Our "Made in Japan" Baby ....

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Our "Made in Japan" Baby ....

So here I am at last with time to put some words down about our "made in Japan" baby! Our story is kind of unusual - I am Australian, my DH is Canadian and we have been living in Tokyo for approx eight years. We met here....neither of us had the intention of staying more than 1-2 years once our initial contracts were up but many years later, we are settled (for now!) with our first child on the way.

DH is completing his PhD here and I work for a US investment bank (just started maternity leave), we travel a lot every year both to see our families and to visit new & interesting parts of the world. We have made a home here, a community, a warm circle of friends and have a lifestyle that we love and celebrate every day.

And so to the story of our baby..... I wonder sometimes if men are ever ready? In our case, I think it was more so DH taking the lead on when I was ready....in reality I could have waited another 2, 3, 4 years and still been a busy, professional woman with different priorities but I think I reached a now-or-never point. At 31, I was ready to focus on family and put my career on hold. Luckily for us, we got pregnant the first cycle we tried and it has been smooth sailing ever since.

Posting now so content is not lost ....

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Our story continued .... we were shocked to find out how easily we got pregnant although I had read "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" so had a pretty good idea when to plan :love3: I didn't do the temperature charting thing, just tried to watch my cycle and look for the right signs - I guess it worked!!

From the start I was anxious about the onset of morning sickness given I commute into downtown Tokyo every day on a very busy train (yes all the stereotypes of the commuter nightmare in Tokyo are true!). I positioned myself every morning close to the door in case a quick escape was required, packed crackers in my bag etc - basically was boy-scout ready at every step of the way! Thankfully, I was one of those very lucky women who never experience a drop of nausea or morning sickness, I didn't crave any particular foods, didn't feel repulsed by certain smells or textures and generally just plodded along like my normal self except for this tiny creature growing inside me....

We got referred to a Japanese OB/GYN doctor at our local hospital who speaks excellent English (my husband's Japanese is fluent, mine certainly has room for improvement but this was an experience I couldn't face all in Japanese) - however I think my views on the health care system require a posting of it's own so will leave that for now.

I really didn't start showing till around 19-20 weeks when we went on our summer holidays to Paris. I had just enough belly to get us into museums & galleries ahead of the queue and to always have people give me a seat on the metro! It was a wonderful trip - I need to figure out how I can post some photos.

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Japan has a national health insurance system somewhat similar to the systems in Australia and Canada where everyone has coverage – this is facilitated through people’s taxes. The way it works here is that whenever you go to the Dr/hospital you only have to pay 25-30% of the cost of your treatment, the rest is covered through your insurance. Your practioner and the govt work out the 70% between them so you don’t need to go chasing reimbursements.

Of course people have the option to take out private health insurance to cover the difference between 75 and 100% coverage but in my experience most just make do with the national plan. Having a baby here (natural delivery) is not considered a medical condition (c-section is however) so you do have to pay for that when you leave the hospital but this cost is reimbursed to you through a “special grant” paid through the health insurance system.

In terms of actual care and treatment during pregnancy (although I have nothing to compare it to in either Australia or Canada this being our first child), I feel my experience has been exceptionally positive. In the first tri-mester, I was asked to visit for check ups every 2-3 weeks and they were very careful to ensure that the foetus was developing on schedule with scans (the trans-vaginal kind – sorry if TMI). In the second tri-mester my check ups were monthly and now in the third tri-mester I am back on 2-weekly check ups. I have sometimes wondered whether having a scan at every check up (we have a whole album already!!) is safe for the baby, but the Dr assured me there is no medical data to suggest that a series of 2-3 min scans throughout the course of pregnancy has any negative effects on the baby.

All our questions have been answered and the OB/GYN pairs with a team of mid-wives who, from what I understand, do the majority of the work throughout your labour & delivery. Women are encouraged to stay in hospital for 5 days for a normal delivery and 7+ days for a c-section to ensure you are ready to be on your own with the baby at home.

Pain relief during labour is strongly discouraged and there is a lot of support for women to get through the process without drugs. E.g. a mid-wife will stay with you your entire labour if that’s what you want, helping you focus and concentrate on each contraction with different coping methods etc. Of course, if you have a strong preference for an epidural there is that option but the majority of women do not take it.

I guess my only criticism so far (my final perspective will be after the baby is born!) is that they approach things here a little more conservatively especially around the father’s involvement. My DH has come to every check up with me but he is usually the only guy there. Our hospital has been great at accommodating this but I know he feels a little awkward being the only guy hanging around! Also our hospital does not do cord-blood banking which is something we were considering….

:bfing:

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Here is a photo of us in Paris in July - I was 20 weeks pregnant at the time.

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Maternity Leave coverage is pretty good here in Japan; I get six weeks before the birth and eight weeks after the birth at 80% of my normal salary however my company tops it up to 100% so approx 3 months at full pay.

We can then take something called Child Care Leave up to the baby's first birthday and during this time we get a monthly grant through the health insurance system of approx US$1,300. It is nowhere near my monthly salary but it will help pay some bills. I am hoping to take the full 12 months off but may consider going back part time earlier than that depending on whether everything is going well with the baby and our financial needs.

Last Friday was my final day in the office however I am not officially starting my maternity leave until Nov 1st. In the meantime, I am working from home doing some special projects for my boss - really enjoying it so far, just being able to take my time in the mornings and not rush out the door, wear whatever I like and take a nap after lunch makes all the difference. Oh I think I forgot to mention my due date - our :angel13: is due November 24th.

