Friday, 29 August 2014

Hugo's Birth Story Part 3

Another thing was their readiness to use other means to keep the baby happy until my milk came in. Hugo was given 20mls of sugar water as a top up after feeds then he graduated to formula topups after a day or so which he liked. He slept well. I slept and rested well and the guilt that he was starving didn't stress me out this time. When Amelia was just born, I was told not to give her anything to suck on but my breasts which were empty and so she was hungry and screamed and cried all night and I am still traumatised a bit about that whole thing. Not only did my milk not come in properly, even after 6 weeks she had put on hardly any weight, only when I got back to Japan did a doctor suggest that my lack of milk was the reason and to give her formula top ups. Here there is a belief that the baby will not ruined by top ups in and that mothers are more likely to go on and breastfeed successfully without having suffered such traumatic sleepless nights waiting for milk to come in. 

In this clinic they serve very Japanese food 3 meals a day. Mostly vegetables, protein, rice and soup. Very little dairy or western style meals have been served though bread is an option at breakfast for people unlike me who can eat it. If I didn't love Japanese food I might find it a bit difficult to eat some of the food but everything is so tasty and there is so much. The nurses encourage you to eat everything on the tray. Eating lots of traditional Japanese food equals producing lots of good breast milk. We shall see! 

Another pleasant surprise was the massage I was given the next day after the birth. Unfortunately I was taken back to the exact same room I had given birth in the day before and was emotionally unprepared for that and cried my eyes out. Not because it was a traumatic experience - far from it, but such a huge thing happened there, I pushed a 3.5 kilo baby out of my body there, it's a bit hard to process sometimes.  The massage was lovely followed by a foot bath. The nurse chatted away to me and I got through the teary bit soon enough. After the massage I was told to go take my first post birth shower and they watched Hugo for me in the nursery. I remember the midwife in NZ holding me up in the shower 2-3 hours after Amelia was born. I much appreciated the sponge bath and 24 hours later a relaxing shower after a massage this time round. Maybe it's because I'm 34 instead of 31. 

The doctor asked me if I would like to go home earlier rather than later. I said I wanted to stay until I got the breast feeding thing sorted. So he suggested I go home after 4 nights and 5 days here. That is also a big contrast to being sent home 24 hours later in NZ and I know in Fukushima where there are a shortage of clinics, it's not so long. 

So there you have it. My birth experience in a Japanese birth clinic in Tottori prefecture. I feel so lucky to have been able to give birth there and really appreciate the care and support we got whilst we were there.

Amelia and Hugo playing her new favourite game: "Friends"

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Hugo's Birth Story Part 2

We stayed in the birth room for nearly 4 hours after that whilst I got stitched up a bit and various other things done. Amelia and DH's parents arrived about 8:30 and we had a lovely time together, though I wasn't allowed to move from my futon. Amelia was very taken with her little brother and got upset when the nurse took him away for a checkup. Then about 10am after a sponge bath and fresh pajamas, I was put in a wheel chair and taken to my own western style room (I had a choice of western versus Japanese and let's say I had had enough of trying to get up off the floor). It had a sink and a toilet, with a fold out couch. Hugo was fast asleep and DH took Amelia home and I tried to get some rest...bit difficult with post birth hormones keeping me awake, but this time my body felt so physically exhausted, just lying there looking at my new baby was the most amazing thing. This time my body was a bit more should I say wrecked after the birth than I remember from last time. Perhaps the difference of being 31 vs 34 years old or a 3.5 kilo vs 3.2 kilo baby or a 5.5 hr labour vs a 6.5 hour labour. Let's say I was very grateful to have those 5 days of rest in the hospital this time round...I seem to remember taking Amelia to a cafe when she was 3 days old last time though! 

Over the next few days I was pleasantly surprised by a number of things. First, that mothers got enough rest is just as important as anything else. It took me a day or two before I could let the nurse take Hugo away to the nursery for something so I could eat and or rest in peace for a few hours. I cried every time but was grateful for the rest afterwards and he was always brought back to me fast asleep. 
The nursery is down a level so the mothers can't hear any babies crying from their rooms, except for the ones who are in other rooms with their mothers. The clinic was very quiet whilst I was there, never more than half the rooms were being used at one time so I rarely heard much noise, I fact it was so peaceful that I wondered how Hugo would go when we came back to DH's parent's house which is much noisier. 

