Giving Birth in Japan: My Experience - Part 2, Clinic Stay

I wrote Part 1 of this "Giving Birth in Japan" series last week, so if you haven't read that already, you may want to before reading Part 2 below.


As I was being stitched up, I started shivering uncontrollably. Of course, the temperature in the room had been pretty low as I was sweating and hot throughout the labor and delivery. My husband changed the temp while the nurses helped me change out of my sweaty long t-shirt. (Note: this particular clinic, and probably many others, provide hospital gowns that women typically wear throughout their stay. However, the gowns at this clinic were really uncomfortable and stiff-feeling, so I brought my own clothes to wear for the birth and for the stay. We discussed this with one of the midwives at the clinic beforehand so it wasn't an issue.)

The nurses also had to put these giant pads on me that were sort of like a diaper as all of the blood came out (sorry, graphic I know), which they changed several times right after I had given birth.

After all this, baby was cleaned up and I got to hold her, and also try nursing her. One important thing I should point out is that depending on where you deliver, the midwives or nurses may have different ideas on the best way to breastfeed. We had been warned beforehand that this clinic wasn't that great with breastfeeding support, and it seemed like almost every nurse/midwife had a different idea about how it should be done. Initially, they only had the baby feed for a few minutes on each side, and then took her away for some tests. One of the nurses explained that the baby should only eat for 5 minutes on each side and then switch, and many of the others nurses also reemphasized this, but some of them didn't care about the length of time. And everyone had different ideas of how to manually express milk as well, but a pump was frowned upon).

I was still exhausted and a little out of it for that part, but if I went through this process again I probably would have requested to let her feed longer if she was willing to, instead of just pulling her off after less than 10 minutes. I also would have wanted more skin-to-skin time with the baby, since I was fully clothed again (like I mentioned in the previous post, modesty is preferred) and baby was bundled up as well.

I had to go to the bathroom around this time (it had been a while since I last peed), so asked if I could go. The nurse gave me some cleansing wipes, a pad, etc., and walked with me to the bathroom. I have to tell you, I was so weak at this point, and sore, that it was difficult just getting there. As I was going about my business, I became really faint and lightheaded. My head felt heavy and I had to lean over between my knees.

I should make a brief note that I've had various instances happen in my life when I've become very lightheaded and faint, and I either nearly pass out or actually do. Usually I try to lay down before I pass out completely, but sometimes it's been hard to avoid.

So I told the nurse I was lightheaded, and she said we should walk back to the room. I tried standing up, but I found it difficult to stay standing and fell over the sink, grabbing the counter. I willed myself to stay conscious enough to walk back so I could lay down.

That didn't happen. The nurse called another nurse and they both held onto me as I stumbled my way down the hall. I ended up falling to the floor since I completely lost strength and neither of them could hold me up. There I was laying on the floor in the hallway, just outside the LDR room as one of the nurses called for my husband. The last thing I remember before I blacked out was my husband wrapping his arms around me to pull me up.

The next few moments I actually had some sort of dream, though I don't remember it, and honestly felt like I was asleep, because the next thing I know, my eyes snap open and I panicked. There were bright lights above me, heads all around my field of vision and frantic voices loud and echoing. Someone was holding my head and patting my face or something, and because I had blacked out, for a few seconds I COMPLETELY forgot where I was and what had happened. Freakiest feeling ever.

My husband saw right away that I didn't know what was going on and put his face down in front of mine so I could focus on it and remember where I was. It was then I got my bearings and caught my breath again. They all lifted me back up onto the bed and checked to make sure I was ok.

The hours following were more or less uneventful, aside from holding the baby again and then the nurses taking her to the nursery for the night so I could sleep. My husband went home for the night, and I stayed in the LDR room, since I had fainted earlier.

They brought in dinner, but my husband had brought me food earlier, and I wasn't particularly hungry anyway after the whole ordeal, so I didn't eat any of it. We had arranged beforehand that my husband would bring meals for me, as I wanted food I was most comfortable with. These types of clinics often serve fancy food, probably what you might see in a lot of Japanese hotels (in my experience anyway), such as French food or something like that. Our clinic didn't really like visitors bringing in food because they didn't want the women eating a lot of junk, but we went over our typical diet with one of the midwives when I was pregnant, who spoke to the cook about it, and they agreed that we could bring in our own food, but they would also let me eat the food they had if I wanted to.

Some of the other clinics we visited prior to choosing this one did not allow visitors to bring food, while some did, so if you're picky about what you eat, it's best to inquire about this before choosing a place to give birth.

To be honest, most of the meals didn't look that appetizing to me, and as for nutritious, I think it depends on what you consider to be healthy. For example, white bread and white rice I don't consider to be very healthy, though they are considered part of a well-rounded diet in Japan, and were typically served with most of the meals at the place. They always had lots of vegetables, and they usually included fruit, which was nice.

