Thursday, December 29, 2011

Having a baby in Taiwan

In the last year we've learned a lot about having a baby in Taiwan, heck, we've learned a lot about having a baby in general!  We went the doctor/hospital route, so I don't know anything about other forms of prenatal care and birthing.  I'll outline what we learned... if anyone has questions feel free to contact me.

When we decided to have a baby here we didn't know where to go at first.  A representative from Kuang Tien had come to our school and explained their international program for foreigners - translators and specialized services offered.  Translators in particular caught our attention - if we were going to have a baby we wanted to make sure the doctor and we were communicating clearly (not always the case when you go to the doctor here, though most do speak medical english).  The hospital was a bit of a drive away from us, so we decided to try it and see if it was worth the drive - it was.  There are, however, lots of hospitals and clinics available.

I called the international phone number at Kuang Tien and asked for an appointment with an obgyn.  The man who answered the phone didn't know what an obgyn was: maybe not the best translator, but once I told him the point - we wanted a baby - he figured it out.  I told them the times I could come in and he recommended a doctor for me who had clinic hours at the times I could come in - turns out he picked a great doctor for us, Dr. Su Chi Feng (we'll always be grateful for that choice).

Once I was pregnant we went in for doctor visits on the same schedule as one would go in the states.  I got an ultrasound every visit so we got to see our baby a lot.  At first we had a translator that went with us to each visit but our doctor's english was great so we didn't need the translator.  Almost all visits and treatments were covered under the national health insurance NHI.  We paid about $3US a visit, and out of pocket for a few extra optional tests (maybe $30US? - not much).  I wrote more about a typical prenatal doctor visit in my last post.

We flew back to the states around 20 weeks and back to Taiwan around 28 weeks - we got a letter from the doctor in english and chinese saying I was safe to fly during that time but had no problems with the airlines.  We also got copies of medical records to take back with me in case something happened while I was home.

When it came time to have the baby we requested private rooms.  At our hospital women labor in a common room with curtains and then are moved into a delivery room.  We preferred our own room - we paid extra for this and are glad we did.  We also paid extra for a big private recovery room and again were happy with this choice.

I had asked our doctor earlier who would deliver our baby if he wasn't available - he laughed and said it was his job so our course it would be him, and it was.  I'm not sure if this is always the case or if we were a special circumstance.

It was important that though labor, delivery and recovery we advocated for what we wanted and how we wanted things to go.  We noticed people got stuck on doing things a certain way simply because that's how its been done before and some of what we expected was different from what the nurses and doctors were used to - anything from bigger medical decisions to simple baby care - and we had to request for things to go a certain way (I'm sure everyone breathed a sigh of relief when we were finally discharged :).

Typical hospital stays after birth are 3 days or 5 for c-section.  We had our baby room in with us and nurses and doctors were always coming and going.  Often when only 1 nurse was required 2 or 3 would come so they could pool their english knowledge.  Doctors would come and translate forms for us, and once even a young ENT resident came to translate for us.  There was a place for Jeremiah to sleep and he only went to work the last 2 days (much to the nurses dismay - who would take care of me???  um.... them!).  Breastfeeding was supported and encouraged.

We have National Health Insurance - NHI.  It covered almost all my prenatal visits, though when I went over the standard amount of covered visits our cost was still only about $9US each visit.  Health insurance for the baby is covered under mom the first 2 months (this is the same for Taiwanese moms/babies too).  However, foreigner babies have to be in Taiwan for 4 months before they can get NHI.  This leaves a gap of at least 2 months (we're having a hard time determining if it is 4 months from birth or 4 months from the time they get their ARC). We looked into private insurance to cover the few months in case something went wrong but this proved difficult.  We will pay out of pocket for health care until NHI kicks in for her.  The out of pocket cost of the birth for us was under $100US and we had the added expense of the private rooms we requested, though this still was so cheap compared to home.

I bought maternity clothes from home.  Sizes and styles here didn't really suit me.  I also bought my prenatal vitamins from home though I did see them available at our local pharmacy (not sure of the quality or what is in them though) and a friend bought some at costco here.

As it got closer I packed my hospital bag with recommendations from folks in the states.  Some supplies needed were not provided by the hospital but we could purchase there so we did that.

