To Shanghai and Back Again…Now Repeat

We knew for quite some time that our daughter, Anna’s, passport and visa were going to expire soon. We planned to go and take care of it as soon as our son Micah was born. After all, he would need a passport and visa as well. We might as well take care of it at the same time. Plus, Jacquelyn was really in no shape to travel being as far a long as she was.

We Pause now for a Context Explanation: In order to get a new passport for a 5 year old, both parents must go to the Embassy or one of the Consulates and show a photo for every 6 months of life of the child proving that the 5-day old picture of your child on the old passport is the same child 5 years later. Also, before we could get a passport for Micah, we had to get a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) – which is like the equivalent to an American birth certificate for us Expats. Again both parents must go and show their marriage certificate and passports along with the new baby’s Chinese birth certificate (which is a rather interesting process in and of itself…I’ll share that another time, I guess.) In both situations, it takes about 10 working days to process the paperwork, make the new passports in the US, FedEx them to China, and, if you do it in Beijing, they’ll mail it to you!

So Micah comes and we’re extremely happy just enjoying our new treasure. Micah was born on a Thursday and the following week was spring break…great timing for a birth, actually. I still had several paternity days, which we were planning to use to go take care of the passports.

During this pre-paternity-days spring break I went online and scheduled the earliest appointment available at the Beijing Embassy. The appointment is 1 week before the Anna’s passport and visa expire. I’m not too worried about it, though. Surely, as long as the passport is being processed, the visa can go over a couple of days. After all, the Embassy could provide proof that the passport was being processed. So, on the first day back to school I check with our visa liaison to make sure this was okay. It turns out that my assumptions were wrong. The visa-processing-people would not be able to accept that the passport was being processed as, “there was no policy for this situation”. If Anna overstayed her visa, we would be fined 500 RMB (75 USD) for each day overstayed…plus she would have a “bad record”. I’m not sure what a bad record means, but I do know overstaying your visa accidentally or otherwise is not something you want to do. You can end up in jail in addition to the fines and bad record.

This was not the news that we wanted to hear. So I get on the phone with Jacquelyn and talk about our different options. We could try to go to Beijing and just do a walk-in appointment, but there was no guarantee that we’d be able to see anyone.

Context Explanation: The lines outside of the Embassy are tremendously long. Of the 1.3 billion people in China, about half are trying to get a visa to the US…okay, not half…but the line seriously snakes around the block for along way. Being American citizens, we most definitely probably wouldn’t have to wait in that line…but still, the thought of being in any line that resembles that one scares me. I actually have a recurring nightmare about such a line.

Another option was getting to Hong Kong. Although the Consulate down there didn’t have any appointments available either, we don’t need a visa to be in Hong Kong for like 30 days. But that would have been ridiculously expensive. Finally, we came up with the idea of going to Shanghai. Shanghai’s Consulate had appointments right way. Jacquelyn finds tickets online for that very evening and books them! We’ve got plenty of time. I can go home from work at 4:30, eat a nice dinner, pack up clothes and head out the door for a stress free trip to Shanghai.

As a review, here is the timeline up to this point:
-Monday 7am – find out we need to get the passport sooner than expected
-Monday 8am – talk to the embassy on the phone and try to figure it out
-Monday 9am – panic
-Monday 1pm – purchase tickets to Shanghai

I get home as planned and have a nice dinner. Just after finishing, I go to the computer and check online to make sure that we have all the documents needed as requested by the Consulate. Marriage Certificate – check; Anna’s age progression photos – check; current passports for the whole family – check; Anna’s CRBA – not with the other stuff. Hmm, okay, the search begins…

Remember, the CRBA is the equivalent to an American Birth Certificate. We cannot update Anna’s passport without it. We tear the house apart looking for it. We can’t find it. I have this faint idea that it is in a green folder. I had to use it to apply for Anna’s SSN like a year ago. Oh, no. Does that mean that I left it at my office? So, I pack several days worth of clothes, not sure if I’ll be matching in Shanghai or not and head out the door to my office. Jacquelyn continues looking for it at the house just in case it’s not at my office.

