Thursday, April 16, 2009

Raising a baby in Japan

As you can see from my previous post having a baby in Japan was full of “challenges” to say the least, but little did I know that the birth was the easy part!!! I have not written anything the last few months not because I have nothing to say, but because of absolute lack of time, the baby takes up every minute of the day!!! The 3 weeks my mother-in-law came to Japan to help me out where absolute heaven – news flash to anyone who is thinking of having a baby you need HELP!!! Now that I’m taking care of the baby full time, I try to rest any time I have “off” because guess what? I have to do the same thing all over again tomorrow!!! It’s like the movie Groundhog Day but in Japan. I am just trying to figuring out how to be a mom in the first place, in addition to surviving in a foreign country …how lucky am I? Let me count the ways:

1. Completely different health system – The other day I had an all out fight with the pediatrician (who barely speaks English so I have to go with my Japanese teacher in order for her to translate) because of the kid’s vaccines schedule. It turns out they are different from the US and the ones that are the same are given to the kids at a different frequency (it took me a good month of investigating to figure this out). I refused to give him a vaccine that is given in Japan every month since it’s given every 2 months in the US. The reason I did this was that one of my girlfriends who lives in Japan had her kid vaccinated the Japanese way and then had to re-vaccinate the kid again in the US because of the incompatibility of the frequency the doses are administered. Fighting with the doctor was supper hard because I could tell the translation was very “soft”, in other words my Japanese teacher was trying to “keep it polite” and I was all out loosing a casket. The doctor kept insisting that since I’m living in Japan I have to follow their rules and finally I just told him I was going to follow the American system PERIOD. I’m certain the doctor thinks I was super rude and I’m sure he secretly roles his eyes back every time I walk in the door but seriously why would you put more vaccines into a child if it’s not necessary? I put my foot firmly down and that was the end if the discussion.

2. Who do you call when you have a mommy question? – For a normal person this would be easy just pick up the phone and call your mom, family member or friend. In my case I can only talk to the internet or look it up in the index of my Baby 411 book, since everyone who has a clue as to what is going on with the baby is currently sleeping on the other side of the world. Luckily I have a few fellow mom friends here who have been my angels the past few months. They had recommended doctors and given me lots of advice. I have definitely learned that being a mom is 100% universal.

3. Medicine – If I need medicine for the flu or something and I don’t have it I simply suck it up until it goes away, but what am I supposed to do if the baby needs something? Unfortunately I have to call home and wait for someone to send it to me 1 week later…yey. This is true for all baby products. When the baby was born he had diaper rash and we tried to go to Babies R Us at the local mall to find some type of cream, but guess what? It was a total bust, because there are lots of different kanji kanji kanji brands to choose from and you can’t read any of the labels, what if your kid was allergic to a specific chemical? You basically have no idea what your given and/or applying on your newborn child. Therefore we just had my father-in-law bring as many Johnson and Johnson baby products as he could fit into his luggage when he came to Japan. I’m hoping I won’t run out of baby products before we go back to Michigan in June.

4. Curiosity factor – It turns out that the Japanese people are very curious to see what a non Japanese baby looks like. I’m used to people staring at me basically because I’m tall (5 foot 6 inches) and have curly hair but my kid is another thing. They always stare at the baby while I’m walking with the stroller around downtown Hiroshima and even stop me in the middle of crossing the street just to take a look at him!!! People there is a street car coming, don’t you think we could get out of the way first and then stare at the child on the sidewalk? I got so fed up with the whole thing that I placed a blanket (not as bad as Micheal Jackson’s son nicknamed blanket) on the stroller in order to cover the kid up while walking.
Now you see him:

Now you don't:

Well, guess what it worked but it does not stop people from getting in the middle of my way and trying to take a peek at the baby through the sides!!! If a Japanese person wants to see a non Japanese child then they should look it up on the Internet or simply look at all the American Stores’ advertisements (Gap, Banana Republic etc) which all have blond, blue eyed people posing their clothes!!!

These are just some of the things I have been dealing with while trying to raise a baby in Japan. On the other hand I’m sure I will be laughing about it some day when I’m describing to Diego the place where he was born.

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