As you’d expect, my doctor visits got more frequent as I entered the second half of my pregnancy—and by the time my due date was approaching, I was going back and forth between my obstetrician and my general practitioner every other week.
The most glaring difference between the second half of a pregnancy in Ireland and Japan is maternity leave. Of course, if a woman has any kind of health problems, she can always get a note from her doctor that she can submit to her employer and get time off work, but in general, companies here only start giving official maternity leave two weeks before the due date. In other words, they’re expected to work right up to the point when they could be having the baby at any time. I mean… with that policy there have got to be women who go into labor on the job, right (lol)? I don’t have the guts or the physical stamina for that, so I used my paid vacation time to start my maternity leave two weeks early (in other words, a month before my due date). To be fair, this left me with almost nothing to do but wait for the baby to come (lol), but in the end, I’m glad I took the time to rest both physically and mentally in preparation for it.
Childcare leave in Ireland is then typically six months. Whether or not you get paid during this time varies widely by company, with some giving you full salary for the first six months, some just paying you half of your month’s salary each month, and some (following the old “He who does not work shall not eat” principle) apparently pay nothing at all. You can get the equivalent of about 30,000 yen a week from the government during childcare leave if you apply for it, so that was a big help in my case. Many of you are probably wondering whether people get childcare and go back to work after six months, but you can extend childcare leave for up to six months if you want to. The catch is that you won’t get any pay from your employer (unless you have some kind of cushy benefits package) or from the government after the first six months. I’ve spent plenty of posts talking about the insane rents around here, so the fear of having my income go to zero definitely motivates a person to want to get childcare and get back to work (lol)!
Of course, going back to work means finding childcare. And, as I briefly wrote about in a previous post, it’s expensive. Not to mention almost impossible to find (lol). In my case, partly because I couldn’t pick a daycare until I found a place to live, I didn’t even start looking for one until the end of November. I was due in late February and needed something for August or September, but everywhere I went said they were full through the end of 2020. One place I contacted in December 2019 told me that they didn’t have any openings until summer 2021—which I couldn’t help but laugh at. For now I’m just waiting for a cancellation, but I’m not sure if there will be any. I reserved a spot at the closest daycare to my house that would accept my baby in the shortest time, but even that place isn’t available until April 2021… Can I even go back to work? Stay tuned to find out…. (lol)
I had some bloody show on the morning of February 28, and by that evening my contractions had already started. A friend and I were joking that I was going to end up having a leap year baby, but now it was getting real (lol). The hospital is a good 15- or 20-minute cab ride from my house, so the following morning when my contractions were about 10 minutes apart I called them to see whether I could start heading in, but they told me I didn’t need to until they were at 3–4 minutes. Seems a little short, right (lol)? But apparently they send you back home if you show up too early, so I womaned up and held out until they were four and a half minutes apart before heading to the hospital…
The story continues in my next post!