Life with Baby · Pregnancy

Lillian’s Prenatal Baby Book

A couple of weeks ago I was super excited to finally finish Lillian’s prenatal baby book. I did a pretty good job keeping up with updating the book throughout my pregnancy, but the last few months before Lillian was born I sort of dropped the ball. Fortunately, I took lots of notes in my art journal that year, so I was able to remember a lot of what happened and how I was feeling! It also helped that I used a small photo album about 5X7 size. I got to choose what to put in Lily’s book, and wasn’t overwhelmed by having to fill a big space! Here are a few of my favorite pages:

We took pictures in a Japanese photo booth for our pregnancy announcement, so it was fun to add some to the book (you can see more by clicking here ūüôā ).

I loved the quote I found to add to the Studio Ghibli pages from The Secret World of Arrietty: “It’s funny how you wake up each day and never know if it’ll be the one that will change your life forever.” Lillian has sure changed our world!In Japan they give you an ultrasound at every appointment, so we were really able to watch Lillian grow over the months. It was such an amazing gift before she was born, that I don’t know we’ll have with future babies. I recorded my birth experience in Japan (read that, here), and printed that off to end Lillian’s book. I feel so happy with it, and think it will be really cool for Lily to look at when she’s older! Now to start on her baby book for her first year–phew!!

Have you ever made a prenatal baby book? What kinds of things did you record to remember?




Pregnancy · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

5 helpful things in late pregnancy (with links!)

There are many articles and blog posts that give advice on helpful things to do during pregnancy, but since each person is different I thought one more from me couldn’t hurt ūüôā These are some things I did, especially during late pregnancy, and how they worked out for me.

5HelpfulThingstoTryinLatePregnancy1. Prenatal exercise– every day in the last two months or so of pregnancy, I walked between one to two hours. I didn’t worry too much about how far I walked because (especially toward the last few weeks/days) I thought it was better to just try my best and get outside.

I also did yoga several times a week. I started with Prenatal Yoga with Adriene, but to be honest, I found it wasn’t challenging enough during the first two trimesters and not stimulating enough during the third (okay, I’ll just say it: I was so bored with it!). Instead, in the third trimester I switched to this free video called Yoga for Birth Preparation. I found this video not only relaxing, but informative. For each step, you are told why¬†you are doing what you’re doing. Having that understanding really helped me to know what sorts of techniques I could apply during labor (which I mentioned briefly in Lillian’s birth story).

The Yoga for Birth Preparation video uses some really nice, calming music. I wrote to the ¬†producers of the video and asked about the music, and they kindly and quickly replied: the music is by Benjy Wetheimer, from his album Anjali. I downloaded it off of Amazon, and though I didn’t end up listening to it during labor, I think the album will still be nice to listen to while doing some yoga independently now.

Lastly, I frequently did squats. I figure that even if you don’t have much time, you can squeeze in this awesome 5-minute squat video. When I had Lily, the nurses said they were amazed at how strong I could push, and I like to think keeping up with squats helped. It also helped with a lot of other issues some women have (I never once had pee accidents from laughing/sneezing, etc.)!

2. Relaxed– I took loads of baths and used a lot of face masks. In Japan there are some really great, inexpensive face masks available, and that’s something I’ll really miss back home! In the last few weeks of pregnancy my lower back hurt a lot and my hips just killed, so having a sweet husband give me massages really helped, too. I give Chad extra props because giving someone a massage while she’s lying on her side because of a huge belly has got to be difficult! I also took some naps, but to be honest, I should’ve slept more! I sort of felt guilty about sleeping, like I should be doing more with my time, but now I know that 1) I had such difficulty sleeping from being physically uncomfortable that I should’ve tried as much as possible, and 2) I dream of being able to get that kind of sleep now that we’ve got a newborn! (Well, day dream, anyway haha)

3. Prepared my hospital bag and “survival stations”– For the most part, I prepared my hospital bag according to the lists provided by my hospitals (both St Luke’s and Aiiku had pretty much the same list). I did bring my Kindle as well, but I personally felt too tired to read. Television might have been nice, but I didn’t watch it because I had a shared room and didn’t want to disturb the other mommies (plus it was Japanese television, anyway, which might’ve been too overwhelming at that point). In the rare times I had my hands free I was usually sleeping or eating or showering, but I suppose it was better to have options available rather than not just in case.

I also made “survival stations” for when I got home based on articles like this one. Because in Japan you stay in the hospital for about 5 days after giving birth, I didn’t end up using the bathroom basket much. I also didn’t use the padsicles I prepped because by the time I got home there was no need. The breastfeeding basket was also unnecessary, perhaps because our apartment is so small that the few things I needed (lanisoh, water, snacks etc.) were always within reach right next to any diapering needs. I suppose it depends on the person, and I guess in the end it was nice to be over prepared rather than under, but really the only basket I’ve needed has been the one with diapers, wipes, a thermometer, gas drops, and burp towels. I also put a little bag in the basket with bath time stuff (baby soap, lotion & oil, q-tips, etc.) because there was extra space.

Ultimately so much of what you prep for the hospital & home is dependent on your hospital stay and the layout of your home/what will be convenient and necessary for you. And in my case, I couldn’t really know about what I really needed until I actually experienced my hospital stay/homecoming! My main point here is that you may feel like you should be going crazy preparing things, but it might be better to focus more on relaxing! We were super minimal about a lot (especially buying things because we knew we were going to move back to Michigan again soon), and everything worked itself out.

