The birth of a baby is an occasion for great joy and celebration, but there’s no doubt that pregnancy, labor and caring for a newborn can all place extreme demands on new mothers. We look at some of the supports available in Beijing to help you meet and surmount the challenges along the way.
The Pre-Natal Workshop
American Jennifer Lecleir is the women’s health educator and lactation consultant at Beijing United Family Hospital, and runs the pre-natal workshop there. The latter helps pregnant women and new mothers deal with all of the common issues that they experience, looks at how they can work through them and how their husbands can support them. Lecleir covers topics like the anatomy and physiology of labor, positions to labor in, breathing exercises, pain management options, what to expect if you get a C-section, breastfeeding, and adjusting to and caring for a newborn baby.
Usually, moms attend with their partners in their third trimester, between 28 to 32 weeks of pregnancy, so they still have time to practice the skills covered in class. “I really encourage people to go home and practice,” says Lecleir. “Labor is not a walk in the park. The more the couple practice and the more in sync they are together, then the better they’ll do.”
With so much covered in the workshop, it’s natural that parents have a lot of questions. “I really try to take the fear of labor away by talking to people and informing them, giving them good information so that they know what to expect,” says Lecleir.
The group is normally between six to nine couples in size, and Lecleir says attendees often form an informal support group after the workshop ends. Lecleir also provides continued support post-partum, and for breastfeeding support.
When: One weekend each month, from 9am to 1pm, on Saturday and Sunday
See also: For details of the childbirth workshop at Oasis International Hospital, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through labor coaching, doulas assist women through labor with minimal medical intervention, reducing the likelihood of procedures such as inductions, epidurals and C-sections. American-born bilingual doula Robyn Wexler supports mothers during pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum, and she also offers support to new fathers.
While doulas don’t have a specific medical role, they should be professionally-trained and experienced in childbirth and childcare. Wexler has over ten years of experience, having completed her doula training in her hometown of San Francisco in 2003. In China, having a doula that is fluent in both Mandarin and English can be crucially important to mothers who wish to have as natural a birth as possible. This is true even in international hospitals, as not all staff members will be fully fluent in English.
China holds the top-spot for caesarian section rates at around 40 percent, according to the World Health Organization. The doula’s familiarity with Chinese language and culture as well as the birth process means she can mediate with staff, and translate and advocate for the couple’s birth plan during labor.
La Leche League (LLL)
LLL is an international non-profit dedicated to promoting and encouraging breastfeeding. Membership is only RMB 160 a year, and members have access to monthly meetings, mother-to-mother support, telephone assistance from accredited Leaders, and a lending library. Meetings deal with issues such as the benefits of breastfeeding, how to get started, family adjustments, overcoming difficulties, nutrition, and weaning.
Rebecca Taylor, an Australian mother of two, turned to LLL in Beijing when her first child was 5 weeks old and she was struggling to breastfeed because of a painful latch. When she was pregnant with her second child, she began hosting LLL meetings in her home, and has since become a fully-accredited LLL Leader in February of this year.
Taylor recommends that moms attend their first LLL meeting while still pregnant. The local chapter can provide up-to-date and realistic information from mothers who have been there and can share the realities of a breastfeeding relationship, including how your birth plans can help you get off to the best start, what’s normal, what you should watch out for, and how to overcome any problems you might run into.
Local Leaders like Taylor can be a helpful resource after your baby is born, and meetings are also a place to develop a supportive network of other breastfeeding mothers. “It’s important to know that some mothers experience challenges in the early days of breastfeeding,” says Taylor, “but almost every problem can be overcome with good information and support.”
When: Monthly meetings on the second and last Tuesday of each month at 9.30am
Where: Shunyi and Tianjin – contact LLL for detailed directions.
Contact: Rebecca or Serena at email@example.com or 186 0062 8481 (text or WeChat only, will return calls)
A yuesao is a Chinese live-in post-natal helper, assisting the new family in all chores and tasks associated with the care of a newborn baby. Brian Hindman, an American entrepreneur and real estate developer, and his wife Hai Ying a stay-at-home mother, decided to hire a yuesao to care for their son Vaughan, now 15 months, after his birth.
“We were nervous as first-time parents,” he says, “and most of our friends and relatives had one or highly recommended it.” The yuesao was employed for six weeks and lived with the family 24/7, taking care of both Hindman’s wife and newborn son. Among other duties, she cooked five to six meals a day, handwashed the baby’s clothes, and fed and washed Vaughan.
“The yuesao in theory has much experience in all things baby,” says Hindman. “She will generally have a resume full of credentials, chops and certificates, including how many babies she has cared for. Hindman and Ying went to numerous companies in search of a yuesao and eventually settled on one from a local hospital. Their yuesao was paid around RMB 16,000 for six weeks. Typically a yuesao stays for 26 days and is with the family constantly during that period.
The yuesao had many benefits: The Hindman-Yings were able to sleep better than they perhaps would’ve without a third pair of hands, and it was a stress relief for Ying to have someone there at all times to talk to and answer questions.
On the other hand, there were times when the yuesao’s views and presence were an imposition. “My wife washed her hair before the traditional month was up and the yuesao warned her that although it might take 10-20 years, a headache would be the inevitable direct result of the errant shampooing,” says Hindman. “To have a flatulent, slurping, burping stranger – the yuesao, not the newborn – move into our home and take up residence was at times challenging for me as a new dad.”
Another potential obstacle was the possibility of becoming over-reliant on the yuesao. “When it came time for her to leave, my wife didn’t want her to go,” Hindman says.
If the couple was to have another child, they say they would hire a yuesao again. They recommend taking extra time and energy to find the best possible help, even if that means launching an extended search. “The first month is a most precious and important time [of a baby’s life]. Finding the right person to share that month or more with will have a profound influence on your newborn’s start in life. Choose well,” says Hindman.
An in-person support group for pregnant and new mothers that meets weekly. B2B and Beyond (for parents of children aged 6-12 months) runs on Wednesday mornings from 10.30am to noon. The meetings on Friday mornings (same time) are suitable for pregnant women or mothers with non-mobile babies. Both meetings take place at SOHO Shangdu (beside The Place and Central Park). For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Yahoo Group for parents to share information, and post and answer questions about family life in Beijing. To apply for free membership, visit groups.yahoo.com/group/Beijing_Mamas.
Annette Oevermann, a certified massage therapist and instructor at AO Bodywork for Babies, teaches new parents about the benefits and techniques of infant massage. Classes take place at House of Knowledge International Kindergarten’s Victoria Gardens campus (see Directories under Schools for address). For more information, contact Annette@aobodywork.com.
Pre-Natal and Post-Natal Yoga Classes
Yoga Yard runs Pre-Natal, Post-Natal Mommy and Baby, and Post-Natal Integration Yoga classes. For the full schedule, see www.yogayard.com. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Photo by Ken