Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hello World... Douzo Yoroshiku, Onegaishimasu

May, 2007 - The arrival of L-kun. Well we arrived back from Japan in November 2006, and some 6 month's later... a long 6 months... our son came into the world. This is the point at which all parents have a wont to expound endlessly about the joys of parenthood... and we're little different. However, I'll try and keep this to a minimum...

Listening for signs of anything happening...

Firstly, T-chan's inability to taste (or smell) had continued right up until (and even immediately after) our son was born. The first thing to say is that this is a horrible, horrible fate for anyone - but especially I suspect for my wife. She loves her food, and to not taste (whilst wanting to eat 2-3 times as much as normal) was painful for her. However, it would seem that I also ate 2-3 times as much as normal to make her feel better. Sometimes I thought I was pregnant (and started looking like it around the middle).

We had chosen the Ashford private hospital here in Adelaide... they have a good record when it comes to their birthing unit. Anyway - the one thing that we hadn't expected was that our obstetrician was going on holiday... she neglected to tell us that; and as a result she recommended an induced birth. This had one advantage that we then knew exactly when (at the latest) that he would be born... except that now T-chan's parents were due to come in 1 day after the birth.

We arrived at the hospital at around 12 midnight for the induction to start... 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1..

The other thing that I discovered was that they have (or at least the mid-wife that we had) a particular practice where the husband becomes the right-hand side stirrup, holding the mother's leg and offer encouragement. I'd given up smoking since coming back from Japan, and I have to say that now more than ever I wanted to start up again (but resisted... thankfully). Needless to say, I had a very involved view of T-chan's birth. The birth itself lasted about 15 hours, but the pushing phase lasted a gruelling 2 hours. It was, my friends, the scariest moment in my life.... when you watch the love of your life struggling with all that she has... We discovered after the event that our son had turned and was being birthed facing the wrong way!... and it was a mere matter of minutes before she was to be whisked off for an caesarean. As luck would have it, our obstetrician (whom had suggested the induction), arrived from performing another caesarean about 20 seconds before he was born . Whew!

Oh, I should remind people that T-chan's a very private person, so she doesn't like putting photo's of herself in the blog (even her own blog)... so I'm not being completely insensitive by cropping my wife out of the photos...

Now babies come in two types... yours and someone else's. When it comes to your own baby, you can and will do anything for them for they are sweetness and light in your eyes. To other people (I suspect the miracle of childbirth aside), they are generally wrinkled funny looking creatures that looked like they may have once featured on a Jim Henson drawing board, and sound like they aren't too happy about leaving. 

To be honest - we had no idea of a name for our son... ok, we had a short-list but no real firm favourites. So for the first day or so he was known Baby.... then the day after he was born and I was going home to look after our cat, it struck me what his name was. And from that instant it stuck, and he became...well... . It wasn't on our shortlist at all... but once I suggested it to T-chan, we knew that was his name.

I have to say - that whilst the fear of childbirth itself is intense - in other ways, the feeling you have as a parent for the first time is no less so. Except this feeling doesn't have an end... as you are always a parent. You just get used to it. This doesn't mean that doing things for the first time like changing nappies, swaddling, or even a first bath are particularly easy things to do. They're not. I can still remember thinking that the whole bathing experience was just as traumatic for me as it was for L-kun... head at right angle (no that's the right angle, not at right angles you idiot!), water not too hot, not too cold, and don't forget the dangly bits. Who would have thought it could be so complicated... and that babies could weigh so little.

The Ashford hospital also offers a very different post-natal care option - where women having natural birth can spend a couple of nights at the local Hilton hotel in the city instead of in the hospital. Sounded grand! And even though T-chan was pretty badly off in terms of the birthing itself, after one further night in the hospital for observation, we were able to go to the Hilton. And that's where T-chan had her first proper meal in over 6 months... and miraculously she could taste. And Dad could stay the night as well. Sweet.

The only problem with the Hilton option is that you only have a single nurse to look after the whole floor (of babies and mums)... and that means you don't quite get the attention that you got in the hospital. It also means you don't have someone coming around every other hour to check up on you. But most importantly, it also means that you have to start looking after baby by all yourself. Without support. For the first time. 

The second night we were there - T-chan was in a fair amount of pain from the... well... perhaps I'll spare you  the gory details... needless to say she was struggling. And L-kun was also struggling - to sleep. He didn't like it. Not one bit. So like any Dad would do, I stepped up to the plate and took L-kun into my arms and soothed him through the night (when he wasn't feeding that is) allowing T-chan to sleep a little. This most probably sounds sappy, but those hours were some of the happiest in my life. To be holding my baby boy to my heart was something that always comes back to me - normally when I feel like strangling him when he's being particularly difficult.

And so, as the days passed, and we become more used to the new life that has come into the world that is our son... he takes on angelic qualities...Even our cat (er... let's call him T-kun) was getting used to the presence of this little being in our house. Though he kept his distance.

One of the differences between Western and Japanese birthing rituals is the fact that it's quite common for Japanese to keep the umbilical cord of their baby as an heirloom throughout their life. We had asked our obstetrician to make sure that she left enough on there to collect. We never actually knew however what really happened to umbilical cords... the fact that they sort of just shrivel up was a mystery to us back then. I still remember the shock one morning when we were changing his nappies, and we suddenly realised that he was missing his cord. It had fallen off. Somewhere. Our thoughts immediately turned to our cat T-kun... he wouldn't of... would he?... About 20 minutes later, I found the cord lying on the carpet... a small contortion of colourless tissue. Hard to believe that we had almost vacuumed it up!

One of the things that are always a magical thing to new parents - the hands of a new-born baby are beautiful. 

 At once they are immaculately carved, a minature of what they will become...

But when you hold them in your hands, you know just how small and precious they really are.

Now of course - as all parents out there realise - babies are not all angels and harp-music. There are times when well let's face it... they just don't want you to get any peace at all! And it's at those moments, sleep deprived, that you really know what love is.

Trust me... I sometimes had a very similar expression on my face as well... though often it was on the inside.

Anyway... this introduces the next chapter of our tale of Japanese Ties... 


  1. Cute kid :) Sounds like it was quite an experience. A hotel option... interesting. My wife and I haven't had any yet, so I haven't had the privilege to go thru any of this. Or rather, I did once... but I can't quite remember that far back. Anyways, thanks for sharing this interesting post.

  2. No matter how many times I hear stories of childbirth I always see amazing beauty in it. As late as it is, congratulations.
    I think with this I can start catching up with the second blog. ^_^

  3. It's kind of late since your baby should be 3 by now, but congratulations. We had our first baby a year ago and it's amazing how much your life changes.
    I just love the concept of keeping the umbilical cord as a permanent remainder that at one time, mom and baby were one, my mother in law still keeps my wife's one with her, she show it to me a long time a go, and at the time i just though it was gross, but now with my own baby, i think is a great memento.
    Great photos.

  4. Thnx all. Yeah - it's been over 3 years since L-kun was born, and it's been a pretty intense time. Having children is definitely a life-changing experience... Well, at least we were more the type of parents that had a change of life.

    I guess this post was kinda useful as it provides context as to how the Japanese Ties posts will evolve, but also acts as a segue into the new blog (Raising Adelaide).

    Anyhow - thanks for comments.

  5. wonderful read, congrats pal. I'm a few years away from starting a family but reading a blog post like this makes me want to start tonight!

  6. Hmmmm.... woah tiger!... I know the "trying" is the fun part... but that part is over (all too) quickly. The family part is definitely something to look forward to; but all in good time.