Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT
I'm an American, and I'm here to tell you that my country has a lot to learn from the Chinese people and government when it comes to babies. My wife and I had our first child in Shanghai last week, little Jirui, and I am so grateful we did it in China.
Her prenatal care was excellent. A gynecologist saw us biweekly, then weekly, and guided us through the pregnancy. It was the kind of detailed, personal care you can't get in the US unless you're quite rich.
The care didn't stop with the baby's birth. Nurses from the hospital made two subsequent home visits. My wife, who's a doctor - yup, it's true, doctors make the worst patients - has been back to the hospital three times because of her anxiety as a first-time mom. The total cost was somewhere around 200 yuan ($30). The cost of reassurance, priceless.
Family support has also been amazing. My wife is from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, and about a dozen of her relatives descended on Shanghai for the birth of the baby. (The Chinese high-speed rail network deserves part of the credit for this.)
They came offering more than moral support. There were hongbao to help with the truckload of expenses, clothes, blankets and devices. Families tend to live further apart in the US and aren't as close emotionally. Right now, my cousins don't know I had a baby.
It's not just people who know us. A real eye-opener is the genuine delight and joy of strangers. From taxi drivers and doormen to neighbors and colleagues, meeting our baby is a moment of genuine celebration. For whatever reason, this simply isn't true in the US.
Then there's "the birth ayi." We have a woman who lives with and helps us 24/7 for the first month. She's trained, experienced and a mother herself, and she teaches us as we go. This would be inconceivably expensive in the US.
Speaking of money, let's talk maternity leave. My wife, as mandated by the Chinese government, gets four months maternity leave fully paid. The figure in the US is zip. Nada. None. And in the US, it's legal to fire someone if they take time off from work to take care of their baby.
There's also social insurance. As a Chinese citizen, my wife is entitled to aid for hospital and newborn expenses. It's going to make the cost of having the baby virtually nothing.
I don't mean to criticize my home country. Scratch that. Of course, I do.
Having a child is a profoundly stressful financial event in American households, and that's if you have insurance. If you don't - and that's still millions of Americans, despite the yeoman efforts of former president Obama - having a baby can be a nightmare that often descends into neglect and abuse.
So, welcome to the world, Jirui. You're lucky from the start. You have parents who love you more than words can express, and you're among people who value you in both word and deed.