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Day 3 of working from home....my boss is really keeping me on my toes with projects and ad hoc requests to get things done! I am not sure whether it's because I am in a quieter environment at home v's the office, but this week I can really feel the baby moving around. At our check up on Tues I had the Dr run the scan over my right side where I feel the most movement & we saw it is the baby's legs and feet there - explains all the prodding!

We have not found out the sex of our baby, I guess our philosophy has been that there are few such amazing surprises in life, why not wait until he or she arrives. So many women have criticized this decision - I don't take it personally, they all say "how could you NOT find out?!"....

Over the past week, as I really feel the shape of the baby poking me I have had moments where I've wondered "who are you?". If I knew the gender, maybe I would have a better sense of this individual life inside me. But we are only 6 weeks away from our due date and have waited this long....another few weeks will not be difficult.

:fairy:

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Photos.....first one is us at Sacre Couer in Paris this July. I was about 20 weeks pregnant at the time.

Me at 33.5 weeks before Thanksgiving Dinner (Canadian not US)

Last one for today....me at 34.5 weeks before Steak & Lobster dinner at Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.

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I just lost my long posting Sad

Here is an abbreviated version ..... Fri evening we went to a steak and lobster dinner at the Canadian Embassy here in Tokyo, it was such a balmy evening we stood out on the balcony looking at the view of the city and socializing with friends. Made me kind of feel wistful about our approaching arrival - wondering when DH and I will be able to do these kinds of things again? How awfully selfish of me!

Today I started to think about packing my bag for the hospital, washed the new PJs I have purchased as well as the nursing bras. The list the midwife gave me was pretty minimal, I think they will provide almost everything we need there but I want to have some of my own stuff with me - might make me more relaxed!

I also cleaned up the stroller we were given....it's in excellent condition but I wanted to wipe it all down and wash the fabric parts. One of the managing directors at work gave it us as his son grew out of it. I never really thought I would be the type to put my baby in second hand stuff but why buy a brand new stroller when the one we received is in excellent shape. Besides, they are not cheap here in Tokyo!

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Tokyo has been suffering from consistent rain over the last 4-5 days as a typhoon passes along the coast of Honshu (the main island) however unlike the usual summer typhoons, there is no period of steamy humidity following - a great relief to me in my heavily pregnant state!

I am not sure whether I am anxious about being a mother, worried about the changes to our lifestyle, my body preparing for the sleepness nights ahead or whether it's just the baby being active but I have been having trouble sleeping over the last few weeks. I have a couple of very restless nights followed by a night of sound sleep because I am so exhausted! I am trying not to take naps during the day so that when bedtime arrives, I am truly ready for sleep...

My cousin who was due on the same date as me has just given birth - 6 weeks early! A little girl after 2 boys which is wonderful. My Mum is now all anxious that I will go early too - I just can't see it happening myself.

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:timer:

It's now a long waiting game....I think this week I have started to experience Braxton Hicks contractions - it feels like bad period pain but goes away after a while. The baby has also been quite active but not in the same painful way that I have heard other women describe. I just get the occasional jab in my side - it's either a knee, hand or foot!

I wonder what I'm going to do from Nov 1st after I finish working from home....I don't think I am the stay-at-home as even this current schedule doesn't seem busy enough to me! DH says I need to detoxify myself after working so hard the last few years and that I will get used to the slower pace. I guess once the baby arrives, all the free time will suddenly disappear and I'll wish I had it back again!

Today DH had the morning off and went to train (he teaches a kind of martial arts called Aiki-Budo) and we then went out for a quick lunch of spicy Korean food before he went to work. I took my book to Starbucks and had a soy latte, relaxing with my novel. There were two Mums having coffee next to me with their babies and both of them looked so big - they were not newborns!

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:neonflower: :neonflower: :neonflower: :neonflower: :neonflower:
Fri Oct 21st
I had a “nesting” kind of day…ironing some new curtains I bought for our bedroom, sorting out baby clothes (cutting tags off ready for washing next week), packing the new nappy (= British English for diaper) bag with things the baby will need to come home from hospital and lots of general cleaning. All that as well as lots of work-related conference calls and time spent on various work projects that I have to finish before next Friday….so I didn’t really have time to go out except to buy some bread for lunch. In the evening, I met DH at the supermarket on his way home from work and we had a light dinner before he had to go out again. I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which I had been excited to see – but it was a little weirder than I thought…the story was not exactly as I remembered it from my childhood.

Sat Oct 22nd
Time passes by so slowly when you’re not going into the office every day. :communityhelper: Usually on a Saturday we clean then go out for lunch or watch a movie together. With me home all week, our place never looked cleaner and all the laundry was already done so we watched a few episodes of 24 this morning before DH had to get on with an article he’s writing. I made some more Christmas Cards (one of my pre-baby projects….Japan has the most amazing paper and I have a whole bunch of stamps I use to decorate them). Later we walked down to the station together as DH was off to an academic conference. I did some errands and bought a magazine which I read in a coffee shop :needcoffee:
…..I have so much free time it’s not funny!

This evening I am going down to his university to meet him after the conference and we’ll go out for dinner. I am looking forward to getting dressed up and put my sweats away for a few hours!

Baby-wise I think everything is fine....our little one makes subtle movements from time to time, enough to let me know that s/he's still in there! We have our next check up on Tuesday morning by which time I'll be almost 36 weeks. I wonder if I've dilated any....?