Part 3 coming soon

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Hugo's Birth Story, Part 1

Hugo's Birth Story Part 1

On the 12th of August I was 39 weeks and 1 day, DH and I were discussing what would make this baby come out faster. That night we had yakiniku (BBQ) for dinner, something we saw in Japanese we read on the internet said that works,  I told DH to have a real beer instead of an alcohol free one and I also mentioned that being born on the 13th is not such a lucky number. DH's mother also told me about how traditionally babies born on the 13th of August and 31st of December were a bit unlucky since everyone is so busy getting ready for other things, a bit like being born on Christmas Eve or something. As DH, Amelia and I were getting ready to all go to sleep, Amelia said she wanted us to have a group hug. So we did and DH told me later that he had a feeling then that it would be our last night together as just the three of us.
What were my signs of labour in hindsight?
-Fuzzy head, I couldn't quite follow what people were saying in Japanese when this is usually not a problem
-Wanting to spend time alone, having dinner at the table with 5 people was a really uncomfortable for me
-Tearful moments about nothing in particular or just feeling emotional and grumpy
-Lots of braxton hicks contractions
-A lot of movement from the baby especially after the yakiniku, I think he really enjoyed it and wanted to get out to experience the real thing sooner
-Sore breasts that I hadn't had for a long time

At 8pm I went off to sleep no trouble and slept deeply until I got woken up by stomach pains at 11pm. I went to the toilet, but the cramps kept coming every 3 minutes or so, lasting 30 seconds. I thought they were far too regular to be an upset stomach, so I woke DH up and he called the clinic. They said come in. We drove the 20 mins or so and I had regular contractions in the car the whole way. When we got to the clinic they showed me to a dark room with a futon on the floor. I happily flopped down and was told I was 30% dilated and my labour was most definitely underway. Not an upset stomach! About 5 or 6 hours later, I was pushing but my waters still hadn't broken. So the midwife broke them. That really helped get things going and Hugo was born on August 13th at 6:06am, weighing in at 3536g and 51cm. A fairly big boy by Japanese baby size standards.

Stay tuned for part 2 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

He's Here!

Just a quick message to say that "Maruchan" has arrived safely.

On August 12th I went into labour about 11pm and Hugo was born the next morning at 6am. He weighed 3536g, which is big by Japanese baby standards, 51cm long. 

We stayed in the hospital for 4 nights and I had a very nice stay. The nurses really helped me to get the hang of the breast feeding thing and supported me through all the ups and downs after giving birth.

Hugo is a very calm baby and likes to drink a lot. I am very blessed to have him and Amelia. 
Posts might be a bit few and far between for  a while.
But here is a photo:
Hugo 3 days old.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Gaijin Housewife Family Reunited

Well DH has arrived and our little family is reunited, and boy does it feel good! I've talked a bit about some of the difficulties we have been having whilst we have been here. DH's arrival gave me a two day break from them. Amelia was so thrilled to have him here she was an angel for two whole days. Now she has gotten used to him again a bit, she is up to some of her old tricks but at least I don't have to deal with it by myself anymore. Or if I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed/crabby/whatever as is likely to happen at 39 weeks and 2 days, I can just say to DH: Amelia needs to eat some lunch and have a nap and DH will get it done! Must have trained him well. He has far more patience than I do at the moment. These hormones are making me grumpy as hell sometimes and I feel like I just want to be left alone. All fairly natural according to google. 

Once the baby actually gets here, I will be in hospital for about 4 days. Actually giving birth there, naturally, and all that entails and the 4 day recovery stay for mother and baby costs between ¥350,000-390,000 at this particular clinic (this will be covered by our health insurance). This price seems fairly reasonable compared to some of the costs from other clinics I have seen. It is not easy to find out sometimes how much each place charges, but this clinic has been upfront about it from the start. My last clinic in Fukushima never ever mentioned once how much it would cost there, but I knew thanks to my Mama friend information service. Visiting hours are between 1pm and 8pm, though I think fathers and maybe siblings are allowed to come and go at other times.

So DH and I have been making a list of fun things for him to do with Amelia whilst I am in the hospital. So far we have come up with:
Go to the swimming pool (that will be a first time for DH to have to take Amelia to the changing rooms with him -fun fun fun!)
Go on a tour of the local milk factory and then eat ice cream
Take the little local train into town, have lunch and come back again
Go to the adventure playground with giant cellulite busting roller slide
Go to the Library, get new books, eat sushi at sushi shop across the road

So lots of fun things for them to do together, without me. Which is great because none of them appeal to me at all right now, except the part about eating ice cream at the milk factory which is really really yummy. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Final Countdown Starts

The count down begins.

We are up to week 38 day 2. Not long now till this baby decides to come out. DH will be arriving on Friday around lunch time from Fukushima. I am under strict orders until then to not go into labour early. Last time, DH arrived in NZ one day after my due date, we thought that would be safe enough since it was my first birth and I was two weeks late being know the usual conjecture which in the end meant absolutely nothing! Amelia arrived promptly on her due date in under 6 hours from waters breaking with a big pop and gush, just like in the movies, but thankfully not in the middle of the supermarket or anything. Just as I was hoping to get off to sleep and was tucked up in bed after a rough 24 hours of little sleep and feeling very out of sorts, which turned out to be my body gearing up for the main event. Poor DH missed out by 24 hours, though thanks to me choosing to have a home birth during my labour (my midwife and I decided to be flexible and see what happened on the day and I could always go to the hospital 5 mins up the road). When the time came I was in full labour fairly quickly and just wanted to stay where I was. My midwife was a superstar who had all kinds of herbal remedies, massage tricks so I got through without pain relief and DH was able to get online and see the last part of the birth on Skype. That wouldn't have been possible if I had gone off to hospital.

