Blogtober 25: the third trimester

By the time the third trimester came around, we were pretty much already set. We had bought the majority of the “baby stuff” in my second trimester, during the New Year sales, which I’d had mixed feelings about. My mother didn’t buy baby things for me until much closer to her due date, so it felt almost like I was jinxing things by buying everything “too soon”, but… well, anything could theoretically happen at any time, and since we had to buy things anyway it made sense to buy them at a discount and while I still had the energy to choose what we got!

Next, I did a ton of cooking, freezing things in portions so that we wouldn’t have to bother with cooking in the evenings when my husband got home from work. My work contracts were beginning to end and no new ones were being offered (unsurprisingly) so by the time my third trimester started I was down to working only twice a week. This was fortunate, as I had been increasingly concerned about this new coronavirus spreading in Japan following the Chinese New Year (not to mention the trouble on the Diamond Princess) and was reluctant to be out and about much. I was wearing a mask and using hand sanitiser as part of my pregnancy precautions anyway, which was a blessing since it meant we already had a supply of masks and sanitiser at home before the panic-buying wave hit!

The day before I hit 31 weeks.

But unsurprisingly, this new virus continued to spread, and things continued to change.

When I went for my 29-week checkup on 3rd March, I walked into the hospital building and no sooner had I taken my shoes off and sprayed my hands with sanitiser than the nurse at the door said, “Oh, Mrs. H, you’re due mid-May? Your husband won’t be able to be with you at the birth, then.”

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Blogtober 23: the first trimester

Today, my baby is six months old! So I thought I’d write a little bit about our journey thus far.

When my doctor said “congratulations” and gestured at the piece of paper on the desk in front of my chair, I was a total blank. I was completely programmed for disappointment, for sorry, the fertilised egg didn’t stick, for your womb wasn’t a safe enough place to keep this baby, and my mind hadn’t even registered the possibility of anything else. But there it was in front of me: September 9th, 4 weeks pregnant. Oh god.

I couldn’t relax. I was still terrified. 4 weeks was nothing; it was still too early to celebrate. I’d lost babies in this early stage before. “Come back on Friday for oestrogen injections,” the doctor said. “And keep using the oestrogen patches and progesterone pessaries.” Okay, yes, yes. Focus on the practical things. The paper he’d given me warned of cramps, of spotting, of morning sickness. It asked people not to display their maternity marks inside the clinic out of consideration for people who had yet to conceive. Sure, yes, okay.

Once the appointment was over, I went into the stairwell and down a flight of stairs. I called my husband, and spoke to him in English just in case someone else overheard and was upset: “You’re going to be a daddy.”

“Oh! That’s good,” he said. “Thank god.”

My little goldfish who eventually became a human πŸ’•

Because my clinic was specifically for those with fertility issues, I not only went regularly for injections and blood tests, but I also initially had ultrasound scans every week. I wanted them every day! Is it still there? Is it still alive? I kept impulsively buying pregnancy tests “just to check” – until I read somewhere that hCG levels can still remain high enough for tests to read positive for a couple of days even after a miscarriage, so using them as a metric for whether or not the baby was doing okay was a waste of money. Hard as it was, holding on until the next checkup was the only option.

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Blogtober 22: thwarted again!

I had planned to write a longer post today on a specific topic, but I wanted to check a couple of things first before starting to write. Only, my husband decided that he wanted to install a new router, and as with all things that should “just take a couple of seconds”, there was a problem so we couldn’t access the internet for far too long and now I’ve run out of time for today πŸ˜… Alas.

In more exciting news, this time 6 months ago I had been in the hospital for almost an hour, as I’d gone into labour earlier that evening! Half a year already…

Blogtober 20: Autumn days when the grass is jewelled

I think of Autumn as being the season when leaves actually start falling, I guess. The road I grew up on had loads of big old horse chestnut trees and as a kid we used to kick through the leaves to find fallen conkers to see if we could find one that might become a sixer. I always used to hate the autumn because it meant the start of school, the days getting shorter, everything getting colder and the weather being rubbish.

