My Postpartum Diary in Japan as a Foreigner
Life after giving birth in Japan: my firsthand experience
Giving birth is a great blessing, especially when it is in the midst of difficult times such as the one we are living currently. I found out that I was pregnant in March 2020, and gave birth to my son in December.
As you may expect, giving birth in a foreign country isn’t easy. Even after giving birth, there are still many challenges that a mother faces living in a foreign country where English-speaking help is limited.
I will share my own experience of living postpartum in Japan. I hope this article can serve as a reference for foreigners who are planning to have a baby here in Japan.
First Month (December 2020)
December 1st, 2020. At 3:03 in the afternoon, I delivered my baby by Cesarean section in Tokyo Toshima Hospital.
Because of the current situation with the Pandemic, husbands are not allowed to be with you during childbirth. After the operation, the nurses will talk to your husband and let him see the baby for few minutes. And you will go straight to the recovery room where visitors are not allowed.
Here in Japan, after giving birth, you have to stay in the hospital between one week up to 10 days, depending on your conditions.
The first three days in the hospital were so depressing. I’m not sure, but maybe because of the culture shock that I felt giving birth in a foreign country. The people and their language are different. They did not have an English support desk for Non-Japanese patients like me and all the papers with information are written only in Japanese.
Usually, some of the Hospitals in Japan have translator staff for Non-Japanese patients. They will ask you if you need a translator when you go for a check-up. This translator will be with you inside the room and translate everything before, during, and after your check-up. Unfortunately, this was not the case for me.
I remember, right after my operation, nurses came to my room to explain to me many things, but I wasn’t able to understand. All the papers they showed me were written in Japanese, so it was very difficult for me to get what they were explaining.
I can’t explain how I felt then. All I know is that at that moment I was so tired and just wanted to sleep.
The next morning, the nurses told me that they will remove the anti-embolism stocking after lunch and then take me for a walk after that. Although I was a little tipsy, I tried my best. I think it is for my own good.
The same day after the walk, I was able to see my baby so I could breastfeed. That night, I looked after my baby for the whole night. I couldn’t sleep because I needed to write down every time I breastfed my baby. I had to record how many times and how many minutes per breastfeeding so that the nurse can check it later.
The next day, I looked after and took care of my baby for the whole day. There was just one time in the morning that the nurses took my baby for a bath and check-up. This is done every morning from 8:00 am to 9:00 am until being discharged. They usually return your baby after 2 to 3 hours.
Meanwhile, I have time to take care of myself like changing clothes. At this point, I am not allowed to take a bath yet. Then I laid down on my bed to take a nap.
It was the same routine the next day. But this time, they told me that I was able to take a bath now. I couldn’t sleep most of the time and felt very tired.
Just so you know, I am not complaining. I am always grateful for what I have now. I just want to share what happened to me postpartum at the hospital.
On my fourth day in the hospital, I just cried a lot and kept saying that I wanted to go home. The nurses told me that I wasn’t allowed to go home yet unless told by the doctor.
They worried about my condition, so they did some examinations. After that, the doctor allowed me to go home. She told me that I need to monitor my Blood Pressure at home, so she suggested I buy the Blood Pressure Monitor device and write down the result every hour.
Since I was released earlier than planned, my doctor schedule my next visit after just two weeks and checked my condition about my blood pressure and scar. The result of my blood pressure was not really good. They gave me some medicine to take and told me to continue monitoring my blood pressure. The Holiday starts in Japan soon, so my next examination will be after the new year.
My Breastfeeding: The first month was really hard because of my lack of sleep. My newborn baby woke up every two hours and I had to breastfeed him. I didn’t have much milk at first, so I mixed breastfeeding with using milk formula sometimes. I fed him in the morning with the milk formula while in the evening I breastfed.
Second Month (January 2021)
Early in the second week of January 2021, I was scheduled for my check-ups in the hospital. Again, the result of my blood pressure was not good. The doctor advised me to do nothing at home and stay in bed because it was a serious matter. However, how can I do that since I am alone at home with my baby? I was so depressed.
It was not easy to take care of my baby alone while taking care of myself. Sometimes, my husband would get home and I would be just crying in the corner of a room while the baby was also crying. I did not know what to do at that time; I felt so tired and my scars from the operation were hurting.
I asked my husband to check with immigration if we can invite a member of my family to accompany and help me. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, Japan is not open for visitors to come in yet.
