Saturday, October 29, 2005
Horyon had her picture taken by her father before leaving, since I couldn't be there to see them go.
And somehow Horyon managed to get a picture of Maxine looking right into the camera. I'm impressed, and a bit jealous.
And finally, one trick we found to make Maxine feel more comfortable was to let her arms wave free. Before that, we always swaddled her. We found that she prefers to sleep with her hands in the "stick-em-up", or "Superman-in-flight" position:
Yeah. She's even cuter in real life.
Friday, October 28, 2005
I am still sick, but slept well last night. God bless whoever invented Nyquil. Can't get it in Korea, but I bring some back every time I go to the States
So after being sent into a state of near panic by her nurses, which happened a couple of times during this process, and seeing the doctor, Horyon was brought into the family delivery room where her mother and I were waiting. She was pretty sweaty, but I've seen her look more tired after hiking. She told me that it didn't really hurt that much, it was just some strange pressure. I felt much better hearing that, though I figured that we were in for a marathon night.
The next three hours went by pretty quickly. Horyon and I talked, and then I coached her through her contractions. Due to our sparse practice schedule, which mostly involved talking about the breathing techniques rather than actually doing them, I had to be reminded of what to tell her to do. Luckily, she remembered. She's always been a better student than I.
The only parts that seemed to drag for me were when the nurses came in to do stuff. They would pull a curtain around her bed and kick me out. When I hovered too closely they would shoo me out. When they started gearing up for the serious part of the operation I got really antsy. They set up the stirrups and other stuff without letting me hold her hand or see her. I felt like it would be too pitiful to talk to her through the curtain, and was afraid of interrupting their questions for her.
Those of you who have had children in the States may be a bit taken aback by this. Understandable. If I thought there had been any chance of communicating my distress and the reasons for it to the nurses or doctor without distracting them from their work, I would have. But the fact is that these family birth rooms represents a very large paradigm shift for Korea. As recently as five years ago, it was virtually unheard of for the father to be present at the birth of his own children. He paced around in the waiting room, just like in "old" t.v. shows and movies back in the states. (My apologies to those of you who don't think they are that old. I just happened to have grown up in a time when it has been expected that the father would be with the mother as she gave birth.)
Horyon told me afterwards that the hardest times were when they kicked me out. She wasn't sure that she could have had Maxine without me. I reassured her that she could have, and made some tacky joke about conceiving Maxine without me.
Back to the story. Whenever they kicked me out, I had trouble relaxing. Finally I found that if I sat on the stool just this side of the curtain, I could see the reflection of the proceedings in the t.v. set provided in the room.
(That's right. There was a t.v. in there. We never turned it on, and I sort of wondered who would want to watch t.v. under these circumstances?)
I found it much easier to relax being able to see what was going on. I won't describe what I could see in that reflection. Suffice it to say that I have a better understanding of why they don't allow husbands to watch. Personally, I was impressed, and any sense of disgust or shame was way in the back of my mind. All of you mothers out there have an even higher respect from me now.
And so I was allowed to stand by Horyon for the climactic moment. I couldn't hold her hand, because they had installed hand grips on her bed, which Horyon didn't let go of. I didn't see Maxine's head first come out, but I did see as Horyon pushed out the rest of her body. The doctor quickly held her upside down to drain the fluid from her lungs. She came out long and thin, slightly grey, very wrinkled, and covered in slime. And I fell completely, head over heels in love with her, right that very moment. The tears ran down my face as I struggled to put words together. "She's so beautiful," I managed. There has been nothing in my life to compare to that moment. Falling in love with Horyon took weeks, and was overwhelming again and again. Maxine grabbed me all at once, demanding that I surrender everything to her. And this powerless little being who couldn't even focus her eyes yet, managed to overpower me.
