As a 10 year old child in Tang Shan, Alisha Fan’s route to midwifery began with her father’s dream. Inspired by the revolutionary and life-saving work of a famous local clinician called Dr. Li, Fan’s father encouraged her to pursue a career in medicine. Fan began her education in nursing, and later focused on being a midwife. She has been a practicing midwife for 13 years, three of which were spent in Saudi Arabia. Currently she is a nurse and midwife at Beijing United Family Hospital. Fan recently visited Grade 4 and 5 students at the International Montessori School of Beijing (MSB) to deliver the goods on childbirth.
Xinyao Li, 11, China
Is it true you can’t pat a baby’s head too often because it’s soft?
There is a spot on the baby’s head called the fontanel, which is a little weaker than the other parts because it’s not protected by bone. You can touch the baby, but just not press too hard.
Sebastian Banguero von Bigelen, 9, Germany/Colombia
Are you a mom?
I have a 3-year-old daughter whom I gave birth to very easily and smoothly. It was a great experience.
Nicola Kirkwood, 9, US
When you gave birth, did one of your colleagues help you?
When I was giving birth, my colleagues gave me great help by bringing me something to drink and wiping my brow. They did everything to make me feel comfortable and calm.
Dylan Xu, 10, US
Was it hard to learn how to be a midwife?
Any new course of knowledge is difficult at the start. But if you’re interested in the subject and you enjoy learning, you keep going, and it becomes easier over time.
Dante Cantalupo, 10, US/China
Do you have regular work hours?
Yes, we have regular hours.
Is it very boring when you’re just sitting there waiting for a baby?
Well, when the mother is giving birth it can take a long time, but it’s certainly never boring.
So you’re normally always occupied? No sitting in a chair and spinning around waiting for something to do?
We do get the time to take a break. But having a baby is a complicated process. We need to control the progress of the birth and manage a lot of things. We try to arrange everything perfectly so we have a smooth birth, a smiling mother, and a healthy baby. It’s never boring, because we are totally focused on the task.
Nilo Tukia, 9, Finland
Are the babies cute?
When a baby is just born, it’s helpless. I think newborns are adorable. I love to watch them.
Eric Smerznak, 9, US/Austria
Is it difficult to take care of the mother and baby? Or is it always fun?
No, it’s not difficult. It’s my great pleasure to take care of the mother and baby. I take great care of the mother because I want her to have the best experience possible as she meets her baby for the first time.
Tayra Febles, 10, US/Puerto Rico
Is it hard to give birth?
It is hard work. Your mother is great because she worked hard to bring you into this world. I have great respect for the ability and strength of mothers.
Makar Cherepanov, 10, Russia
Is it creepy taking babies out of the belly? Does it feel really yucky?
It’s not creepy or gross at all. It’s a beautiful, natural thing to help deliver a baby.
Tongtong Wu, 11, China
Is it still painful to have kids nowadays?
It was more painful years ago, but now with advances in technology we have a lot of options to help reduce pain. Each mother can choose her own method. For example we have [something]called an epidural that we can use to put the mother at ease. If she chooses that path, the birth will go ahead but the mother won’t feel any pain.
Denton Chen, 11, China
Are there more baby boys or baby girls?
Maybe there are slightly more boys, but it’s almost equal. It’s just about 50/50 for baby boys and baby girls.
Callie Yiu, 8, China
What do you do when the baby doesn’t cry?
Usually the baby will cry by themselves, but if they don’t [do it]immediately I help them. A few years ago, we used to touch the baby’s feet to make them cry but now we use a new technique. We rub their back gently or help clear their nose and mouth, and then they cry. When the baby begins crying, it’s a good sign because that means the baby is healthy and strong.
Kylie Newland, 11, US
What happens if the baby is born too early or too late?
Do they have to go into one of those closed boxes?
Yes, sometimes labor starts earlier or later and the baby might have a little bit of difficulty breathing. And so we place the baby in that special glass box called an incubator to help them breathe and keep them warm and safe.
Caroline Keogh, 9, US/Italy
If a baby’s born at home, can you go to their house?
In other parts of the world, we can generally go to the family’s home for the birth but in China it’s not allowed. That’s because the government wants to keep the mother and baby totally safe, and believes the hospital is the safest place to have a baby.
Isaac Beck, 10, US
What happens when babies are born?
There is a gate between the baby and this world. When the gate is open, the baby can come into this world, and their mother will meet them here. But the gate opens very slowly, step-by-step. It can take hours. The midwife is a gatekeeper for the birth. Birth is a really interesting thing. There are a lot of things to take care of. We have to encourage the mother to push and we need to get the baby into the right position. Then at the right time, the baby will come out smoothly and slowly. When the baby comes out, I invite the father to cut the cord, and I give the baby to the mother immediately to hold and bond with.
photos by SUI
This article originally appeared on p48-49 of the beijingkids October 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com