Ah, how I have enjoyed my paternity leave. The days of pleasure I have spent bonding with... bureaucracy. Yes, I have been to the City Hall at least eight times; had a fun visit to the Immigration Office in downtown Kobe; and, to cap it all, today we had a particularly enjoyable outing to the US Consulate in Osaka.
Now, having had had experience of dealing with the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) in the past, we knew we that this could be a big ordeal, so we wanted to make sure that all the Is were dotted and Ts crossed before we went there. Where better to start than looking up the information on registering births on the consulate's own website? A good idea, under normal circumstances. But not this time. Fortunately, Abigail called them to clarify something and was basically informed not to trust anything on the website, as it was wrong, but instead to use the information in the email they would send us.
Good job we weren't silly enough to rely on the Consulate's website. Now we had the correct documents in the email, so it would be fine, right? Well, our little trip in today just goes to prove that however imposing a bureacracy can appear, the details often seem to come down to individual opinion.
For example, there was the question of where Matthew was born. The form said to write "City, State, Country"(Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan) , but then the additional directions with Japanese examples sent with it said to write in the City Ward as well (Nada-ku, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan). So what happened? Well a long dialog ensued, in which I was told that I had completed the form incorrectly - only for me to point out that I had followed the precise instructions in accompanying instructions ROB1.pdf, which led to the admission that - you guessed it - these instructions were not correct. So what should you believe? The website? No. The emailed instructions? No. What they tell you in person? Well, maybe that will work - but what if someone else further up the line has a different opinion? Let's hope they don't!
The "highlight" of the excursion was finding that the passport photos we had tried to create following their super-anal instructions, did not meet the specifications and that we needed to get new ones at a photo studio down the road. You should have seen us all: Abigail and I, the photo studio's owner, his wife and even his young son yelling and gesticulating to try to get Matthew to wake up out of his milk-induced sleep for his special picture. It was really exhausting, but we managed (after at least 15 minutes of trying) to get him to open his eyes long enough for them to get a good shot. What a relief! And what a waste of time, given that even in the time it takes to have his passport made, he will look completely different.
Tomorrow is the big day for Matthew as he makes a trip to the US embassy to lodge his citizenship application.
The rules have become much stricter in recent years, with applicants of all ages required to attend the consulate or embassy in person, and take the Pledge of Allegiance. Matthew has been practicing hard and has just about got the hand-on-the-heart part down, although he is having some problem with the words. Hopefully all the practice will pay off tomorrow!
Boing! Boing! Boing! Hoppity-hop. The Velveeta Rabbit skipped through the green fields bouncing rubberly on its little orange legs.
"Mmmmm! Yummy, yummy!" exclaimed the Krafty Fox, as he spied the little orange bunny in the distance. "Methinks you will make a delicious snack," he said, and bounded off after the bouncing orange blob.
"Delicious!" said the fox, licking his lips. Alas, the poor Velveeta Rabbit was no more. Its little rubbery legs could not out-bound, and its little rubbery head could not out-think the cunning predator.
But this is not the end of the story, for the Velveeta Rabbit had power that reached beyond the grave: "Arrrggghh! What is this pain I feel in my chest?" the fox blurted out suddenly. Ah, dear predator, that is the revenge of the Velveeta Rabbit - a massive coronary attack for any who are foolish enough to eat her!
Due to popular demand, let me present my lovely wife with Matthew.
He is having a growth spurt at the moment and ate about twice as much as usual yesterday (and he was an average eater already, according to our books.) He is also spending more time awake, and is even trying to smile - or, at least, that is what his parents would like to think.
Well, we have had a couple of guesses from you about what could be in the box, but no one has come near the answer yet. So, to give it away slightly, let's just say that it is something that used to attach Matthew to his mother - or at least the dried remains thereof.
Yes, Japanese people keep their children's umbilical cords after they fall off! Maybe it is because of the way they symbolize the relationship between mother and child. Or perhaps they just like the way they look. Just after Matthew was born, our friend Aya, who was videoing the proceedings, was simultaneously telling me in English how she had lost all the umbilical cords for her three children, while the nurse was telling me in Japanese how it is really bad luck to lose them.
Obviously, we do not think there is anything lucky or unlucky in keeping his umbilical cord, but it will be an interesting memento for Matthew later on - and a fun way for us to gross out his future girlfriends: "Dad! You're embarassing me again!"
