Monday, March 9, 2015

Pregnant in Shanghai: The beginning

At 4 weeks pregnant - excited and in awe!
This week we're hitting week 6 of pregnancy. Baby is only the size of a pea. Isn't that crazy to think of? We are still so excited and thankful that God has blessed us with another little life!

And yes, we're ONLY 6 weeks pregnant, and have already announced it to the world. We dutifully waited the full first trimester before breaking the news to most people when pregnant with Hadassah, and definitely understand that approach. It was kind of fun having a such a sweet secret, and especially since we got pregnant on our honeymoon, we enjoyed a few months of marriage before everyone was asking us about baby things. So this time, why announce so early?

A while ago, I read an article someone on Facebook linked to, with reasons why announcing early can be good. The point that life should be celebrated and validated no matter how little made sense. It doesn't mean I think people who wait aren't celebrating it properly. But, we wanted to go ahead and announce, to share our excitement and praise God for life that is worth celebrating at even just a few weeks old.

We also appreciate prayer. Being pregnant in China just feels riskier. Pretty much all of the risks with air pollution and bad food and water are even worse risks for babies in the womb. That has played with my mind some, and made me question every little thing, wanting to make sure it isn't signs of something bad. Recently God has helped me worry less, but we do appreciate prayers, both to guard our mind and to guard the health and life of our precious child.

It's also fun to share the journey from the beginning...

So what does being pregnant in Shanghai mean for me? Right now it means that the smells are somewhat overwhelming. Restaurant smells. Random sewer smells where you'd least expect it. Smoke smells in taxis and from people walking by. Going outside can make the nausea worse sometimes. The stairwell of our apartment building also often makes me hold my breath, especially around supper time. I'm not sure I'll ever like the smell of Chinese food cooking again...

The nausea has picked up more each day pretty much from the time we found out we were expecting, and even some before which made me wonder. It was just afternoon, then evening, and now often all day. It's starting to make eating a difficult choice. Menu planning is tough, because nothing sounds good and the thought of most food makes me feel sick. Pregnancy cravings are also setting in, though, and as feared, they're often for things we can only get in America. Bread and bagels from ALDI. Cheese in plentiful, not super expensive, supply. Ryan is encouraging me to pay the extra money to buy imported stuff, but it's still so hard to justify spending the equivalent of $7 for 8 oz of cheese!

But, we're getting through it. Days the air quality is good (pregnancy is making me even more hesitant to go out when it's high) help, as once I get past the smells from the restaurants, walking and being in fresh air can ease the sickness.

And having a toddler while pregnant definitely makes things more tiring, but it also keeps me going. :) She doesn't understand mommy wanting to lay on the couch more, and tending to her needs often helps me not focus on the sick feeling. She's also going to make such a good big sister. :)

We told her there's a baby in mommy's tummy, and every now and then she'll remind me, unprompted, saying "goo goo gaga" (her sound for babies) and pointing to my tummy. But then sometimes she'll point to hers too, so I'm not sure she understands fully! But if I ask where the baby is, she'll point to my tummy and even kiss it. So sweet. :)

She likes the shirt I made for her too! Searching online for a "big sister" shirt returned few results, and the ones there were expensive. I guess it makes sense, in a country where one child is the norm. So we made our own with sharpie, and Hadassah wore it to announce to our parents over skype, to show our neighbors, and then to church yesterday to let friends there now. We made a big deal out of her shirt, so she loves to wear it and point to it.

The hospital situation is one that is less than ideal for us. There are some western, English-speaking hospitals in Shanghai, as it's a very international city. But, they are very expensive, so our insurance doesn't cover some of them, or only reimburses 40% of others. We were directed to the VIP (foreigner's) section of International Peace Maternity and Child Health Hospital by our insurance provider. It's so busy, that you have to register in the first 7 weeks of pregnancy or they won't take you. I finally got through to make an appointment by phone, It was hard to understand the receptionist, though I was grateful she at least spoke some English. The first opening for an ultrasound (which they require to establish proof of pregnancy in order to schedule a doctor's check-up) was for March 19th at 2:30 PM. When I asked for a different time, as my daughter naps at that time, she said any later meant I would be too late to schedule a doctor. It was very much "do what I say or get nothing" attitude. I understand that they are very busy, but it's also the attitude I've heard many Chinese doctors have, and that we've experienced some ourselves. And it would be nice to have some give and take in scheduling things...

I got a text soon after the call. It was all in Chinese, but it had the date and time of the appointment. It also had my name. But it was spelled "Anna Uuost" I guess when I said "w" they thought "double u" and "f" sounded like "s" and the "e" like "t"? While it provided a laugh, it also made me sigh. These are communication challenges faced daily, but somehow when it comes to medical things it seems more wrong.

The rate of C-sections in Chinese hospitals are 50-75%, which doesn't comfort us. When it's absolutely necessary, we're all for it. But a statistic that high means many aren't necessary. A friend told us it's probably mostly because doctors, wanting things to be scheduled, will scare Chinese women into having a c-section by telling them they're too small to deliver their baby. So maybe it won't affect us. But we also heard that most local doctors require you to give birth in bed, preferably on your back. I couldn't stand laying on my back for 2 minutes due to horrible back labor with Hadassah...

So, it's hard. We'll get the feel of things when we have our first appointment, although I'm already not liking the fact that it's required to get such an early ultrasound. Call me crazy, but we fall much more in the as natural as possible camp when it comes to childbirth, which is why we had Hadassah at home. It's not legal here, complicated by the fact that only hospitals issue birth certificates. Plus, being as far as we are from hospitals with some English options (45 minutes by taxi on a good day) we wouldn't feel comfortable with it. But we're also wary going in, knowing there are only 2 English speaking doctors to choose from at Peace, and the fact that it is so busy. But at least in the VIP section they give appointments. My neighbor said when she was pregnant she went to the hospital once on a Saturday morning at 9 AM. There were 1,000 people ahead of her in line, so she didn't see a doctor until 2 PM. So, we definitely have less to complain about!

None of this dims our joy, though. A coming baby is a reason to rejoice. We want to prepare well, and provide the best welcoming that we can. Sometimes that means not dwelling on the negatives. Other times that means choosing different things. So it's a journey. We don't know what God will provide for this one's birth, or for sure where we'll be, but we are so grateful He has given the life. Like everything else, this is a season in which to learn to trust Him more...

And we are excited. :)


  1. Maybe you could fly over your midwife from Iowa? ;)
    How does the birth certificate work when bringing baby home to US? Do you get a new one here? This is so cool, and I had no idea you were in China!! Definitely subscribing to the blog!
    -Sarah JH

    1. Good to hear from you Sarah! We actually have thought of flying a midwife over, and laboring at a hotel close to the hospital in case anything went wrong. But... the logistics would be crazy. There is a midwife we heard of who travels the world for things like this, but we'd have to pay her airfare and expenses for a few weeks (or have her live with us), and I wouldn't really like someone just hanging around waiting for me to pop! So... probably not. We've thought of just going back to the states for a month, but again, logistics of living out of suitcases with a toddler and then newborn, and not having insurance that works in the states in worst case scenario... And I think the birth certificate is the same. Our child would have one issued by China, but would have US citizenship since we are. -A

  2. :) we're praying and excited with you

  3. I am excited for you, Anna! I enjoyed reading your post, as I was curious about how everything would work in China. God will provide what you need!

  4. Hey Anna, my grandmother wanted me to let you know that the chariot from the Namaan play was given to Storybook Village. And, she just wanted to let you know how they were blessed by it, and also how God continues to use you, even overseas. I personally love Hadassah's big sister shirt! Love and Prayers, Mary Catherine & Brenda Smith

    1. That's really cool Mary Catherine! I was just scrapbooking the pictures from Captive Faith and remembering the amazing chariot they built, so so glad people are able to get use from it! Great to hear from you both. :) Love, Anna