Made in China. Established in California.
By Brittney Young
It was during our fifth year working internationally that we decided to grow our family. At the time, my husband, Phillip, and I were working in Shanghai, China.
Getting pregnant as a expatriate, a person living in a foreign country, leads to questions such as: Would I birth in China? Which hospital is most recommended? Would I come home, to California, to birth and then come back to Shanghai? What does my maternity leave say about that? What about passports and birth certificate? Could I time it just right so that it all aligns with when we would be back in the states for the summer and return early fall?
It is all calculations, right? Have sex, get pregnant, calculate nine months, have baby. Easy. Done.
Cue the wise laughter.
In reality, I was in the thick of a personal journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and trust. By June 2016, we knew we wanted to get pregnant sometime that year. Fortunately, I had no complications and I was pregnant that October. But, by November, I decided to end my contract and say ‘Zaijen’ to my lucrative and adventurous international career.
Phillip completely disagreed with my decision to leave our careers and move back to California. However, he supported me 100% because deep down he knew my intuition was guiding us somewhere we needed to go. By December, I was officially contracted with my midwife, Michelle Freund of Birth Matters Inc. and Babies in Bloom birth center in California -- all coordinated remotely via phone calls and emails.
My prenatal care and some fun maternity photos were in Shanghai, and I had Skype calls with Michelle every few weeks.
My dad came to Shanghai and helped get me back to California when I was 32 weeks pregnant. Phillip had to work six more weeks. Between 32 and 38 weeks, I waited for our overseas shipment, moved into our house, and navigated all the little things to set up our life: internet, mail, car insurance... . Within a week of being in California, I finally met Michelle and toured Babies in Bloom. I knew without a doubt I was in the right space. Although I missed Phillip so much, those six weeks were extremely maternal; I connected with my baby on a very deep level.
My father eventually broke the news that he was moving to the east coast shortly after my due date. Phillip finally arrived and was welcomed to our new home. It was a strange form of culture shock. We were now in a place that, in theory we were very familiar with, but we would have no support, did not know anyone, nor did we have any idea what we were doing. In addition, the America we left in 2012 was drastically different than the America we returned to in 2017.
A few days after Phillip joined me, my in laws arrived, followed by my three best friends from Shanghai. Our new home was packed with nine people in it. So much love.
When I first considered the idea of having a baby, my mind immediately imagined what the birth would be like. All I knew was that I wanted that baby to be surrounded by boundless love and positive energy when it was born. For me, that meant my family and friends.
After some lively dinners and game nights we found ourselves exploring Balboa Park and stumbled upon a woman doing henna. Kristina, my best friend that came from Shanghai, and I agreed that maternity belly henna was my last hurrah and she graciously gifted it to me. After much stillness and about twenty minutes, the beautiful art was done.
That evening, Kristina gave me a Blessingway ceremony. However, since I did not have any local friends or social connections here, the ceremony was just the two of us. It was magical and one of the sweetest experiences I have ever had.
Roughly 24 hours later, I was beginning labor.
The energy was indescribable. A house full of anticipating loved ones, not sure how to feel or what to do. Is it happening? Will we have to catch a flight before the baby arrives? What should we do? Maybe if we look at her we will get a better sense of what to do.
It felt like everyone had this sort of side glance at me. Always checking on me out of their peripheral vision. Looking, but not looking, but really looking. When we would make eye contact, we exchanged a lovingly blank smile. It was actually the perfect amount of be here with me and leave me alone.
By bedtime, everyone knew I was having contractions, but was this the night? Michelle was notified and guided us on the next steps. No one knew how long this would go on for. My best friends had to be on the road at 7 a.m. the next day so hopefully this was it.
Eventually, everybody was asleep and Phillip was doing anything to make me comfortable, and also asking, “Should I get Kristina?” I remember closing my eyes and feeling like I could still see everything in the room. It was the first sign that my body was taking over but it still did not seem real. I felt like I was no longer in control, my body was taking over, it was a unique surrender that I danced with.
By 10 p.m., I said to Phillip, “It’s time to get Kristina.” She was instantly in our room, comforting both of us. We eventually called the Michelle again and Kristina was right there with a bucket as I puked. For some reason, that was the moment I knew it was happening. Michelle reassured me over the phone and said she would meet us at the birth center at midnight.
Phillip, Kristina and I kept it together for the next two hours, then we got into the car and quickly arrived at Babies in Bloom. I still remember that short drive. And I remember feeling like it took hours for Michelle to arrive. I hung onto the brick walls outside of Babies in Bloom and moaned for her.
As soon as Michelle guided us into the beautiful birth room, I felt at peace. We decided family and friends could join us around 2 a.m.
From this point on, I just remember being extremely internal and grounded. People came in and out at the right time. The birth team of student midwives and birth assistants were always one step ahead and yet right there with me.
I planned a water birth in the beautiful tub and ended up birthing however felt appropriate at any given moment: on a stool, on the toilet, in the tub, on the bed, standing, on my back, on my side, on my knees.
Call it birth amnesia, but I do not remember the experience being painful, but rather extremely hard work. Every contraction felt like This is the one, here comes the baby. I was so excited and would breathe and push with every cell of my body, and then, no baby. Okay, the next one is it, so give it everything you have. No baby. After a while of giving everything it felt like there was nothing more to give. Then I realized I didn’t even need to try, I had to just follow my body and keep breathing because my body literally took over. I was no longer pushing, my body was.
There was a moment in the tub where my father was holding one hand and my husband holding the other. Our birth photographer, Alanna Farmer, captured it well. What the picture does not convey is the beautifully complex history I have with each of those men, the history they have with each other, and the unwritten history we continue to create day by day. That was a very powerful moment in my birth story.
And finally, it happened. My midwife strategically placed a mirror and I could see my baby’s head. One more deep breath deeper than I had ever known and my baby was in my arms.
I had been strategically breathing for a few hours. But, as soon as baby was on my chest it felt like we took our first breath together. One big inhale and one long exhale; and two new people were born. I say two, but it is actually three because Phillip is 100% a part of this journey. A child, a mother and a father were born in that moment, which is very fitting because my first son was born on Father’s day.
That was the moment, 6:45am, we learned we were having a boy. We announced his name, honored my grandfather, toasted champagne, and my friends promptly got on the road at 7 a.m. to catch their flight.
Brittney Young - Brittney Young is the co-creator of Better Together Breakthroughs. In less than one year she left her career, moved internationally, had her first baby, and started a business with her husband. She is committed to learning, resiliency, and empowerment. She is an aspiring minimalist, nature and animal lover, and lives for observing ‘a ha’ moments within those around her-especially her son. Brittney coaches couples on growing in their relationship as they grow their family. Her word for 2018 has been Connection: connection with self, others, and ideas. Follow Brittney at @BetterTogetherBreakthroughs and www.BetterTogetherBreakthroughs.com