“Will your mother come here when you give birth?”

I’m at the grocery store. When I’m done with choosing the groceries I want to buy, I find a corner with massage chairs where I can sit down and wait for my husband (he went to another store and is the one carrying the backpack to store our groceries in). After a short while, an elderly woman sits down next to me. She asks me:

“Are you living in Shenzhen?”
I: “I am. How about you?”
She: “I live in …” She has a strong accent and I can’t understand the place name. “I travel back and forth all the time. My daughter lives here. Are you here with your parents?”
I: “My parents live in my home country. I live here with my husband.”
She: “How long are you planning to stay in China?”
I: “I plan to stay here for some time. My husband is from Northeast China.”
She: “Oh, your husband is Chinese. Do you have kids?”
I: “One is on its way.” And then, pointing at my non-existent bump*: “It’s still very little though. Only a few weeks old.”
She: “Will your mother come here when you give birth?”
I: “I plan to give birth in Austria. But my mother would come here if I was going to give birth in China.”
She: “How about your in-laws, are they staying with you?” She is quick to add: “I mean, if they are still alive.”
I: “They are. They are currently staying in Northeast China, though.”

My husband calls and tells me that he just arrived. I say goodbye to the woman and get up to find him.

*I had this conversation when I had been pregnant for only a few weeks and my bump didn’t show yet.

Have you ever had a similar conversation? I’d love to hear your stories.

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13 thoughts on ““Will your mother come here when you give birth?”

  1. How different is the L&D experience in Austria from that in China? I know you haven’t experienced it yet, but I’m guessing you’ve read and talked to people. I know when I was pregnant, I was reading about L&D in several European countries out of curiosity and felt kinda depressed, living in the American South. Much more controlling of women’s bodies here. 😦

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    • It really depends on the city you live in in China, the hospital (eg. public/private) and if you have a VIP package for example. I think that VIP packages are similar to what you’d normally get in Austria with normal insurance (except for the private room after delivery, for that one you’d have to pay extra in Austria too). The number of C-sections in Chinese hospitals is way higher than it is in Austria and as far as I’ve heard the husband is not always allowed into the room during delivery.

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      • Huh. The C-section rate here in the States is stupidly high. Around 30%. Though there are mitigating factors, not just an eagerness to cut–VBACs are rare; also, we have an unfortunately high number of obese citizens, and then there are quite a few mothers who are older, and other factors that increase risk and make a C-section more likely. Still outrageously high. From all the reading I’ve done, i figure it’s the terror of being sued, even tho a Csection is still major surgery. Also, epidurals are extremely common, and they can slow labor, which leads to higher C rates. Anyways. Sorry. Learned too much when I was pregnant a couple years ago.

        All that being said, I had my kid while on law school insurance. Not that great. Owed a lot. But I don’t think I have seen any rooms that aren’t private, pre, during, after, any of it. Both rooms I was in were pretty big. And of course they had a flat screen TV in the pre room. :p The hospital’s policy was baby rooms with mother unless you ask otherwise.

        I cannot remember –is Austria nationalized or subsidized health care?

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  2. We had similar conversions when we were last summer in China while my wife was already pregnant. But they were always pleased that at least her own mother would come to Europe to help us out for several months.

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  3. After you give birth to your baby in Austria, where are you going to raise your baby? And when people ask what are the nationalities of your baby, what would you say? Also, do you know if it’s going to be a boy or girl yet?

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    • Our child will get Austrian citizenship (China doesn’t allow dual citizenship). Our long-term plan is to raise our child both in China and in Austria, but for a start the focus will be on China.
      Boy/girl – still a secret!

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      • that’s what I keep wondering… the first years you can raise the kid in China. But what happens then? International Schooling can be crazily expensive. Then again I have no plans going back to Austria. This then brings up the question of language. At home we mostly speak English. The only people I speak German with are a handful of friends and my parents. Have you ever thought how to handle these things once the kid grows up? Or you just going to wait and see what happens?

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        • We don’t intend to send our child to an international school, but rather to a Chinese private school. Where my husband is from, private schools are much more affordable than in the bigger and more international cities, so we consider going for that option. My husband and I speak Chinese with each other, but I intend to speak German with our child – we’ll probably also have to find a German tutor some time down the road. I hope to be able to find a few German speaking families in this area and see if we can find some German speaking kids our child can play with. Also, if time and finances allow for it, we’d love for our child to be able to spend a few weeks a time in Austria with my family there and take some German classes in Austria.

          Of course, these are only some options we do consider and we’re aware of the fact that not everything might work out as planned – we’ll definitely have to adjust our plans with time and more experience.

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      • I think you have the right idea. From what I’ve seen, international schools in China seem to be a place where foreign expats send their kids to ensure that they don’t have to master the Chinese language, and many of the kids end up with a limited competence in Chinese as well as a sub par education in general.

        In your case, you might also consider the fact that English is neither yours nor your husband’s native language, so sending your child to an international school (where, presumably, English dominates as the medium of instruction) could complicate your child’s language development.

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      • So long as you speak German with the baby, German will be the baby’s mother tongue (literally, as you, the mother, speak it). So long as you both recognize that the child won’t be getting the exposure to German language that a child in Austria would be getting and compensate with outside tutoring and extra language work, I think the child could have a tremendous advantage of being a Chinese fluent Austrian. By 2032, EU-Chinese relations will probably be the most important in the world, at least if the MacKinder theory of geopolitics turns out to be accurate.

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        • If you see mother tongue as the language the mother speaks, then yes, it will be our child’s mother tongue. If you also consider the environment our child will grow up in and the language of the father/other Chinese family members here, it might as well be Chinese. The important thing is that our child learns one language like a mother tongue (or a first language). I don’t think of our child growing up bilingual in economic terms. There might be advantages later in life, but that’s not the main reason we want our child to grow up bilingual.

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      • ^^ You’re right, but it goes far beyond EU-China relations. The process of economic integration on the entire Eurasian landmass is well under way and as such, a bilingual child who speaks Chinese and German natively would have a significant head start.

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  4. @Yael. I’ve spent a lot of time comparing the insurance systems in various highly developed countries. I also lived in Austria for about 18 months. Using US-style jargon, I would categorize Austria’s as a multi-payer system with public market participants to ensure universal coverage. Like in the US, there is a requirement to have insurance. However, instead of merely mandating everyone have insurance and then subsidizing the private procurement of insurance based on income as is done in the US, Austria provides a sort of default public market participant insurance provider from each province. One can opt out of the public market participant and find private insurance.

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