Monday, June 13, 2016

Rainy Season, Six Months, Where Have I Been

Bebe in Ginza

In my last update baby was only two months, and he's now six months, so it's been ages. I've eased back into work since March or April, and now my next challenge is to find a daycare for Anri. As difficult as it will be to leave him at a day care a few times a week, I think it will be good for him to socialize and to be in a different environment, and to be immersed in the Japanese cultural ways since he spends most of his time with his French-speaking maman. I'm also looking forward to working more, I feel more motivated than ever and somehow there are so many good opportunities lately. I still feel so lucky I can work such a flexible schedule, I don't think I could handily working full time in an office these days.

It's notoriously difficult to get a spot in a daycare in Tokyo, and pretty much everywhere else in Japan. There are very few government-subsidized spaces and all are very coveted, and priority goes to full-time workers. It works on a complicated system of points, and most of the decision-making happens in April of each year. So I'm very off-season and the hunt is a bit discouraging, and makes me realize why so many Japanese women reluctantly quit their jobs after having a baby- sometimes they just don't have a choice. I'm still hopeful I will sort something out sooner or later.

I've been enjoying spending time with Anri, who is big and healthy at six months. He's such a fun and playful baby, and he just smiles at everyone wherever we go. We literally take him everywhere: he's been shopping in Ginza, in the crowds of Shibuya and Shinjuku, and at some cafes in Harajuku and Aoyama. He's very calm and curious. I can't wait to discover more of his personality.

I'm also back into running, I've been going at least 2-3 times per week, so it's a nice activity to do on my own or as a family, we take turns running while the other walks with Anri in his stroller. I also have lots of time to cook, so I've been trying some basic Japanese recipes, it's a lot of fun and much easier than I thought. I'm also cooking baby food, Anri started eating a bit. He had his first taste of rice mixed with dashi, which is just rice cooked in a fish and kelp stock. He loved it! In Japan, baby's first foods are usually okayu (rice porridge), pureed vegetables (pumpkin, sweet potato) and tofu in the first few weeks. I'm now following the Japanese guidelines since I have a recipe book, but I'll add some Western-style foods so he gets a taste of everything.

So that's life, lately! It's kind of quiet but I needed that. It's actually never really quiet with a young baby around, but I'm enjoying this time as I know it's fleeting, and Anri is growing up so fast. Working keeps me sane as I like getting out of the house from time to time, and I like being challenged by different things. It's a good balance for the time being, and becoming a mother pushes me to be more organized in life in general…. which isn't a bad thing.

On to rainy season now, then scorching hot summer. I'm still trying to figure out holiday plans, as I don't think we'll go to Canada this summer since my mom visited in April, but I'd like to go somewhere in Asia. To be continued!


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Two Months

I've been a mother for now two months. It still feels surreal but it also seems more natural. I'm getting to know Anri and feeling more at ease with everything. I used to get so anxious and heartbroken whenever he would cry, but nowadays I usually know what's wrong and I keep calm. He also smiles at me and recognizes me, laughs at my songs and antics, so it's been fun to interact with him. I speak to him in French exclusively and my husband speaks to him in Japanese, so I wonder what his first words will be, considering he usually hears English in the house. Confusing much? I really hope it's possible he learns all three languages.

Life has changed but somehow things are still the same, except with a baby in tow. I've been enjoying the slow days with Anri, the long afternoon walks and the late nights spent rocking him and bonding. He usually sleeps six hours in a row, then three more after drinking milk, so we've been getting lots of rest. I am back to writing a little, here and there, although my laptop is usually awkwardly propped on my lap next to a napping bebe.

I've been missing going to work, and actually went on a few assignments, yet every time I'm out I miss Anri so much and can't wait to come home. I do cherish those few hours alone and I always make sure to get coffee and peruse the shops a little while I'm out-- however, bebe is always on my mind and my shopping habits are more Petit Bateau, Bonpoint and Baby Gap and a bit less Zara and Chanel beauty counter… I'm looking forward to returning to work a few news programs per week from April, while being thankful my schedule is rather free and Anri doesn't have to go to a nursery school or day care.

The weather in Tokyo is very nice for February, just chilly enough with lots of sunshine. A few days ago I had a recording in Kagurazaka, the unofficial "Little France" of Tokyo due to its significant French population and Institut Franco-Japonais. I love that neighbourhood so much, it has lots of cafes and bakeries and I really should take advantage of the library at the institute (and perhaps to meet fellow mothers). I highly recommend visiting Kagurazaka, it's much more interesting than the usual touristy spots.