The taxi driver is not the best driver. He’s one of those drivers that can’t seem to figure out how to slowly press the gas, gain speed at a steady rate, and then in the smooth and calculated way press the brake when needed. If you’ve ever ridden with someone who rides the brake, you know what I’m talking about. We’re a block a way from the house and I’m already car sick and contemplating if it would be too rude to ask to get down sooner than what I already told him in order to change taxis. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for such luxuries. But one things was for sure, I was not going to ask him to wait for me at my office to take me home. I’d try my luck at finding a different taxi – even though taxis aren’t as frequent out at the office.

I finally make it to the school and look everywhere for this thing that I think should be in a green folder. It’s not there. I run up to my storage room in case it inadvertently got moved up there. The lights don’t work in the room, so I’m using my cell phone as a flashlight. It’s not there. It’s got to be at the house. This is not good. I’m 25 minutes from home not helping in the search and just wasted about an hour going to the office. We need to be leaving for the airport in about 45 minutes. There’s no point in going to Shanghai if we can’t find this cursed CRBA. Can we get money back for the tickets that we purchased?

In the taxi ride home Jacquelyn and I go over the places that she’s looked and she starts re-looking in those places. We say a panicked prayer to God asking for help. She opens a backpack – somewhere that she’s already looked – and locates a green folder. Inside is the CRBA! Tears of frustration are replaced by tears of joy.

Annual Goodbyes

If any of you have lived overseas before, you know saying “goodbye” to friends is an annual occurrence. This year is especially rough for us as some of our closest friends are headed back to their home countries or new assignments. Although we’re extremely happy for our friends who are turning a new page in their lives, we’re a little offended they didn’t consider our feelings…

To all of our friends who are leaving, we’re super excited for you. You will always be remembered by the Carmans. Thanks for all the good times we had together.
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BJ Small Group

The past two years we were in a small group that meet every other Monday. This group was very supportive through our pregnancy and the birth of Anna. We grew spiritually because of this group. When we first started out we were studying the fruits of the spirit, we then moved through the book “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them” by John Ortberg. Our last meeting with them they planned to study the book of Revelation.

Each week we began with a delicious meal, not forgetting dessert of course. This was usually Jeremy’s and my time to enjoy home cooked western food. Recently we started singing with the kids then send them upstairs to watch a movie or just go wild while we got down to “business.”

Through this group we made some really good friends that we have really been missing since in Qingdao. We did not get to know all the people in our small group very well, when you have 20 people in your “small” group it can be hard. But we really miss meeting with them and fellowship that we had. The people in our group really helped us get through some rough times – we love you guys!!

Summer Palace

Our May holiday has officially begun! Our friends from Wuhan (The Clays) came up to show their friend from the States Beijing. We took them to the Summer Palace. This is where the Emperor of China would live . . . you guessed it . . . in the summer. (How Brilliant!) My favorite story of this place is the life of the Empress Dowager CiXi. She was a despotic leader consumed with a desire for power. To do that she bannished the rightful heir to the thrown (her 27 year old nephew) to a small Palace-island in the the middle of Beijing. (It’s actually not a very nice story huh?!)

The weather was nice and cool but very smoggy (typical for Beijing). But my favorite part of the day was watching the Clay’s two month old son while they went to climb up the mountain. I pretended that I was a mother of two for those 20 minutes. It was fun but nice that I could give him back when things got rough.

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Beijing Blue Zoo

We took Anna to the Beijing Blue Zoo which is a small aquarium. It was a lot of fun because it was the first time that Anna was old enough to enjoy it. She was actually quite afraid of the fish at first. She would point at the fish and want to see them but when we brought her closer to them she we squeeze us tight. Once she put her hand in the water to touch the star fish she was not scared anymore. They also had a people mover through a tunnel where we saw lots more fish as well as mermaids!

This aquarium is not anything compared to the BJ aquarium but it was small enough that by the time we finished Anna was too.

The “Whole” Birth Story

*This post, along with other birth stories, can be found our website To see it, please click here.

