I am joyful and revived! And ready to make more false promises about posting more! (Really, I want to! I don’t know why I don’t!) Funny how getting out of the first trimester and into autumn can change your perspective so drastically!
First trimester sucked. Summer sucked. This was the hardest of my three pregnancies by far, definitely one of those events where only when you’re past it do you realize how heavily it affected you.
But we’re past that! Today’s high is 73 and my body feels generally fine! I scrubbed my floors this week (I haven’t done that in two years, eep!), cleaned out all of the dust and hair and grime in the washroom (haven’t done that in two years, either, and if you know my hair habits and Japan’s dust habits, well… let’s just say that even my husband noticed and commented on how great the washroom looks), organized the three massive boxes of old clothes in the girls’ closet (thankful for youchien bazaars that will take used clothes to sell so I don’t have to throw them out!!), scrubbed my kitchen (suspected cockroach infestations will change even the most stubborn of cleaning personalities… this place shines like the top of the Chrysler building!), took out ALL of the recycling every day this week (this in the midst of Birthday Bonanza 2014… 8 crazy nights of plastics and papers and cardboards, oh my!), cleaned out the girls’ school and arts and crafts drawers (this was actually hard… I want to keep every drawing pad filled with their work!), and finally went to the stationery store for the envelopes I need to [gulp] finally start my Etsy store (possibly the hardest… this blog is already putting me out there more than I’m comfortable with. Putting real work out there? Yikes.).
Is that all? I think that’s all. I feel amazing. I know spring is the time of renewal and all, but autumn far surpasses it in our family. This is the time of year that I feel most refreshed, the most alive.
A couple things to catch you all up…
1) I literally did nothing this summer. You didn’t miss much. I can’t handle Japanese summer on a good day; I honestly think I suffered from reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder being pregnant this year.
2) Cambria is six now! And one of the teeth I knocked out is finally almost growing back in!!! We had a birthday party for her last Saturday, and it really showed how much she’s grown even in the past year. She invited her own friends… her own friends, not my friends’ kids. My daughter has friends that I didn’t give her, that she made on her own! It genuinely surprised me to realize that. At one point I asked the kids, “Who wants to wear the Anna dress?” in English, and Cambria translated it into Japanese for her friends. Totally showed me up, and I don’t even care because that is amazing. I knew Cambria would get obscene amounts of toys from other sources, so I’d asked the moms not to buy anything. My friend Tomoko suggested that the kids handmake gifts, and they all came out amazing. I’m so thrilled that they did it, as Cambria can keep the origami and beaded gifts into adulthood and have such a wonderful reminder of her time and relationships here in Japan.
3) Madeleine started tennis lessons! One of my closest friends plays tennis, and when Madeleine heard that she asked if she could play sometime. Ikko said sure, I’ll take her! I ended up totally confused and thought that they were just going to play around together for 30 minutes or something, but when I showed up to the courts with Madeleine one Friday evening in September, I realized it was a legit class. And she/I loved it! I signed her up immediately and we’ve been going ever since! I wish everyone in the world could come watch her play… I cannot imagine anything more adorable. She is definitely a quintessential 3 year old (one of her favorite tennis activities is filling a huge cone with tennis balls and dumping it over her head), but she has fun and her coach is patient. I’m so happy for her to have something to own, something that is hers. She wears her tennis racket and thermos over her shoulder as we walk to the school together, and when we get there she kisses and hugs me and goes right in to join the other students for beginning exercises. Especially given that we’re not sure where we’re going with youchien, I’m so pleased for her, and so proud of her.
4) It’s a boy! We got official, official confirmation that Baby Taylor is a boy! I have to be honest, guys… After two girls, I’ve been really afraid of the penis. (Can I say that? Sorry mom!)
I mean, what do I do with that?? Anyway. But we got to see him so well on the ultrasound this time, and against every worry I’d had, it was awesome to see that is my boy!! (Heaven forbid the kid ever find this blog… Sorry son, it’s exciting. And I’m gonna see a whole lot more than a grainy black and white ultrasound soon, so…) Really, really seeing that he’s a boy, feeling him so much more clearly now (I can feel feet!!!), dreaming about what he looks like… It’s getting real. I’ve been so proud of myself this whole time for not rushing the pregnancy, but the further along we get and the more I experience him, the more anxious I am to hold my precious boy! Despite my fears about having a boy, it’s actually really cool that even with our third kid, we get something so new!
