This morning was meant to be a well-oiled family run machine considering Akinori took the morning off to go with me to the Red Cross hospital, (herein referred to as Nisseki) however of course it didn’t work out that way, and we were just as late getting out the door as usual. Amelie and I have been playing catch with a nasty cold for the last month or so. She got it first, then gave it to me, then I gave it back to her, and so on. At the moment I am on the mending end, and she is on the feverish and grumpy end. So we dropped Sara off at kindy about 20 minutes late (! – though she was so unaffected, she kept saying “it’s okay if I’m late, I can still go.” NOT the makings of a future Miss Punctuality I’m guessing.), Akinori dropped me off at Nisseki, and then he took Amelie to the pediatrician to get something for her cold because neither of us can stand to see her suffer anymore, and even if cold medicines really don’t work (which I’m not convinced they do) at least we’re doing everything we can to try and make her better.
I walk into Nisseki and I have never seen it so crowded! I’ve only ever been there to visit friends in the hospital and that was after consultation hours in the afternoon or evening. I got my hospital registration card and went to the OB/GYN section and right away I missed the comfort of the maternity clinic I was going to until now, and the warmth of the midwife clinic. Nisseki is a big general hospital, and that’s what it feels like. There are patients lining the walls waiting to be called over an intercom into curtained room to discuss private details within earshot of everyone else who works at the hospital or happens to be being seen in the cubby next to you. I know it sounds silly, and it’s not really that big a sacrifice to make for the safety and well-being of giving birth to two healthy babies, but regardless of how well I speak the language, I am still a foreigner in this country, and being in a smaller, more at-home setting makes it easier for me to feel comfortable. The people around me get used to me having a foreign face, but being able to function in Japanese much quicker and pretty soon it’s not even an issue. And well, the whole reason I loved giving birth at the midwife clinic and wanted to go back there again pretty much sums up all of the reasons I didn’t want to go to a big general hospital in the first place. Even when I was pregnant with Amelie I kept saying that although I didn’t dislike the general hospital I had to go to on occasion, I really didn’t want to give birth there. At least at that hospital there was a smaller, inner waiting room for the obstetrics department, even though it was always crowded, at least it had the feel of a smaller clinic. At Nisseki, everyone, pregnant women, old men in wheelchairs, people on crutches, everyone is sitting on the hard sofas lining the hallways waiting to be seen. I know I sound whiney and petulant, but this story has a happy ending, so please just bear with me.
I had to fill in a new patient questionnaire and then had to pee in a cup and weigh myself and take me blood pressure. The where to pee part was fairly straightforward, but the receptionist was speaking so fast and I was so nervous I missed part of when she was explaining where to take my blood pressure and weigh myself and had to go back and ask again after I peed. I hate having to do that. People always assume you didn’t understand because you are a foreigner, when it wasn’t a language problem at all. Several times over the course of the day I felt like the person I was speaking to was giving me a rote speech in fast forward mode because it is something they explain all the time, but as a first-time listener my brain is not always caught up to my ears.
I finally found the scale and blood pressure machine and when I first stepped on the scale it said I was TEN KILOS less than what I weighed on my scale at home this morning. I got off and looked for a “zero” or “reset” button, but didn’t see one, and stepped on the scale again, and again it said I was 10 kilos less than what I weighed only 2 hours earlier. I did this 3 or 4 times until a nurse finally came out from somewhere and I told her that the scale said I was 10 kilos less than what my home scale said, and she said to have my scale at home checked and to trust their numbers. Ummmmm I don’t think so. That would mean that the scale at the last hospital was way off too, and honestly I don’t think my relatively new digital scale is anywhere near broken. Anyway, before she walked off she pressed, what I assume was the reset button (now I know!) and I got on again and got a much more reasonable number.
Apparently though all of that hubbub got me a little excited because when I took my blood pressure it was higher than it usually is. So I took it again, and it was much lower, thank goodness! I kept having visions of being told I needed to be hospitalized today. I expected to have a super long wait as well because I had been told by several people that the first time you go they make you wait ages because you go in without an appointment the first time, but I didn’t have to wait long at all. First I spoke with a nurse who basically re-asked me all of the questions on the new patient questionnaire and typed them into the computer as I answered, and she asked if I had any immediate concerns and I told her I didn’t want to be hospitalized for as long as possible and that I wanted to give birth naturally if possible and that I wanted to keep teaching dance for as long as possible.
I had to go back into the hallway and wait for them to call me in for an ultrasound. I’m not sure who performed the ultrasound, but I know it wasn’t a doctor. I think it was a lab tech and a midwife, or someone training to be a midwife, but I’m not sure. She was obviously pretty inexperienced and the midwife, or person I think was a midwife, maybe she was a more experienced lab tech? was giving her advice and telling her to make sure to look for this and that. I’ve never had anyone but a doctor or midwife do an ultrasound before, so I thought that was pretty interesting. Both women were very nice though, and they assured me there were only 2 babies inside as I have secretly been worried there is another baby in there hiding just like the second one was. And both babies are healthy and basically the exact same size and measuring perfect for their due date, which is always a huge relief. Right now both babies are head up, but they are still so tiny and squiggly and squirmy I’m sure they will flip round and round many times before finally being too squished to go anywhere.
