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Incoming Baby! (part 5) – Coming home

Hanzo comes home!

Hanzo comes home!

Our son Hanzo was born on February 14, 2014. Since he was 7 weeks early, he had been taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Boniface Hospital. We were told that he would likely stay in the NICU for at least 4 weeks or so, but that the amount of time would depend on how well he was doing and how much weight he was gaining.

Over the next few weeks we made two visits a day to the NICU to see Hanzo. After a few visits where we ended up staring at him while he was sleeping, we started calling ahead to find out his next feeding time. A typical visit included a temperature check (under his armpit thankfully), a diaper change, feeding, and then putting him back to sleep.

When he first arrived at NICU he was attached to a CPAP machine, an IV, monitors for heart rate and breathing rate, and a blood oxygen saturation sensor. In less than 2 weeks he was only hooked up to the heart rate and breathing monitors. He was gaining weight at a regular pace and was feeding well.

We also discovered that he had an amazing talent – he could take 40ml of milk and turn it a seemingly unending supply of noxious liquid poop. It seemed like he was actually pooping more than he was eating, which shouldn’t be possible while still gaining weight.

On March 3, 2014 we received a call from the hospital. They asked us to bring our car seat so they could test his reaction to it. If he passed, they would send him home that day. We knew he was doing well, but thought we still had at least a week to get the house ready. His baby furniture was still not completely assembled, and all of his clothes and blankets still needed to be washed. Naturally I reacted to this news like any mature, responsible, independent adult would: I panicked and called my mom. She dropped everything and drove into Winnipeg to help us get the house ready. My mom is the best!

Hanzo passed his car seat test, and we were discharged just before 4:30pm. On the way out of the hospital I settled up my bill. Just kidding! I live in Canada! The entire time in the hospital and round the clock care in NICU cost us a grand total of $0. My only expenses were upgrading The Wife’s hospital room (paid for by my company insurance plan) and the parking pass I used for our daily visits to NICU. Canada’s health care system is not perfect, but it is pretty amazing at times, especially compared to some other countries.

At 5:00pm I carried my new son into his home for the first time. It was the beginning of a new journey for me and my family, a journey that will involve a lot of lost sleep. It’s sometimes hard to believe everything that came out of my decision to teach English in Japan just over 10 years ago. Of course you can keep reading that story in my regular blog posts (cheap plug). Thanks for reading!

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Incoming Baby! (part 4) – BIRTH!


February 14, 2014 12:30pm (34.5 hours of labour): I had just returned from a quick lunch break in the hospital’s food court to find the door closed on the room where my wife had been staying. I rushed over to the nearest nurse and asked if I had missed anything. She told me to go in and find out for myself. I went into the room to find The Wife smiling in the bed. “I just got checked and I am 90cm!!” she exclaimed proudly.

“90cm!?!?” I responded, making a circle with my arms as large as I could. In her tired state, The Wife had confused 9cm with 90cm. After confirming that the uterus had not actually become a walk in closet, we started preparing to move into the delivery room.

St. Boniface Hospital has fantastic rooms for delivering babies. They are like individual hotel rooms that come equipped with a large shower, exercise balls, adjustable lights, stereo systems, and plenty of soundproofing. Unfortunately, those rooms are only available for uncomplicated full term pregnancies. When we hit the 10cm mark we were moved into an operating room.

February 14, 2014 3:00pm (37 hours of labour): The operating room was a busy place. The walls were filled with cabinets full of supplies, all labelled like we were in the 1960’s Batcave. Present in the room was a doctor (34 weeks pregnant), two nurses, the doula, me, three neonatal intensive care doctors, and of course The Wife, strapped onto a bed in the center of the room.

I decided that if I was going to be in the room for delivery that I would be standing near The Wife’s head and staying away from the “business end” of things. Out of all of the people in the room, I was probably the least useful. The best I could do was to stay out of the way and provide support. By the time that we got everyone assembled in the room, the water had still not broken. Once again I cursed all of the movies and TV shows that showed the water breaking at some hilariously inopportune time. The doctor broke the water and things started happening very quickly.