The Birth of our Daughter

I was told by someone that I should write the details of our daughter’s birth down because looking back 30 years from now my memory won’t be so accurate. So, here it is.

Jacquelyn’s due date was not until March 10th. Her parents planned to be here 2 days before that day in order to help out. However, Anna Mae had other plans. On Friday, March 3rd JK started to have contractions through the night. We called our friend who we had arranged to take us to the hospital, just to let them know that it could be getting close to “the time”. Though she had contractions through most of the night, they eventually tapered off.

Saturday night was pretty much the same story except JK really felt like it was going to happen that night. She made it through the night, but in the morning at about 6am we decided to go in. Looking back now I have to laugh because after we patiently waited for Driver Liu (our back up driver) to pick us up, we stopped at a friend’s house to pick up a camera. She was obviously not in labor. By the time we arrived at the hospital, the contractions were back to 10 minutes apart. By the time the fetal monitor was attached, the contractions were practically non-existent. Though we weren’t surprised that the Dr. said it wasn’t time yet, we were taken off-guard when he said she wasn’t dilated at all. We ate McDonald’s breakfast (we’d been trying to make it to b-fast for weeks, but just couldn’t seem to make it on time) then took a taxi home.

Later that night, while JK’s contractions became more painful, the Ba Xian (where we live) LDI (our company) group was holding its 1st team meeting at a restaurant, for which we were supposed to attend. Even though JK was against it, I felt that we should make an appearance. I changed my mind, however, when I saw how much pain these contractions were causing her. When one would come she would stand up and walk around the living room trying to talk and breathe off the pain. I could just imagine her doing that at the restaurant. It would have caused a bit of a scene. However, I managed to convince her to walk down to pick up some Chinese food with me. She actually had a contraction as we were crossing the street. We were stuck in the middle of the road as cars were passing us by and JK couldn’t move because of the pain. After making it across she said, “It’s probably not a good idea to let that happen again.” By 7:30pm we sat down in our living room and ate while we watched “Friends” on DVD. JK didn’t eat much dinner because her contractions were getting closer together, making her lose her appetite.

I realize now that JK was probably in active labor since about 5:30pm. I should have realized it when, during a contraction, she would get this look of desperation on her face and would say, “I can’t do this!” or “I don’t know how much longer I can take this!” Only after she sat on the toilet and noticed she had bled quite abnormally was I convinced it was time though. I made the call to our friend Gregg to come pick us up. With JK screaming every 3 minutes it seemed like an eternity before he arrived. I guess this is more like what true labor really is like.

Finally, he made it to our house. It didn’t take long for the contractions to move to 1 minute apart. Now, on the contractions, she would raise her hips off the car seat. Every time she raised up she made a U-shape with her body. It looked like she was trying to do exercises. Meanwhile, Gregg was trying to keep everyone light-hearted by telling stories about his wife’s labor. At the time it seemed that the only thing he accomplished was distracting me from helping JK. But looking back I think it really did help lighten everything up. A funny this he said to JK was, “You can cuss if you want to.” (Just for the record she never cussed.)

We had prayed that the traffic wouldn’t be that bad when JK went into labor. It takes about 35-40 minutes to get to the hospital without traffic. Thankfully traffic was not stopped up and we made it just in time. When I say “just in time” that’s exactly what I mean. When we got to the front desk we told the nurse that Jacquelyn was going to have the baby. Meanwhile Jacquelyn had another contraction. Now, if I had been one of the patients in the hallway waiting to be looked after by a doctor like the three patients there, I would have been freaked. Jacquelyn was screaming, doubling over, pacing around the room and saying discouraging things like, “I can’t do this” over and over again. I’m sure the three men were thinking, “Man, I’m glad I’m not a woman!” I think it is quite interesting, however, that in between the contractions Jacquelyn was quite “sensible” for lack of a better word. It’s like when a child throws up. Though the child is in terrible pain, once he or she throws up all is better and perhaps can even produce a smile. Once the contraction was over Jacquelyn was able to talk like normal and even help with arranging the bags of supplies we brought. Not to say she wasn’t razzled from the pain, though.

