Sunday, April 20, 2014

William's Birth: A Lesson in Letting Go

William Gerald Zhao born 4/16/14

It's been four days since William's birth, since then and even long before it's been a process of letting go—letting go of expectations and also realizing I am no longer in control. Thankfully, living in China for this long has prepared me a bit, so it's a lesson that has not been that painfully learned.

Though nervous about going through labor naturally, I had come to embrace the idea. I wanted to attempt it at the very least. Chinese women seemed surprised by this. Why even subject yourself to a vaginal birth when c-sections are available? A fair enough argument, I suppose, but I felt like trying things the way nature intended. Nothing against c-sections, really, as that's how I made my way into this world, but it wasn't what I wanted. But it is what I got. I suppose I'm not that surprised; I had read words of caution online, that labor and delivery pretty much never goes as you expect them to, such was the case.

Ming's mom, Ping, and William in the
I thought something might not be quite right last Monday night and Tuesday morning I voiced my concerns to Ming. We went to the doctor Tuesday afternoon and she confirmed what I was beginning to fear—I was leaking amniotic fluid. My water didn't burst, but had slowly dripped until there was hardly any left. Not only that, the baby wasn't positioned well for a vaginal birth. Then it came, her unsurprising recommendation: c-section. I felt a wave of disappointment rush over me, but after it came a sense of relief. He was going to be born and it would be soon. The waiting was over.

Doctor Xin told me I'd have to check-in to the hospital at eight o'clock the following morning. She would let me decide if I wanted to attempt an induction, but advised against it. I said I'd think it over, though I already knew I would be having a c-section. I wasn't going to fight for the labor and delivery I had wanted; I was going to heed her advice.

Tuesday night was a flurry of last minute preparations, emails, and phone calls. There would likely be no mad dash to the hospital, no apartment left in disarray, no friends and family back home wondering if the time had come. This was a fairly calm, cool, and collected approach to having a baby. And so it was, the next day I walked (waddled) to the hospital, solemnly agreed to surgery, and signed the paperwork. I was in the operating room by ten, with Ming, in scrubs, as my “translator.”

But even the c-section did not go as expected. It was no wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am procedure. The epidural didn't take well and I was feeling too much; there were several moments of excruciating pain. I moaned in Chinese, “teng, teng” (“It hurts, it hurts”) while Ming provided his unnecessary translation of “she says it hurts!” The nurse administered more drugs and I slipped into a hallucination of colors, shapes, and an overwhelming sense of dying that was narrated by the chatter of Chinese surgeons. In a space of time that felt like a moment, I regained consciousness and looked over to see Ming. “Is the baby here? Is he okay?” I asked groggily. “He's here! Look!” Ming put him in my face but all I could see was a peachy-colored blur. That was okay. He was here. He was healthy. I wasn't, in fact, dying. The time: nearly 11:30 am. His time of birth? Well, that I still haven't quite determined.

I was brought back to my room where I spent nearly two days lying flat in bed, unable to hold or even feed my baby boy. Everything was done around me, for him, and for me. And there was nothing I could do to change that. I watched in horror as they fed him water, scoffed at his “complicated” American baby clothes (that were replaced by their more practical Chinese counterparts), and pushed aside my carefully packed disposable diapers, as well as the cloth ones (Ming's mom opted for slices of old shirts instead). I was ordered not to consume anything cold or sweet or salty. I was told what to do for reasons I still don't understand and I obeyed, defying Ming's perception of me as being “so America.” In other words, I was no longer headstrong and overly confident in my own judgement, adamant about making my own decisions. Somehow, that part of me had slowly slipped away. Sometimes I wonder if it makes me somehow weaker or maybe it just makes me more mature. I guess it doesn't matter. My boy and I are both home and healthy, that's what really matters.

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