Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sunset at Saito - Going Home

Sunset Fuji
Kanata with fireworks
There was a grand going-away party.  With handmade pizza, love cookies, and ice cream cake.  There were fireworks, presents, and...

Ice cream cake (from Baskin Robbins!) "Kayti- 10 times- Congratulations!" (10 births, 10 catches)

The whole gang
 And my very own yukata- Summer Kimono!

Asai-san, dressing me in my new yukata
in my new yukata, a present from the midwives and staff at Saito Birth House
with Ando-san, midwife

with Iyoku-san, midwife
with Asai-san, kids' caretaker, who dressed me in my new yukata
with Ryutaki-san, midwife

with Shiramizu-san, midwife

with Suzuki-san, acupuncturist and massage
with Kaneko-san, midwife
with Kuma-chan, midwife
with "Oojichan"- Mr. Saito

With Saito-san. 
LED screen drink vendor at the Ofuna Train Station
Train from Ofuna to the airport in Narita
Went from the constantly surrounding jovial comraderie of Saito Birth House to the anonymous compartmentalization of the train. It was so surreal.  So clear that I had broken off, disjoined, had entered another world again.
And then I was home.  Just like that. 
The air in San Diego was so cool and soft.  So light on my skin.  When I woke up, I could hardly believe how easy the air felt.  How good it was to be home.
The Birth House midwives and Staff had given Lukas a present, too:  His own men's Yukata, or Summer Kimono.  With Geta (sandals) to match!
And so the Pink Curtain is closing.  The final bows have been taken.  It was such a sweet sorrow, leaving so many incredible people and such a happy place.  I had really believed I would never want to leave.  But, to be honest, being back home has been just as sweet.  Just more wonderful than I remembered, full of promise, and new ways of seeing things and people.  I am so impressed by the birth community here in San Diego, by the easy access and relative emptiness of the roads, and the free parking everywhere!  As Dawn Thompson said to me, "You will continue to realize what you gained over there as time goes on and you integrate the knowledge and experience."  And it is true.
Being in Japan raised my consciousness of community, of calm, and of ways of marking special moments, places and people with beautiful tributes. 
And the Pink Curtain will continue to be drawn back, to ask questions, to inspire each other.  I hope I have opened a new portal for both sides to learn and enjoy.  I hope many Japanese midwives will come and visit us here, for vacation and for learning.  I hope I will usher other students over there.  Many hopes, many dreams, many realities yet undiscovered.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Last Few Days

Kotake (Little Bamboo)-san invited me to this sacred, ancient, magical bamboo grove after our prenatal with a client who was 41 weeks 2 days.  We drank this rich foamy green tea (matcha), I marveled at the beauty and coolness.  She showed me an alternate route back to the Birth House: along the scenic Kamakura-Enoshima coastline.  We rode our motorbikes, skimming past cars in the beating down heat.  Exhilarating.
 Sunrise.  Baby # 9 came amid the pounding of drums in a once-a-year all night long festival. 

Here, the student nurse connects with Baby 9 as she bathes her.
Mama of Baby 9 was absolutely confident and knew exactly what she wanted.
Kuma-chan, Kaneko-san and I went to Kanasashi Farm for some homemade gelato.

It was so hot, the gelato was dripping all over and we had to eat it very quickly!

Rice fields along the way...
Remember? this is what the rice fields looked like at end of May...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Get Up Stand Up. Stand Up for your Rights

Yesterday was a harder day at Saito Birth House.  You want to know what's happening in Japan?  The same damn crap that's happening in the U.S.  Women who are afraid of birth, afraid their bodies can't do it, afraid of the pain, glad to hand the reigns over.  Women who have been told for a generation that they're "not qualified." That Birth Is Safer You-Know-Where.

First, Saito-san got word that one of her two "supervising" physicians was transferred to another hospital.  The hospital he was in was a 15 minute ambulance ride away.  The remaining hospital is a 30 minute ambulance ride away.  The path for midwives, it feels, is becoming narrower.