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Sunday Oct 23rd
A quiet Sunday ...... it was gorgeous weather, sunny blue skies and the kind of warmth on your skin that makes you long for a lazy afternoon on a patio with a good book. This morning I went for a long walk down to a beautiful stream - I must take my camera back there this week and take some pictures before all the autumn leaves change colour.

When I got home DH was talking online with his sister in Canada so we chatted for a while then I called my parents as they had phoned while I was out. This is their first grandchild - naturally they are VERY excited Biggrin about the baby and can't wait to come over here in December. They are going to spend a month with us and stay through Christmas/New Years. This time we have booked them into a "weekly mansion" which is what they call a serviced rental apartment here, the kind you can rent out week by week. It's mainly for business people I guess but will give my parents an opportunity to have their own place here, somewhere they can go back to at night & get a good nights sleep away from us as we settle in with a newborn!

After that I did grocery shopping while DH went to training. I then went down to the local shrine (where he trains in a "dojo" = martial arts studio) as the monthly antique market was on and we always enjoy browsing through the stalls looking at knick-knacks. We don't usually buy anything as it's quite pricey - one can always dream, right!

This afternoon I took a nap, finished a book I was reading and finished watching the DVD "Sideways". I also packed my bag for the hospital - well at least a few basic items anyway! It's a start!

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Monday Oct 24
One month today until my due date! I still don’t think the reality of having a new baby has sunk in yet….DH and I have been together just the 2 of us for so long, it’s hard to imagine our lives as a family of 3. But I feel immensely happy thinking about it, I know we will be great parents – at least that is our intention and desire!

Last night DH’s friend dropped by and I invited him to stay for dinner. I had made clams steamed in sake and chives and mabo-vegetables (this is a kind of spicy Chinese sauce). It was a relaxing evening and he didn’t stay late so we watched an episode of Alias and Lost.

This morning I got up early when DH did, around 6am and made us breakfast. While he was getting ready I did one of my pre-natal yoga tapes with the morning sun streaming in the window. It was very rejuvenating….the baby seems to like all the stretches and the extra space I give him/her when I am breathing deeply and moving in certain ways.

Once I got online, I worked on a project for my boss and created a photo gallery of my pregnancy on Yahoo. I also proofread two articles that DH had written and e-mailed to me for editing. He’s such a talented wordsman (is that a word?), I always enjoy reading his work.

Popped out for lunch and read the newspaper in a little bakery which was relaxing. I see so many pregnant women and Mums out and about with babies/toddlers now that I am around during the day! I guess this is what I have to look forward to! I made an appointment to get my nails done on Thursday afternoon, kind of a special treat for myself.

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Tuesday October 25th
We had our check up this morning, everything went well with the baby now weighing approx 2.7kg (= approx 5.9 pounds) with 4 weeks still to go! I wonder how much more it will grow?! I have gained 9kg (= approx 19.5 pounds) and am feeling every bit of it.

I started to feel really light headed and nauseous as I was getting the ultrasound and had to prop myself up on my elbows. DH was engrossed in a conversation with the Dr, asking whether we could see the face again. I wanted to say "just stop it or I'm going to throw up right here!" but I had all that gel on my tummy and didn't want to interupt them! Finally the midwife realized and came and put me on my side while DH and the Dr moved over to the desk to keep chatting!!

After our appointment, we had a meeting with the midwife. She was explaining a test they want me to go in for next week - basically a no-stress-test for the baby to see how it's heartbeat responds. I guess based on that they can predict how the baby will cope with labour.

From now on, I have to go in weekly for check ups and this afternoon I have to go back for a 2 hour seminar on baby nutrition which is part of the program they encourage us to complete before having the baby there. I am not really looking forward to it as it will be all in Japanese...always makes me stressed!

Last night we had a talk about names for the baby, we each keep changing our favourites but I think we agree on a few common ones. DH wants to wait until we see the baby to make the final decision....

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Wednesday Oct 26th
I had a very busy day work-wise, the phone was ringing constantly with calls from my boss and the two people who are taking over my job (yes, they have split my role - hope they realize how hard I worked to get it all done by myself!) However I did manage to get out for a couple of hours over lunchtime; I went to the library to return some books and picked out 4 new ones - I love having so much time to read now!

One of the books I have just finished is "Misconceptions" by Naomi Wolfe. She writes about how birth has become an industry in North America, how hospital policy around risk management results in many unnecessary c-sections, how long labours are medically sped-up in order to free up delivery rooms and how women are in general kept in the dark about the reality of birth. They are made to feel infantile in the questions they ask and are made to feel that they should not question their Dr's or health-care givers with regards to decisions about their body and their labour/delivery. It was very insightful and makes me grateful to be giving birth here in Tokyo where my hospital encourages natural delivery and the rate of c-sections is very low. I know they will allow me to go through the process at the pace my body wants to and unless there is a medical reason to intervene, I am expecting to have a natural birth.

I did some shopping (got new coffee mugs Biggrin ) and had a long coffee in Starbucks reading one of my books. In the evening, I made a great meal of grilled yellow-tail fish with teriyaki sauce and a vegetable miso dish. It was really yummy and DH appreciated my effort. We went to bed early - for some reason we were so tired!

Oh - some news, I found that the La Leche League has a branch right here in the suburb of Tokyo I live in! I usually have to go downtown for those kind of English-speaking organizations/events so I was really surprised to discover a local branch. I contacted the woman in charge and she lives within 10 mins of me. I am going to the meeting next week - it will be great to meet some other English-speaking Mums right in my neighbourhood. Most of my friends here live downtown....so this will be fun!

