The hellish birth of an beautiful angel.

Emily Fan Montrasio.
Emily Fan Montrasio
* 2010/01/23 at 4 a.m.

I am writing this negative experience down to leave it behind me, to forget about and to go on, to enjoy the new life with my sweet little daughter. I am also writing it down as a warning for other foreigners, expats and Chinese people who are having a baby in Shanghai or somewhere else in China.

Never ever have your baby in a Chinese hospital.

It simply has been the worst experience in my life. I am not exaggerating. It didn’t look bad in the beginning, when it seemed really comfortable to have a hospital nearby your home. Not when we heard the price, which was a quarter of what foreign hospital charge. Not when we saw the equipment, which was modern.

But once the actual delivery of the baby started, all that went to hell in just three days.

I am going to start writing about this event from my side. Please don’t think that this is due to selfish reasons, it’s more because my story is much less important and my wife’s side will beat it by so much later on.

Our last weekly pregnancy check was on January 20th 2010, a Wednesday. During this checkup, the doctors found out that my wife had too little amniotic fluid in her belly, so they decided to keep her for three days in the hospital to check whether this is a problem for the child or not.

We went back home, packed her clothes, went back to the hospital, and she checked in. I left her and went to work, visiting her in the evening until no more guests were allowed, and on Thursday morning again. After work on Thursday I went to see her again, the doctors were telling us that all was fine and that she could probably go home on Friday.

Friday morning at 5 a.m. my wife called me. Her water broke. That was very lucky, since she was in the hospital already. I canceled immediately the shooting that was supposed to happen that weekend and went to the hospital.

This was when the horror started.

They had transfered my wife to the delivery station, and I wasn’t allowed to see her. Little did I know then, that I wouldn’t see her in the next 23 hours! This was since she wasn’t in a private room as promised. But more about this later, when I switch to the point of view from my wife.

The only way to be in contact with her was through writing on paper. She was not allowed to have a cellphone and they would only update us on statuses when we called from a phone to the station. It’s like this: 5 in the morning, freezing cold, and you are sitting with 10 other people in a 5 by 5 meter big room without air conditioning and the only way to hear something about your wife, through a nurse, is by going outside and calling the station from a landline phone. Unbelievable!

I don’t need to tell you how I felt in the next 23 hours while waiting there. I went home one time really quickly to change to warmer clothes and I ran over to a mall to grab a fast food lunch, but apart from that, I was simply waiting. You cannot imagine how nervous I was.

Then, at 3.30 Saturday morning, I was finally allowed to see my wife, since her room mate had been taken to the delivery room. I was with her for about 10 minutes when the nurse told us that the baby was coming out now and that she’d be moved to the delivery room. They asked me to wait there, so I did. I had been up for almost 24 hours at this point and having slept 4 hours the day before only I was quite messed up.

Then, at 4:10, the nurse entered the room. She had Emily in her arm. I was speechless, held her for 5 minutes, couldn’t believe it. Then the nurse took her back to her mom and told me to be in our room two hours later. I went home, showered, and returned to the hospital, only to be finally reunited with spouse and daughter at 6 in the morning.

But that’s really nothing compared to what happened to my wife.

When her water broke, they put her in a room with 5 other women who were having contractions. Some of them were screaming and telling the nurses to give them painkillers, not a very calm and relaxed area to be in. My wife, clever as she is, listened to music from the iPod, but even that couldn’t filter the screaming, she said.

By the way, Chinese hospitals in Shanghai have a 70% rate of cesarean section. Only 30% give natural birth here.

Eventually she was moved to a room with one other woman, and there they tried to encourage each other to deliver naturally. And the dolor we paid for with at least ten years experience and own children was born in 1985 and didn’t have any own children. In fact, just in the ten minutes I was allowed to be with my wife, she was more focused on the goddamn soap opera that was running on the television!

Cultural differences, my ass.

My wife also applied for the pain killer which gets inserted into the backbone, but because the doctor only checked on her every hour or so they missed the perfect time spot for that – she ended up delivering naturally without painkillers of any kind. I’m very proud of her.

And that’s it with the delivery part.

Oh, but the story goes on. Wait!

The next two days were actually okay. I guess each hospital has a handful of sweet and a handful of rough nurses, some try to keep you asleep while others turn on the light at 3 in the morning. Whatever. They took okay care of us, taught us how to wash the child, how to change diaper and all that stuff. We were in the VIP section which cost us 2000 Renminbi / 200 Euro / $300, with a single room, private bathroom and so on. The door was broken, so you had to open it by literally throwing yourself onto the door handle.

Then they told us that all was fine and we could go home after paying the bill. This was when they totally screwed up. We paid a high amount of money and demanded a list which would tell us what we were charged for. Along with the standard amount they wanted to charge us over 4000 Renminbi / 400 Euro / $600 extra. We were quite confused, as they had told us that this would cost about half of that.

Once we (my mother-in-law and me) returned to the room to my wife and child to go over the receipt, we saw that the hospital had send a repairer to fix the door. My wife was asking him to close the door as we arrived, since he was letting in the cold from outside. He didn’t listen. I thought of giving him a minute, but he wasn’t getting anything done, so I politely asked him in Chinese, even addressing him with mister, to close the door as far as possible. He still didn’t do it. After another minute had passed, we simply called the nurse by pushing the in-room button, but she made things only worse.

