Giving birth (I didn't do anything)
Basically, I wanted to write down my own thoughts on this while I still remember it some-what clearly.
If you are just single guy with no interest in this sort of thing, perhaps thinking something along the lines of "oh no, not another guy completely changed by having a child going fruity!" then, well, it is not my intention to do that, but you probably will not find anything useful to read here. If you are already a parent, perhaps you can associate, or if you are soon-to-be parent it could be interesting. Maybe you just need something to read while you are at work. :)
The expected delivery date (EDD) was set to be the 21st of September, by Doctors. Ushka and I both said the 19th of September. I said 15:30, and she picked 20:00. So, let's rewind back to the evening of the 16th. We were watching tv and around 22:00 Ushka noticed bloody show after going to the toilet. She was "somewhat excited" about that, and immediately researched it. Her method of researching is to keep searching until you find something that you like. But anyway, it seemed to indicate birth was imminent, anything from 1 hour, to 24 hours. Applying logic and sense, we decided to try to get as much of a night's sleep as possible.(hah! not possible) Having the "contraction timer" ready we went to bed.
She wasn't too sure about the contractions thing. Said there was back pain, and ass pressure. I think she assumed it was supposed to come from the front, not back. We measured maybe one or two whilst trying to sleep. They seemed 7 and 8 minutes apart. Around 1:30 she said "water broke, I think" and got up in a flurry to go to the toilet. I was still very much in a haze, not quite fully asleep, but beyond REM.
I do believe my first romantic words were "are you sure?" She didn't sound too certain, and I checked the bed and towel (she slept on one just incase) and neither was wet nor damp. I had envisioned maybe just a small circle of wetness. (like index finger making a circle with thumb) and therefor she was incorrect, it was just something else. However, she slept with a pad as well. She brought it over to show me so we could decide, and it was well soaked. No doubt there. She recalls feeling/hearing a "pop" at the time too.
Ushka had energy, I was still fuzzy. We started gathering the last items to pack, getting last details down. We forgot nothing which was a nice surprise. Ushka said on a few occasions that she didn't feel she was ready to go to hospital because she felt just fine. Still timing contractions, or back-discomfort, at roughly 4-5 minutes apart. We walked out to catch a taxi, which arrived just perfectly. Didn't have to wait even a second. Phew.
Trip there was smooth, driver wasn't panicing at all (some of the check-up rides had spooked drivers previously). Contractions still around 4 minutes. Ushka still felt that perhaps we didn't have to go there just yet. Felt just fine when she wasn't having contractions.
Arriving at hospital was nice, it was empty as opposed to what we are normally used to. One lone security guard took our details and got our files out. We walked over to that section of the hospital where you have babies. Rung the bell and the nurse came out. There were a few other people there are well. I had imagined that only we would be around at this point. Not that others would be having babies then too, so it was a bit of a surprise that going through this wasn't entirely private. (although, private was worse, but more on that in a bit). So we paced up and down the corridor while we were waiting on the nurses to have time to deal with us. There was a girl in there giving birth already, and one girl waiting before us.
As we walked the corridors, contractions went to around 2:30 minutes apart. Ushka went to the toilet quite a few times. Felt nauseous and threw up a couple of times. At this point she expressed that she was very happy we decided to go to the hospital right away. The contractions were getting strong. She hung onto the barrier when they came, and just relaxed in between.
Eventually the nurse came out, and asked Ushka to come with her for a checkup. They asked me to wait outside which was a bit stressful since I wanted to be there for the birth, and I knew Ushka wanted me there as well. But being naive, it isn't like she was just going to have it just like that. We had been to visit the doctor that very same morning who at that time said her cervix was soft but closed, which was a little bit disappointing.
She came out after a few minutes (two contractions worth according to my stop-watch) with a large present from the hospital. (gift to her, pads and other things she would be using very soon) She said she was 4cm dilated which was a relief. If it is 3cm or less they can sometimes send you back home again. She also informed me she was wearing a phat diaper. We had a short wait so they could prepare a room for us to be in, and contractions were now around 2:20 apart, heading into 50 second duration.
So we got our own little room, with a bed and a chair. They had Ushka lie down, and hooked up a fetal monitor. Seemed to do the baby's heart rate, and some sort of contraction monitor. Pretty sure Ushka knew when she was having the contractions without it though. This is the part I did not like much. I was left alone with Ushka for a better part of 90 minutes, to help as much as I could. Not at all what I had envisioned. To me I had thought there would be others around, by far more experienced and I was just a cheerleader on the side coming out with your classic pep-talk lines. Violins, classy decor and .. well, back to real life.. Also, the contraction were getting strong enough that she was distressed. Not quite screaming, but making sounds I did not much like. Not something you would ever hear ordinarily, as they seem to be quite primal, and there isn't a lot one can do to help. Oh, one surreal question here was asked if we wanted western style, or Japanese style breakfast. Brain took a while to switch track there, and took even longer to remember the Japanese word for breakfast. It wasn't on the list of expectant words to interpret.