During the entire 37 hours of labour, The Wife had avoided taking any of the available pain medication. Her goal was to see if she could get through the entire delivery drug free. Using some breathing techniques and samurai spirit she was able to survive up to the end. However, by the time she actually wanted the pain meds it was too late and the baby was coming out.

Less than 15 minutes from the time the water was broken the pregnant doctor was catching our new son, who announced his presence in the operating room by SCREAMING his little lungs out. He was immediately taken and examined by the three NICU doctors. When he was found to be healthy, one of the doctors brought him over to see The Wife and we took our first family picture. From this point forward, Wooshy was now known as Hanzo, named after the legendary Japanese hero Hattori Hanzo.

I proudly followed little Hanzo out of the operating room to his new home in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit, where all premature babies stay for observation. It was a fantastic and exhausting time, and we were both very happy.

Our two regrets from the experience:

  1. The Wife likely regrets not taking some paid meds, and said that if she ever had a second child she will get an epidural.
  2. I regret that my Winnipeg Jets shirt was not visible under the hospital scrubs that I had to wear in the delivery room. I wanted the mighty Jets logo to be one of the first things that Hanzo saw upon his arrival into the world. GO JETS GO!

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Incoming Baby! (part 3) – Early Labour

The miracle of birth

The miracle of birth

A surprising fact for first time parents is that the doctor really doesn’t have any idea what the baby’s due date will be. On our second visit with our family doctor, The Wife was asked when her last period started because a typical pregnancy ends about 280 days after that date. Since we were not actually “trying” to get pregnant at the time, we didn’t keep track of those dates. Based on best memories of the time, we were given a due date of March 31, 2014. The Wife had her first ultrasound in November 2013. The ultrasound technicians measured the size of the baby’s head and guessed that the due date would be April 9, 2014. We weren’t really sure about either of the dates, but figured it would probably be somewhere in between the two. It turned out that everyone was wrong, and the baby had its own agenda.

February 13, 2014 – 2:00am (labour begins)

The Wife woke up at 2:00 am in some pain. She had complained about not feeling well the previous day, but we had no other indications that something was up. Within about 30 minutes we were able to determine that the contractions were real and not Braxton Hicks fake contractions. We called the hospital and they asked us to come in to get checked.

February 13, 2014 – 3:30am (1.5 hours of labour): We finally arrived at the hospital about 3:30 thanks to a huge snowfall. I had to shovel the car out of the driveway and then navigate snow covered, wintery Winnipeg roads. The only other vehicles on the roads were giant pieces of snow clearing equipment. We got to St. Boniface hospital and proceeded to to to the wrong door. Fortunately we were able to convince the security guard to let us in instead of going back out into the frozen tundra and walking to the emergency entrance. We went to an observation room where we had to wait for a senior nurse because The Wife was officially only 32 weeks into the pregnancy.

February 13, 2014 – 5:30am (3.5 hours of labour): The senior nurse examined The Wife and found that she was in labour and dilated 3cm. For those unfamiliar, 10cm is the goal. For a full term pregnancy with no complications, the hospital will send you home if you are less than 4cm. However, since we were 7 weeks early we were kept for observation. Our labour plan of trying to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy before having to go to the hospital was now officially cancelled.

February 13, 2014 – 6:30am (4.5 hours of labour): Our birth doula arrived and met us in the high risk labour room. A birth doula is like a coach, someone who doesn’t delivery babies but provides helpful advice before, during, and after delivery. Our doula came with a repertoire of pain management techniques, helpful positions, and full knowledge of all of the possible situations that could come up during labour and delivery. On the other hand, my experience was limited to a 4 week prenatal class and hundreds of movies and TV shows where people easily delivered babies in an elevator or taxi. Needless to say, The Wife and I were both very happy that we hired the doula. My sister also arrived and I went home for a few hours of sleep.