4. Read & used a pregnancy app– Like many soon-to-be mommies, I read a lot of articles online, but I also enjoyed reading The Taboo Secrets of Pregnancy and The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy. Of course The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy was good to have on hand as well! Reading these books was especially helpful to me living so far away from family and friends.

I also used this Pregnancy+ iPhone app. I liked the app for its updates and for tracking things, but was a little bummed when a few months in I got the surprise notification that I would have to pay $4.99 to continue using what I thought was a free app. At that point I didn’t want to start anew and re-enter data, so I just paid for it (I’d love to hear about your favorite pregnancy app if you have one!).

5. Joined a pregnancy groupРjoining the Tokyo Pregnancy Group proved immensely useful. The ladies in the group were able to give me great advice, especially when we had to switch hospitals! I never really made many friends in Tokyo aside from a few coworkers (most of whom never had children), so having a support group was invaluable. The only downside was that the meetings were always held on weekday afternoons, so I was only able to attend one meeting once I started maternity leave. I think a lot about my pregnancy would have been easier had I been able to make friends with some other mommies (or better yet, had I been in my home country!). Reaching out to others who are going through or have gone through pregnancy is so important!  Chad and me at a ramen shop about a week before my due date.  

I hope sharing some of my experiences in trying to prepare myself during pregnancy were helpful to you, and would love to hear about what worked/didn’t work for you!

xx Caitlyn


A tale of two hospitals: part two

I can’t believe our baby girl is already just over 5 weeks old! Time has been flying, and we’re starting to really get into the swing of newborn parenting. One thing’s for sure: we definitely would have had a much rougher start if Chad’s mom hadn’t come out to visit for a couple of weeks. She was especially a life saver when Lillian and I had our one month checkup. Without a car or a stroller or anyone else to help (Chad had to work) I don’t know how I would’ve survived without her! Chad’s mom held Lillian, lugged her diaper bag around, and was super supportive.

Now that the one month check is finished, we are officially done with going to Aiiku Hospital and will be switching to a Pediatric Clinic. Before the Aiiku chapter in our lives is closed, however, it’s time for part two of my experience with the hospital just before and after Lillian’s birth.

Above you can see photos of the shared rooms at Aiiku Hospital. The private rooms were a little bigger, but much more expensive and (in my opinion) not really worth the extra cost.

Once we switched to Aiiku Hospital, I wanted a maternity ward tour as soon as possible. At St Luke’s International Hospital, they schedule a private tour for you with an interpreter and a midwife. At Aiiku, however, there are group tours scheduled twice a month, and if you can’t attend them, well, you’re out of luck. I’ve since learned that there is an English tour available, but no one told me that at the time, so I was left to do my best with my limited Japanese. This was a little stressful, but not nearly as stressful as trying to make phone calls to the hospital in English.

I had three really rough experiences with calling the hospital. First, a few days before I went into labor, Lillian was putting pressure on some nerves that gave me such horrible leg cramps I couldn’t walk. I was in a lot of pain, and I read online that some women experience contractions through their legs. After several hours, I decided it would be best to call the hospital, but when I called and asked for someone who spoke English, the person speaking just said she would “try her best.”

After about ten minutes of trying to explain my concern without any comprehension on the other end of the line, I started to get really upset and negative (I asked myself why I had to be giving birth in Japan, was getting really frustrated with my Japanese skills, and had started to get scared because I had no idea what I was experiencing as a soon-to-be mommy). With a shaky voice I finally said, “I know you’re trying your best to understand me, but are you sure there is no one else who might be able to speak more English that I could talk to?” And seconds after a “chotto matte” (just a moment), a fluent English speaker hopped on the line. Why she wasn’t put on immediately is beyond me, but it would have really saved me a lot of stress!

The next day I had to call again to make sure of my appointment time for the day after that. Once again I was greeted with mediocre English, and was told that I didn’t seem to have an appointment anymore. I asked if they could please make one as I was already 40 weeks pregnant. The woman said yes, and that I could see the same doctor I saw last time but that he couldn’t speak English. I responded, “Um, I saw a female doctor last time, and she could speak English.” I was then put on hold before she came back on the line and said, “Okay, you can see the doctor you saw last time who can speak English. Is 11:30 okay?” I said yes and then asked if I should come at 10:30 for the NST that Aiiku requires for all pregnancies after 37 weeks.

She said, “Why do you need an NST? You are 14 weeks pregnant, right?”

“No! I’m FORTY WEEKS. Do you know which patient I am?” I was starting to get pretty frustrated, not to mention surprised and concerned. I had already given my ID number, name, birthday etc., so how were all of these issues arising? She said she knew who I was and that she was sorry because it was her first day (not particularly encouraging…). Then I was told to come early for the NST.

The last difficult phone call was when I was in labor. Long story short, there wasn’t anyone around who spoke even basic English when I called to report my contractions (the woman on the phone didn’t even seem to understand the word “contraction!”), and I ended up having Chad take over because it was too hard to talk anyway. One thing that would have been tremendously helpful to know about is the Himawari Translation Service free for medical interpretation. I think using Himawari could have saved me a lot of headaches (though I still would have been concerned about the mix-ups when I called to confirm that appointment!).

After your baby is born, you stroll them around in little mobile cots when going from your room to the nursery, etc.. Mine was labeled “Dykehouse Caitlyn baby.”