So that was 3 years and 2 months ago. Now as I wait around for the action to start I find myself wondering if I will have the same feelings this time around. I have definitely been nesting a bit for the last few days. Feeling a bit emotional, but not full on blubbing about nothing in particular. I also remember my stomach feeling really uncomfortable that last day, like I had a 10kg watermelon strapped on or something, instead of just the feeling of my tummy sticking out.  So as far as I can tell there are a few more days to go yet(technically I am due Aug 18th, but I think my due date might have been calculated wrong and we could be a week closer than that- not that it means anything, the baby will come when it comes!)

I asked one of the nurses at my new clinic if my speedy first birth means I will have the same kind of birth this time and she said "not necessarily". WT? I was planning to get this all over with in 3 hours! Apparently, according to her anyway, every labour is different. Since I had what I consider to be an almost dream first labour, I was a bit disappointed to hear that. I guess we just have to hope for the best which is all anyone can do and relax and let nature do it's thing!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Pregnant in Japan

Help I'm pregnant in Japan!

To start with, Congratulations!
The first thing you need to do is get yourself a clinic. Clinics seem to vary widely in what they offer, allow and even the Drs seem to have widely varying opinions. If it's not a surprise pregnancy, then hopefully you have heard which clinics are good for what from other friends, or researched websites. Due to a lack of obstetricians in Japan it can be quite competitive to "reserve to give birth" in some areas. In my town in Fukushima Prefecture, there is such a terrible shortage you really have to be quick about it, once you know you are pregnant.

So I think I have found the clinic I want to go to, what now?
Get an appointment as soon as possible to get your pregnancy confirmed. Once you have had this initial examination you will be able to reserve to give birth at that clinic. You can change your mind later and move to another clinic, it's usually not set in stone. A lot can happen in 9 months (or 10 months by the Japanese way of counting). Lots of women also choose to go home to give birth so changing is possible if you find you really don't want to go there anymore and find somewhere else that has places available.

At your first check, you will probably end up paying more money than usual. The free check ups don't kick in until after your due date is set. The doctor gives you a form and you take it to the city office where they issue you with your parent and child book and vouchers for the free check ups. I think each city is a bit different. Mine gives you 14 vouchers that cover all the tests needed during pregnancy, too. Now I'm in Tottori, I can't use my vouchers from Fukushima but I can be refunded later apparently with the receipts and unused vouchers.

So what happens at the check ups?
First you check in, give you sample, get your blood pressure and weight checked by a nurse and have a chat with them about anything that is worrying you. I've found the Nurses to be the ones who harass you about weight more than the doctor. It seems to be their pet "thing". As a foreigner you might be given more leeway with weight limits than the average Japanese person. I explained to the nurse the circumstances in my own country and my last pregnancy and was allowed to have the limit of 12 kilos this time. Not overly generous! I have heard of some places that are so strict about weight gain that patients regularly leave in tears. Perhaps best to avoid such places that put unnecessary stress on expectant mothers over gaining weight. Once you are called in to see the doctor, they will give you an ultrasound every time. They check the baby's head, stomach and length measurements and let you hear the heartbeat. My new clinic has 3D and will record the ultrasound on DVDR for you, which is excellent since I can then play it for DH later and give him a commentary of what he is looking at.

Am I going to be able to get pain relief during the birth?
This is something you need to check when you reserve your clinic. Some offer the option of "pain free labour" - as if such a thing existed! - or 無痛分娩 (むつうぶんべん), at others it is not an option at all. I have heard that some clinics say it's an option but when the time actually comes they are not very forthcoming with it, for whatever reason. So if you are giving birth in Japan, you might find that a natural birth is perhaps the only option. For this reason, I would really encourage you to educate yourself on what is going to happen to your body when you go into labour and how you can find ways to relax, which will help keep your labour progressing. Panicking during the transition phase, which is the most painful bit where you can't talk or anything, can be avoided through help from your support people and midwife to keep you calm and relaxed. I recommend avoiding reading traumatic birth stories, find ones about natural births and how people kept calm(ish) during the toughest parts. Google stuff like calm, peaceful birth.

Where can I get maternity wear that will fit me?
This is something I struggled with a bit. Japanese maternity wear is small, just like all clothing in this country. It also seems to be a lot of terribly modest and matronly styles too.  I did find some useful and reasonably priced items online from Nissen, in their big size maternity wear section. But I have to say, my staple maternity items have all come from NZ or other overseas online stores. It's also quite funny to compare just how sexy overseas maternity wear is to Japanese stuff. Don't even get me started on the hospital pajamas!

That is my little guide to getting started when you find yourself pregnant in Japan.