We walked into the midwife's office like any other normal checkup. Six hours later, Arwen Selah came into the world by c-section. Her acrobatic moves in utero over the past month had curled the umbilical cord around her neck twice making it too risky for a safe and healthy natural delivery.
That's how we were thrown into the Cambodian medical system – a system we've heard far too many horror stories about and were happy to avoid. Thankfully, our experience was far from horrible. Quirky, yes. Funny at times, indeed. But ultimately, we received good care, and at the end of it all, we have a happy and healthy baby, and I'm recovering as I should.
Highlights from our Cambodian Maternity Clinic experience:
-all medical staff, including the obstetrician, padding around barefoot doing their rounds
-The doctor communicating in three languages with me – a constant mix of English, French and Khmer (yes it spun my mind for a loop)
-rice three times a day, everyday, for five days straight. It always came with side dishes of course and most were quite good. But my two personal favourites were:
1. whole mini blackened chicken soup day (visualize baby chicken head, baby chicken feet, baby chicken beak – and no I did not eat it!).
2. Fabulous Kampot pepper pork – with hair still on it day.
First meal out of the hospital was pizza, and I am still indebted to all of our friends who supplemented our meals with coffees, pastries and chocolate.
It was hard not to compare our experience with birthing in Cambodia to that of exactly two years ago in Bangkok. It was a little more expensive in Bangkok but for that little more came a whole lot of pampering. We showed up to the hospital with nothing and had all our needs taken care of.
In Phnom Penh, most of the little details were overlooked. None of these things were critical – just annoying. First it was the lights. There were two options – spotlight and pitch black. Luckily some friends brought us a desk lamp. After Arwen's first diaper accident I asked for some new diapers. They told me to try Lucky Supermarket. And on and on like this. Essentially we just had to bring everything we needed.
Overall, the important parts went well and we're just glad that nothing serious went wrong. If there is a good chance for c-section, we'd probably recommend Bangkok or Singapore if you can uproot for 6 weeks but I think we'd still recommend Phnom Penh if there is a good chance for a natural birth. We sure enjoyed being surrounded by friends and neighbors and the opportunity to return home quickly.