Sunday, July 21, 2019

How the Twins Were Born pt. 2: The hospital

I called our doula as Tyler pulled out of the parking lot of the birthing center and explained what the midwife had decided. I could hear (or maybe I was convincing myself of) the disappointment in her voice as she said, "Ok. Do you want me to meet you at the hospital, or are you both ok from here?"

I knew the hospital's policies. Tyler wasn't going to be in the room, so she definitely wouldn't be allowed in either. I wasn't sure what exactly she would be doula'ing, but I was sure that I wanted at least two people in my corner as I went into this ordeal.

Living in a relatively remote part of Korea means that even when you go to one of the biggest hospitals on the island, it's still a ghost town in the middle of the night. We parked in the garage, and walked into a darkened and empty hospital. All the lights were out, there were no nurses or doctors walking around, just a faint glow coming from the door to the emergency room. We went in, and even the ER was quiet. There were a few people sitting in the waiting room, but we walked right up to reception. They didn't have to ask any questions, it was very clear why I was there. I was whisked away immediately and our doula found us easily when she arrived--just looked for the only white people in the place!

From that point on, I had no control over what happened. At least it felt that way. I met the OBGYN on duty that night--not the doctor I had broken up with. She was called and, I imagine, happily handed me off to another doctor. I'm thankful that she did, actually, because the OB on duty turned out to be the most empathetic medical professional I have met in Korea! She entertained the notion of a natural birth for about a minute while she did an ultrasound to confirm the midwife's recommendation. She asked me why I had gone to the midwife in the first place instead of scheduling a c-section weeks ago.

"I don't want this. I don't want to have this surgery. It's scary to have surgery in a foreign country where my husband can't be with me and I don't speak the language. I don't want this," I said. She nodded empathetically.

Nonetheless, consent forms (all in Korean) were explained and signed. I was prepped for surgery. I have never felt so helpless and scared as when they made Tyler and our doula stop at the door for the OR and wheeled me away. Watching him disappear from my sight as I was being taken into the bright sterile operating room, laying impotently on the gurney, was the stuff of my nightmares.

I tried to be brave and keep it together, but I was terrified. I wanted absolutely no part of what was happening to me, and there wasn't a friendly or familiar face anywhere near me. No one was talking to me, no explanation of what was happening. Tears streamed down as nurses and doctors started pushing and pulling me, hauling me onto the operating table, spreading my arms out and hooking me up to monitors and machines.

The anesthesiologist came in and asked me how much I weighed. I told him I wasn't sure because I don't own a scale at home and I hadn't had my weight taken for at least a month. They looked at my records to see what I weighed back in March when I last saw the doctor and said, "We'll go with that." Shouldn't it be a little more exact!? I can't be sure, but I think that anesthesia is a little more precise of a measurement than an educated guess!

I had had an epidural with Sadie, so I understood how this was going to go, but I still flinched and let out a little yelp of fear when the doctor started to put on the iodine. The OB came around and held my hand. "Are you ok?" she asked from behind her mask.

"I'm ok," I answered and continued to repeat, trying to convince myself of my own words.

I'm ok.

I'm ok.

I'll be ok.

Once the medicine was in my spine, we were off to the races. The curtain as put up and I felt like I ceased to be a person. No one spoke to me except for the doctor that had been tasked with monitoring me. He seemed confused as to why I was so scared. I started to feel some pressure and let out a gasp and simply he said, "Surgery start."

No turning back now.

I don't know how long it took. It felt like forever. The medicine, combined with the fact that it was now somewhere around 2am, was making me so tired, but the adrenaline was keeping me awake. I asked every couple of minutes what was happening, and after a while the doctor busied himself with something else to monitor and I stopped getting answers.

Until he came back into my field of vision and said, "You have a...girl?"

"Yes," I said, thinking he was talking about Sadie.

Then I heard a baby cry.

"Oh! The first baby is a girl?" I said, turning my head toward the sound and trying desperately to see something.

"Yes. You did not know the genders before now?" he asked. I couldn't answer through the tears. We had another girl! And Tyler wasn't here to see it or be with me in this huge moment. I hated the thought that I was learning this news while he was sitting somewhere in a hospital waiting room.

Suddenly a goopy, red and purple screaming little face was thrust into mine. "Hi baby," I said, as the doctors and nurses around me all snapped the very first photos of me and my daughter on their personal cell phones. And as quickly as she appeared, she was gone. I wasn't allowed to touch her and I had barely even seen her. I have never seen those photos.

A few minutes later, I felt a lot of tugging and pressure and was told that baby number two was a boy. They held his crying little face close to mine and he craned his sweet little neck as he heard my voice say, "Hi Ryman" for the first time. He wanted his mama and I so desperately wanted to hold him.

We had a boy! I celebrated the moment alone because the doctor that had broken the news to me was now having a conversation with someone else in Korean and everybody else was attending to the babies. I think I got a "congratulations" somewhere in there, but I just laid there and cried.

They tried to administer the general anesthesia, and were very confused when I still refused it. "There is still a long time to go," I could hear the doctor saying from behind the curtain, as if to suggest I would get bored or something.

I did end up sleeping fitfully as they finished things up. It was after 3 am when the whole thing was over, I think, and I was emotionally exhausted as they wheeled me into the recovery room. 


  1. As your Mom, I am brokenhearted that you had to go through this & hope that, as a mom, you never experience this helpless feeling with Sadie, Naomi or Ryman

  2. Oh Amber. This is the hardest part about a c-section in Korea. Being alone. I'm so sorry you had to go through this. ❤