Giving birth at an off-base facility
A note from Japan Birth Resource Network: Birth comes in all shapes and sizes. We often hear the negative side of birth. By sharing women’s stories we hope to put a positive outlook on the experience when giving birth here in Okinawa.
This is the story of how I gave birth to my third daughter. It was my third birthing experience, however it had so many firsts. For the first time I used ‘hypnobirthing’. For the first time I had a doula on my side. For the first time I was able to labor in water. For the first time I had a designated midwife supporting me. For the first time I gave birth in a birthing center. For the first time I gave birth on Japanese soil. For the first time I gave birth in absence of any pain medication whatsoever and -best of all- for the first time I gave birth in absence of excruciating pain.
For a couple of weeks before giving birth, I had practice contractions throughout the day, every day. Side note, as part of my hypnobirthing training I will call several birthing terms by different names such as ‘contractions’ are ‘surges and ‘bloody show’ is ‘birthing show.’ These terms were all used to keep my mind positive.
Okay, back to the story! The practice surges never increased in strength or formed a discernable pattern. In the 39th week plus two days, I awoke with a surge that felt a little stronger than the ones before. Later that morning I had my birth show and thought that perhaps today Baby would be born! I was excited and also a bit nervous.
I brought my eldest child (4 years old), to Preschool at 8:30 a.m. Then I headed to my prenatal check-up appointment at Yui Clinic with my 2nd child (almost 2 years old). Yui clinic is an off-post Japanese birthing center. During my two-hour checkup I had a couple of surges. My provider determined, through the heart-rate monitor, that Baby was doing fine. I went home.
Back home I did my daily chores while having spread out surges. I updated everyone in my support group (my husband, doula and Japanese translator) of my current condition. My translator kept the Yui Clinic Staff up-to-date on my condition as well.
In the early afternoon, close to 2 p.m., my surges started to pick up. They came in every 8 minutes and there were slowly getting stronger. I called my husband at work, telling him that he needed to come home and that we needed to head to Yui Clinic. After my husband’s arrival, around 3 p.m., my surges started to spread out to 25 minutes apart. So we decided to wait at home. I took a warm shower and made preparations while my husband packed the minivan with all the birthing essentials and watched our girls. Around 4 p.m., it started to rain outside and we decided to try out our new umbrellas on a short stroll around the neighborhood, as a family.
Strolling in the rain was relaxing and I was happy to walk at my daughter’s slow pace while having intermittent surges. During our stroll we conveniently met our neighbors who offered to watch our two girls while we were at the clinic. Halfway through the stroll, my surges were back to eight minutes apart. We headed back home, had dinner and started the process of putting our kids to bed.
I called my doula for advice as to whether we should start heading out or continue to wait. She responded with, “Usually it’s safe to wait until you are no longer able to have a nice conversation anymore”. She suggested waiting another hour to see how things develop. I felt good about that plan and choose to do just that.
My husband and I gave our daughters a bath and put them to sleep. At 7 p.m., I called our neighbor to watch our kids. She came over, twenty minutes later, and then we headed out to Yui Clinic at 7:30 pm. It was pouring rain outside and there was a lot of traffic on the way to the clinic. My husband drove and I called my doula to give her a heads up to head to the clinic as well. My husband was talking about work during the drive but I didn’t have the mindset so I advised him that I could only deal with small talk and nothing more.
We arrived at Yui Clinic around 8:10 p.m. My translator came to greet me, she asked how I was doing and I told her that I was fine and didn’t think I was in active labor yet, which would be 4 centimeters dilated. However, I didn’t want to stay at home or be in the car when the surges became too strong so I came to the clinic anyways. My translator and I waited for Alex to come inside the clinic with my bags then we all went upstairs to the birthing room.
In the birthing room, I was greeted warmly by my midwife. She had over 30 years of experience and came out of retirement to assist in my birth.
