Secrets of the Korean Post-Natal Hotel, Pt. 2
I had headed to the post-natal hotel to recuperate after giving birth to our first baby. Having been there for a couple of days I had already learned a lot, but there was still clearly much more for me to learn.
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Not only was I filled up on all of the seaweed soup I could possibly ever want meal after meal but, I was also surrounded by Korean Korean Korean. It was the the most immersed in the Korean language I had been in the eight years I had lived in Korea. My husband was going back and forth between our home and the hotel that was just up the road from our house and I was learning the intricacies of breastfeeding from women with many many years of experience. Following Part 1 of Secrets of the Korean Post-Natal Hotel, here is more of what I learned while at our Korean PNH.
Koreans believe that after giving birth you should be kept heated at all times. Even in the summer, you will hear that you should wear long sleeves, pants and socks in order to stay warm and cozy and should absolutely not use the air conditioner or fan. At the PNH this is amped up. The rooms are kept at a cozy 29C (84F) and you are given a set of PJ like clothes with long sleeves and pants. Massages are done with the soul intent of making you sweat more and oils are used to open up the pores and keep you drenched at night. There are heated spa rooms and heated chairs. Even the water for you to fill your water bottles with is kept at room temperature. Koreans believe that exposing your body to any sort of cold after labor exposes your body to saan-hoo-poong (산후풍) which is unexplained joint pain and body aches after giving birth. The nurses and managers would consistently harp on me for not wearing woolly socks, but by the afternoons, I was hot and just needed some body part to breathe. Though there may be no medical reason to back up this theory, heat does help the body relax and I certainly felt relaxed and recuperated by the end of my stay there.
Cleaning the Body
Though traditionally Korean women were advised not to shower for up to a week or longer following the birth of their child, these days you can shower much sooner, though maybe not as soon as you would in the west. This practice was probably promoted in Korean culture during a time when proper shower systems weren’t present in most households and local bathing rooms were used instead. As going out could have led to catching a cold among other infections, the “no showering” rule was developed. These days though, feel free to shower just as long as you dry your hair immediately after or expect a lengthy talking to. Don’t expect to find a bathtub in your PNH but a shower much like most in Korean households that connects to the sink. You will be prompted to enjoy a Sitz bath multiple times a day though. This is a bath specifically for your rear which most likely will be recuperating with stitches if you’ve just had a natural birth. A plastic adaptation will be provided to you that you can put onto your toilet that will turn it into such a bath and make sure the directions are explained multiple times if you need them to be as the buttons on the side panel are numerous and not all of them provide comfort.
Why do they keep taking my baby?
Don’t be afraid to let the staff know what you expect. The PNH is a place promoting not only a new mother’s recuperation while at the same time helping to care for the new baby but they still respect what your expectations are. The first couple of days, I felt like the staff was on top of me and as soon as I was done feeding they would want to take our newborn away while I just wanted to cuddle with her and hold her. They would call every time she needed to be fed and I would whisk her away to my room and then hold on to her for the whole morning until lunch, which was just fine. I’d take a nap in the afternoon and pick her up again and keep her until dinner. The staff kept telling me that I didn’t have to respond to every call, that I could take a rest if I felt like I needed to and they could use my breastpump milk instead. Every mother is different and every woman is going through a different recuperation. While some women need more care which may mean less time to care for their baby other than breastfeeding, other women are feeling rather fine and may want to have the baby with them as much as possible. Just let the staff know what you want to do.
New Kids On the Block
One of the great things about the PNH is that you can meet other women in your neighborhood with newborns who are just about the same age as your own new bundle of joy. Many women staying in a PNH will swap numbers and form friendships or neighborhood groups. After leaving they will call each other up and swap information on progress as well as make play dates for their little ones. Since there are PNH’s in every neighborhood, there is a good chance the women you meet in your own PNH will probably live nearby. These women will also be helpful with procuring baby goods that you may be on the look out for. A friend of ours had received lots of clothes from friends but as she was having a boy she didn’t need the girl clothing she had received and so she passed that on to us. It’s always nice to have friends to help you out and to lend a supportive hand or give a word of support when you need one.
A week at the post-natal hotel was enough for me. No joint pain was stopping me from caring for our babe and I was ready to experience some of those sleepless nights new mothers are always talking about. My time at the post-natal hotel was well spent and not only did I learn a lot about Korean culture expectations for me and for my baby, I had a big boost to my Korean language skills as well.
Have you been to a Korean post-natal hotel? How was your experience?