Sunday, March 4, 2012


I have birthed three children.  Each has its own unique story and none of them happened the way I had planned.  I have a strong belief that women have been birthing babies longer than most ventures in life and without medical interventions.  We have medicalized so many aspects of life that do not need to be.  That said, I did not want to birth my children in a hospital setting.  We were living in Delaware, USA.  The options based on law are hospital birth or one available birth center. 
We chose the birth center and had wonderful mid-wives throughout the pregnancy experience.  My first child was born there.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the birth I had hoped for.  When I was in the beginning stages of labor, the midwives had given me something to help me sleep through the night so I would have the energy come active labor the following day.  Labor kicked in strong in the middle of the night.  I had a very difficult time staying awake through labor and it took much longer as I slept through every other contraction.  When he was born, as I am holding him in all his yucky newborn self, all I could think is “Hallelujah, now I can sleep!”  Not the best response when you have a newborn ready for your love and attention!
My second and third were in the hospital setting (in 2 different states).  Baby 2 was in the hospital because when my water broke there was a ton of meconium in the fluid thus (by law) necessitating the need to be hospitalized.  My nurse there had never witnessed a non-medicated birth, and thus had no idea how to interact with me while I was in active labor (i.e. asking me about a living will).  Strapped to machines, they didn’t want me sitting up, let alone getting out of bed.  Due to various unexpected factors, I was not able to hold her until she was 1 hour old.  This hospital in many ways was a baby factory … 300-400 births a day.  During our stay, I shared a room with another woman in a room meant to be a single.  arrgh
Baby 3 was born in the hospital. I had found a wonderful OB and knew that she would support us in all ways that I desired as far as birth was concerned.  I also knew the hospital respected natural birth.  They had a couple rooms with tubs!  J  But again, the best laid plans … She needed to be induced early because my blood pressure was skyrocketing.  Once again I was strapped up to machines with a cuff that took my blood pressure no matter if I was in the middle of a contraction or not.  I was able to labor in many various positions … only needing to maneuver the cords around which the nurse and my husband were wonderful about.  When she was born I waited maybe 5 minutes to hold her.  My stay in the hospital was wonderful.  I almost didn’t want to go home, the nurses took such great care of both of us … and I would be heading home to 2 children under the age of 5!
We decided to stop after 3 babies, not knowing what the birth of a 4th would do to my body … or what that experience might be like.  All 3 of my children are beautiful and healthy, so even if their births weren’t what I had planned, they are a welcome joy in my life!
With my best intentions of having a non-medicalized birth … it didn’t happen.  So what about other areas of the world?  They must not all be as medicalized as mine?  I decided to look at another developed country with a large population and found Japan.
I found the story of Andy Gray and their birth experience in Japan after having given birth to their first child in the United States.  Their story and more information is found at 
Some of the highlights:  doctors in Japan do not have the social status they do here in the US.  They have the income without the status and thus seek the status and control in their role.  Many OB doctors take care of prenatal care, delivery, and newborn care in their hospital setting.  You don’t make an appointment with the doctor, you just show up to see him and wait your turn (much like an emergency room set-up).  If the doctor needs to deliver a baby, you wait until he is finished for your time to see him.
“Doctors monopolize control of the birth process in most situations.”  Midwives work with the mother prior to delivery but the role of delivering babies is in the hands of the doctor.  It happens the way the doctor wants.  Nurses are not empowered and often lack basic information, they do what they think is right from their cultural perspective (not medical) and do whatever the doctor tells them to do.
The Maternity ward was a large room with beds around the sides.  Each bed separated by a curtain that is never opened.  Japanese people do not make noise in public spaces and so the ward was very quiet.
Fathers are not part of the birth process and are often an unwelcome presence.
So – is it a medicalized process?  Yes and No.  It is whatever the doctor wants!  The patient does not have a lot of say at all.
This has made me appreciate the choices that I was able to make, my ability to ask questions and stay a part of the process and not focus on the negative perceptions of the births of my children.


  1. Three children within five years! Brave woman! My kids are 8.5 years apart not that birthing was too bad, but raising kids, oh boy not so easy.

    I did not know medicine in Japan was similar to public clinics setting. Since they are so modernized and industrial I would expect more high tech birthing practices and medical care. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I found your analysis of Japan's birthing culture interesting. Especially the concept that Japanese doctors may receive a substantial salary, but not necessarily the equivalent prestige. It has been my experience in America that OB's, working particularly in high volume hospitals, are granted an enormous amount of prestige despite the patients satisfaction.