Then, I asked my husband if we could request a temporary helper to assist us with the household chores and to take care of the baby.
At the municipal office, the officer explained that if we need a helper, we need to be specific with what we needed the helper to do. If we needed help with household chores, then the helper will be only for household chores and the cost will be per/hour. Same situation with the helper for taking care of the baby. The service was also per/hour, so it depends on how many hours we wanted them to help us.
I discussed this with my husband seriously. Yes, I really wanted someone to help me, but I also wanted someone that I knew and I can be comfortable being with. Otherwise, instead of getting relaxed, I will become more stressed. Also, we thought about the risk of having someone coming in and out of the house during this pandemic. Therefore, in the end, we decided not to get a helper.
We just requested the midwife service from the Health Center to visit me. This is included in their services for women with newborn babies and single mothers. The midwives came to visit me to give some helpful tips to take care of the baby and other consultations. they also check the condition of my baby.
My Breastfeeding: My breastfeeding is getting better. My baby does not want the milk formula anymore, so I decided to stop it and just breastfeed. I still am not sleeping well. My husband helps me to take care of the baby during his days off and lets me get rest and sleep. At this stage, my baby is always sleeping and wakes up every two to three hours to breastfeed.
Third Month (February 2021)
The monitoring of my blood pressure was getting better. When we went to the hospital for my check-up, the doctor advised me to minimize BP medicine intake since I was getting better. I will just continue monitoring and will take the medicine only if it was necessary.
There were some days that my condition was not good. In those days, I felt dizzy and tired. So we visited the doctor earlier than the scheduled date.
The doctor said that it is normal for a woman who gave birth to have high blood pressure, but this will go away after one or two months. The doctor gave me another medicine to take. And told me to continue monitoring my condition.
Some of my check-ups would be scheduled together with my newborn baby’s check-ups (different doctor and different time, but same hospital). This was very helpful for me.
The vaccine for my newborn baby starts this month.
My Breastfeeding: No more milk formula, only breastfeeding. My baby wakes up every 3 hours to feed in the nighttime. But in the daytime, he sleeps less (like 2 hours) and then wakes up to feed.
Fourth Month (March 2021)
This month, I felt better. My dizziness was gone and my blood pressure is back to normal.
When we went to the hospital for my check-up, then the doctor was happy with the result of my BP. They examined my scars and as usual, there is no problem. The doctor finished my check-up from that day telling me that I can stop taking the medicine.
With this, my check-ups are finished, but in case I had any concerns or problems, I can make an appointment again anytime.
From now, we only go to the hospital for the check-ups of my baby. The schedule is already fixed and it is written in my mother and child book.
My Breastfeeding: He sleeps more now at night, and wakes up every 3 hours to feed.
Fifth Month (April 2021)
From this month, we started going to a mall on the weekends with our baby to check for baby stuff and clothes. My baby is 4 months old at this moment and we are preparing for next month to slowly start giving him solid food. We bought some stuff like a baby chair for eating.
I did not have much trouble with my condition and I am very grateful for that. Now I most enjoy taking care of my baby.
My Breastfeeding: He sleeps early at night then sometimes wakes up every 3 to 4 hours to feed. In the daytime, he wants to breastfeed about every 2 hours.
My baby is more active at this stage. He’s starting crawling.
Sixth Month (May 2021)
The first week of May is the long holiday in Japan called Golden Week. But due to the state of emergency, we did not go anywhere. We mostly stayed home, but we went out grocery shopping and went for walks to the park near our place.
This month I had a lot of activities with my baby. I am so excited to start feeding him solid food. Just a little bit once a day only for him to practice chewing. Usually, giving solid food start when the baby is 6 months old. At this point, my baby was only 5 months old.
This month we also received a letter from the Municipal office for the whole body check-up of my baby. This check-up takes place in their Health Center facility.
We also attended a seminar at the municipal near to our place for the food and teeth care of the baby. The staff from the municipal office taught us what food to prepare and how to prepare it. They also taught us about the tiny teeth of the baby. Since my pregnancy and birth were registered in the Municipal office, I receive a lot of letters from the city hall like this seminar which is all free of charge.
Other letters that I received include the following.
- Whole-body check-up of my baby
- Mother bone check-up
- Seminar on how to prepare food for baby.
My Breastfeeding: Although I started to feed my baby solid food, the amount of milk that he feeds is the same because I only give him solid food once a day. I started giving him a mush of rice and a drop of breast milk.
