Birth of my first son in Okinawa, Japan
My husband and I decided to have a baby when we moved to Okinawa. I am a nutritionist, personal trainer, and holistic health advocate. I believe in the power of the human body to achieve unbelievable feats as long as the body is nourished in mind, body, and spirit. My husband and I think similarly and we both knew we wanted an all-natural pregnancy and birth.
We knew we wanted to take Hypnobirthing, which is a birthing class that focuses on breathing techniques, stretches, spousal partnership, visualization, and encourages natural birthing. It can be “far out” sometimes (like promising a pain-free birth?!) but if you take the lessons with a grain of salt, it’s great. My husband and I both got a lot out of it. It’s like studying before a big exam – it’s the mental preparation part of a natural birth. (Don’t forget the physical preparation: healthy eating, exercise, and stretching.)
We also knew we wanted to hire a doula but we had no idea how valuable a doula would be for us! I hired a doula because my family couldn’t afford the trip from NC to be with us for the birth. I knew I would need someone to support me and my husband, so we found Sarah. She was worth the money! We hired a doula for the second pregnancy, too, just because they are wonderful birth companions. They were both PHENOMENAL. The doula helped David be an active part of the labor and delivery, which was paramount to him. She gave him techniques like counter-pressure maneuvers on my hips and low back. It helped him feel like an integral part of the birth. She also calmed him down when he had no idea what was going on – like when the pain grew intense and I became agitated as a result. She was a calming source for me, too. At one point she made me keep eye contact with her and breathe along with her because I was starting to hyperventilate.
We were taking a class in hypnobirthing at a clinic out in town, so we decided to tour the clinic as a potential for off-base birth location. Let me put it this way – we didn’t tour a second location. I knew in my soul that this place is where I wanted my baby to be welcomed into the world. The clinic looks like a tree house: cozy, wooden, and warm. The labor room is wooden with gorgeous natural light through a big window. There is a tatami mat (like a futon mattress) on the floor, a yoga ball, some pillows, and a bathroom. There are no beeping machines, no bright overhead lights, and no wires or metal utensils around. Aromatherapy diffusers emit scents of calming essential oils into the air. The fountain in the courtyard outside babbles a peaceful sound as it ushers you inside. Do you feel calm yet? That’s exactly what this place did to my heart. I felt incredibly calm.
My pregnancy was healthy and wonderful. There are always icky things that happen in pregnancy (swelling, cramps, whatever) but it was as lovely as a pregnancy could be! The entire month leading up to my Estimated Due Date, I had regular contractions and rosy spotting. I thought I was going to go into labor much sooner than I did. Turns out, baby wanted to wait until his due date! The night I went into labor, I was laying on the couch as my husband played a video game. I took a 2-hour nap from 8-10pm which was out of the norm for me. Around 10pm I started feeling regular contractions, but remember this had been happening for a solid month at this point and I was used to it by now. The only reason I knew it was “real” labor was because my brain wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. I felt energized and anxious, like I needed to be somewhere else. I called my doula and my interpreter and we met up at the clinic by 1am.
I had increasing contractions for about 5 hours, but they calmed down by 6am. I was worried and angry – I was NOT leaving without a baby! My doula, husband, and interpreter took naps and I rested on the floor. One of the midwives massaged my legs and feet. The contractions picked up again by 10am and were incredibly intense all day. I had difficult back labor with painful contractions for a number of hours. My doula kept me calm and applied counter-pressure. My husband literally held me in some form every second of labor. Sometimes he was behind me, applying pressure to my hips. Sometimes he was over me patting my back, like when I was laboring in the bath tub. By the end of the night, he was kneeling in front of me while I wrapped my arms around his neck, literally holding me up. What a guy.
Near the end, I was starting to get anxiety over how long this was taking. I started shouting that I knew everyone was lying to me and the baby wasn’t coming! The doula told my husband this kind of agitation was normal and not to be worried. The Japanese midwives began chattering to each other, and my interpreter later told me that they were excited for me. Apparently, this is the phase of labor they call “the swell of the tsunami.” When the laboring mother becomes agitated, the birth is very soon! I felt a little mentally out of control at this point – I latched on to an idea that if I could just poop I could free up some space and my baby would come quicker. I sat on the toilet and within two minutes, my baby started crowning. It was literally the single most euphoric feeling I have ever experienced in my life. My worries instantly disappeared and my pains instantly subsided. I was on top of the world. Hello, endorphins!
I sighed in utter relief and said “the baby’s coming.” The midwives ushered me off the toilet back onto the tatami mat, where I sat on my knees with my husband facing me from the front. I wrapped my arms around his neck and my body started undulating. I wasn’t pushing, my body was doing all the work. They called in the OBGYN just in time - within 60 seconds, my baby literally fell out and this second wave of euphoria swept over me. The OBGYN unwrapped the umbilical cord from around his neck. I was laid on my back and my shirt removed, then baby was placed on my chest. We got to lay there together for 2 hours before the afterbirth. My husband exploded in emotion. He was crying a hearty, ugly cry over the intensity of our 20-hour labor. His contribution to the labor and delivery was physically and mentally exhausting, too!
This place, these people, and this birth experience was perfect. In fact, it was so perfect I recreated as much as I could for the second baby! His birth was much calmer and quicker, but equally as euphoric. I wish the same birth experience for all expecting mothers – it was absolutely INCREDIBLE.