Monday, June 22, 2009
Mako shook me awake around 2:45AM on Sunday morning, clutching herself and saying "We need to go to the hospital." It would later turn out that she had been in pain for nearly two hours prior to that but she stuck it out and waited to see if it would pass. It never did, so we all threw on our clothes and drove to the hospital I was understandably excited, if a little drowsy.
When we arrived I was quite surprised at the lack of initiative from the skeleton crew working the off-hours. Technically speaking, this hospital is "closed" on Sunday but they maintain a side entrance and a small reception desk during these periods. Mako called them before we left so when we arrived, they knew we were coming. That doesn't mean they did anything though. I distinctly remember one man walk past us, acknowledge our presence by simply saying "Ah, Feit-san. Go to the fifth floor." without breaking his stride. You would think a pregnant woman bent over in pain would warrant a wheelchair or some measure of physical assistance, but not here.
The fifth floor was a little busier than the ground floor, probably because there's always something going on in the maternity ward. Newborns arrive when they arrive and both they and their mothers require 24-hour care. Still, despite the buzzing of nurses around us most of the lights were off on the floor, so we spent our initial wait in the dark. Eventually Mako got a bed in the "labor room" and we were told that despite the pain, Mako was only dilated three centimeters and she needed to be at ten centimeters before any serious attempt to give birth could be made. When we asked how long that might take, they said "a while."
I must try to set the scene here by describing the labor room. There is only one room and all expectant mothers have to share it, apparently. I don't know how many beds were in the room but there was little more than a wall and a curtain to separate Mako's bed from the others. Mako was also located right next to the toilet and near the examination chair, so we were in a fairly high traffic section of a very small room. It was here that we had to wait...and wait...and wait...
As noon approached and after repeated claims of "it'll be a bit longer" it was evident that while Mako needed to lie in bed and wait, we didn't all necessarily have to sit next to her until the baby arrived. Mako's mother stayed and encouraged me to go with my father-in-law back to the house and clean up. We were all exhausted, having woken up in the middle of night only to sit and wait for nine hours in the corner of the labor room, so the idea of a shower sounded pretty good. Mako's dad also suggested we have some lunch, which I thought might help me cope with all the stress but it didn't change much. That's how nervous I was: not even eating made me feel better.
We went back to the house and I washed up. My father-in-law told me to try and take a nap which was virtually impossible. Despite all the waiting with no end in sight, I was still worried that the baby would arrive at any moment. I laid down and maybe nodded off for forty minutes or so, but I awoke sharply and scared that I had missed the birth. I hadn't, of course, but I wouldn't feel calm until I was back at the hospital and next to Mako.
Hours and hours went by, and I spent all of them by Mako's side in the corner of this horrible, horrible room. I'm not going to point any fingers here, because I certainly don't have the intestinal fortitude to endure even a tenth of what a pregnant woman goes though, but everything in this labor room carried a horrible stench. The human body generates a lot of foul smelling byproducts and this room was where they all get discharged. The delivery room (when we finally got there) was even worse, but the labor room's odor and total lack of privacy was miserable. Adding insult to injury was that my only seat was a tiny stool with no back and nothing to lean against. Between Mako's bed, her I.V. and the table where we laid out her belongings, there was barely any space for any visitors to sit by the bed.
Eventually I went out again with her father for another meal, but I again spent the entire time thinking only of her. It obviously can't compare to the physical pain a pregnant woman experiences, but to see my wife in such torturous agony all day while she waits and waits was really painful for me. However, the idea of not being with her felt even worse because we had decided together to try and have a baby. Wouldn't leaving her to have the baby without me be a betrayal of our mutual agreement?
Speaking of which, one of the worst things about this shared labor room was overhearing all of the other patients. In the next bed over was a woman who had checked in some time before us. At first she was just sleeping but as the evening approached, she went into the delivery room which was within an audible distance. She shrieked and screamed and we eventually heard the baby's first cries. A little while later, a man showed up and was surprised when he found out the baby was already born. This was obviously the father and I never saw him visit her once that day. Where the fuck was this guy that he couldn't attend his own child's birth or even comfort his wife as she struggled? His failure as a father/husband reminded me why I needed to sit next to Mako and just ignore my back pain and exhaustion. Yes, I left twice to eat meals, but I never left her alone and on both occasions I came back within an hour. At no point was Mako without a member of her family on hand.
As the sun went down, it occurred to me that Mako had just spent the entirety of the Summer Solstice indoors, waiting for this baby. After about seventeen hours, things started to look like the baby was coming. We were still in the labor room but as her dilation increased, Mako was encouraged to try pushing to speed up the process. While I had spent most of the day just sitting with Mako and occasionally massaging her, it was during these initial pushes that I actually had something important to do. Mako was standing up and hugging me, holding onto me for leverage and squeezing with all her might as she tried to push. It was crazy intense and while it would prove futile (and it hurt like hell), it was the undisputed highlight of Sunday because I felt like I mattered.
This is as good a time as any to mention how little attention the hospital staff paid attention to me, which I found deeply insulting. Maybe it's just the culture of Japan to leave the husband out of the birth process, but as I spent my entire Sunday next to my wife trying to console her and assist in the delivery our child, you would think that at one point someone would just start talking to me about something, anything, to acknowledge my constant presence. Instead, I was spoken about but almost never spoken to. The bad news is, I'm pretty sure it was that old-fashioned Japanese racism at work.
For those unfamiliar with Japanese racism, I should explain that it's not actually hateful as much as it's clueless and stupid. I'm sure none of the nurses or doctors felt anything was wrong with me, they just never thought to treat me like a human being. Instead, I was treated like a gaijin. They would ask my wife "where is your husband from?" and "does your husband speak Japanese?" instead of just asking me directly. When they needed our signatures on waivers, they would explain everything to her (while I listened) and then look at me and start stammering, mumbling to themselves "oh, how do I explain this since you cannot read?" Under the circumstances I let it all slide but inside I was pretty pissed.
But I digress...around ten o'clock we finally entered the delivery room. Mako gave it her all but after spending her entire day in pain on a bed without eating (she had no appetite at all), she found herself unable to push the baby out. They put her through a variety of poses, which means they were trying their best but it felt like they didn't really know what to do. Eventually they said there was a "bump" (こぶ in Japanese) and the baby wasn't moving any closer to the exit. Just after one AM, Mako couldn't push anymore and asked them for a C-section. True story: in Japan they call it an "imperial cut" (帝王切開).
They spent almost an hour prepping Mako for surgery and then took her away to the O.R. I was left in the dark (literally) to sit and wait to find out what was going to happen to my family. I was understandably upset by this turn of events. Was there nowhere else I could go? I knew the surgery was routine and carried relatively little risk but that couldn't stop me from worrying about what might happen on the operating table. Let's not forget that it was past two AM and I had been awake for nearly twenty-four straight hours, so I was already a little out of my mind. Being afraid that my wife or my son might not return from the O.R. was terror I didn't need.
My son was the first to appear, shortly before three AM. I wanted to be excited and revel in the moment of seeing my first child in the flesh, but all I could think about was Mako who was still absent. I asked the nurse and all she could say was "they're closing her up." While that was meant as a reassurance, I couldn't put her out of mind even as I looked down at my very healthy brand-new baby boy.
As you can guess, she eventually turned up, as did her parents who must have been up waiting for my messages. Mako was on a stretcher and couldn't sit up, but she was conscious and able to ask me if I saw the baby. I told I did and that made her smile. For all the hell the two of us had gone through (her more than me, of course), having a baby after nine months of anticipation was a wonderful feeling. I suppose if we were going to go with the surgery in the end we could have saved Mako a great many hours of discomfort by asking sooner, but we had hoped for a natural birth. Ah well, at least now my son can totally kill MacBeth.
Tell thee, Feit was from his mother's womb
Dude, congratz on the new arrival, to all three of ya! Give all our best to your good missus, and give your little one a kiss from us all too!
Zack was a C-section too, so should Macbeth ever start shit up, Feit Jr got his some backup. :oD
Again, congratulations to you all.
Carl, Cassy and Zack.
Re: C-section. The Japanese name 'imperial cut' is actually closely related to the english C-section. The 'C' in C-section comes from Caesarian which in english have three different possible etymological origins. In mainland Europe though, the prevailing explanation is Pliny the Elders story of one of Julius Caesars ancestors being delivered using this method. In the germanic languages the word for Emperor an Imperial hails from the word Caesar fx. German kaiser or Danish kejser (you should know that the C in Caesar is a glottal stop in ancient latin as it is in Italian today.) So following from wiki: "For example, the modern German, Danish, Dutch and Hungarian terms are respectively Kaiserschnitt, kejsersnit, keizersnede and császármetszés (literally: "Emperor's section")." As a native speaker of Danish and a third language speaker of German I will have to correct the above in that the verbatim translation is actually... tahdah Emperor CUT not section, this goes for the dutch as well. I can't speak for the hungarian one though as hungarian belongs to it's own obscure and mysterious Finno-Ugric language group with Finnish and Estonian.
Yes, I am a language nut.
Salena - bet you can't wait to smell that room yourself someday!
Rune - wonder if that works the same in Russian? I know tsar/czar is derived from Caesar.
When leaving comments, please don't remain Anonymous. Click on "Other" and pick a name!
Be sociable! No sign-up is required!