Q. What do you call someone who specializes in the study of Irish names?
A. A Dermotologist!
Matthew's Grandma Mimi (Abigail's Mom's self-chosen nom de plume) tried out some of her Japanese when she asked him whether he likes the gyunyu. Unfortunately, although gyunyu is often translated simply as "milk" in your average Japanese-English dictionary, in actual fact it literally means "cow milk". As you can imagine, Abigail was not very impressed with this choice of vocabulary.
(All you linguists out there will be interested to know that the correct word to use in this situation is bonyu - or "mother's milk".)
Every spring, Japan becomes consumed with the arrival of the cherry blossoms. We are very fortunate in our new location to be living within easy walking distance of the Shukugawa River, which is lined for miles with these cherry trees.
The picture on the left is a little misleading in the sense that this year's blooms are nowhere near looking like this yet. So how do you know when the blossoms are going to start to open in your area? Simple! If you want to know the weather, you look up the weather forecast, so if you want to know about the cherry blossoms, you need to find the blossom forecast. The best place that I have found for this is this site that has a very detailed map, such as the one for today.
As you can see, where we are, the trees are still in bud, but further south there are signs of stirring and opening. We await with anticipation!
I know, I know. I am just succumbing to some marketer's online viral marketing plan, but this video is very funny!
(By the way, the salt in the dish outside the shop at the end is not there to be eaten at all: It was placed there as part of a Shinto ritual to "purify" the building.)
I know, I know, traditionally women who've just had a baby sometimes have the blues (and trust me, I've had my moments), but overall, I'm excited to be in this new phase of life. So, without further ado (and with a slight nod to Dave Letterman), here are my Postpartum Top Ten:
10. My feet have mysteriously reappeared.
9. Stephen and I can both fit in the kitchen again.
8. My shoes are once again tie-able.
7. Wedding and engagement rings glide back on to my unswollen fingers.
6. Belly button is snugly back in place.
5. No more Tums!!! (For my England readers, Tums are for the dreaded heartburn.)
4. The toenails are cuttable again.
3. I don't overbalance so often [contributed by Stephen].
2. My lungs and bladder are now bigger than squished raisins.
And the number one toppest of the tops: I got a Matthew out of it!
Chihiro and Takumi from next door were stranded in the cold and rain yesterday when they arrived home from school (their mom was at a PTA meeting). They came in and hung out with us for a while, had snacks, and played Uno. Takumi (which can also mean "cleverness" or "carpenter" in Japanese) cleverly built some skyscrapers with our empty cardboard boxes in the guest room, while Chihiro sat and looked at our wedding album. I think best of all, though, they enjoyed playing with Matthew and poking his cheeks (which they did very gingerly, I might add, and it didn't seem to bother him one bit).
Do you remember this song from Schoolhouse Rock? Stephen's got a collection of "jazz" CDs that has this tune, and I thought it was really apropos for our new babyized life.
Well, perhaps it is an exaggeration to call it a day, but it was a morning at least. And even though he was not awake at all for the whole time, that did not phase any of the people who got to hold and hang out with him: Jon and Takako and their girls up near the office; Richard, Chisa and their three children at their house; Mr. and Mrs. Minematsu; Aya and Jef with their boys, Aya's sister and her family.
Yes, Matthew has had a major social experience today. But did it phase him? No. There is not much that can get through his sleepiness when he has plunged into the depths of a major nap.
For those of you engineers or other techno-people out there, how about this: Real-time stats for your baby, all available online! Trixie Tracker (weird name, interesting concept) has been beta-tested (translation: "tried out") for the last few months by Beau and Jeanine, who have been using it to understand the sleep patterns and diaper changes of their youngest son, Silas.
I don't know whether we will go so far as to use this kind of baby analysis software, but I like the way it presents information graphically and how it can give you predictions about sleep and waking periods. I do love Statcounter and being able to monitor who has come to the blog, but a major difference between websites and babies is that website access tracking can be 100% automated, whereas babies can't be. The fact that automation is inversely proportional to work makes me wonder how long we would keep it up.
Well, today was the Big Day, when Matthew left the comforting confines of Mori Shibata Ladies Clinic and took his first blinking trip into the outside world. Actually, he had already seen the view from the balcony of our super-posh room, but today he was up for the real thing - going out and not coming back (except for a couple of check ups).