These days, though, I think Autumn might be my favourite season. This is definitely because summer in Japan is so hellish πŸ˜‚ It used to be – when I still lived in England – that I preferred the spring and summer infinitely more! Finally coming out of the dark winter, searching the hedgerows for snowdrops peeking through before the first of the spring flowers bloomed, having one plant after another to look forward to as the earth warmed up again, the fields full of the new season’s lambs, and everything wonderful. In Japan, Spring is a bit… meh. Like don’t get me wrong! The deep pink and white ume blossoms are so elegant and the sakura a candyfloss explosion, and they’re perfectly magical! But after that there’s nothing really special until the rainy season hydrangeas, and after that it’s all just a case of gritting your teeth and bearing it until the end of the summer. I miss the English spring, with splashes of bright and pale yellow here and there as first daffodils and then primroses come into flower, followed by oceans of bluebells under woodland trees before the roses and summer flowers come into bloom.

But Autumn in Japan! The delicate-looking spider lilies and soft zebra grass, the sudden drop in humidity, the clearer air and the freshness in the mornings! And the food, autumn food is so good. We’ve already had hotpot twice. My husband just said this evening, “We haven’t eaten saury, so it doesn’t feel like Autumn yet…” – seasonal foods are such a big deal here and they aren’t in the same way in the UK at all. (The Pacific saury catch was incredibly low this year and the prices are high.) And then you have the autumn leaves.

A couple of years ago we had a short drive down to Hakone to look at some of the glorious autumn foliage, except we took the dog with us and he gets horribly carsick so it wasn’t fun for him at all πŸ˜… Last year I was still in my first trimester so was not doing very well (🀒) but hopefully this year we can properly enjoy the stunning autumn leaves when they eventually turn. Moving to Japan and gradually drifting more towards Shinto has made me really come to love the winding down of the year (I genuinely love the end-of-year cleaning, New Year itself, and all of the New Year traditions). Such a wonderful time to relax!

In a perfect world, I’d spend spring and summer in the UK and then move back here mid-October for the autumn and winter. How about you? What’s your favourite season? I know it’s not uncommon for certain types to overwinter in warmer climates; what would be your ideal?

Blogtober 19: fish are friends

You know the expression “more haste, less speed”? That was totally me this morning.

Baby N hasn’t had the chance to interact with the rabbit yet but she absolutely LOVES the dog. Her face simply lights up when she sees him πŸ’•

The baby usually wakes up anywhere between 5:30 and 6am, but for reasons entirely unknown this morning she decided to sleep in until just after 7am. Amazing!! BUT, as luck would have it, today was actually a day I wanted to be up and ready to go pretty early, so everything was thrown off. So there I was, rushing around trying to get everything done in order to leave the house on time, and… just as I picked up my rain poncho from the hook on the back of the door, I carelessly knocked the beautiful glass wind chime (Kira, it was you who gave it to me, wasn’t it) and it fell to the floor in the genkan with a heartbreaking smash and shattered into a million, tiny pieces.

Argh! 😭😭😭 If memory serves me adequately, it had travelled with me from Tokyo to Saitama to Osaka to Fujisawa and now to our current home, so I am extremely sad.

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Blogtober 18: cuddly toys

My apologies to people whose comments I have yet to reply to; it’s hard for me to find time at the weekends to reply to things when my husband is also at home 😭 I will get to you ASAP!

photo taken when I was 30 weeks pregnant

I have an extra confession to make: when searching through my photos for the ones I wanted to upload for today’s post I got sidetracked and ended up crying copiously (in a happy way) over ultrasound scan videos and memories of before the baby was born, and now it’s 11pm and I’ve run out of energy to write much πŸ˜‚

But! Above is a picture of the “imaginatively”-named (and much-loved) Tigger, who has been my friend since I was about 3-4 years old. I got him for my birthday (along with a recorder, and no disrespect to my parents but Tigger was by far the better present). He was actually a pyjama case, so had a hole in his butt that my mum used to turn him into an oversized hand puppet, and as such he often talked to me and gave me cuddles. He was busy looking after the house in England for a while but my mum sent him to me when I was pregnant to “help” me, and he was very brave making the transcontinental journey all by himself.

