It has been a while since I posted an update on the whole pregnancy thing. So, I have prepared yet another list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). If you have no interest in pregnancy, feel free to skip this blog post. :)
What are Japanese hospitals like?
Japanese hospitals are much like American hospitals. Back when we were in Virginia in September, we went on a tour of the hospital where Dan was born back in 1978. They offered such features as 80% episiotomy rate and a 25% c-section rate. It was scary to look around the tour and realize that 4-5 of the women on the tour were going to have c-sections and most of them would have episiotomies. Here in Japan, the rates are about the same. Also the same are the exciting features of required IVs and no eating during labor. While many women accept these things as "necessary" for giving birth, I think they are absolutely crazy.
So, where will you give birth, if not at a hospital?
Ah, the saga of actually finding a place to give birth... When we first arrived in Tokyo, I had already contacted the 2 groups of pregnant foreign women who had email lists and web sites with lots of information. I used this information to figure out where to give birth.
There was a small clinic with some doctors and midwives that also offered water birth. Dan and I visited this clinic. It had a very nice atmosphere and a female doctor who spoke English. However, they nicely told us that we should look elsewhere unless we could find a translator to come to every appointment and the labor and delivery. Dan explained to me that this was their way of saying, no, we don't want to deal with you.
So, the next step was to visit the hospital located a few blocks from Dan's work. They offer epidurals (during business hours on weekdays if the anesthesiologist is available, yea!), or "pain-free-birth." When the person who was helping me find a hospital asked me, "Do you want pain-free-birth?" I had to say, yes, that sounds like a good idea. Only a crazy person wants a pain-full-birth. So, I tried this hospital. My doctor was very nice. However, when I asked about c-sections and epidurals, her answers were distressing to me. On top of that, my needle-phobia was not calmed as they require an IV when you check in. Dan was very reassuring and told me that I didn't have to give birth there, that I could find another place.
I tried another hospital. This time I called ahead and asked about their policy on IVs at check-in before I made an appointment. This Catholic hospital didn't require an IV. So, I signed up to see their English-speaking female doctor. I went to quite a few appointments. I was distressed by their episiotomy and c-section statistics yet again, but this hospital had a friendly American nun named Sister Barbara who was very reassuring. They would let Dan attend the birth, of course, for an extra $100. But most of the nurses and doctors only spoke Japanese. This would have been ok with me, except for the fact that I wouldn't know what was going on or what types of procedures they were planning on doing while I was in labor. So I asked if the hospital would let me have a Japanese translator/doula with me. They said, "no." The planned labor experience that this place made me envision still distressed me.
During the time when I was going to the Catholic hospital, Dan and I took a birthing class. The instructor emphasized that you should give birth in a place where you feel comfortable. Being stressed out about your surroundings inhibits the process of labor and delivery. So, I asked our instructor if she could recommend any midwife clinics. She gave me a list.
I located all of the clinics on a map. One of them was located very close to our apartment. I figured that would be a good place to start. So I called the woman who helped me before with the hospital near Dan's work. (She works for the company that helps Dan's company and the Japanese company work together. She was also the person who helped me go apartment shopping.) I asked her to contact the nearby midwife clinic. My initial questions were basic, asking about the philosophy of the clinic and their willingness to accept a foreign woman as a patient. They support natural birth. They had a back-up doctor on-call and emergency access to a nearby hospital if anything goes wrong. My detailed list of follow-up questions addressed other concerns that I had. We met to discuss the details.
Everything worked out well. I actually didn't need help with translation. My midwife speaks better English than my doctor at the Catholic hospital (The doctor's favorite English phrase was, "Watch your weight"). My midwife's name is Sachiko. She is one of the most upbeat and pleasant people that I have met in Japan. While Dan is number one on my list of people to have with me at our kid's birth, Sachiko is now definitely number two. Everything that I realized is important for me to be comfortable works with giving birth at the midwife clinic:
1) Husband Attends Labor & Delivery
2) Avoid Episiotomy
3) IV not required
4) Birth Position Flexible
5) No Procedures/Tests without the doctor informing and asking permission first
6) Breast Milk only for baby (no sugar water or bottles in nursery)You may notice that having an attendant that can speak English is not actually on my list. After multiple occurrences of waking up in the middle of the night panicked about giving birth at a hospital, I realized that it was more important to me to have an attendant who would take all necessary actions to help me avoid an episiotomy than it was to have an attendant who speaks English. However, I ended up with an English speaking midwife anyway.
