The last few weeks have seen Shanghai experience an unprecedented number of positive cases, leading to thousands of people in one of the biggest cities in the world being displaced and separated from their lives and family.
This has triggered a citywide lockdown, leading to amplified emotions and complicating further already complex situations. In this My Story interview series, we explore the first-hand and personal experiences of those among us that have been directly affected by the city’s current lockdown.
This is an interview with Dools, an expat living in Shanghai who gave birth on April 7, in the middle of a citywide lockdown. She had to drive herself to the hospital by scooter at 2am and, following the birth of her baby, struggled to find a way back home. Here is her story.
First off, congratulations on the birth of your child and becoming a mother. When did you give birth?
April 7 at 5.24pm.
Driving scooter to the hospital. Image courtesy of interviewee.
Did you know you would have the baby during the lockdown or did the baby come unexpectedly?
We were made to stay in our apartment for a week before the birth due to someone in our building being a close contact of a positive case. We were already past the baby’s due date, so we knew the baby would come, we just weren’t sure exactly when.
We have two dogs that we weren’t allowed to walk as the elevator power was switched off, so we liaised with our community officer who assured us he would assist by turning the power on should we go into labor.
Luckily, the lockdown restriction for our building specifically was eased the same day we went into labor. However, at that time, the city itself was in strict lockdown, and some of the roads (including the route we would take to hospital) were closed off with shipping containers.
Like the rest of the city, we still weren’t allowed out of our apartment complex, and there was only one gate open, which happened to be the furthest away from our building. This ultimately led to us walking in the dark at 2am to go to the hospital.
Then, because there was no other way to get to the hospital, I drove my husband and me on my scooter to the hospital. Normally, it would take about 15 minutes to get there, but because of roadblocks and driving very slowly, it took much longer.
What a crazy story for my baby that I had to drive myself on a scooter in the middle of the night through totally locked down streets to arrive at the hospital.
I also have to say, our bao’an were very helpful and let us out without an issue. We are friendly with them and talk every day when going to and from work, so they knew our situation and were happy to help, despite not actually being able to do anything.
Did you need to go to the hospital early to prevent being locked down?
No, but we had a revised plan with our community should we need to leave (which, of course, we did – to go to the hospital) and the same with our doctor and midwife, as the hospital itself was shut down and therefore we could only access it via the Emergency Room.
We needed everyone to be on the same page for it to go as smoothly as possible. All hospital staff weren’t allowed to leave the hospital, and once we entered, we also weren’t allowed to leave.
What was your biggest fear in the week leading up to the birth?
To be totally honest, we weren’t really fearful of anything. We knew we had done everything in our control and had made an emergency plan, and we just had to wait it out.
However – jokingly – I said I didn’t want our baby to be born on April Fool’s Day in fear of our family and friends thinking it was just a joke. On March 31, I spent all day at the hospital and was nearly admitted... but was then sent home after I was given the all-clear that it was false labor.
Image courtesy of interviewee.
After the birth, did you have to remain at the hospital because of the lockdown, or did your apartment complex allow you to return home?
A bit of both, in the sense that my recovery went well and if it weren’t for COVID, I’d have been out a day sooner, but only one day.
After giving birth, we had no way to get home since the hospital wasn’t able to get us a car due to lockdown regulations (all staff weren’t allowed to leave the hospital so they couldn’t drive us and – of course – Didi wasn’t running).
Luckily, we met another couple that had also just had a baby, and they agreed to give me a lift home. We were prepared to walk home as there was no other way and we didn’t want to be stranded at the hospital.
The couple weren’t from our area of the city, and our house was out the way for them, so it was unbelievably kind of them.
My husband Jarred took our belongings on our scooter and followed the car, and when our new friends pulled up, the bao’an came over to inform them that they weren’t allowed into the complex.
However, when he saw me with the new baby, he got so excited and ushered us in. That was a really lovely moment we will never forget.
Even though we had prepared all of our codes and documents, the bao’an knew us so well and had previously received our documentation, so he allowed us in stress-free.
Our community officer and bao’an were unbelievably kind to us during this whole process, and they really took the pressure off knowing that they were happy to let us back in to our community despite it being ‘shut.’
Ultimately, because we were proactive during our pregnancy, knowing that a lockdown could happen at any moment, we planned well, in my opinion. We still faced obstacles that we didn’t have a crystal ball for, but we came up with solutions and remained positive.
Before we came home, we sent our community contacts all of our COVID test results that we had taken each day in the hospital, our QR codes and our hospital bill with the dates on to prove where we were during the birth, and they happily accepted this and let us return.
I should also say that, because we were locked into the hospital, that meant Jarred wasn’t allowed to ‘run home’ for anything during our stay, meaning we relied on our wonderful ayis in the hospital to liaise with the hospital shop to buy essentials, even water.
Image courtesy of interviewee.
What has been the most difficult part about post-birth quarantine?
Probably just the faff of having to wear a mask and having to take a COVID test every day, despite not stepping foot outside the door of our birthing suite other than to bathe the baby.
Also, during this entire period, the school where I work has required all staff to fill in an online form every single day – which takes a bit of time with a newborn. But we really can’t complain as we know it’s only there to keep everyone safe.
As an expat, we are used to not having family around, but I’d imagine if we were in the same situation back home, our answer to this question would be that we couldn’t introduce baby Tiger – as we have nicknamed our new baby – to our loved ones.
Luckily, we are used to speaking over FaceTime, so for us this part was normal.
Image courtesy of interviewee.
Have there been any positives throughout this experience?
Being in a bubble with our little family is a wonderful blessing, especially once we got home and introduced Tiger to our two dogs.
We have been overwhelmed by the kindness of our community, the hospital staff and the unexpected help of the other couple that brought us home.
We are also extremely grateful to our neighbors Calim and Monique – Tiger’s honorary uncle and aunt. They live in our community and stepped in when we went into labor by fetching our dogs, looking after our home and preparing food for us when we returned, as our ayi can’t enter the community.
We can’t believe we are so lucky to find people who we can call family when we live so far from home.
How are you coping with issues sourcing other baby supplies?
Luckily, my husband is a Taobao master and had practically prepared for triplets buying supplies as soon as we found out we were pregnant, so we aren’t struggling sourcing anything as we had stocked up so well before.
Image courtesy of interviewee.
What about follow up visits? Are you allowed to leave your compound and visit the hospital?
I have my doctor and midwife on WeChat should there be an issue, but luckily, I’ve recovered well so far and have followed (most) of the doctors’ orders.
(Most meaning I drink cold water and shower twice a day, despite Chinese traditions).
Tiger is also nice and healthy – so far, so good. We have a check-up set for a month after the birth, which we will deal with proactively as we have been doing with everything else.
For now, it’s a case of just waiting and seeing what the situation is closer to that time.
What do you think of the current situation in Shanghai?
We feel really sorry for everyone in lockdown. We have a lot of friends who have struggled to get food and water, so we are aware of how lucky we have been. The hospital provided all meals and snacks.
It makes us really sad thinking about others’ situations that are far worse than ours, and we count our blessings and try to be resourceful and mindful with supplies at home.
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[Cover image by That's]