Then, Saito-san had a visitor: Dr. Asuka Tachi.  Asuka trained under Dr Yoshimura- famous in Japan like Ina May in the U.S., or Odent in France.  Here's his website in English.  She works at a non-Yoshimura hospital in that region.  Asuka opened the conversation with me by saying,
"I read Ina May's book.  I really have a hard time with her promoting the idea that birth is safe." 
I was breathless.  I was already in a sour mood, as Ms Doctor arrived in the middle of my lunch, and I was not feeling "entertaining," but rather hungry, hot, and annoyed.  I could not keep my words simpering and smiling and saying nothing of importance in reply.  "Maybe that's because you're a doctor and you were trained to think birth is dangerous," I think I said.  Conversation stopper.  "No," she argued, "it gives people the wrong idea: that birth is safe."  I just stared at her. 
Someone found another direction for the talk- and, it turned out, Asuka was a lovely, informed,  frustrated stressed doctor.  "In order to really create the kind of outcomes we want, in order to have good, normal births, we need time to talk with our patients.  I get 5 minutes with each woman!  They schedule 40 in a day!  So the conversations I need to have with them, that would enable them to change their outcomes, just keep snowballing and the next thing you know, they're birthing!"  She feels she is required (by the hospital midwives along with her supervising doctor) to cut unnecessary episiotomies and, less frequently, cesareans.  The women who come in want inductions when labor isn't going fast enough. "My body can't do it right," they say. "Make it go faster."   And she's quite sure that as soon as Japanese doctors start offering epidurals (The commonly accepted term for epidural in Japan is mutsu bunben, literally translated as "painless childbirth.")  Japanese women will be lining up for them.  "We're responsible for this," she said. 

I am so grateful for the political, media, social media work all my women back home are doing.  Dawn Thompson, Ricki Lake, the MAMA Campaign, The Big Push for Midwives, California Association of Midwives, Natural Baby Pros... the list goes on and on.  You know, they're really not allowed to have their choice of birth attendants here?  It's the husband, or the birthing woman's mother: take your pick.  They don't have a law, like we do, that says they can have whoever damn well they please. 

Saito-san gets all fired up.  They all do.  They're ready to take this on, and take it to the mattresses.  They want The Business of Being Born in Japanese and they want a Japanese version of it.  The gal who came in yesterday- her friend who birthed at Saito's place- she was raring to get the political angle moving.  There's a dire need here, as well as at home in the U.S. to at least reach out to the 60% of women who WOULD do it naturally if they had the right support. 

I wanted things to be so perfect here- the old way where women still believed in the natural power of their own amazing bodies... and trusted birth.  Well, that is the feeling at Saito' least it is only an endangered species and not totally extinct. I am so grateful to have found her place, and to be coming from my school and community in San Diego.  It's a stellar match.  Word to Marla, Gerri, Andrea, all the gals at Nizhoni and SDBN, UCSD Midwives, Natural Baby Pros.  Word to my momma.  Word to all the mommas I love in SD.  I am more impressed by us than I was before.

ps- Caught Baby #8 today.  Got all ready for a shoulder dystocia and a resuscitation, and Saito kinda laughed at me, the rookie... she knew all was fine.  And it was.  Big fat baby boy.  Mama did great. 

Ando-san using a fetascope for the very first time


You know how juicy good watermelon is when it's just so damn hot out there?
Baby Yosen.  4 weeks ago, he was my first catch here.

With Fukuda-san.  She's as lovely as she looks and then some.

Iyoku-san (midwife) giving Fukuda-san some useful tips.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

6 and counting

Two fine girls born yesterday morning and this morning.  A happy run on girls at the moment.  The last three- all girls. Big, loud ladies, too, I might add.
Me with Baby "Ran" (rhymes with "Dawn")

At 7:30 yesterday morning, I arrived at a home birth, rushing in, to Imoto-san's cries: "Get your gloves on!"  I grabbed the closest gloves I could find and went for it.  Baby was born, one and a half hours later.  Mom was so ready to have her baby!  She really worked her baby down, in her own time, with us sliding her across a blue tarp many times, as she turned again and again, in the way she needed to, and we turned the blue plastics again and again, to cover the tatami flooring and her futons.  Her daughter, 4 years old, simply would not let go of her baby sister once she was born.  She was as glued to her as if all the oxytocin in the world had been poured right on them. 

Baby Kaede, meaning Maple
This morning's birth was calm, serene, with the mom really working her baby down.  I was overnight shift-lady at the birth house, and mom came in around 12 midnight.  Saito-san rubbed her back methodically, gently, "open, open," she whispered.  After a while, the mom said back, "open..."  Her pace was slower than she'd like, but I just knew this baby was coming soon.  At 230 her water broke and Saito-san went to call in the other midwife (they always have 2 at a birth), and mama asked me, somewhat wantingly, "how much longer??"  "Not long," I told her.  Baby was born 70 minutes later. 
For those of you interested in such things, the placentas have all come out quite quickly, within 5 or so minutes.  No tears so far, none that required suturing, and no other interventions, per se.  The breastfeeding support is absolutely wonderful.
Aoi-kun- "Blue"



And now for a gratuitous Sunday afternoon reward:

The line to get in