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.

Recovery
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.

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


Thursday, 28 December 2017

Home Birth with Danica and Jinny from Mama's Birth Center

It's been a year since my second child was born. 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. 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. Below you can find out more about my experience with laboring at home with Jinny and Danica. The information has been copied from my other blog, Stay Inside Baby!

Labouring at Home with Danica and Jinny from Mama's Birth Center
I mentioned before that I was having a home birth. My midwife came to check out my house a few weeks before and I showed her my birthing box that I had prepared. Then she dropped off a bag full of supplies as well as oxygen.

I'd been having contractions for the past two nights. My husband and I had just gone to the pharmacy to get some cough medicine. I was having minor contractions but thought nothing of it. He went back to work and about 20 minutes later my water broke. I called him and told him and he asked if I was kidding since I had just told him to go to work. I then cancelled my doctor's appointment that I was supposed to go to. While on the phone I had sent kakao messages to my Jinny my doula and Danica my midwife. I texted my neighbor and asked her to pick up my daughter from daycare.

The midwife and doula arrived around noon and I was only 2cm dilated but it felt like I was further along. The contractions picked up in intensive pretty quickly and all I wanted to do was stay in the bathtub. It was comfortable and I didn't have to worry about peeing myself. The baby was sunny-side up so labor was much more intense than my first. Being in labor with a sunny side up baby is a lot more intense than being on pitocin with no painkillers. I spent a lot of the labor straddling the toilet in reverse and in the tub.

My husband was not that helpful to be honest. He went in the bedroom and was watching The Simpsons. My doula did pull him out of the bedroom and got him to help while I was on the birthing ball. She took photos so he does have proof that he helped. However, he said he didn't think he was needed since I had a midwife and doula. I don't think he really knew what to do. (He should have paid more attention in the birthing class).

We tried to flip the baby by side lying and hanging my leg off the couch. It just wasn't working. My midwife kept checking the station, dilation, and heart rate and things weren't looking good.

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.

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


Friday, 1 December 2017

35 Ways to Keep Your Kids (and Yourself) Warm in the Cold Korean Winters

Koreans are very proud of their four seasons, but they're not all nice. Winter is horrible and freezing cold. What's worse is that many places cut down on costs by not heating buildings like they should. The admin offices are always nice and warm and toasty though. Hallways and bathrooms (including water) aren't heated. Main doors and windows in the hallways are left open to let "fresh air" in. If you haven't learned about layers, now is the time to learn! Below are some tips to help keep you and your kids warm this winter.

Clothing
Basic tips for keeping warm in the winter are wearing layers. Korean kids learn to wear a t-shirt, button down school uniform, vest, school jacket, and coat. And they wear all these inside. If they get hot, they open a window. Makes no sense to me either, but that's just the culture. Use outerwear inside. Hats, scarves, and ear muffs. This goes especially for guys who shave their heads. I know of teachers who teach with a hat on because it gets cold. Some of these items are either hard to find in Korea or much more expensive than what I'd pay back home.

I usually buy things online, ship them to my parents' house, and then bring them back to Korea in my suitcase when I go visit them on vacation. You can also often find them in buy and sell Facebook groups. Uniqlo is amazing. If you haven't been there, definitely check it out. There are lots of affordable options to help keep you warm this winter.
Wool socks
 warm wool socks for kidsI discovered wool socks a few years ago and haven't looked back. They usually come in at least three different weights: light, mid, and heavy. I have a handful of mid-weight pairs from SmartWool.

Granted, I think they're expensive and I didn't want to buy them but I kept hearing rave reviews about wool socks. I paid about $10-$15 a pair. But hear me out, these socks have literally lasted me years and they are incredibly warm. They can be washed and put in the dryer and won't shrink. I bought five pairs and wear them from October to April. They've lasted four years so far and while in some places they're getting threadbare, there are no holes. They are fantastically warm. I highly suggest getting a pair. Wool socks and flannel sheets have been a game changer for me. Amazon tends to have good deals and Sierra Trading Post has discounted seconds that are about half the price as Amazon and I've never found any flaws with seconds.

Wool pants and diaper covers
Keep your baby warm with wool diaper covers, even if they use disposables. They also make wool pants for both kids and adults. You can find ones that are like long underwear as well as wool-blend dress pants.

