Raising Kids in Thailand Part 1
My experience of raising two of my children in Thailand is quite different from others I have read about – partly because my husband is Thai and I am Australian. So let me tell you about my experience from a woman’s point of view. I will include some gory details, so you can stop reading if that’s not your thing. However, it may be food for thought for those of you who plan to have children in Thailand with your wife.
I married for love, and definitely not money. When I married my husband, he was earning about 20,000 baht per month (doing lots of overtime). He had a modest one bedroom house and a motorbike. We pooled our savings, and we added about 5,000 baht a month to our savings. I became pregnant right away with twins, but I wasn’t really concerned as my mother had always told me how easy her births had been and I didn’t expect any different. My husband couldn’t speak any English, but I was proficient in Thai so there were no problems there. My parents-in-law were quite kind to me, and I had no idea what lay in store for me.
The problems started as soon as the contractions hit five minutes apart eight months later (twins are usually slightly premature). My husband took me to the public hospital in the middle of the night by taxi. We had already “fark tong” (entrusted the birth) with a doctor who had a good reputation. We didn’t have enough money to spend on a private hospital, and being my first time giving birth I didn’t really know or appreciate the difference. I was rushed into the maternity ward by stretcher, and my husband was told to stay outside. I was a bit scared at him not being with me. The nurses told me to get on the bed and they wanted to see how far along I was. One dived in and her gloves came out covered in blood. She said, “Oh no, too much blood!” to the other nurse in a panic…not exactly confidence inspiring. The other nurse shoved an enema into me (I couldn’t comprehend that at first…what the ?!!) and said, “The toilet’s that way!” while pointing. Oh my goodness…if the contractions had hurt before, now they were terrible.
After spending half an hour in the toilet, I was taken to a room filled with women in the early stages of labour. There were about twelve beds in all. I tried to rest, but the pain wouldn’t let me. The Thai women were quite stoic, not making much noise. One Burmese woman was groaning loudly as each contraction hit her. A nurse walked by and spoke sharply to her, “Hey you – be quiet! Do you think you’re the only woman in the world to ever give birth?!” I pressed my lips together after that. One by one, some of the women were wheeled to the next room to give birth. They were giving birth on beds with stirrups. I dreaded it.
Morning came around and the doctor I had “fark tong” with came to see me. He said, “I’d like to keep you from giving birth for at least another week. That will give your babies the best chance.” I’d never heard of someone saying they could stop a woman from giving birth once she had already started contracting, but he gave me some tablets and had me transferred to a kind of observation room for expectant mothers. There were only four beds in this room. For the next five days I had continuous (but slightly weaker) contractions all through each night. Nurses-in-training came to check on me / disturb me every hour or so. They took my blood pressure, pressed my stomach to see what position the babies were in and listened to their heartbeats with stethoscopes. They were very nice, but I just couldn’t rest. During the day, some of my husband’s relatives would come to visit, which I was very grateful for as it alleviated some of my boredom. I begged my doctor to let me go home, and finally he capitulated on the condition that I would come back for a check-up in two days time. I had to keep taking the tablets at home.
When I came back for my midday appointment, the male nurses bundled me onto a stretcher and rushed me straight to the maternity ward. I said “No, you don’t understand. I’m not here to give birth. I’ve just got an appointment for a check-up with my doctor…” They just ignored me. I was a bit worried because this time my husband was at work, not even waiting outside of the maternity ward like last time. He didn’t even know I had been admitted. My husband was only allowed minimal days off work per year, so I couldn’t just call him to come and stay with me whenever I felt like it either. The doctor said I could stop taking the tablets now, and he would come to see me again in the morning. This time I was the only one in the observation room, as all the other cases had already given birth. The night was long and torturous and lonely, with the contractions becoming stronger and stronger but still only five minutes apart.
My waters broke in the morning and suddenly the plastic mattress had a huge puddle in the middle of it and my clothes were soaked – yuk! I called a nurse and asked if I could wash / change clothes / move beds…anything! But she said, “No, just wait on the bed and don’t move around. Only call me if you think you are going to give birth.” The air-conditioner was on high and the puddle soon became very cold (as did I). I walked around a bit to alleviate the pain and cold, but the nurse stuck her head in the door and told me to stay on the bed. The nurse and I played a few more rounds of jack-in-the-box (me getting up and her poking her head in), until the doctor arrived. He checked me and said casually, “Oh, you’ve got AGES to go…you’re only dilated 2 cm, and you’ve got to get all the way to 10 cm!!”
I wanted to wring his neck! After a week of contractions in almost solitary confinement, I suddenly felt panic. I didn’t think I had enough strength to get through it. And there was no-one there to give me a kind word of encouragement. I felt completed isolated. I asked, ”What about a caesarian?
He said, “I thought you didn’t want one.” Then, “OK. If you want to.”
Immediately he called some male nurses to wheel me to the operating theatre. In under a minute I was lying on the table being prepped for surgery while a female nurse held a mask over my face and told me to breathe deeply. My last thoughts were, my husband
has no idea I am about to give birth and how on earth did I get on this table so quick?!
Boy, am I glad I'm a guy!