It happened like this:
Monday, June 7: We went to the hospital. Knowing someone that knew someone, as well as a giant basket of fruit to bribe the floor nurses, secured Mrs. Stevo a nice room and attentive care. After checking in and meeting with the doctor it was off to the labour room. A bag of IV fluid, labour-inducing medication, and five hours later, Baby Stevo had yet to arrive. Baby Stevo was stubborn. Back to the room and a night sleep for Mrs. Stevo – back home for moi.
Tuesday, June 8: Back to the labour room. Unlike the day before, the medication kindled a fire. Just after lunch a stronger medication was introduced. Mrs. Stevo’s contractions went from winces to bed-sheet clawing near-convulsions. Our temp Nanny arrived, a sentinel over Mrs. and yet-to-be born Baby Stevo. By early evening Mrs. Stevo was in agony. No epidural until she was dilated enough, said the doctor. “I’m going to die,” she said, again and again. Because things were progressing slowly she was moved back to her room. The baby would come tomorrow, they said. I returned home, to be called when Mrs. Stevo returned to the labor room.
Wednesday June 9: 1 am – The nanny said “Guo Lai!” when I picked up the phone. I dressed, found a taxi and headed back to the hospital. Mrs. Stevo was in the labour room again, pale, sweaty, and grimly facing her fate. No epidural yet. “I’m going to die” was her mantra. A doctor appeared and I was ushered out. When I returned Mrs. Stevo was roses and rainbows – an IV line snaked from under the sheets to a stand above the bed. She was able to get some sleep, as did I, outside the mosquito net, eaten alive. Three other women arrived in the labour room, they were quickly taken into the delivery room. Baby Stevo was still stubborn. By 5 am the doctor suggested Mrs. Stevo drink Red Bull and eat chocolate. They took her away and the orderly showed me the door. Husbands don’t routinely go into the delivery room in China.
I anxiously sat until an entire extended family arrived to wait. Quiet is not ever a word I would use to describe China. I roamed the corridors, coming back every 10 minutes to see if a nurse had appeared. Tired of walking I stood by the waiting room window and listened to my iPod (with noise excluding headphones) to drown out the unquiet family.
The door to the labour room had been dead-bolted – I had tried to get back in earlier. As I took a break from my musical escape I heard the bolt scrape open. A doctor emerged. All I caught of her statement was “… nu hai.” A girl. What I wanted. I was excited, but exhausted. No where near as exhausted as Mrs. Stevo must have been. After another hour I was allowed in to visit.
Mrs. Stevo was radiant and angelic, like a renaissance painting. A bundle of blankets was held in the crook of her arm. Babies aren’t bathed their first day in China. Even with a mucky head, Baby Stevo was beautiful. The nanny fawned over them both. I sat a spell and returned home.
I returned mid-afternoon, after sleeping and packing. Baby Stevo and Mrs. Stevo were back in their room. I held my daughter for the first time and walked about the room with her in my arms. It was a brief first meeting – I was headed for Beijing. It would be a week before we spent more time together. (In Beijing I did not get to take any Great Wall Tours – for the second year in a row. One day Great Wall, I will climb you).
Welcome Baby Stevo.