Being Pregnant in China

Questions to consider before having a baby in China


Speaking of China just posted a great guest post by Charlotte about the questions to discuss if you are having a baby in China and especially if you are in an international marriage. I thought it would be an interesting discussion here on my blog as well and wanted to answer to her questions my self.

1.Which maternity and postpartum customs will you follow?

Both Chinese and foreign friends have asked me if I’m going to 坐月子 zuoyuezi, meaning “to sit a month” or “postpartum confinement”. There are may rules and customs to follow in China if you sit the month, depending how traditional you or your family members are. One of the main things seem to be that you can’t go outside during that time and you need to rest as much as possible.

In Finland during the Summer you can take your baby outside right away if you protect your baby from the sun. During Winter you should take it slower and stay indoors if the temperature drops to -10 Celsius. There are no strict rules about what to eat or not like there is in China.

I think it’s best to follow your body and your instincts. I don’t have a reason to label the time after giving birth, but just do what I think will be right when the time comes.

2.Which nationality will the kids be?

We will apply for a Finnish citizenship, but because of the laws in China, in the eyes of the Chinese bureaucracy the kid will be seen as Chinese. This is a rather complicated issue and you can get a feeling of it by reading this blog post by Ember Swift.

3. Who and how will you name the baby?

We want our baby to have an international name that is easy for everyone, Finland and China, to pronounce and use. My husband’s parents said they can help us to choose the Chinese name, perhaps visiting some kind of master who can give recommendation based on when the baby is born. I’m still wondering should we follow the international first name – Chinese first name – Chinese last name method like Charlotte did with her children.

4. How many kids will we have?

We haven’t decided on a number and I think there’s no need to. What we do agree is that we don’t want to have too many kids, but at the same time would like our kid to have a sibling some day. My husband has a little sister and I have a sister and two brothers so we are both used to having siblings around.

5. Will you return to work or will one parent stay home with the child?

Because of financial and scholarship reasons, I need to continue my master’s thesis and teaching quite soon after giving birth. I’m planning to stay at home full-time from November till end of the Chinese New Year, but after that need to see how the situation looks like.

Who takes care of the baby then? This is a huge question that still doesn’t have a definite answer. Our ideas of child rearing differ from the in-laws quite a lot, so asking them to take care of the baby would probably bring way too much family drama. We are going to see if we are able to find a nanny to come to our home on those hours I need to teach.

In China mother’s usually can’t afford to stay at home long, but in Finland most will stay with the baby full-time until he or she is 9 months old. Many continue staying at home after that as well and will continue to get certain monetary help from the government. Lot of moms in Finland consider you not-s0-good-mother if you take your baby to daycare before he/she is 1-year-old, at least that’s my understanding.

6. Where will they go to school?

It’s going be yeas before we need to consider which schools to enroll them. Good international schools are very expensive in Guangzhou and out of our reach. We have been discussing moving to Finland when our kid needs to go to preschool, but nothing is set in stone as things might change as years go by.

There are tons of questions to consider before having a kid, no matter where you live. I hope that by considering these questions before hand we can be tiny bit more prepared to the huge life change in front of us. Thank you again Charlotte for the excellent guest post!


  • R Zhao

    I really think hiring a nanny would have alleviated a lot of my problems. It’s really hard to find a good nanny where we live though, so my mother-in-law has been helping us out.

    Will your in-laws pressure you to do zuo yuezi? My mother-in-law is usually pretty open minded but she was very stressed out by the idea of me not doing it! And it wasn’t just her, but everyone. Luckily, my husband advocated for me about most stuff (like letting me go outside and shower) so people backed off!


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    We talked about zuoyuezi once with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Their opinion is “of course you zuoyuezi” like it’s not even a question. I told them that I don’t have the need to put a label on it and will do as I feel is right when the time comes. I am a bit worried how the in-laws will be when the baby is actually born.

    I wish that after delivery I would be healthy enough to do most things my self and we could concentrate with my husband to get to know our baby in peace. Without having lots of family members around telling as what to do ;)


  • Olga 奥日家

    So many things come up!!

    I think it is the arrival of the baby that brings the biggest cultural shocks with our Chinese in laws. I absolutely refused to zuoyuezi (I had a shower a couple of hours after giving birth to our second baby and my mother in law freaked out). Common sense should prevail! But it’s sometimes hard to find a balance between dismissing plain superstitions/habits while at the same time giving them mianzi.

    My Chinese in laws are very traditional, and I guess it is as much of a shock for them as it is for me. I hope your in laws are not the pushy time, but beware, some mothers in law TRANSFORM when babies arrive. I hope it’s not your case and, if it is, I’m sure you and your husband will build bridges to smooth out all these cultural differences.

    Good luck, Sara! Have a smooth pregnancy and safe delivery.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I’ve heard many women saying that their in-laws changed after a baby was born so often it’s impossible to predict how it’s going to be. I hope mine won’t change too much!

    My husband has already been telling them that we are going to do things differently so they have time to get used to the idea.


  • Jocelyn Eikenburg

    Belated thanks for mentioning Charlotte’s post on my site! And great answers!

    Will you deliver in China or are you returning to Finland for that?


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I’m planning to deliver here in Guangzhou as I don’t want to be separated from my husband for too long, which would happen if I went back to Finland.


  • Hannah

    Congratulations Sara! So happy for you and Allan. I recently got a job in Foshan and am so excited to move there next month! Your blog has been so informative for my move there! 祝你好运啦!!!


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Hannah! And congrats on your job and the move to Foshan, hope you will enjoy it there!


  • Sara Jaaksola

    Hi Michael!

    What a coincidence that just yesterday my friend recommended me to read “Third culture kids” and I just bought it for Kindle. Sounds like a very interesting book, and helpful too to understand the things our kids are going to go through.


    Michael Haley Reply:

    Another memoir worth the read is “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” by Barack Obama first published in 1995 as Obama was preparing to launch his political career for U.S. Illinois Senate. Barack Obama is the first modern American president to have spent some of his formative years outside the United States. Obama’s parents (mother was American and father was Kenyan) met at the University of Hawaii. His father was an exchange student. His parents divorced when Obama was only two. His mother remarried another foreign student from Indonesia, had a daughter, and the family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia. Later, Obama moved back to Honolulu to live with his grandparents. Obama has traveled extensively including Kenya. His ancestors are from Kenya, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.


  • Thomas Marlos

    Hi Sarah, i found your article while searching for answers to some questions you raised, especially the nationality. I see you chose the foreign nationality for your daughter. But this also calls the subsidiary question of the travel insurance when your kid is abroad.

    Do you have any insurance companies recommendations?


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Unfortunately I don’t have any recommendations yet, it’s a matter we need to look into asap.


  • Anya Marval

    Hello Sara,

    Thank you for sharing your experience in China. Nationality issue is indeed a headache i have to say… Did you manage to get a travel document (旅行证) from the Chinese embassy in Finland? or have to ask an exit-entry permit each time you leave China? i found out that this permit is only valid for 3 months maximum which is somehow… messy.

    Best, Anya


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    In Guangzhou you can apply for a 1 year exit-entry permit so that works for us well. Unfortunately not all cities give that, only 3 months instead.


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