Article by XIANEASE
So you’ve found out that you’re having a baby. What do you do next?
This question can be a difficult one, even when a language barrier is not present, but when living in a country that is not your home country, it can seem like an insurmountable task to prepare for the birth of your little one.
There is plenty of advice out there about what you should do, much of it conflicting, so we are for the most part going to steer clear of all the little tidbits of wisdom that are often passed around and focus instead on the major steps and where you can get them done.
Choosing a Doctor or Hospital
Choosing the right doctor is going to make a world of difference when it comes to your experience, as well as the institution that that doctor is a part of. It is also worth considering early on whether you will be using a public hospital or a private clinic during this process. While there are many hospitals and clinics that you may choose in the city, there are a few things that you might want to consider before choosing.
First, you will want to consider the quality of the obstetrics department at your chosen hospital, as the quality and capabilities of care may differ from hospital to hospital. There are only a few public hospitals that are well-known for their maternity support. The Xi’an No. 4 Hospital, located at DaChaiShi, is considered to be one of the best public hospitals for reproductive support, and is often the go-to hospital for those looking to have a baby. However, with great popularity comes great crowds of people meaning that both pre- and post-natal care may be more rushed, and lines may be longer. Some have said that people have waited so long for an open bed that births have occurred in the hallways, though this is not a regular occurrence. Private clinics may offer shorter wait times and a greater level of personal care, but may not have the same level of access to certain equipment, or may lack the ability to handle any complications that may arise.
Second, you will want to consider the costs. Public hospitals tend to be much cheaper than their private counterparts, and part of the costs can be covered by the national medical insurance if the mother qualifies for it, further reducing the costs. However, it’s often said that you get what you pay for, and for many it is worth it to obtain a higher level of care in this kind of situation. Also, some international companies provide insurance that will work with these types of clinics, so it is important to check with your insurance provider to see if you qualify.
The third, and often most important question, is going to be where the hospital is in relation to your home. Traffic in Xi’an can be heavy at the most inconvenient of times and you don’t want to try and make it across town in the middle of labor, not to mention that you will need to visit the hospital regularly during the course of the pregnancy. Often the closest hospital will save you the most time and worry.
Sometimes, in order to get the best pre-natal care while still having a smoother birthing process and saving money in the process, some parents have opted to do tests and check-ups at a public hospital, and then going to a private clinic for the actual birth, as long as there are no expected complications.
Dealing with Cultural Differences
As Chinese culture is very family oriented, it makes sense that there would be many cultural norms surrounding childbirth. Whether your spouse is Chinese or whether you are a foreign couple who has decided to have your child here, there are certain things that may be useful to be aware of. First of all, you may notice that there are numerous check-ups and tests that will happen prior to the birth, including a regiment of various medicines to support the mother and baby alike. At times it may begin to feel excessive. The reason for this is that, under the previous one-child policy, each family got only one shot at having a child, so there was a greater emphasis on getting everything ‘right’, as there would not be another chance. Even though that policy has since been relaxed, the extra care is still there.
Similarly, you are unlikely to be able to discover the gender of your child prior to the birth. This is a hold over rule from a time when female children were less likely to be brought to term than male children, as it was desired to have a male heir to carry on the family name. Even though this practice is less common than before, it is still difficult to get a confirmation by ultrasound prior to the birth, though the occasional doctor has been known to leak a peak earlier than expected. Just don’t be surprised if they don’t let you know beforehand.
Another thing to consider is birthing method. Most of the public hospitals are only equipped for vaginal births or Caesarean (or C-section) births. It has been stated that often mothers are encouraged by doctors to get a C-section, due to the higher cost of the procedure. It is also invariably encouraged when the father is foreign and the mother is Chinese, as it is believed that the children will be larger and therefore have a greater difficulty exiting the birth canal. If you would like to avoid this situation, then it would be better to go to a private clinic, where alternative delivery methods, such as water birth, are available.
It is also important to consider that it is uncommon for the father to be present in the delivery room, and in many public hospitals it is strictly forbidden for the father to be in the room during delivery. If a father wants to be present for the birth of their child, then this should be established early on.
New mothers are often expected to remain indoors for a month following the birth of their child, avoiding a whole list of items, including raw or cold foods, cold air, sometimes going as far as to avoid showering to allow them to recover from the effects of birth. During this time, family members are expected to take care of everything, including the cooking and the cleaning of the new mother’s house.
It is important to establish early on exactly what your requirements and expectations are, and be prepared to pick your battles carefully, as some are simply not worth arguing about, while others might require a bit of diplomacy to successfully get your way. Either way, you won’t want to generate too much stress, as there will be plenty to do.
Birth Certificates and Citizenship
Citizenship in China is determined by your parentage, meaning that a child born to two foreign parents in China will not qualify for Chinese citizenship, as at least one parent must be a Chinese citizen to qualify. Children are allowed to maintain dual-citizenship until the age of 18, upon which time they will be required to choose which citizenship they will maintain, as China doesn’t not allow for dual citizenship.
If you want your child to have the option for Chinese citizenship in the future, then they will need to have a Chinese name written on their birth certificate, as those with a name with non-Chinese characters will not be able to get a Hukou and therefore will be ineligible for a passport, according to a 2014 regulation. If the child’s name is written in Chinese, then the document must be translated and notarized at an official Chinese Notary Public before the birth can be registered with the home country. The decision on the name must be decided at the hospital, and the birth certificate must be signed by both parents. In cases where the father is absent, the mother may sign for the father, provided there is a written authorization and the original passport of the father is available. These regulations apply to both married and unmarried parents.
Once the birth certificate has been obtained, you can choose to register your child’s birth in your home country by traveling to your nearest embassy or consulate. The exact requirements may vary country to country, with some being as simple as bringing the relevant parent’s passport to the embassy to requiring a slew of documents for proof and verification, so it’s important to check your exact requirements before going to the embassy. In general, any documents that are in Chinese will need to be translated and notarized by an official office before being accepted by the relevant authorities. All original documents will also need to be brought along, and it’s generally better to bring more than you think you might need and plenty of copies to avoid any mishaps.
Once your child’s birth has been registered, typically you will want to go ahead and apply for the relevant passport, as this document will be required when traveling. Then, if you have not gone the Hukou route, your child will need to be added as a dependent on your visa.
Finding Local Support
Having a kid is never easy, and when you’re living abroad, even more so. The typical community support that you may experience back home will be cut in half if you are a foreign-Chinese couple or even less if you are a foreign couple. If you are expecting a child and still have questions, it’s always best to reach out to others who have been through the same experience. In Xi’an, there is the Xi’an Foreign Parents Community, which is full of people who have already been through the process and are more than willing to lend some advice for those who are expecting. You can contact them at xfpc.weebly.com/contact-us.html.