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My experience at Matsugaoka Josanin (1)

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Giving birth at Matsugaoka Josanin; by maruko

Meeting Matsugaoka Josanin – “You will have a difficult labor ! !”

I found Matsugaoka Josanin on the internet, maybe seven or eight years ago. At the time, I wasn’t even married but decided it would be the place to give birth. After getting married, we tried for a long time without success but then just as I was starting to think maybe it is also nice to have a life dedicated to work, I became pregnant. So after confirming it with a local doctor, my husband and I came to the Open day.

This was my first visit, I was a little nervous but my first impression as I entered the center was “Is this a normal house?” The Open day starts with the talk by Mrs So (Director midwife) but the feeling of visiting grandparent’s house stayed all around us.

The talk progressed and I listened to her with a bit of confusion in myself as she goes on talking about the life style, what to eat and not to eat in such details. . . eh, this is an “Open day” isn’t it?

Then she says,“ Teachers and secretaries, nurses also tend to have a difficult labor but the worst by far is a writer” To this, I cannot but help to gasp. Then Mrs So notices and finds out that I am indeed a writer. So she quickly but firmly comments “Oh you really better take maternity leave at 32 weeks”. To this, my response inside myself was“ I haven’t even decided to give birth here” but really, I was totally overwhelmed by her energy so all I could do was to nod.

I was rather embarrassed by the spotlight I was given in front of other 9 couples also attending the Open day but more than that, my day ended with the word “Difficult birth” and the possibility of me having one.

First consultation

My first consultation was by Mrs So, at 13 weeks of gestation. For a whole hour, she asked me many questions including about my family members and their medical history. I never thought such information was necessary to give birth!

Next, I took my socks off and she massaged my feet. “Your feet are indicating difficult birth” she said. So I asked “where about?” getting really nervous just like the Open day. She described what she had discovered but reassured me that her daughter also had such feet but she gave birth naturally, so I felt a little better. Her next comment was“ Did you put on weight before becoming pregnant?” I was shocked again! Yes I did put about 8 kg in the six months prior to becoming pregnant, how did she know, was she a psychic? She tells me that there are people who put on weight before getting pregnant.

Next, I took my socks off and she massaged my feet. “Your feet are indicating difficult birth” she said. So I asked “where about?” getting really nervous just like the Open day. She described what she had discovered but reassured me that her daughter also had such feet but she gave birth naturally, so I felt a little better. Her next comment was“ Did you put on weight before becoming pregnant?” I was shocked again! Yes I did put about 8 kg in the six months prior to becoming pregnant, how did she know, was she a psychic? She tells me that there are people who put on weight before getting pregnant.

On this day, I swore to myself to change my life style as I realised that if I went on as I am now, working till the early hours of morning, I was sure to have a difficult birth!

At 17 weeks.

By 17 weeks, my belly started to show already and people commented that it seems rather big for the gestation age I was at. So in the consultation I asked the midwife who was in charge of me that day, it was Ms Kusuyama. Her answer was“ The timing of belly growing and the shape of it are really individual. What is important is not the size but the condition of the baby inside” Yes! This was the kind of answer I like to hear! So unlike the answers I got at the local doctor!

I do think this answer represented the quality of this Josanin. In an ordinary medical institute, they will only consider my superficial quality to draw conclusions such as age, first time or not, weight etc. But midwives in Matsugaoka considered my occupation, constitution, and even my life style was included when giving me an advice. I felt that this was a very crucial difference and it made me really feel that I wanted to give birth there.

At 20 weeks.

My urine tests started to show “protein” from 20 weeks. Initially, the advice was to reduce my salt intake as much as possible. However it got worse and worse and went as far as 2+. Eventually I even stopped miso soup and ate plain boiled vegetables without soya sauce or anything else salty.

At 22 weeks, I went to the consultation with my husband for the first time. Ms Yokoyama took care of me that day and she taught my husband how to massage my belly and feet. From then on, it became his routine to give me a massage every two to three days. This became a very precious time during the weekdays for us as a couple to have some time together until the baby’s arrival. It was also an important ritual for him to communicate with his child.

In summer 2010, the temperature was a record high and it was already over 30 degrees when I woke in the morning so I couldn’t possibly go for a walk. Instead, I decided to get off one station early and walk the rest of the way to work.

By September, as the summer’s heat was calming down a little, my urine test for protein also started to show negative results.

At 30 weeks.

