Last night, our daughter was born. Mayuki (Ma-yu-ki) was about 2800 grammes, and mother and baby are doing well.
Yesterday morning, Yuriko’s waters broke. We weren’t sure that that was what it was, because the amount of liquid was fairly small, but after checking the leaflet from the clinic, we decided that it would be best to go in and get it checked. We did, and the midwives quickly determined that her waters had broken, so she was admitted to the clinic for the birth. Once the waters have broken, there is a risk of infection, so the birth has to happen fairly soon. They said that they would keep an eye on the situation for twenty four hours, and begin inducing birth if nothing had happened by then; Yuriko had not really had any contractions by this point.
Once she was settled in her room, I came home to do a couple of essential jobs, such as tell all my students that English lessons were off for the next two or three weeks. Then I headed back over to the clinic. (Although it’s only a twenty minute walk, it’s up and down significant hills, so I got lots of good exercise yesterday.)
By the time I got there, Yuriko was having contractions every five minutes. They were still fairly weak (although I’m not sure she thought that at the time; hindsight is a wonderful thing), but things had moved on a lot more than we had expected. On consultation with the midwife, I decided that it was a good time to go and eat dinner. Yuriko got her dinner from the clinic, but I had to go out to eat, or eat from the convenience store. I felt that a proper dinner would probably be a better idea, so I went out.
When I got back, I didn’t plan to go any further than the toilet, so I told Yudetamago “Daddy’s here now. You can get born.” Immediately, the contractions got stronger, longer, and more frequent. Now, I don’t know whether Yudetamago was just doing as I said, but Yuriko said that labour really started just as I got back. It was definitely the right time to go to eat.
As things got more intense, Yuriko sent me off to the toilet. That was also good timing, because when I got back the midwife was there, saying that it was time to move her to the labour room. Once she had gone there, I didn’t leave her side until it was all over.
We weren’t actually in the labour room that long. The midwife said, “It’s going well. Actually, it’s going quite quickly”, and that certainly seems to be borne out by the result. Soon, we were moved to the delivery room. Yuriko said afterwards that it was quite hard to walk from one room to the other, even though they are connected by a single door.
Then the final stage of birth got going. I held Yuriko’s hand, mopped her brow, and encouraged her. Mainly, of course, I encouraged her in Japanese, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to say “Push. Puuuuush.” a couple of times…
I saw the moment of Mayuki’s birth while holding Yuriko’s hand, and then I got to cut the umbilical cord. Then they put Mayuki on Yuriko’s chest for a little while, before taking her across the room to do the initial tests and measurements. At this point, I was given permission to take photographs, so I went to get my camera and video camera. I took quite a few pictures, but I did try to balance it with direct contact, holding my daughter’s hand and talking to her in English, and then carrying her over to Yuriko. (We don’t have any pictures of me holding Mayuki yet; have to rectify that today.)
The clinic we went to believes in natural childbirth (with lots of medical equipment around in case something goes wrong), so Yuriko basically had no anaesthetic. I’m very impressed with her; in the end it was almost a completely natural birth. They also don’t wash the baby initially, although they did wipe her down a bit, and they let you rest for two hours in the delivery room, in which time Mayuki got her first feed, from the breast, of course. Apart from leaving to get the cameras, I stayed with Yuriko all that time, and then saw her back to her room. Although the clinic normally keeps mother and baby together, Yuriko was allowed to entrust Mayuki to the midwife for the first bit; they were both very tired.
And then, I came home, to call all my family in England and America and tell them the news and email them some photos of the cutest baby in the whole wide world ever.
I didn’t know quite how I would feel, so it was interesting. There was no overwhelming surge of anything, just a quiet, but very, very strong feeling of love for this new person, and a conviction that I would do anything for her. I don’t know whether you are supposed to get some unique reaction to the first sight of your child, but mine was quite simple. “She’s out! Well done Yuriko! What’s that round her neck? Oh, it’s her arm. She’s born! Isn’t she cuuuuuuute!” (She had one arm and the umbilical cord round her neck when she was born, which meant that she looked a bit strange on the way out, at least until I worked out what the bulge was.)
Lots of people say that you can’t imagine how you wil feel when you first see your own child until you do. That’s not universally true; it was more-or-less what I expected. Of course, I got to actually feel it for the time. I genuinely believe that Mayuki was really cute immediately after birth, covered in blood and with a head the shape of a… well, nothing is normally that shape. I suspect that this ever-so-slightly biased perception will continue for, oh, the rest of my life.