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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Brown

Lillian's Birth in Japan - Caitlyn's Story

Caitlyn has really kindly allowed me to share her birth story which can be originally found on her blog: Click the link to read more of Caitlyn's posts. By my weekly checkup on Thursday, January 28th, it was 3 days past Lillian’s expected due date, and doctors guessed we would have to begin the process of inducing labor on Monday. This would start with me coming to the hospital that day to receive something called lamaria, a seaweed native to Japan used to dilate the cervix. I really wasn’t comfortable with the idea of using lamaria, but the doctors insisted that unless I had dilated naturally at that point, that was my only option. I was a little frustrated about the lack of negotiation on this point, so I just hoped Lily would come on her own or that I would be dilated enough not to have to get the lamaria. Either way, on Tuesday I would be given meds to further progress induced labor if necessary to officially get things started.

On Friday the 29th, I was still feeling a little anxious about the possibility of induced labor, but I was happy to know that either way we’d have our sweet baby soon. My pregnancy experience overall was really good–I was thankful that Lillian was always healthy and that I was, too. However, by the last couple of weeks she was resting on nerves that gave me continual leg cramps in my thighs every time I walked, I was very achy and sore, and I was quite tired overall. I was so ready to have Lillian!

Chad and I decided to go out for dinner to get some okonomiyaki, and had a really nice time despite the gloomy weather. It was very rainy and cold, and I told Chad I hoped the rain wouldn’t turn to ice over night in case I did go into labor and we needed to get to the hospital. After dinner I also said–just in case–that we should get out some money for a taxi. I don’t know if something in me knew what was coming, but around 9 or 10 o’clock I started to feel contractions. Now, to be honest, I thought maybe the contractions were really bad gas pains at first. After all, the previous day we had eaten something called Calico Beans and I thought it had just been killing my stomach. (Side note: because of this association with Calico Beans and contractions, I really don’t want that for dinner any time soon!) When the contractions started coming about every ten minutes from about 2 in the morning, I knew for sure Calico Beans weren’t the cause of the pain and we called the hospital.

As I will explain in a future post, we had to switch hospitals about three weeks earlier, and one of the downsides was that our new hospital, didn’t seem to have as many fluent English speakers as our previous hospital. So when I called at about 3 or 4 am to tell the hospital about my contractions, I was shocked to be told there was no one who spoke English there at the moment, but that the nurse I was speaking to would try her best if I spoke slowly. Despite an experience earlier in the week with terrible communication issues over the phone, I was still incredulous that there was no one I could talk to. After several minutes of painful attempts to communicate (both painful in the mental sense from the language barrier struggle and the physical sense from having contractions at the same time), the nurse told me to call back once the contractions were occurring 5-6 minutes apart.

Around 6 am, the contractions suddenly went from coming 10 minutes apart to between 2 and 3. We didn’t waste any time and called a cab before dealing with another phone call to explain to the hospital we were coming. At this point, I was able to practice a few techniques I had learned in a prenatal yoga for birth preparation video I had been doing for a month or so. I would stand leaning against a wall or the top of something shoulder-height, put one foot back a ways and the other forward, and sway while breathing: in 5 seconds, out 5 seconds. Once we were in the taxi, I continued breathing in the same manner.

The taxi ride to the hospital was about 30 minutes. We used a taxi service that you sign up for in advance online. The service is wonderful because they knew my due date, our address, and the address of the hospital. They also have English speakers available on the phone 24 hours a day. When we got to the hospital, I was ready to have our baby already, though tougher contractions were on their way and I still had hours to go. First, I changed into a hospital gown, and after only a half an hour or so went to take a bath. I was brought breakfast but could only drink the milk box (poor Chad, who was starving, ate a couple bites at my insistence and was probably so sad to see them take the tray away mostly uneaten soon after).

Whenever I walked anywhere, I would still stop and sway with each contraction. I slid into the tub and let out a deep sigh of relief, only to have the strength of the contractions suddenly go up a notch. At this point I began to hum through pursed lips on my exhales, really focusing on the sound of my voice. It wasn’t long before the contractions got so strong that I started feeling the urge to push, and I was out of the tub, back in the LDR (labor, delivery & recovery room). A nurse checked my cervix and said, “Wow! You’re already dilated to 6 cm!” To this I replied, “That’s it!?” I remember thinking to myself, I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore. No, I can. I have to. And I will. Don’t say can’t.

At this point, the nurses told me that if I felt the urge to push, I should resist, but my body took over and I felt as if I had no control over the pushing. I briefly wondered if I should (or could) change my mind about getting an epidural or other pain medicine, but before I could even really consider it another contraction came and my focus was solely on giving birth. Another nurse came to check my dilation only a while later and said, “Good! I think you will be able to meet your baby sometime this afternoon!” Tired, hopeful, and overwhelmed, I looked to Chad beseechingly and asked, “Is that soon?” He said yes, and though he really didn’t seem confident I just had to hope he was telling the truth. (I found out later that it was about 10:00 am at that point, but I’m glad no one told me that!).

Things continued to progress, and I was able to see the image of her head emerging reflected in the nurse’s protective glasses. Every time I pushed I tried to look and see if she was any closer to coming, but it never looked that way. Soon a team of 3 nurses came with a doctor, and they helped to “open things up” with each push because her head was a bit big for my body. I remember feeling like the whole experience was so painful and bizarre and new, and like I was almost outside of myself watching the whole thing. I had a hard time relaxing in between contractions, so much so that the nurses kept trying to remind me to relax and breathe, and that I told them, “I can’t!” They said, “You can!” but then I had another contraction and couldn’t listen to them anyway.. Finally, I had a contraction where everyone started shouting, “Yes! Go, go, go! One more!” And I just pushed like it was nobody’s business! I thought this had to be the one to get her out because I was finished! And then, at 11:29 am, only about 4 hours after arriving at the hospital, I saw my beautiful baby girl being held up and I felt so much relief and joy. I watched nurses and midwives take her to be cleaned up while the doctor worked on cleaning me up and giving me stitches (in the end I had an episiotomy in addition to the help of the “pulling” doctors, but received no pain meds whatsoever other than anesthesia for the episiotomy stitches afterwards) and felt like it would be an eternity until I could hold her.

Chad went over by her and I watched her daddy look at his sweet girl. It was only a few minutes later before I got to hold our Lillian, and my heart felt so full. I laughed and cried and just felt so tired and sore ohmygoodness. Lillian was about 3.7 kg (around 8.1 pounds) and 52.5 cm long (around 20.5 inches). The nurses and midwives kept saying what a good pusher I was, and how my labor was relatively short for a first child. (I was like, was it? Because that felt like it took an eternity.)

Technically after delivery you can stay in the LDR for a couple of hours, but I think we ended up staying a little longer. I didn’t question our extra time because I was very glad for it. I had a little lunch and Chad snacked on a granola bar and canned coffee (the hospital restaurant was strangely closed), and after a while we made the transition to what would be my room for the next five days. Then, our journey as parents began! I’ve always had a respect for other mothers, but after experiencing childbirth myself I am even more blown away by the awesomeness of the human body. I have had some medical hurdles to overcome before, but nothing compares to the challenge of childbirth (and of course, nothing has come with such a sweet reward!). Lillian’s first day at home from the hospital.I hope you’ve enjoyed the story of Lily’s birth, and that if you’re pregnant (especially in Japan!) it has helped you or encouraged you in some way. More to come soon about my hospital experiences before and after birth!xx Caitlyn.

P.S. Lillian was born on National Croissant Day! Who would’ve thought after my last post that I’d be given yet another reason to love croissants?

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