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Miyajima Island

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Saturday, we hopped on the train for a quick day trip to Miyajima Island.  Miyajima is home to the floating torii gate, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of the most famous spots in Japan.  It's difficult to even tell how massive this shrine is in person!  The island is also home to tons of wild deer, which freely roam the streets and are believed to be sacred.  Of course, a trip to Miyajima would not be complete without a few local fresh oysters and some momiji manju - a maple leaf shaped pastry stuffed with everything from chocolate and custard to green tea and the local favorite: sweet bean paste.  Our favorite?  The sweet custard filled!
Miyajima Island ferry
Miyajima Island is a quick ferry ride from the train station on mainland.
What to do on Miyajima Island
miyajima island oysters
miyajima island from iwakuni
daytrip to miyajima japan
day trips from iwakuni japan
With temperatures reaching into the 90s, we might have picked the hottest day of summer so far to walk around.  Thank goodness for this adorable mojito stand...including a virgin grapefruit one for this mama-to-be!

japan military blogger

deer on miyajima island
things to do in iwakuni japan
what to drink miyajima island
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momiji manju miyajima island
Momiji manju 
deer island in japan hiroshima
floating torii gate hiroshima miyajima

Okinawa Japan Babymoon

Can I just give a big hug to the person who thought of the idea of a "babymoon"?!   Best idea!  We spent five days in Okinawa at the Ritz-Carlton and had such a relaxing trip.  While the rainy season definitely got the best of the weather, it was so wonderful to be able to just spend some uninterrupted time together...especially after two months apart!
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Afternoon tea in the lobby is pretty hard to beat!
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30 week bump!  Hard to believe this little guy will be traveling the world with us in just a few months!
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Bump Update: Months 5 - 7

I say it all the time but this pregnancy is flying by - third trimester already?!  I definitely see why people rave about the second trimester.  Morning sickness subsided and my energy levels felt pretty normal.  It was almost easy to forget that I was pregnant most days.  The only downside was Rob being gone pretty much the entire second trimester so I spent most of the time missing him like crazy!
pregnant in iwakuni japan
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space a iwakuni to okinawa
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21 weeks pregnant vs 29 weeks pregnant
21 weeks pregnant when he left vs 29 weeks pregnant when he came home
Travels:  He is already my little travel buddy!  We flew Space A to Okinawa to visit our old friends Mackenzie and Jake and again Space A to Tokyo to see Rob when he got back!
Cravings:  Milk!  After drinking almond milk almost exclusively for years, I am shocked at how much I crave regular cow's milk.  Everything from cereal and milk to straight out of the jug, I cannot get enough.
Movement:  I felt him kick for the first time around 18 weeks and since then, it has been constant moving.  I love it and felt like he was reminding me that he was keeping me company while Rob was away.  Also having Braxton Hicks fairly often but luckily they are not painful.
Nesting:  Went on a trip to Ikea in Fukuoka to get baby furniture...and couldn't wait to put it together.  It's been so much fun planning and decorating his nursery...and makes things feel much more real.
Sleep:  Waking up a few times in the night but sleeping well.  Going to bed early and waking up early which is out of character but not unwelcomed!
Favorite Moments:  Finding out the gender.  Surprising Rob with some big belly changes when he finally got home!

Friendship Day

Every May, the air station in Iwakuni opens its gates to over 250,000 (!!!) Japanese locals for Friendship Day.  This event is part air show, part cultural experience and definitely something to experience!  We spent the day touring static displays, watching air demonstrations, and of course checking out the F-35.  It was so fun to see how excited people were to eat cheeseburgers, drink bud light, and watch jets fly - proving this novelty is not limited to Americans ;)
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Friendship Day Iwakuni
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VMFA 121 Green Knights F-35
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Gender Reveal

Although the anatomy scan did not go as planned, I refused to settle for a surprise and we ended up finding out the gender through a blood test (Thanks Trisha!)  We received the results the very morning Rob was leaving for a long training exercise.  We ate cinnamon rolls in bed, called the baby by name, and celebrated with all the happy tears that...
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We were having a sweet baby BOY!  It was such a special morning and a blessing that we were able to find out together before he left.