Finally, the doctor led Jacquelyn to an exam room with a moveable bed. Though she protested against lying on her back because it would be too uncomfortable, she laid down on it anyway. As she started to lie down she got another contraction which made preparing for the exam difficult. After the contraction the doctor examined her and determined that she was ready to deliver. They put a cover over her (I was glad they did because I was worried about those three other patients in the hall being even more petrified of the blood and what-not.) and then wheeled her to the elevator. Each time we got to a door, however, the doctor and nurses would have a really hard time maneuvering the bed to fit properly. In my head I was thinking, “C’mon people, is this your first delivery? If you can’t move a bed, how can you deliver a baby?” I quickly chased those thoughts away as they were quite unsettling. On the elevator the doctor asked, “Why did you wait so long? You should have come earlier, like when the contractions were 5-6 minutes apart.” I was thinking, “Are you gonna stand there and lecture us about coming late?!? There’s not much we can do about it now! Besides that, we came in once already today and the doctor told us to go home! He said wait until the contractions are about 3 minutes apart! What do you know anyway? You can’t even push a bed on wheels through a doorway!” While I was thinking of how to say these firm, but appropriate (at least in my head, anyway) thoughts in a way the doctor could understand in English, Jacquelyn simply said, “We live far away.” This was very true.

Finally, we arrived at the 8th and highest floor. I didn’t think of this ‘till just now, but 8 is a lucky number here in China. I wonder if they deliver babies there on purpose. Hmmm??? Anyway, I wasn’t very impressed with the delivery room as it looked just like any other room in a Chinese hospital – green and in need of a paint job. The equipment looked like something out of a scary movie in which the doctor prepares to torture the patient. Though these thoughts ran through my head, I was confident, and still am, that the room was sanitary. Once again I pushed those thoughts out of my head without mentioning them to JK and focused on helping her to relax. It was a long way to the delivery room and she had about 2 or 3 contractions just getting there.

The nurses aligned the movable bed with the stationary bed and prepared to move her over to it. Jacquelyn protested to this greatly saying that she couldn’t do it. The fact that she was in the midst of a contraction probably had something to do it. The doctor and nurses were even discussing if she could stay in that bed or not. However, I was very against her staying in the moveable bed because it didn’t have the stirrup things. Jacquelyn told me later that having the baby in a non-stirrup bed would be okay too, but I didn’t know that so I insisted that she must move. Jacquelyn managed to get herself over to the other bed slowly, but surely.

Once settled, the doctor took a look and then he and the nurses started to prepare for the delivery. He said to push through the contractions. Jacquelyn said she was very thirsty so they prepared an I.V. bag with water in it for her drink. This was yet another reason to think that our decision to have the baby at this place was not a smart one. At this point a nurse had me follow her. She didn’t say why, and I was worried that I was going to miss the birth. When I started following her Jacquelyn gave me the look of a little girl who has just been left at an orphanage, abandoned by her parents. I felt horrible and said that I would be right back. The reason the nurse had me follow her was so that I could go pay the deposit for having the baby. In a Chinese-style hospital everything is paid for in cash before any work is done. I can understand this as most people in China (including us at the time) don’t have any form of insurance. Thankfully though, Gregg was still there and I gave him the money, and told him how to fill out the forms for us. I then headed back to the delivery room. I was a bit worried because, as I said before, it was a long way to the room. We took so many turns, and needless to say, I wasn’t really paying attention the fist time that I was scared I would get lost. However, I made it without any hitches – first try. Who says I can’t find my way out of a paper bag now?