The doctor diagnosed that my baby was in breech position. Disappointed but it was also as I was expecting because although I had been making an effort to reduce my work, I knew I still had been using my eyes a lot. Also, my work was still very busy during this period and I hadn’t been able to go for a walk everyday either. Oh no! I won’t be able to give birth at Matsugaoka if it stays breeched! But I really wanted to give birth at Matsugaoka!

From that point onwards, I made much more effort to squeeze two slots of 30 min walking time in my busy work schedule. One in the morning, the other in the evening followed by a relaxing bath. At Matsugaoka, they did moxibustion for me and told me the sleeping position I should sleep in. I also spoke to my baby everyday, praying at the same time “Please put your head downwards”

To my relief, after about two weeks, my baby turned around!

At 32 weeks i.e. the week that I was told to start maternity leave, I had finished my main projects but still, I had loose ends to finish off and was not able to start maternity leave. Hence at the consultation, I got told off that I was still working!

At 34 weeks and five days, finally I was on maternity leave. Everyday, I would go for a walk for three hours earnestly.

At 37 weeks, most likely due to my hard working schedule prior to the maternity leave, many people pointed out that I had really tense shoulders. I was then told that it takes a while after being on a maternity leave for the tension and the tiredness to start to come out of the body. Now I understand the reason why Mrs So had told me to take a leave from 32 weeks but of course there is nothing I can do now that the time has passed. I also started to feel a little “panic” as I had not prepared anything for the labor or the baby because I have been so busy working! Even the baby’s futon I had ordered online had not arrived at this point. So I went out and quickly bought things like postnatal pyjamas and postnatal underwear. I also pleaded my baby to stay in my belly for a little longer. . .

At 38 weeks, my blood pressure became high. So I was advised to go for an acupuncture session to control the blood pressure. I booked for a session and I went. The acupuncturist predicted then that I would go over due by 10 days (and this prophecy was spot on!). According to the therapist, I had a very stiff left shoulder blade hence no contraction would arise while holding such tension. I was told to go for a walk at least three hours a day and also to ask my husband to massage my back. From here onwards, I started to go to get acupuncture done two to three times a week.

The due date.

On the due date, no sign of contraction. So away I went, I strived in my daily walk, which was now three to five hours a day. More and more people started to ask “Is it born yet?” I was touched that so many people got in touch, thinking of me through emails and telephone calls but on the other hand, it became a huge stress. My own mother called everyday! So one day, I got really tired of it and shouted at my mother to not to call me anymore as I would call her once it was born! Next day, my older sister called me to tell me “Mother was really sad because you have told her off for calling everyday” but I was rather desperate so I decided to ignore it. From this point onwards, I decided to ask my husband to take all the incoming calls to the landline and ignore the emails, in order to reduce my stress, at least in some way.

At 40 weeks and six days, my husband’s uncle died suddenly. There were family issues involving the uncle and his inheritance so I began to feel rather depressed thinking about the troubles that lay ahead of us.

At 41 weeks.

On 41 weeks and one day, when I went to the acupuncturist, the therapist asked me whether something had happened as my body which had finally began to feel relaxed has got tense again. So I talked about what had happened in my family and that it had made my mental state rather unstable. This session made me feel a little lighter as it was a relief to be able to talk to someone about it as well, the therapist was really supportive, which was really nice.

On that night, contractions started and they were 10 minutes apart. When I called Matsugaoka, they were clearly relieved, as they had also been thinking about me. I asked whether I should go to sleep if I could and they said yes so I lay down.

The next day, I over slept and totally forgot that I was supposed to have gone to see a doctor in the morning. While calling Matsugaoka to tell them so, I felt that it was actually a very good sign that I was becoming very forgetful (as it means you are “loose”)! They told me to come in the afternoon for a moxibustion and also to go and see the doctor tomorrow.

On 41 weeks and three days, I experience some pain, maybe seven minutes apart so I went to the doctor. The doctor diagnosed that there was a possibility of CPD because I was really over due. It became possible that I may need to undergo a caesarean section. In response to this, I could not hold my tears falling as I lay in the monitor room; “I can’t believe I have to give birth in this hospital when I have come so far and after all the effort I made. I so want to give birth on the tatami-mat of Matsugaoka. . .”

