Second Pregnancy: The Birth Story

October 12, 2021

First Pregnancy: The Birth Story

Second Pregnancy: Weeks 1-12

Second Pregnancy: Weeks 13-27

Second Pregnancy: Weeks 28-38

The days leading up to my scheduled c-section felt very different from waiting for labour to begin naturally (which I did with my first but ended up having a c-section). There was an obvious countdown happening which, for me, was simultaneously reassuring but also made me a bit anxious.

August 24, 8:40am: My surgery was scheduled for 9am, so we were asked to arrive between 8 and 9. We woke up to our typical routine, sent MJ off to daycare, and then it was go time. Tropical storm Omais was blowing by Korea to commemorate the occasion. 

August 24 @ 8:40am on our way to the hospital

August 24, 8:55am: We arrived at the hospital shortly before 9am, checked in, and headed straight to the delivery ward where I changed into my pink hospital gown. With this being my second time around, I find myself constantly comparing my experiences. With my first, I was in unmedicated labour for over 24 hours so by the time my c-section rolled around, anything was welcomed as a relief compared to the pain of contractions. I don't remember being pricked and prodded and I don't even remember flinching at the epidural. This time around, I was fully rested when they took my blood, gave me a prick to test for allergies to antibiotics, and inserted the IV as well as the epidural.  

August 24 @ 9:32am checked in and getting checked over

August 24, 9:40am: After getting the once-over, I walked to the operating room. As was the case the first time, PH wasn't allowed to enter so we parted ways at the door. Once on the operating table, the first order of business was to insert the epidural catheter. Although it didn't hurt, the idea of the procedure freaked me out which made me flinch -- a no-no when someone is touching your spine. 

At this point I felt a bit on edge. Once done, they had me lay on my back and my arms were strapped down. I was still wearing my mask... and laying on my back suddenly felt very uncomfortable and I found it hard to breathe. I let the anesthesiologist know, he took my mask off, and replaced it with an oxygen mask with what I assume was some kind of sedative. From this point on, I felt great! The anesthesiologist asked if I preferred to be awake or asleep during the procedure and I opted to be awake. It is a really interesting experience and I was looking forward to seeing lil squishy when she arrived. As was the case with MJ, I was awake and able to feel what was going on without any of the pain. When she was born, they showed her to me briefly before whisking her away for her newborn assessments.

August 24 @ 10:05am photo taken by PH 4 minutes after squishy was born

August 24, 11:00am: She was born at 10:01am but it would be another hour before I would be out of surgery and into recovery. I don't know particular details, but I had a minor hemorrhage which required the application/insertion/something of something to stop the bleeding. I was then rolled to recovery where I expected to be for about an hour, but due to low blood pressure I was laying there for five hours. The only highlight was being able to see bébé (albeit briefly).

August 24 @ 11:25am holding her for the first time

August 24 @ 3:18pm during our fourth hour in recovery

August 24, 4:00pm: It was finally time for me to be taken to my room, though I wouldn't be able to lift my head for the remainder of the day due to the epidural and I wouldn't even have a sip of water until 11 that night. I would also be tortured for the rest of the day via hourly abdominal massages.

August 25 - August 29: The next five days were mostly a blur of downtime interspersed with blood pressure checks and "light exercise" aka standing and then walking. I would begin walking the morning after the surgery and it was more painful than I remember it being. The good thing, however, was that recovery was really swift so while in the morning I felt like my insides were about to fall out (sorry), I was able to walk on my own by that afternoon and felt even better the next morning. I knew that I would be alone from the second night onward (PH needed to be home to put MJ to bed), so that was good motivation to get me up and mobile. 

Lots of time to kill with lots of seasons of Survivor

Hospital food is a topic in and of itself -- After having a baby, Korean women eat seaweed soup for all three meals every day for I don't know how long. I am not opposed to seaweed soup, but I am opposed to eating seaweed soup all day for days on end so we told the nurses that I had an allergy. Every meal consisted of rice, white kimchi, beige soup, and side dishes.

View from my hospital room

As I mentioned in my birth story from my first pregnancy, babies are kept in the nursery full time under the watch of the nurses. My only opportunity to hold bébé was while breastfeeding which wasn't possible until two days after she was born (due to baby not rooming in + my immobility). After those two days, each time she woke up, the nurses called me in my room on the 7th floor and I would hobble down to the nursery on the 3rd floor. The only covid-related difference between 2019 and 2021 is that visitors were now not allowed in the nursery at all to see the babies through the window. This was unfortunate for those who wanted to see the baby, but it was nice not to have to elbow my way through crowds of people to get to the breastfeeding room. Our breastfeeding journey, however, did not last long. 

On the morning of the 28th, we were told that bébé was starting to show signs of jaundice and would require light therapy and for some reason that meant that she would only be fed formula (which we were already supplementing her with anyway). 

