Michelle's Amazing Hospital Birth in Japan
A note from the Military Birth Resource Network.
Birth comes in all shapes and sizes. Too often hear the negative side of birth. We don't always know what to expect when moving to a new location, especially if it's overseas. By sharing stories we hope to bring a positive, informed outlook on the military experience when giving birth at duty stations around the world.
My husband and I made the decision on having a natural unmedicated birth after watching the documentary “Business of Being Born”. Being the planner that I am, we prepared for our estimated due date, September 21st, for months. We were both very determined! Unquestionably, I knew I could do it, despite the doubting comments I’d been receiving from a few close friends and family. I was excited and anxious for the day to finally come, so that I could not only prove them wrong, but to also meet our munchkin and finally find out the gender.
On September 11th, I was FaceTiming my family at 12 PM JST (we live in Japan), happily bouncing away on my exercise ball. As I was talking to my mom, I felt my belly tighten up. In fact, it was a feeling I had felt many times before, however, that time was different. Unusually, it lasted for about a minute with very mild cramping, so I knew it was different than a Braxton Hicks. However, I chose to ignore it and went about my day, in fear of getting my hopes up.
Later that night, I went to the bathroom before heading to bed. I was so anxious for any sign that would indicate our baby was coming soon. Granted, I did see something I didn’t see at all my entire pregnancy: My mucus plug! Yet, I was still skeptical, since there was no blood. With the thought of early labor being too good to be true, I decided to ignore that sign as well.
After a few hours later, I woke up at 2 AM to use the bathroom, and noticed more of my mucus plug, except this time there was a tinge of pink blood! At that point, I began to feel a little hopeful. Of course, it was hard to fall back to sleep, so I searched for forums of other moms who’d experienced the same thing; Desperately wanting to read they ended up going into labor. Guess what? Most of those mothers went into labor within the next 24 hours after losing their mucus plug and experiencing the “bloody show”!
By 5 AM, I began feeling more tightening of my abdomen, in addition to period like cramps that would come and go. Curiously, I decided to start timing them, but unfortunately noticed they weren’t consistent. For this reason, I decided not to tell my husband anything after he woke up for work at 6 AM; trying to avoid him becoming disappointed if I truly wasn’t going into labor. Obviously, I still wasn’t fully convinced.
CONVINCED! EARLY LABOR!
Between 6 AM and noon, I attempted taking a nap, but kept waking up from stronger “cramps”. Since taking a nap seemed impossible, I decided to call my mother to tell her everything that was leading me to think I was in early labor. With a tad bit of worriment in her voice, she assured me I was, and told me I would have our baby very soon. Thanks to my mom, I finally came to accept that I was indeed in early labor. Especially since my contractions were happening every 5 mins!
After hanging up with my mother, I called my husband right away and told him he needed to come home ASAP because we were going to have our baby very soon. Thankfully, he left work immediately. In the meantime, I paced back and forth in my house and bounced on an exercise ball so my contractions wouldn’t go away. As soon as he got home, I called the hospital, and they instructed me to start heading there when my contractions were 3 mins apart and I was incapable of walking or talking through them. Immediately after hanging up, I timed them and realized they were 2-3 minutes apart! Although my contractions were still bearable, they were very painful.
Around 2 PM, we started heading towards the hospital, but stopped at SubWay first, since I was told they wouldn’t let me eat anything aside from ice chips after being admitted. Oh my goodness, was it hard to eat my sub due to having to take small bites in between each contraction. First time it had ever taken me that long to eat in my entire life!
As soon as I got to the Mother Infant Care Center, a nurse took me to triage for monitoring and to check if I was dilated. The nurse confirmed I was in fact having very strong contractions, very close together, but I was ONLY 3cm dilated! It turns out because we live about 30 mins away from the hospital they asked me NOT to go home. Instead, they advised me to walk around for two hours and go back to be checked for progression.
