Today’s guest post comes from the other side of the world, please welcome my new friend Jo & her story about ‘baby stuff’:
I had been living in Japan since November ‘98 and I discovered I was pregnant just before Christmas ‘02. Waiting for that little blue line to appear had me going through such a mix of emotions and when it finally showed up positive I burst into tears, I am still not sure it they were tears of joy or tears of panic!
Over the next few months I had a steep learning curve, as much as I thought I knew about Japan, being pregnant proved that I still had a lot to learn. We attended the classes provided by the city but they were of little help and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me, why they were teaching us how to make clam chowder. The one thing I did learn was that my husband thought washing a baby was done very much in the same manner as washing the dishes, including a good shake at the end.
We were living in a tiny apartment and had no nursery, the baby was going to have to sleep in the same room as us and on the floor, what no crib? I had a hard time getting my head around all these differences but just had to go with the flow. As it turned out the sleeping arrangements were great, my husband and I shared a double futon and my baby boy had his own, child sized futon, next to me. I later learned that this is very similar to the Montessori sleeping philosophy, I was raising a Montessori baby before I had even heard of Maria Montessori. During the day, the futons were put away and we had the whole room to play in.
Worrying about the lack of space, sleeping arrangements and the fact that I didn’t know anyone in Japan with kids were mere trivia compared to my fear of going into labour. My husband worked well over an hours commute away and the hospital was a 1 hour drive in the opposite direction. Although we had a plan I was still terrified of it all starting to happen when my husband was at work. As it turned out we ended up going to the hospital at 4am, potential panic attack averted.
Before baby arrived I spent a lot of my time reading websites and books and wondering how on earth we could fit all these things that a baby apparently needed. Changing table, baby bath, stroller, potty, bum wipe warmer… the list goes on. The more I studied the list of necessary items the more I wondered why they were necessary. My changing table was a waterproof sheet that I would lay on the floor, no worries about baby rolling off the floor! The baby bath we had for four or five weeks, until the midwife gave us the thumbs up for him to go in the big bath with either me or my husband. The stroller, never had one, I used a papoose which was designed for tiny babies then transformed for bigger babies. Using a papoose forced me to pack my bag sensibly when I went out as I would be carrying it all, no lugging around unnecessary items. And the bum wipes warmer? Well I never really understood the need for that in the first place.
I am sure it would have been much more difficult for me get to the place where I felt comfortable not doing it the ‘normal’ way because of advice given to me by a friend…
“Babies don’t want for much, just provide them with food, a warm place to sleep and plenty of love”.
Looking back, there is very little I would have changed about how we coped in the tiny apartment, now I can see so many positives came out of the experience. I enjoyed the two years of co-sleeping, we moved into a house when my boy was two and finally he got his own room. I am positive that it was a great experience for him as was sleeping on a futon rather than a bed.
We were very picky about toys that we bought, opting for things that didn’t take up much space and that could be used for years, and learned that children don’t need loads of toys just a handful of well designed ones.
I also learned that it doesn’t matter how many books or websites you read, you will never be fully prepared for motherhood and that being organized yet adaptable will save a lot of worry and stress in the long run. I learned that women in Japan are pregnant for 10 months not 9, that old ladies will stop you in the street if you are pregnant and scold you for not having socks on, even if it is the middle of summer. That babies don’t wear socks even outside in the winter and babies don’t have teething issues just itchy gums and that you will get to keep part of your baby’s umbilical cord in a little box.
Most of all I learned that worrying about the ‘what if’s’ was a waste of time and it is best to be open to other ways of doing things, even if they seem odd or strange, things might just turn out for the better for doing so.
[Jo Ebisujima is a Brit living in Japan. She loves creating for children and helping parents to organize themselves and their children so that they can spend more quality time together. She writes about her work at My Organized Chaos. She can also be found at her personal blog jojoebi designs where she shares about her everyday life, Montessori, crafting and raising a bilingual child in Japan.