My baby now is crawling and sitting.
Seventh Month (June 2021)
We went to the clinic to check up on my baby for his rashes all over his body. We went to a clinic for babies that is near to our place.
The doctor saw my child and gave me a cream to apply every morning and evening. Since the clinic is near to our place, we asked them if we can schedule the vaccine for my baby there instead of in the hospital. Gratefully, they said yes. They can do the vaccine there. So from that day, we went there for the vaccine of my baby.
Buying some baby stuff again, Yes! as my baby is growing up, we need more baby stuff like a baby walker. He is now 6 months old and starting to stand up.
Also, I started to feed him solid food twice a day; morning and evening.
This month, I also experienced severe lower back pain. To the point that I couldn’t stand up and walk properly. I was so depressed again. Even though I really felt pain, I still needed to take care of my baby. But I have no choice since I’m alone with my baby.
First, I thought it was just a simple lower back pain (I’ve experienced something similar before). I asked my husband to give me a massage and put some salonpas on my lower back. But the next morning, the pain become more severe. I was crying out loud in pain. I couldn’t move from the bed.
We went to the Orthopedic Clinic near our place which usually takes 6 to 7 minutes walking. But on this day, it took us 20 to 25 minutes to get there walking. I really couldn’t walk nor move properly. When I got there, they immediately suggest taking an x-ray.
The doctor saw the x-ray. What happened to my back is that it is getting weak and is losing cartilage in between my bones. This is what was causing me this pain.
The doctor gave me an injection to relieve the pain. He also gave me some medicine to lessen the pain. The doctor also advised me to lose weight since my lower back is weak.
I was so sad that I couldn’t carry my baby. I needed to avoid carrying heavy things which is one of the causes of my lower back pain.
Because of my condition, I couldn’t even breastfeed my baby. I really couldn’t move properly and had to just lay down on my bed. My husband took our son to his work to take care of. It took one week for the severe pain to go away and was able to move slowly. I ordered a cane from Amazon as my supporter for walking.
My depression worsened because I really felt old. I didn’t know what to do to fight this depression, so I started calling my friends here in japan and told them to come to visit.
My friends worried about my situation and came to visit me. I felt much better after talking to them. Yes, I cried. But this time, it was tears of joy. From then, we talk on the phone frequently, and this really helps me a lot with my depression.
My Breastfeeding: He sleeps more and is more active when he is awake. I often give him breast milk as long as he wants(no specific time). I feed him solid food twice a day. Morning and evening.
He can crawl and sit. And he’s starting to learn how to stand up.
Eighth Month (July 2021)
At the beginning of this month, I felt better in my lower back, but I couldn’t carry my baby yet. I was able to move and walk slowly. I was doing some exercises like stretching to help with the pain.
This month, I started to work from home. It is quite challenging for me to work and take care of my baby while I am not feeling good. Again, I am not complaining, I am always grateful for what I have.
I also had my birthday this month. We celebrated it by having dinner outside with my husband and child.
We also received our letter for the corona vaccine. We made online reservations for our vaccine. My first vaccine schedule is for August 26.
We went to the hospital for an MRI because I was having some pain on my scars from my Cesarean operation.
My Breastfeeding: Often breastfeeding, but at no specific time. Mostly, I breastfed more at night time. I feed him solid food 3 times a day now (Morning, afternoon, and evening). He also drinks different kinds of juices.
He crawls, sits, and stands now. He’s very active. And his first tooth is starting to appear.
Ninth Month (August 2021)
Early this month, we had a long holiday in Japan called Obon Yasumi.
We went back to the hospital for the result of my MRI and they found out the reason for my pain that I first thought was because of my scar from the operation.
It turns out, the pain was caused by Adenomyosis; the condition of the female reproductive system. The doctor said it was not dangerous but should be treated. They suggested some treatment and medicine, but I decided to go to my OB gyne clinic near to our place for a second opinion. The doctor in the clinic near our place speaks English, so I wanted to hear the explanation in English.
My breastfeeding: Often breastfeeding, but at no specific time (only at night). During the daytime, I give him mixed food like solid food, milk formula, yogurt, snacks, and juices.
The tiny teeth are showing now.
I hope that sharing my own postpartum experience may help other mothers or future mothers in Japan. For more information about being pregnant, before and after birth care in Japan, these other articles may also help you.