Chris asked me if we could go to the barbershop so he could get a haircut. Honestly, I thought I could handle it, so we did. Geez, what a bad idea! I got lots of worried looks while I paced back and forth in front of the barber, as I deeply hummed through each contraction. Can you believe how difficult it was to focus on my breathing knowing I was being stared at? For this reason, my contractions were becoming more and more painful. As soon as Chris walked out of the barber, I urged for us to go back to the hospital because at that point I could not handle walking or talking. Clinging onto Chris’s neck with my arms and swaying my hips side to side during each contraction and then quickly walking when it stopped was the only way we made it back to the car.
Thankfully, we made it back to the hospital and walked for the remaining time in the hallways. If I’m not mistaken, the pain got much worse during those two hours, which led me to think I had to be at least 6cm dilated. At around 6 pm, we walked back, the nurse hooked me back onto the monitors and shortly after, she checked to see if I was making any progress. The nurse told me, yes, my contractions were stronger, but I only progressed to 3 1/2cm. Discouraged is the best word to explain how I felt at that moment. In that moment, I desperately wanted to go home so I could sit in my tub full of hot water to help me through the pain. Unfortunately, they advised me to walk around for another TWO hours so the nurse could check me again for progression.
THE WAITING GAME- ACTIVE LABOR
For the most part, those two hours were a complete blur to me. Honestly, the pain was something I swore I never wanted to experience again. All I could do for the entire two hours was breath and pace down the hospital corridor with Chris by my side, encouraging me to breathe through each contraction. So I continued to remind myself during each contraction that I’d shortly be getting a break and each contraction was just a step closer to meeting our baby.
Two hours later, we walked into Mother Infant Care Center, this time only to be checked for dilation. The nurse looked at me and told me “I’m sorry, but you are only at a 4…”. A huge sense of doubt came over me that I didn’t even care what else she had to say. Sadly, we ended up being sent home.
LABORING AT HOME
In a nutshell, I labored all night at home; alternating between- laying in the bathtub filled with hot water, to bouncing, hugging and rolling on the medicine ball, and listened to my HypnoBirthing CD. The CD helped me focus through the pain I was feeling and reminded me of everything we learned and practiced in our HypnoBirthing class. I’m not going to lie, I was so afraid I would have our baby in the house. So I called the hospital at 3 AM to see if I should go in, but the nurse on the phone instructed me to labor as long as I could at home and to come in the morning. I stayed up all night doing anything possible to help me stay focused and calm. As soon as the clock hit 7 AM, I woke my husband up and we got ready and headed to the hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital the nurse took me straight to triage, checked me… AND THANK GOD I WAS AT A 6! They asked me if I wanted an epidural and I told them I wasn’t sure. Unfortunately, I was in so much pain I didn’t know how much longer I could take. Out of standard procedure, the Anesthesiologist came into triage and discussed the risks of getting an epidural with us. Still unsure, I asked her to give me more time to think about it, so she told me to ask for it whenever I was ready. Chris and I looked at each other, and he lovingly reminded me why we wanted to go natural and helped me remember the pain would go away as soon as I had our baby. Thanks to him, I agreed and decided to stick it out longer.
Soon after, I was admitted into my room at around 8 AM. Chris provided them with our birth plan and went through it with our Midwife and the staff. The heparin lock was placed in case of emergency, and I was intermittently monitored throughout my entire labor, which allowed me as much mobility as I needed. They dimmed the lights and spoke softly just as I’d asked. Between the times of 8 AM to 6 PM, I labored on and off the bed, on the exercise ball they provided, and in and out the shower. Believe it or not, I managed to stay very calm during each contraction by humming through them and switching positions as often as I could.
It wasn’t until 6 PM that I started to doubt myself again, lost focus of each contraction and started to wonder how much longer it was going to take. Fear swept through me and I felt like it was never going to end. While I labored in the shower, I turned to Chris with a face of defeat and told him I wanted the epidural. I’ll never forget how he stared right back at me with so much love, and let me know I was the strongest women he has ever met and there was no doubt in his mind I could do it. That’s all I needed in that very moment, he believed in me, so I had to keep pushing!
