I’m so excited to finally share this amazing news with everyone! My husband and I will be expecting our first child in June 2022!
I don’t even know where to start with this post. I’m full of emotions and just bursting to say everything at once but I’ll try to organize my thoughts!
First of all, my husband and I are very happy about this news and when we found out last October, we were both thrilled. I must admit I was also terrified, but throughout this experience I’ve learned that my joy is more powerful than my fear, and my husband helps me to stay positive every day. While we weren’t exactly trying to get pregnant, we also weren’t trying to not get pregnant. We were married, happy, financially stable, and since I would be staying home instead of working, it seemed like we were in the perfect position to start our family. After we moved and I finished my teaching contract in the summer, we stopped using any kinds of contraception and decided to let nature take it’s course. I was only off of birth control for about one month before we conceived! I was really surprised because I expected it would take longer. These days, I hear so many stories of women who struggle to conceive and I wondered if that would be our fate as well. But nope! Amazingly, we are now pregnant sooner than we ever could have imagined.
As I said, I had only been off of birth control for about a month when we conceived. Before using birth control, I had always had an irregular cycle. It was closer to 45 days than the typical month-long cycle, so I wasn’t sure if I was late or just readjusting to my body’s natural rhythm. For our wedding day anniversary in October, we went out to dinner to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Seoul. This might be a little TMI, but I had been having gas and indigestion all day and for a few days prior. With my period being a bit late as well, I started to become suspicious that I might be pregnant.
Then the next night, I had a dream that I was pregnant, and in my dream I knew I was pregnant with a girl. Now I can’t remember anything else about the story of that dream besides those two details. It’s a pretty unremarkable 태몽 (taemong: a dream predicting forthcoming conception) by Korean standards (which usually involve some kind of natural symbol like animals, fruits, or flowers), but it was that simple, matter-of-fact dream that convinced me to take a pregnancy test that same night. My husband had ordered some for me when I told him I was starting to get suspicious, so thankfully I had some tests on hand. He had to work that night, so at first I resolved to wait until we were together in the morning to do the test, but I simply couldn’t wait! The instructions said that it usually takes several minutes to get the results, but when I took the test I had two unmistakable lines appear within seconds!
I took the test right before getting into the shower, and the whole time I was showering I was just riding a roller coaster of emotions! Laughing as I shampooed, then crying while I washed my face and laughing again as I lathered soap. I couldn’t believe it! After I got out of the shower, I took a few minutes to record my thoughts on video (which I might share on YouTube soon). I was freaking out because I was home alone and had no one to share the news with and I was full of excitement, fear, joy and worry. I debated whether I should tell my husband via text, or call him, or wait until he got home late at night to tell him in person. I decided to wait, and in the meanwhile I treated myself to McDonald’s for dinner.
When my husband got home, he saw the McDonald’s bag right away. Previously, I would always treat myself to McDonald’s on the first day of my period because it was always a tough, emotional day and I didn’t want to cook. So when he saw the bag, he asked me if I was eating it because my period started. I told him, no, actually I’m eating it for a different reason. He looked at me funny and went to change his clothes while I fumbled with my phone’s camera and the pregnancy test in order to surprise him. The recording was a total failure because I was too slow and the room was too dark, but I whipped out the test and said, “Actually, it’s because I’m pregnant!” and he was so happily surprised. He gave me a big hug and kiss and I felt so relieved! I feel quite sorry that I wasn’t able to record the moment but I will never forget it.
Off to a Rocky Start
The very next day, we went to our local woman’s clinic to confirm the pregnancy. We did a scan, but the doctor couldn’t see anything on the monitor. He suspected it could either be a chemical pregnancy (meaning it had already failed), an ectopic pregnancy, or it was a regular pregnancy and we were just too early. If I wasn’t sure about how I felt about being pregnant before, being in that doctor’s office and seeing the empty monitor gave me so much clarity. I was devastated at the prospect of not being pregnant and broke down crying on the spot. The doctor took some blood to measure my hCG levels and asked me to come back in a few days to take more blood and compare. My husband was such a great support in that moment– I went home feeling extremely depressed and heartbroken, and I didn’t have much hope at all.
