Tuesday, 1 March 2005

Feeling better now, thanks for asking. So, onto the hospital...

How to be a parent

Or at least, that's what I thought Saturday's visit to the hospital was going to be all about. This had been a date in my diary for weeks. The sort of date that is right up with the 'if you forget this one your life will not be worth living, ever' sorts of things like remembering to turn up at the church on the appointed day at the correct hour. It wasn't the birth, not yet, you realise, just an introduction to the hospital and the maternity department. But it was important and I was therefore present and correct.

There were 10 couples there in total in a room in the hospital. As I've mentioned before, the hospital is jolly new and shiny, which means, as far as I can tell, the aircon system is a brand new, state of the art smart one that knows the precise setting for 'uncomfortably warm' and wants to share. Anyway the first thing we had to do was sit in small circle and introduce ourselves to everyone else and then the men had to say why they wanted to be present at the birth of their first child. Well, all the other men present had to say why they wanted to be there, unfortunately my Japanese didn't quite stretch to 'joyous outpouring of emotion' or 'this miracle of life', however my Japanese did stretch to 'hi, I'm Justin, I'm from the UK, sorry my Japanese is so shit'. To which all the other people in the circle intoned the standard response of 'ahh sugoi, nihongo jouzu desu-ne' (lit. trans. my goodness isn't his skill at the Japanese language superb! (nuanced trans. why can't these foreigners learn a bit of Japanese for a change?)).

Well, when I say 'all the men had to say why they wanted to be present at the birth of their first child' what I really meant to say was 'all the men had to say why their wives wanted them to be present at the birth of their first child' as it seemed I was the only male that wanted to go along. All the others, it appears, preferred to be out playing pachinko, or possibly golf. Not sure why this was, perhaps Japanese chaps don't feel they should be part of the whole birth thing, their job, I suppose, having been completed some 9 months previously. Or maybe they are all too squeamish, I don't know.

Anyway, next was a video. Again state of the artness prevailed here so this was no portable tv in the corner of the room, this was a tv projector thingy attached to the ceiling and a 2 metre square screen pulled down against the wall. All I could think was "wouldn't it be great to hook this up to the playstation? Imagine GT4 on this baby..." I didn't tell the guru this at the time, which I believe was a sensible policy to follow. The film was about being a man whilst your wife is pregnant and the importance, therefore, of talking to the baby whilst it is still in said wife so you can get to know it (the baby, not the wife, whom you are meant to know already).

Now I had known that this was important and thus have spoken to Fuu chan on a number of occasions, although they might possibly all have been when I was drunk. But apparently the baby can hear you very well from inside the womb and whilst it is easy to bond with the mother, they are attached after all, it difficult to bond with the father, so get speaking was the message. I have taken this to heart and the last two evenings I have had long conversations with the guru's abdomen. So far I have explained cornering techniques at speed (slow in, fast out; smooth acceleration; never brake mid-corner) and also how the superior techniques and skill levels make rugby union a far more exciting game than, say, football. Further topics penciled in include; lbw laws and a good forward defensive (shame that the Ashes is not until July, a live example is always preferable); how to make perfect roast potatoes and; a full and frank exposition on Mornington Crescent (without diagonals, I think, to begin with). Useful life skills there, I think you'll agree, but if anyone has any interesting or useful suggestions for things to talk to my unborn son about, please feel free to add them in the comments section below.

Then it was onto breathing and rubbing. These are two exceptionally important skills that a husband must bring to birth, lest his wife become unrubbed and breathless, I presume. First one, gently rub your wife's lower back. Check. Next, rub your wife's abdomen. Check (nothing to this rubbing lark). And that's it for rubbing. Hmm. Well, I now I don't want to get too big headed, but now I can consider myself a world class rubber, certainly superior in technique, I think, to the other fathers-to-be in the room.

Then came the breathing. Now breathing is, I feel, something that most people have had a fair amount of experience with and therefore would not really need help with. But of course I am wrong and should have known that from all the movies with birthing scenes in them. In those films the husband always seems to be saying something like "come on dear, breath like we did in the class" and the wife says "**** **** *** breathing! ***** ** **** ******** out of here!" so why bother? But bother we must. During the first stage of giving birth the breaths should be long and slow - suuuuteeee (in) haaaiteeee (out) repeat. This goes on for a few hours until the wife gets bored and decides to move onto the next stage. Then the breathing pattern must be he he huuuu, he he huuuu, he he huuuu etc. This stage lasts about 12 hours, according to the piece of paper with the pain graphs on it (no really - no anaesthetics in Japan, you're not a real mother if you haven't experienced the pain of natutal childbirth (wonder which man made that rule up...?)).

The third stage of breathing was the swearing stage, I won't print what was said there...

Then we went onto massages, which apparently I should be providing for the guru at every available opportunity. I didn't realise this and the guru hadn't asked, but now I am prepared and ready. But if you are going to give your good lady wife a massage when she is pregnant you must, it would appear, use lavender oil as this is a relaxant. So then the nurse that was taking the class poured the aforementioned lavender oil into the waiting hands of each chap and off we went. In the interests of decorum, thankfully, this was a trouser leg rolled up leg massage session. Also thankfully, whilst every wife had her trousers rolled up and every husband was elbow deep in lavender oil and leg massages, the nurse took polaroids of each couple. Nice one to show the kid in a few years...

And that was about it except for a quick tour of the maternity section. We got to see the toilets and showers that the husbands can use whilst the wife is doing the business. We saw the pre-giving birth waiting room. This is the one, I think for the 12 hour he he huuuu session and, as this is the longest part of the whole process, this room is the smallest and has no windows. Can't quite work that one out. Also there are two beds per room, so that there is likely to be 2 women in varying degrees of discomfort/agony at any given time. Why two? What are they going to do, discuss needlework? We didn't get to see the actual giving birth room as this is like an operating theatre, apparently, so we weren't allowed in. Last of all we saw the baby's feeding room where, for some reason, men aren't allowed to go. Again not sure why about that one, guess men aren't able to feed their newborns until 5 days after they arrive...


I took the day off as the guru's 30th week kicked off today and it was back to the hospital for the check-up and scan. And the best thing was that I was allowed in to see the scan this time. And see everything I did. Wow. Now I realise what it's all about. Those little photos you see from the scans that look like grey blobs? Well, if you see everything moving in real time then suddenly all the grey blobs make sense, you can see hands, eyes, the spine and the heart pumping away and you can understand what they are. And you can see a pair of knackers totally out of proportion to the rest of the body. Cool. So everything is there and it all looks good and healthy. Fuu chan is now about 1600grams and counting. All that left was for the dispensary to issue some medicine, which they did, but not before the women lying on the bench next to me vomited all over the floor. And the guru's worried she's going to catch something off me...

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