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.