August 27 (3 days old) @ 1:35pm in the breastfeeding room

August 29 (5 days old) @ 6:52am - One of the absolute least fond memories I have of the maternity ward is the breastfeeding room. In order to hold my baby, I had to go to this room. In order to enter this room, however, I had to ring a doorbell and be let in. Upon entry, there was an intense sanitization ritual (which existed even before covid): spray clothes with disinfectant spray, put on plastic apron, press timer button for 40 seconds, wash hands for 40 seconds, use hand sanitizer, put on plastic gloves. Seem a bit excessive? I thought so too. Being my second time around, I was mentally prepared for it but it was still overwhelming. For the first few days, I had to do this with an IV stand. There were also usually 1-3 other women in this room and we were seated facing each other. It was not the most comfortable time I'd spend through the day to say the least. 

August 29 @ 12:55pm Because of the light therapy to help her jaundice, she had to wear these gauze glasses. Emotionally and hormonally, there was a lot going on so, at this time, the sight of her little face covered up broke my heart.

A brief tangent into our feeding journey... 

If you know anything about breastfeeding, you know that those first days are vital: skin-to-skin contact is important to generate necessary hormones, and formula supplementation is detrimental to production -- all beliefs/practices that, from my experience, Korea does not adhere to. To be honest, however, even before giving birth this time I was unsure about wanting to breastfeed at all. There is so much stigma and so many strong opinions around the breastmilk vs formula issue that I'm hesitant to post my pro-formula opinion publicly... but I think it's important for me to represent what seems like such an intense minority of moms who prefer formula. With my first child, I stuck to a strict breastfeeding and pumping schedule which made me feel like a machine and I found the process incredibly unsatisfying and distracted me from the first days and weeks we had together. I did this not because I personally thought that breastmilk was that much better than formula, but it just seemed like what a mom had to do. I did not want the same experience this time. 

I don't need to further justify my preference other than to say that it fit mine and my family's needs. Fed is best!

ok where were we... 

August 30 The day finally came that I could go home. It was a complex week physically, mentally, and emotionally. I spent a week away from my family and it felt as though I was living in limbo while anticipating the changes that were to come. An obvious difference this time was having a child left at home while I recovered in the hospital. It was really tough for all of us. MJ did come visit the hospital a few times, but it made it more difficult in some ways. So it's safe to say that I was very eager to get home, back to my family, and start a new routine.

After a check-in with my doctor and an ultrasound, I had my stitches removed and was sent on my way. We went home with birth certificates (one in Korean and one in English), pain meds, antibiotics, scar-healing silicone tape, and of course the newest addition to our family.  

"Hannah" was a name that we had chosen before knowing whether MJ was a girl or boy. It is an English name but also has a perfect Korean counterpart (한아/Han-ah). "Grace" was a name that sounded nice with "Hannah" but didn't have significance other than that. When we went to register her name/birth, we learned that there is a limit on the number of characters that a name can have. Korean names are typically 3 characters -- Hyun-jin Ryu is 류현진. Koreans also don't have middle names which makes our kids' names longer. The name we wanted originally was 노한아그레이스 -- 7 characters, but the limit is 6. I jokingly said we should just drop one character from "Grace" to make it "Grey" but we ended up liking that idea, thus arriving at Hannah Grey Noh. 

While pregnant, I tried to imagine what our family of four would look like. I tried to anticipate how MJ might react to the introduction of a new little member in our house who would be making noise and taking some of the attention that used to go to him. The pessimistic side of me took over and I didn't imagine the amount of love that MJ has shown to Hannah right from the get-go. At the writing of this post, Hannah has been home for a month and MJ has yet to show any sign of jealousy or resentment. On the contrary, MJ can't get close enough to his little sister and smothers her with genuine affection.

Bonus: What's in my hospital bag? (for c-section and mixed breast/bottle feeding)

  • chopsticks and spoon
  • water bottle with straw
  • wet wipes
  • vitamins/supplements 
  • clothes for baby to go home in
  • clothes for you to go home in (comfortable, loose-fitting pants or dress)
  • long phone charging cable
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • shampoo and conditioner (though you can't shower until the end of your stay)
  • facial cleanser and lotions
  • towels (one hand towel, one shower towel)
  • underwear+pads OR overnight diaper style pads
  • nursing pillow
  • breast pads
  • bottles (hospital may provide them)
  • nursing bras 
  • breast pump and breastmilk bags
  • supplies to wash the pump between uses (there may be a sanitizer in the room)
Bottle feeding
  • nursing pillow
  • breast pads
  • bottles (hospital may provide them)
  • preferred formula to give to nurses (they prepare the formula for you to feed)
  • memory book and pen
  • pillow/blanket from home
  • pillow/blanket for partner to sleep on if staying the night
  • hand-held fan
  • things to keep you occupied (laptop/tablet, etc)

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