* WARNING-VERY LONG POST!!
When we first found out we were pregnant with the Kimchi Kid, we were ecstatic!
My husband called it, I was feeling ill and we had started trying to conceive, so he said to me "You're pregnant!". I laughed him off, no way we hit it on the first time we tried! 1 week later I took the test and surprise surprise- we were pregnant!
From that day on we entered the Korean medical birthing system. Not really knowing what to expect and not having any resources to reference here we did what we thought best.
The first hospital we went to was recommended by the mothers of many of our students. However it was so busy that after 2 visits with 2 different doctors and being told we couldn't make appointments even 1 month in advance due to their busy schedule, we changed.
We visited a woman's clinic in our building with a very sweet older female doctor. She wouldn't be able to deliver but would do our prenatal care and she promised to attend the birth to support me. We were very happy and I crawled into her clinic several times throughout the next few months due to undiagnosed gallstones that were causing me great pain and sickness.
When it got close to our due date, we went to the hospital she had recommended but I didn't like the doctor. He was an older Korean man who spoke only to my husband and made no attempt at English. I decided we needed to try another option, so we went to the "expensive" hospital in our area.
"Expensive" in Korea was a relative term we discovered. We had been having ultrasounds every 2 weeks when we went to the woman doctor. Again, 1st time parents, we had no idea this was not normal. We paid around $20/20,000won each time. The "expensive" hospital charged $30/30,000won. Not much more but way too much according to many Koreans we spoke to! But the benefit of the "expensive" hospital, Samsung Mirae, was that the doctor spoke excellent English and was willing to speak to me and not just my husband! I was sold!
Around this time I decided we would try Hypnobirthing in preparation for our birth. While my husband was initially skeptical, he quickly warmed up and became a wholehearted supporter of my plan for a natural birth and Hypnobirthing.
As part of our classes we were given a Korean and English birth plan. We took this to our English speaking doctor at Samsung Mirae. He asked for some time to read over it but later agreed to everything we asked, including no shaving, no IV, a private room, the chance to move around at will, light food and beverages, cutting the cord after it ceased pulsing, etc. We were thrilled that we had found such an excellent doctor who was so forward thinking!
As we approached our due date, our doctor informed us that our son was measuring over 4kg. In South Korea, a 4kg or greater baby is considered an automatic C-section. We scoffed at this, stating that my hips could handle it and we would be fine. Nevertheless he asked us to have a consultation with the surgeon. We laughingly obliged him, thinking that it wouldn't hurt and it would reassure him.
When I went over my due date, I was given 1 week before induction would be considered. Friday was the induction day so with my Hypnobirthing instructor's support, we focused on Wednseday, May 7, 2008 as the date that the Kimchi Kid would arrive naturally! We put all our positive energy and thoughts into this in order to avoid an induction.
Tuesday May 6, 2008 I woke up feeling fluish. I just felt crampy and crabby. I remember calling my husband at 4pm crying, asking him to come home as I felt miserable and wanted him there. We had a house guest visiting from Japan and she arrived home around 6pm. At this point we realized I was in labour, and we began timing. I spent most of my time listening to my relaxation tracks on the ipod, spending the contractions sitting on the toilet where I was most comfortable.
My husband and our guest amused themselves playing Nintendo Wii and checking on me.
By 9pm our contractions had moved to around 4 minutes apart. I told my husband to call our hospital and they said to come in when they were 3 minutes apart. I had passed a large amount of mucous and fluid by this point as well. 1hour later we left for the hospital!
Our arrival at the hospital was met with a lot of confusion. We were placed in a bed in a general ward area. It was empty, but there was a woman in the OR nearby crying in pain. I was told to lay on the bed and labour until they could check me. My husband asked why we were not going to the private room we had requested which resulted in a lot of hushed consultation between the staff members.
They finally moved us to our room, and I was so happy to get off the bed! A nurse came in to shave me, and insert an IV. We laughed her off and she was shocked! They had no clue regarding our birth plan, which looking back should have been a red flag. My doctor came in and told me I was doing great and could labour on the toilet but would have to move for delivery, which was fine. The toilet was most comfortable for me to sit on and I sat there in the dark listening to the ipod while my husband took a nap on the bed. Upon admission I was 3cm dilated. The nurse said she expected us to deliver in around 7 hours.
