Here’s The Story Of Our Baby’s Birth
The following is an email I wrote to my friend Jeff, who is about to become a first-time father as well. I got the idea from a very touching email from my friend Matt, which I received ten days before Pauline was born. Matt’s email follows (without his permission, actually, but with the names changed just in case).
Fair warning: I forwarded this email to my family and my mother suggested Jeff may never speak to me again and my cousin Dianne wrote ‘Adoption has never sounded better after reading this’. Just so you know.
Jeff,I got the email below from a friend of mine on January 15th, and it really touched me, so I felt a responsibility to write you and give you the low-down on my experience having Pauline.First of all, I strongly recommend you don’t drink until Carol has the baby. January 24 was the hundredth day after my nephew’s birth, which is a big event in Korea. My sister-in-law and her husband had a party at their house with a lot of alcohol, and I got drunker than I’d probably been probably since the last time I saw you actually, as it’s been a pretty dry year. Anyway, we left their house and got home after midnight, and Miyoung woke me up to tell me her water broke at 5:30. Her brother and mother went with us to the hospital and left us there, taking our jackets and all of our bags with them to free us up a bit. Miyoung’s water had broken but she hadn’t gone into labor, so they induced that beginning around 8 am. At this point we were in a common room in sight of the nurse’s desk. I was badly hung over, but more than that I was extremely nervous, and when I get nervous I drink water and go to the bathroom. Over and over again I went to the bathroom, feeling terrible for walking away from my wife but really helpless to do otherwise, as my nervous bladder had shrunken to the size of a plum.Miyoung’s sister is a nurse in the hospital where we went, and she had given birth there twice and so had Miyoung’s other sister, so they treated us very well. It was also the first day of Chinese New Year (a three-day holiday in Korea) and so there were relatively few staff on duty, but even fewer patients. That is how we ended up getting the ‘family delivery room’. The family delivery room is a big room with everything you need to deliver a baby, plus a sofa, TV, fridge, and a private bathroom. The degree to which the family delivery room is better than the regular delivery room-plus-recovery room combo is staggering, and I sort of felt guilty whenever I saw the other new parents in the halls. Anyway, we moved into the family delivery room around 9, around the time that the induced contractions started to get really strong and frequent. The nurses told me that any time a contraction came I should massage Miyoung’s lower back extremely hard. I ended up doing this for about five hours straight, to the point where I thought I was going to lose all feeling in my fingers.I did not complain about this pain, however, Jeff, because the pain that Miyoung was going through from about 9 to 12 appeared to be staggering. It made me want to cry to watch her go through this pain. I mean her eyes had a far off look in them that I imagine people have when they are about to die. She couldn’t meet my gaze. I offered her my hand to squeeze throughout, and for this three hour period she either squeezed it so hard that I thought I was going to lose a nail or she instead grabbed my shirt and a handful of flesh with it like she was threatening to kill me. She did not speak during any of this. She said ‘Joey’ once in a voice so fraught with pain that I did actually shed a tear, and she said ‘It hurts’ in Korean probably a dozen times. It was terrifying.But the worst part was when I asked them to give her an epidural. They informed me that the hospital we were in prefers not to give them, because ‘they can prolong the delivery’ and (this is actually a choice example of the way that Koreans talk when they are bullshitting you) ‘It can’t be said that the epidural would have no effect on the baby’ (although they refused to elaborate on what kind of effect it may have). At that point I knew it would make Miyoung mad and hurt her more if I put up a huge fight (my first instinct) and that all my effort would do nothing but get my kicked out of the family delivery room, so I did what any husband would do when he realized that his wife was about to exerience a surreal level of pain. I cried. I just cried to think of all the pain that Miyoung was about to go through. That thought just kept running through my head over and over again, that she was about to be forced to go through a natural delivery with no epidural just because we hadn’t done our homework (the three other kids in the family born at this hospital had all been C-sections).After the really really bad contractions the doctors began to get serious. The