Long underwear
 wool and silk long underwear kidsIn Korea, you can easily find thick black pants with fleece on the inside, but I found that the back was low and they just weren't comfortable. Someone recommended I go to Uniqlo because they're famous for their Heattech line. Back when I first started shopping at Uniqlo, they only had one version, but now they come in three different weights: regular, extra warm, and ultra warm. I prefer ultrawarm. Regular just doesn't cut it for me. It works in fall and spring, but in winter, I want the warmest option possible. Find out more about Uniqlo in the section below.

Besides Uniqlo, people have recommended CuddlDuds. Uniqlo's Heattech usually is made of polyester, acrylic, rayon, and spandex. CuddlDuds is made from modal and spandex. I have one CuddlDuds shirt and it's pretty warm as well. I don't own any CuddlDuds pants, so I can't talk about those. Other people swear by silk long underwear or wool long underwear. Some long underwear have both wool and silk so you don't have to decide between only one.


Uniqlo
Uniqlo has lots of affordable options that can help keep you warm in the winter. Uniqlo is based out of Japan and there are stores all over Korea.
     purple warm cashmere scarf
  • Heattech: Uniqlo has lots of affordable options that can help keep you warm in the winter. I talked about their Heattech long underwear, but there's so much more to Heattech than long underwear. They have socks, shirts, scarves, gloves, leggings, and more.
  • Blocktech: this is thin outerwear designed to keep the wind out. I haven't tried any of their Blocktech items.
  • Fleece: They have regular fleece as well as fleece lined options, such as fleece lined jeans and leggings. They're amazing! 
  • Wool: they have some good wool options. I would skip the wool socks, at least the women's ones. They're thin, not warm, and get holes. You can try the men's ones, but I personally buy mine from Smartwool. Check out Sierra Trading Post since they sell them for about half of what you'd pay on Amazon
  • Cashmere: Uniqlo has good, affordable cashmere. I'm constantly hearing about how Uniqlo's cashmere rivals more expensive brands. They have tops, hats, gloves, and more. Here's an article that talks about how they keep their prices low and another that surmises that the grade of cashmere is probably a mix of A and B.
Like wool socks, you will pay a decent amount, about 10,000-25,000 for tops or bottoms. Buy at the end of the season if possible. If not, they're still worth buying. Mine have last years. I would not buy Heattech socks. They're thin, not that warm, and easily get holes in them. Buy wool socks instead.

Home
Small changes in your home can make a big difference to keeping the heat in, the cold out, and lowering your heating bill. Many of these items are ubiquitous in Korea. You can find them online (gmarket and coupang), at discount stores (such as Daiso), and grocery stores (like E-mart and Home Plus). Usually buying them online will save you money, but sometimes stores have good deals as well. You can also often find them in buy and sell Facebook groups.

Electronics
Here are a few recommended electronics to get you through the cold winter. 

     winter space heater
  • Electric blankets: They're much safer than they used to be. They will also save you money on your heating bill. 
  • Electric floor mat:You can buy small or large electric floor mats.The floor is heated as it is, but an electric floor mat will save you money.
  • Space heaters: Again, like electric blankets, space heaters are safer than they used to be. You still have to take precautions when using them though.
  • Heated seats: Gmarket has 1, 2, and 3 person seats that they call heating pads. They're not really made for multiple people. The number refers to the length. I have a 2 person one that is perfect for my office chair.
Home Hacks
There are plenty of little home hacks you can do to make your home warmer and keep your heating costs down.

  • Flannel sheets: They make a huge difference! I love my flannel sheets and switch them out for my regular sheets in the fall. I absolutely hate regular sheets in the winter now. It's hard to describe but honestly, they're so cold, it's painful. Flannel sheets, wool socks, both amazing!
  • Electric blankets: They're much safer than they used to be. They will also save you money on your heating bill. 
  • Regular blankets:Your regular old blankets, quilts, afghans, and fleece blankets are great for keeping you nice and warm. 
  • Electric floor mat:You can buy small or large electric floor mats. The floor is heated with the ondol, but an electric floor mat will save you money.
  • Indoor tent: Koreans love tents. There's nothing like going to a a beach or park and seeing tents all over the place. Well, they're not just for the outdoors! They capture heat and are used inside. Stick an electric floor mat inside and you're good to go. You can also find tents that fit over beds.
  • Hot water bottle:  An easy, cheap, no tech-needed hack is a hot water bottle. They can get pretty hot, but if you buy ones that come with knit covers, they're nicer to cuddle up with and won't burn your child. (cover and cleaner)
Windows and Doors
Heat can quickly escape through winters and doors so make sure yours are sealed up tightly. 

