Saturday, January 10, 2009

Giving birth in Japan

My first child was born on January 3rd, 2009 in Hiroshima, Japan. I decided to write this very simple statement down because it is something that will be with me for the rest of my life. It seems surreal that 2 people arrived in Japan in 2006 and now 3 people will be returning to the US in 2009. I still can’t believe we made it, considering all the obstacles we have surpassed throughout my pregnancy.
As you already know this is our first child so we had no idea what to expect and had to get used to the Japanese way of healthcare without having full grasp of the language. Luckily we did find one doctor who “semi-spoke English” and could get his point across well. I also had a very normal, worry free pregnancy so I think that made things less stressful. I can truly say that the healthcare I received was definitely 5 out of 5 stars. The doctor was very thorough, explained to us what was happening to the baby as the pregnancy progress and answered all our questions. I did have my pet peeves off course, mainly having to go to way too many check ups and that the births are 100% natural, meaning that no drugs are used to ease the labor pains. This is not a typo, I endured all the contractions, pains and discomforts associated with giving birth without one drop of pain reliever, not even a Tylenol!!! Believe me I tried to get any drugs available. I had previously “discussed” with the doctor the use of an epidural and explained that in America this was a very widely used drug to reduce labor pains and no matter what argument I used the answer was always no. Note to self: The next baby will be born in the US or in a country where epidurals are commonly used.
The actual labor itself is quite a story. My water broke around 6 am on January 2nd but I had no pain whatsoever. We decided to go to the hospital as a precaution. The first thing you have to do is call the hospital and tell them you are on your way. I proceeded to call the hospital and read my super birth script in Japanese – “It looks like I am going to give birth soon. I will go to the hospital now”. I recited my very specific 2 sentences in Japanese and the nurse started asking all these questions which obviously I did not understand (sorry there is no going into labor chapter in my Japanese for Busy People book). I proceeded to simply say “I’m going to the hospital now”, little did I know this was a precursor for a very long day of “lady I have no idea what your saying but this kid is coming out one way or the other”. I arrived at the hospital and after checking me the nurse basically stated the obvious; your starting labor but it will take a long time. I spent the rest of the day just waiting for the contractions to begin hanging out in my hospital room with Orlando and my Japanese teacher who came to help out.
At 8 pm a nurse came and told me to get a good night sleep because the baby was probably going to come tomorrow morning. As a result, my Japanese teacher went home and we went to sleep.
At around 11 pm I really started to feel hard and constant contractions and we called the nurse, who had no idea what to do with me since we could not understand each other. The nurse actually called my Japanese teacher and told her to come to the hospital. The problem was that it was already too late, the trains close from midnight until 6 am and my teacher lives half an hour away, so there we where just Orlando, the nurse, myself and the unbelievable pain trying to communicate. In reality there is not much a translator could have done in this type of situation – everyone understands the universal AHHHHHH. I defended myself in Japanese the best way I could using the words itai (it hurts), totemo (allot), ima (now) and isha (doctor). You can actually combine these to make such beautiful sentences like totemo itai (it hurt allot), ima itai (now it hurts) and the always useful ima isha (doctor now). You too can have a child in a foreign country with a grand total of 4 vocabulary words, I am living proof!!!
Once the contractions where a few minutes apart I got transferred downstairs to what I call the “pain room”. The idea is to go into this room and “deal with your pain” until your ready to start pushing the baby out. I can sincerely say that a SAW trap would have been less painful than experiencing labor pains, but around 3 am on January 3rd I was finally a mom. The funny thing was that right after the birth one of the nurses left the room, got a camera and actually started taking pictures of the doctor with the baby, the baby with Orlando, the baby with the nurses and I’m just lying there thinking “Umm hello I’m still here”. So there you have it, taking pictures every 3 minutes is normal in Japan even if you’re in a delivery room completely exhausted and looking like you just survived a boxing match with Mike Tyson in his prime.
I spent a whole week in the hospital after Diego’s birth. I really did not need to be in the hospital all this time since I felt pretty good under the circumstances by the third day but that is the Japanese way. In hindsight this is a good way for the mom to learn how to take care of her new child and rest up a little before going home. Everyone in the hospital went out of their way to make us feel comfortable. The nurses explained things to me in very basic Japanese and demonstrated how to do things (bath the baby, feed the baby, change a diaper etc) very thoroughly. I never thought I would have to learn the words and kanji for pee, poop, diaper, bottle and so on in Japanese but there I was feeding the baby with all the other Japanese mothers who where going threw exactly the same thing. Even tough everything I have just written sounds crazy, I would go threw it again in a heartbeat because the feelings a parent has for his or her child does not need any translating.