Raising Kids in Thailand Part 2
I woke up a while later, and the next few hours were some of the strangest in my life. I had been reduced from a strong and independent woman, to a vulnerable and dependant one – I was now a new mother. I was in a world of pain and couldn’t move my body, only my head. I was in some kind of post-op recovery ward packed full of bodies in beds, with clusters of family members around some of the beds. A nurse wheeled a trolley past my bed with two tiny wrinkled dolls wrapped up on the top.
The nurse next to me said, “They’re your babies.”
I said groggily, “No, they’re not – they’re too small to be mine.”
I asked the nurse for water and she refused. I asked where my husband was, and she said he was with me earlier, but had gone to look at his sons with my mother-in-law. I was relieved he was close-by.
My desperate thirst and burning face drove me into survival mode. The bed next to me had visitors, and although I couldn’t see them properly, I called one of them gently and asked if they would mind getting me some water. They asked the nurse and the nurse refused. I was embarrassed to ask anything of them again, but had no choice. I asked them to wet a flannel and put it over my face. They did, and when their back was turned I tried to suck a bit of moisture out of the corner of it. Before they left, I asked them to do it for me once more. My husband finally arrived and I asked him for water, but he said the nurse had already warned him not to give me any. The nurse told my husband that any water I drank could start rotting the wound from the inside and I could die. I told him that was rubbish, but he was scared for my safety and wouldn’t sneak me any.
I was transferred to another room which had about eight beds, and about four to six other women who had all had caesarians. I was lying flat on my back and the pain from my wound was excruciating. Some of my husband’s workmates came to visit, and I was touched by their kindness. Although almost all of them were on a lower salary than my husband, yet they had chipped in to buy a few small gifts. After they had left, a nurse wheeled in my eldest son. I couldn’t see him properly because the only action I could manage was turning my head to the side. I asked where my younger son was, and the nurse said he was in a humidicrib until his blood sugar levels stabilized. The nurse told my husband that if our eldest son cried during the night, he was to feed him formula milk with a teaspoon. I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed because of the drugs still in my system. I started to feel another wave of panic – I knew that if I didn’t breastfeed my sons from the start, there was a good chance they wouldn’t take to it. There wasn’t anything I could do about it.
Throughout the night, my exhausted husband tried to feed our son. He had been working long hours every day trying to save money for the birth of our sons. He had been riding his motorbike an hour or two each way from work, and coming to visit me for an hour or two each evening, and then returning home to the laundry and other household chores, before getting up early to go to work again the next morning. He had started work on the day I had a caesarian, to be called and informed by a nurse that I was in theatre. He took the rest of that Saturday off, and the next day was Sunday. He had to start work again on the Monday. Once he fell asleep on the visitor’s couch (he wasn’t technically supposed to be sleeping over), and our son started crying. I tried to turn over and pull myself into a sitting position using the bed railing, but I couldn’t make it and my guts felt like they were about to spill out. I called my husband gently to tell him that our son was hungry again. As morning broke, I told my husband, “Sorry, I know we both wanted quite a few kids. But I don’t think I can go through this level of pain again. Let’s just stick to two, ok?”
Later in the morning, my mother-in-law arrived. She had changed, somehow, mysteriously…I could sense it from the moment I saw her. She was tense and unsmiling. She held my son while she talked to my husband about how much the caesarian was going to cost. She was saying how expensive she was sure it was going to be. It was quite a lot of money given my husband’s salary, but we could cover it easily. We had substantial savings (most of which had come from the overseas job I had before we got married). I wondered why she was discussing money with my husband, when we had never discussed financial issues with her or anyone else before. My husband and I had both left home at about 18 years old to work and make a life for ourselves. We were both proudly independent and financially responsible for years before we married.
A nurse entered and briskly told me to start walking. I was apprehensive, but feeling better than I had the night before. I slowly tried to stand up and blood gushed onto the floor from between my legs. The nurse was unconcerned, so over the next few hours I tried standing for a few seconds and finally took a few steps. My husband took my picture and showed it to me – my face was as white as a sheet and my eyes had a vacant look about them. I asked to see the pictures that my husband had taken of our younger son the day before. He had some red lines on his face. My husband explained that he had had a breathing tube inserted at first, and that he had been crying and scratching his face to try to remove it. I wanted to see him, but his room was a few hundred metres away and I couldn’t walk that far yet.
I wasn’t allowed any food or water for what seemed an eternity. Once I could walk, I would sneak sips of water from a bottle in the fridge in the room a few metres from my bed. My husband caught me once, and told me I shouldn’t because the nurse had said so. I didn’t care what she said! When I was finally allowed to have some food, it was plain rice porridge with a clear broth. That was my diet the next few days. After every meal, a nurse would give me two “Sara” (paracetamol) to take. I still wasn’t allowed to breastfeed because I was on some strong antibiotics. I hadn’t seen my other son in the flesh yet, either.
Once the doctor came to check on me, and walked into the room booming, “Aha! So this is the girl who said she wanted a natural birth, but couldn’t hack it!” I wanted to kill him. He inspected the wound and seemed very proud he had made a horizontal cut. I wasn’t sure why he was so happy, because I thought all caesarians were made horizontally.
About a year later, two of my neighbours were talking. One had just given birth and was complaining to the other one (who was pregnant) that her wound was so painful and took a long time to heal because it was done vertically. The pregnant woman was scared, so I told her the name of the doctor who I had “fark tong” with and how he had made a horizontal incision. A few months later, she came to see me and told me that she had “fark tong” with the same doctor, but he had cut her vertically. I was very sorry for her, and wondered if he had done it especially for me since I was a Westerner?
What a horribly unpleasant experience, but one so many Thai mothers go through. I remember reading somewhere that Thailand has one of the highest caesarian birth rates in the world, and the writer of the article had suggested that this was because hospitals make more money from caesarians than natural births!