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.


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