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Thursday Oct 27th 2005
Blum 3 Today is my last day working from home....tomorrow is officially my last day but I have agreed to go into the office for the day for a final handover of the projects I have been working on. My boss let it slip that the dept is having a cake for me at the weekly meeting tomorrow morning and then 10 of us are going out for lunch. I am looking forward to seeing everyone - they are a great bunch and I will miss them terribly!

Sat my girlfriends are having a baby shower for me (my work girlfriends gave me a shower back in August with another pregnant co-worker) so tomorrow is my non-work friends! We are going to a popular cafe in downtown Tokyo called Fujimamas and have booked a private room upstairs as most of the other girls have new babies and we don't want to disturb other customers. It will be a fun afternoon - hopefully no games, as per my request! I want it to be a lovely, grown-up lunch with lots of chat about babies but none of the silliness!

Sat night DH and I are going to a joint b'day party for 3 friends and Sunday we have rented a car for the day. We are going to have brunch at my boss's apartment as she is giving me her sewing machine and some other bits and pieces then we are free all afternoon to drive around as we please!

So....my transition into being a full-time stay-at-home Mum-to-be starts with the above activities. I can't wait!!

Oh and I went and got my nails done this afternoon as a special treat! I got a French polish - looks fabulous!

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Friday Oct 28th
Went to the office for my final day before officially starting maternity leave. It was wonderful to see everyone again and all the girls said I looked great - I guess working from home suited me! At our weekly team meeting, they had ordered two beautiful Italian cakes plus tea/coffee which we enjoyed throughout the meeting. They also presented me with a HUGE bunch of flowers and a big card which everyone had signed with good wishes for the baby's arrival. It was a long day as I didn't get home until 8.30pm but I still had a hard time sleeping thinking about my professional days being over for a while and wondering what lies ahead....

Saturday Oct 29th
Six of my girlfriends plus me got together for a small baby shower. Several more couldn't make it but it was a nice size and we had a wonderful afternoon, cooing over their new babies (all of them have given birth in the last 5 months!), telling stories and just enjoying the great food at Fujimamas. I got some amazing gifts - the best being something called "Hooter Hiders". It is something like an apron that you put across your chest while breastfeeding out in public to prevent people from seeing your boobs! Cool fabric and a great idea!

Sat night DH and I went to a joint b'day party for three friends which was nice except I was really tired from my long day out. We got home close to midnight and I just crashed!

Sunday Oct 30th
DH and I got up early as we had rented a car for the day. We drove downtown to my boss's apartment where she gave us an amazing brunch! We sat and talked for hours and really enjoyed our time. She gave us a bunch of stuff she doesn't need as she's moving; lamps, frames, expensive Australian wine and cooking oils and best of all, her sewing machine! She was so generous...we need to buy her a gift.

Afterwards we drove to Costco and stocked up on nappies and wipes plus we got some fun food items and a TEFL grill for cooking meat, toasted sandwiches etc. We don't usually shop at Costco so it was somewhat of an adventure to go there. We dropped our rent a car off, had a light dinner of baked mushrooms with curry sauce (kind of an original recipe!) and went to bed early....what a busy weekend!

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Tuesday Nov 1st 2005
I am now on weekly check ups given this is the last 4 weeks of my pregnancy. Yesterday morning I had to get to the hospital early for blood and urine tests then we went upstairs for the NST (no stress test) where they strap some monitors onto your belly and basically take an electro-cardiogram (baby’s heartbeat) to see how it responds to stress. Everything came out normal although I felt quite nauseous during the test. I am not sure whether it was because I was nervous, the room was very stuffy or it was the position they had me lying in – probably a combination of all three, so I was very glad when it was over. Afterwards, we had our appointment with the Dr and so far I am not showing any signs of dilation or effacement. He also said the baby has not yet dropped so he’s not expecting labour to start any time soon. I was a little disappointed but given I am not quite 37 weeks, I still have plenty of time for things to happen.

Right after the hospital visit I went over to a friend’s house and spent the afternoon with her. She taught me how to make a couple of dishes, not really Japanese food but popular foods here that I have never cooked on my own. It was a wonderful afternoon although I was exhausted by the time I got home at 6.30pm.

This is me before going out for dinner at 35.5 weeks.

This is my belly at 36.5 weeks.

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Thursday Nov 3rd 2005
Yesterday (posting this on Fri morning) was a national holiday in Japan, "Culture Day". Everyone had flags out and there seemed to be a gazillion people out in the city enjoying the autumn sunshine and going to various events and activities. This autumn has been very warm and the leaves in Tokyo really haven't started to turn yet - something that is very much awaited in Japan!

DH went to an martial arts exhibition in the morning while I went to the bookstore in Shinjuku browsing for Christmas presents for our parents. Didn't find what I was looking for except to confirm that it is cheaper to buy on Amazon! Afterwards I went to a coffee shop and read for a while before walking two train stations along to meet DH. We ate at Fujimamas (the same place I had my baby shower at last weekend) where we ran into a couple of guys I work with (the foreigner world here is so small!). DH was not impressed with the cost of the lunch and declared that we are never going back!