So, eventually one of the nurses came around to help, and immediately it was apparent that she just knew what to do. Watching her for a while made me pick up on what to do, so my somewhat clumsy attempts became something useful. The thing that appeared most appreciated was low-back massage. Just doing soft circular motions on the base of her spine. No pressure needed, kind of like if I was trying to warm it. Ushka asked to use the bath room at this point, in between contractions, so we helped her over for that. She wasn't too happy lying on the bed anyway. I took the moment to ask the nurse to get an ETA on the whole thing. She said hiroo (noon), this was around 4 am. No way! I would be doubtful I could do another 8 hours of this, and I was sure Ushka could not. They must be wrong!
So Ushka came back, changed her diaper as the other one was "used". She avoided the bed, and just hung on the sofa/chair for a while. Eventually they wheeled in a hmmm "funky seat/chair". Sitting/kneeling area, with a lean-against bit to hold on to. That was very good, and much more like what Ushka wanted. We attached the fetal monitor again, but it didn't really seem to do much. She was definitely feeling her contractions and slightly wanted to push at this point. The nurses wanted to check her again (finally!) and there was some worry from my POV that she would only be 5cm dilated or something equally low, and this would have to drag on forever!
She was checked and to the surprise of the nurse was fully dilated. I mentioned this to Ushka a few times, but not entirely sure if she understood it, or if she took it as good news. One of the most disconcerting things that I was not prepared for, and perhaps imagined differently compared to what you see on tv, is that Ushka would hardly ever make eye contact. Or speak for that matter. Almost like she was blaming me for it. (well you know, more than normal amount of blame!) There was just no eye contact, nor much conversation beyond "water", "back" (please massage it) and "hot" (please fan/wet-towel my face). But speaking to her afterward she said that it was very hard to focus on anything, or to keep the mind thinking. The easiest was to look into the distance (bird on the wallpaper as it happens). She has vague memory of being told that she was fully dilated, but was not sure if it was me or nurse. (nurse said it in Japanese, and I said she was fully dilated at 10cm)
The most useful things we packed for the birth were; a towel (wet towel to put on her forehead and face when she was hot), water (couple of bottles. There was no ready water and it was a big help), and a Japanese style hand fan. We wheeled Ushka in to the delivery room, and put her on the bed-come-chair delivery machinery. She was now allowed to push and push she did. I was standing on her right side, doing my tasks of water, fanning and wiping her face when needed. After about half way or so, she no longer needed to ask, I seemed to just know. (Or perhaps she just took what was accepted!) Veins bulging like mad on the her right temple, and on her neck getting me somewhat worried, but the nurse was cheerful and pleased with the progress. She had a reasonable amount of English vocabulary so we carried on well. Helping her push, doing that breathing thing (which does seem to aid with the pain when you shouldn't push).
Coming up on 6am we were told she was about an hour away, I could tell Ushka wasn't at all pleased to hear that. A whole hour! She was doing better now than in the previous room. Not quite as much pain, and only rarely making sounds. Perhaps because she could now push. Eventually I could see a small part of our child's head, with hair which I reported back to Ushka. I tried to tell her everything that was going on, both from the nurse between her legs, to the occasional other nurse preparing other things. They made the enema suction machine ready, but didn't really use it. Turned on the heater thing over the baby monitor place, readied other instruments and tools. The nurse was also massaging the nipple to make the contractions stronger (didn't know that) and I'm not sure Ushka felt like having them increased, but it sure seemed to make a difference. The sun started to shine through the windows as dawn had just come.
The nurses picked up a mobile and called the doctor since it was time. The doctor arrived fairly fast, and just sat as a by-stander. I was still holding her head up between pushes, feeding her water.. with the high pace breathing you require quite a lot of water after all. We got to the final bit with most of the head out, she had to push the last bit to get the head out proper, and I can tell that hurt. Ushka had a moment of panic where she tried to scramble up/away from just pain, and expressing her discomfort verbally, ie, screaming. The head was fully out, quite a bit of hair, we had expected almost no hair, but it was most certainly less hair than Japanese babies, who are almost entirely covered in hair. Nurse helped him turn his head from face down to facing Ushka's left. Then there was one more push to get the shoulder out. The rest just came out in a rush, I blinked and almost missed it. He was just out, to great relief from Ushka. The baby was a nice blue/purple tinge, and seemed to be fine. The umbilical cord was a double/twinned rope-thing in a twisted/platted manner that was the acest purple and white colour. Very nice purple. Nurse clamped it and cut it. Put the baby on Ushka's shoulder for a quick moment, then carried over to the baby monitoring station.