My thoughts continued while I walked to the station, “it is not everyone who is able to give birth at a Josanin and what is most important is that the baby comes out safe wherever I give birth. Yes, I was told from the beginning that I might have a difficult birth and whatever the case, if I get to 42 weeks, I have no choice but to go to the hospital anyway so whatever happens will happen whether it is c-section or just a hospital birth. . .” After a while I partly gave up but also calmed down so I called Matsugaoka. They told me to come after having lunch. At this point, I was told that I was allowed to eat anything I wanted so I decided to go to the Italian restaurant near the center that I had my eyes on. I had been resisting Italian ever since I had found out that I was pregnant so this was my chance, what should I eat? Should I eat pizza or pasta? For a starter, should I pick the salad that it included in the “set menu” or pay 210 yen extra to have shef’s recommendation? I thought really hard and decided to eat pasta set with tomatoes and aubergine.

By this time my contractions were 6 minutes apart. The waiters pretended to not to notice, maybe they are used to it or they just simply prefer to leave me alone, but I carried on eating while taking a break whenever contractions came.

I finished my pannacotta with tea easily. “Maybe I could have ordered more. . . should have ordered pizza as well as pay 210 yen extra to have the special starter. . .” as I had these thoughts in my mind, I left to Matsugaoka, they gave me a moxibustion and I went home by bus.

From the evening, my contractions got stronger and stronger and finally it was less than 5 minutes apart. “Yes! It has come at last! Finally, I can give birth! I better eat to prepare for the birth!” was what I thought so I called my husband and said “I would like you to come home asap but please get “Katsu sandwich (Katsu is a pork cutlet)” for my dinner” after that I had a shower to prepare for the birth!

Feeling really refreshed after having a shower, I called Matsugaoka. The Midwife Kokubo answered and told me “ As far as I have seen with you in the day time, I doubt it will progress so quick so why don’t you have dinner and see”

So I ate my Katsu sandwich and called again.

“I don’t think I can bear any longer”

“Ok, come in to the center then”

Hence partly due to them feeling sorry for me (!?) I get to “check-in” in Matsugaoka.

We arrived at Matsugaoka at half past nine. When the midwife examined me, my cervix was only 5 cm dilated, which meant I had far to go. Maybe the sound of drizzling rain acted as a good lullaby, my husband fell asleep in 5 minutes when the futon was laid for him. I welcomed the morning with hardly any sleep having withstood the contractions all night.

At 41 weeks and three days – finally the birth-

As soon as we got up, my husband declared that he was going to work; “ It doesn’t seem like it is going to be born yet and besides, I have a work appointment today” What! When I am risking my life to give birth to our child, you talk about work appointment? My tears kept falling but I told myself it was my fault to have chosen such a man as a husband so I was going to accept it, and sent him off.

I was feeling rather lonely but then Ms Kokubo came to have a check on me and told me to have a nap as the battle has just begun, so I lay down around seven o’clock in the morning. As I was just dropping off to sleep, around half past eight, the baby came right down with a force and my waters broke. It was as if the baby was telling me there is no time to fall asleep. My contractions also got stronger from then on.

The midwife in charge was Ms Yokoi.

That day, I had booked myself for a yoga class but I decided to cancel, as I didn’t want to be bothering others if I grunt or make other noises. So I decided to do some on my own and took “dog’s pose”. Straight away, a very strong wave of contraction came!! Oh no, better not, I stopped right away after that!

As I took a break from my yoga, Ms Yokoi came and told me the labor would progress better if I move, so would I like to try going up and down the stairs. I decided to try. She also told me it is best if you walk in a way so as to feel the vibration on my heels. As I walked up and down, she stayed right beside me and gave me lots of support, which was really reassuring. I was secretly aiming for 10 laps but just after four laps, I felt dizzy so decided to take a break.

Just before lunch, came Mrs So “ Better go to hospital if you don’t give birth by tomorrow morning” she said. To this, I objected strongly in myself “NO WAY !! I will give birth here” and I also told my baby in my belly again and again “You prefer here too don’t you? Please come out soon, I want to meet you soon”

By lunchtime, I ate everything with only a small amount of effort including a half of “La buche de Noel” that I was given as a gift. My husband finished work early and arrived just as I was finishing eating lunch, and he stayed close beside me from then on.

The contractions were getting harder and harder, I felt like I could die of pain. Around 4pm, Mrs So came to have a check on me, and found that my cervix was fully dilated. Suddenly, I felt the excitement around me, “Let’s deliver at full tide” said Mrs So. I asked when that is. They told me it is around 6:30pm. Really? I cannot possibly wait that long and I won’t be able to bear this pain any longer either, was how I felt. So I send lots of telepathy to my baby “ Please you must come out earlier than that!”

Between the contractions, I asked my husband to spoon feed me the rest of the cake. (They told me this later but not many people carry on eating till the very last moment of birth. I thought it was very funny that the first time in my life I actually felt my greediness useful, was during my labor).