We bought a Chicco carseat at SOGO.  We mostly see moms here holding their babies in the car (I was told a law is changing this) and a few people laughed at us when they saw we had it in the car early in case I went into labor.  We bought most of her clothes from the states - baby clothes here can be expensive or just not what we are used to.  We also brought basic medicines from home as well as cloth diapers.  There are many baby stores in Taichung that are well stocked with just about everything you could want - some familiar brands and many Taiwanese brands.  Our nursery is furnished from Ikea.

Soon after birth we went to AIT for her passport, SSN and consular birth certificate - their website is very helpful in figuring out all you need and though you can't call to ask questions they are very quick in responding to emails.  what the website doesn't say is you may have to prove that you lived in the states for a period of time (even if both parents are US citizens) and I was told college transcripts is the easiest way to do that, though they didn't actually ask to see ours when we went.  Passport came in the mail in a few weeks, SSN a few weeks after that.  Our employer applied for her ARC (we were told this must be done within 30 days of birth).  The hardest thing about all of this was getting a suitable passport photo of a newborn - we took about 100 pictures to get one of her that met standards.

Other miscellaneous cultural things
-I think our baby will never be dressed warm enough for the moms and grandmas we meet.
-I was asked many times who would take care of my baby after she was born - typically the month after birth is a time for the mom to recover and she has help taking care of the baby, sometimes even staying at a special clinic.  It appeased some when I told them my mom would come visit for awhile.
-No one ever came up to me and touched my belly as often happens in the states but many people were curious and had questions
-Warm water is always better than cold (as is the case also when you are sick) though I stuck to my ice water and cold drinks
-Special foods are given to mom to help her recover from birth - soup is key.
-People laughed when they saw all the baby furniture we had and our nursery set up.
-We get a lot of advice from people when we go out with the baby

I admit I was nervous at first about having a baby abroad but as soon as I met my doctor and got some information I felt very comfortable and we are so happy with the way everything turned out.

*Edit: we also found this forum helpful: Parent Pages

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Prenatal care in Taiwan - visiting the doctor

Since I have gotten many questions about what our health care is like I thought I'd share a typical prenatal appointment experience.  I also posted this awhile ago on our other blog. 

We have been going to Kuang Tien Hospital and work with the international department who provides assistance to foreigners - a huge plus for us!  For this particular visit, I emailed the international coordinator and asked her to make an appointment for me, I received an email back the next day telling me I was #9 for August 2nd and could show up any time after 9:30am. We got to the office a little after 9:30 and the nurse checked me in - weight, blood pressure, etc. She then took my file, baby book that tracks my development and health card to the doctor and we went in a few minutes later.

In the doctor's office I had an ultrasound (I have one every visit). He measured Baby O's head size, femur bone and abdomen to help determine due date (still around October 22nd). He measured the heart rate (normal) and checked for any problems (none). Finally, we discussed that she is breech and what that may mean down the road. For now, however, she has plenty of room to turn around.

After the ultrasound we went to the computer where he noted information in my file. He explained the blood test that I was to get next and sent us on our way with a nurse to get my blood test, and for Jeremiah to get his blood type determined since we didn't know it.

The nurse took us to the blood drawing area and we took a number. After about 10 people it was our turn and the nurse translated for us when needed. The nurse took us back to the obstetrics waiting area while they processed Jeremiah's blood type. 30 minutes later they called us in and told us I would need to get a shot today and one after I give birth. The nurse walked us to the pharmacy to pick up the injection (she waited in line for me to get it) and then took us to the injection room. We took a number and waited our turn. This was the craziest part of the day - I was called into a good sized room that was filled with people. One man was sitting in a chair getting bandages on what looked like road burn on his back and arms. There were 5 beds with people in them getting various treatments - a young boy getting an IV, someone getting a burn bandaged, an old man getting blood and a few others. Everyone out in the open. I was showed to a bed and while everyone else was out in the open getting more intense procedures than I was, the nurse closed the curtain around us, then gave me the shot in my arm and we were sent on our way home.

