We talk to a group of Pudong moms about being pregnant and having babies in Shanghai.
Several months back, an informal WeChat support group called Preggos in Pudong was started up and has now grown to 16 members. These women had a lot on their minds and were eager to share their experiences and tips for impending motherhood while living in Shanghai.
Of those who showed up on the day, with the exception of one woman, all have one or more children. Several have even had all children while living in Shanghai. Interestingly, all of their due dates are fairly close, between January and March 2016, so there was a lot to be discussed.
Before officially beginning, casual chatter started with Carri Griffin (mom of three, volunteer at Dulwich College, due on March 11th) speaking about having to move when her baby will be three months old.
Katariina Virkkala (MD/Marketing Professional, due to have her first baby on February 20th): “It must be very hard for you to nest?”
Carri: “I cannot put myself under any extra stress, I’ve been so busy with Winter Fair at Dulwich; I was so involved in that. There’s so many other things, but if we move we move, and if we stay we stay – but oh my gosh, the nesting instinct! Do I want to do a nursery for only three months, or do I just put the baby in my room with me for that time?”
As our photographer began setting up the scene, the ladies were happily joking around, glad to have a bite to eat and meet one another, some for the first time.
Jenny Smith (mom of two, owner and designer of Babybug, due on January 18th): “Can we approve the photos before they print?”
Ally Mona (mom of two, founder and host of LimitlessLaowai.com podcasts, due on February 11th): “Ah, photos have never been kind to me during pregnancy.”
I know, just pretend that he’s not there. He’s good and will get the best shots! So how long has this group been going on
Carri: “I started this group I’d say about three months ago because I saw a couple moms post on the Jinqiao Mamas [WeChat group]. It was after I got back here [from the States], and I didn’t tell anybody I was pregnant. A couple of times in Jinqiao Mamas, someone would ask about a pregnancy yoga class, and nobody responded. Somebody else would ask another pregnancy question, and nobody would respond. I thought it was time to put us all together because I was sort of feeling by myself, having my fourth. I put it out there: ‘If anyone else is pregnant, I’m going to start a pregnancy WeChat group!’”
Did you know each other already?
Carri: “I know Ally, but I didn’t know she was pregnant … so we connected, and it just kind of trickled in. I also didn’t know Jenny was in the same school year and group as my daughter. I haven’t met everyone, though.”
Joy Meyer (mom of one, teacher at Concordia International School, due January 7th): “I just found out on Shanghai Mamas; somebody asked if I knew about this group, and I asked, ‘Hey, can you put my name in there?’”
Carri: “It works really well, because WeChat is so user-friendly. I figured out how to do these chat histories, so now any time we get a new member, I just go back up [to where] everyone has posted their bios, and I just click on them and it compiles all the bios – and ‘hello,’ here we all are. We try to get together once a month, depending upon people’s schedules … it usually revolves around food and lunch. This is a nice support system for us because we’re not with our families back home.”
Jenny: “They are not really doing the parenting groups that they would at home [in Sweden]. The same midwife or doctor will get a group together, and you would continue to meet once the baby is born, and then you would follow each other for a while. That’s not as common here.”
Have you found a difference between having the baby here and having your baby in your home country?
Kristi (mom of three, Long Term Funding Manager for Ford Credit China, due on February 26th): ”One difference I found is you can’t do cord blood banking here. I did this with my other three in the US, and if you do it here, it would be with a Chinese company, but my doctor couldn’t recommend it either way. I am also going to have my fourth C-section, and this is a bit of a concern. So I called SOS, and they advised me to go back to the US – because there was risk with the C-section and bleeding and about not knowing the situation with blood quality here.
Even though my husband was the same blood type as me, he couldn’t donate for me. They will not do it here. Here in Shanghai, I heard many people have had good experiences with natural births. I think for me, I was more concerned with having my fourth C-section.”
Nichole Campell (stay-at-home mom of two, came with baby Jett, born on September 25th, 2015): “I’d say the experience for me was relatively the same in the US and here, as far as the birthing process. Though, not having the anesthesiologist around, that was a bit different. When it was my time here, the anesthesiologist did not even show up!”
Jenny: “My doctor told me that here there is no meeting with the anesthesiologist before the birth because they are really hard to get a hold of. I asked, ‘Oh, but my mom is here, can she come to see [the anesthesiologist] with me?’ But again, I was told they won’t see anyone before a certain week. And I asked, ‘Even if it’s one or two weeks away, don’t you think they can make an exception?’ And I was told no.”