They toweled Maxine off a bit, then let her suckle at Horyon's breast. They also let me hold her for a few minutes, finally justifying the little blue robe that they made me wear the whole time. She weighed 2.68 kg, just over 5 lbs. Under 2.5 kg they put babies in the incubator immediately, but Maxine managed to be just big enough to avoid that indignity. I later heard that she spent a few hours in the incubator, just to help her stay warm. I'm afraid I can't tell you how long she was. I looked in the little booklet the hospital gave us, and there were a number of numbers that may have been the correct one, but I wasn't sure, and neither was Horyon. So you get nothing.
I wanted to attach some pictures, but I'm having problems with my internet connection right now, so they will have to wait until next time. Instead, I offer this snapshot from my notebook, written late that night:
First impressions of being a father:
It's amazing to fall completely in love with someone at first sight. To see a wrinkled, grey, tiny human, covered with blood and slime, and instantly know that she is the most beautiful person in the world.
To meet the new most important person in my life.
To hold such a tiny baby in my arms, and know that she will only be mine for 20 or 30 years before she finds someone to love more than me, or at least love differently.
Holy cow. I'm a father. A tired father.
There you have it. The rest is pretty anticlimactic. As the drugs wore off, Horyon began to realize how truly painful it is to have a baby. Over the next couple of days she told me that she didn't notice any pain while holding Maxine, but as soon as she was alone it hurt.
I don't believe that I can make anyone understand this if they haven't gone through it themselves. It was as intense as a religious experience, yet as solid and real as a physical injury. I now understand the fathers who have told me that being at the birth of their child was the highlight of their life.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
I caught a cold this week. Big fun. It has taken away my number one
pleasure, holding my daughter. I work, go home, and sleep. When I
stop by to see my ladies, I don't get to hold either one of them.
Blah blah blah miserable blah blah blah.
On the other hand, fall is finally asserting itself in Pusan. I
actually wore a jacket today. Of course, some of my students have
been wearing ski jackets for the past month, but they seem a bit more
sensitive to the cold than I am.
Part two of the Birthday story will come this weekend. Between
sleeping and writing a test for my freshmen.
Robert Sack and Kang Horyon
Hyundae I-Park Apt. 101-1902
Sunday, October 23, 2005
On October 5th at 9 in the morning, I was getting ready to go to work, and Horyon was having trouble eating breakfast. She told me that she was having some pains that might be false contractions. It was still 8 days before Maxine's due date, so we didn't really expect anything. I had read that only 8-10% of babies arrive on or before their due dates, and that first time mothers often deliver 2-3 weeks late. Still, I was a bit worried. I asked Horyon if I should drive instead of biking, in case she needed a ride to the hospital. She said no, get on your bike and ride!
Whoops. Sorry about that. Horyon didn't say that, the rock supergroup Queen did, in their song "Bicycle Races". But it's a good line, and if she had known it, I'm sure Horyon would have used it.
Anyway, I did get on my bike and ride. Horyon called after lunch to tell me that she had called her folks, had lunch with them that day. Her father picked her up around 11:30, and they stopped by the Megamart (a big supermarket) to pick up a couple of things, walked around for 20 minutes or so before heading home. They had lunch, and Horyon was still feeling cramps in her stomach and lower.
Around 3:00 she told her parents she wanted to go to the hospital. They told her it was unlikely that anything was happening this early, but she didn't listen. Thank God.
When they checked in, the nurse told her that there were three other patients ahead of her, and did she want to be seen before the other women? She was demure, and told the nurse that she would wait. By the time the 2nd woman had gone in to the office, Horyon had set aside demure mode and gone into what's-happening-to-my-body mode. She was shown in, and hopped up on the table for the exam. (Well, "hopped" my not be the best word, considering the way she was sitting down and getting up at that point, but I digress.) The doctor took a look at how things were going and immediately told her that she would be having her baby that evening, as she was already dilated 3 cm.
Being the polite family that they are, they waited until 4:00 when they knew my classes were finished before calling me. I was so excited that I left my planning notebook in the classroom I had just finished in.