The whole situation ended in my wife, her mother and me simultaneously screaming at the idiot repairer while he was loudly throwing his metal tools from a meter height into his metal toolbox. Emily, not even three days old, was calmly next to her mother, but I almost lost it there. I just turned my back to him and forced myself to calm down, I did not want to go nuts and attack him.

Once he left, we went over the bill, and what made it so high? Just one example: They tried to sell us a box of Pampers, and not even the golden ones, for the fair amount of 400 Renminbi / 40 Euro / $60. They are 35 Renminbi / 3,5 Euro / $5 at Carre Four. Nice price!

The nurses, responsible for the insanely high receipt, must have thought that the rich foreigner wouldn’t care. We made some Chinese friends there and none of them got such a messed up bill. That’s it. This experience was so bad that my wife – I’m going to have to try to change her mind in the next years – never wants to have another child again.

Now I’m going to forget about this terrible experience the same way you forget about terrible illnesses you come across in your life, but I don’t know if I can really ever forget it completely. I’ll try, and being with this cute little new thing will help for sure. Having a child is the most beautiful thing in the world, it brakes you and it makes you, so try to enjoy it to the maximum.

Let me warn you one more time.

Never ever have your baby in a Chinese hospital.

About the author

Jakob Montrasio

Moved to Shanghai in 2k5. Opened a company, wrote film scripts, shot first feature. Now in Germany with wife and daughter.

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12 thoughts on “The hellish birth of an beautiful angel.

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I can’t believe that all Chinese hospitals are created equal, though… I myself have had wildly different experiences in different Shanghai hospitals.

    Which Shanghai hospital was it?

  2. Thanks for sharing Jakob, but what a horror story! I feel for you guys.

    My wife having a hard birth last week in the Danish hospital kinda fades compared to your story. It was hard for her/us, but I can only imagine how hard it must have been for you 3?

    Cheers on the beautiful little girl though. She’s a gem! Great picture too. Treasure the time ahead and try to forget there’s any such thing as Chinese hospitals.

  3. I feel sorry for what you 3 experienced. You really need guanxi when you go to a Chinese hospital – same to anywhere in China I guess. My mum works in a hospital in Shanghai and I have never needed to queue or pay for unnecessary bills and I get to see the most experienced doctor. It is not fair I know. Now I live in the UK, although treatment here is free, the staff are very welcoming and helpful. China still has a long way to go.

  4. We managed to have both of ours (my wife is Chinese) in the U.S. and now I’m glad we did. I’ve spent time in various hospitals in China and it can be pretty hit or miss on the level of service and “take advantage of the rich (I wish) foreigner” stuff that goes on. My wife and her family have pretty high level guanxi in her home town so that also helps. (a lot, to be honest).

  5. oh brother i am sorry to hear that … i wrote the essay that Charlie links above and we also had some issues at the hospital, it worked out, they didn’t try and stiff us as bad and i didn’t attack anyone … try and forget about it (this cathartic act will help) … i had a lot of emotions in the hospital — fury and also sympathy .. i smiled at every woman that was wheeled past me and they appreciated it so much, as did the dads. you have to think — they don’t realize how bad it is … anyway my man, kiss your daughter and kiss the mama and keep on keeping on

  6. Glad to hear she arrived safe; wouldn’t wish your experience on anyone. What happened to you guys fits with stuff we’ve heard from others.

    We had our first (now 8 months) in Canada where hospital was free (I’m Canadian) and my family could be around. We had a traumatic birth (emergency c-section) but that wasn’t due to anyone’s negligence. We’re SO glad we didn’t try to go through that in a Chinese hospital in a second language.

  7. Thank you all for the kind comments.
    Now that my parents in law have arrived, a whole other fight breaks loose – western versus chinese baby handling… ;)
    I guess I’m meant to fight forever! Haha…

  8. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful daughter, it is a real shame your experience in such an important moment of your lives had to be screwed by a poor birthing experience and worse hospital treatment.

    That c-section rate is amazingly high! I had no idea it was like that. I bet the breastfeeding rate must also be extremely low, judging by the general amazement of everybody when they knew I was still breastfeeding my daughter when we visited China in December. But this is not the point of the comment.

    Life is always a celebration. I hope Emily’s smile will make up for all the bad moments you had to endure during her arrival, and that your wife can recover from the bad memories of the day she delivered this little angel.

  9. Wow Jakob, thankfully everything turned out ok with the health of the baby, but wow… that’s terrible.

    Thanks for posting this, if nothing else at least us expectant dads and moms can steel ourselves to the possibility it will happen to us.

    Emily is adorable — congratulations!

  10. Amazing story, buddy… We feel so sad for you 3 when we read that.
    Sadly, It’s not a surprise for us : it’s not the first experience that we hear from expats, going to local chinese hospitals.
    Yes, Parkway or United are insanely expensive, but it’s the only way to get “normal” treatment and to make it a real beauty experience.
    Sad country…. Sa for chinese people, who don’t have choice…

    I fully agree with your : “cultural differences, my ass”.
    It’s so true…

    See you soon, my friend.

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