Example breakfast: white bread with fake cheese grilled sandwich, some strange egg mixture on bread, mushy steamed veggies with boiled eggs, a fruit plate, juice box, and tea. (Oh, I don't like eggs at all and a lot of meals seem to have eggs for some reason).
My husband actually ate some of the meals when he was there visiting instead of letting them go to waste, and though he didn't find them that appetizing, he thought some of them weren't terrible. So, it really depends on personal preference. Occasionally some of the meals included a product from a company as a way of advertising (we also were given bags upon bags of free things like diapers, formula, etc., all from different companies). For example, one meal included "rose water," which actually did have rose extract in it (and various other ingredients), smelled exactly like roses, and, according to my husband who dared to taste it, tasted like its scent.

So, breakfast was brought bright and early at 7am the following morning, though they didn't bring baby in until later in the morning, around the time my husband arrived. Later we realized we didn't know if she had been fed all night, because we had previously told them that we did not want them to give her formula at all. We still don't know what they did that night; perhaps they gave her water, but we're not sure.

This led into the following night (not much to report on for day activities that day, we spent most of it calling family and visiting with friends), after my husband had gone home. I was in one of the guest rooms at the clinic, and baby was rooming-in with me. (This was another feature we wanted, and not all clinics offer). She was sleeping soundly until later that night when she started crying. I fed her, but it continued, and fed her a few more times and the crying still continued. I tried to feed her again but now she was refusing to eat. I tried swaddling her, rocking her, burping her, everything you're supposed to do. It wasn't just crying now; it was screaming/wailing. I was exhausted, naturally, considering all I had been through.

Around 2 am, I was falling asleep, but baby was still wailing. One of the nurses, Nurse Ignorant, mentioned in Part 1, was on duty that night. She came in and asked if we were all right. I was at the point of tears (combine exhaustion and a hungry, screaming baby and it's not great for one's sanity levels), and I told the nurse the baby wouldn't stop crying. She came over and checked to see if she was hungry (which, of course, she was) and told me that baby was hungry. I said I already fed her numerous times, and now she wouldn't eat. The nurse just nodded. Did nothing. Then she left.

I called my husband in tears, telling him I wanted to go home. After talking to him for a little while, I called the nurse back in to talk to my husband on the phone to go over the situation (he's fluent in Japanese), and she said that if they took the baby to let me get some sleep, they would give her formula if she was hungry. So, it was one of those catch-22's.

She left again, more crying by me and baby and comforting from my husband.

Eventually got off the phone and I tried to feed/comfort baby again to at least get her to sleep and calm down. Nurse Ignorant came in 3 more times, asking if I was ok. To be honest I just wanted to say, "Do I look ok to you? I'm hysterical and exhausted and falling asleep, my baby is hysterical and starving - of course we're not ok." I just kept nodding and saying yes because I didn't want her "help."

Later on, (still awake, still crying baby), another nurse came in and actually helped me calm the baby down enough to feed her a little, but after that nurse left baby got upset again and finally, I was able to get her to sleep.

I think we slept for 2 hours.

My husband showed up right on the dot at 7am that morning to take care of baby and let me sleep. It also  seemed like the nurses were worried about me because they told my husband he could stay with me that night, and that he could take me home a day early (I was originally supposed to stay 4 days - the average stay in Japan can be 4-7 days depending on where you go).

The ironic thing about this experience is that the next night, when my husband was there to take turns with me watching baby, one of the midwives was on night duty and she was amazing. She came in and helped us get baby latched on perfectly and eating, and she was really hands on and helpful. A great help. I couldn't help but wish that she would have been on duty the night before!

As for the rest of the stay, during the day each day they did things like show us how to change a diaper, how to give baby a bath, etc. (Well, they had my husband practice everything). I've had extensive experience in childcare so for me what was most interesting about this was observing the cultural differences, but rest assured if you have no experience doing anything, they will show you how to do things.

One example of a cultural difference was when they did the bath session. They filled a deep sink with incredibly hot water (I was taught in the US that you don't put babies in a deep bath in case they slip and then drown, and also that you don't use hot water, just warm). It was funny because the nurse said, "babies love the hot water!" Our baby was screaming.

Once we brought her home and gave her a bath, she has been perfectly happy for all of her bath times.

Finally, after a few days, baby had her checkup by the visiting pediatrician, I had my post-birth checkup, and we were cleared to go home.

Baby Ai-chan

I can't get over the eyes.


Next up: My reflections on my experience giving birth in Japan, staying at the clinic and what else you should talk with your caregiver about. If you have any specific questions you want me to address in this post, please let me know! (But those of you not interested in this topic, don't worry, it won't be the post right after this one, but sometime in the coming weeks).

For info on being pregnant in Japan, check out the following posts (more to come as well):

Pregnant in Japan: Visiting the Doctor and What to Expect
Pregnant in Japan: Diet, Nutrition and Weight Gain
Pregnant in Japan: How to find a doctor, hospital or midwife
Pregnant in Japan: Resources

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