Monday, 1 November 2004

Onto more serious matters...

Right, no time to talk about shopping this week, we have other stuff into which to sink our teeth.

Now, as you may well have read in the past, time was when I needed to take half the day off, not only because it was a nice day, but also for a spot of swift wrist action back home, after which the guru could take my outpourings to the local hospital so they could help in the procreation business.

Well no longer as I can officially announce that the good and wonderful guru is well and truly pregnant!

Indeed she has been for a while now, but keeping fingers crossed meant that it was hard to type the words. But no need to worry now. Hah! just thought about that statement and realised that there is everything to worry about for the next 18 years or something ridiculous like that. Anyway, last week we went for the end of 12th week check-up and scan and stuff, which apparently is a key point in that the miscarriage chances start going down from here, so good news. So counting back it only takes a moment to realise that the fateful time was the obon holiday - no work, de-stress, relax, break out the red wine etc - which means that whilst we were meant to be honouring dead generations we were in fact doing our darnedest to usher new ones in, which seems quite apt to me.

Of course this means this blog will now completely change from a view of life in Japan for a person of foreign extraction to one about a bloke bleating on about his wife and child yet to be born (the child is yet to be born, not the wife). Oh well, I don't care.

So we have already visited the Japanese version of Mothercare, which goes by the catchy name of Akachan-Honpo (lit. special baby-merchandise shop). Luckily for us, we have one placed almost on our doorstep, well, a 15 min walk to the station followed by a 20 min bus ride to Green City shopping centre, conveniently sited close to bugger all (oh alright, it is next to a motorway exit, but not much good if you don't have a car). Anyway we went there a couple of weeks ago to look at maternity wear, not that I did much looking at that, mind, not after seeing the enormous pants on offer. It was weird, but as soon as this whole baby possibility came along, the only baby related products I have been able to think about have been the baby harness carrier things where you strap the little bugger to your back or front, and push chairs. So anything that will get the baby out of the house. Clothes, accessories, bathing stuff etc, not a look in so far - don't know why, sure there is something deeply psychological about it, or maybe I'm just an outdoorsy sort of person, who knows, not I and I'm not up for analysis.

Anyway, the one thing that Akachan-honpo confirmed, as if I needed any reassurance, is that having a baby is bloody expensive. I'm sure this is true of every country in the world, but here, well, small South American countries have smaller GDPs, of that I am sure.

Talking of which, get this (you knew I couldn't resist a little rant). Japanese national health insurance is such that for each bill from the doc, you pay 30% and the govt pays the rest. Nice and simple. But being pregnant isn't considered 'being ill' so the govt refuse to pay their 70% of any medical bills! This from a country that has a drastically aging population, woeful birthrate and serious manpower problems just around the corner! It's easy, you fuckwits, cover all the bills from the hospitals (and in Japan you go to hospital a lot) that deal with pregnancy and you might just encourage people to have a few more kids. When the guru gives birth we will have to fork out about half a million yen! Now even the govt has realised that this is a bit excessive and will reimburse 300,000 of it, but still, that leaves over 1,000 pounds we have to pay and that's if everything goes smoothly. If it doesn't, I shudder to think. Still, this is all obviously rocket science to the grey suits, though with their average assets of 78 million, as reported this week in the papers, the naturally don't need to worry about these sorts of things, but for the rest of us... :-(ok... rant over... calm down... go to your happy place.... breathe deeply... there you go:-)

After all that Akachan-Honpo was just like a big shop full of baby stuff. We bought a few things and a christmas present for Charlie (golf playing brother's son, for those who haven't been paying attention) and then left as it was full of screaming kids. I realise that I am going to have to get used to this, but let's just take it one step at a time.

So what else have we done? Well, we have registered the pregnancy at our local town hall. None of this waiting until the birth sort of nonsense, get the thing registered as a foetus. As with most things in Japan, pregnancy has to be organised, no happy-go-luckiness here, thank you very much. So on registering the pregnancy you receive a Boshi-Techo (lit. mother and child note - fathers, apparently, don't need to know this stuff). Actually I think this is a good idea, to be honest. It's a small booklet that lasts from the 12th week pregnancy check-up until the kid is about 6 or 7 years old. Into it goes all the useful info such as height and weight of mother and child during pregnancy, then all stuff to do with the kid as it grows, like vaccinations, illnesses had, visits to doc and dentist etc. All very organised and useful for when you ask your mother "have I had measles/mumps/dengue fever?" to which the answer is usually "yes it was when you were 5... or was that your brother? Erm, well, one of you has had it." So you get one of those and about leaflets about sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death, which seems a little early to be worryng prospective parents like that.

And of course we have been for the 12 week check-up. This was a the swish new hospital which is very convenient as it is only about 15 minutes walk away, and jolly brand spanking new it is, or newly rebuilt on the site of the old hospital. Anyway we went there on wednesday last week, and I took the day off to go along, look at the scan, be morally supportive and then finish off my current course assignment in the afternoon. (Q. who are the coolest workers in a hospital? A. the ultrasound people) We got there at about 1030am and the first thing we had to do was sit through another earthquake. I mean really, it's getting a bit much, all of this. A magnitude 6 aftershock hit Niigata, meaning a 4 was felt through Saitama, but because this was a swish new hospital, we hardly felt a thing, certainly not as bad as a rickety old apartment building. Then we got to see the doc, who was a tad surprised to see me in there as well, not a lot of fathers take time off work to attend something such as this, I would guess. He asked the guru a few questions and then motioned her through to the scan room where they were going to perform the necessaries. When the guru asked "can my husband come in as well" they nearly shat themselves. "What!? In the ultrasound room?! With you?! At the same time!? No, no absolutely not! Never! Men aren't allowed in there! Apart from doctors, but they don't count! Why not? Might contaminate the place with non-doctor related maleness! And he hasn't shaved this morning! I mean really!" are certainly some of the things they said in between gasps of incredulity. I expect they're still talking about it even now. But the guru got scanned and all is well. It is about the right shape and size, it moved during the scan so there are two distinct images of Klingons attacking the Enterprise and all seems to be well so far.

After that, of course, we had to pay. What got me about this last act is that we got a receipt about a foot long. Pretty impressive stuff. Most of ours was blank as we had only had a couple of things cheked and done. Down the right hand side was a couple of lines and then the amounts we had to pay. On the left hand side was the bits the govt would pay for, but ours was almost all blank because, as mentioned above, the govt aren't interested in giving us any cash for this. I say almost blank as there were a few numbers. They added up our points, which work, apparently, like air miles... I'm not sure what you get if you earn enough points, a set of steak knives seems somehow inappropriate, but a set of scapels might come in handy. Who knows, you might even get enough for a free operation, almost seems to make it all worthwhile.

oh, and for those that are interested...

saw this online games thing on some tv program - am quite taken with proximity...

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