I pedaled home at record speed, and got another call, this time from Horyon. She told me that I didn't need to hurry, as she was in the collective delivery room, no family allowed. They were waiting for a family delivery room to empty, but until then I wouldn't be able to see her.
So I took a shower. At that point it was more than a luxury. If I had gone to the hospital smelling like I did, I could have cleared any room in the place with the power of my b.o. alone. I then grabbed some clean clothes, a book, my camera, my mp3 player, and my car keys, and left.
I got to the hospital by 5:15 or so, and her mother and I were escorted to the family delivery room at 5:30. They told us that Horyon would be along in 5 minutes or so, so we sat around for about 45 minutes. I think the nurse told us it would be 5 more minutes a couple of times, but I've been in this country long enough to ignore that sort of thing.
When they brought Horyon in, she had be epiduralated (not sure of the verb there, but mine sounds good, right?), shaved, and scared silly by a nurse saying, "That's funny, I wonder why we can't hear the baby's heart-beat?" Bad nurse! Foolish nurse! Scaring my honey like that! She was worked up enough that the doctor had to come and confirm that everything was just fine, and please continue with what you were doing, thank you very much.
Hence our wait in the family delivery room.
And on that note, I will leave you with the promise to finish sometime in the near future.
Please do it! It will save me a lot of hassle in putting together mass emails to let you know I've updated the page. After I email you all to let you know about this, the Notifylist will be my main way to get in contact with you.
Please keep in mind that if you change email addresses, it will take your name off the list, NOT update you automatically!
Saturday, October 22, 2005
First of all, like most Korean names, it is clearly divided into two syllables, with a slight emphasis on the first: "Eun" and "hye".
The "Eun" is the same as the "on" sound in "bacon". Nothing like the word "on" at all, and also nothing like the "un" sound at the beginning of "unobtrosive" or "unconstructive".
The "hye" is pretty much the same as the word "hay". Koreans tell me that it is not the same, and that there are subtle distinctions between "hye" and "hae". I usually respond by outlining the subtle differences between "Yeah" and "Whatever".
The spelling is not exactly random. It follows the latest rules for romanizing Korean names. To a Korean, they make sense easily. At birth registration time, registrating for American citizenship time, and passport time, this will make things a bit easier, as it is very important to be consistent with spelling in these things.
Oh, and last time I tantalized you with the promise of nude bath pics. The first one is getting ready to take a bath. Maxine was a bit upset at the preceedings, but she managed to adjust.
Oh, and in my last entry I tantalized you with the promise of nude bath pics. Please note how I managed to cleverly conceal the naughty bits.
Thanks for tuning in. Peace, Rob
Friday, October 21, 2005
And here I am, no breakfast, and a bit of an agenda for the day, but feeling the need to write a bit. While we were at the hospital a photograpaher came and took pictures for an album we will be receiving later. I took one, too:
The guy definitely knows his light. I took a quick picture on automatic setting, and liked the results. He took closer shots, and they look wonderful. I'm hoping to get the files from the studio. I'm willing to pay for them, but sometimes they can be funny about that sort of thing. As though the only way I am ever going to have any of the pictures they took is if I pay $5 a pop for them to develop them for me.
Enough complaining. Horyon and Maxine came home from the Resting Place on Thursday. Well, they went to Horyon's parents' home, that is. She's had some difficulties. Thursday night Maxine woke her up about five times. Nurse for at least forty minutes, sleep for an hour. Repeat. Five times. Yikes. When I saw Horyon yesterday afternoon, she was exhausted. But last night, Friday, she slept well: woke Horyon up just twice. Perhaps because she had a bath.
I did take pictures of the first bath at home, but the camera is at the in-laws' place. You'll get to see later, maybe in the next post. Warning, they may contain nudity!
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
On Thursday Horyon will leave the resting place to go stay with her parents. This is a move which I have mixed feelings about. Don't get me wrong, I love my in-laws, but they sometimes drive me a bit crazy, and we have differing opinions on how to raise children. I think I will just leave it at that for now.