cervix had opened to 8cm but the baby hadn’t descended. There was talk of a C-section. The nurse told Miyoung she had amazingly perserverence. The typical mother-to-be would have asked for a C-section ten times by this point, but Miyoung just silently suffered through the pain. When things got serious they sent me back behind the curtain to sit on the sofa and wait with Miyoung’s mother and sister, who had arrived by this time. This was scary, partly because these two women with experience with this kind of thing both looked incredibly serious and grave. When the water breaks the doctors do a constant fetal health check to make sure the baby continues to get oxygen from the placenta. If the placenta starts to fail they’ve got to go in and get the baby through a C-section. The labor had already progressed very fast, but they wanted it to progress much faster because they were worried about the placenta.From behind the curtain we could see the silhouette of a nurse on a chair physically pushing on Miyoung’s belly. The doctor brought in the giant suction cup and performed an episiotomy, which makes an absolutely terrifying snapping sound. At this point I was getting anxious, sure that they were going to pull the baby out of my terrified wife, in gruesome pain and alone, while I was on the other side of a curtain. Finally the doctor told one of the nurses ‘Bring in the father’ and no sooner did she do so than I was on the other side of the curtain.They had my put my arm around Miyoung’s back and physically help her push along with the nurse on the step stool pushing her stomach. We gave two final big pushes like that. I was looking at Miyoung the whole time, but I did happen to glance down. Don’t do that. I saw my baby with a suction cup on her head and the image will flash in my head forever. I mean, how can that be good for a kid? Her head was stretched out like a conehead, no exaggeration. I knew they were going to do that, but I didn’t need to see the sausage being made.As soon as that final push, when the nurse on the step stool sank appreciably and I knew the baby was out, I peeked down to see my baby, being held by her feet and blue. I couldn’t help myself, I did that cliche ‘ten fingers, ten toes’ thing. That’s just what you do, I suspect.As soon as Pauline was out the nurses hustled me away with her so they could work on Miyoung uninterrupted. In fact, they ended up kicking out my mother- and sister-in-law too, but not before I got the chance to take a few pictures and cut the cord. After that we were out in the hall and calling people. Of course the hot topic was how Korean/white the baby looked. This has continued to be a hot topic, with the initial consensus being ‘The baby looks like Miyoung’ having switched to the current ‘this baby looks like Joe’. I do know that she has big eyes, of a color I’ve never seen before. Sometimes they look purple, other times gray, and sometimes they look brown-blue. Very unique, and I suspect that, like blue-eyed kittens, the color will change soon, so I am taking as many pictures as I can.Anyway, getting her out of the hospital and the first night at home is a story for another time. Suffice it to say that having a baby is highly affecting, to say the least.Let me know how things are progressing. Also, where are your sonogram pictures?Joe
So exciting, are you ready to see that little nugget? We chose to keep the sex a surprise. Everyone kept telling us it would be a boy, I was expecting just that. When she came out I had to do a double-take. Marcy was planning on delivering naturally, but she was not descending like they wanted. So she had a Cesarian birth. I watched as they pulled Sidney through Marcy’s abdomen. I promised Carrie I would not leave her side, but when they put Sidney in the incubator thingymabobber, I could not resist. She was crying, and as soon as I put my hand on her body she stopped. After they wiped her off, I took her over to Marcy for her to see her daughter.
We were not pleased with the staff we had at that time, except the obstetrician was very nice, and he happened to be Korean. Our midwife could not be there, and the people on rotation we did not see eye to eye with. A series of unfortunate events. However, most importantly, Sidney was wonderfully amazing. We wheeled Marcy into an adjacent room immediately after she was sewn up, for Sidney to feed. I put Sidney down on Marcy’s skin, under her gown, and Sidney pulled herself right up to Marcy’s nipple, within 10 minutes of being born. We stayed in the hospital for the next four days. I would hold Sidney directly on my skin as well, with a blanket wrapped around us. There has been some good research on the effects of skin to skin contact with newborns.
Now I am missing them. Marcy and Sidney are in Canada right now visiting family.
Good luck Joe, let me know how everything goes for you.