When I got back Jacquelyn was in the exact spot I left her – except all by herself. The doctors and nurses were too busy preparing for this last-minute delivery. I joined her by her side and held her hand and tried to tell her what was going on. Anna Mae was quite ready to come out. On every contraction I could see what I thought was the top of her head. It turns out it was just the water sac (…I thought that was a bit pale for a head). But, when Jacquelyn said, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” I said in ignorance that, “I can see the head. It’s crowning!” This did much to relieve Jacquelyn. It gave her the strength to keep pushing on the contractions. At one point the doctor brought over some tools including a scalpel and scissors. I was afraid they were going to do a C-Section on her. To add to this fear, I heard the doctor and nurses discussing, what I thought sounded like a C-Section. It turned out they were just preparing to break the water sac. Let me explain: The words for C-Section in Chinese are “Pou fu chan.” The “Pou” is pronounced like Poe, as in Edgar Allen Poe. The word for break is “Po” which is pronounced like Poe, but with an “uh” sound at the end, “Poe-uh”. When I heard the “Po” I heard it as “Pou” and assumed they were going to do a C-Section. When I asked the doctor in Chinese if they were going to do a “Pou fu chan” (C-Section), he replied back in Chinese, “No.” That was when I realized the reason for my language mistake.

They broke the water and then I could really see the head. Yes…now that seemed more like what a head should look like! Jacquelyn had a another contraction and the head was making head-way (Get it?…“head”-way.) However, the doctor felt the baby needed to come out faster and grabbed the scissors to prepare for an Episiotomy. On the next contraction the doctor made the cut and Anna’s head immediately came out. I noticed right away that the cord was wrapped around her neck three times. They told Jacquelyn to stop pushing. The previous ultrasound had shown that the cord might be wrapped around her neck, but we surely didn’t know it was three times. I told Jacquelyn what was going on, and she was concerned. The doctors quickly clamped off the three loops in two spots and then cut all three loops with one slice of the scissors. Anna Mae was quite pale at this point, but not quite blue. When the cord was cut she started breathing on her own…they didn’t even have to turn her upside-down and smack her butt! Then they cleaned her up and did all the measurements like height, and weight. She was 51 cm (20 inches) long and 2950 g (6 lbs 8 oz.). The doctor then delivered the placenta. When he asked if we wanted to keep it Jacquelyn replied, “Just the baby is fine.” We all laughed.

The End.

Well…not exactly. Jacquelyn then went through an hour and half of torturous stitches. She has said that the stitches were actually worse than the delivery. During this time the doctor encouraged her to let the baby nurse. He suggested that it might take JK’s mind off the pain. Not only did it not take her mind off the pain, but it frustrated both her and Anna Mae because Jacquelyn was so tense from the pain that nursing was not successful at this point. The doctor kept saying, “Two more stitches, two more stitches.” This only frustrated Jacquelyn even more and she kept saying, “That’s what you said two stitches ago.” The stitches finally complete, we were then moved to the deluxe after-birth recovery room. (We didn’t know it was a special room until two days later when a doctor told us we were paying much more for this room and could switch to the normal room if we wanted.)

The first night after having a baby is unlike any other night. We were both quite tired, but way too excited to sleep. To see her breathing so delicately I was scared to death that she was going to choke and stop breathing while we were asleep. When the baby woke up hungry (I had apparently drifted off as well) I jumped out of bed with my adrenaline flowing ready to “fight or flight”. However, I realized there was no danger in the room and I picked up Anna Mae and handed her to Jacquelyn. JK was quite happy I didn’t choose “flight”

The next day I discussed the Rh(-) factor with the doctor. Thankfully he found a clinic for me to go to that had the appropriate Rhogam shot to give to Jacquelyn. I took the address, grabbed a taxi and went to the clinic. Once I got in the complex where the clinic was, I got hit up by some guy saying he only needed RMB 50 to pay for the rest of his train ticket back to his home-town. Even though I didn’t believe the guy, I decided to give him the whole 50. That same day I saw him again in a completely different part of town and he approached me with the same story about how he only needed RMB 50 for a train ticket back to his home-town! I couldn’t believe it! In the middle of his story I interrupted and said in Chinese, “Do you really not remember me?!? I gave you RMB 50 this morning!” He quickly started to change his story saying he only wanted to see if he could help me because I was so nice to him that morning! When I rather harshly said “no” he turned around and quickly headed the other direction. What were the chances? Anyway, I got back to the hospital and the doctor administered the shot. He said that it was best to be given within 18 hours of the delivery and we did it in 14!

Well, that’s the story of how Anna Mae Delores came into this world!