Monday, March 19, 2012

Tiny’s finally here!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, most of which had to do with a very hectic schedule.  A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks, not the least of which is that I’m now officially a daddy!  The fact that I used the word “daddy” instead of “father” is an important matter in and of itself, but I’ll get into that in another post.  First, let me catch you up to everything that led up to the birth of Tiny Tien.  Warning, this is a very long post… you might need a pot of coffee or something.

My last post detailed all of the issues that we had in dealing with a baby in breech position.  Well, shortly after that post, we were told that there was a doctor in the Fukuyama area that had experience in dealing with natural breech births.  You would not have believed how incredibly relieved we were to hear that.  The doctor that we had at Fukuyama Medical Center had gone out of her way to put us in touch with a doctor at the Koike Family Hospital who apparently had dealt with breech births extensively, so it seemed like an ideal fit for us.  The thing that we knew at the time, that didn’t quite register, is that doctors who still performed natural breech births tend to be on the older side.  That little tidbit proved to be a lot more important to this whole matter than we would ever have expected.

We left from the Fukuyama Medical Center on March 9th, with the expectation that we would meet the doctor from Koike that same afternoon, register with the hospital, and prepare to have a natural birth.  Since the baby shower was that Saturday, we were looking forward to that weekend as sort of a final lead-up to the eventual birth of our child.  We got home, relaxed for a few hours, and made our way to the hospital.  Since the doctor only spoke Japanese, I had to go pick up a friend who would act as translator.  This meant that while my wife took a cab to the hospital, I had to follow on bike in order to A) find where the hospital was, and B) leave soon after to pick up our friend and get her to the hospital.  This led to a comedy of errors. 

First of all, there is no way I can keep up with a taxi with a bicycle, especially when the cab takes a major highway.  I quickly fell behind, and soon lost sight of the cab.  Fortunately, we had looked up the location of the hospital beforehand, so I had a general idea of where it was.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know the exact location, so when I got to the area, I was expecting my wife to be standing in front of the location and wave me in, since the cab was well ahead of me.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that I tend to have my headphones on when I bike.  I  generally like music when I travel, so this is a pretty regular occurrence.  I think you can guess where this is going. 

I get to the general area where I thought the hospital was, and I don’t see my wife, so I keep going.  After about 5 minutes of biking, I realize that I may have gone a bit too far when I get to a store that was nowhere near the marked location on the map that we looked at prior to leaving for the hospital.  I start to ride back, and there’s my wife, standing outside of a non-descript building, waving at me frantically.  Apparently, I had passed the hospital by a good 5 blocks, and my wife had no money for the cab she had taken, so she had to resort to paying for the ride by credit card.  Apparently, I wasn’t that far behind the cab, and they had only pulled into the hospital about 2 minutes before, so she hadn’t had the opportunity to get to the front of the hospital before I had passed.  Also, by passing the hospital, I was now late in picking up our friend.  We should have taken all of this as an omen.

So when we finally get into the hospital with our friend, we go through the customary sign in and registration.  We then excitedly waited until our names were called, and we went in to see the doctor.  It started smoothly enough.  He explained to us the nature of a breech birth, and what breech position was best for such a birth.  We had researched all of this before, so when what he said matched our expectations, we thought it might just be smooth sailing.  Then things began to go downhill.  He informed us that in order for them to proceed, they were going to need to perform an X-Ray on my wife in order to admit her into the hospital.  The reason that we were given was so that they could make sure her hips were wide enough to deliver the baby.  This immediately sent alarm bells ringing in both my wife’s and my own head.  Every bit of literature that we had read up until then had said that X-Rays while the baby was in the womb were generally regarded as a bad idea.  Considering the baby wasn’t quite full term, we were concerned about the safety of such a procedure.  When we brought this up to the doctor, he immediately began to get defensive.

He replied quite aggressively that all hospitals did that, which was the first time that we had ever heard anyone say that.  Up until that point, every examination we had undergone was done by ultrasound only.  When we said that this was not a common practice in the US, he replied with, “If you want to use American procedures, then you should get on a plane and fly back to America.”  This obviously rubbed us the wrong way, but we tried to keep an open mind.  Maybe he was just gruff in his manner.  We asked for some time to do some more research to make sure it was ok, and he responded with, “If you don’t accept this procedure right now, then we will not accept you at all.  You will have to leave, and don’t bother coming back.”  He followed that up with, “If you don’t do this, there’s a possibility the baby could die.”  Finally, he kicked us out of his room while we were trying to discuss what to do because he didn’t want us to waste his time.  Keep in mind that all of this is being filtered through our friend who was acting as translator, and the doctor would give her time to translate his responses, but would cut her off whenever she would try to translate what we were saying. 

