Living in a foreign country can be stressful. Expecting a baby can be stressful. When you combine the two, you can easily stop enjoying either one. Since moving to Shanghai with my husband in August of 2006, I have been looking to use my experience as a Labor and Delivery nurse to help couples who are expecting Shanghai babies to avoid unnecessary stress.
For a start, I’ve done research (both online and by word of mouth) on the options women currently have for delivering their babies in Shanghai, and I’ve learned what to expect or, in many cases, what not to expect from the hospitals and clinics we have to choose from.
As a perinatal educator at Parkway Healthcare (formerly World Link), I’ve listened to the concerns of expectant parents about the lack of organized resources available here. Although there is plenty of information on the internet for moms and dads-to-be, it still can be challenging to sort through everything. And even if you do, it is another question which options and resources would be available to you in Shanghai. As a result, I decided to create this post in order to share information with expectant parents in Shanghai in hopes of making your pregnancy, labor and delivery experience a positive and memorable one.
What to bring to the hospital
Lets be reasonable, for most women, you are only going to be in the hospital for less than 5 days total (avg stay is 2-3 days after delivery). PACK LIGHT is my motto. 2 bags: one for the labor room and one for the hospital room. Leave your second bag in the car. Your husband or partner can bring more stuff in later.
Before you leave for the hospital
Lots of moms-to-be (and friends of moms – hint hint): prep and freeze food so they don’t have to worry about shopping, cooking, etc. after they get home with baby.
For the Labor Room
You can pack this bag early and keep it in the hall closet or trunk of the car. A knapsack or overnight bag is large enough.
Multimedia – If you have an MP3 player, bring that with a diverse selection – from classical to Grateful Dead to African drums to chanting; Create your own birthing CD. Also check to see if they have a wireless internet connection that you can tap into while there. May be easier getting in touch with relatives and sending out first photos and less expensive than trying to call everyone at weird international hours.
Relax – Try to visualize your ideal relaxing environment. Bring powders, lotions or oils for massage. A good room scent like Lavender, Lemon Verbena, Peppermint. Bring a tennis ball or plastic rolling pin for firm counter-pressure massage in case of back labor.
Camera – Please check with your hospital if you are able to take pictures or video of the actual birth.
Warm socks and/or a sweater – Many women complain of being cold (or hot for that matter) during labor, whatever you bring know that it may get stained, dirty or just be willing to throw it away after labor. If you want to wear a sports bra or tank top, make sure it has no metal parts (ie underwire or fasteners, etc).
Don’t wear jewelry if at all possible – in rare cases you may need to have an emergency c-section, some equipment in the OR may use electricity, so you do not want anything that can conduct current. Wedding rings can be worn on a long necklace and/or your husband can hold on to it for safe keeping.
A washcloth – Although the hospital might provide you with one, it’s not a bad idea to bring your own.
Lollipops or other small candies – Once you are in active labor, medical staff usually wants to avoid giving you any food (your digestion slows down in labor and increases the possibility of nausea and vomiting – which you may get anyway and is normal. Therefore, bringing in sugarless lollipops or hard candy won’t make you too thirsty, but any lollipop will help keep your mouth moist and provide you with energy.
Favorite snacks – Most of the hospitals in Shanghai that Westerners deliver at have mini-fridges in the rooms. Make sure you and your partner pack a little nourishment (they may let you eat in early labor). Please remind your partner to eat, although they are trying to focus on you (for good reason), a partner who faints is not going to be very helpful. Also, bring a few dollars and a Sherpa’s delivery menu if you are not fond of the food selections they offer you. Bring a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider to celebrate after the delivery if you want!
A list of telephone numbers – It’s amazing how easily everything else is forgotten when your baby is placed in your arms for the first time, and you’ll have plenty of friends and relatives waiting for the announcement.
A focal point – If there is an image you particularly like, such as a still-life painting or a nature photograph, bring it with you to focus on during labor. You may find that it helps you get through contractions. Keep the size reasonable.
For the Hospital Room
In the hospital after labor and delivery
A sweater or nightgown – After a shower, you might want to wear something of your own rather than a revealing hospital gown. Again, be warned that whatever you bring can get dirty.
Toiletries – Check what the hospital provides so you don’t have to lug your electric toothbrush, etc.. Even if you are not ready for a shower soon after the delivery, it is amazing how good you feel by just putting on your own deodorant and brushing your teeth.
Sanitary napkins – The hospital will provide you with sanitary napkins, but you might want to pack your own. Buy something comfortable and designed to handle very heavy flow.
A pillow and blanket for Dad – If your partner wants to stay overnight, he’ll likely have a recliner or cot to sleep on, but linens are hard to come by. Bring some items to make his limited space a little more cozy.
Something to pass the time – You will probably be busy and in awe of this new little baby and when baby is sleeping, you really should sleep; however, remember to stay relaxed and if that means packing a deck of cards or your knitting, then go for it.
More snacks – Hospital food is notorious for causing constipation. Packs of raisins, nuts or whole-wheat crackers will help keep you regular.
Going-home outfits – You’ll still be sporting a sizeable belly (your uterus doesn’t go back down to pre-pregancy size for about 6 weeks), so don’t pack those pre-pregnancy jeans just yet. Bring something that was comfortable when you were about 6 months pregnant. A going-home outfit for baby should be comfortable as well. Bring a kimono or stretch suit, undershirt, booties and a hat. Make sure you have a receiving blanket and heavy bunting blanket if it’s cold. Diapers will most likely be provided by the hospital, but bring a few just in case.
Car seat – You can’t take your baby home without one, so don’t forget it! Well, in China you probably can, but better that you have one.
Packing won’t take you much time, but putting it off until the day you go into labor is a recipe for disaster and disorganization. Compile what you want to bring to the labor room and your hospital room long before you need to worry about it. Tell your partner where to find your bags and which bag is for which room. After you’ve finished packing, you can go re-fold those baby clothes one more time.