First-time motherhood is swamped with lists upon lists, and in my previous entry on “Maternity in Beijing,” I not only wrote about birth plans, personal choices, and my own journey, but the importance of having a contingency plan, when you need to adapt to changing circumstances.
Well, it turns out that even contingency plans need a contingency plan!
This month’s entry was going to focus primarily on the wonderful resources out there for first-time mothers looking for alternative birth plan options in Beijing; what kind of WeChat groups can offer support and guidance, as well as resources for every kind of maternity question you may have. The questions I needed answers to throughout my pregnancy were all about how I could achieve planning the perfect water birth at home. These included how to hunt down the perfect midwife and doula, for that homeopathic home birth experience and more.
You may be thinking about taking a similar path, but before I offer some pearls of wisdom let me share with you the tale of how a week after writing my first blog entry, I gave birth to a beautiful bouncing boy, not at home, not in water, and not surrounded by my beloved essential oils!
As the clock struck 12 on July 14, I heard and felt a pop! My waters had broken, a phenomenon that only happens to 3-4 percent of women before active labor or inducement. I was alone, my husband away, and my midwife lived too far for her to make it on time. It was looking like Baby Bonnah was to arrive 31 days early. After running to the toilet and sending multiple messages to my midwife, my body decided to skip the first two phases and head straight into active labor.
The contractions came fast and strong, while I was in a state of shock and fear, trying to use all the literature I had read over the past eight months to determine whether these were just intense Braxton Hicks (fake contractions), or whether I was actually in labor. As I sat on the toilet (because that’s the only place I felt comfortable), a friend finally helped me to reach my husband, who immediately began to make his way to me. As he comforted me over the phone for his whole 40-minute taxi-ride, a million thoughts ran through my mind: but the birthing pool isn’t here yet! I don’t want the baby to fall into the toilet bowl! Am I to have this baby alone!? Oh no, my birthing plan is out of the window – help!
An hour later, nine centimeters dilated and in a labor room at Beijing United Family Hospital, my husband was being asked to look at the baby’s crowning head, and I was being asked to push whenever the feeling urged me to. I was having our baby. Two hours and twenty-six minutes later, Lux-Charles was in my arms. I did not get my homeopathic water-birth at home, but I was able to have a natural labor, free of pain medication, that also happened to be super quick, and delivered a tiny but healthy bundle of joy. My husband cut the cord, Lux enjoyed cuddles and lots of skin-to-skin contact and was left unwashed, so that he could enjoy all the goodness of his waxy coating.
My original contingency plan was to be implemented in an emergency that could transpire during or after labor at home. It did not occur to me to make sure to have a hospital bag ready way in advance, a print out of my birth plan for the hospital, and to reconcile in my head that I may not even reach the home birth line or make it to my preferred contingency plan hospital. I previously wrote of the need for birth plans to evolve and adapt depending on unfolding events, and I learned this in its truest form. Contingency plans can also fail. Lesson? – have a plan A, B, and even C, but also be prepared to just roll with it. You’ll be just fine.
Despite not making it into a perfectly warmed pool of water, surrounded by candles and essential oil diffusers (yes, this was the vision), my journey of discovery into what options were out there for expat women wanting to give birth at home has not all been in vain. I can now share what I learned.
The first item that should be at the top of your list is finding the right midwife. The reason for this is that a potential midwife who is experienced in attending home births in China will likely have all the necessary knowledge, contacts, and resources you need to tackle other important requirements. These include how to obtain a child birth certificate, comprehensive birth plan templates, a home birth essentials list (already tried and tested from experience), and much more.
The ‘Beijing Family Group’, a WeChat forum with a self-explanatory name, was a great source of information for me from the very beginning. Mothers and fathers make up the membership of the group, and key administrators have a number of written resources with links, emails, and numbers for families looking for extra support, guidelines, professional contacts and other maternity-related material. What I did not realize was that I was not the first to inquire about home births in Beijing, and that there are many expat mothers who have given birth at home, sometimes more than once!
I was given a birth option guide, which included web resources related to all kinds of maternity information including DIY births, lactation consultation, midwives in and outside Beijing, and hospital recommendations. This was a goldmine of knowledge for a very unknowledgeable mom-to-be. For mothers interested in the home birth route, this guide is given out freely to members of a number of family-centered Yahoo groups that you can join by visiting Yahoogroups.com.
If looking into home birth options, remember to have a contingency plan on top of a contingency plan, and to register at a local hospital of your choice for a prenatal package that will ensure that you’re kept up to date on all your pregnancy developments and health. Even though your selected homebirth midwife will likely offer you home visits prior to and post birth, it’s best to have regular prenatal appointments and be registered at a local hospital which is up to speed on your medical history; just in case you face labor complications or, like me, you end up having your bundle of joy come early.
Enjoy every moment of unpredictability. In fact, embrace it, and you can’t go wrong!
Photo: Adobe Creative Cloud