Yesterday we had another antenatal class, this one at the clinic where Yuriko will be giving birth. As a result, it had a very different focus from the ones provided by the city. It had almost nothing to say about post-birth child rearing, focusing on the final stages of pregnancy and the birth itself.
I learned quite a lot from this. Apparently, Yuriko has to keep her feet warm, and thus should be taking baths and wearing socks. She is evincing a certain level of resistance to this idea, probably because the ambient temperature is about 30 degrees. The doctor also says that she should be aiming to walk for about two hours per day, fairly briskly, to build up her strength for the birth.
The clinic has three basic policies about birth. The first is that it should be as natural as possible; this is one of the reasons for the emphasis on weight control and exercise beforehand. If the mother is well-exercised, there is more chance that the birth will go smoothly without medical intervention. Obviously, if medical intervention becomes necessary, they are set up to do that.
The second is that the mother and baby should be together as much as possible. The baby goes in the same room as the mother right from the beginning, unless there are medical problems.
The third is encouraging breast feeding from the first day, even from immediately after birth. They avoid giving formula unless there is a serious problem, which apparently leads to crying babies in the first day or so as the milk comes in.
From what I’ve read, all three of these seem to be good policies. There’s another one that doesn’t get listed as a basic policy, but which is just as important from my perspective; they are very positive about getting the father involved. While I shouldn’t have to deliver our baby, I will, apparently, have the chance to cut the umbilical cord.
We were shown the birthing room, which has quite a lot of medical equipment in in case of emergency; the impression given was that most of it is not normally used. After birth, the baby is first put on the mother’s chest, so that she can say hello, and then briefly whisked across the room (about two metres away) for all the immediate post-natal tests. Then it is given back to the mother, who has a couple of hours to recover in that room before moving to her own room. The father is allowed to be there throughout, and to take photos and videos in the final bit. They discourage filming during the birth; he’s supposed to be supporting the mother, not taking photos.
They also provided the very useful concrete information on when, exactly, you should go to the clinic. For first babies, it’s when the contractions are five minutes apart, or if the waters break. There’s also a list of emergency situations in which you should make contact immediately. That’s very good to have; it’s not like we know instinctively, after all.
At the end of the session the midwife confided that the doctor in the clinic is quite strict, and that she’s not heard the “walk two hours per day” instruction anywhere else. This is, however, to make sure that the mothers get through birth safely. And, in these cases, I think that strict doctors are better. After all, the result is not decided by how angry the doctor is or isn’t; it’s determined by the medical reality. Thus, if the strict doctor gets you to take the necessary steps to avoid problems, that’s good.
There was one other surprising thing. There were four couples at the class, and there was another foreign father. Not only that, but when I spoke to him afterwards, he turned out to be English. They live quite close to us (maybe twenty minutes’ walk, and right on the main bus route), so we’ve swapped contact information. I imagine that we’ll have a lot of issues in common. Our due dates are only a week apart, as well.
Kawasaki is one of the most international areas in Japan, but still, I think that having half of the fathers at an antenatal class be foreign is rather unusual. The midwives’ comments suggested that it was a bit unusual; we had the usual “You do both speak Japanese, don’t you?” questions. So, not only was the information in the class useful, but we also made a potentially very useful contact. A good day.