Having difficulty communicating was probably one of the hardest parts of pregnancy in Japan, but in the end we got our beautiful girl so it’s been easy to let go a bit with time. After Lillian was born we were able to spend time recovering in the LDR, and I was brought lunch. I heard some hospitals bring a meal for the husband, too, but Chad was left to run up to the hospital restaurant, which was closed for some reason. Sadly, all he could really scrape together was a granola bar and some canned coffee.

Our sweet girl at the hospital in one of the super cute robes they provide during your stay. She has already changed so much!

My meals at Aiiku were overall really tasty, and were always healthy and balanced. Unless you choose the most expensive private room option (I believe it’s about the equivalent of $700 per day), even your spouse has to adhere to the 1:00-8:00 visiting hours, so I usually was only able to eat with Chad at dinner time. The visiting hours were one of the toughest parts of being at the hospital after Lillian was born.

Spaghetti dinner with tea, soup, yogurt, kiwi, salad and a sweet/savory cheese bread.

The other tough parts of my hospital stay were mostly related to being a new mommy than to anything to do with the hospital, though I did have a couple encounters that were unique to foreigners, I think. For example, when breastfeeding, Lillian liked one side better than the other, so I asked if I could pump on one side and dump the milk out (I didn’t want her to be bottle fed before the first month). The midwife looked at me like I was foolish and said, “In Japan we don’t care how the babies get the milk as long as they get their food, but foreigners just want to breastfeed.” Of course ultimately that’s what foreigners want, too, but many mommies value exclusive breastfeeding and don’t want to interfere with that in the first month. I just did what I thought was right, and ignored her comment.

Chicken, tomato, okra and mushroom dinner plate with tea, rolls, crackers, salad and apple slices.

Overall the nurses/midwives were helpful, but they weren’t always friendly. Sometimes I wondered if their lack of warmth was from the language barrier, or perhaps because they were just tired like me. (Or…perhaps I was just tired and I was imagining their coolness.) I did think it was strange that staff at Aiiku frequently insisted on having tests I didn’t feel were necessary, like doing NST’s before I was overdue even though everything in my pregnancy was fine, doing all my blood tests again (even though they had gotten the results for the exact same tests a week prior from St. Luke’s), and telling me I should get checked for diabetes a month after birth because Lillian was bigger than Japanese babies tend to be (even though my entire pregnancy I was completely normal–at a healthy weight with healthy blood pressure, urine samples, etc.).

Breakfast of yogurt, tea, warm bread slices, salad, milk and orange slices.

One nice thing about Aiiku is that the hospital is very up-front about pricing, unlike St. Luke’s where no pricing information was given to me in English. At Aiiku, you are given thorough information in English that breaks down the cost of giving birth and the fees for hospital stay. The strange thing is that since pregnancy isn’t covered by insurance in Japan, the fee for giving birth actually decreases if you have any emergency procedures like an episiotomy or a C-section (because those are covered by insurance). So a completely natural birth is cheaper than one that requires more medical attention!

This was one of my favorites: a lunch of potato soup, tea, pizza toasts, mixed nuts, a savory/sweet cheese waffle, yogurt, milk, salad and pineapple. Since we never ended up getting an oven this time around in Japan, we’ve taken to making these pizza toasts in our broiler ūüôā

In the end I am glad we were able to transfer to Aiiku. Language barriers happen all over the place in Japan, even in Tokyo, so we’re still dealing with that, but on the bright side now that I’ve gone through pregnancy in Japan I know I can really handle a lot. Often in life you’re tougher than you think, and in my case I ended up with the best gift I could ever ask for: our darling daughter.

I hope this has been helpful to anyone searching for information on giving birth in Japan, or at least of interest to anyone in general! To those of you who commented on Facebook, etc., that you were waiting for the second half of this hospital tale, thank you for your patience! I would love to hear what you thought, or about your experiences with cultural differences, pregnancy, and so on in the comments!




A tale of two hospitals: part one

When you find out you’re pregnant in Japan, one of the first things you’ll want to do is “shop around” for hospitals. Despite living in Tokyo, where you might assume there is loads of information on this process available in English, I actually had a difficult time finding out much about hospitals at all. (I will say, however, that had I learned about the Tokyo Pregnancy Group earlier on, I could’ve gotten loads of advice from other pregnant ladies in the city.) After trying my best to inform myself on a good hospital, I ended up choosing St. Luke’s International Hospital, which is known for being an excellent hospital with great English accessibility. It’s also known for being expensive, but at my first appointment a nurse told me the due amount at birth would be around 90000 yen (somewhere near $900 USD) and I thought that sounded super reasonable. As I mentioned before, St. Luke’s doesn’t offer epidurals unless there is a case of severe pain or other extraneous circumstances, but the quality of the hospital seemed to outweigh my lack of a choice in the matter. No English documents about the price were ever provided to me, so I went along merrily at St. Luke’s until I was about 37 weeks pregnant.

Then came the day in which we got a big shock: when we went to book our room at St. Luke’s, we were told the price before government assistance after birth would be 1200000 yen (over $10,000 USD). It seemed the nurse who I talked to when I first chose St. Luke’s made a serious error in her English. We were speechless, and after leaving the appointment decided immediately that we needed to transfer to a different hospital. Over the next day and a half we were on an incredibly stressful and difficult mission to change hospitals.