We paid about $3US and it included everything. The interactions with the doctor were all in english and the nurse who took us around translated for us when the other nurses didn't speak english. A productive and satisfactory visit.  We have found that with the right doctor, who understands there are some cultural differences in medical practices between America and Taiwan, and is flexible around those differences, everything can go very smoothly.  We are very fortunate to have such doctors.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Missed us?

So apparently being pregnant and then having a baby means I cannot maintain a blog - or at least not 2 blogs (see:  In case anyone is wondering we are doing well and enjoying new baby time.  I'm thinking I will do a post soon about having a baby in Taiwan from an expat's perspective in case there are others in our shoes.  And as we start to get out again more there will be more fabulous Taiwan pictures and stories to tell!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

In case we had forgotten why we had the day off from school today, google reminded us:

Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival is today, the 15th day of the eighth month following the lunar calendar.  In Taiwan many families celebrate with moon cakes, pomelo fruit and BBQ.

Sample platter for teachers at school.  Some moon cakes are sweet, some "salty" (usually meat-filled).  
We like the sweet ones!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tea for two

Tea served in two very different ways, both found in Taichung:

 Green tea served in heavy cups along with rice and hot pot

English black tea served with milk and sugar in delicate tea cups
 along with crust-less sandwiches and scones

Friday, August 19, 2011

A slice with a side of clam

Your local Italian place in Taiwan may not have pepperoni pizza, but there's a good chance they will serve a seafood pizza.  Often with a sprinkling of corn for good measure.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunny New Hampshire

We spent the last 10 days visiting New Hampshire and some of Jeremiah's family.  We started at Stout Oak Farm in Epping with cousin Kate and her husband Jeff and then went to Uncle Ron and Aunt Barbara's summer house at Emerald Island on Lake Sunapee.

We helped Kate where we could on her farm - weeding, harvesting, washing and taking the organic vegetables to farmer's markets.  We caught up over crops of onions and snap peas.  It was a great learning experience for us to see all that goes into growing and preparing organic foods and having fresh vegetables for meals everyday was amazing.

Jeremiah and his aunt weeding

Eight ball zucchini, garlic and scallions ready for market 

At Lake Sunapee we took relaxation to whole new level.  We chatted, read, kayaked, swam, and ate ice cream.  The weather was perfect, the house amazing and the company wonderful.

We are now back in Oregon now and have been greeted by rain.  This weekend we head to Central Oregon and at the end of the month we head back to Taiwan.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

All-American Fourth of July

Family + BBQ + games + homemade cake and ice cream + fireworks = a happy 4th!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Napa and Sanoma - wine country


Olive oil tasting - perfect for the pregnant ladies

Flowering Cactus

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hot pot galore

All you can eat buffet hot pot - how can it get any better?  You pick your soup broth, veggies, proteins, sauces and then add some side dishes (dumplings, salad, lo bao gao) and finish off the meal with some mochi or ice cream.  Delicious!  

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Earth Day

(...a day late)

(taken at a local elementary school by our house)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh, Baby O!

13 weeks!

(Don't worry, this will still remain a travel blog, but if you'd like to watch us take on the daunting and exciting task of becoming parents, come on over to Team O'Sullivan!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fall flashback?

New flavor of Pocky hit the shelves this month:

Weird, but delicious.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where we dress up and play chauffeur/spirit guardian

Last weekend our good friends Scott and Mini got married.  It was a wonderful mix of Taiwanese and American culture.  We were especially lucky to be a part of the ceremony that takes place at the bride's home.  To start the show Scott had to pass three tests (drinking some nasty tea, sorting corn kernels and soy beans, and finally writing "I love Mini" in Chinese characters), profess his love for Mini loudly and then the couple kneeled infront of Mini's mom and I assume asked for permission to get married (this part was not translated for us but was the most emotional, even for me and I didn't even understand it!).

I was given the role of what Mini said translated roughly to "spirit guardian".  My job was to block the sun using a bamboo circle.  I did this when they left the house and then again when she went into the church.  After that she was fine to be in the sun again.

Jeremiah was the official chauffeur.  We carefully squeezed all of Mini's dress into our small backseat.

With our cars decorated in traditional red bows traffic was a bit more forgiving to our caravan than they normally would be.  On the way to the church and the reception groomsmen lit firecrackers in the street.

