Tuesday, 3 April 2018

How to Get Free Stuff for You, Your Baby, and Your Kids in Korea

Korea is great! You can get free money from the Korean government if you pay into the national health scheme. Here's more info about the GoEun Mom card that gives you 500,000 for free!

I love getting stuff for free! I'm happy to report that I've barely bought any clothes or toys for my kids in the past four years. Nonetheless, their dressers and closets are full of clothes and I'm astounded at how many toys they have. I'm not gifted a lot of things either so don't think that people are buying things for them. I keep telling family to put money into the kids' accounts for holidays and birthdays instead of buying them stuff because we just have so much. Even at my daughters' birthday parties, I ask people not to bring gifts and to bring food to share instead. How do I do this? Through swaps and hand-me-downs. Swaps are especially fun because you never know what you're going to get! There are three main reasons I love going to swaps.
  • I don't buy into consumerism by needing the latest and the greatest.
  • I keep stuff out of landfills.
  • It's free! Can't beat free!
Before my first daughter was born, I made a list of what I wanted and hunted around Craigslist and Facebook groups in order to buy what I needed. Before my second daughter was born, I made a list, but this time asked friends if they had any hand-me-downs and also went to swaps. I try to get things that I can use within the next two years. For example, if my daughter is wearing size 5 now, I'll look for sizes 5-7, this way I can afford to be picky and get good items as well as have clothes on hand in case she goes through a growth spurt.

As kids get older, it's harder to find stuff because they wear clothes longer and are harder on them so they wear out. Baby clothes brought to the swap might not be nice either since babies pee, poop, and puke all over themselves for the few first months. On the other hand, since babies grow out of things so quickly, you can also get some nice things that have never been used.

So what can you find at swaps? There are always clothes at swaps and usually more women's than men's clothing. I've also found warm winter coats, baby carriers, strollers, car seats, high chairs, vases, accessories, hats, gloves, scarves, small appliances, blankets, household items, food, toys, shoes, cosmetics, toiletries, wrapping paper, medicine, you name it, you can find it. If you're looking for something specific, try posting in the event and asking people if they have it or try posting in one of the Facebook groups dedicated to freecycling. Don't expect every swap to have everything. Each swap is different.

If I see something I like but am on the fence about it, I take it. I figure if I don't like it, I can always give it to someone else or bring it to the next swap. I have never regretted taking something but I have regretted not taking something.

In fall 2010, I started the Seoul swap and since then it has grown! There are a few other swaps you can go to in Korea as well. There are a few rules for swaps, so make sure you know them before you go. Every swap I've been to has had a no re-selling rule. It should go without saying that if you get something for free, you shouldn't sell it. If you know of any others swaps or groups, please let me know in the comments below so I can add them!

Face-to-Face Swaps
Organised by Dani Phillips and Katie Mae Klemsen Yee, this swap takes place a few times a year. Here's an example of one of their swaps.

Organised by a handful of people, this swap takes place at SIBC in HBA near Itaewon. Here's an example of one of their swaps as well as the Facebook group.

Organised by Angela Gayle Russell, this swap last took place in 2016 at The Big Chill. Hopefully it'll start again soon! Here's their Facebook group.

Wink in Seoul
Organised by Vivan Doan this swap takes place at Wink Kitchen and Taphouse a few times a year. Here's an example of one of their swaps.

Freecyle and Bartering Groups on Facebook
Bartering Korea 
This used to be super active but things have definitely died down. You post what you have and/or what you want and then ship the things.

Camp Humphreys FREEcycle 
This is a pretty active group. You can only post requests once a week. You'll have to arrange pick up. Items aren't usually mailed.

Gwangju Freecycle
There's a decent expat community in Gwangju and people are happy to pass on items they don't need.

Reuse Korea- Freeycle in the ROK
This is Korea wide. Depending on where you're located you'll have to arrange pick up or mail things.

Songtan and Osan Freecycle 
I started this group and while it's not that active, you can still find some good things! You'll have to arrange pick up. Items aren't usually mailed.

Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

6 Natural Birthing Centers in the Seoul Area, Korea

Natural Birthing Centers in the Seoul Area
There are a handful of foreign-friendly natural birthing clinics in Seoul. Agitanseun (aka Rosa), GM Cheil, Lee Myung Hwa, Mamas' Birth Center, Medi Flower, and Yeon and Nature. They are also very supportive of you having a doula or birth photographer. Check out the list of breastfeeding counselors, childbirth educators, and doulas and here are birth photographers. Some of the birthing centers may offer free or discounted photos with Korean studios. Medi Flower, for example, works with King Kong in Love.

Prices vary, but if you have Korean national health insurance, they should be 1.5-3 mil for the birth itself and include between 6 hours-3 days of recovery time. If you have interventions, need a C-section, or need special care you may be charged extra. Be sure to ask about prices ahead of time. Remember you can use whatever is left on your GoEun Mom card for the birth.

Home Births
Home births are completely legal in Korea. Here's a list of English speaking doctors and midwives who will do home births. If you speak Korean, you will have more options (and usually pay less than what English speaking doctors and midwives charge). The Korean Midwives Association has a handful of midwives who do home births.

C-sections and Transfers
Simply by giving birth at a birthing center, you will lower your risk for a C-section. Of the natural birthing centers listed below, 3 of them can perform C-sections: GM Cheil, Medi Flower, and Yeon and Nature. Even if you want to avoid a C-section, you should still ask the birthing center what hospital they do transfers to and go there and see what it's like. None of the birthing centers have a NICU. So if your baby needs one, they are going to have to transfer you. Here's an article about NICUs (Neonatal Intensive Care Units) in Korea.

6 Natural Birthing Centers in the Seoul Area
Agitanseun Natural Birth Center (김옥진조산원) Kim Ok Jin (Rosa)
Kim Okjin, Midwife aka "Rosa"
401-1, 3F Saeyang Chungmaru Sang-ga Naeson 2-dong, Uiwang, Gyeonggi-do 
경기도 의왕시 내손2동 401-1 세청마루상가 3F
Telephone: (031) 410-8597
Cell: 010-2447-8231 and 019-447-8231
Near Indeogwon station

GM Cheil Women's Clinic
896 Gwangmyeong-ro, Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi-do
Telephone (02) 890-2555
  • A new natural birthing center that opened in early 2016. There's an English speaking midwife named Julia who used to work at Yeon and Nature. GM Cheil is located on three floors. The 7th floor is where check-ups are done. The 8th floor is where the delivery rooms are. The 9th floor is where the recovery rooms and education room is. They offer epidurals and can do C-sections.
  • Prices are about half what Medi Flower and Yeon and Nature charge. Expect to pay about 1.5 mil if you have national health insurance.
  • You can read more about them at this post.  
Lee Myung Hwa (행복한이명화조산원) they used to be Happy Birth
Seonbu-dong 1070-12 Gwangwon Building Office 208, Danwon-Gu, Ansan, Gyeonggi-do
경기도 안산시 단원 선부동 1070-12관원빌딩 208호
Telephone: (031) 410-3573 and 010-2803-3573
  • Lee Myung Hwa is the midwife.
  • They attend home births.
Mamas' Birth Center 
A-301 Richensia bldg, Wonhyoro 1-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
서울시 용산구 원효로 1가 리첸시아 A동 301호
Telephone: (02) 797-3573
Danica: 010-7170-1099.
  • Mamas' Birth Center is a natural birthing center. They have experience working with foreigners. They have 5 rooms. Each rooms has a tub. The rooms have great lighting, birthing balls, and birthing stools. They also work with Jinny, a doula who speaks English and Korean. They have birthing education classes. They have double beds (Korean style, so a bit hard).
  • There is no doctor, just midwives. They are not able to perform C-sections, and all pre-natal tests and transfers are done at SCH. 
  • They do home births in Seoul only. 
  • Birth plus 6 hour recovery period: 1 mil. Daily room rate: 250,000. Home births are 1.2 mil and are only done in Seoul. All prices are with Korean National Insurance.  If you don't have KNI, it will be more expensive. People have said a birth plus a 6 hour recovery period is about 3 mil. After that it's 250,000 per day in the room and 10,000 for meals.
Medi Flower
Dr. Hwanwook Chung
2nd Floor of Lotte Castle Medici, 1656-4 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul
Telephone: (02) 548-9400 (Press 9 for English)
Near Kyodae subway station
  • They attend home births.
  • A popular natural birthing center. 
  • About 2.5 mil for a vaginal birth though prices vary depending on insurance.
  • Dr. Chung is the most amazing "labor whisperer". 
  • They are able to perform C-sections. 
Yeon and Nature 
521 Hakdong-ro (Cheongdam-dong 72-1) Gangnam-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 강남구 학동로521 (청담동72-1)
Telephone: 02-518-1300 or 010-4009-1151
  • Dr. Park's place: opened in late 2014. A natural birthing center that also has epidurals and C-sections available. There are no extra fees to use the birthing pool, every birthing room has pool. Total cost will be around 3-4 mil. This includes the labor and delivery, a 2-night stay, newborn screening, and meals.
  • They have English speaking midwives and doulas. 
  • They do placenta encapsulation and placenta prints for about 300,000 won. 

Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Home Births and Tricare Overseas (Examples from South Korea)

Tricare Overseas is not like Tricare stateside. A few women recently had home births in Korea and filed claims with Tricare Standard. After a year of going back and forth, with Tricare asking for more and more documentation and these women being reassured that Tricare would reimburse them, Tricare finally issued their response: they wouldn't cover it. None of it was covered. These women were about $8,000 out of pocket. The home births took place with staff from MediFlower.

What Kind of Labor and Delivery is Covered?
On Tricare's website it states that labor and delivery are covered. On that page, they also say . . .

Usually, your TRICARE plan determines the type of birthing facility you will use (military or civilian, office-based or freestanding, etc.). You also have different options for the type of provider who delivers your baby (obstetrician, Family practice provider and or Certified nurse midwife, etc.). These types of decisions will be made by you and your provider during your prenatal visits. 

However, there is no mention of home births, just certified nurse midwives. All midwives in Korea are CNMs.

What about Home Births?
Tricare Standard actually does mention home births. The December 2015 Tricare Maternity Care Fact Sheet talks about choosing to deliver at home and what the cost shares are. 
Contacting Tricare on Facebook and the Tricare Overseas Hotline
That sounds promising, doesn't it? Don't get your hopes up. I contacted them on Facebook since the Tricare Overseas hotline kept saying home births should be fine when I talked to a representation after pressing 3 (for claims).


Calling Tricare Overseas, Again
About a week later, I called the Tricare Overseas hotline, again. This time instead of calling about claims, I pressed 2 (for referrals and authorizations). I said it looks like home births are covered but women in Korea are repeatedly getting denied. They put me on hold and came back and said home births are considered home health care and home health care is not covered overseas. I couldn't believe it, but sure enough, you can find the information on Tricare's site as well. How in the world they consider home birth to be the same as an illness or injury is beyond me, but that's Tricare for you!

The funny part is that they're wrong. (I know, you're shocked that Tricare is wrong). Home births are not home care. So why aren't home births being covered? It's because of the midwives.

Are Korean Midwives Covered?
The midwives they went through also work at a birthing center in Seoul. Tricare Overseas will cover births at that birthing center (MediFlower), but won't cover home births. Tricare says they cover midwife services if they're state licensed and certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board.

Korean midwife do not fulfill those requirements, so why is Tricare reimbursing patients who give birth at the birthing center but not those who give birth at home? When women give birth at the birthing center, a doctor is put down on the invoice since there is always a doctor on call. The midwife is then put down as a nurse. The same is not true for home births: the midwife is simply put down.


Bottom Line: Tricare is Not Covering Home Births in Korea
It's not fair to women to be told that home births are covered and then to find out they're stuck paying the full bill. Had these women known, they may have gone to birthing centers or chosen a less expensive midwife.

Tricare's Convoluted Stance on Home Birth Overseas
On Tricare's website it states that labor and delivery are covered. However, there is no mention of home births, just certified nurse midwives (CNM). All midwives in Korea are CNMs. Tricare claims that home births overseas fall under home health care and therefore don't cover them. Home birth really isn't home care. If Tricare doesn't want to cover home births overseas, that's up to them, however, they should update their maternity section and specifically list home births.

If You Still Want to Have a Home Birth, Read This:
If you're going to have a home birth in Korea, here's a list of providers. You might also want to consider reading The Essential Homebirth Guide as well as getting some birthing supplies together.