Deep down I needed some reassurance I was progressing, so I asked him to call the nurse so she could check and confirm I was in the transitioning phase of labor. Sure enough, I was 7cm dilated. In that moment I remember hearing the pain wouldn’t get any more painful after 7 cm and I would have our baby very soon. Shortly after, the nurse spoke to the midwife and they came into the conclusion I wasn’t progressing fast enough. They gave me two options: Have them break my waters or give me one more hour. With the intention of letting my body naturally go through the process of labor, I asked them to please give me one more hour. Thankfully, the midwife granted my wish.
SURRENDING TO THE CONTRACTIONS
Honestly, I don’t remember ANY pain within that hour, and I was no longer moaning, humming or grunting between the contractions. As a matter of fact, I surrendered myself to each surge (contraction) and finally let my body do what it needed to do instead of fighting it. There I sat Indian style on the hospital bed peacefully breathing in and out, in and out, envisioning my baby moving down. Something I learned in my HypnoBirthing class and wish I had done from the very beginning.
THE URGE TO PUSH
A little over an hour later, the nurse came in to check me once again, told me I was doing amazing and had progressed to a 9 ½. Needless to say, I felt so empowered and I knew I would make it till the very end. Ten minutes after the nurse left the room, I began to feel so much pressure and an urge to push (a feeling like having to go # 2 lol), so I decided to listen to my body and lightly pushed and pushed. It wasn’t long until I asked the new nurse to check me because I had a feeling I was going to have the baby very soon. So she did and told me I still wasn’t fully dilated. Even though I was having the urge to push she advised me to wait, however, I chose to listen to my body instead
I was laying on my side on the hospital bed, working with my body with each surge that would come. Chris was by my side the entire time reminding me how strong I was and how much he loved me. Shortly after pushing a few times, I felt something odd in between my legs, so I lifted up my leg and felt myself down under! With a look of confusion on my face I told the nurse: “I feel the water bag!” She looked at me in shock and asked me what I meant. Then instructed me to lay down on my back so she could take a look. Sure enough, our baby was coming!
DELIVERING OUR BABY
Surprisingly my bags were still intact! Everything happened so quickly after that. My nurse asked me if I’d like to change positions so gravity could help our little one come out. I agreed, so I slowly went from my elbow and knees to my hands and knees on the hospital bed, while Chris applied pressure on my lower back to relieve my back pains.
Our nurse suggested a more comfortable position and brought up the back of the bed so I could rest my arms on it. Such an excellent idea! Chris continued to encourage me to keep lightly pushing and focus on my breathing.
All of a sudden, I pushed and his head began to crown! Yes, I clearly remember placing my hand down there and feeling his head. My water broke and I didn’t even realize it. I panicked and started to scream. The “ring of fire” was indeed no joke my friends! Chris quickly calmed me down and reminded me to focus on my breathing
Only a few minutes later, I felt our baby come out and Chris announced: “It’s a boy!”. Luckily my umbilical cord was long because I flung around so fast to see our baby, completely forgetting about it! A sudden burst of energy, emotions, and a natural high took over my body as I reached out and grabbed our baby. Time stood still holding him in my arms for the very first time as we stared at his beautiful little face. He looked so peaceful and barely cried. Those first few whimpers were music to my ears. I remember looking at him and saying “Hi Jayce! Welcome to the world baby boy.” It was hard to believe he was finally in my arms after 38 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy and 31 hours of labor. In that moment I knew it was so worth it and would gladly do it 1000 times if I had to.
Chris did the honors of cutting the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsing. Shortly after, he held our son for the first time. My heart melted as I watched the man of my dreams hold our baby and stare at each other with so much love.
We are very thankful to Michelle for sharing her story with us. Read more about Michelle's here.