Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why I am Going to VBAC- Part 3: Options and Resources

Hard to believe bringing these little feet into the world is such a drawn out and stressful process at times!

This is it, the 3rd and final portion although things haven’t been finalized yet.

After I made the decision to switch doctors and VBAC my husband had a conversation with the mother of one of his students. This mother happens to be the doctor who performed my 1st C-section. When he informed her of our decision, she decided to “educate” my husband as to the dangers of VBAC and the benefits of a repeat C-section. Basically, she scared the crap out of him and I had to do some major convincing. I arranged a meeting with Mama Seoul/Karen of Morning Calm Doulas. She will be my doula and has also been a very vocal and positive advocate for VBACs since I met her. I informed her privately that she was going to have to do her best to “sell” VBACs to my husband and she agreed to take the challenge.

Luckily the meeting went well and he relaxed enough to drop his opposition to VBAC although he was still not 100% on board with the hospital choice. This was something that would crop again later, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

Karen lent me an excellent book, “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Better Birth’’ by Henci Goer. It was a fascinating and excellent resource that I devoured within hours! I found so much practical and clear information that I could easily share with my husband between the pages of the book. I also shared it with a pregnant friend who had a vaginal birth the first time but with a negative hospital experience. Things were looking up, I was feeling positive and empowered about my VBAC! But of course, things are never as easy as they seem.

After our latest appointment with Dr. Chung at Medi-Flower my husband had finally had enough. He decided he disliked the doctor and no longer wanted me going all the way to his clinic, a 1.5 hour drive from our home. We had an argument, I cried, he refused to concede and I was back to square one.

Thankfully my closest Korean friend was a big proponent for natural birth and was willing to support me any way she could. We spent an afternoon searching Korean websites for information regarding VBACs in Korea. We found 2 options in our immediate area plus a natural birthing center I had recommended to my pregnant non-VBAC friend. I called Lisa Fincaryck of Birthing in Korea who is another doula friend of mine who also speaks Korean very well and has worked in many different Korean hospitals. She informed me that for 99.9% of Korean VBAC births, you have to be the IDEAL candidate for a VBAC for them to even consider taking you on. Very often a “maybe” is actually a “NO” and a client of hers had even been turned away from her hospital of choice WHILE IN LABOUR because the doctor simply changed his mind. Her best advice was to consider contacting a Korean midwife who had experience with VBAC, Rosa/Kim Ok Jin of Okbirth. She agreed to contact her for me first as they are quite close and would contact me later. This was very exciting to my Korean friend as she had given birth with Kim Ok Jin at her clinic in Asan! While it was still a distance away, it was another option to present my husband.

Surprisingly enough, Rosa/Kim Ok Jin recommended we try the birthing center that is 400m from our apartment, Bless Birth of Bucheon. She was willing to take me on as a client but due to the distance and my husband’s reluctance she said we should try our closest option first. I called Karen and she also recommended trying this option after hearing what we had found. IF I am forced for whatever reason to have another C-section, the hospital will still be in our own area and my husband’s concerns about being able to see me and the baby if we are hospitalized would be relieved.

As it stands now we have an appointment Friday morning at Bless Birth to meet and discuss our VBAC with the midwives and nursing staff. Hopefully things will go well and we can focus more on the preparedness part of the VBAC journey! To that end we will be doing the Hypnobabies Home Study program.

I’ve decided to compile all the links to people, clinics and resources I’ve talked about so far in my lengthy blogging!

Natural Birthing Centers:

Rosa/ Kim Ok Jin’s OK Birth center in Asan

Bless Birth in Bucheon

Dr. Chung’s Medi-Flower OBGYN and Natural Birth Center in Seocho


Lisa Fincaryck

Karen Zamperini

Other Resources:

“The Thinking Women’s Guide to Better Birth” by Henci Goer

Hypnobabies Self Hypnosis for Childbirth

Hypno Birthing, The Mongan Method, Self Hypnosis for Childbirth

Informative blog about Cesareans

Thanks for joining me on this journey!

Mommy Cha

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why I am Going to VBAC- Part 2: Bait and Switch

Our Happy Family!


As part of our preparation for the Kimchi Kid, we decided to study Hypnobirthing. We both were a bit skeptical at first but we quickly grew to love the class and the concept. My husband was so impressed he told every expectant father he met that they HAD to try it! In terms of reducing our fears about birth and teaching us about the birthing process, we were really impressed. We knew very little, we expected birth to be scary and painful. But thanks to Hypnobirthing not only were we excited and positive about the birthing process but we decided to try for a completely natural birth, something we had never previously considered.

As part of our preparation we took our doctor our natural birthing plan, in English and Korean. This spelled out very clearly our hopes and preferences for our birth experience. These included:

· No IV.