I personally believe that women should allow to choose where they give birth as long as they are able to do so safely. Hopefully Tricare will change. I just wouldn't hold my breath. Since Tricare isn't covering home births overseas, you have three options.
  1. Choose a cheaper midwife. MediFlower is great, don't get me wrong, but they're also more than double what other birthing centers charge for people with Tricare.
  2. Choose to give birth wherever you want and pay out of pocket. Don't bother filing a claim.
  3. Go to the USA and find a CNM who will do home births.  

Tips for Dealing with Tricare or any Medical Insurance Company
This medical hack below has lots of tips to help you out. Many times the people dealing with claims are paid minimum wage and have no medical background. They're simply checking boxes. If a claim is denied, it's usually because certain boxes aren't check. The last thing you want to do is have someone with no medical background making decisions about your health coverage! So follow these tips below if your claims are denied. (This will not work for home births in Korea since they don't fulfill Tricare Overseas requirements).

Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Understanding Korean Birth Certificates

Korea Citizenship
Just because your child was born in Korea doesn't mean they automatically get Korean citizenship. Most countries, like Korea, follow jus sanguinis (right of blood) not jus solis (right of soil, i.e. anchor babies). However, they will get a Korean birth certificate.

Birth Certificates
There are no local or national birth certificate records per se. There are family certificates, but it's different than what we use. Each hospital has their own format for the birth certificates. Your doctor or midwife should be able to give you a birth certificate in English as well as Korean. Once you have that, then you should be able to take it to your embassy or consulate and get that country to issue the baby a birth certificate.

You may need to get the birth certificate translated if the embassy won't accept it in English or Korean. If you get it translated, then you will also probably need to get it apostillised. Even if you don't get it translated, you might need to get it apostillised. Ask your embassy what they require. Some translators will do this for you for an extra fee. The apostillisation center is in Gwanghwamun in Seoul, is in the same building as the Korean passport office.

After that you shouldn't need the Korean birth certificate anymore. However, since birth certificates are only issued by the hospital, I would get a few copies just in case. You never know if you may need it in the future.

Information on the Birth Certificate
Each hospital has their own format. The birth certificates that I've gotten are just printed on plain paper and don't look like anything special at all. Most will include:
  • Mother's name, date of birth, job
  • Father's name, date of birth, job
  • Baby's name*
  • Birth date and time
  • Weight and Height
  • Name, address, phone number, email, and fax (if applicable) of the hospital or clinic
  • Doctor's or Midwife's Signature
  • Hospital's, Doctor's, or Midwife's Stamp
*Some hospitals will put down the mother's name followed by the word "baby" on birth certificates. For example, if the mom is called Mary Smith and the baby will be called Jane Smith, they would put down Mary Smith baby. Most embassies will not accept that, so make sure that they put your child's name down.

It's your responsibility to ask your embassy if they need any other information on the birth certificate. Some places put down more information, such as:
  • Nationality of the mother, father, and baby
  • Address of the mother and father
  • Number of prior pregnancies, miscarriages, live births, and still births
  • How many babies were born from this pregnancy
  • Certificate number

Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Giving Birth at Pyeongtaek St. Mary's: Emergency C-section

It's been a year since I woke up from an emergency C-section at Pyeongtaek St. Mary's. As I mentioned in my other post I had planned on a peaceful home birth with Danica and Jinny from Mama's Birth Center. I had written about my birthing experience on one of my private blogs but since I recently made that blog public, I decided to publish it here as well.

My first birth was at Agitanseun Natural Birth Center (김옥진조산원) Kim Ok Jin (Rosa) at her old location in Ansan. Since then I had gotten involved in the natural birthing community and become a childbirth educator, postpartum doula, breastfeeding counselor, Dunstan Baby Language Educator, and La Leche League Leader. I felt confident in my abilities to give birth naturally and had planned on a home birth.

Unfortunately, it ended up with an emergency C-section. For those who say I shouldn't have attempted a home birth, I totally disgree. Had I been in the hospital during labor, I'm sure I would have had a much shorter labor before they did major abdominal surgery that left me with a 5.5 inch scar from the C-section. Labor is beneficial for both the mom and the baby.

