I had to nag her to lie down in the morning and evening, and I trained M to do it in the afternoon – “mummy, lie down!” And all the time the condition failed to go away. (I’m trying to avoid going into exactly what it was, but suffice it to say it can be very serious indeed.) On our visits to the new hospital – a very large place, insanely busy – the news was generally good, though – or at least the doctors waving a hand and saying “oh, it’s fine” outnumbered the ones saying “this is very serious” – even when those same doctors were scheduling MRI scans of the womb, not a normal thing to do in a pregnancy. When it got to week 37 and we decided we had to check in for good (by this time V was barely sleeping) the news wasn’t so good. Our expert doctor – a towering man with huge shoulders and a painted-on sneer – did nothing but mutter darkly about “very difficult” and “very dangerous” and complained about being given such a difficult case just before the national holiday. We thought he might be angling for a “tip”, but the nurses all backed him up. He also said that they would need a lot of blood, and we’d need to give some back, so the following afternoon I had to go down to the blood bank and give them a pint.

I’m not going to advertise the hospital, but here’s the building we were in, on the top floor.

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The smaller rooms were all full, so we had to settle for a room with six beds, in the maternity ward rather than obstetrics. The curtains were constantly drawn around the beds, and it looked like the health-spa in a discount shop afterlife.

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We checked in on Thursday, and the operation was scheduled for Sunday. I attempted to sleep on one of those foldout chairs in the night-time and tried to be useful in the daytime. Mostly we just talked. The nurses tried to be friendly with us (this would change later) but it was obvious they knew there was something wrong. Eventually we cornered a young doctor and interrogated her as much as possible about how much danger V and the baby were in. She said that she didn’t know exactly how great the danger was because she’d never seen a case as advanced or as serious as this before. Which didn’t exactly put our minds at rest.

On Saturday night neither of us really slept. Things weren’t helped by the baby across from us, who woke up every half an hour and spent ten minutes screaming like a cross between an angry goose and a pig stuck in a hole (honestly I have never heard anything like it – we couldn’t believe a human was actually making that noise.) I was cold and borrowed a blanket from the unoccupied bed next to ours, then half an hour later the bed became occupied. “Where’s the bedding!” I pretended to sleep. The nurse ran to get another sheet.

We each got an hour or two of sleep in the end, and woke up to an uncharacteristically grey morning which quickly turned into yet another sunny day. This was it, there was no turning back, and we just had to get on with it.

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continued in part 2 here

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Mystery Uzbek woman in Guangzhou hospital – help needed

My wife is currently staying in hospital (preparing for the arrival of our second child). When I arrived there today I was asked to help translate for an Uzbek woman who had just given birth to a baby boy. Here she is:

Here are the facts so far:

*She arrived in an ambulance from the airport three days ago (we don’t know if she was on a flight).
*She has no documents or money.
*She speaks no Chinese.
*She seems to have a great deal of trouble communicating at all – she won’t speak and doesn’t seem to know how to contact any of her friends or relatives.
*A Korean woman had her Uzbek friend come to help translate. She confirmed that the woman was from Samarkand, and that she wanted to return to Uzbekistan.
*The hospital are not asking for money, but it’s unlikely they’ll let her stay there indefinitely
*The Uzbek embassy in Beijing have been contacted, but it’s not clear that they will be useful – Beijing is far away and we don’t know if they have the resources to find out who she is or take her home.
*A major public holiday is coming next week, and it will be difficult to travel during this time anyway.
*Our main concern – she seems to know nobody in Guangzhou and has nowhere to go.

I’m not that positive about posting her picture on the internet, but we’re worried about what’s going to happen to her, and we’re hoping someone out there can help.

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Famous in China

chinese celebrities mistranslated

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Some old gifs


(credit for this one = Lance Woodman)

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Things in China – Questionable branding

flimsy

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