Now, instead of panic when I think about labor and delivery, I am actually kind of excited about the process. I don't have to worry about unnecessary medical intervention from an OB (OBs are surgeons who tend to be a little knife-happy). I can relax knowing that my body was built to give birth and that my midwife is there to support me in any way she can during the natural process.
What is Dan's role in all of this?
One of the questions that I had for the midwife clinic was, "Can the husband cut the umbilical cord?" The answer: "It's his job." :) I found the answer funny, my first indication about Sachiko's good humor. Dan also has the job of lower back massage during labor and bringing me food during my stay at the clinic (4-6 days).
Why so long of a post-natal stay at the clinic?
That's just how it is done here in Japan. Japan has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world (the United States is number 30 on the list). So, they must be doing something right. Fortunately the post-natal stay will give me time to adjust to having the baby, taking care of him, changing diapers, etc. I will be surrounded by supportive midwives to take care of me and the baby. This sounds a lot better to me than hanging out by myself at our apartment with Dan at work and a new baby at home. Unlike the United States, Japan does not have the 24-48 hour turn around hospital release time as mandated by the health insurance companies.
Who will attend the birth?
Besides Dan, Sachiko will be with me for the entire labor and delivery experience. She has been directly involved in over 550 deliveries. Also attending will be the head midwife of the clinic who has over 40 years of experience. We met her yesterday. Dan says that she looks like and sounds like Yoda. She only speaks Japanese, so I imagine Dan sitting there listening to her and interpreting her saying, "Large baby you will have... yes."
Is your baby large?
It is the only thing that the doctors and midwives talk about. In the world of 5'10" tall American women giving birth, I have gained an appropriate amount of weight. My baby is larger than 3 kilograms already. I weighed 9 lbs when I was born which is 4.1 kilograms. My own weight started at 192 lbs pre-pregnancy and is now at 218 lbs. That's slightly high at 26 lbs gained, I would have preferred to gain less than 25 lbs, but it has been tough with the lack of an exercise routine and my boredom with walking. Also, our kid has a long femur. So hopefully that means while he will be tall/long, his head won't be super huge.
Are you large?
I think I am reaching the limit on my maternity pants. Plus, this past week the baby moved downward (not quite "dropped" yet, but definitely lower).
How is your name selection going?
Unlike most parents who support the baby-name-book-industry, we managed to select a name without spending the $14.95. Actually, we are not exactly sure how we settled on the first name, but we both like it. Of course, then we had to choose a middle name. Being the creative geniuses that we are, we took the meaning of our chosen first name and asked some of our Japanese friends what the equivalent might be in Japanese. Then out of the three provided options, we selected the name that was the easiest to pronounce and spell in both languages. So basically we are planning on naming our son the same thing twice. Quite redundant, actually.
How is your belly button doing?
It is very shallow. I think that it might have disappeared, but Dan assures me that it is still there. However, I still have a few weeks of pregnancy left, so we shall see if it inverts.
When will you give birth?
The official estimated due date is March 24th. The estimated due date from my calculations is March 20th. Daniel says we cannot give birth on his birthday, March 17th. Since Dan and I were both born on holidays, we figure the kid will be born on March 14th, White Day (a day like Valentine's day where men give women gifts) or March 21st, Spring Equinox Day (a national holiday here where people visit graves, much like my birthday on Memorial Day).
Are you ready to be parents?
No. Dan and I have way too much fun, just the two of us. We really have no idea how to integrate a kid into our lives. I mean, can any of you actually see us as parents?
Are you planning on having more than this one kid?
Are you kidding? You should never ask a 9 month pregnant woman this question! Do you know how long pregnancy lasts? Do you know how boring it is to wait around for 9 months while something grows inside you? I don't even know how frustrating labor and delivery will be!
But, yes, we don't want to raise an only child. We want there to be a built-in playmate for our kid. We may have to do this again. I'll let you know after we give birth.
How does your new anti-stuff, minimalist perspective apply to your baby?