All he leaves behind are a group of broken-hearted nurses who are in love with his takai hana (in other words, his big-by-Japanese-standards nose, which they think is the epitomy of cuteness), and an unsigned picture on the Babies Of The Month wall of fame, in which he looks like a mini-Eminem with his little white hat on.
Having seen him at the hospital for a week now, it was and interesting experience bringing him home: Having had him in a separate an unknown environment, we were bringing him back into our world - and that really, err... brought it home to us that he has come, and has come to stay.
Bit of a miscommunication with one of the nurses this evening: She was talking with us about Matthew when we mentioned that we were thinking about adopting number 2. Unfortunately, we knew something must have dropped through the language gap there, as she looked shocked. Thinking we must have mispronounced the word for adoption (youshi), we reached for the dictionary and showed her the kanji characters - but there had been no mistake there, apparently. Anyway, it turned out that, rather than thinking that we were thinking of getting a baby through adoption, she thought we were thinking of having number 2 through natural birth, and then putting it up for adoption. No wonder she was shocked!
Some of you may remember, or at least vaguely recollect, that back in the mists of time B.M. (Before Matthew) we had a little competition on the blog to see who could guess when Matthew would be born. (You can see the original post here.)
Well, now it is time to announce the lucky winner (and sorry, Holly, late entries put in after we had already announced the date of the Caesarian do not count!) I have to say that we were actually amazed at how close our winner got, and we are privileged that Matthew can share her birthday of March 11th. So step forward, Sally Fischer from Kanazawa, and collect your prize of a free evening's baby-sitting at our place.
We had a surprise visit today from people from Okazaki, where we used to live. Yasue sent us an email yesterday and said that she was coming to Kobe for some sightseeing, so Abigail was surprised when not just Yasue, but also her other friends, Takako and Manami - along with Takako's boyfriend, the designated driver - showed up at five.
In fact, Abigail was especially surprised as she had miscalculated the meaning of the Japanese word yugata (evening), and had assumed that they would be coming at seven or eight. Needless to say, she jumped out of her skin when they pounded the door of our room when she was taking a well-deserved nap.
I can't help but be excited about our little one! I know you're not supposed to brag about your own children (especially in Japanese society), but Matthew is just absolutely the sweetest little person I've ever met. As you can see from the pictures, he loves his Tummy Tub time, his nap time, and his hanging-out-with-Daddy time. His little legs crack me up! The nurse said it's because he was breech, with his legs up around his face for so long, and it will take about a month for his legs to relax a bit more. Last night at his 3 a.m. feeding, I called him an Angry Red Frog Angel. Angry, because he was so hungry and wanted food NOW. Red, because of the anger. Frog, well, you just have to look at the picture of his legs. Angel, because of the soft white robe he wears here in the hospital. Feeding time again! More later...
(In case you're wondering, our new luxurious suite has setup for computer access, so Stephen brought the laptop for me to catch up on life outside Baby World.)
Here is Matthew demonstrating one of his favorite skills of sucking really loud!
Here is Matthew taking his first bath. He didn't really enjoy it, but at least the nurse knew what she was doing - unlikely when I have bathed him the two times since then.
Click here for the video
Just a quick post here while I have brekkie before I go to work to tell you that we are no longer staying in the cramped and rather uncomfortable Labor and Delivery Room (LDR) that we were obliged to use before and just after Matthew was born due to space pressures at the clinic. (So it is not just the parking spaces that get full quickly!) Yesterday afternoon we were moved to a large room on the third floor that has two nice beds, a sofa, carpet, an en suite shower / bathroom, cable TV and an Internet connection. The latter means that from this evening, the computer will be heading over there with me, and Abigail will be able to email, blog and call people on the phone through the computer.
As for Matthew, he is doing well and starting to drink deeply. I had a go bathing him yesterday, which I found rather hard. I am all fingers and thumbs anyway, without the object I am trying to hold doing lots of gratuitous squirming as well. Anyway, we both survived that and maybe Abigail will bathe him today.
OK. Time to finish breakfast and head off to work.
Yesterday afternoon and evening, Matthew began to open his eyes a little more. They sure are big! I think he has had adult-size eyeballs fitted inside his little head. He has stopped being quite so sleepy and has started nursing now, although he often takes his time to figure out what he is supposed to be doing.
He still likes to be in the same position that he was in the womb, with his legs out straight in front of his face! He is better at bending them now, but still manages to fill the whole baby trolley.