· A private labour and delivery room.

· The ability to move around as I saw fit.

· No shaving.

· No episiotomy.

· Light food and drinks.

· The cord to stop pulsing before cutting.

· Immediate breastfeeding.

Our doctor spoke English well and asked for some time to review the birthing plan. At our next appointment he agreed to everything we asked, except for the food part. Drinks were ok, food was not. We were so happy we had found such a forward thinking doctor and only 5 minutes from our home! We had heard so many horror stories of birthing in Korea that we had expected the worst. Little did we know that we were actually being set up for a “bait and switch” birth experience.

When we were almost full term, our doctor informed us that the Kimchi Kid was measuring over 4kg. In South Korea this is considered an automatic C-section. We laughed off his concerns and to appease him agreed to meet with the surgeon, just in case. She was a lovely lady and we assured her that with my wide hips and family birth history we would be fine. She smiled and explained the C-section process, just in case.

When I went into labour, we were very calm and relaxed. I listened to my iPod and labored on the toilet, the most comfortable place in my home. When the surges (contractions) became 3 minutes apart, around 6 hours after starting timing, we called the hospital. They told us to come in and we excitedly headed to the hospital, confident that we would have our gorgeous son with us soon!

Upon arrival I was put on a bed in a communal labour room. The OR was in my line of vision with a very unhappy sounding woman in it. The bed next to me had another unhappy sounding woman in it and I had to lie on my back and wait for them to check us. I questioned my husband as to why we weren’t being shown to our private room and he asked the nurse. They had no idea, but with some hurried discussion finally agreed and sent us to a room. The nurse came in to check my dilation, I was 3cm gone and she said it would probably take about 7 hours more. We were excited and confident that those 7 hours would fly by!

Shortly after a different nurse arrived and told my husband that I was to be put on an IV. We said no, that was not in our plan, ask the doctor. She was shocked and left quickly. Another nurse came, this time to shave me. Again, we declined, a little annoyed this time and she also was shocked. I moved to the toilet in our room for more comfort and our doctor finally came. We said we were surprised that no one knew of our plan, but he brushed it off. He told me I could sit on the toilet but not birth their (of course) and sad I was doing well, “better than he expected”. At the time we just laughed at their lack of faith and preparedness.

Things were going so well that we had an extra bed rolled in so my husband could sleep. He took a nap, I relaxed and the surges got closer and closer. I was now feeling the every 1 minute or so, with minimal rest between, but doing well. At this point a nurse came in and asked me to lay on the bed for an exam. I climbed up and lay on my back. The nurse then strapped on a fetal monitor and waited. For me, it felt like an eternity! Finally I demanded to know what she was waiting for and she replied she was waiting for contractions. I shouted that I was HAVING them, constantly, hurry up and check me! She finally examined me for dilation and to our disappointment we found that we had only progressed to 4cm after 6 hours.

During the time I was laying on my back, the surges became more painful and centered in my lower back; I was eager to get off the bed and back to my toilet but quickly discovered that something had changed. I struggled to get back to my relaxed state, listening to my iPod and sitting on the toilet. Very quickly I realized the pain was becoming unbearable and I woke my husband and demanded that we get an epidural. This is where things went wrong…

My husband called the nurse who came and told him I could NOT have an epidural. We were shocked, this had never occurred to us, so he demanded she call the doctor. We had to wait for the doctor to come and when he arrived he informed us that I could NOT have an epidural due to my WEIGHT. I was over 90kg at this point in pregnancy and he said that they did not have a large enough needle for me! I was beginning to get very stressed, I had no break between surges and the pain was awful. I asked what our options were. The doctor told us I could have a C-section or I could move to the larger University hospital which was older, had a bad reputation and I did not like from previous visits. I told him that neither were options for us and I would continue.

I struggled back to my toilet, in tears now, going out of my mind with the pain. I breathed, I did my Hypnobirthing exercises, and I listened to the iPod. Finally I staggered out and shouted at my husband, “CUT ME OPEN AND TAKE MY BABY OUT!” My poor husband was as unprepared as I was and quickly called the doctor. The speed with which they took over was remarkable.

I was immediately put back on the bed, an IV was inserted, fetal monitor attached, a nurse shaved me and we were whisked into the operating room. The room was brightly lit, fully staffed and it seemed to me to be very short notice for a 4am procedure at a small private hospital. They moved me to the operating table, told me they would attempt a spinal twice and if it did not work I would be given a general anesthetic. They rolled me to my side, inserted the needle on the first try and bliss flooded my body. I cried my thanks to the doctor and they laughed. I said I could continue now, but they had already cut me open. THE KIMCHI KID WAS BORN!