I then had to wait in the hallway again, this time to be called in by the doctor. It was a female doctor, and she was young and a bit nervous and spoke really, really fast. But she obviously has experience with twins. She explained the differences amongst twins to me once again, fraternal and identical, one placenta, two placentas, etc. and said that my twins were most likely identical with only one placenta, which needs to be monitored more closely than fraternal twins. But my twins have two separate sacs, so there is no need to worry about their cords getting wrapped around each other, and that is one less thing to worry about! She also explained about TTTS (twin-to-twin-transfusion syndrome) where one twin ends up transfusing their blood to the other through the umbilical cord via the placenta, making one twin anemic and placing too much pressure on the other’s heart, which I had of course read about, but she said the chances of that happening are actually only somewhere around 5%, which I also found reassuring. I thought it was a much greater risk. Unfortunately if that does happen earlier on in the pregnancy it can’t be treated in Nagano. I’ll have to go to Tokyo for treatment. And if it happens later in the pregnancy they deal with it by performing an immediate c-section and caring for the babies on the outside instead.
The doctor also said that although I may not be hospitalized at 28 weeks, it will definitely happen sometime between 28 and 32 weeks, so be prepared for it by 28 weeks. Basically at 28 weeks with twins you feel like a woman who is 40 weeks with a single baby, and basically you really are wanting to just get the babies out at that point, but obviously can’t yet. Hearing that finally made it click in my head. I was miserable with Sara by week 39 and with Amelie by week 38, so I can imagine that I won’t be too thrilled to be at home doing laundry, washing dishes, or picking up after children once I’m that big. Still I don’t really want to be hospitalized either, but at least I can wrap my head around the reasoning better and if it happens, it happens. I was also told that having given birth naturally twice before, without any problems, I am a good candidate for giving birth naturally again this time. However, we really won’t know that for sure until the very end. That’s okay. At least I know it’s an option right now. She said they will let me give birth naturally if I go into labor after 35 weeks and both babies’ heads are down. That was a relief too. It seems less daunting than hanging on until 37 weeks. I can’t believe that’s only 20 weeks from now! I’ll be 15 weeks on Thursday. Wow! It’s only been 10 weeks of this crazy pregnancy roller coaster so far. It feels like it’s been AGES! It’s only been just over 3 weeks since I found out I was having twins! I can’t believe how much life has changed in these 3 short weeks.
So after being seen by the doctor I had to go and wait in the hallway again because this time the doctor wanted to do an internal exam. While I was waiting Akinori and Amelie arrived. Too bad they didn’t get there just a little sooner so they could go into the belly ultrasound with me. The doctor did an internal exam and called me back into her office again where she said that my cervix length was fine, which means that I have the okay to continue teaching dance for now. She just reminded me to stop if I felt my stomach getting tight or any pain. Roger, sensei! I also expected to be seen every two weeks, especially considering my twins are probably identical, but the doctor said 3 weeks would be fine for the next appointment. Which is great news since it means everything is A-OK right now, but of course it makes me a little sad I have to wait another 3 weeks to see my little swimmers again.
Once again I went to wait in the hallway to be called by the nurse. This time she gave me a whole bunch of pamphlets about what I’ll need when I’m hospitalized, how that whole routine works, info on the “gift money” from the government, etc. And she explained to me, in very fast, I’ve-done-this-explanation-50-bazillion-times-already Japanese the procedure for my next and future visits, which will be a bit different to this time. And then I went to wait in the hallway for the last time when the receptionist called my name and gave me my folder and told me to go upstairs and have blood drawn. Even though I just had a blood test a month ago, apparently each hospital does their own blood test on each patient to confirm blood type so that there are no mistakes if a transfusion is needed. I guess that mistake has happened a few too many times in Japan.
When I went to get my blood taken, the lab tech who did it was the same woman who did my ultrasound. Finally I was done and ready to leave. Paid and then we went to lunch at the family restaurant across the street from the hospital “Cowboy Kazoku” (Cowboy Family) and that was an experience in itself! Anyway I left the hospital feeling much better about the whole experience than I did when I went in. It is an old, general hospital, so some of the luxuries of a small maternity hospital that I am used to will have to be foregone, but really I know it’s a small sacrifice. The staff were amazingly kind and friendly. The doctor let me ask questions. No one said anything about my weight, and lord help them if they ever do! But I have a feeling that these days they’re not so concerned about weight alone anymore, and actually pay attention to blood pressure and protein in the urine BEFORE giving you a hard time about your weight. Plus I’ve had two healthy babies before. I know the drill.
The nurse was really concerned though that I don’t have my parents or my husband’s parents very close to us to help out. We’re going to have to figure something out. I suppose the very last resort may be to invite my mother out for a month, but I just can’t see that helping anything, at all. I can see maybe getting a shower in every day while she watches the babies, but she can’t cook, which means I will have to, and if I have a c-section I’m not too sure how that will work out. After I had Amelie I was absolutely exhausted for weeks after. I know Akinori will help out as much as he can, but we can’t know exactly how much time he’ll be able to take off just yet. There’s a free service offered by the city for someone to come over for 2 hours a day to help out until your newborn is 3 months old. We’ll probably take advantage of that service, but we’ll have to figure out something else as well. It’s so hard to plan anything without knowing exactly what is going to happen either. If the babies will be born super early and need NICU time, if they’ll be born later on and ready to go home after a week or two? I’m sure it will all work out. Life always does, but man it’s a lot to worry about!