I have spent most of the morning at the city hall registering his birth and getting other paperwork done for him. (And, incidentally, discovering that I had not registered my own visa properly. It was OK, but a bit of a scare for me. Don't deport me - my family need me!) Once I have had a shower (still not allowed one at the hospital, but should be able to use the en suite one in the new room Abigail is moving to today) I will be giving little Matthew his bath.
Abigail is doing well. She was in a lot of pain the first night, but good medication and the healing process seems to be ameliorating that now. She has also been on some little walks, that are also good for her to heal properly.
Now, on with the pics:
Matthew wants to hear from you!
We would like to collect messages from you for Matthew for him to have in the future. Please send an email to his email address (matthewmunday then the "@" symbol followed by "gmail.com"). Be sure to include some information about yourself as well, such as who you are and how you know me or Abigail along with your message.
(In case you are wondering why I did not jus write his email address as normal, it is simply so that it cannot be picked up so easily by spammers.)
See Abigail introduce Matthew to the world in this short video (3.3 MB). Don't forget to look at the other pictures of him in the earlier post below as well.
Click here to see the video
This post will be more pictures than words but, just so that you know, here are the vital details:
Matthew James Munday was born on March 11th, 2006 at 13:52 Japan Standard Time at Mori Shibata Clinic in Kobe, Japan by C-section. He weighed 2,990 grams and was 48 cm long. He is a healthy, happy baby who has spent a lot of his first day in the world sleeping, although he seasoned that with a bit of "fussing" and "wide-eyed wakefulness" - particularly just as we were really ready to sleep last night. As for his appearance, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
Abigail is doing fine medically, although she was in a lot of pain last night until she asked to try a different pain-killing option, which seems to be working. She did a good job and held on bravely throughout the operation, even managing time to compliment the anaesthetist for his kindness.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present..... MATTHEW JAMES MUNDAY!
Not the day that the teddy bears have their picnic, but the day that Matthew pops out into the world!
Abigail checked in last night and I spent the night there as well in what seemed like a rather temporary kind of room next to the operating theater. Anyway, surprisingly, we slept fairly well, but then I had to come home to get a shower (not allowed to use the girl's one for some unknown reason). Abigail is not allowed to have any brekkie and will be on a drip from 9. She will then have a check up again with the doc (in case Matthew turned in the night) before going into the operating theater at about 1 pm this afternoon (Saturday, March 11th).
We (meaning I, probably) will take a lot of pics and put some of them up on the blog, so keep checking back for the latest news. Having said that, I probably won't be back home until I get my shower here tomorrow morning - but don't tell the local criminal fraternity that!
So, until next time!
I go in the hospital today at 4:00...get IVs and lots of other fun stuff, including flavorless rice gruel all day on Sunday. Yum. But best of all, we get a baby out of all this (Saturday about 1:00 Japan time)!!! Woo-hoo!
Yep, Matthew's on his way! Stephen and I saw two of the wild boars down at the foot of the mountain last night, sniffing around in front of a pet hotel. Wonder if there was no room at the inn? Anyway, can't wait for Matthew to meet them. I'm looking forward to so many things: his first smile, laugh, hugs, playing with roaming piggies...hmmm. As I grew up with a sister, I'm still not sure what it is exactly that boys do, but I can imagine throwing a cracker or two out the car window to some boars would thrill a little guy to no end.
Stephen and I went out to eat last night and were in a bit of a fog the whole time, saying, "Wow, this is our last time as just a couple with no out-of-utero baby with us..." I don't think it's very womby in there for him anymore, and he's probably just about ready to be released to hang out with us live and in person. He's ready, his room's all ready, but are his parents? As with everything new in life (I've never had an operation, never had a baby, never stayed in a hospital for eight or nine nights, etc.), we are going into this with a thousand emotions, but I definitely think excitement and wonder are at the top of the list. How could we be anything but thrilled at the prospect of a little fella made in God's image, with a personality and character all his own for us to get to know?
Matthew, when you read this in the future, know that we already love you and can't wait to meet you. You are a special, wonderful, amazing little guy, and Jesus will always love you, way more than we ever could. You are in His hands and His heart.
I have just finished going through all the different consent forms and information from the hospital for Abigail. Although I have no idea of the mechanisms of different diseases when I see them written in English, having to plow through this in Japanese is even harder. I have been reading a lot of car-related words for my work recently, so it was a bit of a change - but not quite as good as a rest, I have to say.
