If you read my previous blog post, then you know that I had my surprise son at 47 years old and delivered him in a hospital in Seoul, South Korea. If you haven’t, I need you to catch up (LOL).
So, the pregnancy and the delivery went well, but not so much after that. In the United States, regardless of whether you have had a vaginal birth or C-section, you get to hold your baby if you are physically capable of doing so (or so I’m told). Well, it is very different in South Korea. When my son (he doesn’t have a name at this point) was born, the nurse held him close to my face so I could say my first “hello”. No touching, no kissing, no skin-to-skin contact. He was then whisked away to the nursery, while I was moved to a recovery room for about 30 minutes to an hour. I’m still not sure if this is common practice after a C-section, or if it’s this way for all births. I was just shocked that my child was displayed to me like a prize on The Price Is Right and whisked away to another location, while I was in the recovery room, and wondering what happened to my baby when I was supposed to be recovering. Did they not read the research about the many benefits of skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn? I guess my recovery was more important than bonding with my baby.
Like I said, my baby was taken away to be prodded and checked for any medical concerns. They did call Brian (my husband) so he could see him, really quickly, before he was taken to the nursery. My mother also managed to take a quick picture. After my recovery period I was moved to my room to rest a little bit more, with the expectation that I would see my baby soon. Brian went out to get lunch for himself and my mother and while he was gone I received a phone call on my cell phone. It looked like the hospital’s phone number. “Now why would the hospital be calling me when someone could just come to my room to talk to me?” I wondered. Well, it was in fact the hospital. It was the pediatrician from the NICU trying to reach Brian. She would not tell me what was going on, but waited until Brian returned. When Brian returned, he walked over to the NICU to try to get some answers. He was not allowed to see our baby (I’ll get to that story), but the pediatrician did provide more detailed information (I think). She informed him that our baby had difficulty breathing due to the inability to completely clear the fluid from his lungs or Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn (TTN) to be exact. This condition is most common in babies delivered by C-section, as noted in an article by Stanford Children’s Health. Treatment of TTN includes supplemental oxygen, blood tests, continuous positive airway pressure, IV fluid and tube feeding. Of course, I did not know all of this when Brian gave me the news. I was still confused about what was happening and wondering if my baby was going to be fine. So how did I process all of this with crashing hormones? Erratic crying, of course. How else was I supposed to handle it?
So here we are, in a hospital in Korea, where the nursing staff speaks limited English, with a baby in the NICU. Luckily Brian was able to harass one of the English-speaking pediatricians in the NICU so we could get updates on a regular basis. This was key because at The Catholic University of Korea Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, NICU visits were only 30 minutes a day. Yes, you heard me correctly, 30 MEASLY MINUTES A DAY!
So, not only are my hormones rapidly changing, but my baby is in the NICU, and I can only see him 30 minutes a day, at the same prescribed time of the day, with everyone else whose baby is in the NICU. How is this helpful to my baby? Johns Hopkins lets one parent stay at the baby’s bedside for 24 hours, with visiting time for others over a 12 hour period. I have also known women in the U.S. who were able to visit their baby in the NICU whenever they wanted to, with a nursing room. I wish someone would have told me this. Not that I could have changed anything (LOL!). I certainly couldn’t fly back to the U.S. to deliver my baby since I was restricted from flying.
But wait, I still haven’t seen my baby for the allotted 30 minutes today, because I missed the window of the prescribed time. If I wasn’t at-risk of being placed on international hold, I probably would have turned over some tables, but then it would be this whole trial thing and a scar on Brian’s military record, so I composed myself (not without lots of crying).
I managed to sleep, heavily medicated of course, and had many questions about seeing my son the next morning. So the time came for us to finally see him. We walk over to the NICU and there is a herd of people waiting to get in like we were waiting to clock in at a factory. There was hand sanitizer, gloves and gowns for everyone to use. We got all gloved and gowned up and were ushered in by security. We immediately walked over to where our baby was and my heart sank when I saw all of the tubes and machines connected to him. I had so many questions, but not one of the nurses spoke English. We had to flag the doctor down when we saw her to ask as many questions as we could before our 30 minutes expired. I was not able to hold him during the first visit, so it was a highly emotional time for me. I could barely utter any words to him without my voice trembling, but it made me so happy to see him smile when he heard my voice again.