I went over to the corner with the baby to keep an eye on things there as the baby was cleaned, weighed, measured and heated. At the same time the other nurse put clamps on the umbilical cord and slowly and gently pulled out the rest with placenta while massaging her stomach. The placenta was a deep red thing, and large - very large, like a liver. The nurse held it up so Ushka could have a look at it as well. The doctor examined her and said she needed a couple of stitches from a tear in her left side. Gave her an injection to do that, and another injection to shrink her uterus, with a cold pad on her stomach.
Our son was doing fine on the table, the occasional crying, which to me was quiet and not as noisy as the others, but to Ushka seemed to be rowdy (with humour). They used the nose/mouth suction a few times, which don't look too pleasant to me. Took many pictures at this point, and eventually they put him in some towels with a cute bow on it, and let him to be with us. They explained that they would like to put him with oxygen since he was having breathing difficulties, most likely from being such a big baby. (or premature, if 4 days count as that) They brought us into a staging room, where we could relax a bit and wind down. Changing Ushka's diapers a few times too. I could FINALLY let loose with all my jokes and humour I had been holding back. At one point the nurse came in, whipped something out from her pocket which was in tissues. Showed us a section of the umbilical cord and asked if we would like to keep it. This is quite a common thing here, so we opted to have the choice, even if we chose not to keep it later. She returned with the section in a nice box, wrapped up with a bunch of kanji on it. Guess we can pull this out at parties, and other social events.
Eventually we were moved, Ushka by wheel chair for her first time, to her more permanent room. Unpacked a little and rested. Ushka could go visit our son in the nursery but because it was breast feeding time I could not. She did just that and popped over there for a bit, and I struggled to keep my eyes open meanwhile. It was nice to finally sit/lie down since the man seems to spend all the time standing during labour. After the breast feeding time was over, I went with Ushka over to the nursery, naturally we had to put on slippers that never fits, and wear a white robes. Our son was lying on a baby station, fed extra oxygen. Temperature all fine, but they said he was having low blood sugar levels, and recommended glucose on tap. We could touch him and be with him, but not to hold him. Ushka wanted very much "to have a turn".
Being a person who loves being in control, and this includes emotion (although surprisingly, emotion is third down on the list) I must say it is a very emotional time. It was incredibly heart breaking to see my son lying on the baby station, occasionally crying and nobody around to care for him. Had my fingers against his cheek, and he was sucking on my knuckle until he stopped crying and fell asleep again. That was very hard, and emotional. Feeling a great amount of protective feelings, but had to tell myself that those more educated in this area most likely know what is better.
We had lunch in our room, Ushka's first hospital food. She doesn't quite understand what it is all about yet, but give her a few more days. It is her first time in a hospital after all. She is sharing a room with two others, neither is housing-in (having the baby there) just yet. But that is common in Japan. I left around 17:30 to go home, upload pictures and sleep for the next day. As hospital visiting hours are between 17:00 and 20:00 there is no point in me being home, so I will go to work early, then visit the hospital right after. I was told by Ushka by message and online chat (she has a laptop and Air-H card) that our baby is now off the oxygen, and there is promise that we can having him finally today.
So I guess that is about it. I didn't need to do much, but I felt I did well. No fainting or anything. I had worries before it all as to if my own body would wuss out during it, since I recently angered my ulcer again, but that was all fine. Did not need to think about that at all, and pretty much had no time to worry about it. The whole thing took about 5.5 hours at the hospital. The nurses commented on the speed of the birth, and the size of the baby. Much respect to Ushka to have a natural birth, with no pain killers at all, for a baby of that size. Our hospital has no epidural at all. (Dr Sakamoto does though, for other foreigners in Tokyo) and we never got around to any other pain options available. It is just not a normal thing in Japan. Mind you, their babies are a lot smaller. Wonder if I can take a comparison photo.
Ushka was told she can try breastfeeding today after lunch and she is very excited. She will get to hold him (have a turn, as it were) and all that. Hopefully that will go well.
