Yesterday I took Natsuki for her four-month well-baby checkup and her TB immunization (BCG). Yes she's almost six months old but we were in Canada when I should've taken her so the Government of Japan sent me a postcard telling me to bring her yesterday. The checkup and immunization used to be done at separate times and the BCG shot required two days. You would go in on like a Wednesday and they would administer a test shot to see if your child was already immune to TB and then you had to go back two days later and they would administer the shot.
The shot is actually a horrible thing. I've never seen anything like this and yet I've subjected all four of my girls to it. It looks like a round stamp that piano teachers would use to stamp your book when you've completed a song except that it has 9 little needles sticking out of it in a perfect square pattern. They hold your child's arm and then press this thing into their pink flesh until your child screams and then they do it again just below the first one. Then, while your child is screaming blue murder, you must hold your child in an awkward position until the injection site dries in a room full of other mothers and screaming babies doing the same thing. I swear I'm not making this stuff up.
I guess the City of Settsu (where we live) has decided to do the whole thing in one day. I guess somebody finally realized that you would know if your four-month-old had contracted TB and that you couldn't accidently have immunized your child for TB without knowing it. There are some smart people over there.
So I knew it was going to be that kind of day where you were just glad when it was over. I got Emi and Misaki off to school, took Chikara to his parents place so he could borrow their car, came back home and got Sakura and myself ready, picked up Emi & Misaki from school (it was a half day), prodded them to change their clothes while I fed Natsuki, put some make-up on, got everyone out the door and into the car, bought some lunch stuff at the convenience store, picked up a number at the Women's Health Center and finally drove to my friend's house (she lives near the women's health center) and dropped everyone off. Even this "preparation" part was tiring but I turned right around and walked over to the Women's Health Center with Natsuki.
We were number 19 out of about 40 so we waited for our number to be called. When we were called I handed over our Mother's Handbook (where they record all the stuff about Natsuki from her birth and childhood), the postcard that I had received (I had to fill out some stuff on the back) and another piece of paper I had to fill out in order to have the BCG immunization done. The community health nurse took my stuff and handed me a thermometer. Before you can do the BCG immunization you have to make sure you child isn't sick. So I take her temperature but the room is stinking hot so her temp comes out 37.3 (99.1) so she tells me to take it again "carefully" because it's too high. Fine. I take her to a cooler part of the room, take off her clothes, fan her for a bit, take her temperature again and it comes out 37.1 (98.8). I thought this would be bad but the lady takes it and says go on upstairs. Phew!
Upstairs there are a series of rooms 1-7 that we have to go through before we can go home. Room 1 is a waiting room where we, yes you guessed it, wait! As I knew this would happen a lot throughout the day I had brought a snack. The lady beside me suddenly asked if my name is Imashioya. I was totally shocked. It turns out that she is a friend of my neighbour and her son goes to the same preschool as Emi & Misaki. It was a nice surprise and so we chatted throughout the afternoon as we waited (I was glad I'd put makeup on!).
After about 15 minutes one of the community health nurses came and said that Room 2 was moving slowly so another community health nurse (from now I'll just use CHN) will just come in here to speak to us instead of making us move. During the time we've been waiting everyone's babies have been fussing and crying (and Natsuki spit up) so we're all glad to hear that they haven't forgotten us! The CHN starts talking about how our babies will be changing in the next few months. Stuff like staying awake longer during the day, eating food, rolling over, etc. She encourages us to play with our babies and help them learn how to roll over and develop muscles. Then another CHN comes in and talks about what kind of food to feed our babies and how to prepare it for them (she recommended oranges which I thought was weird). Honestly this whole part I could've done without. By now Natsuki is sick of laying around and she's tired so I was glad when the lady finally stopped talking.
Now we wait in this room until they call our name and we can go onto Room 3. In Room 3 we are interviewed by another CHN who tries to assess in 5 minutes whether we are good mothers or not. This lady doesn't read my chart but blah, blah, blahs for awhile about 4-month-olds until she realizes that Natsuki is almost 6 months old and then she stops and lets me go onto the next room.
In Room 4 I take off Natsuki's clothes except for her diaper and two CHN's weigh her and measure her head width and her length. Natsuki smiles through the whole entire thing. All the other babies are screaming and Emi, Misaki and Sakura all cried through this when I took them but Natsuki just smiles and even laughs. Natsuki's stats: weight-7325g (19-1/2lbs), length-63.5cm (25in). This puts her in about the 70th percentile.
Then we go into a waiting room for Room 5. Our babies are still naked except for their diaper and all the babies are crying except Natsuki who instead spit up carrots and oatmeal all over me. Good thing I was wearing layers! After about 10 minutes Natsuki is called so we go into Room 5 where we see the doctor. She takes all of a minute and a half to check out Natsuki who smiled and laughed through the entire thing and delivers a verdict of "good". I'm thinking that *this* is what I spent the last hour waiting for? Sheesh!
So now we go onto the waiting room for Room 6 where we get the BCG immunization. I thought for sure I'd have to wait for awhile again but it seems the BCG people have their act together and Natsuki is called right away. Natsuki cries as they do the shot but as soon as we leave the room she stops. I carry her and our stuff awkwardly to the next waiting room. As I enter I'm hit by a wall of sound. Every baby in this room is screaming their heads off. All the moms look at me with eyes that say "I loathe your quiet baby". Honestly I have no clue why she's not crying. Emi, Misaki and Sakura screamed through the whole entire thing when I did this with them.
Once her arm is dry I put her clothes. She screamed for this part but as soon as I picked her up she falls asleep in my arms. It's been two hours since I arrived at the Women's Health Center and I still have one more room left to go. I wait for 10 minutes for my turn. A CHN comes and brings me to Room 7. As we're walking she comments that my baby "fell asleep" like that's a bad thing and how could I have "let" her do that. In Room 7 they have little tables and chairs set up. I sit down and the CHN starts to go on about how Natsuki's schedule will change in the next few months and that there is a class on how to prepare food for your baby in March and I should seriously consider going. I'm nodding at her to be nice and it's about this time that she actually *reads* my chart and realizes that Natsuki is almost 6 months and is already eating food and her schedule has already changed. At this point she gives me a half smile, apologizes for keeping me so long and gives me back my stuff.
Yeah, I'm free to go. As I leave I remember that they are giving away children's books so I stop by to pick one up. As I'm picking one out the sweet lady behind the desk asks me if I have some "time". Seriously? At this point I was totally prepared to launch into a diatribe about how the whole day had gone but I just smiled and said no. I picked out a book and left.
I am so glad I won't be doing this again for awhile.
This is a picture of Natsuki's arm this morning. It's pretty faint but you can still see the mark on her arm. Poor thing.