Cribs and Culture Shock

We set up our crib last weekend. It was a significant milestone in Project Baby Preparedness, one about which both Stella and I were pretty excited.


This crib, the first of many things which Stella will pass down to her baby brother, is not in pristine condition. It bears scratch marks left by our cats who tried to stake their claim on this new sleeping surface. Embedded in the rails are marks made by Stella's first teeth. 


The crib, tells a story. Blemishes and all, is a bitter sweet remembrance of the early years of our family. The bite marks speak of endless sleepless nights, and the excitement of learning to stand. The scratches remind us of our cats who could not come along with us to Jakarta. And the story behind the crib reminds me both of how lovely and how hard those early months were.

I got pregnant the week we moved to Japan from China. Literally. New home, new country, new language. And, hello, new baby.

I sailed through the first six weeks of my pregnancy on a high of gleeful anticipation and phase one culture shock. By week nine, however, I crashed. The culture shock u-curve and pregnancy hormones converged, and I found myself desperately homesick. I craved familiarity and predictability. I pined for a perfect North American pregnancy, wanting to experience the traditions and cultural markers that I would have experienced “at home.” The prospect of having a baby in a foreign language, in a strange country, in a culture about which I knew very little terrified me. And so, I focused my energies on making my pregnancy as North American as possible. 


I was also, frankly, freaked out by how much my life had changed in a few short months. In addition to adapting to my new role as Pregnant Lady, I was also figuring out who I was in my new country, in my new position as stay-at-home wife.  


So, I put off looking for baby products as long as I could. If I DID happen to step into an international box-type baby store, I’d emerge in a puddle of hormonal, homesick tears. Everything was so different! And so Japanese! Where were all the North American brands with their North American aesthetic and North American safety standards? Where were the wooden toys, glass bottles and organic cotton onesies? How on earth could I protect my child against harmful BPA monsters if I couldn't read labels? 


Despite my procrastination, we soon reached that critical point where we had to face the question of The Crib. We needed one. And I, no surprise, wanted one that was perfectly compliant with all Western safety standards. As hard as I looked (and believe me, I looked hard!) I could not find a baby crib in our corner of Japan that fit the bill.


So, after much obsessive shopping, and a not just a few pregnant tears, I ordered one. From Canada. At great, great, great expense. 


In retrospect, this was kind of a foolish thing to do. I mean, a Japanese crib probably would have been fine (but they are all drop-sided! And the slats too wide! And the gap between the crib mattress and the rail a centimetre too big!) I probably should have looked to Australia as a viable crib import market (Safety 1st makes great ones!) Realistically, it probably would have been cheaper to travel 1000 KM up to Tokyo and buy a crib from Ikea, and ship it down South. 


But I had my heart set on something from home. I wanted a piece of North America in my little nursery. I wanted a big, solid piece of my home country, something distinctly un-Japanese.  


Of course the irony of this whole story is that Stella barely slept in her super-expensive import crib, preferring the comfort of my bed for the better part of a year, and then shuffling between my bed, her port-a-crib, and her actual baby bed, until finally graduating to a big-girl bed.  


Now, three years later, we have that same crib set up in a little corner of our bedroom. This time around I’m more settled in our home, in our new country, and in my role as a parent. Everything feels much less urgent and much less fraught. I could do just fine with a crib bought in Indonesia. And yet, I’m  happy to have this cat-scratched and baby-bitten bed we bought in anticipation of our first baby. It does bring me a certain sense of home. It was bought in my home country, shipped to Japan, our girl’s first ever home, and then shipped again to Indonesia which will be the first home our little boy will know. 


And here's miss Stella, testing out the new/old crib. As you can see, she's pretty excited about it!