Having a baby in Japan

As the title of my post suggests, I will talk a little bit about having a baby in Japan. Not having had a baby anywhere else, I can’t comment on how it is done outside Japan, but here the entire affair is rather well organised and documented.

One of the first things we had to do was to decide where to have the baby. There are many hospitals in Tokyo where one can give birth. My wife was rather picky about which place would be best. The nearest hospital to where we live is St Luke’s, which is probably the most famous hospital in Japan, and it is particularly popular among those who are giving birth.

Another famous hospital is called “Ai-Iku”, located near Azabu. This has long been the hospital were the “who’s who” of Japan have had their babies. My wife and I visited both St Luke’s, and Ai-Iku, and didn’t like either. The maternity ward of St Luke’s was like a baby factory. There were many people waiting to be seen by the doctors, the service was perfunctory, and not particularly friendly. Ai-Iku simply looked old and dirty, not the kind of place you wanted to visit to use the bathroom, let alone have a baby.

While living in Japan I have always gotten my physical exams at Sanno Hospital in Azabu. I liked this hospital because the service was first-rate, the staff spoke English, and it didn’t look like a hospital. Sanno hospital looks more like a luxury hotel, with stylish and comfortable furniture, wood-panelled walls, a grand piano on a pedestal in the middle of the lobby, and decorated with flowers and art. When I mentioned Sanno Hospital to my wife, she said it was supposed to be the best hospital in Japan, and the most expensive. But of all the places we checked out, it seemed to be the place we most liked.

We made an appointment, and visited the doctor. Our doctor was a middle-aged women who looked as much European as Japanese. She was slim, well dressed, and had a very professional manner. My wife was impressed with her, and respected her advice and opinions. The doctor asked a lot of questions, performed a sonogram, and pronounced that everything was fine.

We notified the city office that my wife was pregnant, and took the paperwork from the hospital to be checked. We were given a small book, called a “bossho techo”, which is an official document, in which the progress of the pregnancy is recorded, and then the growth of the baby after he or she is born. Included with the booklet is a lot of information about childbirth, and the benefits which the city and Japan offer. Also included was a pin that a pregnant woman can wear so she can use the priority seats on a bus or train.

We visited Sanno hospital regularly, and as the pregnancy progressed, we could track Jessica’s growth by looking at the ultrasound images. This information was duly entered into the bossho techo booklet by the doctor. We eventually chose a date for the birth, October 8th, and we also chose the type of room where my wife would spend one week for the event. For those who don’t know, in Japan, the hospital stay for childbirth is always one week. The hospital was like a hotel in more ways than just the lobby, the rooms were also much like you would find in a nice hotel, and no less expensive.

Another thing we opted for was a test to detect for birth defects or issues like Down Syndrome. This test was done early in the pregnancy, before we knew if we were having a girl or a boy. And the test was expensive, approximately $2500. After taking the test, my wife was quite worried what the results would be, but fortunately, they were negative. The funny thing about this test is that it clearly identifies the sex of the baby, but here in Japan they are not allowed to tell you the sex as the result of this test. Had we been in America, they would have been able to tell us the sex immediately.

With the hospital, birth date, and room chosen, we passed through the rest of the pregnancy more or less quietly. In May we spent a couple days at the Nikko hotel in Odaiba, and for my birthday in July, we went to the Disney Sea park, and stayed at the Disney Mira Costa hotel.

During the pregnancy, my wife was often wondering if we would be having a girl or a boy. Before she even became pregnant, I dreamed we were on a vacation with a young daughter. I have had similar dreams about other things in my life, all of which have come true. I knew without a doubt that we would have a girl. My wife thought it would be a boy, and told her father that she thought it was a boy, so he bought some boy’s baby clothes. At around the same time, she wanted me to check out a festival at the Sacred Heart school. By the time I arrived, the festival was ending, but I stopped at a children’s clothes shop near the Azabu International Market and bought some baby girl’s clothes, pink, with strawberries. My wife loved them, though she still doubted that we would have a girl.

One thing which we did religiously during the pregnancy was to apply Clarins oil and lotion to Sakura’s skin every day and night. This oil and lotion combination was said to reduce or eliminate stretch marks, which was something my wife was very worried about. The oil had to be applied first, and after it was rubbed in, the lotion was then applied and rubbed in. Clarins is expensive stuff, the oil is about $70, and the lotion was another $70. But amazingly, it worked as promised, she has no stretch marks, which was remarkable considering the size of our baby.