I went back for the second blood test and then was told to wait a few days for the results. The next week, sooner than we expected to get results, the doctor gave us a call to tell us that my hCG levels had risen dramatically! And when we went back to his office for another scan, we could finally see evidence of a regular pregnancy! We really had just gone too early after all.
Sharing the News with Loved Ones
Since I live in Korea away from all my close friends and family, my only option was to let people know via video call and text messages. I wanted to surprise my parents and my sister, but everyone expected what I was going to tell them and it wasn’t much of a surprise at all! But they were all happy and excited for us. I’m grateful that I am able to keep in touch with my family to share major life moments like this.
My memory is a little fuzzy at this point, but I’m pretty sure we let our immediate family members know right away at 5 or 6 weeks. For others, I wanted to wait a bit longer before sharing because in the first trimester, the risk of miscarriage is quite high, and I was really nervous about things going wrong. I still feel nervous now at 17 weeks, but after every scan I feel a little more secure. We’ve been very lucky that so far, our baby is progressing safely and appears very healthy and active.
My Experience So Far
Pregnancy so far has been a challenge! I never imagined that I would feel so miserable during such a special time of life. In the media, pregnancy symptoms are always played for laughs and never portrayed in a serious or honest way, so I don’t think I was prepared at all for the emotions and physical symptoms that I would endure.
The biggest lie is the idea of morning sickness. The name itself is really misleading! In my case, I experience nausea throughout the day, regardless of the time. Early on, I had a really strong bout of sickness and for three days straight and I couldn’t keep anything down. I felt so miserable that I thought I’d be better off just dying. (Dramatic, I know.) After that terrible weekend, my parents-in-law took me to the hospital for an IV drip and some meds that have become my holy grail item during this pregnancy. I’ve been taking Diclectin since then and haven’t been able to stop taking it yet, though I’m already in my second trimester. The few times I tried to stop, the nausea and strong food aversion came back again, so I’m going to keep taking it for a few more weeks. Even though I feel a lot better now and still get very hungry every day, I’ve become very uninterested in many foods and figuring out what to eat for my next meal is a challenge every time. I am eating heartily thanks to my husband’s constant attention and care, but I definitely eat too much unhealthy American-style food since the tastes and textures are more familiar and appetizing to me these days. Getting back to a more varied and healthy diet and reducing my added sugar intake are my current goals.
My body has obviously gone through many physical changes as well. As an overweight person who was trying to get in shape, seeing my body grow even larger has not been easy. Especially during the earlier stages when I didn’t exactly look pregnant yet, I was feeling really insecure and unhappy with my appearance. My belly is finally starting to round out in a more obvious way, so that is helping my self-confidence. However, I’m now rapidly running out of things to wear so I definitely need to go shopping! With the physical changes come a whole host of various little aches and pains, especially in my hips and lower back. I try to be careful in how I move my body since I also get some small aches in my lower abdomen if I stand up too quickly.
Besides body shape, another big change I’ve experienced is the condition of my skin. After years of clear skin, I suddenly developed a lot of acne that has only just recently started to calm down. Despite the acne, my main skin issue is extreme dryness! Not just on my face but over my whole body! This is an unprecedented problem for a formerly oily-skinned gal. I’m still trying to get the right combination of pregnancy-safe skincare products together that will help me take care of my new skin.
“Pregnancy brain” does strike at random times, but I think for the most part I am remembering things and functioning quite well. My husband might beg to differ. Haha! Emotionally however, I can sometimes be a wreck. I’ve always been a worrier in general, and now I have a million new things to worry about! I worry a lot about how the baby is doing and I get very paranoid during the weeks of waiting between scans. Thankfully, every scan has proven me wrong and so far, the baby is doing great. I want to be more positive and optimistic like my husband but it’s hard for me to let go of my fears and enjoy the moment. I wonder a lot about what parenthood will be like and if I’m really capable of giving birth and being a good mother.
Being Pregnant in Korea
Since I’ve never been pregnant in the States, I really can’t compare, but I think being pregnant in Korea has been a good experience so far. Even with COVID I’ve been able to have my husband at my side for every appointment. It’s a great reassurance to have him with me and he translates things for me from time to time. Since my eighth week, I’ve been able to see an English-speaking doctor and she’s been very personable and professional so far. The hospital we chose supports natural birthing options as well as skin-to-skin contact and rooming in, which is really important to me. We were able to tour one of the delivery rooms and it was very appealing to my husband and I. I still have a lot to learn about child birth and post-partum, though. I’m very squeamish when it comes to that topic and I tend to avoid the nitty-gritty details, but I think we’ll take a class at our hospital to learn all about it soon.