By the end of that exchange, I was seething, and my wife was in tears.  We had never been treated quite so rudely during this entire process, and despite all the difficulties, we always felt we were at least treated with respect, until that moment.  We sat outside of his office, trying to decide what to do.  My wife was still very against the idea of a C-section, but after the kind of treatment we had just received, she was ready to just call it quits and do whatever the doctors at the previous hospitals wanted.  I decided to try to do what research I could right then and there, since my wife owns a smartphone, so I hopped on the internet to see what we could learn about X-Rays during late stage pregnancy.  Come to find out that it isn’t all that irregular, as long as the dosage of radiation used during the X-Ray was kept very low.  They still advised against it, but that if it was absolutely necessary, it could be done without any ill effects. 

We gave it one last go, this time asking if at the very least, we could keep the baby with us in the room after the birth at all times so that my wife could breastfeed the child. When they told us this wasn’t allowed either, we decided it was time to go.  Aside from the possibility that we could avoid a C-section (there was never a guarantee that we would avoid a C-section at this hospital, just that if the circumstances were right, we could still undergo a natural birth), there was no reason to come to this hospital.  Their policies didn’t match what we wanted, the doctor was a rude asshole (yeah that’s right, I said it) and we honestly didn’t want to undergo what would already be a stressful process with someone who had the bedside manner of a jackhammer with a busted air compressor (yeah… a weird analogy, but I honestly don’t know what else to compare him to without using some rather uncouth words). 

On a sidenote, the reason I brought up the age of the doctor earlier was that he seemed to be one of those old school doctors who just expected everyone to bow down to his expertise, without question.  The fact that we didn’t immediately acquiesce to his demands seemed to have set him off.  I’m led to believe that he must have taken our questions and hesitation as a personal insult, and he felt that he had to reestablish himself as some sort of alpha male by badgering us into a decision, and when he didn’t get his way, he unceremoniously kicked us out of his office.  I’m not saying all older doctors are this way, but my experience is that younger doctors, at least here in Japan, are more willing to entertain a wider variety of ideas, and try to work with their patients, as opposed to trying to browbeat them into submission.

So we entered the weekend of our baby shower without anywhere to give birth to the baby.  Both of our previous hospitals had said that unless we agreed to a planned C-section on specific dates, we wouldn’t be taken in.  We knew that in the case of an emergency, they’d HAVE to take us in, but we’d rather not had to resort to that.  So in a last ditch effort, we decided to speak to our midwife, who was affiliated with the first hospital we were speaking with, Iguchi hospital.

The following Tuesday, March 13th, she came over, and we had a very long conversation.  We also had our friend/next door neighbor over as well, since she had a good deal of experience with dealing with babies, so that we had her opinion.  This was, all things considered, probably one of the best ideas we have had since this whole process began.  The most important thing to come out of this conversation was an explanation as to why we needed a C-section.  Up until this point, every time we asked why, the response from all of our doctors was that it was “hospital procedure.”  This led us to believe that it was always just a matter of convenience for the doctors, not a matter of respecting my wife’s desires or decisions.  We were told that the C-section needed to be planned to avoid damaging the uterus, since performing surgery while going through labor contractions could lead to tearing in the uterine walls, which could lead to excess blood loss, as well as putting the baby in a state of distress.

It was a very calming conversation, and we decided to schedule appointments with both Iguchi hospital and Fukuyama Medical Center in order to see what policies they had that would accommodate our wishes.  If she had to settle for a C-section, there were only two things she wanted.  One, that we have the baby with us at all times after the surgery, and two, that I be with her during the surgery.  While the second wish is common in the US, when we had brought it up before while in the Medical Center, we were given a non-committal answer.  This time, we were going to make sure we had solid answers, and we were going to make a final push for what we wanted before we assented to anything. 

