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
つづく...(Click here to read more)
Monday, June 01, 2009
I hope your answer is "no" because I don't feel that way at all, but I just recently ran into some Japanese Internet issues that forced me to think about what it is that I do, digitally speaking.
For starters, I picked this domain name in 2004 because it is a pun featuring my own last name. I subsequently went on to use feitclub as my username on a number of online forums and other websites (most of which are gathered on my contact page). It's a pretty thin veil of anonymity because I didn't really consider using my own name online to be a problem. Yet I can remember a lot of people being extremely nervous when they heard I was starting a blog and writing about myself on the Internet using my own name. They felt something about that was inherently dangerous and I couldn't understand why.
Flash forward to today and I live in a country where that attitude is widespread: Japan is afraid of the Internet. I had heard that before from What Japan Thinks but this article (and this recent non-controversy) really sum up the matter quite well. I had always assumed Japanese web pages sucked because they were designed with mobile phones in mind, but he argues that the real reason is a general distrust of the Internet as a medium. Fear of new technology isn't unheard of but sometimes I feel like Japan is almost trying to wait it out, as if the Internet is just going to go away someday.
This fear hit home not too long ago when Mako casually commanded me to never post a picture of our baby on the Internet. She said she had no objections to sending pictures to friends or family, but putting up a picture for everyone to see is apparently out of the question. When I asked why, all she could say was "It's my baby." I didn't argue because she is very pregnant right now and completely unstable, so she says a lot of things that don't make sense or at least contradict her own long-held opinions. At one point last month she said she never wanted to go to America again, but this weekend she couldn't stop talking about visiting Boston after seeing a TV special about the city (and its cuisine).
Even if she reverses herself or doesn't even remember making such a declaration, I am wondering if she is actually right. Between this blog, Twitter, and Facebook, I am producing a steady of stream of words and images featuring and starring me. My life is hardly an open book (there's plenty of stuff that cannot/should not be made public) but I offer the Internet a substantial look at my life. That's something I have chosen to do and I enjoy it. If nothing else, it's a fun exercise to keep myself writing and it serves as a record of what I'm up to should I ever need to recall what Mako and I ate on our first date. Mako is basically along for the ride, posing for silly pictures knowing full well they will end up on the Internet. However, it will be years before our son is old enough to grasp what the hell an Internet is. Is it right to simply decide that he is on board with all this?
Allow me to answer my own question, because I just realized I'm looking at this the wrong way: Yes, it is OK for me to make these decisions for my son because I am his father. It's going to be my job to decide a lot of things concerning my son for decades. These decisions will run the gamut from trivial (i.e. choosing when we take family vacations) to fundamental (disciplining him if he steals something), and that will include encouraging him to embrace certain cultural phenomena that I enjoy. There's nothing sinister or Orwellian about it; in fact, the reason I know the word "Orwellian" is because my father gave me Animal Farm to read when I was in second grade.
Indeed, there were a lot of interests my father tried to pass on to me when I was growing up. My father loved baseball when I was a kid, and so did I. I would hope my son will learn to love it too (He doesn't have to love the Yankees, of course, just so long as he doesn't choose the Red Sox). My father was fascinated by history, especially military history. He took us to Civil War battlefields as a family and played strategic war games with his friends. He loved skiing and sailing. I didn't embrace all of these things, but I know that being exposed to all of them had an affect on me. I'm sure all the traveling we did encouraged me to visit Japan when I did.
As for me, I am not scared of the Internet and I hope my son grows up accepting it as a part of his life. He doesn't need to write his own blog or anything, but I don't want him to feel like the Internet represents some kind of threat to his privacy. Of course, I am not a dictator. These kinds of decisions will be made by the two of us and if Mako holds her ground, you may not be seeing any pictures of our son on the Internet at all. She has just as much right to shape our child as I do, and in the big picture this isn't something worth fighting over. It's not like she'll be raising him as a Luddite. Whatever happens, I hope my son will at least come to view the Internet as something that can be both fun and useful. After all, no matter where he decides to live in the future, he will need to use it to keep in touch with half of his family. I don't want that to become a chore that he loathes.
つづく...(Click here to read more)
Monday, March 23, 2009
I thought about expanding on my all too brief review of The Incredible Hulk today, but the more I think about the movie, the more I realize it's just not worth the effort. If they didn't really care about the final product, why should I bother elaborating on exactly why the movie isn't very good? In the end, the film obviously aspired to be nothing more than a mediocre replacement for the awful Hulk film from 2003. They reached for the middle ground and they got there. Mission accomplished: your movie isn't worth watching.
Movies are definitely on my mind because it's been a while since I hit the theaters. I missed Benjamin Button because Mako strung me along: she insisted she wanted to see it so I waited for her, but when it came time to go she said she wasn't that interested and she couldn't sit through a three hour film. I'm not mad, of course, but I'm a little disappointed that she didn't just admit to me earlier that she wasn't going to watch it. I can feel her pulling the same stunt with Valkyrie and Watchmen as we speak - when I ask her she says she wants to go, but when I suggest a time and a place she backs down. Does she just not want me going to the theater without her? It doesn't seem fair to wait for weeks/months for these films to come to Japan and then have Mako decide that I'm waiting another four months until they come out on DVD.
I guess I need to write more about the unborn baby because it's all people ask me about when they call or write. The baby hasn't gone anywhere folks, he's right where I left him. He continues to grow and physically abuse Mako's insides. At this point, when he kicks her I can feel it without actually touching her belly. Just lying in bed next to Mako is enough to pick up on the shockwaves. It looks like our baby is The Juggernaut. At least I know what to name him now: Cain.
That's a joke, of course, which reminds me: no, I'm not telling anyone what the baby's name is going to be. We've pretty much secured a single choice after culling so many options from a variety of cultures. Mako can be very stubborn and, whether she's kidding or not, she has been pushing for "Daniel" since the fall. For some reason, I was able to let go of my suggestions that she shot down ("sorry my boy, your mother wouldn't let me name you Akira") but she will not stop with "Daniel," "Junior," or worst of all "D.J." If my son wants to be a DJ when he grows up, he can spin all the records he wants. But I'll be damned if his birth certificate is going to have two initials where his name should be.
OK, I can feel this post getting nasty, so let's end on an upbeat note. Last night I successfully earned a trophy in PixelJunk Eden for completing an entire garden in less than ten minutes. I beat it with just five seconds to spare. I welcome any and all congratulatory comments, e-mails, telegrams, and chocolates.
つづく...(Click here to read more)
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Some of you (ok, one of you) wrote to me concerned about the tone of these recent tweets. If I sounded scared and worried it's because I was. Mako had come home from shopping last Wednesday and promptly shut me out. She spent the rest of the evening either laying on the couch or in bed, not speaking to me unless I asked her a direct question and then only managing one word responses. The next morning she continued her stand-offish behavior and only after I pushed her to tell me what was wrong did she admit that she wanted "to talk," insisting it would have to wait until after I came home from work. Her tone was so gloomy and she seemed so distant that I seriously feared the worst possible news, hence the gravity of those messages I posted.
The good, no, great news is that there is no crisis and Mako is almost entirely back to her normal, adorable self. The bad news is that her sour mood and sullen behavior was an off-the-wall reaction to me playing a video game, indicating that the love triangle I mentioned is apparently not blowing over and going away. Again, I must stress that things have cooled considerably since last week but the ease at which this non-issue erupted makes me a little anxious. Here is a woman who was more composed than I was at our emotional 2006 parting because she decided "don't cry," yet she was in tears last Thursday questioning my commitment to our marriage and the baby.
Having had enough time to process and reflect on all that was said, I think I'm able to better understand where she was coming from. Mako is going though an incredible transformation right now, one that I am physically incapable of comprehending. Of course I think about the baby constantly and I actively wonder about how well I will be able to handle the responsibilities heading my way, but that's no comparison to what Mako is dealing with every day. She's got that little monster tucked deep inside her, growing by the minute and making enormous demands towards that purpose. The resulting discomfort, both physical and emotional, is clearly beyond my understanding.
So it's important that I cut her some serious slack when it comes to irrational behavior and accusatory leaps of logic like what happened last week. Looking back, I can see that this incident was simply part of a larger pattern where she frets about the baby and openly doubts about our child-rearing skills, not just mine. Usually this attitude manifests itself as questions about the baby that range from sensible ("What if the baby is a boy?") to the unusual ("What if the baby is gay?") to downright insane ("What if the baby is Haruna Ai?"). I need to learn to forget about what happened just as easily as I laugh about the silly questions, because it's all coming from the same place: she's scared. I'm scared too, but she's simply closer to all of this so she's not going to be as logical about it as I can be.
つづく...(Click here to read more)
Monday, January 05, 2009
Let me back up a little bit. I bought my PS3 early last Spring after we got ourselves a new widescreen TV. After an extended hiatus from video games, I was back on board with a bright, shiny, new console. But even though I bought Grand Theft Auto IV right away and spent the rest of 2008 grappling with PixelJunk Monsters, PixelJunk Eden and Bionic Commando: Rearmed, my gaming habits were still very much in the background. Part of this was Mako's work schedule which allowed me time to play before she got home, but mostly it was the nature of those games. I don't want to get into the whole "casual vs hardcore" nonsense that surrounds video game culture right now, but all of those titles I mentioned are extremely easy to pick up or put down. A spare twenty or even ten minutes is all I need to get a satisfying dose. I suspect that was a big reason I never fully embraced the impressive GTAIV because I was unwilling (or unable) to really commit an evening to the story and the lengthy gameplay sessions that go with it.
In the last week, however, a new development has come up: Resistance 2. Richard bought me the game as a Christmas present while getting a copy for himself because the game has been lauded for its online cooperative mode. Up to eight people can join together and fight hordes of monsters and the catch is that the gameplay is centered around teamwork. By that, I mean that each player chooses one of three different units (soldier, medic, special ops) and they must work together to survive - no unit is strong enough to fight alone. As a game enthusiast who has always resisted online competitive battles because I'm not good enough to defeat strangers, the opportunity to really be part of a team and fill a specific role was instantly appealing. There's also an RPG element to the game as your chosen unit will gain experience and "level up" as you play. After just one session, even though we failed, I was hooked.
As you might already suspect, a team-based eight-player cooperative shooter does not allow for quick sessions. Between starting the game, logging onto the network, joining a party of my friends, and finding an available session (or starting one of our own), that's at least six or seven minutes. Finishing one stage takes at least fifteen minutes and can easily take much, much longer. Gaining enough experience to level up takes even longer still: on one late-night session I spent three hours on the game and I only advanced one level during that time.
Even though I tend to play when Mako is out or asleep, she has taken notice of my sudden interest in this game and the PS3 in general. I can understand her reservations and her surprise, because this is the first time in our entire relationship that I've exhibited this kind of behavior. What I can't understand is her reaction - it varies between silent rage and self-doubt. For some reason she seems to feel threatened by my interest in games. She has accused me of playing "nothing but games" on a day where we spent hours together shopping at the mall, eating lunch and watching a Keanu Reeves movie just because she loves him (spoiler alert: it's not too good). She has actually asked me whether I love the PS3 more than her - or the baby. She wants to know if I will ignore our future infant's needs because I'm playing a video game. No amount of reassurance or denials on my part seems to persuade her otherwise.
From my perspective, I feel unfairly pressured by all her dramatic behavior. I recognize that too much game playing is a selfish dick move in a small apartment with one TV that must be shared (regardless of our marital status), but despite her hyperbole this game is not dominating my time or infringing on the attention I spend on her. Most of my playtime has come when Mako is asleep, and when she is awake I always ask her if she minds if I play before turning on the machine. What I've learned is that even when she says "Yes" she sometimes means "No." I really don't appreciate the deception or the notion that playing a game is somehow "wrong" instead of watching TV or using the Internet, our usual nighttime activities.
Obviously, this is a new issue and things will take time to settle. No major action is needed and no confrontations are forthcoming. We're just going to have to wait and see how this matter resolves. The only thing that worries me is this sensation I have that she doesn't even want to talk about the problem and that's a much bigger problem than anything that's happened thus far.
つづく...(Click here to read more)