Birth in Japan- My Birth Story
On the day I gave birth, I had no idea that I was going into labor. I had cramps since 3 A.M, but they weren’t anything like my menstrual cramps, which were always painful. In child birthing classes, labor pains were always compared to menstrual cramps, which terrified me. These cramps had a rhythm, and were coming every 7 minutes or so. I called my clinic and was assured that if there was no bleeding I would be fine, but do call again if the pain intensified. I ignored the cramps and went back to sleep.
Starting Off the Morning with Cramps
During breakfast, the cramps persisted. Again, not painful, just annoying. There was a bit of blood, so I called the clinic again to be sure. I was told to come in for an examination. As I wasn’t having any pains and could function fine, I would probably be sent home, they said, but bring my hospital bag just in case.
Since I was likely to be sent home, I got dressed and did my makeup so my husband and I could go out for lunch afterwards. At the clinic, those annoying cramps persisted like clockwork, every 5 minutes. Again, not painful, but I could manage to walk and talk normally. I just wanted my checkup so the doctor could tell me what was up with all these darn Braxton-Hicks.
As soon as the doctor began the internal exam I heard the word nyuuin (入院). Nurses walked in and out of the room repeating that word. Excuse me, what? I was being admitted?! It turns out that I was 3 cm dilated and was technically in early labor since 3 A.M. I was disappointed actually, because I was ready to go out and have a lunch date with my husband after this. “I’m not ready to have the baby yet!” I wasn’t ready, but baby certainly was.
I was being escorted down the hallway where I bumped into my husband. “Oh, could you get the hospital bag from out the car? I’m in labor now.” It felt so weird to say because I wasn’t feeling unusual at all even though I was entering the active labor stage.
Inside the LDR
The LDR was small but comfortable. I opted for tachiai shussan (立ち会い出産) or to have my husband in the delivery room with me. With a background in athletic training, I knew I just needed him there to coach me through the process and help me with my breathing. We were alone, with nurses coming in periodically to check on my progress.
At noon, lunch was brought in and things went by slowly. Active labor? More like boring labor.
We passed time talking, snacking, texting friends and family, and watching YouTube. I thought if I walked around, I could speed things up. Around 5 pm, however, things finally sped up and contractions began to pick up in intensity.
At 6pm, dinner was delivered, another high carb, high sugar meal. I tried to eat as much as I could between contractions but found it difficult to chew. Still I ate everything except one rice ball.
Textbook Labor Progression
Now in the transitional stage of labor, things were progressing rapidly. It was getting difficult to walk around the room. A nurse came in to prep me for an IV “just in case.” I’ve never had an IV before, but having a needle stuck in my arm was incredibly uncomfortable.
Every time I tried to focus on my breathing or hold onto the bed, I could feel the needle. Yes, not getting an epidural was the right choice for me. There’s no way I could have relaxed with a giant needle in my back. Even if I couldn’t feel it, just knowing it was there would freak me out.
So far, my natural labor was going smoothly, and I tried to focus on what I learned in my classes and through Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth. I eventually had my bloody show, which was, um, gross, but I took it as a sign that things were progressing well.
Having Second Thoughts
Truthfully though, at the 8 cm mark, I punked out and asked for some pain relief…after all they already prepped my IV and I made it this far, who the hell even cares if I “cheat” as long as the baby is born? The nurse told me that while she could provide pain relief, it would likely slow down my progress and make labor longer. Well, I was only 2 cm away and not enjoying the contractions, so I’d rather not prolong this.
At 9 cm the contractions became ridiculously intense, and my water FINALLY broke. It was 19:30. My cervix opened up all the way at 19:50 and baby Kaiju was born at 20:20! I know this because there was a white board that the nurses would write on from time to time.
I was so happy to hold her, and to touch the little hands and feet that punched and kicked me for months. After she was taken away for cleaning, I noticed the doctor getting a needle ready. I thought, is he sewing me up? Wait… did I get a episiotomy? But, I specifically wrote NO EPISIOTOMY on my birth plan… Oh well. I think I got 4 or 5 stitches but they hurt, even with anesthesia. This was the most painful part of labor.
Throughout the entire labor, my husband was there doing back rubs and helping me with my breathing techniques. I’m incredibly grateful that he could be there with me.
In the end, my birth experience in Japan went surprisingly smooth. I didn’t realize in was in labor until I was 3cm dilated, contractions from 8 cm to 10 cm were intense, pushing was the easy part. Getting stitched up after the epsiotomy was torture. But it was basically a natural birth without complications.