Afterwards we walked to Yoyogi Park and laid on the grass listening to some traditional festival music and watching little kids on stage wearing traditional masks dancing to the music. I was quite tired by then given all the walking I had done and enjoyed the rest! We took the train to Takadanobaba where we met up with one of DH's friends, took him for coffee then dinner at an Indian/Nepalese restaurant right by DH's university campus. The food there is amazing, the best Indian we have ever found in Tokyo and the staff are really friendly. We got home relatively early but I was zonked and was in bed by 9.30pm. All that walking is great for me but really tires me out! My Dr told me on Tuesday that lots of walking may help me dilate a little so I am trying to do a few hours every day.

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Friday Nov 4th 2005
What an interesting day....I attended a La Leche League meeting for the first time and met some wonderful ladies in my local part of Tokyo. They were very informative about breast-feeding and curious to know more about me given it was my first time with the group. To be perfectly honest, I thought it was a little strange to see 2+ year old kids still being breastfed but then maybe I've never thought that much about it before. Somehow I just can't see myself continuing past 9-12 months which seems to be fairly standard in Australia (or at least amongst my friends). I really appreciated hearing about their experiences here though and getting their advice on how to get off to a good start with BFing.

Afterwards I had to run some errands. Banks are notoriously bureaucratic here and I spent 1.5 hours trying to change my account name from my maiden to my married name. Mind you, we have been married 2.5+ years but working full time I have just never prioritized getting it updated. What a nightmare!

I also went and bought some snacks for my hosptial bag and got the money out of our account for the deposit we have to pay when we check into the hospital. Just little things on my list of must-do's before the baby arrives!

Oh the other baby-related thing I did today was order a Maya Sling - it's one of those fabric slings with the two silver disks on your shoulder for carrying the baby around in. I got it in plain black so it will match most of my clothes and DH will not be fussy about the colour!

I am now making pumpkin soup and have bought some yummy bread to go with it....so much time for cooking!

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Weekend....Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th November 2005

We are having such lovely autumn weather here in Tokyo, usually by this time of year we have our warm doona (= Aussie word for quilt) on the bed and the heater on in the evenings. Not this year!

Saturday morning I had a burst of energy and decided to totally clean up our balcony. Balconies in Japan are more functional than for enjoyment, people tend not to sit out there but rather the space is used for drying laundry and storage etc. Over the summer, they get very dusty and the windows generally need a good clean. So I swept, sorted pots, scrubbed the window ledges, balcony rails and air conditioning/heating unit etc. It really looks wonderful now!

DH and I then went out for a coffee and to run some errands. We ended up buying a beautiful print that I had seen and loved and hung it in our living room. I will take a photo and post it! That afternoon I worked on a sewing project; a Christmas stocking for the baby and DH made a yummy dinner called "nabe" which is basically the Japanese word for "pot". You throw a bunch of stuff into the pot and cook it with a sauce (we had a spicy sesame sauce) then bring the pot to the table and serve it right there. It's a real winter dish....I guess we are both looking forward to the changing seasons!

We watched some episodes of a TV show called "Prison Break" which a friend had given us on DVD. We had never heard of it before but we are enjoying it....a little violent for my liking but it's a clever story.

Sunday we had a very LAZY day, I basically read and sewed all day and made some chocolate truffles to give to a friend today. DH made one of his home-made pizzas for lunch which is always wonderful and we totally relaxed. In the evening we watched some more of Prison Break before turning in early.

Let's see, what baby-related things did I do?

:pinksperm: I washed all the new crib sheets I've purchased and the muslin clothes etc so they will be fresh to use.

:bluesperm: I arranged for the present that my brother is going to give us - actually it was his idea but we wanted to get one anyway. I don't know what they are called but it's a mat which the baby lies on and a frame that sits over top of them with colourful toys etc hanging from it. The one he purchased is some Australian educationally-approved brand which is supposed to stimulate all of the baby's senses. Wonder how the "smell" one works?! So he is going to post that this week.

:pinksperm: I ordered a Maya baby sling online and confirmed they have the one I want in stock. I need to go send the money today by bank transfer and the woman will then send me the sling. Should have it by later this week.

:bluesperm: I tried to call a friend last night to arrange a trip to a baby super-store. I still need to purchase a few items and I am hoping we can go together in her car.

That's all for now.....it is Monday morning here in Tokyo and I need to start my day with some housework Sad

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Monday November 7th 2005

Monday I was very busy doing chores, cleaning etc at home thinking that maybe the baby would come this week (wishful thinking….). I took some homemade chocolate truffles over to a friend’s place; she had me over for some cooking lessons last week and also dropped by to help me fix my sewing machine so I wanted to thank her. In the afternoon, I spent some time working on the baby’s Christmas Stocking – it’s starting to look great! DH’s evening meeting was cancelled so he was home in time for dinner which was nice and we then relaxed watching Prison Break.

Tuesday November 8th 2005

Tuesday I had my weekly check up but there has been no progress! By that I mean no dilation/effacement although the Dr could feel the baby’s head when he did an internal so I am not sure whether that means it has dropped, or not? The Dr is worried about my swollen feet but as my blood pressure is fine there is not much I can do except rest and reduce my sodium intake. I don’t think I eat a diet high in salt and have been racking my brain ever since, trying to pinpoint what I can cut out from my diet. Sweets I am definitely guilty of, but I am not really a “salty foods” person.

After my appointment, I went and got my hair cut which included a great neck/scalp massage! It felt wonderful! I dropped by the place my parents are going to stay at when they come to Tokyo after the baby is born (we have rented them a serviced apartment) just to confirm their booking and the balance we need to pay when they check in.

