Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Get Up Stand Up. Stand Up for your Rights

Yesterday was a harder day at Saito Birth House.  You want to know what's happening in Japan?  The same damn crap that's happening in the U.S.  Women who are afraid of birth, afraid their bodies can't do it, afraid of the pain, glad to hand the reigns over.  Women who have been told for a generation that they're "not qualified." That Birth Is Safer You-Know-Where.

First, Saito-san got word that one of her two "supervising" physicians was transferred to another hospital.  The hospital he was in was a 15 minute ambulance ride away.  The remaining hospital is a 30 minute ambulance ride away.  The path for midwives, it feels, is becoming narrower.

Then, Saito-san had a visitor: Dr. Asuka Tachi.  Asuka trained under Dr Yoshimura- famous in Japan like Ina May in the U.S., or Odent in France.  Here's his website in English.  She works at a non-Yoshimura hospital in that region.  Asuka opened the conversation with me by saying,
"I read Ina May's book.  I really have a hard time with her promoting the idea that birth is safe." 
I was breathless.  I was already in a sour mood, as Ms Doctor arrived in the middle of my lunch, and I was not feeling "entertaining," but rather hungry, hot, and annoyed.  I could not keep my words simpering and smiling and saying nothing of importance in reply.  "Maybe that's because you're a doctor and you were trained to think birth is dangerous," I think I said.  Conversation stopper.  "No," she argued, "it gives people the wrong idea: that birth is safe."  I just stared at her. 
Someone found another direction for the talk- and, it turned out, Asuka was a lovely, informed,  frustrated stressed doctor.  "In order to really create the kind of outcomes we want, in order to have good, normal births, we need time to talk with our patients.  I get 5 minutes with each woman!  They schedule 40 in a day!  So the conversations I need to have with them, that would enable them to change their outcomes, just keep snowballing and the next thing you know, they're birthing!"  She feels she is required (by the hospital midwives along with her supervising doctor) to cut unnecessary episiotomies and, less frequently, cesareans.  The women who come in want inductions when labor isn't going fast enough. "My body can't do it right," they say. "Make it go faster."   And she's quite sure that as soon as Japanese doctors start offering epidurals (The commonly accepted term for epidural in Japan is mutsu bunben, literally translated as "painless childbirth.")  Japanese women will be lining up for them.  "We're responsible for this," she said. 

I am so grateful for the political, media, social media work all my women back home are doing.  Dawn Thompson, Ricki Lake, the MAMA Campaign, The Big Push for Midwives, California Association of Midwives, Natural Baby Pros... the list goes on and on.  You know, they're really not allowed to have their choice of birth attendants here?  It's the husband, or the birthing woman's mother: take your pick.  They don't have a law, like we do, that says they can have whoever damn well they please. 

Saito-san gets all fired up.  They all do.  They're ready to take this on, and take it to the mattresses.  They want The Business of Being Born in Japanese and they want a Japanese version of it.  The gal who came in yesterday- her friend who birthed at Saito's place- she was raring to get the political angle moving.  There's a dire need here, as well as at home in the U.S. to at least reach out to the 60% of women who WOULD do it naturally if they had the right support. 

I wanted things to be so perfect here- the old way where women still believed in the natural power of their own amazing bodies... and trusted birth.  Well, that is the feeling at Saito' least it is only an endangered species and not totally extinct. I am so grateful to have found her place, and to be coming from my school and community in San Diego.  It's a stellar match.  Word to Marla, Gerri, Andrea, all the gals at Nizhoni and SDBN, UCSD Midwives, Natural Baby Pros.  Word to my momma.  Word to all the mommas I love in SD.  I am more impressed by us than I was before.

ps- Caught Baby #8 today.  Got all ready for a shoulder dystocia and a resuscitation, and Saito kinda laughed at me, the rookie... she knew all was fine.  And it was.  Big fat baby boy.  Mama did great. 

Ando-san using a fetascope for the very first time


You know how juicy good watermelon is when it's just so damn hot out there?
Baby Yosen.  4 weeks ago, he was my first catch here.

With Fukuda-san.  She's as lovely as she looks and then some.

Iyoku-san (midwife) giving Fukuda-san some useful tips.


  1. i love so many things about your posts. i love how your passion just oozes out in your words. but more than what you write, i just adore the photos. i stare and explore and what i find over and over is peace. tranquility at the very moment of birth. stillness and joy. its all just so beautiful. these women and this place. i may have to hunt them down when it comes time for my japanese babe to arrive someday. thank you over and over for sharing your insights and your experience. i am thankful for YOU!

  2. Oh Kayti! It's been a crazy week here.. so I am just catching up to your blog posts.. THESE ARE AMAZING!! Keep going kiddo!

    Love ya,