I need to start this post with a small confession. Things beyond the blog have been crazy for a while, with me working overtime to pay for my Master’s degree, and my daughter being a handful, but the biggest thing that hadn’t been mentioned was that my wife was pregnant with our second child and was due at the end of the year. This first started as a small omission, as I didn’t tell anyone at work for months anyway, and then only friends, family, and coworkers knew, but random people on the Internet? Not so much. If you’ve been following the posts for the past few months and felt some exasperation at how much I was worried about the Winter break, there is the unwritten reason behind my anxiety. Baby stuff.
So, our baby’s delivery date was supposed to be the second of January, which was fine with us as parents. I was going to be teaching, but the baby was going to be coming naturally so there was no point to worrying about it till it was due. Then, on December 31st early in the morning, my wife went into labor. This was the thing we were dreading.
The problem with delivering a child at the end of the year is that when New Year’s day hits, they instantly add one year to their age. Even a baby one day old is “two” according to the way Korean’s count ages, as the first few months in the womb are kind of rounded into the age when everyone adds a year when the calendar changes. Everyone gets older at new years, and then their birthday is when they celebrate their age. It’s a weird, confusing thing for people that aren’t Korean, but it makes some sense with the lunar and solar calendars, or so I am told. This really is detrimental to children that enroll in school and have to compete with students an entire year ahead of them developmentally. The difference in a student who is 7 vs. 8 can be HUGE, and those advantages accrue and serve to lead to setbacks later. It’s better to be older in school in the same grade than younger in our opinion, because peer groups pass through school together here, so if you are behind in your physical or mental development, you stay behind.
Interestingly, this is a shift in mentality, because parents a few generations ago wanted their children out of the house as soon as possible so they could go back to work when the kids got sent to school early. With the ultra-competitive schooling children now receive, everyone wants to have babies in January of February, not November or December. That is so the children will have the longest time before school so they can be tutored longer privately. Messed up, isn’t it? Our friend that delivered her child two days previously (December 28th) felt sad because her kid was going to be competing with kids in school in a few years that were already walking before it could even breast feed. Things even out a little bit, but milestones like that are big, and when everything is a competition, you look at the world differently. I ask you, how is that fair? (Understanding this mentality will help new teachers in Korea SO much.)
Anyway, wife in labor two days before the expected due date, and the only thing we cared about was making sure that she could make it to the new year 16 hours away. The first thing we did was send our daughter to day care, because Glow loves to run around, jump, and make lots of stress for both of us since the baby’s delivery has been approaching. She wants so much more attention these days. With Glow occupied at daycare, we could both keep calm and think of a strategy. My wife kept track of the labor pains, but they were initially intermittent. She had a few hours left. We had Glow’s grandmother come and pick Glow up to watch her for the night so that no matter what we needed to do we didn’t need to worry about our first child. Finally, when the labor hit about 10 minutes apart, we called a cab and went to the hospital with our packed bags. It was going down. We arrived at 10:00 PM with are target just in sight.
The room we got was tiny, just enough to crash on for her and a seat for me. The hospital had one other delivery happen while I was there, but it was not very busy. People plan around trying to avoid this. We had two hours left before midnight, and the doctors told us that we were very likely to deliver right as the clock struck as long as my wife didn’t take any anti-pain medication. They said that Novocaine like drugs would relax the muscles and the baby would immediately crown, which would make the recorded birth the day before the new year by minutes! We waited 9 months worrying about this, and now it would happen! I had to sit there and grind my teeth while my wife went through her final stages of labor without serious pain medication because of this asinine Korean age rule. It was my wife’s decision to hold off on the medication, and I wasn’t going to contradict her. She said she was determined to wait, and all I could do was wish she didn’t have to suffer. Finally, at 11:45 they took her to the delivery room.
While my wife was rolling around in pain during this countdown, a nurse came in and asked me if they could call a reporter. It seems that there is a standing order from news shows to hospitals. If anyone is going to be delivering near the start of the new year, they pass on the information so that the reporters can get a scoop on the story. Did we mind if the reporter showed up? The van was outside, read with a camera. All they wanted was our permission. Be on television? Well, other than my wife writhing in agony, I wasn’t thinking about much else. My wife said it would be okay and I agreed.
We told them as long as they waited to talk to us after the birth and didn’t enter the room until the entire procedure was complete we were fine with an interview. The nurses and doctors were also happy, because that meant free advertising for the hospital which had it’s name prominently stitched on the blankets of the delivery room. They gave us some brief questions to think about, and then waited outside the door. They wanted to know some details about me, and promised to email me the footage later.
The anti-pain medication hit the IV drip with three or four minutes before midnight. The nurses had their phones out, watching the clock and no one wanted to do it too early because we wanted to have the baby recorded as being born in the new year as much as the reporters wanted the story and the nurses and doctors wanted the free advertising. Sick mutual arrangement caused by an outdated social rule. There were a few preliminary pushes, but basically when the clock struck midnight the delivery began in earnest with three nurses shouting and a doctor assisting. I was holding my wife’s head and giving her moral support. At 12:03 our son was born. In total, she was in labor at home for nearly the entire day, and the final “PUSH” took around 7 minutes.
20 minutes later, he was participating with us in the interview and was a total angel. No crying at all. The reporters got footage of him being cleaned off, which I disapproved of, but then there were some dramatic reenactments of the doctor entering the room, and the nurse carrying the baby away. We also got asked a few questions on camera, which we were too exhausted to answer well. They thanked us for our time and we went on our merry way.According to the reporter, it was the first baby born in the new year. Lots of people saw the report on television. I’ve been recognized by total strangers who said they saw me on television with my child and told me congratulations!
Our son was healthy 3.6kg, and 52 cms long. Oh, and he’s famous AT BIRTH. Pretty awesome, eh? No missing fingers or toes, and a full head of hair. Other than “looks like a baby” there isn’t much a point of sharing the pictures with total strangers. We put him in the nursery to get some rest from our very long day. We got an upgraded room for our second child at the same hospital which my wife is recovering at the moment while I prepare the house. We’ve got baby stuff to set up, things to clean, and lots of odds and ends to look after.
A lot of people that saw the program, and I didn’t realize that our private moment was going to be spread so far. I’ve been recognized by thirty percent of my students, and several old coworkers or more distant relatives have sent us messages after seeing the program on TV. t’s not much, but it makes me smile.
For the purposes of the blog, he’ll be called “Arrow“, but like my daughter’s pseudonym, that’s not his real name, but enough for the people on the Internet to know about it. Let me hang onto that last bit of my illusion of privacy, will you? Of course, if you’ve seen the interview on television, my facade has been totally shattered, but I’ll just pretend I can go back to my regular non-television appearing lifestyle now.
(Oh, I can’t bear the paparazzi, with their lust for news chasing us down for pictures of our child (faints daintily).)
4 Responses to “FIRST SON! LIKE, OFFICIALLY FIRST.”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.