What It Was Like To Give Birth In A Foreign Country
Words: Re-Keisha Hibbert
For this reader, having her first child in Japan meant “letting go and letting God.”
When I first came to Japan in 2008 as an assistant language teacher, I had no idea that I would still be here in 2015, or that I would end up having my baby here, too. It wasn’t entirely difficult for me to decide to have my first child away from my family—I’m a loner in some ways, and knowing that I would have my husband’s support made it easier. Also, I knew a few Jamaicans who had their babies in Japan. I believed that I could do it, too.
I was very intent on having a natural birth, perhaps like many women out there. I believed that a woman’s body was very much capable of doing what it needed to do, without unnecessary medical interventions.
So when my doctor suggested to me that I be induced around the 36-week mark, I was having none of it. I can’t remember when he started saying it, but during my routine check-ups he would constantly say that the baby was “too big.” In my mind, he was only saying that because Japanese babies tend to be quite small. In fact, Japanese women are encouraged—or I would say harassed—into gaining as little weight as possible during pregnancy. Many are even placed on diets. I felt like I couldn’t trust what he was saying, and fought everything my doctor said.
Hell no. No one is going to induce me.
As a foreigner, I felt like I was being misunderstood. My body is different from the average Japanese woman. (Many other foreign women who gave birth in Japan often expressed their own frustrations at being constantly ridiculed for gaining weight.) The language barrier also made things hard; unless a Japanese friend accompanied me to my appointments, I couldn’t ask the questions that I wanted to ask or express my concerns.
When I went home, I told myself, No one is going to induce me. You know... speaking what I wanted into existence. At my 38-week checkup, the doctor told me that I might have to do a C-section if I went past my due date. Hell no, I thought. No one is going to induce me. No one is going to cut me.
Well, there I was at 40 weeks, full term, with no signs of going into labor. I didn’t want to go to the doctor. I canceled an appointment I had with them on a Monday, but they insisted that I come in the following day.
I was hesitant, but agreed to come in the next day and then immediately regretted the decision. I was now facing the dreaded decision: induction or C-section. An X-ray examination had shown that the baby might not be able to fit through my pelvis, and the doctor insisted that he had waited patiently enough for me to make a decision.
I sat there in the doctor’s office with my husband and Japanese friend facing a very difficult decision; I might not have a natural birth after all. I had done some research about inductions, and my research indicated that simply having a big baby wasn’t a real justification for having one. Besides, I still wasn’t convinced that my baby was as big as they claimed. I looked at my husband. “Please just tell me what to do,” I said. He usually doesn’t worry about things, and he felt that I should go ahead with the induction. My Japanese friend thought so, too.
I still wasn’t convinced.
I didn’t have long to decide though. The doctor wanted to induce me the next day, a Wednesday. If I were to do a C-section, it would have to be done that Thursday as that’s when operations are done at the hospital.
Reluctantly—and really as a last attempt to stall things and see if God would intervene—I said I would wait to see if I would go into labor naturally. If not, I would do the C-section. At that point, I was really so tired of fighting.
Of course, I didn’t go into labor naturally; I had to do the C-section. And on the day of the operation, I was still putting up a fight. I even thought to myself, Perhaps I should go to another hospital. I was angry. I didn’t want to sign the hospital consent form. I felt like I was being rushed and pressured to do something I didn’t want to do. I just wanted to run away!
But on Thursday afternoon at 3:24 p.m. on August 27, I welcomed a beautiful baby girl named Esther into the world. She weighed 5,136 grams, or about 11 pounds. I couldn’t believe it—11 pounds! The whole experience really brought to life to the words, “All things work together for good to them who love the Lord.” It especially showed me what it means to let go and let God. The thing that I fought turned out to be the very thing that was best for me and my baby.
So although my birth story was not the natural birth story I was determined to have, it was the perfect birth story for me.
What did you think of Re-Keisha's story? Tell us in the comments!
From Our Black Moms Abroad Series