5) We changed hospitals!! This is probably the big news, and I’ve been needing to write on it for a while, I just wanted to wait until we got to the new place before I put my hopes in writing. From the beginning we’d been going to a super ritzy maternity clinic in town. It was amazingly beautiful, and friends raved about it. But. It was not for me, at all, and after 4 months of buildup, we finally quit. If I was Japanese, it would be awesome. But I’m not, and the doctors and nurses seemed (willfully?) incapable of recognizing that. From the beginning they told me that my Japanese friend Ikko had to come with me to every appointment. After hearing that, I asked at the second appointment if my being a gaijin was going to be a problem. “Oh, no. We don’t accept Chinese patients because they complain too much, but you’re okay.” The doctor, doctor, actually said this to us. How warm and welcoming. No pressure. So of course because I have a ridiculous people-pleasing personality that can’t bear to be anything less than the ideal of the other party, I started stressing. I was afraid to mention any ailments, for fear I’d be seen as complaining. I was afraid to try to schedule a consultation with the doctor just to find out how this pregnancy/delivery/postnatal care was going to go (because no one had actually talked to me about any of it). I lost weight (because yeah, they wrote in ink in my records that I need to not gain any weight for the entire pregnancy). I lost my hair. Finally I burst into tears at the clinic after my September appointment. That particular day, various nurses spent a total 20 minutes talking to Ikko (not me) about how I can’t speak Japanese. Ever worked your butt off for a year and a half to have someone say in front of you for twenty minutes that you’re unskilled in what you’ve been working your butt off for? I couldn’t handle it. Leslie couldn’t handle it, which made me realize that it was actually an issue, as he is the Spock to my Bones, the logic to my emotion. I cried for three days over how stupid they had made me feel, and how awful I felt after every appointment. After youchien pickup one day, a friend asked, “Are you okay?” and I burst into tears. Bless her for taking me to her house on the spot and feeding me coffee and chocolate while I ugly cried, for sharing her Buddhist faith with me (which no Japanese person has ever done with me before), and reminded me that I do have worth. She called another hospital, but they told her Leslie couldn’t be in the room when I deliver, which is a deal breaker. Another friend called a different hospital, but they said they don’t accept gaijin. By this point I was actually considering whether I should/could fly back to the States to have the baby. (There is absolutely no way I could.) I started to Google home births, because I was legitimately afraid there was no place I could have the baby here.
[Just an aside… If there’s one thing being American has ingrained in me, at least as far as language, it’s, “This is America, speak English!” As such, I don’t ever expect a Japanese person to bend as far as speaking English to me. In fact, I feel badly when they do try to speak it for my benefit. That said, I certainly didn’t think it was unreasonable to expect the common courtesy of knocking one’s Japanese down a level or two for someone whose first language isn’t Japanese.]
I asked Ikko to come over for a meeting with me and Leslie to try and figure out where to go from here. I actually practiced with Leslie what I was going to say to Ikko, which I feel totally stupid about now, but I was stressed. Ikko came over and listened to my spiel, not making a sound while I spoke (which totally unnerved me, Japanese are notorious for their sounds of affirmation while listening), and I was super nervous trying to guess what she was thinking. And she completely agreed with me. Guys. Do you know how much it means to have your crazy pregnant lady hormonal feelings validated? She completely validated every single feeling I’d had about the clinic. She told me that she’d felt the same way, but hadn’t wanted to mention it first for fear that it would make it worse for me. She said she’d talked to her husband about what to do and had already gone to city office to ask for a recommendation. I just can’t even express my gratitude toward her for all of the work she does for our family. She called the recommended hospital from my kitchen table, and they said, Of course gaijin are welcome! Of course dad can be in the room during labor and delivery! We checked out the hospital website and were so encouraged. I hadn’t recognized it before, but where my previous clinic’s site boasted their facilities and accolades, the new hospital’s site clearly stated their welcome to gaijin, their classes for families and dads, their flexibility in labor and delivery (verified at my first appointment… I can have this baby standing up if I want)… I totally got my hopes up before we’d even quit the old hospital, and I told myself it was okay because even if this hospital was as bad as the clinic, at least it was way cheaper. (Cheaper is relative… The clinic would have cost me a whopping $600 out of pocket when all was said and done. This hospital will likely be free.)
We went to the new hospital this week. And it was absolutely, 100%, the opposite of the clinic.
Well maybe not 100%… The building is new and looks amazing.
From the start, Ikko was kind enough to stand back and let us see how much we could do on our own, hoping to stem off any tendencies for staff to talk to her over me. I went up to the desk and aimlessly told them, “Hajimete,” (this is my first time,) while handing them a stack of papers from the old clinic. And the receptionist started talking, and I looked behind me to get Leslie or Ikko to help, and when she realized I didn’t understand her, she spoke English. To me. She didn’t roll her eyes or speak faster Japanese or look around me to get to Ikko, she adjusted her speaking like a normal person and tried to help me understand. And it all went up from there. No one made me feel like a burden, no one made me feel like an idiot for not knowing medical terms when thrown at me rapid-fire in Japanese. They spoke to me in Japanese about 90% of the time, and when there was a word I didn’t understand, they used slower, simpler Japanese. And sometimes, they threw in an English vocab word. In short, they were people. They spoke to me like they were people and like I’m a person. It was night and day compared to the clinic, and I’ve been on cloud 9 since. Honestly, if I had to, I could do this at the new hospital without Leslie or Ikko. It was that amazing. Even more happily surprising is that the hospital actually asks how you want to labor and deliver, and what other desires you have for your experience. (I never, never would have expected this from a Japanese hospital. As a whole, the country is very “doctor is god.) Want to stand on your head and twerk the baby out? Be our guest.
And let’s top it all off by having a Tully’s coffee shop (Japan’s answer to Starbucks) that serves pumpkin lattes (which Starbucks decidedly does not serve in Japan).
Try to appreciate the relief that comes when you go from feeling like an incapable idiot who has nowhere to have her baby to being a totally normal person who is welcomed to have her baby in whatever way she pleases. I just can’t express the burden lifted from my shoulders.
Moral of the story, to any gaijin having doctor problems: Shop around. And around. And around. Almost every gaijin I know has changed doctors during pregnancy. In my case, because the doctors wouldn’t talk to me, Ikko was the one who went through the hassle of quitting the clinic, but from my outside perspective it seemed relatively painless. (I mean, she’s still friends with me.) We had to go in for one more appointment basically just to get my paperwork (and try to explain what Bactrim Suspension [my allergy] is… which is hard when you don’t even know what it is), and then we were free. A little annoying, but not the end of the world at all.
I’ll try to get a photo post up within the next couple days of various things mentioned here.