After the greetings and getting settled, my midwife had me lay down on the mattress while she hooked up a heart-rate monitor for Baby and another monitor to track my surges. My midwife determined that my surges were 2 minutes apart; however, for me, it felt as though I had a lot of time between each surge. It felt like 7-8 minutes apart for me. I listened to the Rainbow Relaxation CD, part of the hypnobirthing technique, and focused on relaxing all my muscles and tried to fall asleep. I was able to fully relax between each surge.
My midwife did a cervical check to see how far I had dilated. She said I was 7 cm dilated and that it was good I came to the clinic. I was surprised! I estimated myself at around 3 cm.
I went into the tub to relax. All the lights were turned off in the bathroom with a single light on in the birth room. It was very calming. I stepped into the tub, and was submerged with water up to my breasts. The warm water was very soothing. It allowed all my muscles to relax. According to my judgment the surges came in the same pattern of every 7-8 minutes. I was happy about that but also thought that I might be in the tub for a few hours.
To my surprise, being in the water did not seem to ease the strength of the surges as I had hoped. However, it still felt good to move around and change positions in the buoyancy of the water. My doula came in and offered a cold washcloth for my head. She also asked about the strength of my surges compared to outside the tub. She asked because my midwife and another midwife were wondering if my surges had slowed down since I was so quiet.
My husband has been with me the whole time for comfort and support. He always finds a way to release stress and get everyone to laugh. We all laughed which was good.
The surges started to come in stronger and a bit closer together. Upon examination, my midwife determined that I was fully dilated and could see baby’s head. My doula asked if I felt like pushing and I nodded yes. She reminded me to follow my body’s lead and to relax my shoulders. “Don’t fight it, just let it happen,” she said. I still wasn’t in a supported birthing position and I wasn’t able to communicate it at this point in labor. My doula seemed to know what I was thinking and suggested to my husband sitting behind me. That worked great! I could relax my upper body.
Birthing became more intense. I had three or four intense surges. I determined to let my body take the lead and as the pain came to not tense up or fight it. My eyes were closed, I felt the beads of sweat running down my face. My doula and husband whispered words of encouragement to me. My doula told me how my body was opening up and that I should envision a flower opening up. During the next surge I felt a strong burning sensation, as if my skin was ripping apart. I started to close my legs to reduce the pain. My doula reminded me to open my legs and focus on birth breathing. I listened and baby’s head came out. As the surge dissipated I caught my breath just in time for the next surge. The burning sensation was even stronger once again I started to close my legs and my doula reminded me again to keep them open. She said, “This is it, this is the last one, baby will be out and all will be over.” I opened up, giving into the burn and moments later my daughter was born!
At 9:33 p.m., Friday, June 3, 2016 my daughter came into this world. Only 1.5 hours after I arrived at Yui Clinic. She measured 52 cm and weighed 3960 g. It was a great experience.
I was determined, from the very beginning, of having an unmedicated and gentle birthing experience. Everyone in the delivery room was hand-picked and part of my support system, each doing their best to encourage and give me the birthing experience I envisioned for me and my baby. Now I know God did not doom us to suffer during childbirth when all the animals don’t seem to be in distress. It is us deciding our own fate. Giving birth doesn’t have to be a medical event. It is not an illness. If we relax and let our body do the work, labor is more effective; therefore it is shorter and excruciating pain is not a part of it. It was a completely natural birth. This experience has redeemed myself from the previous two experiences at hospitals which left me feeling defeated and disappointed. This time I feel empowered and ecstatic!
When people are relocating from one duty station to the next, an expectant family may ask questions in regards to what options are available to birth their baby. If you are moving to Okinawa, Military Birth Resource Network is thrilled to add Yui Clinic to its list of providers. Yui is a full on OBGYN clinic that offers a homelike environment for mothers. They will also soon be on the Tricare Network. Connect with them through our website.
Military Birth Resource Network provides evidence based information and mother friendly support throughout Okinawa, Japan and stateside. To learn more visit:
The Birth Education Center of Okinawa offers IBCLC consultations, breastfeeding classes, cloth diapering classes, support groups, Hypnobirthing, Cranial Sacral Therapy, community events, a baby & mom shop ‘Fresh’, and more.