I was in a haze after this. I remember wondering where my baby and husband were. I remember shaking, uncontrollably, my teeth chattering in recovery so badly I couldn’t speak. I remember piles of warm blankets heaped upon me. I think I remember seeing my baby, but since it was also the first photo I have of him, it may be a false memory. The next thing I remembered was being moved to a bed and told not to sit up or move for 18 hours lest I suffer excruciating head pain. Then I slept.

When I woke again, it was day. I was alone and my husband had gone to work! Not having been in a Korean hospital we had no idea that this was going to be a problem. Around noon a student‘s family arrived. They had been close to us for a year and the mother was a nurse. She tried to get Thomas from the nursery for me but my husband had accidentally taken the “ticket” that allows you to “check” your baby out of the nursery. After a few hours they left and my husband arrived with the ticket. Finally I was able to see and hold my baby. Thomas slept the whole visit and was returned to the nursery. My husband left to teach and I was alone again.

Around 6pm another woman was rolled into my room. She had also had a C-section. She was as out of it as I had been and slept several hours. I then noticed that her mother had to do certain hygienic things for her that I had expected a nurse to do. I was shocked and dismayed to realize I had been there 12 hours longer and NOTHING had been done for me. I was so embarrassed to inform my husband of this when he returned and ask him to do them for me. He was equally shocked but we did what we had to do.

The rest of our stay continued in the same vein. Thomas was in the nursery all night. He came for a few visits during the day and I nursed him. He slept most of the time and I rested. My husband had to help me do EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING! We begged to be released and were told 7 days was the minimum stay. Finally we were allowed to leave on the 5th day as I had healed so well. At this point I hadn’t been with my son for more than 4 hours at a time. The nurses were useless for the whole stay, even refusing to fetch me more diapers when I ran out despite the fact that I could barely walk, I had my baby in the room with me, I was alone and the nursery was on a different floor from where we were! I was so relieved to get home to the comfort of my own bed and the support of the amazing helper/nanny who is still with us to this day!

We ended up with a happy and healthy baby, who through the joys of co-sleeping, baby wearing and breastfeeding was never fussy and the apple of our eyes. Teething was a breeze, solids feeding, walking at 9mths, toilet training, etc. All milestones he has reached easily and happily. So we never really thought about our birth experience. That is, until we became pregnant again.

After the Kimchi Kid was born I became a member of an Expat Parents group here in Seoul. I finally met many other mothers in similar situations here and I made some wonderful friends. One of the mothers I met was Mama Seoul, who was a very strong advocate for VBAC, something we had never thought of. Through discussions with her, links on her website and so on, I slowly became re-educated about birth. What I learned surprised me and raised some concerns about returning to our hospital.

My husband however was unconvinced. He saw me heal well, saw our son grow and thrive, and remembered the difficulty of my stay in the hospital. He was convinced the easiest thing to do was simply schedule a repeat C-section. The fact that he was also teaching the child of my C-section doctor reinforced this decision in his mind after I became pregnant. She informed him that we could easily have 3, even 4 C-sections with no major problems, she did it all the time!

We agreed to a compromise. If we had a girl, I would have a C-section. Another boy, then we would try to VBAC. This worked well until we discovered we WERE having a boy!

My doctor had slowly stopped speaking English to me and had started speaking only Korean, and only to my husband, despite ME asking him direct questions in English. This annoyed us both but we let it slide. Then my blood test came back with high protein levels. We had a 2nd test done and it also had high protein levels. I was concerned, but the doctor CALLED my husband and TOLD him over the phone that I had to have an amniocentesis and that Koreans would consider termination in this case. The look on my husband’s face was one I will NEVER forget, and I am crying just typing this and remembering it now.

I was devastated, HE was devastated and I called my closest friends, my doula friend, and then googled the HELL out of AFP and amniocentesis! We made an urgent appointment for the next morning at a different hospital as I REFUSED to go back to a doctor who treated us with so little respect that he didn’t offer an alternative and dropped the word TERMINATION so casually over the phone.

We spent 3 hours at the new clinic, Medi-Flower, which is 1.5hours away. Dr. Chung was so patient and caring, he listened to us, and gave us our options, the first of which was an intensive ultrasound with a doctor of radiology to check for any possible defects. This took 1 hour itself and we were given the all clear with 99.9% assurance that our baby, Baby Graham, was fine. We then toured the facility and I showed my husband the birthing tub and room I had decided to birth in. We never went back to our old hospital and I am so happy with our decision!

The 3rd and FINAL part of my story will be HOW I am preparing for a VBAC, what obstacles we have encountered and the final WHY! Thanks for reading so far!


Mommy Cha