Friday, December 10, 2010

Why I am Going to VBAC- Part 1: Birth of the Kimchi Kid

My baby is getting so big!!


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!

Heaped with blankets in the recovery room, looking at my gorgeous son!

I was wheeled into a 2 person room and told that I had to lay flat on my back for the next 18 hours or I would suffer the worst headache of my life. The Kimchi Kid was put in the nursery and my husband was given a "ticket" to check him out when needed. I was exhausted and sent my husband home so I could rest. The silly man slept a few hours and then went to work, much to the shock of our school and my annoyance! Unfortunately he also took the ticket with him, which meant nothing to me until later.

Around noon the mother of some of my students arrived to check on me. She was also a nurse and spoke excellent English, so I was very happy to see her. She asked to see the baby and I sent her to the nursery to get him for me as I also hadn't seen him since the birth. She returned with the worst news- we couldn't have MY baby without the ticket! My husband wasn't able to return to the hospital until 4pm so I had no chance to see my son without the ticket. It was very frustrating and upsetting to say the least!

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.

My first chance to touch my son, more than 12hours after his birth.

Holding my son for the first time, more than 12 hours after his birth.

When he became hungry we had to return him to the nursery as we had no support and no clue that we could even attempt breastfeeding at this point. Around 6pm that evening another woman who had also had a C-section was wheeled into my room. We both slept most of the evening and around midnight her mother, father and husband came into the room with her baby. The baby quickly became fussy and was crying, causing arguments between the family members and disturbing my rest. Luckily a nurse came, whisked the baby away and shooed the men out. Her mother stayed in the room for the night and this was also when I first realized that no one was taking care of some important things for me. My poor husband had to take care of many messy and vital bodily functions for the first few days of recovery.

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.)

The first time he really looked at me, 4 days after birth!

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.

Welcome home! 5 days after birth.

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!
Mommy Cha


  1. Hi Sarah!

    Thomas looks really really cute!

    I must say this.. What you have written here, reminds me more of my own birth story!! I was given an epidural ( I tink so)... some kinda injection twice... But each shot wore of quickly.. 1st one lasted for 1 hr and second one for 30mins.. aftyer that they said they wont give me... I am still trying to research what sorta epidural I was given coz some of my friends in US had an epidyral wherein they were at a point were they took time to push as they could not feel...
    The worst thing was I was fully dilated and effaced but baby was taking time to come down... May be if they had given me a proper epdiural, I would have had a normal birth... Instead I begged to be given a C-sec...
    And even after they said they had given me the spinal during surgery, I could feel pain and I was houting, and so they put me to sleep and could not see my baby come out...
    We were totally lost after moving to the private room... nobody told us anything and they were just giving me injections and going away.. they din care to change the underpads that they had kept and my husband had to do everything the nurse had to do...

    They never told me when I am supposed to walk... the same night I had so much palpitations that we calle dthe doc.. she must be a trainee I guess on rounds... she tuk ecg and said " Do yOu know why you had palpitaions? coz you were simply lying down all day on bed"
    I got so angry at that time... Its not like I have a c-sec day in and day out to know when I am supposed to walk... I was actually on bed thinking my stomach wil rip open...!

    Anywayz... do post your 2nd part soon... For VBAC, will u be taking epidural?
    this epidural thing is driving me crazy....

  2. I was told I should have a C-section as Izzy was 4.5kgs but I fought them on that. They also wanted to give me oxytocin which I also declined. I ended up having an assisted delivery with her as she had a huge head but my hubby is convinced with the right encouragement and a change of position that would not have been needed. I was so worried that I would need a c-section this time mainly cos I had no idea who or how i would take care of Izzy while recovering but luckily Masons birth was faster and less exhausting than Izzy's. With Mason I ended up having the oxytocin as they said my labour had stalled (the nurse said I was fully dilated but then the dr said she was wrong and that I had only dilated an extra 2 cms in 6 hours.) They said they couldnt estimate how much longer i would be in labour without it but that if i had it it would likely be 1 to 2 hours. They had wanted to give me it as soon as i got there but i had declined. When they put the drip in I felt like I had one long contraction and they basically had to run me into the delivery room and Mason was out 15 minutes after they inserted the drip. SO much for their 2 hours.... once again Kenton is convinced that it was an unnecessary intervention. It is a really difficult position to be in I think... you really need to be able to trust in the people advising you at such a vulnerable time and yet I often feel in Korea that they are more driven by time and money than their patients comfort and experiences. I am glad you have hopefully found a supportive place to have number 2. I think I would have much preferred a midwife than my dr. (He was not the dr. I had all my appointments with). I was glad to have done both births without pain relief though as the thought of anything dulling my senses was scarier than the pain to me. The most important thing is of course that you baby is safe and healthy but I am sending positive vibes that your second delivery will be a super experience (well as much as something that ouchie can be!)