One choice was to go to Toshima Hospital, but the staff said we would need an interpreter to be with us during the entire labor and delivery. This started the process of calling several translation services, but there are no interpreters available on-call. Additionally, we couldn’t find interpreter services that were medical-related (they were all for business). Toshima Hospital’s staff also said that my husband would have to be fluent in Japanese in order to be in the room during labor and delivery (which he’s not). The positive side of Toshima Hospital would be that after government assistance, the entire fee would be covered. Our boss kindly offered to attend as an interpreter, but we didn’t know when I would go into labor, how long it would be, etc., so that–in addition to the unfriendliness toward non-Japanese speakers–led us not to choose Toshima. (Note: Had we chosen Toshima to begin with, the conditions given may not have been the case, and they may have also allowed us to use a telephone translation service like Himawari. Either way, it was important to me to be able to communicate with relative ease in English throughout my pregnancy, so it is unlikely we ever would have chosen Toshima Hospital.)

Another choice we were given was to go to St. Luke’s Birth Clinic, which is connected to the hospital, but significantly cheaper. However, we were warned that 1 out of 3 women are transferred to the International Hospital from the clinic and then have to pay the hospital fee anyway. Reasons for transfer could be as small as needing an episiotomy (which I did, in the end). The possibility of being transferred to the main hospital seemed risky to us, so we decided to keep looking.

Ultimately, after getting loads of helpful advice from some friends and from the ladies in the Tokyo Pregnancy Group, we decided to transfer to Aiiku Hospital. We were very lucky the hospital accepted us as it is generally very difficult to transfer (hospitals in Japan require “booking” early in pregnancy and are super reluctant to accept patients later on in pregnancy).¬† I cannot express how rough the hospital search and transition was, but on the bright side, our overall experience at Aiiku Hospital was positive. In my next post, I’ll be writing more about my experience with Aiiku in general, but for now I wanted to provide an infographic that compares some basic information about St. Luke’s International Hospital and Aiiku Hospital.Tokyo Hospitals

                                                       Click image to enlarge

If you’re a reader who has gone to either hospital, please keep in mind that I am writing about my experiences, and that I understand others may have had a totally different experience. One of my biggest goals is just to make my experience available to women who are in the situation I was in months ago, or to share with others what it was like being pregnant in Japan. I hope this post is helpful!