Their name is Sora (until proven otherwise)

Today, my baby met her new friend (pictured above) and they got off to a fairly excellent start. I wonder how long this friend will be in favour! They are less cuddly than Tigger, so I am not sure that they will be popular for quite as long, but the baby currently absolutely adores our Actual Dog and Sora the husky puppet has thus far been met with approval.

So tell me about your favourite cuddly toy from when you were younger! Who gave it to you? What did it look like? What was its name?

Blogtober 17: (not) studying Japanese

My first introduction to Japanese was through anime music. Not even through anime! My parents weren’t the type to have anything beyond the four available terrestrial channels and anime wasn’t on “normal TV”. One of my friends sent me – through painstakingly slow dial-up internet – Cruel Angel’s Thesis and Tamashii no Refrain, and I listened to the Cruel Angel’s Thesis so much that even my dad started learning the lyrics. I found and printed out the romaji and English translation to sing along to and I think I might have listened to nothing else for a good three weeks.

After that, one of my school friends made me a mix CD of anime theme songs she’d downloaded. I had still never watched a single anime, but oh boy did I know the music! From there, a different friend introduced me to Dir en Grey, and thus began my love affair with the “Visual kei” genre.

Only, a mere handful of years after I started getting into Vkei, several artists came to Europe on tour. My beloved Miyavi came in both 2007 and 2008, and I saw him both times (first in Germany and then in England). While I loved the music, I didn’t necessarily feel the need to understand all of the lyrics of all of the bands and besides, if you were lucky, translations could occasionally be found online. Not once did I feel the need to go to Japan.

So despite years of being interested in Japanese music (of multiple genres), I never learned anything. When I first came here in October 2010 I couldn’t speak a word and relied on my friends the whole time. When I came back in 2011 I wasn’t much better, and although I was fractionally less hopeless when I moved here in 2012, I would by no means say I could speak Japanese.

In October 2010, a drama called Nagareboshi started airing, and I started downloading it to watch in England. Dedicated fans made subtitles to match the raw video files, but it would understandably take a couple of days (at least) between the video file being available and the fansubs being released. I don’t know what it was about that drama, but I loved it. I couldn’t wait for the next episode. I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen to Takenouchi Yutaka and Ueto Aya’s characters. And I started trying to watch it raw, without the fansubs, pausing every few seconds to try to write down words so that I could look up their meanings in a desperate attempt to follow the story. And so, my tiny ability to understand things began to sprout and grow.

Now, some people can live here and not speak a lick of Japanese after more than a decade. I am almost impressed by these people, because it takes a certain ability to pick up absolutely nothing. At work, while it was technically my head teacher’s job to translate and act as an intermediary between the Japanese and foreign staff, she was pretty cold and standoffish and just flat-out didn’t translate a lot of the time. Fortunately, my manager and I got along amazingly (given that neither of us could communicate that well in each other’s language) and when she and I went out for drinks after work with some of the students I gradually felt my spindly, shaky Japanese legs begin to get stronger.

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Blogtober 16: things I wish I’d known

We’re over halfway through Blogtober now, folks! How’s it going? How are you doing?

Every evening when I get ready for bed, I inevitably see myself in the mirror. This is a mostly unpleasant experience. I’m the most overweight and least fit I’ve ever been in my life (while not incubating a tiny human) and I hate it. I know my stretch marks and still-saggy belly are supposed to be badges of honour from the ordeal that was giving birth, but my heavy body and shrivelled muscles just mean that I feel tired all the time, and I struggle to find anything about myself to be proud of. I’ll lose weight again, I’ll get fit again, I tell myself, once the baby is a little more independently mobile. Once I stop feeling so tired all the time. Someday soon.

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