I’m currently at 37 weeks, and I feel huge. I can’t sleep very well at night, I can’t eat very well, I can’t move around, and something (elbow, foot, head) is always digging into my ribs, stomach, or back. There’s literally no room left in there for 3 more weeks of growth! It’s getting harder to walk, too. Whenever I stand up after I've been sitting for a while, my hips feel loose and I have to take a few wobbly steps before I can walk normally. I’m starting to understand why some people drink castor oil and eat pineapple by the bucket load to try to get the labor process started early. Not me though, I'm content to let baby stay in there as long as he/she wants though, because the longer she/he stays in there, the more paid maternity leave I get. (No matter when the baby arrives, I'll go back to work January 15th. However, if she/he stays till the due date of Oct. 25th, I won't have to take any unpaid leave. However many days early he/she comes is how many unpaid vacation days I'll have to take.)
I started maternity leave last week, and I think it’s a good thing. I initially didn't want to take off a complete month before the due date, but that’s how things are done here. In fact, leaving work 6 weeks before the due date is the law, and I needed to get a note from my doctor just so I could work an extra two weeks. I didn't want to sit at home and be bored all day and I only get 70% of my wage on maternity leave, so I figured, why not work a couple extra weeks? Well, although I feel fine physically, I think it’s best that I left. My brain is super checked out. I had to really push myself to keep caring about teaching English when all I wanted to do was read baby blogs or make lists of things we still needed to prepare for the baby. Also, I've been having pretty bad insomnia, sometimes I can’t sleep more than 3 or 4 hours a night for a few days in a row. That was really hard while I was working, so I’m thankful that I can stay home now and I'm thankful that I live in a country where the government will pay for 3 months of maternity leave.
I’ve got lists and lists of things to do to keep me busy while I stay home. At the top of the list is study Japanese. I’ve got lots of baby related vocabulary that I need to learn so I’m not completely lost at the hospital. My nurse and doctor can speak English, but I’ll be in the hospital for 5 days and none of the rest of the workers in the maternity ward speak English. I also need to study general Japanese because Jon and I signed up to take a Japanese test in December. They only offer this test twice a year, so the timing isn’t ideal (hopefully we won’t be too sleepy from having a 6 week old when we go in to take our tests), but I think we’ll both do ok. Other than study, I want to scrub all the corners of the house, finish getting everything ready for baby, and enjoy this last month of relaxing before baby arrives.
At our last checkup, I was happy to see that T-Rex’s growth is slowing down a bit. If he/she had kept growing at the same rate, he/she would have been a 10 pound baby! However, it looks like T-Rex will be around 8 pounds, which is very doable. Also, when I had a pelvic exam today, the doctor and nurse were pretty shocked at just how far along I am. Apparently, I’m already dilated 3 cm. Also, it seems that I have a nice wide open pelvis for having the baby. He/she should be able to walk right out. I guess that's my European body shape coming to the rescue. Sometimes I see Japanese moms walking around and they have such teeny tiny hips, I can't believe a baby fit through them!
Anyhow, this past month, I've already gone into the hospital twice thinking that the baby was coming. Both times I knew I wasn't in full-fledged labor, but I thought it might be starting and because it was too early for baby to come out, I went in the hospital to check it out and be safe. If baby WAS trying to make an early appearance, they might be able to stop the labor if they catch it early. Both times, it turned out that I was fine, baby was fine, and nothing needed to be done. However, I’m really grateful that we live in a country with such affordable health care. Both of those extra visits weren't covered by my maternity insurance, so they warned me I’d have to pay out-of-pocket for the visits. I had to pay about 25$ the first time and $2 the second time. If Jon and I lived in the states, we’d have to think much more carefully about going in to the hospital and “better safe than sorry,” is a lot easier choice to make when you know it will only cost you a few bucks to set your mind at ease that the baby is healthy.
While at the last check-up, they gave us a list of things to bring to the hospital, and it was quite a list. I had imagined packing a backpack, but I think I’ll need a full size suitcase! I guess that’s what happens when you stay for five days instead of one or two as is standard in the states. One of the things on the list that we won’t need to worry about is a little keepsake box for the umbilical cord. In Japan, they keep the dried up cord stump as a memento for the baby. I think they’d faint if I told them we plan to throw it away when it falls off because it’s gross.
But, man, there are so many things about this whole labor thing that are just icky. It reminds me of the 30 Rock episode when Tracy Jordan has a new baby and asks, “Why’s that baby all covered in goop?” and the doctor answers, “Because everything about this is disgusting!” I’m excited to have our precious baby, and I'm amazed at the miracle of life, and I’m excited to be a mom and see Jon be a dad, and I’m a little surprised at how quickly we acclimated to talking about pretty icky things as we walk down the street--but still.....having babies can be kinda gross.