Giving birth in the US was never an option for me. I carefully considered the logistics of flying back to the US in my third trimester and finding a hospital which suited me. But, it just seemed impossible.
I also considered the journey back to Japan with a newborn in tow…but not before taking trip a to the Japanese consulate in Atlanta for documents and applying for baby’s US and Japanese passports. In the end, I figured it would be wise to take care of everything in Tokyo.
Now, I’d never given birth in the US, but being exposed to the ~American~ way through media, I had a certain set of expectations that did not conform to the Japanese way.
It’s assumed that all births here in Japan will be natural births. Epidurals, while slowly gaining traction, are few and far between. International and bigger hospitals definitely have those services available. But, they are mainly located in central Tokyo, so going to my checkups would be difficult. Especially since I live and work in east Tokyo and decided to work until 8 weeks before giving birth.
But, after hearing about how painful childbirth would be, I thought, maybe I should get an epidural, just in case. I could do my checkups at my current hospital, then give birth at a different hospital. That’s not so uncommon, actually, as Japanese women often return to their hometowns to give birth and stay for a month or so after giving birth.
The husband, however, was unconvinced in my need for an epidural. You’re so strong, you can do it, he insisted. I was unconvinced of his conviction and secretly thought he didn’t want to pay extra for the birth of his child. (Neither did I — Epidurals generally run around an extra 100,000 yen here!)
I thought epidurals were routine. Why would Japanese women intentionally go through all those hours of labor feeling everything? Isn’t carrying a baby for 10 months more than enough? Japanese women, why are you doing this to yourself?!
I did research on epidurals, through YouTube videos and documentaries. To begin, I hate needles, I really do. I, unfortunately, am anemic and had to do countless blood tests throughout my pregnancy. I thought an epidural would simply be a numbing injection, so if I could get over all those blood tests, an epidural would be easy.
When I saw that a giant needle, lodged in my spine for God knows how many hours of labor, I knew that an epidural was not for me. Added to some horror stories I found where some mommies posted that they felt EVERYTHING, I figured it was not worth spending the extra money only to be in so much pain. I thought, American women, why are you doing this to yourself?!
Women have been giving birth for such a long time, a natural childbirth couldn’t be that bad… right?
Still, the researcher in me insisted on weighing both sides by reading mommy blogs. There came opinion pieces that argued that there’s nothing wrong with using modern medicine. After all, don’t we use anesthesia for major surgery?
Some moms even insisted that because they had an epidural they were able to recover quickly.
Then, there were horror stories of how epidurals slow down contractions, leading into c-sections. Epidurals drugging mommy and baby, delaying the release of oxytocin and impairing the mother/child bond which was so important at birth.
Stories of mothers regretting their epidural as they felt as if they had no control over their body during labor.
I had no idea what to do, so in the end I chose convenience. The financial convenience of not forking over extra money to get an epidural and the convenience of not having to search for another hospital to give birth in.
Natural birth it was.