A Routine?

Things seem to be settling into a bit of a routine now. Obviously, it’s still a routine that gets disrupted and moved about by Mayuki’s moods, but even that can become routine. I don’t know when in the evening i’ll have to carry Mayuki around the living room to keep her calm, but I can be pretty sure it will happen. I am trying to give her her bath at a fairly consistent time every day, though.

I’m a bit tired today, so I think the new baby is finally catching up with me. Yuriko also looks a bit tired. I am sure that everyone with experience of having children is deeply surprised.

I think Mayuki may be putting weight on now that she’s on the bottle as well, but it’s a little hard to tell over a couple of days; really, we’ll have to wait to go back to the clinic and see what the results are. She is still lively, and made some new noises this morning. According to Yuriko, she laughed properly yesterday. It’s not clear whether it was a real laugh, but it was all the right sounds.

One odd thing is that she really doesn’t seem to like having her legs covered. If we put anything over them, she kicks and fusses until they’re bare again. I can only assume that this is because she is too hot, or, at least, not too cold. She doesn’t seem to be chilled when I pick her up, so that’s a good sign.

Taking to the Bottle

We took Mayuki for another check-up yesterday, and her weight is not climbing quickly enough. It looks like Yuriko’s milk has not come in fully yet. Mayuki’s weight has been going up, so obviously milk has been coming through, but there hasn’t been enough. So, we’re on to supplementing with bottle milk for a little while. Fortunately, we got a free sample of suitable formula from the clinic, and that may, if we’re really lucky, last long enough for Yuriko’s milk to get going properly.

Mayuki is certainly quite enthusiastic about drinking from the bottle, and does seem to be a bit more settled now. Still, she cried quite a lot yesterday evening. It’s a bit unfortunate that, with work starting again, I can’t help Yuriko as much now as I could before, but there’s nothing to be done about that.

So, it looks like Mayuki has to stop being the slender baby she is at the moment, and put some weight on. Baby fat is OK when you are actually a baby…

Life Insurance

Yesterday, I applied for life insurance. Now I have a daughter, this has become rather necessary. As is normal with these traditionally complicated and intimidating things, I had to do it in Japanese. (At some point, I will have to make a will in Japanese as well. The main reason that hasn’t happened yet is that I have no idea what I have to do, and I know it will take me some time to find out. Given that I do know that the basic rules will give everything to Yuriko and Mayuki, it’s not yet urgent. Anyway, back to the other death topic.)

Some bits of the form were partcularly odd. For example, one of the declarations I had to make was that I was neither a US citizen, nor possessed of the right of permanent residence in the US. Not sure why it’s impossible for this company to insure the lives of USAnians.

Another really odd bit was the box to authorise people other than the insured person to claim the insurance money. This is for use when, due to exceptional circumstances, the insured person is unable to make the claim himself.

This is life insurance. If I can make the claim, they are unlikely to pay out.

So, anyway, I filled that in, figuring that it was probably the result of some not-as-well-thought-out-as-it-might-be regulation. I really don’t want a legal technicality to get in the way of any applications.

Life insurance is an odd product. After considering the full range, I’ve gone for one that doesn’t pay money back while I’m alive, because I can’t afford enough cover if I go for one that does pay back. Thus, I am paying out lots of money from which I will never see any benefit. I will never even get to see anyone else benefitting from it. And, of course, I really, really hope that all the money I’m paying out will simply disappear and be completely wasted. And yet I still think I’m doing the right thing.

Yes, definitely a very odd product.

The one I’ve gone for is a bit different to the standard. Instead of paying out a lump sum on death, it pays out a monthly sum for the rest of the term of the insurance (up to my 60th birthday), or five years, whichever is longer. This means that the payout drops as time goes on, but then so should the amount of money necessary. By 2031 Mayuki will be 24, which is old enough to become independent.

The main benefit of this is that I can actually afford to take out enough insurance to cover Yuriko and Mayuki’s needs. On the lump sum plans, I can’t afford the premiums.

Anyway, as long as they accept my application, that’s now done, and the money will just go out every month, so I don’t need to worry about it. I can concentrate on trying to make sure that it’s completely unnecessary.