Mrs So and Ms Yokota took me to the toilet and Mrs So told me to push there. “Am I giving birth here?” “No but it is easier to push if you sit on the toilet” So I tried but I couldn’t push very much as I was too short for their toilet hence my feet were in the air. We moved back to my room again.

While we made our way back to the room, just as we were passing in front of the main door of the building, Mrs So suddenly said “Please laugh” It was such a sudden request that I asked why and she told me that it helps the body to loosen. OK, so I tried. Then everyone started to giggle. Mrs So told me “You are very charming” but I had no idea why everyone was laughing then. (Only afterwards, my husband told me that I looked hilarious as my attempt to laugh only pulled my face in a funny way.)

Back in the Japanese style room, I tried to sit on a wooden chair but it just didn’t feel right and whenever the contractions came, I wanted to stand up. So I ended up pushing standing while holding onto my husband’s neck in a hanging pose. Then Ms Sato came “Its Sato, I’ve come to join you” I felt really happy but all I could do was to nod.

Then I felt like I was in need of passing a stool.

“I think I need to poo”

“You can let out whatever”

To this comment, I felt a relief. Then, I felt like something was stuck in between my legs which they told me it’s the head of the baby!!

“You can touch it”

So I touch, and I could surely feel the head with a sensation of hair growing on it.

“It can take a while from here” said Mrs So, but for some reason, I felt really certain and focused on the instinct of “No I am going to give birth right now!”

At 17 minutes past five, pop, out came the baby in front of me with umbilical cord still attached. Ms Sato asked me If I would like to touch the umbilical cord, which was still pulsating, so I touched it and sure enough it was still pulsating. At 21 minutes past five, another contraction came and my placenta came out.

I heard some voices saying that I had bled quite a lot, but that did not bother me at all. I was just feeling so relieved that I was freed from the contractions and was “spaced out” form the feeling that it had finally ended. I enjoyed the strange feeling of holding my own child on my chest.

Straight away, Mrs So came to place the nipple in the baby’s mouth. The baby didn’t latch on automatically but she guided the baby persistently. Ms Yokoi showed me the placenta, and commented that its function seems to have been fine even it was over due. I felt glad.

I had hardly slept since the previous night so I started to nod off with the baby in my arms. I think my husband was keeping himself busy calling parents and taking photos.

The postnatal stay was truly amazing. I breastfed the baby, I ate delicious meals and I rested. If the baby did not stop crying at night, the midwife came to check. The massage treat was also an absolute heaven too.

Postnatal days . . . is it postnatal depression?!

After going home, I got really irritated by the relatives who gave me advice without even coming to help me out. I felt there are lots of things that were fine in the olden days but not anymore. Hence I kept all my questions for the third week and sixth week check up consultation at Mastugaoka and confirmed with the midwives.

I was also deeply hurt by some careless words uttered by the midwife who visited me from the local health center.

My sense of loneliness increased more and more as I spent all my days at home with the baby. I was told that I should go to a local playgroup but I couldn’t bring myself together to go and meet people I didn’t know.

My sense of loneliness increased more and more as I spent all my days at home with the baby. I was told that I should go to a local playgroup but I couldn’t bring myself together to go and meet people I didn’t know.

From then on, I have been attending “Shoku no Kai”, “mini Shoku no kai”, baby massage, balance ball exercise class, etc at Matsugaoka. I go there whenever there is the opportunity. I have also been asking Mrs So as well as other midwives in Matsugaoka advice on things that I am a little unsure about, so I feel really supported in my parenthood.

The mum friends I made in Matsugaoka are also truly a part of my life now. It is great that they have also gone through the same effort in changing life style towards birth.

If I did not choose Matsugaoka and I did not make any effort towards natural birth, I am sure I would have had a caesarean section. Even the advice that was given to me, which felt strict at the time, I understand that it was necessary to reduce the risks of natural birth. There was love even while telling me off. During my labor, even Mrs So who can be so stern and strict at other times was really really gentle. Other midwives also, were truly there for me so I was able to concentrate on birth without any worries. Everyone who was connected to Matsugaoka Josanin looked after me.

This is what Matsugaoka Josanin is about, and this is its prized treasure.

Now my child is one year old.

It must be because of good diet and good life style changes since the pregnancy that so far my child is growing so well and healthy without any illness. If I become pregnant again, I would love to give birth in Matsugaoka again. I want to experience that fun birth and the special moments again. And also in my heart, I have decided that hopefully I want to go to that Italian again and order pizza with lots of cheese and special starter set.