More than 2 years ago, my dream of travelling to Japan began when I met Kiyoe, an amazing nurse during a birth doula workshop I was teaching in NYC. I had always been interested in Japanese culture, enjoyed the food, and hoped one day to visit Japan. Fast forward 2 years, I walked out of customs and was greeted by the smiling face and arms of Kiyoe.
Kiyoe prepared and organized so many amazing opportunities for me during my trip. Not only have I had an amazing time speaking, I am teaching a doula workshop, and have had an opportunity to sight-see – Japanese gardens, a castle and to visit birth clinics, birth homes and hospitals to learn more about the rich her-story and culture of childbirth in Japan.
Shortly after my arrival, I learned that Kiyoe has organized a visit to the Yoshimura Birth Clinic, a famous maternity clinic for natural birth in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture in central Japan. The “Yoshimura Clinic”, is a private clinic founded by a now retired obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Tadashi Yoshimura. I was humbled to join the ranks of visitors that include, Dr. Michel Odent, social anthropologist, the late Sheila Kitzinger, and midwife Ina May Gaskin.
Yoshimura Clinic is unique in many ways compared to hospitals and other modern institutions. The clinic and practitioners value a connection to traditions, to preparing body, mind and spirit for birth and the deep meaning and value that natural birth can bring – including happiness and joy! If you know me, you can clearly understand my joy and pleasure being here and having a day to not only visit the rooms and feel the peaceful energy and warmth that everyone held, but to the visit the traditional Japanese home located there, where I was able to join expectant mothers who were cutting wood, cleaning in traditional ways, squatting and using physical energy to prepare their body, mind and spirit for birth.
Together, we sat on the floor of this old home in dim light, shared a traditional lunch, told birth stories and listened to the reason these women felt so safe, supported and prepared to give birth here.
A mother with a newborn came by to give thanks and say goodbye as she was on her way home after 5 days resting after her birth. The sense of community, caring and joy was truly everywhere! How I wish all birthing facilities could feel this and find their own way to create birth preparation and environments that honored women’s ability to give birth and supported the time to choose their way, with their partners, children and families and to celebrate each birth
Next was the Japanese Forensic Nursing Conference – where nursing specialists in PTSD, survivors of sexual abuse and intimate partner violence in childbirth and beyond came together to consider the role of the doula. I was so honored to provide a general session on doulas and then a hands on session of doula skills. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that I had originally had only 17 people registered for my workshop, but that after my keynote speech the workshop room was packed and full of many people, (including a doctor) and students who wanted to learn more…the doula touched people and opened their heart to how the energy of caring, compassion and love is needed in Japan (and around the world) to reconnect the circle of support around MotherBabies in childbirth.
I also enjoyed taking the Bullet from Nagoya to Tokyo as I prepared for our doula workshop helping to expand and grow the doulas of Japan now that there is a multidisciplinary group of nurses, midwives and a doctor who would like to help doulas grow in Japan.
My doula workshop has been energizing and exciting. As I finish up training these incredible doulas, I can feel an amazing energy and buzz. Everyone feels that between the nursing conference and doula training that the foundation for doula support is growing to spread doulas in Japan.