Feeding Troubles

You would think that, if anything were instinctive, breast feeding would be. Apparently not, however. We went for another check-up for Mayuki yesterday, and she doesn’t seem to be getting enough to drink. The main problem seems to be that she has been sleeping through times when she should be fed, and hasn’t been attaching herself to the nipple properly. So Yuriko got a few instructions on how to encourage her to do it properly, and now we have to wake her up to make her eat, whether she thinks she’s hungry or not. We’re going back for another check-up in a couple of days, to see is Mayuki’s weight gain is back on course. If not, we may have to go with supplementary bottles for a little while.

The natural question is “how did people get on before there were clinics to give advice?”, and the answer is “the infant mortality rate was about 1 in 4”, so I think I’ll stick with the modern system and clinics, and follow the advice. As things stand, there is no significant risk that Mayuki will die in the next twenty years, and I’d like to keep it that way, thank you.

On the bright side, she’s started making new noises. In addition to burps, hiccups, and sneezes, and the extensively-practised cry, she’s started saying “ah” and such from time to time. Not very consistently yet, but I suspect this is the first step towards baby babbling, and thus the very first step towards talking. She’s got quite a long way to go yet, though.

These Lungs Were Made For Talking

…but for now they’re going to cry. Yes, Mayuki has truly discovered the wonderful potential of her lungs and throat for making a piercing sound that, if continued for long enough, makes whatever is bothering her go away. Whether her mother appears with the Magic Milk Machines, or her nappy suddenly gets dry and comfortable, or Mummy or Daddy just comes to hold her, something good happens.

Of course, sometimes we fail to make the hiccups instantly go away. (Actually, that’s unfair. Mayuki doesn’t actually cry much when she has hiccups. She just looks somewhat bemused.)

In many ways, it’s a good sign; it shows that she has energy, and that her lungs and voice are developing normally. The fact that she cries a lot in the evening and early night is also, according to the Paranoid Parents’ Primer, normal, so that’s nothing to worry about. And, of course, crying babies are one of the necessary rites of passage of parenthood. You can’t be a proper parent until you’ve done it.

On the bright side, she’s started smiling in her sleep, and this morning, she smiled at me while her eyes were open. It’s still a bit ambiguous whether it’s a proper smile, but we’re nearly there.

The real trick will be getting her to smile at her grandparents and aunts over the internet.

Registration, Part One

A couple of days ago, I went to the Ward Office to get Mayuki properly registered in Japan. She now has her Japanese birth certificate, and is, or will soon be, registered on Yuriko’s family record, which proves that she is Japanese. (I don’t get properly registered there; I’m just a footnote.)

The next step was applying for child benefit, at the next window along, which is 10,000 yen per month until the age of three, and then 5,000 yen per month until the age of 12, with an income limit. I’m not particularly close to the income limit, so we’ll be getting it. It’s paid three times per year, and, conveniently, one of the standard payment dates is in October. For some reason, payment starts from the month after you apply, so ours will start from October. The child benefit window is the same as the foreigner registration window. I have no idea why.

Then I had to apply for the one-off payment for the birth, which was another different window, because this comes from the health insurance. It’s 350,000 yen, which doesn’t actually cover the cost of the birth, but does cover about half of it, all told, and so it not to be sneezed at. That should appear in my bank account next month as well.

Finally, at the same window, I had to apply for Mayuki’s free medical treatment certificate. On the national system, we have to pay 30% of the costs. However, Kawasaki City will pay that 30% for all children in their first year, and up to the age of 12 if the family has under a certain income level. I got that certificate while I was there, which is useful.

However, because this isn’t a national certificate, it only works at hospitals in Kanagawa Prefecture. If Mayuki gets ill somewhere else (her grandparents’ in Nagoya, for example), we have to pay and then claim back from Kawasaki. It seems like a little unification of the system would save money.

Indeed, that struck me as being generally the case. I had to do four separate applications at three separate windows, but in the overwhelming majority of cases people with a new baby will do all of them. It would surely be a lot easier for everyone if there were just one application procedure. This sort of vertical division is a widely-recognised problem with Japanese bureaucracy, so I don’t imagine it will be getting fixed any time soon.

The next step is to register the birth at the British Embassy, for which I apparently need my passport and my birth certificate. I have a strong feeling that I didn’t get the copy I needed when we got married back, so I may have to order another one from the UK. I have one more box to check before I do that, though.

