Having a Baby in Korea.......From A New Dad's Point of View

by Rob Youngs, 19/08/2008

It was 6.45am on July 23 when I woke to find my wife, Jaewon, sitting at the side of the bed. ‘I think my waters just broke’ she said looking down. The evidence confirmed that the day had arrived. Our little boy (we knew it was a boy, the lady at the Heryoojae Women’s Hospital in Il-san told my wife months ago) was ready to join us. I was pleased with developments as the little bloke was already six days overdue. He was going to be induced the next day but I preferred the idea that he worked to his own agenda.

We called Jaewon’s mother, collected a few things and 45 minutes later we were at the clinic. Heryoojae is essentially a big maternity ward. Jaewon had been visiting there every month for the past six, with me in tow too once I’d rejoined her from work abroad. Dr. Han, pregnant herself, reassured us each check-up while she identified body parts for us as she scanned over Jaewon’s impressive belly. The service and care from the staff was first-class. They walked us through the whole process, handling all enquiries and questions with patience.

Jaewon was taken to a bed in the delivery section and put on a drip to help things along a little. She got up for walks, chatted to a couple of other women doing the same. I nodded at the loitering men, exchanging looks that bonded. Replica Watches

At around 11:00am the contractions were coming at 5 minute intervals and over the following 7 hours increased in frequency and intensity.  I wasn’t subjected to learning any new colourful Korean ‘terms of endearment’ during those hours but my crushed fingers and rumpled shirt required no interpretation, the going was tough. The last 90 minutes seemed to take an eternity, largely because my Korean wasn’t sufficient to understand the banter. For about an hour, I thought she was about to give birth any moment. Asking my wife to interpret seemed unfair so I just held on tight, reassured, mopped brow and focused on breathing. Around this time the staff thought things were dragging on and I was asked to leave the room. Through a crack in the door, I saw a midwife straddling my wife’s belly. They were just helping her and protecting my sensibilities. Straight after, I was allowed back in.

At 5.55pm, they wheeled in a baby bath and a table with instruments and I realized it was game on. The doctor entered the room along with 2 or 3 other staff and on the stroke of 6:00pm, with every vein on my wife’s head bulging, Harvey Chae Youngs arrived looking far brighter and calmer than mum and dad. He was gently placed on mum’s chest and he clearly loved it. He was wide-eyed, more Caucasian than we’d expected and quite passive considering his journey. Rubber glove on I cut the cord and gave him his first bath while Harvey discovered his lungs and the staff smiled and agreed that he was ‘ajoo yippayo’. A cuddle and quick feed from mum and he was taken to the nursery.

At Heryoojae, they quarantine babies for the first day or two. It was kind of great but excruciating looking at him through the window during the three thirty-minute minute daily viewing times. Families hold up the names of their babies and the nurses find and display the summonsed little people at the window,

Two days later we moved into a care house on the 7th floor of the same building, where they taught Jaewon how to feed and bath Harvey, provided nutritious meals and kept him in the nursery two nights to ensure mum got rest. We stayed there for a week, a well-spent W900,000. For the record, clinic costs during the nine months were about W40,000 per visit and the birth itself cost about W600,000. The whole adventure probably cost around W2000,000 and included other things like little formula giveaways, yoga, breathing and bathing lessons and two free photo shoots at local studios. 

Harvey’s home now and Jaewon and I are learning to be parents. We’re getting marvelous support from the in-laws, an abundance of love plus daily food deliveries thanks to my mother-in-law. Packages, cards, calls and emails from Australia arrive to remind us of Harvey’s other loving family across the sea. And Harvey is quickly settling into a cross-cultural life full of celebrated contrast, opportunity and challenge where two countries, Korea and Australia, will play leading roles.

About the happy parents:
Jawon and Rob met in Australia in 2004. He then moved to Oman as Director of an Australian language school, while she worked as an international flight attendant for Gulf Air. After a wide-ranging career including tour guiding in Nepal, project management, university marketing and writing for Vogue magazine, Rob is now settled in Korea and on the lookout for a new professional challenges.

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