xx Caitlyn


Lillian’s Birth Story

We are so happy to announce the birth of our sweet Lillian Marie Dykehouse!
Lillian's Birth StoryBy my weekly checkup on Thursday, January 28th, it was¬†3 days past Lillian’s expected due date, and doctors guessed we would have to begin the process of inducing labor on Monday. This would start with me coming to the hospital that day to receive something called lamaria, a seaweed native to Japan used to dilate the cervix. I really wasn’t comfortable with the idea of using lamaria, but the doctors insisted that unless I had dilated naturally at that point, that was my only option. I was a little frustrated about the lack of negotiation on this point, so I just hoped Lily would come on her own or that I would be dilated enough not to have to get the lamaria. Either way, on Tuesday I would be given meds¬†to further progress induced labor if necessary to officially get things started.
On Friday the 29th, I was still feeling a little anxious about the possibility of induced labor, but I was happy to know that either way we’d have our sweet baby soon. My pregnancy experience overall was really good–I was thankful that Lillian was always healthy and that I was, too. However, by the last couple of weeks she was resting on nerves that gave me continual leg cramps in my thighs every time I walked, I was very achy and sore, and I was quite tired overall. I was so ready to have Lillian!
Chad and I decided to go out for dinner to get some okonomiyaki, and¬†had a really nice time despite the gloomy weather. It was very rainy and cold, and I told Chad I hoped the rain wouldn’t turn to ice over night in case I did go into labor and we needed to get to the hospital. After dinner I also said–just in case–that we should get out some money for a taxi. I don’t know if something in me knew what was coming, but around 9 or 10 o’clock I started to feel contractions. Now, to be honest, I thought maybe the contractions were really bad gas pains at first. After all, the previous day we had eaten something called Calico Beans and I thought it had just been killing my stomach. (Side note: because of this association with Calico Beans and contractions, I really don’t want that for dinner any time soon!) When the contractions started coming about every ten minutes from about 2 in the morning, I¬†knew for sure¬†Calico Beans weren’t the cause of the pain and we called the hospital.
As I will explain in a future post, we had to switch hospitals about three weeks earlier, and one of the downsides was that our new hospital, Aikku Hospital, didn’t seem to have as many fluent English speakers as our previous hospital. So when I called at about 3 or 4 am to tell the hospital about my contractions, I was shocked to be told there was no one who spoke English there at the moment, but that the¬†nurse I was speaking to¬†would try her best if I spoke slowly. Despite an experience earlier in the week with terrible communication issues over the phone, I was still incredulous that there was no one I could talk to. After several minutes of painful attempts to communicate (both painful in the mental sense from the language barrier struggle and the physical sense from having contractions at the same time), the nurse told me to call back once the contractions were occurring 5-6 minutes apart.
Around 6 am, the contractions suddenly went from coming 10 minutes apart to between 2 and 3. We didn’t waste any time and called a cab before dealing with another phone call to explain to the hospital we were coming. At this point, I was able to practice a few techniques I had learned in a prenatal yoga for birth preparation video I had been doing for a month or so. I would stand leaning against¬†a wall or the top of something shoulder-height, put one foot back a ways and the other forward, and sway while breathing: in 5 seconds, out 5 seconds. Once we were in the taxi, I continued¬†breathing in the same manner.
The taxi ride to the hospital was about 30 minutes. We used a taxi service called Nihon Kotsu, a service you sign up for in advance online. The service is wonderful because they knew my due date, our address, and the address of the hospital. They also have English speakers available on the phone 24 hours a day. When we got to the hospital, I was ready to have our baby already, though tougher contractions were on their way and I still had hours to go. First, I changed into a hospital gown, and after only a half an hour or so went to take a bath. I was brought breakfast but could only drink the milk box (poor Chad, who was starving, ate a couple bites at my insistence and was probably so sad to see them take the tray away mostly uneaten soon after).
Whenever I walked anywhere, I would still¬†stop and sway with each contraction. I slid into the tub and let out a deep sigh of relief, only to have¬†the strength of the contractions suddenly¬†go up a¬†notch. At this point I began¬†to hum through pursed lips on my exhales, really focusing on the sound of my¬†voice. It wasn’t long before the contractions got so strong that I started feeling the urge to push, and I was out of the tub, back in the LDR (labor, delivery & recovery room).¬†A nurse checked my cervix and¬†said, “Wow!¬†You’re already dilated to 6¬†cm!”¬†To this I replied, “That’s it!?” I remember thinking to myself, I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore. No, I can. I have to. And I will. Don’t say can’t.
At this point, the nurses told me that if I felt the urge to push, I should resist, but my body took over and I felt as if I had no control over the pushing. I briefly wondered if I should (or could) change my mind about getting an epidural or other pain medicine, but before I could even really consider it another contraction came and my focus was solely on giving birth. Another nurse came to check my dilation only a while later and said, “Good! I think you will be able to meet your baby sometime this afternoon!” Tired, hopeful, and overwhelmed, I looked to Chad beseechingly and asked, “Is that soon?” He said yes, and though he really didn’t seem confident I just had to hope he was telling the truth. (I found out later that it was about 10:00 am at that point, but I’m glad no one told me that!)
Things continued to progress, and I was able to see the image of her head emerging reflected in the nurse’s protective glasses. Every time I pushed I tried to look and see if she was any closer to coming, but it never looked that way. Soon a team of 3 nurses came with a doctor, and they helped to “open things up” with each push because her head was a bit big for my body. I remember feeling like the whole experience was so painful and bizarre and new, and like I was almost outside of myself watching the whole thing. I had a hard time relaxing in between contractions, so much so that the nurses kept trying to remind me to relax and breathe, and that I told them, “I can’t!” They said, “You can!” but then I had another contraction and couldn’t listen to them anyway.
Finally, I had a contraction¬†where everyone started shouting, “Yes! Go, go, go! One more!” And I just pushed like it was nobody’s business! I thought this had to be the one to get her out because I was finished! And then, at 11:29 am, only about 4 hours after arriving at the hospital, I saw my beautiful baby girl being held up and I felt so much relief and joy. I watched¬†nurses and midwives¬†take her to be cleaned up while the doctor worked on cleaning me up and giving me stitches (in the end I had an episiotomy in addition to the help of the “pulling” doctors, but received¬†no pain meds whatsoever other than anesthesia for the episiotomy stitches afterwards) and felt like it would be an eternity until I could hold her. Chad went over by her and I watched her daddy look at his sweet girl. It was only a few minutes later before I got to hold our Lillian, and my heart felt so full. I laughed and cried and just felt so tired and sore ohmygoodness. Lillian was about 3.7 kg (around 8.1 pounds) and 52.5 cm long (around 20.5 inches). The nurses and midwives kept saying what a good pusher I was, and how my labor was relatively short for a first child. (I was like, was it? Because that felt like it took an eternity.)
Lillian's Birth Story 2Technically after delivery you can stay in the LDR for a couple of hours, but I think we ended up staying a little longer.¬†I didn’t question our extra time¬†because I was very glad for it. I had a little lunch and Chad snacked on a granola bar and canned coffee (the hospital restaurant was strangely closed), and after a while¬†we made the transition to what would be my room for the next five days. Then, our journey as parents begun!
I’ve always had a respect for other mothers, but after experiencing childbirth myself I am even more blown away by the awesomeness of the human body.¬†I have had some¬†medical hurdles to overcome before, but nothing compares to the challenge of childbirth (and of course, nothing has come with such a sweet reward!).
Photo 2-4-16, 4 10 25 PM¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Lillian’s first day at home from the hospital
I hope you’ve enjoyed the story of Lily’s birth, and that if you’re pregnant¬†(especially in Japan!)¬†it has helped you or encouraged¬†you in some way.¬†More to come soon about my hospital experiences before and after birth!
xx Caitlyn
P.S. Lillian was born on National Croissant Day! Who would’ve thought after my last post¬† that I’d be given yet another reason to love croissants?
Food & Cooking

Tomorrow is National Croissant Day!

national-croissant-day-january-30_editedI’ve mentioned time and time again that ever since visiting Paris a few years ago I have been obsessed with croissants. I can still be quite picky about them–if they don’t have the right buttery layers and flakiness, just forget it. (Unless you add Nutella. You can add Nutella and things will work out. I may have just done so to a supermarket croissant and consumed it happily with coffee a few minutes ago.)

Despite my ongoing obsession with croissants, I actually never thought a lot about the origin of the delightful pastry. Of course France is generally famous for croissants, but did you know that the origin is a little more complex than that? In preparation for National Croissant Day tomorrow, here is a little Smithsonian article: Is the Croissant Really French? After reading the article, why not treat yourself to a croissant to celebrate your new-found knowledge?