Did indeed go well, great input both from lactation expert and the nurses are just super experienced. So he was fed at least three times yesterday and slept soundly afterward. Hopefully this will bring up his blood sugar levels so that they are all happy. I had "my chance for a go" last night as well which was reassuring. He didn't freak out or cry etc, just because I was holding him. I was not really all that concerned about that, but it is nice to prove that it is all fine. Had his eyes open for a bit as well, naturally the iris aren't quite there yet, but there is a definite hint of blue. Hair is turning from its dark brown to much lighter brown, similar to Ushka's hair colour. Eyebrows are completely blonde.
I guess we should do another update.. most likely they will be fewer and fewer apart now. To back track a little, on the 5th day, the IV went out and he was just a normal baby to room-in with Ushka for the final night. We had a day to be taught all there is to know but luckily we had both attended the Shibuya-ku City Hall birth classes. (They provide an English Translator every so often).
After a week they were both allowed to come home, so I travelled to the Hospital with the car seat, and we took a taxi home. This was one of those worrying moment as we had no idea how it would be to take a taxi home with the baby. Would it scream the whole way? As it happens, Lokien just slept the entire journey. Did not seem to care a bit.
First couple of days were stressful, there is no denying that. Constantly wondering what he will do next, will it just flip out, turn his head around 180 and spew Exorcist-style? Sleeping was hard, mainly because there were so many new sounds. And if there were no sounds, checking that he was still breathing was common. I took the first week off to assist in the care taking.
One amusing thing is that everyone makes the jokes and comments about diapers when they give congratulations on expanding the family. But the whole diaper scene is trivial. I have no problems handling that, and would gladly take that as my "sole" chore. What is by far harder is the irregular sleeping. Lokien seems to sleep in 3 hours bursts, interlaced with smaller feeds. (Chasers as we call them). The feedings can take up to an hour, if all goes well. Essentially you have to survive on 2 hour sleeps. He appears to have alert times, which alarmingly enough is increasing. These also seems to slowly move around a 24 hours period. Sometimes they can happen at 4 am which is quite hard. Now that I am back at work, Ushka has to do the night shifts on her own which is quite unfair for her, but I do my part on Friday and Saturday nights at least.
Although recently he seems to have got into larger feeds in the morning and evening, and 4 hours in between the smaller ones. So it is new all the time. No warnings either, goes from sleeping to crying in an instant. Always starving! :)
Bathing is not such a big deal either. Lokien handles it well, and only gets slightly upset when it is over. Presumably gets cold until he can be properly dried. He is now 3 weeks old. Supposed to be a growth spurt sometime now. We had a Nurse visit from the hospital. Just a checkup, making sure he is gaining weight. Helping with breast feeding techniques and so on. Ushka appreciated that quite a lot. Her parents are due to visit next week as well, so hopefully we can con them into helping sometimes.
We have just passed our son's 6 month birthday, and I thought it was time for a quick update. A lot has happened of course, and things just move forward remarkably quickly. To rewind a little, back in December, Ushka flew to New Zealand with the boy on her own, how brave is that? Naturally she had some worries prior to take off, since she would be on her own with the boy for over 18 hours, and logistics required in diapers and formula was also tricky. As it happens, from her reports was that the customs part is by far the worst. You need 3-4 hands to be able to juggle everything, hand luggage, to paper work and the boy. She was using BabyBjorn which helps somewhat. Then you have to stand in queues which Lokien tend not to like for very long.
The flight itself on the other hand was just fine. The Airline staff on AirNZ were super helpful. Cleaning bottles, getting boiled water, looking after Lokien when Ushka needed to use the bathroom and much more. Lokien himself was perfectly well behaved. No screaming or power-chucks. This was true of the return journey when I was with them.
At 6 weeks, he started to sleep the whole, or most of the, night. Very surprising and superbly nice. However, for some reason, the very day that we arrived back in Tokyo, he stopped sleeping the whole night. Most peculiar. He would wake up once in the middle, and once near the end. (Sometimes I could get him back to sleep, other times not).
In the last month, he's got even slightly worse at it, generally wakes up 3 times, but he is hungry those times and they are quite easy. Just feed him until he falls a sleep again. Oh well :)
We have started to feed him solids of course. It has been quite fun to see what happens for the various things. Always good face expressions from the boy. Things that come straight up with force are green peas and cauliflower. Only after did we read we should not feed those items just yet. Amusing. He loves strawberries, rice and semolina.
We are awaiting the day of crawling. He isn't far off, and we try to help when we can. Still loves standing and can't get enough of it. He's leant the sign for "up", ie pointing the index finger up, when he wants to stand, which is all the time.