What It Was Like To Give Birth In A Foreign Country
by Re-Keisha Hibbert
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.
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.
Would you give birth in a foreign country?