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.

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