On March 14th, we went to our appointment at Iguchi hospital.  We spoke with the doctor with whom we had worked before, and he checked the baby.  Then he sat us down and told us that he would take us in, but only if we agreed to a C-section for the very next day.  We were informed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around our baby’s neck, and we didn’t really have anymore time to wait.  We made it very clear what we wanted, and he agreed to both things.  Fortunately, unlike the doctor at Koike, this doctor is very affable, and tried his best to make us comfortable.  The reason that we weren’t with this doctor the entire time was that when he had discovered my wife’s cervix was thinning, the baby was still premature, and Iguchi was not equipped to handle a premature birth.  He sent us to Fukuyama Medical Center as a precaution.  Once we hit full term, we approached the idea of returning to Iguchi, but he insisted that we have the C-Section immediately, and at the time, we were still holding out hope that we could still have a natural birth.  However, after the experience at Koike, we were left with very little choice but to accept a C-section. We canceled the appointment with Fukuyama Medical Center, since if we had to be in a hospital for the birth, we wanted Iguchi as our first choice anyway.  So that night, we prepared ourselves to meet our baby the next day.

There is a very strange feeling knowing the exact moment you will meet your new child.  With natural birth, there is an indefinite period of time where you’re not sure if the baby is coming or not.  You know it will be soon, but the time in which you’re in labor can vary by great amounts.  It builds a sense of anticipation that has a very climactic finish with the actual birth.  We were scheduled for surgery at 1:00 PM on March 15th.  That’s about as definitive as you’re going to get.  There’s a sense of anticipation, but it’s very different in the fact that you know by a certain time, you’re done.  It’s almost like waiting for a train or a bus.  You know it will be there, with very little degree of variation in the timing (well… unless you’re waiting for a NYC bus… then who knows?) so it’s just a matter of waiting. 

So we arrive at the hospital at 9am on March 15th.  They prep my wife for surgery, and we settle into her recovery/post-partum room and wait until the actual surgery.  We nap a little, because we were both nervous/excited the night before, so we had very little sleep.  Then they call her into the surgical room, and I am told to wait while they set up for the actual surgery.  At 1:30pm, I am told to walk into the surgery room.  I was a little surprised by this, as I thought I would be given scrubs, but apparently, they’re ok with me coming in with my street clothes.  I proceed to sit next to my wife and hold her hand as they begin the surgery. 

Normally, at least in the US, when the husband is in the room during a C-section, there is a curtain separating the husband from the area of surgery, but there wasn’t one in this case.  I was given a full view of the entire surgery.  This was both scary and cool.  I had never seen a surgery done this close before, but at the same time, this is my wife we’re talking about here.  I have always felt close to my wife, but I never thought I’d see this side of her… you know, the inside.  At approximately 1:48pm, Rinoa Helena Tien was brought into this world.

Rinoa Birth 014

See? Street Clothes

The funniest thing about this whole thing (if you can call a surgery funny) was that as they were pulling out Rinny, butt first, there was a moment when her entire body was out of the womb, except for her head.  If you don’t know what a newly delivered baby looks like, they are a very strange blue-ish, gray color.  As her head was still inside her mom’s body cavity, I saw bubbles in the amniotic fluid, and I don’t know why, but it was the funniest thing I had seen for some time.  It looked sort of like an alien ostrich.  Anyway, they pulled her out, and here was this toothless, blue-ish, gray thing crying its head off at us.  At this point, we discovered it was a girl, and I could finally stop calling my child an “it” (although, as I had suspected for 4 years prior to her birth, that my first child would be a girl… it’s nice to be right).  At that moment, I was officially a daddy.

After they cleaned her up and clothed her, they handed her to me, and I was able to bring her to my wife while they closed her up.  To say the least, it was an uncomfortable experience for her, one that she never wants to repeat if possible.  I will never understand how people would willingly put themselves through a procedure that amounts to elective major surgery.  However, at the end of the day, we were blessed with a beautiful little baby girl, and really, that’s all you can ask for. 


Rinoa Helena Tien

Now, on to the business of being a daddy! I’ll save all the immediate post-birth stories for the next entry.  Hope to see you here for the next one.


  1. I recently posted about my birth experience in Japan and was wondering if it would be okay to link to yours in a follow up post talking about different birth experiences. You can read about my birth story here: