I can’t believe it, I am well into my third trimester of pregnancy and the time has come for me to go back to the UK and prepare for the baby’s arrival in early Spring.
When I found out I was pregnant last Summer, I was just about the start a new Chinese course here in Guilin and looking forward to settling into a new city with my brand-new husband. But once I discovered I was pregnant, everything was up in the air again. A few months before I had packed my life up into 2 cases, donated everything else to charity, given up my apartment and job and moved to China, with a view to that being long-term. I left almost nothing back in the UK, because I wasn’t going back anytime soon. Now I was pregnant!
I knew a little about pregnancy and giving birth in China, thanks to some fantastic bloggers who are generous enough to share their experiences, a couple of friends who had already had a child and a lot of internet research, so I was quite sure that giving birth in China would not be a comfortable experience. Childbirth is a scary enough experience for a first-time mother, without having to factor in the language issue, the cultural differences and the different expectations of medical care. I don’t fancy giving birth on my back with my legs in stirrups and I certainly don’t fancy undergoing a C-section (unless in an absolute emergency) so I soon made the decision it’d be best to go back home to give birth, in an environment I am more comfortable with, where I can air my views freely and attempt a natural birth attended by midwives (standard in the UK).
This meant that my long-term move to China was going to be cut short and I think it affected my settling-in quite negatively, as now I was looking forward to going back home again and counting down the time left, instead of increasing my efforts to find my place here in China. Whilst I’ll definitely be back, all being well within a few months of baby’s birth, I suspect periods spent in China will be shorter, as my British family will want to see us regularly, and a future move to the UK is significantly likely before our child reaches school-age. That being said, I feel so lucky that I have the opportunity to move easily and choose where I can give birth, which cannot be said for a lot of women who are stuck where there are whether they like it or not.
Compared to other bloggers and expat mothers, I may have had a very easy time of it. As we were new to Guilin, I haven’t been working here, and my husband’s family are on the other side of China, my exposure to Chinese people whilst I’ve had a visible baby bump has been a bit limited. Besides a few comments in the market and in shops over the last couple of months, I’ve not had much comment on my bump or much advice about behaviour/customs during pregnancy. Some may say I’ve been very lucky that my mother-in-law is not here to feed me up (apart from a three-week stay during my first trimester) and pass on advice. I’ve certainly had it very easy in terms of not working full-time and having a lot of time to nap. Just one quick anecdote to share was being told not to go to the cinema, as it was not good for my baby, could not get my head around that one!
Unfortunately long-distance is something many intercultural couples have to endure at times, and R will only be joining me for a short stay in the UK. I know it’ll all be worth it, but it’s going to be hard. It’s quite possible that the combination of separation from R, reverse-culture shock and pregnancy hormones will turn me into an emotional wreck – I hope my family are ready for me!
Pregnant in China? Here are some useful resources which have helped me:
- A comprehensive list of Chinese pregnancy vocabulary
- Some useful descriptions of the antenatal/postnatal process in China:
The antenatal process in table form (Chinese)
- Some anecdotal experiences of expat parents in China:
Rosie in BJ (from Feb 2014), who stayed in China to give birth to her son, plus this one
Ember Swift, who had her first child in a private Beijing hospital and travelled back to Canada for a home birth with her second child
Jack Woods, whose wife gave birth to their third child in China’s Xinjiang province
China Elevator Stories provides some funny anecdotes of pregnancy in China