Bebe cat nap

Uniqlo baby selfie

Those thighs! Those socks!

Starbucks + baby

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hatsumiyamairi: a Japanese birthday

Last week we headed to our local shrine for a ceremony called hatsumiyamairi 初宮参り, which literally means "first shrine visit". When the baby turns one month old, it's a Japanese tradition to visit the shrine and attend a purification ritual from a Shinto priest. It's a bit similar to a Christian baptism. We dressed bebe in a frilly white robe that had belonged to my husband when he was a baby, so it was a very meaningful ensemble (and I like to think he was best-dressed of all babies in attendance!). I wore a white cape over my clothes that matched the robe.

I held bebe during the ceremony, in which the priest chanted the names of all the babies and parents. He also waved around a stick with paper strips to purify, which is done in many Shinto celebrations such as weddings. Photos are not allowed inside the shrine since it's a sacred place but it was a beautiful ceremony, and bebe slept the whole time despite the chanting, bells rattling and drum banging.

We took many photos on the grounds surrounding the shrine, it's a special place we visit yearly for the New Year celebrations. We also had some time to relax following the ceremony, with some sake and traditional sweets. We then headed to a wonderful soba restaurant, which is my favourite Japanese food. It was a kaiseki (full-course meal) and every dish was exquisite.

We've taken Anri out and about a bit more lately, he usually always sleeps in his carrier so it's fairly easy. He also met one of my friends at my favourite cafe in Hiroo, and she held him the whole time. I also take walks to Starbucks in my neighbourhood with him, nothing wild but it makes me feel somewhat back to normal. Life is a lot slower lately, but I'm enjoying this time at home and savouring it as I know it won't last forever.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Giving Birth in Japan

I didn't have the chance to write much about giving birth while in Japan, but I wanted to mention it was a great experience overall.

I received amazing care during my pregnancy and after the birth, and I'm so happy I was able to experience it in Japan. Giving birth wasn't how I expected it at all. I had all these ideas about labour and birth, mostly from watching movies (and Friends episodes); they somehow always have the dramatic water breaking at home and frantic taxi ride to the hospital, etc. My version was the complete opposite, it just slowly started at home, I wasn't even sure I had contractions and what they felt like, and I stayed up all night timing them and watching movies on my laptop.

We finally decided to go to the hospital in the early morning, and that's when the 33-hour (all natural!) fun started. I was pretty out of it for most of the time, time just did not exist and I can barely remember the details. I was lucky to have the support of my husband and my mother-in-law, and the labour room was nice, dimly lit and quiet. The midwives took great care of me even though it was unusually long and there were complications. I remember being presented with big meals and rice, rice and more rice, I just didn't have an appetite but they kept telling me to eat to get more energy. It did help in the end!

In Japan, it's standard to stay at the hospital for about a week after birth. I think it's a great idea, as you can recover and learn how to take care of the baby with the assistance of nurses and midwives 24 hours a day. I had no idea how to do anything when I first met bebe, I was completely at loss, even about changing his tiny diaper. I stayed in the hospital for 6 days, and I both loved it and hated it. I'll call this "baby boot camp". Basically I didn't get much sleep since the nurses would bring in the baby every 2 hours to try nursing, and during the day I had an actual schedules with classes such as breastfeeding and learning how to give baby a bath, etc. We even had to watch DVDs but I skipped many of those sessions, with the excuse that my language skills weren't good enough to follow.

On the bright side, it was wonderful to have the help of nurses at all times, and their support for every single step. It was great to have doctors' checks daily for both bebe and myself, and the meals were fantastic- no kidding. I ate such balanced and delicious meals, and every afternoon they would bring in tea and cake. I also briefly met and talk to other mothers, it was comforting to see other new, sleep-deprived mums in the same state. I cried when I left the hospital because I knew I'd miss the nurses, but at the same time I also felt like I was getting out of prison and couldn't wait to be home. Sounds dramatic, but that's a side effect of post-birth I'm sure…

Overall giving birth in Japan is great, and I went to the hospital weekly ever since to get support for nursing and get bebe checked. I can call my hospital any time of the day or night with questions, and the nurses recognize Anri when we visit, which is so sweet. It's a big hospital in central Tokyo, they speak limited English but somehow it all worked out and the care I received was outstanding. The facilities were very modern and clean, and baby was sleeping next to me most of the time.

