Baby-waiting in Japan

Thirty-four weeks pregnant with my first child in a foreign country. I don’t know how different the experience would have been in Jamaica. But I have read many things in English about foreigners’ experiences being pregnant in Japan. And in terms of procedures, etc., a lot of it has been the same for me.

Nevertheless, I am feeling now, for the first time since being pregnant, a need to document something of this experience. Anything. For memory can be so unreliable.

I want to remember the father-to-be in our hospital prenatal  class who listened closely to my less than perfect Japanese, and filled in the gaps when I couldn’t come up with the right words fast enough. I want to remember how amused I was by the silence in a roomful of expecting mothers just before the start of the maternity classes offered by the city. I don’t know why I was amused.

I want to remember some the things I found interesting or were grateful to Japan for having. Like these classes. Or my six weeks of leave before the birth, eight weeks after and up to a year of childcare leave thereafter.

On a personal level, I want to remember things like the baby’s first fluttery movements or my overwhelming desire to just sleep on my belly. And I want to remember my life before a baby. But I’m 34, so that might not be so hard to remember.

PROCEDURES

I went to a clinic about nine weeks in to confirm my pregnancy. The doctor gave me a bit of paper to present at the city office. There I received a mother child handbook in which all details of doctor’s visits are to be recorded until the child is about six years old, I believe. I also received some vouchers to be used at each doctor’s visit, and a bag with all kinds of baby related literature and some baby goodies.

At about ten or eleven weeks, I started going to the hospital where I intend to give birth for my appointments. It’s called Kyorin Daigaku Byouin. Large hospital. On my first visit, the doctor spoke to me in Japanese. The second time, English. I was surprised. Since then, it has been a mixture of both.

I’ve attended two sets of prenatal classes that cover everything from changes in your body to how to bathe a newborn to how to know when you’re in labour. At the most recent hospital class, we got a tour of the maternity ward. Everyone oohed and aahed in front of a big glass window of the room with the newborns. Soon one of those little things will belong to us, we might have been thinking.

I’ve been going to the hospital every two weeks. Most times, the appointment is with the doctor. The last two times it’s been with midwives. My weight gain came up early on in these visits. The last time I was told that I’m ‘over’. I have gained about 12 kilograms so far. The recommended upper limit is 15 kilograms. The midwife repeatedly said I shouldn’t diet, though I should be careful. Short of dieting, I don’t know what else to do. So I will carry on for the next six weeks. I am not sure this is something I want to remember, but I feel I won’t forget anyway.

I’ve finished shopping, my hospital bag is packed, and the baby’s bed is made. We are just  waiting. I really want to remember this waiting feeling.

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