Tuesday, May 30, 2017

giving birth in Taiwan

You have to keep an open mind. 

This was my mantra-- for both my entire pregnancy and the weeks leading up to my scheduled c-section. These were the words I spoke to myself. These were the words I spoke to my husband. These were the words I spoke to my mother.

Because we were all just a little bit nervous about the whole having a baby overseas thing.

In the end, my childbirth experience exceeded my expectations, but that does not mean everything went smoothly, and I definitely needed to utter my mantra more than once during my 6-day hospitalization.
hospital admission
Since I had a scheduled c-section, I knew when to go to the hospital-- sort of. During my final prenatal check up, I filled out hospital admission paper work and submitted it to the main office. I knew that I needed to report to the hospital on Friday May 5th, the day before my surgery. However, when we asked about when on Friday May 5th, the receptionist could only find one English word: later. We took that to mean some time in the evening, so we arbitrarily decided on 8pm.

Then, on Friday May 5th, I received a phone call at noon. It was the hospital wondering where I was and if I would be coming before 2pm. This would not have been a big deal if a. I wasn't about to leave for the airport to pick up my mother whose flight landed at 3pm and b. my husband would be at work for another two hours. In the end, after some rough telephone negotiation in two broken languages, I agreed to be at the hospital before 6pm.

To this day, I am still not entirely sure what the receptionist meant when she said later, but she and I certainly have different definitions of that word in relation to the time of a day.

It was also during this noon phone call that I had another hunch that I would need to wholeheartedly embrace my mantra. When submitting our paperwork for admission, we asked for a private room. Then, before we left, we made sure the receptionist understood our request. Our worst nightmare was being put in the free community room that housed four women, their babies, and their families post birth. We felt confident that we had everything in order. However, the woman on the phone told me they were out of private rooms and that we would be in a shared room with another woman, her baby, and her family. Normally, this would have cued massive amounts of irritation and panic, but I simply repeated my mantra, put on my big girl panties, and left for the airport to go get my mother.

Suffice it to say, though, things were not going very smoothly, and I hadn't even made it to the hospital yet.
the night before
Around 5:30pm, a friend pulled up in front of our apartment. I threw my suitcase and Ruby's diaper bag in the back of his car and Sean followed us on his scooter to the hospital. Traffic was terrible and Sean got to the hospital 20 minutes before I did. We didn't decide on a meeting place, so I ended up waiting for him to find me for 10 minutes. Eventually, we were led to the 5th floor and to our room. The first sight that greeted us? An exhausted woman who had just given birth lounging on a hospital bed eating McDonalds while loudly watching a corny game show on the television.

That night, we had to fill out even more paperwork, which required more than one phone call to my friend who speaks Chinese so she could be the translator between the nurses and me. The nurses had to remove all my nail polish and set up my IV. We kept trying to ask when the c-section would happen the following day, but all we were told was: morning. After the whole later debacle, we didn't really trust that our interpretation of morning was the same as theirs. Sean was going to go get my mother whom we left at our apartment while we got settled in, but after seeing that cramped quarters in the shared room, we decided to leave her at home so she could rest.

I tried to sleep, but I was way too pumped up to actually do so.

In the end, we both just sat there listening to the Taiwanese family talk and watch TV. I think we were both trying to come to terms with the fact that we would be parents at some time the following day.
the big day
Around 8:30am on May 6th, a nurse came to my room and told me to get on a gurney and that I was headed to surgery. She also told Sean to follow along because while he could not be in the OR, they would bring Ruby to him in the OR's waiting room.

We both gawked at the nurse.

We thought we would have some warning or something-- like a nurse popping by and saying "your c-section will be at 11." Sean had been planning on picking up my mother so she could be in the OR's waiting room with him and meet Ruby with him.

Instead, we were in an elevator headed to the 3rd floor-- the operating floor.

This is about the time I legitimately freaked out. I had read everything I could get my hands on about c-sections and talked to all of my friends who had c-sections, but suddenly confronted with the reality of it, I found myself feeling like a fish out of water.

Luckily, Sean was able to stay with me until the last minute. Luckily, he also didn't witness me throw up all over myself eight times in the operating room from pure nerves.

The surgery went fast and smooth. The entire time I pretended to be in a coffee shop. I don't know why. That's just where my mind went. I was sipping a coffee, people watching, and listening to cheesy coffee shop music. This daydream was just what I needed to get by until I heard Ruby's first cry.

The nurses brought her to me and my first thought was: that can't be my baby; she's way too cute and perfect! Confession: I was a really funny looking baby, so I expected to have a funny looking baby too (because let's face it: most babies are funny looking). 

the following days
In Taiwan, the policy is five nights post c-section in the hospital. It was a long five nights. Eventually we were moved to a private room. We got to spend all the time we wanted with Ruby, and the only time she left us was for her baths and her tests and check ups.

I ended up having a severe reaction to the whooping cough vaccine, which resulted in a fever, a swollen tongue, and a lump the size of a gulf ball accompanied by a huge rash on my arm. My blood pressure waxed and waned, but in the end I was not showing signs of eclampsia or HELLP Syndrome, which I was super relieved about. 

I also misunderstood what a nurse said about my pain medication and ended up spending the second night without any pain relief of any kind-- let me tell you, it was not a very fun night. Then, when I discovered the little pain medication button still worked, I suddenly felt much better about life. 

The hospital's policy is that I could not eat or drink until I farted. Yes, you read that right. Let me tell you: it took two days! However, I was exceptionally lucky because I did not suffer from any gastric complaints that usually affect women who have c-sections. 

In the end, I was able to get up and walk (very slow) laps around the hospital floor the day after surgery, and today, almost four weeks out, I am very much back to my old routines-- scooting around town, taking Bubu for walks, and puttering around the house-- just, you know, with an infant hanging around. 

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