Monthly Archives: April 2014

Nine Pounds of Awesome

We officially welcomed our second daughter, Millie Jane, on April 4th.   She was born at 1:25 a.m. last Friday weighing a whopping 9 lbs. 2.5 oz.  Yup, big girl!  No wonder I was so freaking fat at the end of this pregnancy.  Okay, it wasn’t all Millie’s fault.  I ate for five this time around.  Anyway, Millie is big and adorable.  She is all cheeks – even more so than Brett was – and she has a full head of hair.  She honestly looks about three months old, and she can almost sleep through the night already.  Which is why I’m sitting up writing a blog instead of cramming in valuable sleep time.  Durr…

I have to say that the whole birth experience in the US versus the birth experience in Korea was… Yeah.  Well, it was what anyone who has lived in Korea might expect.  Initially, we thought that having Brett in Korea was going to be a good move.  We’d had friends who’d had good experiences, and we figured that it would have to be cheaper than the US.  Wrong.  So wrong.

In case you were curious, we spent about $6,000 on giving birth in Korea.  And this is with government subsidy.  They have that “beautiful woman” card thing, or at least they did when I was there, and that covers the prenatal visits.  In theory, it should cover part of your birthing cost, too.  And it will, if you have a normal pregnancy, which I did not.  I had preeclampsia, which is scary and not that normal for Korea.  And as any expat who has lived in Korea also knows, Koreans don’t do well with anything outside of their box.  Fat white girl with preeclampsia is not part of their normal.

Basically, the hospital that I had planned on delivering at – the one with private rooms and pretty colors – basically told me to fuck off after they found out about the preeclampsia thing.  So did the main hospital in Changwon.  I ended up going to Paik Hospital in Busan.  The treatment was good, but I also shared a room with two other families of spitting, horking, 3 a.m. call-answering peasants, being forced to eat seaweed soup three meals a day, and lying on a bed that felt like a two-by-four.  In short, it was kind of awful.  I barely slept, and I was so stressed the entire time that I’m sure, looking back on it, that it took me about a month to recover from it.

The kicker to the experience was the actual delivery.  It was short but awful.  The doctor promised that they’d be able to give me an epidural, which was a sackful of lies.  The anesthesiologist took one look at me and said, “Too fat.”  So I ended up getting shot in the ass with Demerol, which was like shooting heroin, or what I’d imagine that to feel like.  I delivered Brett high as a kite.  I had no idea what was going on, except that it hurt like a bitch, and the nurses told me I had no stamina.  Whores.

At the hospital in Springfield, I had my own private birthing suite.  There was a TV, stereo system (in case you just need to jam out in between contractions), a sofa bed for your partner, a recliner, a shower, and other amenities to help you along.  They had everything necessary to treat the baby right next to the bed, and we had one delivery nurse to help us through the whole thing.  Ours was awesome and incredibly kind and attentive.  She was my rock through the whole thing.

I got my epidural this time around, although I will say the anesthesiologist was kind of an ass to the other staff.  But whatever, he did his job perfectly.  I felt some pressure but no pain, and it was amazing.  I mean, it really was.  I actually got to pay attention to what was going on in my labor this time around.  I was calm and cooperative, and I was actually excited about it when Millie arrived.  When Brett popped out, I was in so much pain and so wonky that I was like, “Baby, what?  Give her to Graeme, I don’t know where I am.”

I held Millie right away this time around, and she stayed in the room with me, instead of being whisked off to a nursery.  I actually enjoyed having her there.  They also had steps in place to prevent baby theft.  I know, people don’t really think of that, initially, but apparently it’s a thing.  Point is, we had our own room with a decent (compared to Korea) bed, a crib for Millie, a couch for the hubby, TV, and round-the-clock, often-as-you-want room service for free.  Yeah.  In Korea, I got three disgusting bowls of seaweed soup a day.  You know, so that my milk would come in.  Which it never did.  Sackful of lies.

Basically, my story boils down to this: I spent more money on a lesser experience to give birth in Korea.  Yes, American healthcare is expensive.  However, I have PPO insurance, and my deductible is way less than $6K, so we will have spent significantly less to have a far superior experience.  Even my husband was impressed with the level of service, and he isn’t usually impressed by much of anything.  He really liked the doctors and nurses, and he thought the whole thing went off very well.

That said, I know people who have had good experiences giving birth in Korea.  Thing was, they all had very normal, uncomplicated pregnancies.  I guess to any waeguk girls who are thinking of giving birth in Korea and who don’t have a Korean partner, I would say this: be forewarned.  If you are at risk for a complicated pregnancy and know this before you decide to conceive and give birth there, I would seriously consider returning to the mother country.  If your mother country isn’t the US, chances are good that you won’t have to worry about paying out-of-pocket, either.  I had enough trouble with high blood pressure and preeclampsia.  I wouldn’t really want to mess with anything more severe than that in Korea.

Before anyone gets all critical of me, saying that Korea actually has better survival stats than the US, I know.  We read about it before we had Brett.  You know what?  Still wouldn’t give birth in Korea again.  I felt far safer and infinitely more comfortable here.  Maybe that’s because I wasn’t crammed into a room with spit-sucking farmers in business suits who drag their entire family along to watch the circus.  Maybe it’s because I could actually ask the nurses questions without them giggling uncomfortably and running to get someone who spoke English.  Or maybe it’s because I had actual painkiller, instead of grog-inducing faux heroin shot into my ass.

Whatever the case, I would strongly suggest evaluating all your options before electing to give birth in Korea.  I will say that my doctors at Paik were good, and the second time around, we had a really good OB-GYN, and I would recommend him, regardless of where I was living.  But as far as overall care, I would say that the US has Korea beat, hands-down.  Like I said, if you end up having a weird problem or some such, the US (and probably most Western countries, frankly) is going to be more equipped to deal with it than Korea.