As the upcoming birth of our daughter grows nearer, I keep thinking back to when we were blessed with our first child.
My wife woke me early at some grey area between late at night and early in the morning. The baby was coming. She called the midwife. The discussed contractions.
When she got off the phone my wife told me to go back to sleep. It would be hours yet and she wanted me prepared for a long day. I thought, how can I sleep now?
She woke me again. It was time. One of us called the taxi. It would be a long drive to the birth house and we wanted to beat the coming of Tokyo traffic.
My wife worked in an NICU as a nurse for at least 7 years. When we got married she decided to change and started working at an OBGYN with more flexible hours and a slightly better work environment. Since we moved from Gunma (a more suburban part of Japan) to Tokyo, she worked more with the elderly in a pre-hospice ward.
Her first 10 years of nursing revolved around birth and maternity. It was with this insight that she decided that the best course for her was to go as natural as possible. No hospitals. No doctor, unless in the case of emergency. She wanted to feel connected to the birth in a way that she felt most patients were not allowed to be.
Which was why, when the time came for her to give birth we were in what would pass as a fairly standard tatami (thick woven reed mat) room that you can find in many houses here in Japan.
We spent hours in that room, with her fighting with the contractions, and my clumsily trying to encourage her through a process that I can understand, but will still never really understand.
I remember at some point I was asked out of the room, so that the midwives could walk my wife around and help her get to the toilet and back. I didn’t want to leave, and tried to look to my wife for guidance. I didn’t want to add to her stress, but in so many ways Japan (as does other countries, in sure, but my first hand experiences are limited to here) tries to disconnect the husband from the birth process. And, they try and make aspects of it hidden and embarrassing for both parties.
But, I left the room. I remember it feeling like a long time. I saw my wife being supported and walked through the halls, but was kept away.
Then, I was called into the room. It was truly time. The baby was coming. Even though the midwifery stresses the sense of freedom for the mother, we were told how to sit. I think they deemed it necessary. I sat against a wall. My wife sat with her back against my chest. She would alternate between pushing and resting.
I was told to hold her legs like I was human stirrups. The baby was coming. I remember being able to see the head. At the end we both helped pull him free and held him. I was overcome with emotion. My wife, even throughout the ordeal, was still able to keep her head in the moment. She was tracking seconds until his first cry. She knew the importance of numbers.
I don’t remember when he got cleaned or started to cry. I do remember that first moment of the two of us helping to pull him free.
It was a rough birth. My wife would be considered small while our child was be considered slightly large. She needed to see the doctor for stitches. There had been tearing and blood loss. I remember being sent to the other room to spend time with our son. Her parents were their or maybe they came later. My wife went to the hospital. Again time was a mystery. I remember getting a little scared. She had left. There was urgency, but no one had told me she was fine.
I sat with my son trying not to think about the what ifs.
In the end, everything was fine, or at least fine enough. Even though Mommy and Baby are doing well, she decided that this time around we would go with a different midwife. Someone she feels more in sync with, and who has a better understanding of what she wants out of her own giving birth process.
I am still counting days, and excited to see our family grow. And, just like before, I am thankful that I get to be a part of the birth.
My wife is a warrior.
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