Fortunately, there is no legal obligation to register the birth; Mayuki is a UK citizen automatically. To get any of the benefits, though, she has to be registered, and it’s likely to be easiest for us to do that now. Especially as she might well need a British passport in the near future. Still, it means that there is no tearing rush to get it done.

Anyway, she’s properly registered here, and we’ll be getting the benefits we’re entitled to, so that’s good.

She’s also got better at crying over the last couple of days. I suppose she has to grow into it before she can grow out of it, so it’s a good thing, really.

Noises in the Night

Mayuki woke up and cried last night. Yuriko was right on it, but it still took a while to settle her. Fortunately, because Yuriko was right on it, I didn’t need to wake up properly, so I got back to sleep quickly once Mayuki settled.

At the moment, we seem to be working on a pattern where I sleep roughly normal times, and Yuriko sleeps when Mayuki does, which means that Yuriko sleeps large portions of the day as well. So far it’s working quite well. The trick, of course, is that, at least once I start teaching again, I need to be awake during the day, so that I can work, while, as Yuriko is not working, that is less critical for her. I end up doing a fair bit of housework and much of the shopping, but the night is largely being left to Yuriko.

I actually feel a bit guilty about that, but that’s silly. While it’s important that Yuriko gets enough sleep, it’s not important that she gets it at night, at least not at the moment. (We’ll have to work on that as time goes on, but it’s too early yet.) I, on the other hand, both need enough sleep, and need it at night. Working is also a necessary part of child-rearing, after all.

I suspect that one of the most important qualities in the next few weeks, months, and years will be flexibility; adapting quickly to changes in Mayuki’s situation. Attempts to set up clearly defined plans are likely to fail, and have lots of bad consequences.

New Lifestyle

So Mayuki has been home for a couple of days, and I’m trying to get used to my new lifestyle. I’ve changed a few nappies, helped with a bath, and managed to get a full night’s sleep despite the presence of the baby. This was due to Yuriko keeping Mayuki quiet, and thus getting very little sleep herself. So Yuriko sleeps during the day.

And this blog entry was just interrupted because Mayuki started crying.

I’m not sure that Yuriko and I will get to eat together very often. Yesterday evening, Yuriko looked after Mayuki while I ate, then I looked after her while Yuriko ate. This morning, I took first shift, holding her while Yuriko ate breakfast, and then Yuriko took over while I did the same.

There is, of course, a fundamental asymmetry between us. We’re raising Mayuki on breast milk, so I can’t do the feeding. That means that Yuriko will inevitably do more than I do, but I’m doing my best to make sure that she doesn’t feel as though she has to cope with the baby all by herself. And, of course, I want to have chances to cuddle my daughter.

Mayuki is already showing changes. She is much more active than she was immediately after birth, waving her arms and legs around a lot. In the last couple of days she’s started grasping with her hands, and trying to put them in her mouth, but she’s not really co-ordinated enough to manage that yet. Still, it’s surprising how much change we can see in such a short time.

Parenthood is good so far. I gather that there’s quite a lot more to come, however.

Mayuki is Home

Yuriko and Mayuki came home from the hospital today. Mayuki is currently asleep in her cot in the bedroom, and so Yuriko is also taking a nap. Mayuki has been sleeping quite a lot today, which does not bode well for her sleeping a lot tonight… I suppose I have to get used to this.

Anyway, it’s lovely to have them home. I feel more like a family now that they are here, and I don’t have to walk twenty five minutes to see them.

Yuriko’s mother is also here, and was really delighted to see her first grandchild in the flesh. My family will have to wait a little bit longer for that, alas.

What’s in a Name?

Quite a few people have asked me where Mayuki’s name came from, and Japanese names work a bit differently from Western ones, so I think it might be worth explaining here.

Japanese law only allows people to have two names, a given name and a family name. The family name is determined by the name on the family register. The given name is chosen by the parents, but once registered, it is very difficult to change, unlike England. In addition, there are limits on the characters you can use in a name. You may only use hiragana, katakana, and particular kanji. (The kana are the syllabic scripts, like alphabets, and kanji are the ideograms from China.) There are over 2,000 kanji to choose from, but you can’t, for example, use the kanji for “cancer” or “corpse”, if I recall correctly.

