Pregnant in Japan
Okay, so I’m not pregnant, but my wife is. We’ve never been through this before and all my expectations are built upon the little bit I happened to absorb (against my will) as I grew up. Though I’m so far away from “expert” on American childbearing that a karate teacher wouldn’t bother giving me a white belt, I’ve already found that traditions and expectations between the two countries are very different.
A little background:
My wife and I live on Kumejima, a small subtropical island 100km west of the Okinawa mainland. We live there because I work at the Okinawa Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Demonstration Facility. She’s from Miyazaki (we met on a popular Japanese TV show) Prefecture.
We were married last year and had our wedding ceremony and party in November. If you’re in Japan you might have caught it on prime time TV. If not, you can see the cut our videographer made on youtube.
We found out after returning from our Honeymoon to the States over Christmas and New Years. We were both excited, but her stomach.. not so much. Apparently having a small Martin growing inside has been accurately portrayed in the movie Alien (and/or Spaceballs).
We’re now just about to go into the final stretch (haha pun) with about 2 months to go. But unfortunately she can’t give birth here.
The Impact of Depopulation
I’ve written about depopulation before. When populations shrink, schools and services are cut. Although the population was once more than 10,000 on Kumejima, its down to about 8,200 now. One of the side effects is that there is no longer a large enough population to support birthing staff. Instead of paying millions of yen for a full time doctor, locals must leave the island to give birth on the mainland, or in my wife’s case, back in her hometown.
Since pregnant women have to fly at least a month before their due date, that means they will either have to stay with relatives or pay for short-term housing. To help alleviate this cost, the town provides a stipend, this year raised to 200,000yen. While it won’t cover all costs, it’s much cheaper for the town than the cost of a OBGYN.
There is hope. This year we aren’t the only couple with one on the way. 2015 looks to be a baby boom year for Kume Island.
American and Japanese health care systems are very, very different. While we have yet to experience things first hand, everything will be different. For starters, there isn’t much effort put into teaching parents what to expect, especially mothers. In America, there are preparatory classes, though the actual time in-hospital is short. In Japan, both parents are expected to stay for several days for on-hands training once the baby is born.
Throughout the pregnancy my wife has received regular checkups and a battery of tests. The costs have been minimal thanks to the national healthcare system. I have no idea of the cost of having a kid in the States, but I assume its more that schooling (I’m still paying off student loans).
Just a Start
Though my wife has made it through the first two trimesters, this new journey is just getting started and in case it’s interesting/useful for any readers out there, I’ll continue sharing along the way.
PS. In case anyone wants to spontaneously buy my soon to be kid some stuff.. there’s a wishlist here.