The Happy Event

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.

A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism

I’ve been reading a lot of books about bilingual education, and this is the latest. Actually, I’ve read three, and the other two are both recommended in the back of this one, which is quite encouraging. They all have distinctly different approaches, but they also all agree on two points.

First, raising your child bilingual is a very good idea, and very good for the child. Second, it’s a lot of work. You have to think carefully about the language environment, and try to balance it.

I think it’s inevitable that Yudetamago will grow up with stronger Japanese, unless we move out of Japan (no plans for that at the moment), since Yuriko and I will continue speaking to each other in Japanese; I’ll talk to Yudetamago in English.

Anyway, the main difference about this book was that it is more focussed on schools, and on minority languages. This is no doubt due to the author’s background: he lives in Wales, and his children are English/Welsh bilingual. Thus, there is a lot of interesting information on how to set up schools to support bilingual children, and on what to look for in a school. I suspect we won’t get as much choice as we might like, although sending Yudetamago to an English-medium school would be an option, if we had enough money.

Another interesting point was that this book confirmed something I strongly suspected based on personal experience. Older children and adults learn foreign languages faster than young children. The difference is that younger children tend to end up with a better accent, and have more years to study in total. I was convinced that my Japanese was better than a Japanese seven-year-old, and it’s nice to be told that I’m probably right. In another eight years, I might even be able to write grammatically-accurate Japanese.

Overall, I think that this book will be less immediate use than the others, due to its emphasis on schools, but in a few years’ time it will probably be very useful indeed.

New Computer

I have a new computer. Specifically, I have one of the new metallic iMacs from Apple, the 20″ one. (Wait long enough, and that link will point to the newer versions, but for now, it’s the one I have.) It arrived Tuesday morning.

It’s really nice. Big, bright, clear screen, really fast processor (2.4GHz), enormous hard drive (750Gb), nice keyboard and mouse; the hardware is great. I took it out of the box, connected up, plugged in, and put a DVD in to enjoy the show. Box opening to use: five minutes, if that.

Of course, I want to run Ubuntu Linux on it, so that wasn’t the end. Next, I had to download and burn four live CDs from Ubuntu, to find one that worked with my machine and booted it. Then I partitioned the hard disk, reinstalled MacOS X, and restarted again. Next, start from the Ubuntu CD, and install. I had to use the Gutsy Gibbon Tribe 5 testing release, because the 07.04 stable release doesn’t seem to work with this machine. (This isn’t surprising, because the machine is newer.) At this point, it wouldn’t boot into Linux, so I had to poke around on the web a bit to find rEFIt, which I installed, and which worked flawlessly first time.

So, at this point I had two working systems, and I copied my Linux files over from the tarball I’d made on my external USB drive. In the process, I discovered that USB 2.0 is about twenty times faster than USB 1.1. I knew it was faster, but I hadn’t realised it was that much so.

Moving data to the Mac side was held up by the fact that my old machine was not working at all well in Target Disk mode, so in the end I copied everything to the USB external drive, and then copied it on to the new machine. My photos took about four hours to copy onto the disk, and about fifteen minutes to come off again. The old computer only has USB 1.1…

A couple of pieces of software I use a lot weren’t in the Ubuntu repositories, so I briefly pointed Synaptic at the Debian repositories to get them. Then I had fun and games trying to get Japanese input working. The software was easy, but I ended up having to set environment variables in /etc/environment. Still, all working now.

Thus, all told and including sleep and teaching, it took a bit less than 36 hours from delivery to fully-functional. That’s still, I think, fairly fast, given what I needed to do.

And if you understood everything in this post, I am afraid that you are indisputably a geek.

Clinically Speaking

Another clinic visit, another chance to spend twenty minutes listening to Yudetamago’s heartbeat (which is fun, especially as she was being lively and moving round), and more blurry ultrasound pictures which we are assured are a face. But no sign that she’s getting ready to be born yet. I think she might need a bit of encouragement, so I’ll start saying things like “You can be born any time now. Next week would be good. Even tomorrow is OK. The exit is down, by the way, so you might want to move a bit in that direction”. After all, until she’s born we have to keep going for check-ups, and that mounts up.

Still, no problems, and the doctor seemed generally positive and happy, which suggests that things are in a reasonably good state overall. I’ll just have to keep driving Yuriko out of the flat to take her walks.