Within those limits, however, you have almost total freedom. What is more, if you write the name in kanji, you can choose the way that it is pronounced freely, because the pronunciation is not officially recorded, and thus not officially regulated. It is sensible to choose a pronunciation that naturally goes with those kanji, but that practice is not universal.

Thus, choosing a name for you baby is not a matter of choosing from a list of names. There are popular names, but creating your own is also quite common. Even for the popular names, you can choose the kanji you want to write it with; there are double lists of popular names, one for the pronunciation, and one for the written characters. It is not uncommon for a name to be in the top ten on one, but right down on the other. If a popular sound has a lot of possible, and sensible, kanji, its numbers might be evenly split six or seven ways on the written list. On the other hand, a moderately popular pronunciation with only one sensible set of characters could appear very high up the written list.

One side effect of this is that it always makes sense to ask someone how to pronounce or write their name in Japan. There are many names where you can make a good guess, particularly going from the written form to the spoken, but not always. For example, Megumi, a popular girl’s name, can be written 恵美 or æ„›, but the second character can also be read “Ai”, which is another popular girl’s name. Girls names, in particular, might be wholly or partially written in kana, because they are perceived as feminine. Yuriko writes her name with two kana, for the first two syllables, and then kanji for the final “ko”.

The other thing that some people consider is the number of strokes that it takes to right the name. There’s the practical issue of not requiring a young child to learn lots of highly complex kanji right at the start, but there’s also a form of fortune telling based on the absolute number of strokes, and the number fo strokes combined with the number in the family name. Some people apparently take it very seriously, to the point that baby name books include advice on getting round grandparents who don’t like the name you’ve chosen because it has the “wrong” stroke count. The best way, apparently, is to say that you’re relying on a different regional tradition, because there are lots of different rules for which combinations are good and which are bad.

Anyway, we completely ignored that one.

I wanted Mayuki to have a very Japanese given name, because she’s half Japanese and half English, but already has a purely English family name. Western-derived names, like Anna, are quite popular at the moment, but Anna Chart doesn’t sound at all Japanese. I finally managed to win Yuriko over on this point.

So, the next stage was to think about the sound we wanted. Obviously, it had to be something that English-speakers could pronounce correctly, and that would be fairly easy to spell, and have only one sensible English spelling. However, it also had to sound nice.

That left far too much choice, so we narrowed it down by looking at kanji. Because kanji are ideograms, they give the name its meaning. Thus, I wanted to give her a kanji name. I didn’t want a name ending in “ko”, even though that’s very common for Japanese girls’ names, because the kanji means “child”. Similarly, I wanted to avoid cute names like “Flower bud”, which are fine for young girls, but less appropriate when she’s fifty and trying to become the first female Prime Minister of Japan. For example. The kanji meaning “beautiful” is also a very common component of girls’ names, but I was a bit ambivalent about that. I mean, obviously she will be, but I felt I’d prefer a name that didn’t focus on appearance. For similar reasons, I wanted to avoid flower names.

So, I went through a drew up a list of characters I liked. One I really liked was 真, which means “genuine, real”, and, in names, is commonly read “ma”, which is the first syllable of my mother’s middle name, “Mary”. Yuriko decided that she wanted to include ç”±, which means “reason”, and is the first character of her mother’s name.

That gave us “ma” and “yu”. “Mayu” and “Yuma” are both possible, but we decided to play around a bit with the sounds. “Mayuko” has that “ko” character, so that was out. “Mayumi” is quite a common name, and has the beauty kanji last. “Mayuna” was another candidate; the “na” would normally be written with the “na” from “Kanagawa”, and is a very popular final syllable for girls’ names right now. But then we thought of “Mayuki”. We liked the sound, because it seemed somehow bright, and it manages to be a bit unusual without being strange. “Mayumi” and “Miyuki” are both common girls’ names, but “Mayuki” is not (yet). So, it sounds like a girls’ name, but not like one that everyone has heard a million times already.

When we looked at candidate kanji for the final syllable and discovered that we could use the kanji for “joy”, which is my father’s wife’s name, that settled it.

真由喜: “genuine reason for joy”.