I had a lot of difficulties coming to terms with it, especially since I 100% believe that the interventions led to the C-section, with pitocin most likely being the cause of it. It turned into a horrific nightmare. Yes, the baby's heart rate was at 90 when I was transferred to the hospital, but it then dropped to 60 while there. My midwife refused to give me pitocin because it can increase or decrease a baby's heart rate. I believe that had they not given me pitocin, I could have had a vaginal birth.  The information has been copied from my other blog, Stay Inside Baby!

Transferred to Pyeongtaek St. Mary's
Around 7pm her heart rate dropped to 90 (the norm is 120-180) so they transferred me to Pyeongtaek St. Mary's. I was only 4cm dilated but it felt like I was in transition.To make it worse the baby had just gone up a station. I had asked if I could wait an hour, but they said no. My neighbor came over and helped frantically pack a bag to go to the hospital.

I think going in they wanted me to get a C-section. I was given an epidural, oxygen, pitocin, antibiotics (since I had a cough and runny nose), fluids, and a catheter. I had an EKG test and multiple NSTs. I was not allowed to eat or drink anything. I was allowed to move but with IVs in both my arms plus a catheter, movement was very limited.

My doula and midwife came with, but the doctor quickly kicked them out. Luckily, Mary the nurse was on call that night and she was familiar with my case. My doctor, Dr. Lee was also there, but he didn't perform the C-section. 

I am fully convinced that them hooking me up to pitocin caused her heart rate to drop. My midwife had pitocin and refused to give it to my. Why? Because it can cause a baby's heart rate to drop or go up dramatically. Had I not been given pitocin, I probably would have been able to have a vaginal birth.

They bullied my husband into signing the papers by saying the baby could end up dead. The reason the baby's heart rate was dropping was due to pitocin and all the stress they were putting me through. They should have taken me off pitocin. I wish I had had advocates for me there, but they had kicked my midwife and doula out. This was my second birth and I had planned it well, yet all the interventions got out of hand, as they usually do.

Frantic Birth Plan
When I realised the baby was going to be born soon, I started telling them what I wanted and didn't want. I didn't have a birth plan because I hadn't planned on giving birth in a hospital. I was told that immediately after the birth I would be able to hold her and breastfeed her, so I said no formula. True to their word, they did not give her formula: they gave her sugar water. I wasn't able to hold her for 13 hours, not because she wasn't ok, but because I was unconscious and had IVs in my arm. I said delayed cord clamping, but that didn't happen either. They didn't bath her, but they sure scrubbed all the vernix off her.

Emergency C-section
Her heart rate dropped to 60 (the norm is 120-180) and then they gave me a spinal and took me to the OR. In the OR they gave me something in my IV that made me unconscious. My husband was not allowed in. She was born on her due date at 11:39pm. They briefly stopped the drip that kept me unconscious. I remember seeing the coiled cord in the bucket before I saw her. They didn't do delayed cord clamping like I had asked. Her APGARs were 8 and 9. She had a flat head on top which makes me think she was brow presenting which would explain the small measurements and failure to progress.

Afterwards I was unable to move or open my eyes for about 5 hours. I could hear what was going on around me though. I was flat on my back for 8 hours in order to prevent a spinal headache. When I woke up I had short-term amnesia. I thought I was in Peru with my ex. I left Peru almost 6 years ago. 13 hours after the C-section they took the catheter out and I was able to walk. Contrast that to my first birth where I walked out of the birthing center 8 hours after giving birth.

I was given antacids, antibiotics, and pain killer pills three times a day. I really don't think they helped. I ended up with 2 ketoralac shots 8 hours apart on the second day because the pain was so bad.

I was alone so I had to do everything myself, like bus my food trays four times a day and walk to the nursery. The food was decent. I got three meals plus a snack. I was able to choose between Korean food and Western food. I decided to go with Korean food since I knew that the cooks could cook Korean food. I certainly didn't eat everything. I didn't really like the food, so my daughter and husband got some. There wasn't much fruit. I think I got fruit once or twice, so my husband brought me some.

Amazing Nurses
I really didn't enjoy my recovery time at Pyeongtaek St. Mary's. However, the nurses and international clinic were amazing. Mary and Luna helped me fight against some of the policies and worked with me even though they might not have agreed with what I wanted. They helped me breastfeed without taking the class, breastfeed on demand, got the baby into my room, got me discharged early, and allowed visitors outside of visiting hours. 

Not Being Allowed to Hold the Baby
I still hadn't held my daughter. I was told that it was hospital policy that while I had an IV in my arm I couldn't hold her. They wanted to keep me on morphine, fluids, and antiobiotics for 1 day and then do 2 more days of antibiotics for my upper respiratory infection (aka the common cold).

Meaning that if I followed what they wanted, I would be able to hold her on the 4th day. I'd be free to look at her through the windows though. I told them to stop the morphine and fluids and that I didn't want antibiotics. I'm not sure if you've ever been suddenly taken off IV painkillers and given Motrin instead, but let me save you the trouble about imagining what it's like and tell you that headache medicine does not help when they've put a 5.5 inch incision into your lower stomach. It just doesn't work. They took all the IVs and catheter out and then I was taken to the nursery.

Being Told I Wasn't Allowed to Breastfeed
I was shown the baby through the glass and when I asked to breastfeed her, remember, it's been a little over 13 hours and all she's had was sugar water, I was told no. Why? I'm glad you asked! I had to take a class before I was allowed to breastfeed. Thankfully, Mary was there and told them that this was my second child, I'd breastfed my first until she was 4, I actually teach breastfeeding classes, and I was one of two La Leche League Leaders in Korea. After about 10 minutes of arguing how I was able to breastfeed, they finally "permitted" me to hold her.

Let me just tell you that the "class" they teach must be pretty crappy. All women were given nipple shields and they all used them, they "cut" their breasts instead of used C or U holds, and they were leaning forward.

Where Babies Can Stay
You had two choices about where the baby would stay: the nursery or your room. You couldn't take the baby to your room and then put them back in the nursery. Since it took me about 15 minutes to walk 10 feet (remember Motrin to recover from a C-section), I could barely take care of myself, so she stayed in the nursery. The first night she was in the nursery and my husband spent the night with me. The second night she was in the nursery and my husband was at home. The third night, we finally got her in my room and my husband spent the night with me.

If they're in the nursery, you're "allowed" to feed them 5 times a day for 30 minutes each. Five. They actually listed 6 times on the information sheet in the nursery, but I was told it's really 5. This is only for breastfeeding moms. So if you breastfeed, you get to spend a total of 2.5 hours a day with your baby. Yeah, that's healthy. If you aren't breastfeeding and would like to hold your baby, you either take your baby to your room or wait until you get home. Lovely.

Now, in order for a baby to be healthy and a mom not to lose her milk supply, a baby should eat a minimum of 8-12 times a day. Let's do the math. . . 12 divided by 5 means they're letting you feed the baby less than half of what is required for a baby to thrive. Thriving isn't just about nutrition, it's about touch. 2.5 hours a day with their moms, definitely not a healthy environment. Now let me just explain that all these rules are for normal, healthy babies. They're not in the NICU, they're not sick, they're totally health.

Of course, they could supplement the baby with formula or breastmilk in the bottle, but if you're trying to breastfeed, bottle feeding just isn't helping. Yet another reason why their breastfeeding "class" is crap.

I was pumping. My husband brought my pump since their pump "wasn't working" Fantastic, right? On Friday, I decided that I'd had enough and told them I wanted to be called every time she was hungry. They called me about every hour. It was horrible. It was hard enough walking to the bathroom, now I had to go downstairs (in the elevator, but still) about every hour. Thankfully, I knew my husband was coming that night and we were going to get her into our room. 

Having the Baby in Your Room
The third night (Friday) we finally got the baby to our room. No easy task. We had to sign a few papers, all in Korean, no idea what we signed. And even then they didn't want to hand our own child over to us.

We had to keep the room at a minimum of 26 degrees (78.8 F), but they preferred 28 degrees (82.4 F). We had to fill out a paper saying how often she peed, pooped, and ate. That paper was checked by a nurse at night and in the morning.

My Husband's Accommodations
No pillows or blankets are given for dads. Just a gym mat. We asked and again were told that it was against hospital policy. I was sweating so I gave him my blanket.

Dads are only allowed 30 minutes a day with their babies and that's from 8-8:30pm. Moms aren't allowed in during that time. There are no exceptions. My husband decided to keep working while I was in the hospital because then he could get 14 days off in a row. Plus, why waste days when I was in the hospital? And someone had to take care of my first child.

He missed the birth, but saw her through the glass before I got to see her because they knocked me unconscious. I got to hold her, but he didn't. He never got to bond with her during those first two days. He was about ten feet away, looking at me when I breastfed, but was told it was "against hospital policy" for him to hold his own child.

Trying to Leave the Hospital
When went in on a Wednesday night and were told 5 days, which meant that we were supposed to leave on Sunday since they counted Wednesday as day 1. Then we were told if we left on a Sunday, we would be charge 50% more since the accounting staff wasn't working and they weren't sure of the exact charges. What they'd do is overcharge us and then on Monday we would come back and sort everything out.

I'd had quite enough of the hospital policies, so decided to try to leave early. On Thursday, we asked to leave early. They said no. Imagine that. Even though both of us were perfectly healthy. On Friday, in the morning, after we got the baby into our room, we then informed them that we were leaving the next day. They tried to talk us out of it. Got a nurse, a doctor, acted very concerned. We politely insisted.

Saturday morning around 7am, I was given the ok. It took them about 4 hours to finally discharge us. We had to pay and get meds, which consisted of antacid, pain killers (yea Motrin, totally not enough), and antibiotics for my upper respiratory infection (common cold). But we finally left 2.5 days after arriving.

A c-section is major abdominal surgery. They are necessary at times, but when 33% of women given birth are given them, you know they're taking advantage of the situation. Interventions are the #1 reason why I tell people to pick a good place to give birth. Here's what was done to us in the 2.5 days we stayed. There might have been more, but this is what I can think of now.

In Labor
  • Epidural
  • Oxygen
  • Pitocin
  • Antibiotics
  • Fluids
  • Catheter
  • EKG test
  • Multiple NSTs
  • Not allowed to eat or drink anything
The Birth
  • Being knocked unconscious for the C-section
  • Immediate cord clamping
  • Rubbing off the vernix
After the Birth
  • 5 hours being unconscious
  • Amnesia
  • 13 hours flat on my back
  • Baby being given sugar water 
  • Baby in the nursery
  • Being told I wasn't allowed to breastfeed
  • Only being able to hold the baby five times a day for 30 minute at a time 
  • Antacids, antibiotics, and pain killer pills twice a day 
  • 2 ketoralac shots
  • Husband not allowed to hold the baby until day 3
Complications Afterwards
11 days after the baby was born, my left breast was super hot and painful. I had no energy, just wanted to sleep and had a slight fever. I went to the ER at Osan AB and was told my WBC (white blood cell count) was 19,000 and the norm is supposed to be about  4,500-11,000. They did loads of tests: blood, urine, breastmilk, nose mucus, ultrasound on my breasts, temperature checks, blood pressure, and possibly more but I can't remember.

I was diagnosed with mastitis, which I fully believe was due to Pyeongtaek St. Mary's only allowing me to breastfeed 5 times a day.

The doctor originally wanted me to put me on meds, but I was allergic. His number two choice was to stop breastfeeding for 2-3 days while they dripped antibiotics into me. No thanks. Stopping is the worst thing you can do. They admitted me and the baby overnight and gave me antibiotics. My husband stayed with me the first night because I was still recovering from my C-section. They decided on day 2 that I should stay another night. We hadn't wanted to since that would mean missing the baby's appointment to get her passport, but my WBC was still high, so the baby and I stayed another night. My husband wasn't able to stay because we didn't have anyone to take care of my daughter. I left on the 3rd day. The next day they called me and told me I had a mild case of MRSA that I had caught while at the hospital (since I didn't have it when I went in) but that I wouldn't need treatment.

Final Thoughts
Although I loved the prenatal care I got there I would not recommend birthing there. Here's a list of places around Korea and here are 6 birthing centers in and around Seoul.

I know some people say that all that matters is that you have a healthy baby, but I don't believe that at all so please don't say that to me. I planned for a peaceful home birth and ended up with everything I didn't want plus complications afterwards. With all the difficulties we had with miscarriages, this complicated pregnancy, and a nightmare birth, we have decided that we are done with having kids.

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