Carri: “But see, I would have never met my anesthesiologist back in the US. It’s more of a case of whichever doctor is on duty shows up and gets it done.”
Jenny: “At home in Sweden, if it is a planned C-section and you have concerns, you’re able to meet the head of anesthesiology. I got to see how the procedure worked, and they would even accommodate you at home. But it isn’t like that here.”
Ally: I’m surprised your anesthesiologist did not show! But I haven’t had a baby in the US, so I figured it’s China; if everyone else can do it, then I can do it too.”
Jenny: “That’s my comfort thought!”
Nichole: “Apparently here, anesthesiologists are the only ones that can give medication for pain relief.”
Jenny: “That’s not entirely true. I spoke to my doctor, and most doctors can give morphine and other medication.”
Nichole: “But in my case, they didn’t give it to me even when I was in a lot of pain.”
Does it help to have a birth plan and would it do any good here?
Nichole: “I had a doula to help with my birth plan, and she was very helpful with my pain management. That was to get me to the point where I could have opted for an epidural, but unfortunately it was too late. I spent from 1 to 3am in a lot of pain.”
Jenny: “I think it’s about the timing on when the epidural would kick in.”
Ally: “I really think it depends on the doctor. They do recommend you have a birthing plan. I did all my pre-natal at a local hospital – the doctor spoke English. But he can’t guarantee he will be there for the birth, and they couldn’t give me a private room to labor or recover in. So what they do is put you in a room with six people … to labor in.
At all international hospitals, you get your own room. I did all my pre-natal work at Shanghai First [Maternity and Infant Hospital], and it was RMB5,000 for the 30 weeks. That’s it. Because I went local for my pre-natal, we can now pay for me [to give birth at an international hospital]. I am also [blood type] A-negative. If you are A-negative and your husband is positive, the shot is RMB10,000. And the thing is, the local hospital won’t do it. You need a shot at 28 weeks and after delivery, but they can’t do it for you at the local hospital.”
Carri: “I plan to have a C-section here, and Joy and Jenny both say they also need to have them.”
Kristi: “Oh, I didn’t know that you were all planning on having C-sections, but then that’s why I wanted to be in this group. It’s just good to know others are going through what you are going through.”
Where are you planning to have your babies?
Nichole: “I had mine at Redleaf [International Women’s Hospital]. My first baby was a preemie and had to be in the NICU. We didn’t know what to expect with Jett. And if he had been born with problems, or if we had encountered an emergency, we would have had to take him to a local children’s hospital. Redleaf is equipped for that type of situation.”
Joy: “I am going to Shanghai East [International Medical Center] – it’s near where I live, and Redleaf is just too far from me.
Oh, and I found a Filipino doctor, and they have their own emergency facility, which I had to use with my first birth. I went to the hospital at 8pm and had to have an emergency C-section, and everything happened so fast. I felt so safe and happy with my first experience so I’m going to do it again with the same doctor.”
Carri: “It all comes down to that we are from different cultures. Pre-natal care in home countries could be different. There are a lot of different factors that these international hospitals have to try and manage.”
Katariina: “I’m with Dr Kong – she’s lovely, but I haven’t visited the hospital yet.”
The group: “Go soon!”
Katariina: “I will next week. And I am concerned because I am A-negative.”
Ally: “I had my babies in two different hospitals, and it was beautiful. As long as someone is there to catch the baby, my standards aren’t super high [laughter from the group]. I had a great experience at both American-Sino [OB/GYN] and Shanghai East. The care and after-care I received at both were fantastic.”
Have you been able to find pregnancy clothing here?
Carri: “ Not really, my mom and mother-in-law have been shipping to me every month.”
Ally: “Taobao Maternity XXXX-Large!”
Kristi: “I haven’t been on any sites; I brought some maternity clothes from back home. I ship things to the US and have had people bring things for me. It’s more comfortable to order on-line from places or shop in our home countries.”
Ally: “Everything here is made for small Chinese women with a belly. It’s challenging.”
Carri: “One thing I have noticed here in Shanghai is that there’s less stress to worry about fashion and style than in the US. You just have your own style. If I were back in the US, I would know the trends and more on what’s in style because we are more immersed in the media there.”
Kristi: “I would be hesitant to wear certain things to work back home in the US, but here the range of styles are more acceptable. It seems as we’ve moved abroad, we can be more relaxed with our style, especially at work.”