On Babies and Byouins

Recently we made the announcement that we’re expecting a number two (I had early dreams that it was numbers 2, 3 and 4). We found out shortly before Father’s Day and thus before the team came.  Thankfully my morning/night sickness was light, my only big issues being exhaustion and a sensitive nose.  One of the girls wore a licorice-smelling essential oil which repelled me as effectively as it did the bugs.

Hmm… I’m not sure what that says about me.

Anyway, first question I get when people find out is about how I’m doing.  “Fine, just super tired.” Second question follows quickly: “So will you have your baby in Japan?”


Honestly, it depends on the day how I feel about that answer, but usually it’s good. I can usually roll with the punches, especially if I can do a little research on it.  A number of foreign ladies I know have recently had babies in Japan, so over the past year or so, I’ve been gathering snippets of information and storing them aside for whenever the Lord should bless us with a wee little one.

Still, it’s always an adventure when you actually go through it. Much to my chagrin, and after I’d gotten one routine figured out, I’d been transferred to a bigger hospital (byouin) because of the complications I had with the last part of Rosalyn’s pregnancy.

So, I’ll tell ya about this experience, because boy is it one.

I arrived early to the hospital, about 15 minutes before they officially opened, by bus. After asking at the information desk what I needed to do with my sealed letter of introduction from previous hospital, I filled out some paperwork and she pointed to a blue box and told me to put it in there with my insurance card. I did so and sat down in one of many rows of chairs as attendants sat chatting behind counters waiting for the cutesy song to play over the intercom signalling the beginning of open hours.

Shortly after, I noticed a few other Japanese people start conversing with their partners and then they all began getting up and looking in the box and putting their own papers in there.  I was delighted… Not because I would be ahead in line, but that I had done something right and other people were confused and following my example.  You see, usually it’s the other way around.

Let’s take a moment to truly value this experience:

[Moment of silence]

Anyway, eventually a lady calls me and confirms some details about my name and gives me a ticket and a map of the hospital and shows me the route to the next floor and the OBGYN section.  I turn these in at a window and take a seat. Over the course of the next 2.5 hours, I’m shown the self-service machine where you take your own weight and blood pressure in the presence of all.  It will print a little ticket which you also give to the lady at the window. I also went in for a “talk” where someone confirms all the details that the previous hospital sent over. I came prepared for this, with my list of words like “preeclampsia” and “dilation” and my dictionary.  Of course, they always use words that I don’t know but we figure it out and eventually I’m sent back out to wait.  Again.

One of the hardest parts about this hospital is that when they call your name over the intercom, they tell you what door number you’re supposed to go in and then when you walk in, it’s like a game-show because now there are about 5 doors to choose from, and goodness knows you don’t want to walk into the wrong one.  Did they announce it over the intercom?  Or are you supposed to wait in this new waiting room?  It’s been different each time.

Eventually (key word of this post), you will make it in to talk to a doctor where they will ask you the obvious questions. And then they always do an ultrasound in an adjoining room. I understand that men are not allowed in the ultrasound room, because it’s not done over your belly.

[Men: you might want to skip this paragraph]. This is the biggest difference for me between America and Japan.  First of all, there’s a curtain that cuts you off at the waist.  Eventually, they’ll open part of it so you can see the screen they’re looking at.  The “chairs” are also… movable. It lifts you up into the air and then moves to position your legs automatically.  Meanwhile you don’t see what’s happening but they do explain everything to you. Let’s just say the first time I went to a lady doctor in Japan, I was not prepared for any of that.

Then you go back outside to wait again and a nurse comes out and explains your next steps  in plain hearing of everyone else. Always exciting. Schedule some appointments and maybe do a blood test and then go pay. You turn in your card, ticket and baby-coupon book (that’s for another day), they give you a number and you go wait again to be called and pay.

That’s usually when you get to leave, but the first time I had to go visit another place to register for the hospital stay and delivery (yes, at 9 weeks). I waited (you sense the pattern by now), and then sat with a guy who for 10 minutes spieled on about goodness knows what, giving me a whole packet of papers.  He pointed at random pages, circled things, said a lot of “be careful about this”s, and talked about numbers, which I’m supposed to bring in cash when I go to deliver.

I was past the limits of my brain power for the day, having been there for 4 hours already, and so I just “yes”ed and “uh huh”ed my way through the whole thing, trusting some kind Japanese friend would explain it to me later.

Sometimes you just got to do that.