In a pinch back home, I would settle for Starbucks’ warmed croissants, but I really had trouble finding good ones in my area of Michigan. Fortunately Japan has loads of nice bakeries with decent croissants, and right around the corner of our apartment is a tiny bakery where a sweet little old lady sells a few delicious croissants every morning (always sold out quickly). I’ll probably indulge in one of those tomorrow if I don’t go into labor.


Phew. But that’s okay. She’ll come when she’s ready. Or not, and the doctors will induce labor. Either way, I have sort of been putting off blogging because 1) we haven’t gone far all month in case baby decides to come suddenly (so there has been a lot of hanging around home getting ready), 2) most of the crafty projects I’ve been working on are gifts for people who haven’t received them yet so I haven’t posted about them, and 3) any baby-related posts I have planned are ones I want to post after she arrives.
Photo 1-29-16, 4 15 01 PMANYWAY, that’s why I haven’t been posting as much as I would like, but I’ve been thinking of you! Eat an extra croissant (or at the very least, a heaping spoon of Nutella) for me, and keep us in your thoughts as baby’s eventual birthday approaches!

Happy National Croissant Day (a day early!)!
xx Caitlyn

Autumn Bucket List

Autumn Bucket List recap

It seems like the end of December is a little late to be talking about an Autumn Bucket List, but when you think about it, winter technically just started a little over a week ago. If you add the fact that weather in Tokyo still¬†feels like fall, updating you on fall happenings really shouldn’t be that strange at all! So, without further adieu, let’s talk about my 2015 Autumn Bucket List! #noregrets ūüėČ

  1. Try kirigami– Kirigami, the art of folding and cutting, can really make some neat projects. I was a lot busier than I expected over the past few months, but I did manage to do this quick kirigami pattern out of a 100 yen store kirigami book.
  2. Go to Studio Ghibli- Once again, we were unable to get tickets for Ghibli in the fall. On the bright side, we were able to get tickets for winter, and we ended up going on Christmas Day! We were a little surprised that after all the hype and difficulty getting tickets the museum wasn’t bigger. We also couldn’t believe there is no English at all throughout the museum (and even the English brochure didn’t offer any information other than rules), but we still had a nice time. I really enjoyed the Christmas decorations at the museum, and also walking in the surrounding area (Kichijoji).
  3. Start sewing projects for baby– I started working on this cute sewing kit purchased from etsy.
    hedgehog cross stitchI used to lack the patience for sewing, but I feel like as long as there is an interesting podcast or video going in the background, I really enjoy sewing. I definitely have a renewed appreciation for all the beautiful sewing work my mother has created–especially after realizing it can take hours to complete only 10 rows or so of stitching!
  4. Go on a picnic– Chad and I had a picnic with our students, and also had “mini” picnics a couple of times (like when we shared those nice pastries at the Rikugien Gardens).
  5. Go on a mini trip & view autumn leaves– in October we went to Kyoto and rode the Sagano Romantic Train. We also went on the Hozugawa River Boat Ride before biking a bit around Arashiyama.The leaves weren’t changing too much yet, but we were able to do lots of autumn leaf viewing after that trip.
    IMG_3360¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† ¬†¬† We met an oni on the Sugamo Romantic Train…!
    IMG_3346               One of over 1200 statues at Otagi Nenbutsuji in Arashiyama
  6. Make a birdy mobile– I totally didn’t get a chance to make this, but here is what I had in mind:
    birdy mobile via pinterest
  7. Go to Mt. Takao– I was super proud that at 29 weeks I was able to hike all the way to the top of Mt. Takao!
  8. Make Halloween Needle Felts– I made two, and blogged about the projects here.
  9. Holiday/Maternity Leave Planning– I definitely worked on this part of my list throughout the fall, especially in December! With the holidays I did all of the expected: had fun finding special gifts, wrapping presents, preparing yummy food… And for maternity leave, I’ve been trying to do yoga and/or squats every day, to go for a daily walk, and to do part or all of one task I’ve got listed on my To-Do List (for example, washing new baby clothes or organizing a closet to prepare things for sending home). Busy, busy!
  10. Get necessary items ready for baby– We still have a few things to get ready for baby’s arrival, but we have been very lucky to have friends and family helping out with a lot of the basic necessities. We have been super minimal about purchases and requests as 1) we’ve heard that new parents often have WAY more than they need, 2) if we do need something we don’t have, we can always pick up those essentials as we go, and 3) we aren’t planning on staying in Japan for very long after baby is born so we don’t want to accumulate too much.
    IMG_4072Thirty five and a half weeks pregnant at The Tokyo New National Theater to see The Nutcracker

I thought about making my first ever winter bucket list for this year, but aside from going to The Nutcracker ballet (which we did a couple days before Christmas, by the way!), my primary goal for this winter is to meet our little girl and settle into being a mommy! I think that will be more than enough to keep me busy.

What are some things you did over the fall, and what have you got planned for the winter?

xx Caitlyn


My birthday, baby and fun things ahead

Can you believe we’re already coming to the end of November? At the beginning of the month I thought time might go way too slowly, and now I’m sitting here wondering where the days went! Before any more time passes, I’ve got a list of three updates that involve the number three–totally by chance!