I then had plans to meet a couple of friends in a place called Kichijoji which is a very popular, trendy part of Tokyo. My friends have little babies under 6 months and attend a music/rhythm class so I met them after their class for lunch in a Thai restaurant. It was a gorgeous day, blue skies with the autumn leaves just starting to change colour so we went to the park and just laid on the grass playing with the kids, talking and laughing.

By the time I got home it was late afternoon and I was really pooped (had left at 7.30am in the morning for Dr appt). I made dinner (very healthy salmon and miso vegetables) and went to bed early. I had a rough night, up 4 or 5 times for the bathroom and then trouble falling back asleep every time. Thankfully today, Wed, I don’t have any plans and can rest!

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Wednesday Nov 8th 2005

I am just back from a baby super store where I picked up the last few things on my list of "must-haves" (well almost, I have one left!).

I got:
:duckie: rain cover for stroller
:duckie: hooks/clips for hanging things from stroller
:duckie: nursing pillow
:duckie: bath thermometer
:duckie: plastic bag dispenser and cartridges for throwing out dirty nappies

The one thing I didn't get was a baby bath...they only had two styles in stock and I didn't like either of them. Starting to get worried about where I will find one now....we don't have much time left.

I also went to The GAP and got my Dad a shirt for Christmas. We don't have The GAP in Australia and every time my parents visit us here or in Canada, he buys himself clothes there so I know he'll like the shirt.

On the way home, a woman stopped me and was chatting to me....I recognized her but couldn't for the life of me think who she was! It was so embarrassing! When I told her my due date she seemed to know it already and then it suddenly clicked - she's one of the midwives at the hospital where we are going to give birth! But I couldn't let on that I had just figured out who she was so just remained very friendly! Oops!

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Thursday Nov 10th 2005
:angel13: Two Weeks Today Until Our Due Date :angel13:

I hit 38 weeks today according to my Dr's due schedule - I believe I am actually due Nov 21 (not 24th) based on the date of my last period and how regular my cycle was. So......sometime in the next 4 weeks our little treasure will be here. My Dr will allow me to go a max of 2 weeks past my due date before induction, something I am hoping to avoid.

It is also exactly one month today until my Mum arrives from Australia for a month. My Dad will fly in 5 days later once he finishes up work. They are incredibly excited about becoming grandparents and I am so very happy that they will be here to help us through the initial period. Free baby-sitters on hand whenever I have the chance for a nap!

This morning I went to Harajuku in downtown Tokyo, they call the main street the Champs Elysee of Japan as it is a long, wide, tree-lined boulevard filled with trendy shops and cafes. It was a beautiful autumn morning with the leaves starting to change colour - perfect for being out and about.

I went to a salon and got my eye lashes tinted and then rushed over to another place to get my highlights done. I wanted to have a "beauty day" before the baby arrives not knowing when I'll next be able to treat myself like this.

Afterwards I went to visit my friend and her 7 week old son, she is such a great Mum but looked so tired! I think the baby is going through a growth spurt as she was pretty much feeding him the whole time I was there! Made me realize just how consistent being with a newborn is - of course I know this already but it reinforced it to me!

DH is going out for a drink with some mates from work tonight so I am going to cook myself some pasta and put my feet up. They are very swollen and I get so sad every time I look down and see them. Will I ever wear my gorgeous winter boots and little heels again? :-?

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Friday Nov 11th 2005 (Remembrance Day)
Another day closer to meeting our little one, s/he was quite active this morning sticking a knee or foot well out of my right side. Whenever I feel it, I always stop what I am doing and rub it gently, talking to the baby! It took me a while not to feel silly doing this but I am encouraging him or her to come on out and meet us!

I had a lazy morning as I am trying to fight off the onset of a cold :sick: After DH left for work I fell asleep again on the couch :sleeping: and woke up at 9am. I made some tea with lemon and honey and played online for a while e-mailing and reading my hometown newspapers etc. Around 11am I finally got my energy together and gave the kitchen a thorough clean including the stove, sink and wiping down the rubbish bins etc. I then cleaned the apartment (general dusting and vaccuming), ate lunch and went out shopping.

We have friends coming for dinner tonight so I need to get started preparing the menu. I am making:
- Spinach, cheese & onion dip
- Sesame and bean dip
(both these served with toasted pita bread)
- Filo pastry rolls stuffed with lamb, spinach, feta and pine nuts
- Green vegetables with cashews and toasted onion
- Apple pie with ice-cream

DH is picking up wine on the way home - sounds yummy, right!

I really love to cook especially when I have an appreciative audience. I had better get cracking as I make my own pie crust and the dips are fiddly to put together.

Oh - today's baby related update? I received the package with the Maya Baby Sling in the post, it comes with a DVD showing you the various ways to carry baby in it.

I went to two stores looking for a baby bath but neither sold them! How hard can it be to find a bath I like?!

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Saturday Nov 12th 2005
A very lazy day today, in fact I didn't really leave our apartment!

Last night our friends stayed until around 11pm by which time I was exhausted. We had a lovely evening with them - they are shortly moving back to Canada so it was our last chance to entertain them here in our home. Unfortunately, I couldn't sleep well and was up and down to the bathroom all night and to gargle because of my sore throat. Finally I got up around 6.30am and DH grumpily got up too saying he couldn't sleep anymore if I wasn't in bed too!