Around 2am, the nurse came in to check my dilation again. Moving from my comfort zone of the toilet and dark bathroom to the hard, flat bed with bright lights was unsettling. She then made me lay flat on my back for the exam. It seemed to me she was taking forever to check me, and had strapped the monitor on my belly. I asked her what she was waiting for and she replied she was waiting for contractions. I replied I was having them, check me NOW! Finally she checked me and to our great disappointment had only moved to 4cm.
As soon as she was done I moved back to the toilet, only to find I was unable to get back to my relaxed state. Even worse, I was now suffering strong contractions in my lower back. I was struggling to deal with this back labour as my contractions were so close together and so long, I had no real relief. I sent my husband to ask for an epidural which was when we received a great shock!
According to the nurse, I could not have an epidural. Having expected this to be an option, we demanded to speak to the doctor. He came in and informed us that due to my excess weight(over 90kg) they had no needles large enough for the epidural. I had the choice of transferring to the local University hospital, which was old, dirty and had a bad reputation, or having a C-section. I chose to continue labouring, insisting that I could do it on my own.
This new stress was not helpful to returning to a relaxed state and I quickly devolved into a bawling, miserable mess. After another hour I begged my husband to "Cut me open and take my baby out!". He called the nurse and within minutes I was IVed, shaved and wheeled into an operating room full of people. I remember being moved onto the operating bed and being told they would be inserting a needle in my spine for the anesthetic. I thought it was odd that I couldn't have an epidural but they could give me a spinal for surgery. I was in such pain I remember shouting "Contraction!" at them with each contraction as they prepared to insert the needle.
They made it on the 1st try, despite their worries that it may not work, and I was washed with cool pain relief. I thanked them with tears in my eyes and then said I could continue to labour if that was ok. They laughed and I was already cut open and my son was being born. It was the most curious feeling, the tugging and pulling, it really felt like he was coming out vaginally not abdominally. They showed him to me briefly then whisked him away. The doctor said everything was fine and he was being cared for in the nursery. I was wheeled into the recovery room and heating blankets were heaped on me. I was shaking with cold and my teeth were chattering, but they finally brought my son to me and he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! Everything else was gone, the pain, the stress, the failure to have a natural birth, etc. We had a beautiful, healthy baby boy!
When my husband finally returned, I was so happy to see and touch my beautiful son. But seeing as I had to remain flat on my back for many more hours, the most I could do was awkwardly hold him on my chest.
Holding my son for the first time, more than 12 hours after his birth.
I moved to a private room the next day as soon as I could sit up. I wanted to have my son with me as much as possible and begin breastfeeding. The lactation consultant came and started me off, we seemed to do very well! But when night came, back to the nursery Thomas went. I was unable to get out of bed and walk and nurses would not bring him to me for feeding. My husband snores so badly that I couldn't have him spend the night so I had to wait until morning to see my son again and try feeding. By the 3rd day he was getting the hang of it and I kept him in the room with me all day. I had to send him to the nursery again at night but on the 4th day I was walking around and holding him more, feeding him well. It was also the first time he really seemed to open his eyes and look at me, 4 days after his birth! He was so sleepy and kept his eyes so tightly scrunched we had no idea if he had the grey blue eyes we had hoped for or not! (They were but quickly changed to brown.)
By the 5th day I was healed enough to convince my doctor that we could go home. It was a wonderful homecoming for us and we were so thrilled to have our gorgeous son in our own home! I also met the doumi ajumma, or helper aunt, who would stay with us for the next 2.5 years.
Overall we were just so in love with our son that we didn't pay any attention to what had happened or why. That is, until now during our 2nd pregnancy.
I'll write about why we now want to VBAC(Vaginal Birth After Caesarean), why we have changed to a hospital 1 hour away and what new information and resources we have now that we didn't before in my next post!
Cheers for now!