Kayti Buehler, a doula of 5 + years, former VP of SDBN, and a student midwife in my 3rd year at Nizhoni Institute of Midwifery here in San Diego.
January 2nd 2012, determined by the scent of the new year, I put on my big girl panties and called the first Birth House in Japan I could find on the Internet. (I only found 2 or 3.) I said in my best Japanese, “Hi, I’m Kayti, a student midwife in California. Would it be possible to come and learn midwifery with you?” An older woman and a busy midwife, Saito-san, getting to the point, said, “Yes, yes, sure, come on over.” I paused, somewhat shocked it could be so easy. “Um… there are details to discuss, no?” She was so quick. “Yeah, sure. Here’s the name and number of my midwife buddy, Sonoe-san. She lived in Sacramento, and speaks English. Call her. You can come.” (I love this story. BTW: the next Birth House I called said no.)
I will be in Japan for 2 months, leaving 2 weeks from today, with my handsome husband, on May 25th 2012, to get experience midwifing in a Birth House and with Sonoe-san, who is a homebirth midwife. I will also visit an old “independent midwife,” near Kyoto, who told me that she wants to start a doula training program because birth in Japan is starting to look like Birth In America. Lack of support is becoming the norm.
The birth culture in Japan has, until recently, been threaded with the belief that a woman isn’t a woman if she doesn’t experience the fullness of childbirth. The experience of birthing- the challenge itself- bonds a woman to her baby and her supporting family members as go through this incredible moment together.
Home birth and Birth House birth, from what I understand, are currently a small percentage of the total births: about 2%, like it is here. Hospital births, however, are done very differently. Midwives attend all normal births and most major hospitals offer waterbirth. The midwife (again, as I understand it- and it is changing…) stays with her laboring mom and acts as her doula and midwife until the end- when another midwife joins her for the birth itself. I’ll let you know what they say when I return. Cheers!