Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reflections on being pregnant in Japan

We spent the weekend in baby classes. Actually, it seems we’ve spent the last few months in baby classes. Everything about a first baby involves a lot of learning, and double that with living in a foreign country. Triple it in a foreign language.

Fortunately, we found lots of great resources before we even arrived in Japan. I found the TokyoPregnancy Group, the Tokyo Mothers Group, several helpful blogs, and good English language resources for medical care, insurance questions, and baby classes. Since arriving, we’ve met many expats having their first child in Tokyo. I’ve also gotten together with two other women from my Japan studies training who are also having babies around the same time. Something was definitely in the water last spring at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington DC!

While there are challenges/frustrations about having a baby in a foreign country, I am largely enjoying being pregnant here. I would have enjoyed having a baby shower with friends and family, and even more to have them near after the baby arrives. But I’m happy to be far removed from the pregnancy scolds and scaremongers. You know - the people in grocery lines and other random places who want to lecture you about the things they feel you are doing wrong. Or want to tell you about their 3-day labors and other assorted horrors. Maybe it happens less than I imagine, but I am really free of it in Japan.

If someone wants to tell me something I don’t want to hear, I can plead incomprehension. It’s true there are cultural norms surrounding pregnancy in Japan that I find odd (more in future posts), but they are not my cultural norms. To the degree that I do things that shock people, they probably just assume “Oh, foreigners.”

So I feel like I’ve had a very relaxed pregnancy to date and hope it continues that way. I’ve had time to get used to the idea of having a baby without fielding probing questions; I’ve found just the right amount of resources to feel informed and supported, without feeling overwhelmed by conflicting information. I’ve found it beneficial to think about pregnancy and childbirth from a different cultural perspective, and I am certain it has influenced some of the choices we are making. I’ll share more on that after the baby comes. And I’ve enjoyed meeting other couples who are going through a similar experience. Turns out that having a baby in a foreign country is a great way to meet new people.

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