For New Years, my wife and I brought our baby back to her hometown, a small city in southern Japan. My daughter was born in a small hospital there, while I stayed elsewhere and continued to work.
Even then I felt a little pushed away, although my wife and I had agreed that this was the safest. There were two famous incidents recently of pregnant women being denied admittance into Japanese hospitals due to shortage of beds, and the women (and also their unborn children) died as a result (The link is from Russia, because Japanese newspapers have decided the news is too “old” to be online any more!). In doctor-short Japan, we definitely wanted to avoid this tragedy. Luckily, the hospital in my wife’s hometown had excellent staff, including a father-son combination who had both received medical training overseas. And more importantly, we were able to make a reservation well in advance. And my wife’s sister had already had all three of her children at the hospital without mishap.
But it did made me feel left out. I was not really involved in the hospital reservations, and only was admitted to the pregnancy checkups because I insisted (not so common in Japan, but luckily the local doctor was tolerant of my strange modern attitude). During the actual delivery, I wasn’t even allowed into the delivery room, because it was a C-section. Many hospitals in Japan now allow the father into the delivery room for normal deliveries, but C-section is considered “surgery,” and non-medical staff are prohibited entirely. Of course, we also got a bit of extra insurance money since the birth was “delivery,” which just goes to show that the old saying is true about every advantage being a disadvantage and vice versa.
Maybe because I wasn’t as involved with the birth as I would have liked to have been made me feel frustrated over the holidays. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very fortunate as far as in-laws are concerned. My in-laws are very nice people, and they accepted me into the family where some Japanese parents may have objected (particularly in southern Japan, where anti-U.S. sentiment tends to be quite strong).
But it was difficult to have to wait over two months to see my wife and over a month to see my baby. I was there the day of the birth, and I was there for a few days afterward, but then had to return to work. My wife’s hometown is a short plane flight away, but infants can’t take planes. So my wife and I had to rely on her parents for the first month of my daughter’s life. I felt helpless.
So maybe that’s why I became a little upset when my wife’s mother immediately picked up my daughter and held her when my daughter cried. My daughter often cries when she wakes up (what baby doesn’t?) and even when I walk into the room. Separation anxiety has already set in…and that goes for me, too. I was almost beside myself, to watch my mother-in-law pick up my baby, while my baby looked at me and cried, only to have my father-in-law tell me to “take it easy” and “have a rest.”
Thinking back, I’m sure they were only trying to help. Living in a different part of the country away from any near relatives, my wife and I are basically raising our daughter by ourselves. And it does get hectic at times. But I don’t know how to take it easy. I don’t how to take a break, particularly when my daughter is crying in front of me and obviously wants me to pick her up.
Separation anxiety is said to start when the baby is old enough to take his or her first steps, to begin to feel independent from parents yet not wanting to leave (Armin Brott wrote that this feeling of wanting to leave but needing to stay started around age 15 months and continued until college). Maybe my daughter is starting early, partly due to us having to leave her at day care centers a few times already.
Or maybe it’s me who’s feeling the anxiety.