  • Bubble wrap: Put bubble wrap on your windows to help insulate them. Sounds weird, but people swear it works and lowers their heating bill. Here's a good video explaining how.
  • Plastic wrap: After you put bubble wrap directly on your windows, then cover them with plastic wrap to keep out drafts, then top all that off with some nice, thick insulated drapes and watch your heating bill go down. 
  • Drapes: Open the drapes during the day to let the sun in and close them at night. Make sure you have nice, thick drapes. Insulated drapes make a huge difference in cutting down on drafts.
  • Magnetic windproof door: In Korea, they're very common, stores use them all the time. It's a thick plastic covering held together by magnets.
  • Foam strips: Putting them around windows and doors will help cut down on drafts.
  • Draft stopper: Putting these at the bottom of doors will help keep out drafts. You can buy them or simply save money and roll up a towel.
  • Put a blanket in front of your door: You can also use insulated drapes to keep the drafts out. 
  • Closing doors: Creating a smaller space by closing doors to rooms will also help. This is especially true when you're sleeping. Close your bedroom door and keep the heat inside. 


Food and Drink
Drinking hot drinks and eating hot soup is a great way to stay warm. Drinking ginger tea or ginger honey crystals can help you keep warm because ginger improves circulation. High fat foods, such as nuts or avocados, can also help you feel warmer.



Cars and Strollers
It's one thing for an adult to have to deal with the cold, but it's an entirely different matter for a baby or child to brave the cold weather. Before I had a car, I took my stroller everywhere and believe you me, my daughter was always nice and toasty. Sometimes she'd fall asleep in the stroller and would come out with her cheeks flushed and her hair pasted to her forehead because it was so warm. I used a stroller for a long time simply because I didn't want her walking outside in the cold and slipping on the ice when I had to walk up and downhill in the street since our street had no sidewalks.

Many of these items are ubiquitous in Korea. You can find them online (gmarket and coupang), at discount stores (such as Daiso), and grocery stores (like E-mart and Home Plus). Usually buying them online will save you money, but sometimes stores have good deals as well. You can also often find them in buy and sell Facebook groups.



Footmuffs for strollers
I've always called them sleeping bags. I've also heard them being called buntings. Whatever you call them, they're awesome. They come with or without hoods and keep your kids snug as a bug in a rug. If you want a super warm option, check out this lambswool foot muff.

Stroller covers
Driving in Korea is a pain and parking is worse. Unless I know there's parking available, I take my stroller, even in the dead of winter. I've got a collection of stroller covers. I have quilted ones for winter, like this Manito one, and I have summer ones that keep kids dry when it rains. I have them in different sizes as well, since I have different strollers and they're not a one size fits all item. Gmarket has loads of stroller covers, just make sure you choose the correct option when checking out. I have a jogging stroller, a regular stroller with detachable car seat, and two umbrella strollers. I haven't found any that fit the umbrella strollers since they're too low to the ground, so I simply unzip the bottom section and my daughter's feet stick out. It works fine that way.

Lambswool seat liners
Speaking of lambswool, a cheaper option that a lambswool foot muff, which will run you hundreds of dollars, is a lambswool seat liner. You could use it on it own or perhaps put it inside a regular foot muff for extra warmth. I use one in my stroller. I know that people like to add things to car seats as well such as this infant support insert. My only issue would be to make sure your child is buckled in correctly when using inserts. Car seats aren't supposed to be cute, they're supposed to save your child's life. There's more info in this post about how to buckle your child in correctly.
 Cozy Cover winter car seat cover

Car seat covers
Puffy coats and car seat do not mix. There's more info in this post about how to buckle your child in correctly and why puffy coats can be deadly. Since you can't use puffy coats, car seat covers are great for keeping warm. There are some like this JJ Cole one where their heads stick out of a section. Or the Cozy Cover where their heads stick out of a circle. There are also ones which have the top part just like a blanket, so it doesn't go around the baby's head, such as this JJ Cole one. No matter which one you get, make sure your baby can breath.