And this was after going out to a couple of stores to get some more baby stuff this evening. We are both wiped out, and I was thinking to myself earlier that although we will be busy when he comes, at least we will have the pleasure of hanging out with him to counter-balance it. At the moment, it just seems tiring.
Since Abigail is going to be about eight days in the hospital, we are going to try to work it so that I keep on going to work as usual, and then take the two weeks of paternity leave when she comes out. I hope I can make it through to then without getting too tired. After that, Mum and Dad will be coming, and then Abigail's parents will be arriving shortly after they leave, so it will be all action.
That reminds me: I wonder how we will get around with them and the giant baby car seat in little old Bob?
It was either this one or the REALLY huge one Stephen took from a different angle with my tummy hanging out. Didn't want to scare you, so opted for a more traditional pose, holding a new Matthew outfit that our friend Bonnie sent! So cute!
Do I really look like someone about to give birth? OK, don't answer that!
This is THE week, barring a huge miracle! I'm still praying and hoping, so pray with me that Matthew will turn and be born naturally. I went to Doc Mori again yesterday for another checkup, and the little pickle still hasn't turned AT ALL. Poo.
So, Friday I'm checking in to the hospital at 4:00 p.m. to start IVs and all kinds of fun things like that. No food after 9 p.m. that night, and no liquids after midnight! I'm a wateraholic, even in the middle of the night, so this is going to be tough for me. Also (hold your noses, please), no proper shower after the surgery until WEDNESDAY!!! Yikes! (Now you're probably all glad you won't be able to come visit me in the hospital, right?)
The c-section will take place about 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. Stephen is only allowed to be in with me because I need the technical medical Japanese help from him. If we'd been a typical Japanese couple, he would've been barred from the room.
I think the proud Stephen-papa will probably be posting a few pictures of our boy soon, but I will be out of the loop and in the non-computer-access hospital for 8 nights or so. (Yes, that's right, new mommies hang out in the Japanese hospitals a LOT longer than in the West.)
We are way excited and way scared, but know who our Papa is and how He takes good care of His kids. And we're two of the biggest kids you'll ever meet!
We've had a last belly picture request, so coming soon...
Before I get into the details of what is happening here, just have a look at these photos of our home today...
Do you notice anything? Yes, the house is a mess! Just when we thought we were getting everything under control after the move, this happens. When I say "this", what I mean is that, after a great deal of pushing from me and my new company, the apartment management co. have finally agreed to fix a problem we knew about the night after we first moved in: Condensation forming on the baseboards and running into the room dousing the carpet and anything else unfortunate enough to be in its path. So, today they are here for the whole day putting in insulation behind the new baseboard, and (somewhat irrelevantly, although it is nice) also laying a new wooden floor.
OK, we can't blame the Matthew Baby Chamber mess on anyone else, and we intend to make big inroads into that today - specifically by assembling his new chest-of-drawers and high-security baby bed. (The "high security" is provided by bars. We will fit the watchtowers and searchlights later.) So, once more unto the breach, my trusty power screwdriver, and let's make a dent in this.
(John Flavel, "The Fountain of Life")
Lord, the condemnation was Yours,
that the justification might be mine!
The agony was Yours, that
the victory might be mine!
The pain was Yours,
and the ease mine!
The stripes were Yours, and the
healing balm issuing from them mine!
The vinegar and gall were Yours,
that the honey and sweet might be mine!
The curse was Yours, that
the blessing might be mine!
The crown of thorns was Yours,
that the crown of glory might be mine!
The death was Yours,
the life purchased by it mine!
You paid the price, that
I might enjoy the inheritance!
Still can't even believe I'm married, much less pregnant and about to pop the sprog! OK, I guess I'm a little slow on the uptake of these things. 4 1/2 years of marriage probably should have sunk in by now, but it hasn't!
Well, anyway, we're going to have Matthew pretty soon. We're also looking forward to England Mum and Dad visiting in April, and American Mom and Dad coming in May.
Excitement is hanging palpably in the air! I find myself wandering around the apartment, wondering just what it is I'm supposed to be doing to get ready for the Big Event. I go into Matthew's room quite a lot to pray for him, and I feel such peace and excitement about the adventure awaiting us.
We have been pretty busy lately, but both feel so refreshed and revived after a weekend of prayer and healing meetings we attended.
Better hit the road and get some groceries now. Life goes on, even as Baby Day quickly approaches!