The ceremony at the church was much like we were used to a home, though because few people are Christian in Taiwan a church ceremony is uncommon.  We moved on to the reception, where like the other Taiwanese weddings we've been to there was more food than we knew what to do with; though the addition of a dance floor and garter toss made it uniquely their own.

Thanks Scott and Mini for letting us be a part of your special day!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Come on summer

While Jeremiah likes the cool weather, I am ready for the sun to come out!  Today was beautiful and I'm hopeful it sticks around.  Snapped this photo while we were on a walk around the neighborhood - without our coats on!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fire Drill

Need a quick escape from a burning building?  In Taiwan you won't find ladders or stairs, rather you will see a system of ropes and posts.  We practiced this at school and found it to be a bit of a lengthy process if you haven't done it before.  Basically a rope is looped around your chest and you lower yourself from a post that hangs out the window or on a balcony.  The fire fighters were careful to remind us if you do this to keep your arms down (so the rope doesn't slide up and off!).

Jeremiah volunteered to test the system out - I'm happy to report he made it to the bottom safely!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Things have been busy here - but we certainly took the time to make sure we wore green yesterday.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dragon fruit

Dragon fruit innards are sometimes white and sometimes this amazing purple - impossible for me to tell from the outside.  This purple is always a shock when I cut into one.  When the fruit is perfectly ripe we love it, get it just a little off however and it tastes pretty flavorless, especially compared to other fruits in Taiwan.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Mochi is glutinous rice cake used a lot in Japan.  We were given these hand-made mochi stuffed with sweet fillings.  They were delicious!  I learned an important lesson with these though - don't just pop a whole one in your mouth, they are so sticky that they get lodged in your throat causing a momentary panic attack when you can't breath.  My advice: take small bites (and don't wear black, they are always covered in flour that gets everywhere no matter how careful you are).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Roses are red

We haven't had the onslaught of jewelry commercials or Hallmark greeting cards but with roses and chocolates for sale at school today there was certainly a festival mood, and, just like at home, I will probably go to bed with a stomach ache from too much chocolate.

Apple sidra

I love this apple flavored soda!  If you come across it I definitely suggest you try it - just look for the bright yellow label and the tag line "without chemical ingredients".

first time we've seen it in a glass bottle!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our lucky charm

Last year we took chinese lessons then after summer break never started them back up.  Turns out we are now terrible students.  However, we had a wonderful teacher who, despite our failures in studying, still does sweet things for us - like giving us goodies for moon festival and making this:

In the note that accompanied she told us that this is a "ping-an" or lucky charm which will bring us good luck and protect us from anything bad all year round.

Thanks so much Katie!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge is beautiful.  We spent only a day there and would love to go back.  We first did a popular hike along the river then took a shuttle bus around the park, getting off to walk a stretch wearing very fashionable, and required, hard-hats.

Luckily the effectiveness of the hard-hats was not tested.  We did, however, experience the reason why cars are only allowed into the park at certain hours after sitting on the bus waiting for traffic to fight it's way through single lane tunnels.  Slow goings!  The good side of the wait was it allowed for more time to appreciate the scenery.  

My favorite part was the water - it's so blue!  And of course the hard-hats.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lantern send-off

During Chinese New Years many people write their wishes onto paper lanterns then send them off into the sky.  The lantern festival is technically a little later in the chinese new year, but we decided to do one while we were in Hualien just in case we don't make it to the festival (or it's too crowded to do our own!).  We took a short video on our phone of the lift off:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hualien trip through an iphone

We just got back from a few day trip to Hualien on the east coast of Taiwan.  We were warned not to travel during Chinese New Year because of traffic but in fact had no trouble.  The highlight of the trip was seeing Taroko Gorge, but until I edit those photos here are some others from our phones:

 Tea and dessert

 Citrus tree - popular at Chinese New Year

Market food - candied tomatoes and strawberries 

Rice served wrapped in a leaf

7-11 character dressed for the year of the rabbit

Art from Irawaddy restaurant serving food from Myanmar 
(good food, but not very true to Myanmar dishes says our friend who lived there) 

Chili flavored ice cream - so spicy!  
(found at a "chili world" rest stop between Hualien and Taipei)