Friday, 18 July 2014

Going Home to Give Birth: 里帰り出産

In Japan, many women go back to their own family a few weeks before their baby is due and stay there until they are ready to go back to their own home again after the baby is born. This is called "Going home to give birth" in Japanese or "Satogaeri Shussan".
I often hear that the whole time is about 3 months altogether.

As a New Zealander, this idea was completely foreign to me when I first came to Japan. Why would you leave the comfort of your own home and separate yourself from your husband (chances these days of not living in the same town as your parents are also high) for 3 whole months?
For my first child, I had organised, NZ style, for my mother to come and stay with me for a few weeks. Unfortunately there was a earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster that spoiled those plans and I decided to evacuate and in the end it was too terrifying to contemplate going back there so I went to New Zealand, which turned out to be about 3 months away by the time I came back.
So in effect last time was also a "Going home to give birth", but not as I had planned.

Are you insane? You are going to live with your in-laws for 3 months?!...Without your husband!

This time I have done something different by moving to my parents in law's house. When I told Japanese women friends my plan they look stunned! For many women, going home to their own family is a very reassuring experience, especially for a first birth, being looked after by your own parents is a real treat. However, I'm not sure that many women would choose to go stay with their in-laws. Obviously in my case, NZ is a lot further away than Tottori and a bit easier for DH to get to when the time comes. I also happen to get on well with my in-laws and they are very kind to me. Amelia loves it here and I also don't have to do much/any cooking, cleaning, dog walking or child minding in the last 6 weeks when just moving at all is a real challenge. So far we have been here for nearly a month which went well enough considering everyone had to get to know what Amelia's need, likes and schedules were. And she has gotten to know everyone else's schedules too and that they can't always hang out with her and play, she still needs to go to sleep by herself etc.

So how does it work changing hospitals/doctors near the end of your pregnancy?

Well, as this is quite common, it's fairly simple. I just told my current doctor what my plans were and he encouraged me to get down to my in-laws sooner rather than later. The doctor provides a letter of introduction and a summary of your notes for you to take to your next doctor.
I "reserved to give birth" at the clinic in Tottori and had my first, very pleasant appointment there last week. I had visited this clinic before when pregnant with Amelia after we had to leave Fukushima during the 2011 disaster and was impressed by it then, so I thought it would be safe choice.

How is this experience different to in NZ?

Well it's different in that here it seems that we often have to work around what the doctor wants and thinks is best for you. In NZ, it is much more what you want as long as it is safe/possible.
My first clinic in Iwaki didn't ask me anything about my "birth plan", but that was one of the first things they asked me when I went to the clinic here in Tottori. So it just depends on which hospital you go to. This clinic seems to encourage a very natural style of child brith which is great for me since I did a home birth last time and this time having to go to a clinic during labour is a bit daunting actually! DH and Amelia are also welcome to be present during labour, which is nice if you want your children to be  with you. Not sure if we will do that but just having the option is refreshing and not always available at every clinic here, the children being present part that is.

Gaining weight during pregnancy can be very strict also depending on clinics, doctors and even which nurse you strike. I was never weighed in Nz during my last 7 weeks or so as other indicators were that I and baby were fine. Here it's every trip to the clinic, though after an initial lecture on why putting on too much weight was not good and being told to aim to stay under 12 kilos if possible, nobody has mentioned it since. In saying that I have managed to stay under my "limit" so far, I'm not sure what the reaction would be if I had put on more than 15kilos at this point.  Interestingly this time I have developed an intolerance to gluten during pregnancy and can't eat as many goodies as I would perhaps like, which has probably helped as I certainly would like to eat more bread/toast/cake, but Maruchan 2 is still above average in size and weight, so am glad baby is obviously getting the nutrients rather than my thighs.
Obviously there are many other differences, if you have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer so please ask!

We are in watermelon country here. This one was mysteriously left outside our front door and no one knows who it's from! Looks a lot like how my tummy feels about now!


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Natalie! Thanks for your message and glad to see you are still reading! :)