Prenatal Care + Anatomy Scan in Iwakuni Japan

When we found out that we were moving to Japan in the middle of this pregnancy, I was convinced it would be an adventure... what could be cooler than our baby starting out life as a little traveler!  And while I still agree with that, I realize now that ut I underestimated the struggles that I would face.  From the lack of shopping (and FPO shipping size limits) to the medical care options, it has given a bit of a different meaning to the word adventure!  For what it's worth, every person and every pregnancy is different - different levels of expectations, needs, wants, etc. so as a disclaimer, this is 100% just my personal experience!

One of the biggest challenges of having a baby in Japan is specific to living in Iwakuni.  The hospital on base here is actually just a clinic so they do not deliver babies.  They are building a larger clinic which eventually will have the capacity for OBGYN/labor and delivery but currently, if you are pregnant and stationed in Iwakuni, you are given three options:

     1.  Have your prenatal care then labor and deliver at Dr. Shoji's, a Japanese clinic out in town.
     2.  Have your appointments at the clinic on base but deliver at the bigger traditional Japanese hospital, Iwakuni Clinical Care, out in town.
     3.  Have your appointments at the clinic on base until 34-38 weeks, and then travel 6 hours by bullet train to a different military base, Yokosuka, in Tokyo, to live at the Stork's Nest until you deliver at the American hospital there on base.

I was scheduled for a meeting with the nurse on base to discuss my delivery options.  There were so many things I had not even thought to consider when comparing the different options: Western vs Japanese meals, options for private rooms, required length of stay after delivery, even cultural things like whether or not circumcision was an option or if the dad would be allowed to hold the baby while in the hospital!  While different people have different preferences and each option clearly has its own pros/cons, delivering at the American hospital in Tokyo was the clear answer for *me*.

Even though that was my chosen route, the clinic on base does not have the technology to do level 2 ultrasounds so instead of sending you all the way to Tokyo just for an anatomy scan, they send you out in town with a translator to the Japanese doctor, Dr. Shoji.
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Dr. Shoji's Office Iwakuni Japan
Dr. Shoji's Office Pregnancy Iwakuni Japan
Back in Beaufort, we had the most amazing prenatal care (shout out to Riverside Womens Clinic).  They were so sweet to us and even tried to tell the gender early at my last appointment before we left.  Unfortunately, our little babe was uncooperative and we left without a clear answer.  This meant anxiously counting the days until the 20 week anatomy scan!  When the day finally rolled around, Rob took off work, we met our translator, and excitedly headed to the appointment.  Anyone moving to Iwakuni with any thought of having a baby has heard of Dr. Shoji - he is 78 years old and has been delivering babies here for almost 50 years!  After reading a million articles about him, it almost felt like we would be meeting a local celebrity.  I even said to Rob on the drive over, "what if I end up loving this experience and want to deliver here?!"  The drive to his office itself is TERRIFYING - you have to cross a tiny bridge and then travel down an even tighter road that you are convinced cannot possibly be two way traffic (but it is!).  We parked, walked in, and the translator handled all of the check in process/paperwork for us.
having a baby in iwakuni dr shoji
gender reveal anatomy scan iwakuni japan
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We were taken back to the exam room and this is when expectations vs reality started to set in.  I had talked with so many friends about what to expect from the anatomy scan and everyone pretty much told me the same things: get excited to see the baby actually looking like a baby, the doctor will show/measure/explain all the parts and carefully analyze everything to make sure it is all progressing correctly, it will be much longer than your past ultrasounds, you will get a bunch of great pictures/find out the gender/it will be one of your most exciting appointment.  I couldn't wait!  As it turned out, my ultrasound was a total of about five minutes and maybe ten words.  "Size okay.  Weight okay.  Any questions?" were the only things that the doctor had the translator tell me.  Not a single detail or smile.  Shocked, I asked (through the translator) "Is it a boy or a girl?" to which he replied firmly "I do not know.  Any other questions?".  I was stunned...too stunned to even think clearly.  He handed Rob one single picture from the ultrasound, we walked to the car, and I immediately burst into tears.  That was my chance.  I was already having a baby in a foreign country; I had no interest in the gender being a surprise.  I was devastated.  While I read tons of people who loved this sweet old man and had great experiences, I found the entire experience so cold and so far from what I had envisioned.  I kept telling myself that this would make a funny story one day but it was hard to keep that perspective while feeling so disappointed at the time.  Maybe he just did not like my brightly colored outfit or big personality HAHA ;)  While I love living here and experiencing the different culture, this appointment confirmed that embracing it to the point of medical care and having my first baby out in town is not the best fit for me.

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