Since Korea has a low birth-rate, the government offers a lot of benefits for pregnant women, like a cash subsidy, parking stickers, badges, discounts on train tickets, and other aid and assistance for low-income families. The government will also pay a monthly subsidy after the baby is born. I’ve been using my “mommy card” to pay for things like doctor visits and prescriptions which has been a great help.
One thing that I have found very frustrating is the lack of maternity wear in stores. Most people have to order their maternity clothes online since malls and stores simply don’t carry maternity wear, even if the brand has a maternity line. For example, major brands like Uniqlo and H&M only sell their maternity lines on their websites. I haven’t had much luck ordering clothes online even in my normal sizes, so I’m very wary of ordering online for my changing, growing body. To make it even harder, Korean maternity websites seem to assume that the average pregnant lady is still slim and petite, so the size offerings (especially for bras) leave much to be desired. On top of that, the styles offered are often very plain and shapeless and don’t really appeal to my sense of style. Korean maternity wear is one aspect of pregnant life that has me wishing I was back in the States where it’s much easier to shop for my sizes.
On a positive note, I haven’t had anyone try to tell me how to be pregnant so far. Since I’m not working I don’t have any coworkers or principals commenting on my appearance or lifestyle. My parents-in-law have always been very relaxed and let us do our own thing. During my first trimester they were only concerned for my health (after that traumatic weekend). From time to time my husband’s mom likes to send us fresh fruit and some homemade side dishes, which I really appreciate. At first I was really worried about going through this experience without my friends and family from back home, but I’m glad I have my husband and his family to look after me, and I stay in touch with my loved ones as often as I can. I’ve also found a nice community of other pregnant foreigners in Korea who I can talk to for support or just share some pregnancy-related laughs.
Boy or Girl??
This is the big question! But I think you can tell by the header image and the color scheme of our announcement card what the answer is…
At our sixteen-week appointment, we had an ultrasound and the doctor was able to get a good peek between the legs. At this stage, the accuracy is about 80%, so there is room for error, but according to what she saw, our doctor believes we’re having a little girl!
Everyone I’ve asked has said they imagined or predicted that we would have a girl! I’d imagined it both ways and even though my pregnancy dream was of a girl, I sometimes felt like I might have a boy on my hands. Weirdly, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that it’s not actually a boy! I don’t know why my intuition was so off.
Really though, my husband and I didn’t have a strong preference, just as long as the baby is healthy. Sometimes I leaned a bit towards wanting a girl just because I already know what it’s like to be one and I imagined it might be easier for me in some way. But I know that every child, regardless of sex or gender, will have their own unique personalities with their own unique strengths, weaknesses, interests and dreams, so I’m excited to meet my child and get to know them for who they are, rather than imposing any of my own preconceived notions or ideals upon them.
Naming Our Baby
If we were having a boy we would probably already have a name picked out. My husband’s family has a generational naming tradition so because of that we would have had a very small pool of options to choose from. But there are no rules when it comes to naming a girl so we are starting completely from scratch! We are planning to name our baby one name that will be easy to pronounce in both of our languages, rather than two separate names for each language. We’re open to Korean names and foreign names as long as the name is short since anything longer than 4 syllables will likely cause our kid problems in the future. (As most foreigners know, Korean websites, banks, etc. are not very accommodating to long names.) We have a lot of brainstorming to do before the baby comes! When we do choose the name, I don’t know if I’ll share it online. I want to be very careful about how much I share my kid on the web and protect their privacy within reason, so I’m still thinking about it.
I think that’s all I have to share for now! We have our next appointment at twenty weeks where we will do a high-resolution scan, which I am really looking forward to. I’ve also ordered a bunch of maternity wear that should arrive this week, and I’m hoping and praying that I will get some items that fit! Wish me luck…
Anyways, I’m so glad that I could finally share this news with everyone and I’ll be sure to post a few more updates along the way during this pregnancy journey.
Thanks so much for reading!