  1. Turning 30
    Yesterday was my 30th birthday! I had to work during the day, but my coworkers gave me a really nice card and a super cute gift. Also, Chad’s students made me a card and sang me Happy Birthday, and my kids gave me lots of birthday hugs and wishes, too. At night Chad and I went for dinner, Japanese photo booth, and a walk before getting cake and heading home. It was a perfect way to spend the evening!
    Photo 11-24-15, 8 14 00 PMUnlike many people, I totally don’t mind that I’ve turned 30–in fact, I am happy to leave my twenties behind and am looking forward to life in my thirties (both my own and that of our sweet baby on the way!).
  2. 31 Weeks
    On Monday I began my 31st week of pregnancy. Aside from general exhaustion, occasional heartburn and continued congestion, things are going swimmingly. Baby is healthy, and according to today’s appointment, slightly longer than average Japanese babies (the nurse said we have a “tall, slender girl”).
    Photo 11-24-15, 8 14 09 PM
    I’d say my bump has grown a bit since our last go at purikura, wouldn’t you?Some interesting things I’ve learned since my last post on pregnancy in Japan: at my hospital, you unfortunately cannot donate cord blood. My hospital also does not take a newborn photo, but since we get a longer hospital stay (in Japanese hospitals mommies get to rest and recover with baby for around 6 days after birth), I think we’ll have a few opportunities to try and take one ourselves! Also, you may be happy to learn that despite my previous concerns, my hospital is not a participant in pre-delivery kanchos (or perhaps it was just me that was happy to learn that…). Lastly, in Japan they give you a little box and cloth bag to put the umbilical cord in after it falls off so you can keep it. Forever. And just in case something happens to the cord, you get a backup section of cord that’s cut off while you’re still at the hospital. I asked, “So do you…ever look at it again?” The nurse just kind of laughed and said maybe… Baby’s due date is two months from today, and I have less than three weeks of work (there’s that number again!) before I’m on maternity leave.Photo 11-24-15, 9 22 01 PM
  3. Three Fun Things Coming in the Next Month
    Chad and I are both bummed we can’t be home for the holidays, but we’ve got some things to look forward to that will help ease the homesickness! One thing I’m super exited about was part of my birthday gift from Chad: tickets to see The Nutcracker a few days before Christmas! I am also pleased to say we finally got Ghibli Museum tickets, and that they are for Christmas day! Should be a really fun addition to our other plans for the holiday. Lastly, I am really anticipating all things holiday-related. I’m not a super huge fan of winter, but I still love this season of cozying up inside and finding warmth and light with loved ones despite the cold, gloomy weather. Special gifts, food (even if the food isn’t exactly what we’d have back home) and possible little trips (we’re hoping to go on a trip in the end of December if doctor appointments and other scheduling issues allow) help to keep the season bright.
    Photo 11-24-15, 9 23 48 PM
    “There will never be another you. Happy Birthday. With every wish. The sky is your only limit! Live. Love. Laugh and be Happy! All Happiness on your Birthday! You’re precious and treasured. I’m so glad there is you.”

What have been some interesting happenings your way as of late? And what are you looking forward to in the coming month? Take care, and stay warm!


Pregnancy · Projects

Art journal pages & pregnancy in Japan

We have been having a nice, relaxing weekend here in Tokyo, and I’m really not ready for it to end! I’ve been spending a lot of my time this weekend cleaning, reading, writing letters, and catching up on my art journal for the last week. I can’t believe I’ve nearly filled out my journal for an entire year now! Almost every time I finish a week of my journal,¬† I look back through pages I made before. I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorites with you that I hadn’t posted because we hadn’t announced baby Dykehouse yet. AND, just to make things more exciting, I thought I would intersperse some interesting things I’ve learned while being pregnant in Japan. So…I hope you enjoy it!IMG_3433I like the page above because it includes the day I found out I was pregnant. I just had a feeling, and my feeling was right!

In Japan, before you can go to a hospital or see someone to become your regular OB doctor, you have to confirm your pregnancy and get a referral letter. So, we went to a clinic one day after work and I got an ultrasound. We confirmed the pregnancy to be about 5 weeks along, but baby was too small to see. I had to wait almost an entire month until my next appointment, but in the meantime I was off to my local ward office…IMG_3434I like the “favorite ice cream color palette” on this page, as well as my zentangle practicing.

Pregnancy is not seen as an illness in Japan, and therefore it is not covered by health insurance. On the bright side, the government does give you coupons to help pay for the costs of visits and delivery, which is why I needed to go to the ward office. When I was there, they also gave me some face masks (thanks?) and a cute little maternity key chain to carry around so people will (sometimes) give up their seat on the train for me, and just be careful around me in general. IMG_3435
This is half of a week in August, with the other half pictured below. Once a month I use washi tape to add a calendar page for the month from the cute kitty calendar Chad got me for Christmas last year. I can’t wait to see our sweet kitties again!

Speaking of things not covered by insurance, there is one big thing that I’d like to point out: epidurals are not covered by insurance, and many hospitals are very reluctant to offer them at all. I really like my hospital overall, but one thing was made clear to me from the beginning: they encourage natural birth, and only give epidurals if you’re in severe pain for a prolonged amount of time. I hadn’t really thought about how I’d like to go about giving birth yet, but it’s kind of a bummer that for some things you just don’t have a choice. Other non-optional things at my hospital: The husband can’t cut the umbilical cord, the husband must stand next to his wife during labor and birth, you cannot donate cord blood, and they sometimes kancho you.
IMG_3436Here’s the other half of that week in August, including the sad day our flight was delayed for 13 hours (but at least we were on vacation!).

