my labour story

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(11pm the night i went into labour — contractions 7 minutes apart)

now that i think about it, my early labour started slowly.

on the night of june 6th (wednesday), paul and i went to see a movie, knocked up, thinking “this is going to be our last date”. it’s a really funny and rude comedy about a pregnancy. about the halfway through the movie, i started having contractions. i was laughing hard between contractions, but i started to worry that i might have to go to the hospital. the contractions were fairly strong (it felt like menstrual pain – squeezing the uterus every 10 minutes or so), but they slowed down a bit after the movie. we went home and made sure we had everything packed for the hospital. i went to bed, but i couldn’t sleep well.

i woke up the next day with mild contractions, which continued all day. i had some show, so i was pretty sure i was going into labour soon. i made some sandwiches and onigiri (rice balls) for paul to take to the hospital and did some cleaning around the house since we wouldn’t be able to come home for a couple of days. i carried the baby very low my entire pregnancy, but it felt even lower that day.

after supper, we went to home depot to get some supplies for the yard and walmart for the last-minute baby supplies. while we were shopping, my contractions got even stronger. we were standing in line at the checkout just before closing time, and i was having contractions only five to seven minutes apart. they were painful, but not too much.

we got home just after eleven pm and started to double-double check the stuff that my prenatal classes recommended we should take to the hospital. we ended up packing two travel bags and two backpacks – enough supplies for four day labour, really. my contractions were steady – seven minutes apart or so. i was still having quite a bit of show. we thought it was still too soon to go in to the hospital, so we decided to take a nap. i was anxious and i couldn’t sleep. i googled for information about the start of labour, and read that my labour could start anytime in the next few days — even up to a week. it was around 3:15 am. i was too hyper to sleep, but i went to bed to lie down.

around 3:20 am, i felt that poko-chan started to move. i was thinking this might be the last time i could feel poko-chan inside of me. and then, i felt a swing of his arm and he punched me. there was a

“POP!”

and a gush of water leaked all over. my water broke! great work, poko-chan — he punched his way out.

i’d never felt anything like that before. water seemed to be all over the place, and i just couldn’t stop it. it was like a bucket full of water came out of me! all i could say was,

“hyawriondiryasbdugioreandioargnoaaaaaaa~~!”

got to go to the hospital!!

i wrapped myself with a bath towel, but my water was still leaking. i started shivering uncontrollably. my contractions got much stronger. they were only two minutes apart! i managed to phone my mom in japan. she was so happy and said “run for the hospital!!” we grabbed all the bags and ran out to the car, just like the panic you see in the movies.

luckily we live only five minutes drive from the hospital. strangely enough, all the traffic lights were green – they were beautiful.

when we got to the hospital, a nurse put me in a wheelchair and the triage nurse asked me some questions for hospital admission. i gave her the admission forms that i’d already filled out (i received admission forms at the prenatal classes held at the hospital, so i could fill them out and be admitted faster — this was the whole point). but she gave them right back to me and asked me the same questions anyway. my contractions were getting stronger and stronger and i was shaking. i had a hard time answering her questions. i had to spell out my long and weird japanese last name twice. if i had a grapefruit handy, i would have thrown it at her in the eye.

paul and i got to the labour and delivery department around 4:30 am. i had a kind and protective british nurse taken care of me. the obstetrics resident checked my cervix and it was already 4cm dilated. no wonder it was painful. i was already in active labour.

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the resident asked me if i wanted to use epidural anesthesia. i hadn’t decided at the point whether i would use epidural or not. i was thinking that i would be able to decide during the labour. but i was already in the active labour and the time was then.

i grew up thinking and hearing that natural labour is something you should be proud of. using drug is not so recommended traditionally. i also worried that i wouldn’t be able to feel anything if i use epidural. i read some stories where japanese women had used an epidural in canada and it was too strong for them to feel anything during the delivery. i attended an information session on epidurals at the hospital back in april, where the anesthetist explained that the epidurals used in canada are milder than they used to be. but i was still worried — i didn’t want to be completely numb, i wanted to know my baby was coming out.

i told the british nurse that i hadn’t decided yet. and she said to me, “this is not an endurance contest!”

i thought she was right. she gave me some time to think about it and i decided to go for it. but i asked paul to tell the anesthetist that i wanted a lower dose than usual.

paul and i moved to private labour room. then paul realized that he forgot to bring the battery for the camera. he plugged it in to charge the night before, then forgot it when we were hurrying out to the car. sigh… paul was really disappointed but i was too busy to care.

my contractions got really painful. if my hip bones were a gong at a buddhist temple, it was as if a thousand monks were hitting the gong with iron bars at the same time. to tell the truth, i can’t even recall right now how painful they were. all i remember is a word “painful”.

i was focusing on breathing. i was trying to make whistle sounds when i was breathing out, but i’m incapable of whistling. i always wanted to whistle, so trying helped a little bit to distract me. they taught me some breathing technique at prenatal classes, but i didn’t practice them at all. i never practice anything.

even though the contractions themselves were quite painful, i was able to have normal conversation between them. i was more surprised by the constant shivering than the contraction pain. i wasn’t expecting to shiver so much. it’s not because i was cold, it was adrenaline rushing through my body that made me shiver.

about 6:30 am, the epidural was established. i had to work hard not to move while the anesthetist was placing the needle. the contractions were so hard that they made me sick. i could feel the cold liquid running into my body from my lower back. my left leg felt numb, but i was still capable of standing up and going to the bathroom. i just couldn’t urinate. this was a side effect of the epidural.

it takes about twenty minutes for epidural to really kick in. you’re supposed to press a button to inject more medicine whenever you need. i think i pressed a couple of times, but i kept forgetting to press the button or unconsciously avoided pressing it.

even after the epidural was established, the contractions got stronger though the edge was certainly taken off. i was more relaxed and that made paul more relaxed. he was so worried that i was in so much pain. he said that he’s never seen me suffer so much. i didn’t want to make him too worried about me. that made me tougher.

he phoned our friend and asked her to go get the camera battery for us. she came to the hospital in the early morning, took paul’s keys, drove to our house and brought back the battery. thanks to her, we have thousands of photos of elijah on the day of his birth.

at 8am, the obstetrician came to check my cervix. it was 8 cm dilated. my pain was getting worse again, the worst since the epidural started. the nurses offered me popsicles. they asked me what flavour i wanted – i was thinking “just give me popsicles!” but i’m a very polite japanese. i NEVER complain (out loud). i chose the last flavour she mentioned. it was too sweet.

the nurses suggested that i should go get the epidural “topped up” since i was in such pain and the first dose didn’t seem to be working as well as it should be. i thought about it. it was already 8 cm dilated and it’d be too late if i waited too long and you’ll never know when the only one anesthetist would be available. so i asked for more epidural.

the anesthetist was the one who gave the epidural talk to our prenatal class. he’s a very friendly and funny doctor and he made me laugh even when i was in pain.

the second epidural was supposed to make me feel less pain, but it wasn’t working as well as i expected. in japan, we call it “no pain labour” when you use epidural. but for me it was actually “pretty painful but not as bad as if you don’t use it labour”.

i kept focused on my breathing and whistling. after working on my whistling technique for more than six hours, i was still no good at whistling.

at 10 am, the obstetrics resident came to check my cervix. it was almost 10 cm dilated. it was almost time to push, but not quite. nurses kept asking me if i’d feel like going to bathroom. i wasn’t sure what they meant. my contractions came differently than usual – two big contractions in a row and one break. the time between contractions were so short that i felt like i was in pain all the time.

somebody told me that nurses contacted my obstetrician and she’ll come when i’m ready to push. i felt very emotional and cried a bit just to think paul and i would meet poko-chan very very soon.

i felt poko-chan’s movement very low. i started to feel like i was going to the bathroom. i realized what the nurses were asking me about.

at 11:30 am, my obstetrician came to my room. she’s so cool and stylish. she was wearing puma sneakers. the lower part of the bed was taken off and i put my legs on the leg rests. i had paul on my right, a nurse on my left and the obstetrician right in front of me. i was ready to push.

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at first, i didn’t know where i was supposed to push. i was working on my abs. the nurse told me to push as if i would do for bowel movement. when i’m calm, i could tell exactly what she was talking about. but on the delivery bed, i had no clue. then my obstetrician asked me if i know kegel exercise. i knew exactly what she was talking about even though i’ve never done kegel exercises. i just knew what they are.

so i pushed as my contractions started. everyone was shouting “YUKA! PUUUUUUUUSH!” after a few pushes, poko-chan started to descend. but then poko-chan’s heart rate dropped, so the obstetrician used a vacuum to help poko-chan descend more. the next push or so, his head came out. paul said “yuka! the head is out! touch it”. i reached down and felt a warm and wet something with my right hand. it was poko-chan. i couldn’t stop crying.

after the next push, i felt poko-chan slide out of me. the obstetrician put poko-chan on my chest – skin to skin. it’s been awhile since i cried because i am happy.

paul cut the umbilical cord. i saw a nurse weighing him and paul watching him weigh far away even though they were just at the back of the room. they wrapped him up and brought him back to me.

i called my mom. it was 3 am in japan. i told her that i just gave birth to a boy. she asked about the health of me and the baby. she said “yokatta”. it was the first time i ever heard her cry.

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it’s a boy!


(click to enlarge — slideshow)

poko-chan is born!

paul and i are happy to announce our first-born son, elijah takumi.

he was born at 11:49am on friday, june 8th.

birth weight was 3320 grams (7 lbs 2 oz). he was 50 cm long (about 20″).

we are both healthy and doing well.

it’s already been 10 days since he was born. i’ve lost track of time. i can’t stop looking at him. i’m in euphoria.

i’ll write more about the birth and the baby in the next few days.

39 weeks plus

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i went to see my obstetrician yesterday (this will hopefully be the last visit). my cervix is now dilated “a good 2 cm” and 90% effaced. the baby is very very low — she said this is favorable for delivery. she thought that i would already have given birth last week. luckily, poko-chan was cooperative enough to stay inside quietly during our move to our new house last week. great work, poko-chan.

i’ve been having false labour pains since last sunday. usually they start around 4 or 5 am, an uncomfortable pain that wakes me up. at first, i was just having dull pain in my lower back. but on tuesday morning, i felt acute lower abdominal pain, as if someone stabbed me with an ice pick. i’d never had this type of pain before, so i grabbed my watch and started counting. the pain came and went a few times at an interval of 7 – 15 minutes. some were one minute long and others were two minutes long. they were irregular and stopped in an hour, so it was just false labour. poko-chan is practicing very well.

i tried not to fight against the pain because it just gets worse if you do so. i tried to accept it and observe how painful it’d get, then it was much easier to go through. i used to do this all the time in japan when i’d go see the dentist (japanese dentists don’t use much pain relief). if i think “aha~! this is how it feels like when you dig a big hole into your tooth”, the pain seems to be apart from my body, away from me somehow. after all, the body is just a box, you can take the mind out of it. i’m not sure if i can use this trick during my labour (i’m assuming i might not be able to…), but it would be nice.

my sister-in-law, mayumi, suggested that i should keep active during pregnancy in order to have a quick and healthy labour. i should probably listen to her, because her labour was really quick – only three hours or so even for her first baby. i took aqua-exercise classes until 36 weeks and since then, my exercise has been mainly cleaning and organizing stuff around the house. moving was slightly stressful, but it worked out okay since my nesting instinct covers all the cleaning.

paul and i set up our baby’s room — finally. we bought a second-hand cradle and a second-hand rocking chair. the cradle didn’t come with bedding, so i made it myself — another last minute project. i always end up wanting to make something right before a big event. i finished making my wedding dress the day before the wedding, for example…

it looks like my pregnant life is almost over (for now). i enjoyed it very much. i love watching my body transformation and imagining how poko-chan is growing. pregnancy seems to make people happy too. many people gave me a kind smile and helped me a lot (thank you those who sent me kind emails). some people (even some men) would touch my belly even without asking. i didn’t mind at all. it seems to me that pregnancy goes beyond social barriers and sexuality. i would probably be deeply offended if someone touched my breasts or bum saying, “they’ve got bigger!” , i’d give them a punch or two… and a kick. but around my belly, it was an oasis spot.

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poko-chan’s unseen face (broadway art encounter)

the title of this drawing is “poko de ippai”, which is japanese for “full of poko”. maybe you don’t know if you don’t usually read this blog, but poko is my nickname for my unborn baby. i named it “poko-chan” (as if it was a name, Poko) because it was making “poko-poko” bubbling movements inside of me when i first felt it moving. now i’m in my 39th week of pregnancy and i can’t think of anything else but poko-chan. my head is full of many many poko-chans. but i don’t know what poko-chan’s face looks like, so i can’t draw the details of it yet.

i went to see my obstetrician yesterday. she said that my cervix is mostly effaced and dilated 1 to 2 cm. my baby is very low, she could feel the head. i’ve been experiencing some braxton hicks contractions. for some of them, my lower back feels really heavy and dull pain like menstrual cramps and my belly gets hard like a rock. they last for about 20 minutes each. it looks like my body is getting ready for labour. poko-chan, hang in there! let mama finish moving before you come into the world…

i’m taking part in broadway art encounter again this year, starting tomorrow. i’ll be showing this drawing as well as this and this at al’s broadway shoe repair shop. i showed my works at his shop last year as well. he kindly offered to have me show at his shop again.

broadway art encounter is an event where shops on broadway avenue generously open their shops as galleries. there is expected to be a bigger crowd than usual this year because the university of saskatchewan is hosting the 2007 congress of the humanities and social sciences this week. i hope you can come out and see the exhibits! i’m going to be walking around saturday afternoon, as long as i’m not in labor.

Broadway Art Encounter
June 1 ~ 2 (Fri & Sat)

Al’s Broadway Shoe Repair
638 Broadway Avenue,
Saskatoon
(306)652-4399

taste of mama :: art recipe final

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i can’t wait to breastfeed poko-chan. i hope my milk is as tasty as a fresh apple.

i spend most of my waking time thinking about poko-chan and our life together as a family of three. i’m really looking forward to meeting poko-chan in seven weeks. people like to tell us horrible stories about giving birth or bringing up children. but i listen to them with a grain of salt. of course it will be difficult because we are new parents and poko-chan is new to the world, but i think our effort will be nothing compared to poko-chan trying to live.

like my dad always says, “you’ll forget about all the hard things that happened when you look at the angel face of your child”.

you can view the progress of this drawing here:

art recipe 1
art recipe 2
art recipe 3

my big belly (at 33 weeks)

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i’m starting my 33rd week today, and my belly is very big. my waist is now 94 cm. i have to support my belly with my arm when i get myself up, in order to keep my balance. i can’t button up my spring jackets. with this big belly, i walk like a penguin — not that different from usual, unfortunately. people tell me my belly is going to get even bigger in the next two months, but i think it’s just a rumor. my skin is hitting its limit already.

even though my belly is getting bigger, my weight hasn’t changed over the last month. i gained about 15 pounds (7 kg) during the first 28 weeks, but since then it’s the same. i have a humongous appetite, i’m eating all the time, and i’m eating a lot at every meal. i even eat beef, which i didn’t care for before. in fact, i want to eat burgers all the time…

i feel like i’m getting bigger and bigger, but i was worried that i may not be taking enough nutrients to help poko-chan grow. i got an ultrasound two weeks ago and they estimated poko-chan’s current weight at 4.5 pounds (2 kg) already. this was even bigger than average at 32 weeks. my doctor assured me not to worry, so it’s probably okay.

i think poko-chan has grown even bigger since that ultrasound. poko-chan continues to kick and punch with no mercy. i can clearly see waves and bulges on my belly as s/he moves. i like watching and feeling those movements, even though i get kicked so hard sometimes i can’t sleep.