Pregnancy, the good, the bad, and the ugly…

My second post, and this one might be a longer, as pregnancy can be a long event.

It was February when we found out that we were pregnant. Before even taking the pregnancy test, my wife felt a bit under the weather. She was a little more tired than usual, and seemed to feel a little ill. After finding out about the pregnancy, she felt more an more ill.

Most of what I know about the term “morning sickness” was learned on television. As far as I understood, pregnant women sometimes got sick in the morning, and went away after  awhile. Unfortunately, that was not the case with my wife. It bothered her at all times, morning, noon, and night.

Very early in her pregnancy she began to feel very sick and nauseous. Almost any smell made her feel sick, as did reading magazines or watching tv. She had headaches, and she had to lay in bed with an ice pack on her pillow, and the lights turned off. She had a very terrible time with her morning sickness, and her only regret about being pregnant was how ill she felt, and how difficult it was for her to prepare for Jessica’s arrival, feeling as sick as she did.

As difficult as the sickness was, she continued working, as did I. Getting up in the mornings was difficult, as was getting to bed at night. I helped as I could, picking up food at the grocery store, and giving her massages at night. In the mornings, I would walk our dog (a Jack Russell Terrier, named Macy), and when spring began, I was able to pick a few flowers, which brightened up her mood.

During her pregnancy my wife had a taste for different things at different times. First it was sliced, fresh cucumbers, pickled with salt and vinegar. Next it was diced tomatoes. Then one day she developed a craving for watermelon. Every day I bought watermelon, and every morning I cut it up into pieces for her. Next was blood oranges, which are available in April and May in Japan.

Luckily, over time, she adjusted to the sickness, and could live with it, thought it was never easy. In the earlier days, she never left home, except to go to work, but later on, we were able to do some shopping, and get out a little bit. As her belly began to show, the sickness seemed to decrease more.

But until Jessica was born, there was always at least a little bit of morning sickness every day. The only positive thing about the sickness was that we read that it was stronger when babies were large and healthy, which we hoped was the case.

My First Post

Hello everybody, my name is Jeff, and I am a new dad living in Tokyo, Japan.

I decided to write this blog to share my new-dad experiences, and also to keep a record of my daughter’s growth. I have been a dad for almost a year, and have learned a lot in that time. Perhaps some of you might find something helpful from my experiences as a new dad, or perhaps you might have some advice of your own to add. Please read, and please feel free to comment. I plan to post some videos on Youtube as well, so please visit Youtube, and look for “Tokyodad” if you are interested in seeing how a tokyodad lives.

A little more background information is of course necessary. My daughter’s name is Jessica, and she will be one year old in only three weeks. I am originally from America, and I moved to Japan 8 years ago, and I have been living in Tokyo for most of that time. Being a new dad is an interesting experience, to say the least, but to enjoy this experience outside my home country, well it is all the more interesting, or so I think. As with many foreign men living in Japan, my marriage is “international”, and my wife is Japanese. My wife is a lovely person, and is a wonderful mother, and I am sure that no dad or husband could ask for more.

My relationship with my wife goes back some years, to when I first visited Japan. I won’t go into the details about how we met, but I have to say that I am the luckiest person I know. My wife is beautiful, intelligent, and the best partner I could ever ask for to share my life with, and I have enjoyed very much the years we have now spent together.

If we go back a little less than two years ago, my wife decided that we should have a baby.  Her reasoning was that we were not getting any younger, and that if we were to have children, the sooner we got started, the more likely it would be that we would have a healthy baby. Though we were both busy people, working full-time and more, we decided to go ahead and try to get pregnant.

For those who are thinking about having a baby, you might ask “when is the best time?” Honestly-speaking, the best time is any time. If you are worrying that now is not the best time to have a baby, and that you need more money, or a bigger home, or a better job, you need to understand you will never find the “perfect” time. You can adapt your live in preparation to having a baby, or adapt your life after having a baby. The latter option is probably going to be the most practical. Once your baby is born, you may find that the reality of being a new parent does not meet your expectations.

Despite my wife’s worries about getting pregnant, it happened with remarkable ease and quickness. The month after our decision my wife was late on her period, and the home pregnancy test was positive. It was an amazing moment, my wife holding the tester, hopping up and down, and my mind swimming around, very happy, but not certain of the reality of the situation. A second home test confirmed the result, as did the visit to the doctor.

We were pregnant, and a baby was beginning to develop. A miracle beyond thought or words.