We had a baby in Nepal. This is not usually a big deal. It is something that 787,000 people do in Nepal each year. What makes it unusual in this case is; we are fussy, comfort driven, foreigners, who don’t know nothing about birthing babies overseas. Sure Dave is a doctor but despite what movies depict, delivering babies is not an inherent skill for doctors. He will be the first to tell you that the maternity ward is not where he prefers to hang out.
When we first knew we were expecting we thought long and hard about whether we would return to the U.S. to deliver the baby or whether we could stay in Nepal. There was a lot to weigh out; past complicated delivery, finances, quality of medical care and comfort and access of facilities. We talked, researched, got advice, played out all the senarios, prayed, mades pros and cons lists and came to the conclusion that we just straight up couldn’t afford to have a baby in the United States. Also, all things considered, we’d have the same access to quality health care and necessary response to complication in Nepal that we would have had in America. The major distinction was the lack of heated, private rooms with white linens and no options for labor pain relief (yikes!). But, despite these missing ‘necessities’ Nepali people had babies in Nepal, Nepali people had babies with complications in Nepal, without pain meds and without bleached white linens, so what was our big excuse? So Nepal it was and when January 4th came there was no turning back.
Saturday January 4th had been a busy day, so when my water broke at 10 that night, I went to bed. Labor hadn’t started yet and having had newborns before, I knew this might be my last chance for awhile to get some sleep and I wasn’t about to miss out. Sometime in the night when labor did start Dave asked when we should head to the hospital. I informed him I had no intention of going anywhere until morning. However, around 5 A.M. we decided we’d better make the trip before Dave had to test his limited maternity knowledge. After a shower and some phone calls, our neighbor Dr. Rachel, Dave and I took a horrific taxi ride to the hospital. We usually walk, but decided to take a taxi the 1/2 mile to the hospital, thinking it might be smoother than walking. This was not the case. I think our usual genial taxi driver didn’t want the responsibility of a baby being born in his vehicle. He cleared a 1/2 mile to the hospital in less than 5 minutes with flashing lights, honking horn and hitting each bump on the uneven, dirt, Nepali roads so it timed perfectly with a contraction. It seems he couldn’t get rid of me fast enough so as soon as we made it to the hospital he procurred a wheelchair and with the car still running and the doors all opened he jet-setted me into the maternity ward as I white knuckled it through contractions and the need to keep myself from being thrown from the chair.
The maternity ward is a long room with a dozen ‘recovery’ beds surrounded by curtains and a seperate room with what are called ‘birthing stalls’. Stalls. Like stalls, where you put cows or toilets. Each stall has a delivery table and various lights, warmers, cord clamps and other accrutrments that the midwives use for deliveries. My main focus was the getting on the delivery table, which was about half a bed with metal pegs on the end which I assumed were for legs or feet. How they expected me to put legs or feet on something so high up in the air, I couldn’t work out. Granted I am not a tall person, but then again Nepali woman aren’t much bigger than I am so the purpose seemed lost of these high up in the air stir-ups. I arranged myself as best as I could fit on the table and our Dr. did the exam. The verdict was 3 cm dialiated, which means only about 1/3 of the way there to having a baby, which was very anti-climatic. Delivery could be a long way off.
We settled in to wait for the arrival, figuring we’d have to stick it out till the afternoon at least. Since we arrived at the hospital in the early morning there wasn’t too many people around and the ward was fairly quiet. However, that quickly changed as the midwives arrived, the doctors and residents started to round, and the new nursing students started their first day on clinical rounds. Our little stall filled up quickly with nursing students refilling glove containers, didis mopping and catching a glimpse of the laboring foreigner, and midwives who constantly wanted to take a blood pressure or fetal heartbeat which again always seemed perfectly timed in the middle of a contraction. Privacy is not a Nepali concept, and foreigners desire to do things without people watching all the time baffels them. Of course, the people I wouldn’t have minded seeing, our friends and collegues (the other english speakers), walked by without stopping and would ask, someone other than me, how I was doing. You know, because they didn’t want to intrude on our privacy. Oh culture.
Despite only 3 cm progression when we arrived, a mere 2 hours later it was go time and 3 pushes brought our new daughter into the stall with us, into Nepal, and onto the planet! 5.5 lbs, 10 fingers, 10 toes and doing everything a baby should. Everyone present was in awe of how quick and easy the delivery, though no one would exactly say it was painless. All of our fears and worries were put to shame with a beautiful, near textbook delivery. It was yet another confirmation that this child was meant to be part of our family, and born here in Nepal.
It has been an extraordinary experience though not one we expected to have in Nepal or at all actually. Then again I rarely am able to imagine beyond the ordinary and always have to remind myself to expect the extraordinary.
You’ve made it to the end of this post in hopes of seeing some cute baby photos and they are coming but there were a couple of outstanding observations from this whole experience that we are still working through and now that we have passed the holiday season and the ‘having a baby time’ we can elaborate on in future posts.
- We are comfort-driven people from a comfort-driven culture. Having a baby in Nepal placed a spot light on that kind of ugly reality.
- Despite my worry, the arrival of #3 didn’t seem to rock #s 1 & 2’s world, (or our marriage) but our roles in the family certainly have changed. I’m thinking there might actually be something to the whole birth order/personality thing.
- and…. Nepali post-delivery customs are reeeeally different from ours.
So without further uber personal insights, please meet our ‘beautiful addition’, from a little newborn photo shoot we just put together.