On the Go
Hand warmers
There are hand warmers available in convenience stores. Some of them can only be used once, but I like the ones that can be boiled and re-used. Amazon also has a good selection. These are ubiquitous in Korea. You can find them at Daiso, discount stores, grocery stores, and online.

Rice Socks
I know a lot of people swear by rice socks. They're cheap and easy to make. Take a clean sock, stick uncooked rice inside, tie a knot and chuck it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds. Some people put a mug of water next to the rice sock as it's in the microwave. You can also use it cold, just stick it in the freezer. You can also buy ready-made packs, like the Bed Buddy, that you can use hot or cold.

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


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Common Tests and Interventions Done Prenatally, During Labor and Birth, and Postpartum in Korea

 The Mayo Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
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While your caregiver will offer all these tests and interventions, it's up to you to accept them. They don't typically ask you if you want them However, you can ALWAYS have a choice and can opt out and say no. Even if you say no, your doctor is not likely to "fire" you or refuse you care. More often than not, they'll just think you're weird.

You might also be interested in reading the following:

Tests and Interventions Done Prenatally in General
  • Ultrasounds, weight, and blood pressure are done at every doctor's visit.
  • Being told not to gain too much weight or even go on a diet if you're overweight.  
  • No medicine offered to help with morning sickness.   
  • Flu shot.
First Trimester
  • Monthly visits until about 28 weeks.
  • Blood and urine tests during the first visit to test for things such as protein in your urine, thyroid function, liver function, Hep B, titers for immunities to childhood disease, blood type, and HCG level. 
  • Pap smear during the first visit to test for abnormalities and STDs.
  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) done between 10-13 weeks if you're over 35 or high risk.
  • 4D ultrasound done around 12 weeks as part of the Nuchal Translucency (NT) test.
  • First trimester screening around 12 weeks which involves the NT test and blood test to test for chromosomal abnormalities.
Second Trimester
  • Monthly visits until about 28 weeks.
  • Amniocentesis done between 15-20 weeks if you're over 35 or high risk.
  • Triple or Quad test done between 15-20 weeks to test for chromosomal abnormalities.  
  • Flu shot during winter.
  • Gestational diabetes (GDM) test done between 24-28 weeks. 
Third Trimester
  • Visits every two weeks between about 28-36 weeks.
  • Weekly visits from 36 weeks until you give birth.
  • Rhogam shot given around 28 weeks to Rh- moms.
  • Blood test to check for anemia and cholesterol levels done between 28-32 weeks.
  • Internal ultrasound / exam to check cervical length done between 28-32 weeks.  
  • Urine tests done between 28-36 weeks to check for protein in your urine.  
  • DTaP shot after 32 weeks.
  • Non-Stress Test done around 36 weeks.
  • Group B Strep (GBS) test done around 36 weeks.
  • X-Ray done around 36 weeks to rule out tuberculous. Not as commonly done as before.
  • EKG done around 36 weeks to check for abnormalities that might interfere with medicine given during birth.  
  • Induction at 41w3d.
Tests and Interventions Done During Labor and Birth
  • Induction done after 12 hours of water breaking if 36+ weeks.
  • Vaginal exam upon admittance and then every hour.
  • Monitoring blood pressure and temperature.
  • Fetal monitoring for 15-20 minutes every hour using a belt strapped across the mom's belly.
  • Enemas.
  • Shaving of pubic hair.
  • IVs for fluids, antibiotics, and/or glucose. 
  • No food or drink during labor.
  • Birthing on your back.
  • Episiotomies (an incision made from the vaginal wall). 
  • Pitocin.
  • Coached pushing aka purple pushing.
  • Immediate clamping of the umbilical cord.
  • Pitocin and massage to birth the placenta.
  • "Emergency" C-sections. The rate for Korea is about 33%, which is the same as the USA.  
  • Rhogam shot given up to 72 hours after given birth if the mom is Rh negative.