Yesterday Horyon told me that we need to go to Seoul to the American Embassy before Maxine is 30 days old. I was skeptical of this, but upon checking with the U.S. Embassy website, found that indeed the Korean government likes to have foreigners check in within 30 days of arrival. Even the babies. So I started asking at school for someone to cover my Friday morning classes next week.
When my coworker Paul heard this, he told me that it was a bunch of baloney. He is also married to a Korean woman, and they have two kids. The first they rushed to Seoul, only to find that it wasn't really necessary. The second kid, they delayed 3 months. No problem. He said they had to pay some fee, maybe $20 or $30. Well worth not having to take a one-month-old baby on an all-day train ride and visa run.
Meanwhile, Budding Science Fiction Fan Maxine enjoys her first novel. Well, it looks like she's enjoying it, right?
My intention was to use the book to show some scale, but after taking the picture I realized how amusing it was. If you're considering bugging me about the Darwin reference, consider lightening up.
Monday, October 17, 2005
In Korea, people believe that a woman who has just given birth should be pretty much immobilized for a month afterwards. That may sound a bit backwards to us, but traditionally it might be the only 'vacation' a woman ever had after getting married.
The seventh floor of our obstetrics hospital is made for this rest. The women have individual rooms with attached bathrooms (including a shower, but not stall. Prepare to step in on a wet floor) and all the heat you can stand. More than I can stand, even wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
While in this resting place, the woman is fed nutritious food, three meals per day plus substantial snacks. Both meals and snacks include 'mi-yeok-guk': seaweed soup. It's pretty decent miyeokguk, especially for a hospital. It's supposed to be good for replacing the woman's blood supply and generating breast milk.
The babies are stored on the fourth floor, which is also where the delivery rooms are. They have a standard nursery with a big glass window so that people can make fools of themselves in front of an audience of infants.
I have discovered the hard way that the floor is hard and hot. The hard way is by spending the night sleeping on it, though sleeping may not be the most accurate word to describe what I did there. "Tossing" and "turning" are a couple of closer candidates.
Horyon and Maxine are doing relatively well. As tired as the whole thing is making me, Horyon is even more exhausted. We are trying to breastfeed exclusively, but find that we need to use formula occasionally to give Maxine enough food to sleep well. Unfortunately, Horyon has some sort of infection where the episiotomy was sewn up, so sitting upright is very uncomfortable for her. This makes breast-feeding, eating, talking with visitors, and a variety of other activities uncomfortable. But she is tackling it like a trooper. Often she goes down to the nursery to feed 3 or 4 times during the night.
And Maxine is still the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I know, she has kind of skinny legs and arms, but her cheeks are chubby, and if she grows into her feet she will end up as tall as my cousins Doug and Mark.
Peace to you all,
Saturday, October 15, 2005
So I think I'll add a picture.
Tada! That took about 4 tries, spread over the whole morning. The last time it just worked, without my doing anything different.
This is one of my favorite pictures. Usually we keep Maxine wrapped up like a little baby burrito, so we don't get to see her hands and feet. She still seems uncomfortable with her limbs flailing around, though she seems to struggle to not be wrapped up.
Well, I'm off to the resting room to visit my favorite ladies. Next time I'll explain that whole concept.
Well, I knew you'd be disappointed if I didn't post a picture. This is Maxine at just about 1 hour old. She's still sporting a bit of the the amniotic styling gel look, but she's not nearly as grey and wrinkled as when she came out.
Still not sure if this will work, so I'm keeping my writing short. I'm not even sure if the image quality will be reduced on the site. If not, you will be able to save it to your computer and print it up if you like.
I decided that maybe the best way to keep my friends and family updated was by blogging, and Gmail linked to this one. Said I'd be able to add pictures, too. We'll see.
Wish me luck, and feel free to pester me if you think I'm not writing enough, or if I'm not answering the questions you think I should. I'm going to leave it open to comments, and hopefully that will keep the whole thing two-way.
A Brief Introduction
Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.