February 13, 2014 – 9:00pm (19 hours of labour): After a mostly uneventful day where contractions sped up to 5 minutes apart and then slowed down to 12 minutes apart, we were moved into a different ward until the process started to speed up again. My good friend Junk (who you may remember as the only person other than my parents who came to see me off when I moved to Japan) showed up at the hospital hoping to have a quick visit. The Wife didn’t really feel like having visitors, so I met Junk in the hospital atrium to have a coffee. Before leaving the room, I took a picture of The Wife waving to Junk. He decided to return the favour by taking the picture above which graphically illustrates the miracle of birth.

February 14, 2014 2:00am (24 hours of labour): Things started picking up again so the Wife was moved back to the high risk observation room. Naturally this caused the contractions to slow down again to about once every 6 minutes. After each contraction The Wife slept for 5 minutes in the hospital bed. The Doula slept on an uncomfortable chair and I slept on a small stool leaning on a table. We all woke up for the contractions then went back to sleep. Labour is stupid and sleeping on a table sucks.

Things continued like this for some time. Fortunately for our sanity, something actually happened around noon on the 14th. That part will be in the next installment…

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Incoming Baby! (part 2) – Wooshy

It's a foot!

It’s a foot!

The story continues…
In the weeks after the pregnancy test, we started scrambling to get things organized. One of the first things we did was to get The Wife a family doctor. In Canada there can be waiting lists for getting a specific doctor. However, we were willing to take anyone available and we were lucky enough to find a doctor who was moving from a rural to a city practice and was taking new patients.

Our Doctor was originally from the Punjab region of India, but had moved to Canada to practice medicine. He still had a fairly distinct Punjabi accent. At the time, The Wife had been living in Winnipeg for about 6 years. She still has a distinct Japanese accent. One of the best things about being an English teacher in a foreign country is that you get a very good ear for accents. I can usually understand English being spoken by people from all over the world. I had no trouble understanding what either The Doctor or The Wife were saying to each other. However, neither one of them had been an English teacher in a foreign country, so they both had difficulty understanding each other at times. This allowed me to be an English to English translator. Living in a multicultural society is awesome.

On our second appointment, The Doctor pulled out a small microphone for listening to the baby’s heartbeat. The Wife laid down on the exam table, and The Doctor put the microphone on the still small baby bump. Instantly we started hearing the distinct “woosh woosh” sound made by a fetal heartbeat. It was one of the most powerful things I had ever experienced. Something that I did had created a tiny heartbeat inside The Wife. We were listening to our potential future child.

One of the challenging things about being pregnant is how to refer to the baby. Early on do you call it a fetus? A baby? The child? It? Our future child? To make things easier, we decided to give “it” a name. We named the future potential human “Wooshy” after the sound that the heart made. We used the nickname Wooshy right until about an hour before delivery. Our friends thought this was pretty clever, but it drove my mother crazy.

Note to first time parents – find a way to record the sound of your baby’s heartbeat when you hear it. You will want to listen to that sound again.

(the baby story will be continued)

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Incoming baby! (part 1) – “I failed the test”

incoming baby

My Japan blog has a big gap between late February 2004 and early March 2004 where I didn’t have any access to make updates. As I am writing this in 2014, I had the best of intentions to fill in the time with some standalone articles about life in Japan. However, real life sometimes has a way of throwing off the best laid plans. In the time that I was going to use to write articles for my blog, my wife gave birth to our first child early. Seven weeks early to be exact. Since this has basically taken over my life at the moment, I decided that I should write something about our birth experience. Also, The Wife is directly related to my Japan blog (spoiler alert), so it does kind of fit.

Without further adieu, I would like to begin a multi-part account of the birth of our son.

Once Upon a Time in Japan…In summer 2013 The Wife and I went to Japan to visit friends and family. We had a pretty busy schedule, but did manage to find some time to ourselves on occasion. About a month or so after we returned to Winnipeg we started to get some indications that something was different. Without getting too detailed, we noticed that The Wife’s monthly visitor had not yet arrived, which is to say that Shark Week had been cancelled. In other words, she had not fallen to the communists. We initially wrote this off to the effects of international travel and jet lag. But as the days went on, we started to suspect that there may be another cause.