All morning I lazed around doing some cross-stitch, laundry, spending time with DH etc. At 12pm, the two kids he tutors came over for their lesson and I did more cross-stitching then talked to their Mum when she came to collect them. Afterwards I made a grocery list and sent DH to pick everything up while I took a nap.

A friend came for dinner so I was cooking from around 4.30pm. I made:
- steamed fresh salmon with a tangy caper sauce
- mushrooms stuffed with ricotta cheese, pine nuts and basil
- miso eggplants, asparagus and green beans

Our friend is not a dessert person but he is a real coffee afficiondo (sp?) so he brought over his home-roasted beans and made us a cup. He made mine very milky (like a latte) and the guys drank theirs black. I served some yummy dark chocolate with it which went very well.

I received two packages today both from girls at work. One sent me a bunch of Australian magazines from her recent trip home and the other sent me about 10 DVDs to borrow for the next few weeks. I need to spend a few hours a day with my feet elevated so the DVDs will be great to have around. They include two seasons of Friends, two seasons of The Office (a British series), 2 seasons of Kath & Kim (an Australian series) plus some movies. Very grateful to both of them for thinking of me!

Today I had some very mild cramps in my lower abdomen - nothing painful, consistent or prolonged so clearly not the start of labour! Although with both of us fighting off colds, I am glad the baby is not in a hurry to make an appearance.

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Sunday Nov 13th 2005

Another relatively quiet day. I couldn't sleep well again last night and DH got grumpy with me around 4am this morning for keeping him awake! We laughed about it this morning but at the time, it felt like forever until the sun would come up!

DH left early to go hiking with friends for the day and I, of course, couldn't join them. So I took it easy at home, reading and watching a DVD. After lunch I went out to the library to drop off my books, went shopping for a new quilt cover and pillow cases, bank etc then read for a while in Starbucks. Back at home, I got to work on making a cover/case for the nursing pillow I bought I last week. They were only selling them with either pink or blue covers (I chose pink even though we may not have a girl!) but wanted something in a more neutral colour. It has been years since I sewed a zip into anything but it actually turned out really well. I then did some more work on the baby's Christmas stocking until the machine started to play up on me (I think I am not threading the cotton through properly and it jams....).

Baby-wise, I bought a pack of cloth nappies (diapers) which I am planning to use as covers for feeding, change table etc. I also washed two blankets my aunt sent so we can use one to bring the baby home from hospital.

My parents called for our weekly chat and wanted to know all the details on the baby...unfortunately there is not much to tell!

I am really ready to have this baby and meet the little person who has spent the last 9 months inside me. I don't like not knowing exactly when it's all going to happen....my personality is a planner and organizer and this is the one thing I cannot put in my diary!

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Monday Nov 14th 2005
DH got home from his day of hiking around 7pm last night and had bought me some souvenirs from the shrine at the top of the mountain they hiked to; in Japan at shrines you can buy little charms for protection against certain things, they are something like a key chain but are made with brilliantly coloured cloth and usually stitched with gold lettering stating what the charm is for. DH bought me three charms;

1. protection for a good/long marriage or love match
2. protection for a safe delivery of the baby
3. protection for the health of the baby
I was really touched by this and am carrying them with me when I go out. To me it shows that although I couldn't join them yesterday, he was thinking of me as well as our new family. So sweet.

This morning I had a few things to do; I started on the paperwork we will be required to submit for the baby soon after s/he is born. First we have to register the birth at our local city office (something like a town hall or local council office) within 14 days then get the birth certificate translated into English which cannot be done by a relative (i.e. DH and I cannot just do the translation ourselves). We then need to apply at the Australian Embassy in Tokyo to get his/her Citizenship Certificate and once that comes through we can then apply for his/her Australian passport. Once that is granted, we need to get immigration to issue a visa so the baby can legally stay in Japan and this needs to be done within 30 days of the birth. Finally we need to go back to the city office to apply for the Alien Registration Card which is and ID that all foreign nationals in Japan must carry on them at all times. Aside from these formalities there is a lot of paperwork that I need to submit to my company for my payments during maternity leave and child care leave, plus the various lump sum payments I am entitled to.....it is all a bit overwhelming and I will need to be very organized in the first month after the baby is born which is why I wanted to get started on completing as much of the forms as I can right now. Most of the forms require the Dr's signature so I need to take them to the hospital with me.

Our child will also have Canadian citizenship but that is a longer process so as long as we get the Australian one done quickly, we can get the visa. We will probably wait until after Christmas to start the paperwork through the Canadian Embassy.

After that I headed downtown to meet a woman from the Tokyo Pregnancy Group who is selling a whole bunch of baby gear from women who have recently left Japan. She was selling a baby bath for JPY1,000 (about US$10) in the style that I wanted so that was my purpose in visiting her. She tried to sell me a whole lot of other stuff but I wasn't interested in any of it.

I stopped by Starbucks and had a lovely coffee and pumkin/cranberry scone (for some reason I was starving!) and read my book for a while before heading home.

At my local shops, I picked up a couple of things and am now planning to spend the afternoon resting; doing some cross-stich, watching a DVD etc. I need to put my feet up as they are quite swollen.....poor me!

Oh one more piece of news - a couple we met in our 2 day pre-natal class in Sept gave birth to a baby girl on Saturday morning after a 3 hour labour! I can't believe how quick it was....I wonder if I should dare to dream of such a delivery!

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Tuesday Nov 15th 2005
38 Weeks + 5 Days....Today's Check Up Report

Well, there is good news and not-so-good news.