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(paul took these photos)

having this huge appetite reminded me of the opposite problem i had in early pregnancy – morning sickness.

i started getting morning sickness around 7 weeks. at first, i was happy to experience it. since i couldn’t feel any movement of the baby yet, it was the only sign i had that i was pregnant. but it soon turned into a not-so-pleasant experience.

my morning sickness was more like “evening sickness”. i was fine in the morning, but later in the day, i started to feel unwell — no appetite, headache and nausea. i guess my body is still in japan time — it was morning-in-japan sickness in the evening here in canada. anyway, this soon became all-day sickness.

i felt like i was having hungover all the time. food smelled weird. all kinds of food i used to like turned into a nightmare. i couldn’t eat, look at, or think about:

  • any vegetables, especially leafy ones and potatoes – tasted strange.
  • tomato-related food – i couldn’t understand why tomatoes exist on the planet.
  • crackers – some people suggested i eat crackers, but for me, they tasted like sawdust.
  • milk products: yogurt, milk, ice cream – usually i love ice cream, but i felt sick when i thought about it.
  • meat in general, especially beef. tasted odd, even though now this is my favorite food.

the food i could eat:

  • udon, soba or rice
  • fruit, especially oranges
  • apple sauce
  • potato chips (plain, salt flavour)
  • sweet potato
  • bread (only white part)

it was really hard to go grocery shopping because i couldn’t look at food. so i kept my head straight all the time and when i saw what i wanted in my peripheral vision, i grabbed it.

it was probably not a good time for paul either, because i couldn’t taste the food i was making for him. one time, i was trying to make a pasta dish for supper. i started sauteeing mushrooms and spinach. it didn’t look good, so i added a can of tomatoes. it didn’t look good so i added more herbs and spices. somehow this combination just didn’t work — it was really awful pasta. of course i couldn’t taste it, but paul did. he was very kind to say just, “mmm…. (silent)”. but i could tell it was awful. so i asked him how the taste was. he said with the most agonized face, “not very good…”. i should probably note he was kind enough to eat most of it. we started buying frozen food soon after that.

around my 14th week, i started to feel much better and have more appetite. i broke off my morning sickness period by wanting to eat MEAT. one day in the 14th week, i had a huge craving for beef. so paul and i went to a restaurant and i ordered a hamburger. it was a big hamburger, but i ate it all. people who know me are often surprised to see me eating meat since i’ve never been a big meat eater. but now i love it. i didn’t know cows and pigs are so tasty.

my appetite has just grown and grown now, and so has my belly. now that i see poko-chan getting bigger and moving so wild, i feel much better. s/he makes a big wave on my belly by stretching and pushing. it looks like an effortless belly dance.

postcard design for my new show

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i’m having postcards and posters made to promote my show, titled “personal”, at the mendel art gallery. the image is my favorite drawing from this show, called “new heartbeat”. i wanted to have this work as the focal point of the show, so it’s displayed in the center of the main wall, with my other drawings in a symmetrical layout surrounding it. the secret of the show is that it’s all about poko-chan, one way or the other. i hope that poko-chan will be happy to see its visualized heart in the gallery.

the postcards and posters will be ready by the end of this week. i’m planning to walk around downtown and broadway this weekend to put up posters and invite people in person to come to the opening. i’ll also be leaving some postcards in shops, so if you find this somewhere please feel free to take it home with you.

the mendel has also invited me to put some of my art prints and postcards up for sale in their gallery shop. i chose a few of the same ones that are available as prints in my online shop, plus i’m also making art prints of “new heartbeat” for the first time. “new heartbeat” will also be added to my online shop, as soon as i have time.

starting my third trimester (28 weeks)

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i don’t usually like the word “perfect”.  but when it comes to my pregnancy, i’ve never been happier to hear it.