After a few weeks of worrying, we took a nervous walk from our house to the nearby Shoppers Drug Mart (Canada’s largest retail pharmacy chain) to buy a pregnancy test. We were overwhelmed by the wide range of options available. Seriously, how much competition does the home pregnancy test market need? After about 5 minutes of staring at the options awkwardly (which seemed like an hour), we bought a 2 pack of Shoppers Drug Mart’s store brand and started walking home.

The idea of being pregnant was not a complete surprise. We had decided a few months previously that we would stop taking precautions, which is a far less scary step than “trying”. Even so, the idea that our lack of precautions had actually worked was something that we were having some difficulty processing. On the walk back home we decided that we would do our best and be happy either way.

This was the first time that either of us had purchased a home pregnancy test. We figured that they had to be pretty easy to use, so we didn’t read any instructions. About an hour later The Wife went into the bathroom and closed the door. I tried to keep focused on whatever it was that I was doing on the computer, but had no ability to concentrate. This was it. This was the moment that we would find out if we were going to be parents. If we were in a movie, the Hans Zimmer background score would start to build up. I waited nervously at the keyboard, fingers working, mouse clicking, not paying attention to any of it. Finally – a flush, the sound of hands being washed. The door opened. This was it!!

“I failed the test” said The Wife.

“Huh?” I responded, not sounding like a fairly intelligent university educated man.

“I failed the test” repeated The Wife.

“How do you fail a pregnancy test?” I queried.

“You are supposed to take off the cap before you pee on it. I peed all over the cap” she replied.

At this point we both burst into some much needed laughter. It totally defused all of the dramatic tension, but also took all of the stress out of the situation. After we stopped laughing (which took a while), we took out the instructions from the package. Sure enough “remove cap” was one of the first steps, complete with a picture. We read the instructions carefully and decided to attempt the second test in the morning.

The next morning without much fanfare, dramatic buildup, or tension of any kind, The Wife went to the bathroom, took the test correctly, and found out that she was pregnant.

(to be continued)

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The Story in Chronological Order


The original intent of this blog was to repost all of the posts from my original Japan travel blog that I wrote in 2003-2006. I have had a lot of fun writing and ended up with some posts outside of their original chronological order. This page will contain a quick link to all posts ordered by date. Please note: this is a work in progress and will be complete shortly!

Before Japan
Some background about the time leading up to my move to Japan.


Japan Round One
My first stay in Japan from 2003 – 2004. Includes my time in Kawasaki up to the summer of visitors.


Team Awesomesauce Presents
My friends from Canada visit Japan. Shenanigans ensue.


In between visitors
The short time between when my rowdy friends left and my family came to visit.


My family visits Japan
Stories about my parents and my sister visiting Japan.


Japan Round One (continued)
Covers the second half of 2004 until my first return to Canada


First Return to Canada
My first return to Canada for Christmas and New Year.


Japan Round Two
My second stay in Japan in 2005.


Mid year vacation
My personal vacation from work


Japan Round Two (continued)
My second stay in Japan in 2005 (continued)


Second Return to Canada
My sudden trip home in 2005


Japan Round Three
My third stay in Japan from 2005-2006. Includes another round of visitors.

Another visitor
My friend UPS visits from Canada. Shenanigans ensue. UPS is a nickname and is not in any way related to the parcel delivery company.

Japan Round Three (continued)
In between visitors in early 2006 featuring life changing decisions.


Parents return to Japan
My parents second visit to Japan


Japan Round Three (continued again)
The remainder of my time in Japan from April – November 2006.


The Farewell Tour
From my last day of work to my return to Canada


Memorable Students
Some memories of memorable students.


After Japan
Life after returning to Canada in late 2006.


Incoming Baby
How I became an overtired parent in 2014!