The good news is that the baby has now "engaged" and I am 1.5cm dilated. I was thrilled with this as at my last 3 appointments there were no signs of any progress in this direction.

The not-so-good news is that my weight is now going up too quickly as a result of all the fluid retention in my feet and legs. I have gained approx 13kg in total which is 28 pounds but 3kg of that is in the last few weeks and the Dr said it is mostly all in fluid. My blood pressure is normal and there is no protein in my urine but he said I am at risk of toxemia/pre-eclampsia. He said there is a hormone secreted from the adrenal gland during pregnancy which also causes fluid retention so next week he has ordered a blood test to check the hormone level and I will also get another Non-Stress-Test at next week's check up to ensure the baby is coping OK.

He also estimated the baby's weight to be 3.5kg today (7.7 pounds) which he feels is big but I think he's unfairly comparing it to the size of Japanese newborns which tend to be a little smaller than Caucasion babies. If he's still concerned about it next week, he will order the test where they measure the actual size of your pelvic space.

The baby was wriggling around a lot when he was trying to measure the length of the femur and he had to re-do it about 4 times. Finally he said to me, "if you don't want to know the gender then don't look at the screen while I am doing this as it is quite a sensitive area and you will know straight away!". So I covered my eyes - I was surprised at how little urge I had right then to know the gender! I guess I felt that we have waited this long, we can wait another week or so and besides I really want DH and I to find out together when we meet our baby! That said however, it did make me think that the baby is a boy because he was so adament that I would be able to tell from looking at the screen.

So after all that and a long chat with the midwife who basically told me to reduce my calorie intake (very helpful advice, I thought!!) I felt a bit down and walked home wondering whether everything is going to be OK? I have had such a good pregnancy that I wonder whether my time for some trouble has now come. DH told me not to worry, that it will all be fine, we will get through it together.

I have quite a cold now so am going to take it easy for the rest of the day.

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Wednesday Nov 16th 2005

DH and I were planning to go out for dinner last night however with my cold, I really didn’t feel like getting dressed up so he picked up some food on the way home. One thing I love about Japan is that there is so much healthy, pre-made food available in department stores; sushi, salads, rice and tofu dishes, different kinds of meat dishes, fried foods – all in little 1-2 person size packs. So many people pick up these kinds of “bento’s” (lunch boxes) on the way home as we often do when we are busy or don’t feel like cooking. I have not been eating sushi since I got pregnant but plenty of Japanese women do…I guess it is our Western perception of the way raw foods are handled and prepared. However I have never gotten sick from raw food here – the level of hygiene in Japan is exceptional unlike some other parts of Asia that we have traveled to.

This morning I still felt quite stuffy in the nose but had a relatively good night’s sleep. I cleaned our apartment and did laundry etc before taking a shower and rushing out to the grocery store. A friend and her 6 month old son came over for lunch so I was in a real hurry to get everything ready. I made a mushroom and bacon quiche plus a tomato and green bean salad with stuffed olives. We had a lovely time together playing with her little boy. His name is “Haru” which means “Spring” in Japanese. She brought me some delicious custard puddings which are very popular desserts here and a present for the baby. It was a large silver photo frame with space for a photo at 1 month, 2 months, 3 months etc up till the baby’s first birthday. Very cute!

Baby-wise I did some more paperwork last night and also packed a few more things in the baby’s bag for the hospital; a couple of extra bonnets/hats etc. I also got the baby’s bath kit ready and stored it in our cabinet. It’s just a little dish with soap, a soft bath toy, bath thermometer etc. I have told DH that bathing the baby will be his job….he said everyone keeps telling him this!! I also set up an e-mail on my account to my family/friends which DH will send out once we have some news. Hope I haven’t missed anyone.

I have been having some cramp-like pains in my tummy, nothing major or consistent so not the start of labour. I have told the baby that s/he needs to wait a few more days until I am over my cold before making an appearance!

Rushing off now to the post office to send DH's sister's b'day present. Her b'day is 11/30 and she's hoping the baby will wait until that date to arrive - I have other plans though, I am not waiting another 2 weeks!

Here are some recent pics:
Today with little Haru (notice my huge stomach)

Me and a friend at a restaurant a few weeks ago...I think I was 36 or 37 weeks pregnant.

Japan's beautiful autumn leaves, taken by DH on Sunday.

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November 30, 2005
About 20 mins after my last entry (11/16), my waters broke! It happened while I was walking to the post office - just like a movie. I went to the hospital that evening around 6.30pm so they could check me and I was already 4cm dilated so they admitted me. Contractions did not start until midnight and I progressively dilated after that and started pushing around 6am.

Our beautiful son, Xavier Grayson N...., was born at 6.50am on Thursday November 17, 2005. DH and I have since been in awe of this incredible little creature that is part of us and we are happily discovering life together as a family of three. Xavier will be two weeks old tomorrow.

As for the whole labour/birth process, it was everything I had hoped for. No drugs/pain relief and no medical interventions. Just DH and I plus a fantastic midwife who kept me calm and focused the whole time. The Dr showed up afterwards to check me - everything was fine.

I have recovered very well and fitted back into my regular jeans the day we arrived home from hospital! One less thing to worry about.

I have posted some photos in the November 2005 forum under the heading "Welcome Xavier Grayson N..." and they are also in my photo gallery.

This is my last entry in this journal as I now embark on the magical journey of motherhood.

Leisa