Giving Birth in Japan: An ABC
Joanne G. Yoshida
A = Aka-chan, 赤ちゃん, baby, Ai, 愛, love, congratulations on having your baby in Japan - cherish him or her with lots of love!
B = Bo-shi Te-choThe Mother and Baby's Health Handbook, (short for Bo-shi Ken-ko Te-cho, 母子健康手帳), this handbook is used to keep track of vaccinations, weight gain, birth statistics, and all other medical information about the baby for post-natal care, as well as record the mother's health, weight gain, and condition during pregnancy. It is needed as well when you report the birth to your city office, and can be obtained through your hospital, birthing center, or local city hall once you know you are pregnant.
C = Cho-on-pa, 超音波, ultra-sound, sonograms, which monitor the position and growth of the baby.
D = Do-wa, 童話, children's stories, Do-yo, 童謡, traditional songs for children.
E = Ei-yo, 栄養, nutrition, the food served in hospitals or birthing clinics has a variety of healthy side dishes. In Japan you can find plenty of vegetables, sea vegetables, tofu and soy for your pre-and post-partum menus. Note that soy can be an allergen for new babies.
F = Fujin-ka, 婦人科, gynecology, San-Fujin-ka, 産婦人科, OB-GYN (obstetrics/gynecology), Futon when you return home you might want to consider a futon to sleep on. Especially for breastfeeding, it's easy and comfortable. In Japan, mothers and babies traditionally sleep together the first few years, at least up until toilet training age and longer in many cases. With a futon, there's no need for cribs and you can put your baby's futon next to yours, or all share one as is done in Japan.
G = Geppu, げっぷ, burp, mothers are taught to burp the baby after each milking, using an 'over-the-shoulder' technique taught by nurses. Use a Gau-zay on your shoulder. A number of "Gau-zay", pronounced like Gauze with an "ay" at the end, small white cotton towels used for the baby, will be on a list of "Goods" mothers are asked to prepare for hospital stay and baby care.
H = Hara-maki, 腹巻き, a band that goes around your belly, traditionally recommended during pregnancy to keep your belly warm and protected. It has an auspicious meaning and should be used beginning on a designated day known as "Inu-no-hi" (the day of a dog on the Japanese calendar). Expectant mothers who carry out this custom visit a shrine to pray for having an easy birth, in a small ceremony in the fifth month of pregnancy. It is an auspicious tradition from which is believed that a female dog can easily deliver many puppies.
I = Iku-ji, 育児, childrearing, Iku-ji Kyuu-ka, 育児休暇, maternity/child-rearing leave. In conversation use "Iku-kyuu" for short.
J = Jo-san-shi, 助産師, mid-wife.
K = Kan-go-shi, 看護師, nurse, Kan-jya, 患者, patient, Kei-ken, 経験, experience - A natural childbirth professional told me that she felt like a 'patient' when she gave birth in a hospital, and like a goddess when she gave birth at home. We can celebrate our power to give birth by thinking about the terminology we use as well as the way we approach bringing children into the world. Eleven years ago I was a 'patient' but have learned since then that there are new ways of thinking of ourselves as we enter the birthing experience.
L = La Leche League, international organization and wonderful resource for breastfeeding. There are chapters in Tokyo and other parts of Japan. Check their website for contact information and consultation, as well as publications. I highly recommend The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
M = Ma-sui, 麻酔, anesthesia, Masaji, マッサージ, massage, Ma-ta-ni-tei Yo-ga, マタ二テイヨガ, maternity yoga, make a decision about keeping your body strong and confident through massage, maternity yoga, and other ways to prepare for a natural childbirth to lessen your chances of needing anesthesia, drugs, or other medical interventions.
N = Nin-pu, 妊婦, pregnant woman, Nin-shin, 妊娠, pregnancy.
O = Oppai, おっぱい, woman's breast or breast milk, this word for 'breast' is also used informally for breast milk (oppai o nomu, oppai o ageru, to drink milk and to give milk). "Bo-nyu" the more formal way to say breast milk, Oshikko, おしっこ, pee, is informal for "urine". I had to keep track of how many times a day my newborn made an "oshikko" during my hospital stay.
P = Pampers, パンパース, you can find these are a popular brand if you choose to use disposable diapers. The word for diapers in general is "o-mutsu"; and "nu-no o-mutsu" is cloth diaper. Cloth diapers are recommended to make toilet training go more smoothly, and are becoming more popular for being the most eco-friendly.
Q = Q-kei (休憩, kyu-kei), break, enjoy the quiet time when your baby is sleeping.
R = Ran-so, 卵巣, ovaries, Ran-kan, 卵管, Fallopian Tube.
S = Shi-kyu, 子宮, uterus Shu-ssan, 出産, childbirth, Sen-sei, 先生, doctor.
T = Tatami, 畳み, reed mats used as floor covering in Japanese-style homes, Tei-o-se-kkai, 帝王切開, Cesaerean Section, Taisetsu, 大切, treasure the unique experience you have, whether you give birth at a home on a tatami, or if, like me, you require a Cesarean Section.
U = Umu, 産む, the verb "to give birth".
V = V-sign, the hand gesture that all the nurses and doctors will use when they have their picture taken with you and the baby.
W = Wa-ku-chi-n, ワクチン, vaccination, check the schedule and requirements for what vaccinations will be needed.
X = x-rays, レントゲン, in Japan are called "rentogen".
Y= Yo-naki, 夜泣き, crying in the night, Yukkuri, ゆっくり, slow, relaxed, the neighbors may be concerned if your baby cries in the night. Yawn and put her back to sleep. Most importantly, take it easy, go slow and enjoy this time together to bond with your newborn.
Z = Zasshi, 雑誌, magazine, it is believed that mothers should rest their eyes and not read for a certain period after childbirth. If you observe this custom, you might still want to look at some pictures in a magazine that interests you---but you will be advised by many people not to read the small print. Better to rest and get plenty of Z's!
Pregnancy and Childbirth Resources to get started
* Childbirth Education Center (CEC ) for consultation, pre-natal classes of all kinds, doula/interpreting services www.birthinjapan.com
* The Tokyo Pregnancy Group, tokyopregnancygroup.blogspot.com
* International Childbirth Education Association www.icea.org
* Wisdom Childbirth , Birth Preparation Classes teaching HypnoBirthing, www.wisdomchildbirth.com
* La Leche International, breastfeeding support oganization, www.llli.org/Japan.html
* Japan with Kids, interactive on-line community for English-speaking parents. Support groups, discussions, e-mail list, www.tokyowithkids.com
* Giving Birth Naturally, Empowering Women to trust their bodies, and pregnancy books on related topics www.givingbirthnaturally.com/pregnancy-books.html
For Information about National Health Insurance, Costs, and Documents/Foreign Registration, Beppu City's Official site gives some important practical information: www.city.beppu.oita.jp/
Further Reading on Multi-Cultural Parenting
Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering, by Suzanne Kamata
Not What I Expected: The Unpredictable Road from Womanhood to Motherhood, edited by Donya Currie Arias and Hildie S. Block (Paycock Press, 2007)
Joanne G. Yoshida