I never gave birth in Canada so I don't know how it compares, but I love the natural approach of Japan and the slow recovery. I cannot imagine being sent home with a newborn the day after giving birth, there is so much to learn and get used to. Also, in Japan it is recommended to stay indoors for a full month after giving birth. I thought it would be so difficult, but I liked that as I got to rest and recover and plus, let's be honest, I didn't feel too social or presentable those first few weeks. I'm getting a lot more sleep lately, so I'm excited to finally go out and take bebe along.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Life in 2015

This year is already coming to an end, and I'm almost sad it's ending. 2015 was such a wonderful year filled with many surprises, the biggest one being a baby. 

2015 had a rough start- I was still working at a job I truly despised, and I felt like there was no way out. Thankfully I took a risk and went back to freelance and part time work, and found the most amazing opportunity working as a newscaster. And, I found out I was pregnant, which was unexpected yet the best thing to ever happen to me. I loved, loved being pregnant and worked until I was about to give birth- my belly was so big that my coworkers joked I would give birth on air.

This last part of the year has been the most challenging yet wonderful. I'm adjusting to being a new mother, and while taking care of a newborn on very little sleep hasn't been easy, I love getting to know this little bebe and seeing him grow every day. I sleep in three-hour increments and sometimes I wear my pajamas all day, but I know this newborn phase is fleeting and I'm enjoying every part of it. I'm grateful I've had lots of support from my family, and I'm the best-fed mother out there. I've been eating the most delicious and healthiest home cooked meals, I wish I could manage to eat like this from now on. I'm still a bit weak from the recovery, but I'm also feeling the healthiest I've ever been, and within 3 weeks I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

I still have to take it easy and rest as much as I can, but I can't wait to go out daily with Anri and show him my world. I also look forward to exercising again, but that might take another few weeks.

So, that was 2015. I think 2016 will be equally great, it will be a year of huge changes with a growing baby and the start of a new life as a family of three.

Thank you for all your lovely comments on Anri's birth, and thank you for reading my musings- still, after all those years and life changes.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year 2016 xx 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bebe is here

On Friday December 4 I gave birth to bebe.

His name is Anri, and he weighed 4120 grams, which is over 9 pounds. Who would have thought I could carry such a big baby?!

I was one week overdue, and the natural labour lasted 33 hours. I have to say, nothing could have prepared me for that. It was the most surreal experience, but I feel very proud I did it. I never knew I could feel such love. I can't stop looking at him and smelling him.

We are so in love, and I still cannot believe I'm a mother.

Monday, November 16, 2015

November: Waiting

So far November has been such a slow and quiet month, but it's perfect this way. Long walks, warm baths, afternoon coffees, watching the sunrise because I can't sleep. I'm essentially just waiting, waiting for bebe, waiting for my life to change forever. It's exciting and the closer it gets, the less scary it is. That's the beauty of pregnancy I think, the whole process of it allows you to adjust both physically and mentally to all the small changes, so in the end you're ready and thankful. I had no idea sleep would be so elusive during those last weeks, but it's probably just the way the body prepares for the upcoming months (or perhaps the rest of my life?).

I'm seriously just not sleeping, but somehow I can function during the daytime due to my relaxing schedule. November in Japan is the best, warm enough to sit outside, sunny and chilly enough to wear a few layers. I write and read books and protect myself from pushy elderly ladies at the supermarket- who knew discount vegetables could stir up so much animation in mid-afternoon? Also, I know I'm extremely late to the game, but I recently discovered Amazon Japan sells more than just books, and it comes in handy for ordering baby stuff and heavier items I cannot carry from the store. It's so convenient for a place like Tokyo, where we tend to run small errands on a daily basis by walk or train, and just get the essentials.

In fashion news, Uniqlo has a new collaboration with French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld, it's a very alluring and form-fitting collection with pencil skirts, skintight blazers and leopard prints, but nothing I can really wear at the moment, so I'm sticking to cozy knits and lots of black dresses. I did stock up on some Heat Tech for winter, I love the collaboration with lingerie brand Princesse Tam-Tam, the loungewear is really soft and warm. It will be strange to wear regular clothes again in a few short weeks, I'll miss dressing the bump!

While it's been a blissful time on this side, there is a lot to think about with what's going on in the world, and the scary thought of bringing a small being in this turmoil. I'm sure every parent thinks like that. My condolences and thoughts go to my French friends, colleagues, readers and everyone in that beautiful city I've always dreamed of living in, where I imagine the streets are rather empty now.

IKEA meatballs

Our local sushi place

Saturday morning brunch at home

Typical afternoons

Special edition Mount Takao Keio train
My Miffy-themed mother and baby handbook-
I bet Canada doesn't have something as cute!