So that is what it’s like to have a baby appointment in Japan. Long.  Just like this post.

Cue Music

Last week, we had the great privilege to attend our organization’s international conference– something that only happens once every three years.  There were a few different hashtags flying around it, but one of them was #wearefamily.

You can jam along.  It’s ok.

We always say it’s like a giant family reunion, and it is. This year was particularly special, I felt, because we got to hear a lot from our own.  That is, the main speakers were our leadership and directors– and hearing such words of encouragement from those over us (a lot of them that I didn’t know very well beforehand) was particularly inspiring– because I know that they aren’t some special guest who likely won’t recall me a month down the road (no criticism is meant by that, it’s just natural).  Of course, we all breakfasted, lunched and dinnered together, so we caught up with friends from all over the world and made some new friends with new missionaries as well.

Some highlights:

-I was really inspired by the testimonies of so many.  Of course, miracles and healings are always something to give glory to God for– but I was encouraged most by those who stuck it out, prayed it out, sweated-and-bled it out. Stories of following Jesus, stories of His faithfulness through it all. People who have been on the field for years and years and who to whom our issues and struggles are not anything new (except maybe the foreign taxes thing…)… I always stand in awe of people who have been married for 20, 30, 40, 50+ years… That’s so commendable and honor-worthy in my eyes.  When I meet and have a chance to chat with those who’ve been on the field for 15, 20, 25, even 45 years… Well, it kinda blows my mind.

-One of our directors, in a very frank talk about faithfulness in communication, spoke about the testimony of obedience and faithfulness.  Though sometimes the day ins and day outs of ministry are not what we call “newsletter noteworthy”, if God has sent us there to do it, then who are we to judge whether that testimony is powerful or not and to whom it is powerful? God apparently valued it enough to send someone to do it. Given my comments above and our saying that, “In Japan, we don’t lay the foundation– we dig the hole to lay the foundation”, it was very, very encouraging.  It rang true to something the Lord spoke to me more than a year ago when I was discouraged that I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted: “The only failure is a failure to be faithful.” I was challenged in a few different ways, and I’ll carry around these things in my mind and heart for a while yet, I think.

-Times of worship were amazing and sweet.  So much of it was about praising God for His faithfulness and it caused me to remember these times where I felt I was in way deeper water than I could tread. “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.” Those times of stretching were hard- let me tell you– but I felt that in worship, and in things people heard from the Lord, I felt like I received some of my own freedom that I had been looking for.  Fitting that the last evening, we sang, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, I’ll walk upon the waters, wherever you will lead me…”

-On a practical side: the WIM office staff– with whom we spend much time communicating about practical mundane issues– they were still awesome, but in real life.  Twice, our office manager dropped everything she had, even made a trip to the office on her day off, to notarize papers for us. One of them skipped a session to sit with Rosalyn while she slept, because she was in desperate need of a nap. They are gold to me, every single one of them.

-Rosalyn LOVED being in the nursery (a little too much, as it seems we had a toddler romance going on…). Not once did she cry for me to stay or throw a fit.  So, they found quality people to take care of our kids, which was a blessing beyond measure.

-We had a fun day. We went to Schlitterbahn, a huge water park, thanks to the many supporters who contributed to the conference and the directors who raised the funds.  This is not something that we would normally get to do, so it was so nice to do something “fun” with “family” and just relax. All of us are on the go people, so a day off was pretty incredible.

-Practical help from a financial expert and a lawyer.  Ever tried to figure out what documents you need if something happens to you overseas and your kids need to get to their guardians in the States?? How to make it easier for them and everyone in your life if something happens? How to plan to provide for your family for the future? Some of these issues are major ones, particularly for certain countries. It was SUCH a relief for me to get the answers we needed, and to get it from experts and for free. Wow. Thank you. I still can’t get over it.

-A very comfortable hotel (with free AC!) and wonderful meals.  Again, many thanks to the supporters and directors who don’t overdo it, but also don’t cut corners.  We’re all used to cutting corners as much as we can, so this feels like dessert.

There’s more, but this is the gist for the moment.  I don’t want to bore ya’ll, but we came back not exhausted but equipped and refreshed for the next season ahead of us.

So, a HUGE thank you again to all who supported this conference in any way– I think it will have an impact way beyond ourselves. You’ve been a huge blessing, not just to the missionaries and organization, but to the nations that we’re all serving. For us, we needed it.

Thank you WIM for ALL you do!  BEST organization ever.