We are trying to stop the accumulation of stuff before it happens. We plan on not purchasing things such as a changing table, a baby monitor, or other "unnecessary stuff." We figure that when the baby gets old enough to play with toys, we will provide him with a box and a stick. This will provide hours of endless entertainment. We may also get him some blocks to build stuff out of. We don't need any stuffed animals! Dan and I have accumulated some over the course of our lives and will pass them along.
Our diaper bag is reasonably sized and should provide us with an ever ready way to leave the house without extra time required for preparation.
Confession: We got sucked in by the cute baby clothes market. In Hawaii, on Kaua'i, they have red dirt. They take a bucket of it and use it to dye t-shirts or "red dirt shirts." I couldn't pass up the opportunity to purchase a tiny, cute, red-dirt shirt for our kid. Hehe, now he has something to wear when he is playing in the dirt. :) It cost $15, quite excessive for a tiny t-shirt. Also, when shopping with Angela2, here in Japan, I finally bought a tiny baby kimono. It was $16, quite excessive for a tiny outfit. BUT THAT IS ALL! No more purchasing of unnecessary stuff!
When will you return to the US?
Ah, yes, our return to the US. Once our baby is born, Dan will go to our local city hall with the birth certificate issued by the midwife clinic to obtain a birth certificate from the city hall. Then, after I leave the clinic (4-6 days after giving birth), the three of us will go to the Embassy to apply for a passport for our kid. Then, 3-4 weeks later, we will receive the passport. Hopefully all of this will happen by our return to the US date of April 15.
What if you don't have a passport by April 15th?
Hmmm... Good question. That is the date our lease currently ends. That is the date of our plane tickets. Dan's project is done April 14th and he needs to get back for the SEA Program Forum the next week. Right now, the plan is for us to ship all of our stuff back except for some of my clothes and baby stuff. Then we would move to a hotel. Dan would go home on the 15th and I would wait for the passport. So, if anyone is interested in coming to hang out with me and fly back with a tiny baby (flying back would be business class), please let me know if the timing works for you. We could even show you around Tokyo while we are waiting. :) So, if Riker isn't born within the next 10 days, we may have an issue.
What are you doing to try to hasten the birthing process?
I really believe that our kid will be born when he is ready. However, I am trying to take my midwife's advice about walking for 1-2 hours or more every day. Walking is so boring though!
When you return to the US, can we send you a gift?
We are still working out the details of Dan's final assignment in his SEA work program. We are not sure where we will be living. However, we will be moving into another furnished apartment which will include a crib. As I mentioned before, if you really, really want to get us something, the best thing would be a gift card to Target or Babies R Us. We are really unsure as to what we will need when we get back and if we will even need stuff until October. The one thing that we do need to buy is a car seat or travel system. All gift cards would be put towards that initially. And diapers.
Update to Travel List
Remember the travel list that we posted before that listed all of the places where Riker visited while inside me? With our most recent trip, we have now added Hawaii to the list of US States. This brings the grand total up to 15 states and 6 countries. Quite the well-traveled baby. :) Hopefully he will get to visit as many places when he can actually experience them.
How will your work go after you give birth?
My plan is to continue to work from home. Of course, this isn't the most practical unless I have additional help. I am hoping that there are agencies who hire out nannies. I will be looking for one of these agencies in Washington, DC as well as our final destination for the April to October timeframe. That way, I will have undistracted time while at home, plus, when I travel to DC to network or work on-site with people, I will have the flexibility to leave the baby at home with the nanny while going out for a few hours.
How will you announce the birth of your baby?
We are planning on posting it on our blog, of course. We will try to send out an email to everyone to let them know to look at the blog. However, we can't promise anything. If we forget to send the email in all of the excitement, we ask for your forgiveness in advance.
I blame the pregnancy!
On a light note... they say that when you are pregnant, you have a tendency to lose your mind a bit. And that's what I am chalking my most recent "accident" up to. Dan and I both have very nice Japanese cell phones. Important for coordinating plans. Important if I should go into labor. Last week I left my phone in the pocket of my jeans. Then I proceeded to wash and dry the jeans. Amazingly enough the phone still booted up after the experience. However, it never got a signal again. I think I fried the antenna. :) Fortunately I was able to acquire a new, less expensive model, Japanese cell phone. All is well.