Yes, you read that correctly. K-A-N-C-H-O. Which means you will get everything (*ehem* poo *ehem*) out before delivery. Some hospitals in Japan are different and allow different things, according to some of my friends who’ve had babies here. I do I wish I had more of a say about some things, but my hospital has been voted to be one of the best in the country, is an international hospital, and seems to be efficient. So, I’ll go ahead and just do my best through this crazy thing called pregnancy. IMG_3437
I really enjoyed attempting to draw food from our Thailand trip on this page.

Speaking of my pregnancy specifically, it has been going really well overall. During the first trimester I was tired, was often light-headed, and felt nauseous frequently, but overall I was just thankful and happy for every doctor visit that reassured me baby was healthy and everything was okay. And during the second trimester, a lot of crummy symptoms came along according to the week they’d be listed on any pregnancy website or book (so hello occasional leg cramps and heartburn, etc.), but we also got to feel baby kicking for the first time! These days she’s moving all the time, and at our last appointment we got to see her lovely profile.IMG_3438
This week Chad got to come with me to a doctor’s appointment, and we got our first inkling that baby is a girl. We spent a really nice afternoon together after the hospital visit.

I’ve still got about a week left before I hit my third trimester (already!), but I’ve generally been feeling like a happy momma-to-be.Time flies and any discomforts so far are quickly forgotten a midst my gratitude. That’s not to say I don’t have my moments where I’m like, “Holy cow I’m actually going to eventually have this baby and it’s going to be painful and I hope everything is healthy and that we can prepare the best we can but will the doctors speak English enough on the actual delivery day and what if there are some weird things that come up that are different in Japan that I forget to ask about and and and…” BUT! We’re talking how I feel overall. And that’s good. Comforted and encouraged by my awesome husband, and thankful for a healthy pregnancy so far.

There are a lot of other things I’ve been learning about pregnancy (both in Japan and in general), but I hope you found the brief few I’ve mentioned interesting! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments, whether you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing pregnancy (in or out of Japan) below. I’m sure I’ll be posting more related to this topic in the future either way ūüėČ

Well, I’m off for now! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
xx Caitlyn

Seen/Heard/Tried · Summer Bucket List · Travel · Tried

Summer Bucket List recap

Now that we’re several days into fall I think it’s time for an update/recap on my Summer Bucket List for this year!

  1. Read at least three books [‚ąö] — Check out this Bookspiration post to learn more!
  2. Do yoga at least 4 times a week [X] —¬† I thought I was going to be one of those glowing, energetic pregnant women–HA! But I have been walking every day, and I try and squeeze in yoga and other exercise when I’m not dead from work.
  3. ¬†Celebrate our 7th anniversary [‚ąö] — We went to Hakone and really enjoyed the Open Air Museum (read more here).
  4. Try paper quilling [‚ąö] — I made a pretty sunflower card and really enjoyed the craft (see my card here)!
  5. Eat s’mores [X] — You know, I didn’t get around to s’mores this summer. I did, however, enjoy a lot of early-released fall treats, so I think I made up for it!
    Left: sweet potato Kit Kats and chestnut flavored taiyaki; Right: chestnut flavored soft oreos, pumpkin flavored Kit Kats, and sweet potato chips. You can heat up both the types of kit kats. I didn’t try them warm, but they were yummy as is!
  6. Go swimming [‚ąö] — I was lucky to go swimming in a hotel pool during our Thailand trip, and then again at Shirahama Beach with Chad and his brother Quint.
    IMG_2974Chad and Quint running into the gorgeous water.
    Beautiful mermen!
    Baby bump at 22 weeks (about two weeks ago, and already looking small to me!)
  7. Make a hot air balloon craft [X] — I had all the best intentions, really. But I’ll be working on an easy one this week.
  8. Try kirigami [X] — Once again, good intentions on this one. It’s been moved to my Fall Bucket List, though!
  9. Go to Studio Ghibli [X] — Oh my goodness you guys. It is impossible to get tickets on weekends or on any other days we have off. I will keep trying again and again until we leave Tokyo!
  10. Enjoy kakigori (Japanese shaved ice) [‚ąö] — I had some lovely strawberry milk kakigori after visiting Sandanbeki Caves with Chad and Quint.
                                           Above: One view from the caves.
    The “milk” was actually sweetened condensed milk. Mmmmmmm….!
    I also tried a totally different version of shaved ice in Thailand called “Ruam-mit.” My Thai friend says that means “mixing everything together.” Below you can see the stand with choices you can make for your own bowl, and then the four different bowls we sampled with our friends. We liked the ones with coconut milk the best!IMG_2769
  11. Go on a picnic [‚ąö] — we went on several ūüôā
  12. Have a fancy night dressed up around town [‚ąö] — Um, do you remember when we went to Chez Olivier? We actually went back again when Quint was here, too. Still drooling at the thought of both visits….
  13. Do at least 3 Writing Prompts [X] — I did one writing prompt, and really didn’t like it. Time got in the way of trying for another two.
  14. See fireworks [‚ąö/X] — So I didn’t actually see live fireworks, but I did do a really cool craft with my students. Here’s the link on pinterest!
  15. Do pirikura [‚ąö] — As you know from my last post, I totally got down with this one and used it as a baby announcement!

All in all I’d say I gave this year’s bucket list a pretty good go, especially considering I was primarily in my first trimester for a good chunk of it! My fall bucket list is ready now, too, so I’ll be sharing that soon!

What are some fun things you did this summer?