Tests and Interventions Done Postpartum
  • Suctioning the baby's airway after birth.
  • Washing the baby with soap and water.
  • Taking the baby away immediately to be weighed and measured.
  • Taking the baby to the nursery.
  • NICU: Seeing your baby twice a day for 20 minutes. Info about NICUs in Korea
  • Feeding the baby formula and/or sugar water.
  • Erythromycin Eye Ointment.
  • Vitamin K shot. 
  • Hepatitis B shot.
  • PKU test done between 3-4 days old.
  • Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) shot for TB given around 2 weeks.
  • Staying 3 days (if a vaginal birth) - 5 days (if a C-section).
  • Check-up at 6 weeks for the mom.
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Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.


Friday, 1 September 2017

Car Seat Laws for Kids in Korea

 Graco SnugRider
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Last Updated 25 September 2017

Legally speaking, in Korea a child must be in an car seat or a booster seat until they're six years old (Western age). The fine is 60,000 if you're caught and you're child doesn't have one. It's very unlikely that you will be pulled over and fined. I've seen infants on the driver's lap, kids bouncing around, and even kids popping up through sunroofs.

However, this is literally a matter of life or death! I cannot stress this enough. I know some people get complacent after living in Korea for a while. But, don't even think about not using car seats! You must put your child in a car seat and you must buy a new one.  

Please don't buy a used one. If it's been in any crash or slightly damaged in any way, it could be compromised. It's not worth saving money when your child's life is on the line. Since it's a big ticket item, consider putting it on your baby registry. Or cross something else off your list and get a car seat.

Installing a car seat
Remember to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It doesn't matter if they're a year old, you don't have to turn them around: keep them facing backwards.

It's not easy to install a car seat. You can check online for more info. Unlike some countries, fire departments and police stations cannot check your car seat to make sure it's properly installed. In addition, hospitals and birthing centers aren't going to check if you have a car seat installed before you take your baby home. You could go home in a taxi with them in the front seat and they're not going to stop you. Here are some good sites.
How to buckle your child in correctly
Never, ever put your child in a car seat while they're wearing coats. This video shows what happens when you put your baby in their car seat while wearing a coat. The car seat lady and this crash test will explain more and why it can be deadly.

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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Sharing Breastmilk in Korea: Donating and Receiving

 Linsinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags
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I know that moms share breastmilk both formally and informally. As a La Leche League Leader, I can only recommend the former, however, LLL allows me to  give "information and support, including information about the benefits and risks of such practices as induced lactation, relactation, wet-nursing, or cross-nursing."

The World Health Organization says that if a baby cannot be breastfed by his or her mother, then expressed breastmilk from the baby's mother, breastmilk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breastmilk substitute should be given in that order.

Ultimately, I can provide information. It is up to you to make the decision along with your health care provider. 

Milk Banks
There are only two milk banks in Korea. In order to get milk from the milk bank, your baby has to be a preemie or have a documented illness. If you want to donate, they will require a test for STDs plus a hepatitis B vaccination. You will have to pay for both of these. I'm not sure how hard it is for non-Korean speaking foreigners to donate milk. I imagine it's like donating blood. In theory, it's possible; in practice, very difficult.
Donating milk to milk banks was in the Korean news. You can see the story here.
  • KyungHee University Hospital at Kangdong in Seoul. The phone number is 02-440-7731.
  • Iksan Jeil Hospital. The phone number is 063-840-7629, 2300
How much milk do you need?
There's an article by KellyMom which explains that babies aged 1-6 months need about 19-30 oz (570-900 ml) of breastmilk per day. Some women get milk from one other women, while others get milk from many different women. Some also supplement with formula. I do not know how much Korean milk banks charge for milk. I know in the USA, it's about $4 an ounce.

Pasteurizing the milk
In milk banks, the milk goes through a pasteurization process. That's not the case if you connect directly with another mom. You need to be able to trust the mom you get the milk from.

Some families decide to pasteurize any and all donor milk they use. Sometimes the baby doesn't like the taste of donated breastmilk. Scalding the breastmilk can help. Eats on Feets also has information on two different ways to pasteurize milk. Milkshare has good info on how to screen mothers that you're getting milk from.

Milk sharing resources, risks, and benefits
I highly encourage you to read these articles as well as do your own research before making a decision. Only you can decide what is right for you and your child.

Where to Find Breastmilk Sharing Communities in Korea
Please check the milk sharing resources mentioned above. MMKorea Nursing Support has information on how to send breastmilk. Most families will pay for the breastmilk storage bags as well as shipping costs.
Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB) - South Korea 
You can message this group and they will post on your behalf whether it be an offer or a request. It's not that active, but when people post, they usually get responses.

MMKorea Nursing Support 
This is not a milk sharing group, but a peer-to-peer breastfeeding support group. With that being said, it's Korea-wide and women are usually able to help.

Local parenting or mom groups. Someone often knows someone. Some women have been known to pump specifically for another baby.

Check military groups. Often moms who PCS have to get rid of loads of milk. If you know someone who's military, ask them if they can post on your behalf.

Other Breastmilk Sharing Options: Currently Not Available in Korea
There are currently no chapters in Korea, but may be in the future.

MilkShare
They have an email list they send out. It's geared towards women in the USA. However, maybe someone in Korea could set up something similar.
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Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.


Saturday, 8 July 2017

The Big Latch On Korea 2017

 Eat, Breastfeed, Repeat
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August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and all over the world people will be participating in events to celebrate. If you'd like to show your support for Breastfeeding Awareness, look at the items below:
There are also a few events going on that you can participate in:
The latter two you can do on your own, but the Global Big Latch On takes place with other people.

What is The Global Big Latch On?
Their website states that "Global Big Latch On events take place at registered locations around the world, where women gather together to breastfeed and offer peer support to each other. Their friends, family and community join this celebration to promote and support breastfeeding. Volunteers from within the community host each location, hosting a Global Big Latch On event creates a lasting support network for the community."

 It started in New Zealand in 2005. There are many reasons behind this event, according to their site.
"Global Big Latch On events aim to protect, promote & support breastfeeding families by:
  • Provide support for communities to identify and grow opportunities to provide on-going breastfeeding support and promotion in local communities.
  • Raise awareness of breastfeeding support and knowledge available locally and globally. 
  • Help communities positively support breastfeeding in public places. 
  • Make breastfeeding as normal part of day-to-day life at a local community level.
  • Increase support for women who breastfeed – women are supported by their partners, family and their communities.
  • Ensure communities have the resources to advocate for coordinated appropriate and accessible breastfeeding support services."
Who Can Participate?
Breastfeeding moms, their partners, and their supporters are welcome to join. They will count three different things: the number of latches, the number of breastfeeding women, and the total number of people. They recognise that breastfeeding journets are different. As such, in order to be counted as a latch, you can have
  • A direct latch
  • A supplemental nursing system or nipple shield
  • Express milk using your hands or pump
  • Feed your child breastmilk using an alternative method
In Korea there will be 2 events, one in Yongsan, Seoul and one in Songtan, Pyeongtaek. Be sure to check out Big Latch On Korea on Facebook as well.

Want to Donate or Help Out?
If you're a small or local business, consider donating a prize for the raffle. If you'd like to donate money, please do so on The Big Latch On website. If you'd like to donate your time, please contact Sheila (Seoul) or Sharon (Pyeongtaek) to find out how you can help out.

Yongsan, Seoul: Friday, August 4th from 10-11:30am
The location is TBA. You can register on the Facebook page or on the Big Latch On website. The location code for this event is 1324. Victor will be there to take photos. There will be a raffle and the following businesses will be providing prizes.

Songtan, Pyeongtaek: Saturday, August 5th from 10-11am
The event will be held at Cornerstone, which is a coffee shop near Posco. You can find a map on the Facebook event. Since they are letting us use the location they have asked that people buy one drink. You can register on the Facebook page or on the Big Latch On website. The location code for this event is 1326.
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Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Where to Buy a New Breast Pump in Korea

 Spectra S1 Double Electric Breast Pump
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When planning on what to get for your baby, you need to consider how you will raise your child. Different people will spend money on different things. Pumps can be expensive but you can also put them on your baby registry.

How Long is a Pump Good For?

Many people make the mistake of asking long a pump is good for. The problem with this is that pumps aren't good for weeks, months, or years, they're good for a certain number of hours. Most breast pumps are good for about 400 hours.
  • Someone has a baby in the NICU and they need to pump 10 times a day for about 20 minutes each time. After one month of doing this, the pump would have clocked 100 hours. 
  •  Spectra 2 Hospital Grade Breast Pump
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  • Someone pumps twice a day for 10 minutes each time. Assume that they work 242 days in the year. After a year of doing this, they would only be at about 80 hours.
Closed vs. Open Breast Pumps
A closed pump keeps the milk from entering the tubing. The Pumping Mommy and Kelly Mom also have some great info about why you should buy a closed breast pump, especially if you're buying a used one. Closed pumps are WHO compliant. Open pumps are not.

Closed Breast Pumps
Here are some closed breast pumps. There are hospital-grade, double electric pumps, single electric pumps, and single manual pumps. Be sure to read the reviews to see which one would be best for you. I always read the negative reviews first. You can also filter them to only see verified purchases.


Stores
Baby Fairs are a good place to check out different breast pumps. Sometimes it's cheaper to buy a pump at a baby fair than at a store. Stores dedicated to families, such as Moms Mom and Toys R Us
may have them. Bigger department stores such as Lotte and Shinsaegae may as well. In Lotte in Myeongdong, there is a place called BB on the 7th floor that has some pumps. Around women's hospitals there are often stores dedicated to families and some bigger hospitals may actually have a store inside. Mothercare is located inside Homeplus and they may have some pumps. Sunny Smart Shopping and Ask Ajumma are services that can help you locate a pump whether from a brick-and-mortar store or an online store. 


Online direct from companies
Online from people
Sometimes people buy a pump or are given a pump and never use it. You might find one listed on one of the sites below. 

    NB: I will be taking a break from blogging in July and August. I will be back in September. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on sharonkcouzens@gmail.com

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    Monday, 1 May 2017

    Why the Words "Low" and "High" Should Not be Used by Your Doctor

     Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
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    It often happens like this. At a routine doctor's visit you're told . . .
    • your heart rate . . .
    • your baby's heart rate . . .
    • the amniotic fluid . . .  
    • the baby's weight . . . 
    • your blood pressure . . .
    is too low / too high so we need to do . . .
    • an induction.
    • an (emergency) C-section.
    • more tests. 
    More often than not it's accompanies by fear and guilt techniques such as if you don't do this your baby could have serious long-term problems or even death. This is absolutely horrible and bullies parents into making decisions when they have not received complete informed consent. When you're told this by your doctor, you blindly do what they tell you. Granted there are situations that do merit immediate care. However, usually things are normal. 

    Another example
    Let's step away from doctors and get a different perspective. Imagine you want to find out the weather forecast for the next week and all that you can see is the date and "hot" or "cold". That's it. No temperatures. That's not very helpful, is it?

    That's precisely what doctors are doing when they tell you your numbers or your baby's numbers are "low" or "high". They're not giving you the complete picture, so how exactly can you make an informed decision when you're missing the vital information?

    Here's what you need to do
    Always, always, ask for numbers. "Low" and "high" are subjective. Numbers are concrete and objective. Only then, can you make an informed decision. Let's look at two different situations. You need two numbers:
    • what the normal range is
    • what your number is.
    Situation A
    You go in for a routine visit and are told your X is low. You ask for numbers and are told that the normal range is 100-120 and you are at 98. You're 2 numbers away from being within the normal range. You now know the complete picture and can decide what to do. That might be to follow the doctor's advice, ask for re-testing, check and see what can cause low numbers and try to fix it and then re-test. 2 numbers isn't that drastic and remember that there is room for error in all tests.

    Situation B
    You go in for a routine visit and are told your X is low. You ask for numbers and are told that the normal range is 100-120 and you are at 50. Now this situation is very different than Situation A. Here you are 50 numbers away from being within the normal range. Knowing this you will probably make a very different decision that what you would make in Situation A.

    Conclusion
    Doctors do tend to have your best interests and the baby's best interest in mind. However, there are also many other things that come into play.
    • They're following hospital policies.
    • They actively manage births instead of using expectant management.
    • They want to go home because it's Friday / they have plans the next day.
    • They're afraid of being sued.
    The bottom line is that it's ultimately up to you to get the complete picture and make a decision based on concrete, objective numbers not abstract, subjective adjectives.

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