i just started my 28th week and i had my monthly visit with my obstetrician. she always assures me that i’m doing great. my weight gain is ideal and the baby’s growth is on schedule. i tell her my concerns, which are usually nothing to worry about. she always says, “don’t worry. you’re doing great! perfect!” without problematizing my tiny worries. i walk out the door encouraged. i think i’m doing the best i can, but i can’t really see what’s happening in my womb, so i need some reassurance from a professional. when she says “perfect”, i really believe her.

after my visit with the obstetrician, i had a public nurse over to my apartment. she asked about my personal and medical history and about my pregnant life. she was trying to find out what needs i have, so she could connect me with community services applicable to my needs. but i didn’t have anything i needed support with, so we had a nice chat for an hour and a half or so. the best moment was when she asked me if i was happy when i found out about my pregnancy. i guess i expressed maximum happiness with my words and my face. she wrote “extremely happy” on her chart. she said that the criteria of “happy” was not enough to describe how happy i was, so she exceptionally noted it.

the 24th to 27th weeks were a dramatic ride for me. around my 24th week, my belly started to get really big really fast. i could see it getting bigger every day. i felt a little bit overwhelmed. as i looked at my belly, it became obvious there is a life growing inside. it sounds like an absurd realization, but it felt so real. there was no doubt about how happy i was that poko-chan was growing, but it felt like my baby was going forward and my mind was making a late start. i really hoped that i was doing good for this new life. when i got too serious about it, poko-chan rolled around. it felt so ticklish that it made me laugh.

luckily the overwhelmed feeling lasted only a couple days at the beginning of my 24th week. after that, i just stopped worrying about it. i just have to do the best i can.

poko-chan is doing awesome. it’s getting bigger and it’s incredibly active. it not only kicks hard, it vibrates. i’m guessing it’s hiccuping — it’s definitely different from kicking. these days, i can clearly see a bulge whenever poko-chan kicks my belly. if i’m reading a book or holding the newspaper against my belly, it knocks it off by kicking. poko-chan especially likes to start kicking when i’m listening to music or eating. i think that means it’s happy.

so far the rule is, if i like it and poko-chan kicks, then poko-chan likes it. if i don’t like it, and poko-chan kicks, then poko-chan doesn’t like it either. this works really well, because we’re always agreeing with each other. :)

nigi nigi :: toys for poko-chan

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i don’t know what you call these toys for babies in english. they’re called “nigi nigi” in japanese (“nigiru” means “squeeze”). these are toys for babies to squeeze. i found a japanese website that shows how to make handmade toys for babies and children. of course, i couldn’t follow the exact instructions, so their eyes are different and their holes should be smaller. but they turned out pretty good, i think.

as a child, my parents and grandparents bought me many toys. but the toys i remember most are the things my family created. my favorite was a car my brother made out of a cardboard box. we would both get in the car and pretend to drive around inside the house… my brother also made some kind of transformer costumes and we fought in them. he made many things and it was really amusing to watch him destroy things like an alarm clock to examine how it’s made. when he was 12, he actually built a house out of wood. it was a two-story house, with a meeting room, a manga reading room and a kitchen (or just a place to eat snacks). unfortunately he and his friends built the house on someone else’s property, so the house had to be torn down. too bad — it was impressive. i don’t think we have any photos of it either.

my mom and grandma made things for me as well. they made me some cloths for my rika-chan doll (my rika chan was second generation). my friends and i would get together with our own rika-chan dolls and do fashion shows in a portable rika-chan house.

anyway, i hope poko-chan likes these handmade toys too and has fun playing with them. or eating them, at least.

play time (with bugs)


(click the image to view close up)

um… i’m not sure what’s going on here. i wanted to draw a bunch of bugs, so i got some photo books about beetles from the library (children’s section). i like beetles — my brother used to catch beetles in the mountains near our house and play with them in his room. it’s my first time drawing beetles. i’ve drawn a ladybug before, but this one is more detailed than the last time.

the japanese writing says “ahaha, aha, ahahaha~” — the laughing sound. poko-chan and i are having fun playing with the bugs…

i drew this last week.