Other posts that popped up on my blog

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April 12, 2005 – Raising kids in Japan

Today was another rainy day in Numazu. It literally rained all day. When you don’t have a car, rainy days can limit your ability to get around, at least if you are concerned about staying dry.

In the evening I went out for dinner at Bikkuri Donkey with The Penpal, one of her female friends, and the friend’s young son. The Penpal’s friend wanted to get her son some exposure to English from a native speaker. This is not uncommon – I have found that Japanese people put a higher value on the English they learn from native speakers, even speakers not trained as teachers, than English they learn from a Japanese teacher.

Over dinner, we talked about differences in how kids are raised in Japan and Canada. I was surprised to learn that in Japan it was common for children to share a futon with their mother from the time they are born until they start school. This would be very inconvenient for the father, and also very inconvenient for increasing the family size. I explained that in Canada, it’s common for children to have their own room, depending on the culture of the parents. This was surprising to both The Penpal and her friend, who had lots of questions about how a parent would know if child needs something. It was an interesting discussion for everyone except the young son.

Note to self: if I am going to raise children in Japan, have the discussion about where the children are going to sleep BEFORE making the children.

(2015 Update) As the proud parent of a 1 year old half Canadian, half Japanese boy, I can inform my wonderful readers that we came to a compromise on where our son would sleep. We are currently living in Canada, and sleeping in a nice, cushy queen sized bed. For about the first 6 months, our son slept in a bassinet in our room so we had easy access to him. After that, he moved to his own room across the hall to sleep in a crib. We can hear him easily from our room, and have a portable baby monitor for when we are anywhere else in the house.

I am sure our arrangement would have been different if we were living in Japan or sleeping on a futon, but I think we came to a good compromise.

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Now what?

This blog has been the story of my 3 year journey to teach English in Japan.

I originally kept a blog from 2003-2006 to keep my friends and family up to date on what I was doing overseas. Starting in 2013 I began reposting my original blog, but with all of the posts rewritten to add more detail and information that I couldn’t discuss at the time. I had the best intentions of posting everything exactly 10 years after it originally happened. Thanks to a combination of life changes (primarily new job and becoming a parent), the whole process took about an extra year and a half.

Now what?

My original blog only covered my time teaching in Japan. Since that time The Penpal moved to Canada, we traveled, had some run-ins with immigration, got married, and became parents. Some of these events have already been covered, but I haven’t written about others yet. I’m planning on writing posts on some of the more memorable things that have happened after my original blog ended. Stay tuned – there’s more to the story yet!

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About me

At the izakaya

At the izakaya late 2004

Hello readers. You are clicking on this page because you want some more information on the guy who is reblogging a life experience that happened 10 years ago (possibly more depending on when you are reading this).

My name is Andrew and I was born in Comox, Canada in July 1978. I grew up in a small town outside of Winnipeg. In high school I was the kid who didn’t play sports and listened to “weird” music.

In University I spent two years working on a computer science degree before realizing that I didn’t really like computer science. After a two year hiatus filled with part time classes and work I returned to University to get a business degree with a major in accounting. The goal was to graduate, get an accounting designation, and then get a job and work for the rest of my life.

Along the way I took into to Japanese as an elective course. I loved the course so much that I followed up with Intermediate Japanese and then decided to spend a year teaching English in Japan. As you will learn my reading the blog, one year in Japan ended up turning into three.

I returned to Canada in late 2006, got my professional accounting designation, and now work a manager for a large Canadian corporation. I am happily married to a wonderful woman, and we just welcomed our first child in February 2014. Read about the story of our son’s birth here.

When I am not crunching numbers and taking care of the baby, I spend my time playing video games, watching movies, learning how to play the bass guitar, listening to music, blogging music videos on Tumblr, watching UFC, and of course, drinking beer. I am also a big fan of the Winnipeg Jets (GO JETS GO!).

My goal in life is to retire at a sensible age and spend summers in Canada and winters in Japan.

Thanks for reading!

New: I can be contacted directly at