Monday, December 27, 2010

Did she just tell me to take my pants off? Let's hope so, drawers are dropping...

As our holiday weekend is winding down I find myself looking back on the past couple of weeks and laughing... at myself. I have not been heeding my own advice lately, I have been getting bogged down in the negative, failing to take things one day, one beat at a time.

I finally have a set Doctor at a Japanese Hospital that will see me for my entire pregnancy. I also met with one of the Cardiologists at the same hospital who agreed to be there if anything were to happen, but who also said he thinks I will have a fine, healthy and long pregnancy with no complications. And to make my appointments as easy as possible, I was lucky enough to find a Japanese translator who is well versed in medical terms who we were able to hire for future appointments. All of the above is BEYOND fantastic and I am so thrilled to finally feel like I have someone who is following me and this pregnancy. But getting here was a nightmare. So many loopholes, so many people unwilling to be supportive or the least bit helpful. I found myself getting downright angry at times. Until I sat down to write this, I had not even rejoiced the fact that the Japanese Doctors are willing to take me as a patient for the entire pregnancy! Apparently that is not the norm here, so I AM very lucky. But all the anger and frustration I felt towards those who were NOT helpful kept me from enjoying the fact that I have found care. 

So, my first appointment with the Japanese Doc... 

A friend of a friend who is Japanese tagged along to translate. She admittedly knew very little medical terms so the communication was a struggle. The whole process was very different than what we are used to in the US. Again, they practice Socialized Medicine here in Japan so there are always a ton of people waiting to be seen. You are given a time to be there by, but this is not really your appointment time, it just means that you have a reservation starting at the assigned time. The doctor/patient ration is very high, it is not at all uncommon to wait three or more hours before you are seen. We only waited an hour. Amazing! 

The OB/GYN area is like a long hall with the different exam rooms on one side and benches on the other. Someone calls your name over a loud speaker (all in Japanese) and tells you what room to go in. Once my name was called they had me go into one (itty bitty tiny) room where a nurse asked me questions (all in Japanese). She then asked me to step back into the hall and into the next room (all in Japanese).  

Notice a trend? A translator was a MUST. 

Our translator was asked to wait in the hall, and once in the other room the nurse said something to me and Jeff, motioning something that looked like 'take off your pants'. At least we hoped that was what she meant otherwise I would have felt pretty foolish. There was a curtain drawn across the whole length of the room. It hung down right to the edge of the exam table. I was given instructions (all in Japanese) that I just assumed meant to sit on the exam table. Luckily all my assumptions had been right, and I hear the Doctor say "Trans vaginal ultrasound, OK." The curtain is drawn the entire time, hitting me just at my hips, so we did not see the Doctor or nurse at all. There was a screen on the wall next to my head so I was able to see our sweet baby, tiny little thing, with a strong heart beat. The Doctor said "Good, healthy, strong. OK." So I took that to mean it was alright to get dressed.

After that, with translator in tow, we met with the Doctor in yet another room. He arranged my appointment with the Cardiologist and said once he and the other Doctor have had a chance to discuss my case he will let me know what their plan is for my pregnancy. He also advised finding a different translator who knew more medical terms. He asked me to come back the first week in January, and we were done.

I can not wait for my second visit!

Looking back, it could have been so horrible. There was no english anywhere in the building, all the forms that I had to fill out were in Japanese, all the support staff spoke very little english... having someone who was willing to help a complete stranger was such a blessing. Now that I have been through it once I am sure all the subsequent visits will be cake, especially with my new baller translator who knows medical terms!

8 weeks down, 32 more to go...  


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

P-check

Yes, that is a brand name of a home pregnancy test sold here in good old Japan. You think I am kidding? Take a look for yourself:


I did not check my pee with this particular test, but a few (read FOUR) digital tests and one urine test at the Doctors and... I`m pregnant!

I decided getting my heart all healed and strong and beating like a normal human was not enough of an accomplishment for 2010 so I decided to throw pregnancy in the mix as well. Clearly I am over the top excited but I am as equally terrified, if I am being honest. This past April, before my ticker stuff hit the fan, we were trying for number two, found out we were expecting, and a few weeks later I had a miscarriage. Obviously I was not in the best state physically to procreate, but it was still hard. I was so ready to expand our family. Not like a, hey I want another baby, they are cute, kinda thing but an actual biological need kinda thing. All of that took a back seat once I started to feel really crummy over the summer. 

But I am all healed and well and feel GOOD!

Fast forward a few months and here I am expecting. Terrified. 

What if I have another miscarriage? Maybe the last one was because I had that cup of coffee, I better go buy decaf. What if the vein they reconstructed can`t handle the pressure of pregnancy? What if my pacemaker wires get like, PULLED OUT because of my growing belly? What Doctor am I going to see? The Doctors on Base treat me like I have the plague... AND a second head... Do I need to see a Japanese Doctor? Will they even take me as a patient?

It`s like a ridiculous loop of crazy concerns playing in my head. Although I did go buy decaf coffee.

OK, breath, the beat goes on, right?

There are so many unknowns involved with someone like me with my medical history being pregnant. And there is nothing I can do to foresee the future. I just have to wait and see what happens. That sounds like something I should be capable of, right? Ha. So far I have decided to see the Doctors on Base as long as they will let me while searching for/researching Doctors in the Japanese community. Remember we live in MISAWA, Japan, not Tokyo. So think farming/fishing, not booming metropolis of the future with state-of-the-art facilities.

Oh, and no matter where you are in Japan, they have Socialized Medicine. Oh, hello wrench, welcome to the works. So glad you could be thrown in. 

So be prepared for future blogs detailing my attempts to birth a baby in Japan. Adventures in navigating through Socialized Medicine as an Expatriate! 

That`s a hip thing to blog about, right?