July Doula Cafe

Th next Zoom Doula Cafe will be on Thursday, July 2nd from 10-11am.  If you’d like to join, please email me here and I’ll send you the link!  The topic of this meeting will be about mental preparation for labour.  Grab yourself a drink of choice, relax in the comfort of your own home, and let’s talk!  If anyone is interested in finding out about my work as a doula and how I can support you, I’m always very happy to talk about that, too.

These Doula Cafe meetings are FREE and something I enjoy doing very much.  I am planning to start holding in-person Doula Cafes again from later this month but will probably still keep an online option, too.

Normal Newborn Behaviour

I did a post recently on my Facebook page about how normal newborn behaviour may not quite be what we expect, especially when it’s your first baby and you have no frame of reference at all.  It can really take you quite by surprise just how “hands on” you need to be and how babies just “are”, even if you have been told or know more or less what to expect beforehand.

If you need a post-partum consult for anything in the first few months, I’m right here 🙂

Here’s is what I wrote on my Facebook page for anyone who isn’t following me on there yet:

Normal newborn behaviour…sometimes understanding what is actually very normal behaviour in newborns can be a challenge (particularly with a first baby).

You may have a baby that wants to feed so frequently round the clock that you’re physically unable to move from the sofa or bed. You may have a baby that will happily fall asleep and stay asleep in your arms but the second you try and put them down, they wake up again. You may have a baby that will only settle if you’re walking around rocking or bouncing them. You may have a baby that seems fussy and so you start to search all about colic, reflux and solutions.

The sheer amount of physical hands-on work that goes along with normal newborn behaviour can be completely exhausting and leave us questioning ourselves – wondering if what we are doing is correct or if there is a solution or way to “fix” things.  In the vast majority of cases, it is all completely normal. It doesn’t make is easy…but it is normal.

If ever anyone needs to talk about what’s going on in the newborn period with them and their babies, I’m here to listen – message me.  If you’d like a more in depth consult, get in touch.  If you want some physical hands-on help with baby, we can arrange that, too.

Although it seems overwhelming and too much at times, remember that there is support out there.  Not just from me but from all the other wonderful networks that exist (Tokyo Mothers Group, Tokyo Pregnancy Group, your birth club groups and so on).

Private and Semi-private Birth Preparation

Do you and your partner want to be as fully prepared both mentally and physically for labour and birth?  Do you want to know what to expect in your Japanese hospital?  Do you want to know more about the post-partum period and breastfeeding?  My comprehensive Birthing with Confidence sessions can provide you with the hands-on tools you need to approach your upcoming labour and life with a newborn with more calmness and positivity, knowing that “you’ve got this”.

Over the next 2 months, I’ll be able to take on up to 3 couples per month for private Birthing with Confidence sessions in the comfort of your own homes, and I’m also offering one semi-private session per month for 2 couples at a studio location in Azabu (the next semi-private session will be on June 13th).

You can see in the flyer below exactly what we cover in these sessions.  Questions are always welcome.  I draw upon my own personal experiences (having had 3 children here) as well as my vast experience in Japan with over 120 births and many different hospitals, and countless more couples who have come to me for consultations both before and after birth.

If you’d like to book a session with me, please send me an email!

Online options are also available

Birth prep flyer

June Doula Cafe

June’s Zoom Doula Cafe will be on Wednesday, June 3rd from 11-11:40am.  If you’d like to join, please email me here and I’ll send you the link!  The topic of this meeting will be about preparing for labour at your hospital – what to bring and what to expect 🙂  Grab yourself a drink of choice, relax in the comfort of your own home, and let’s talk!  If anyone is interested in finding out about my work as a doula and interested in working wth me, I’m always very happy to talk about that, too.

These Doula Cafe meetings are FREE and something I enjoy doing very much.  I’ll continue these Zoom meetings for June and see if we’ll be able to hold them in person in summer.

June classes & online and in-person options

I hope everyone has continued to stay healthy and well.  Now that the State of Emergency has been lifted in Tokyo and the rest of Japan, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with birth support during labour in hospitals.  Some places have already started saying that they may start to ease up on some of the current restrictions.  Let’s see what happens.  Yet again, I can’t say strongly enough how much these very severe restrictions should not have been put in place to begin with…but hopefully more women and their support people can stand up for the right to birth support more strongly now there is no “reason” of State of Emergency to somewhat justify restricting it in hospitals’ eyes.

So this brings me to what will happen with my own classes and support during June (and beyond).  Included below is also  it of info about upcoming private and semi-private birth prep options, too, although I’ll make a separate post for them later.

I have decided that I’ll be keeping a lot of classes online as I’ve found that I’ve really enjoyed dong them online.  Plus, women who normally live too far to travel to my classes have been able to attend them which is great!  I love that online platforms have made things more accessible to all.  The schedule for these classes may be slightly different to what I have currently been doing, but I’ll be posting up the info about each class as the time approaches on all my various FB group/pages.  Hopefully over time, the schedule can become more fixed again.  This month will be very much a “trial” with how things go.

You are all also very welcome as always to contact me anytime if you want to check what’s going ahead or want to book for one of them.

In addition to the online classes, I’ll start to offer an in-person option for each class, too – with limits on numbers to allow for proper distancing.  But that will begin from the middle of June and this can be adjusted depending on how the numbers go with the coronavirus (hopefully continuing to stay down rather than going up again).  For all in-person classes/sessions, I will continue to wear a mask.

My June Doula Cafe will stay online and I’ll see how July is looking for holding it as an in-person meeting.  Also, I’ll continue to support as many women and their partners as needed as a distance doula (which has gone better than I expected over the past couple of months) until I’m allowed back in the LDR again!

SO…please take a look below for a tentative schedule for June regarding classes (including schedule openings for private classes – Birthing With Confidence, Infant Care, post-partum and breastfeeding support etc) and please contact me if you’d like to book or have any questions 🙂

Don’t forget, for ONLINE options, I have a ticket system available too (which includes a small discount).

June 3rd – AM – Zoom Doula Cafe (FREE meeting) – Preparing for labour at your hospital

June 6th – AM – Private class opening (client’s home or Online)

June 7th – PM – Private class opening (client’s home or Online)

June 10th – AM – In-person Breathing for Birth class (location: Azabu) 3-4 women max

June 12th – AM – Zoom Breathing for Birth class

June 13th – AM – Aiiku Hospital Virtual Tour (open only to those who are patients of the Aiiku Clinic International Unit unfortunately)

June 13th – PM – Semi-private in-person Birthing with Confidence class for 2 couples only (location: Azabu)

June 14th – PM – Private class opening (client’s home or Online)

June 17th – AM – In-person Infant Care class (location Azabu)  3-4 women max

June 19th – AM – Zoom Infant Care class

June 20th – AM – Zoom Positions & Massage class

June 20th – PM – Private class opening (client’s home or Online)

June 21st – PM – Private class opening (client’s home or Online)

June 24th – AM – In-person Breathing for Birth class (location: Azabu) 3-4 women max

June 27th – AM – Zoom Couples Breathing for Birth class

June 27th – PM – Private class opening (client’s home or Online)

June 28th – PM – Private class opening (client’s home or Online)

*Weekdays are also possible for private classes/sessions at depending on the day/time*

 

 

 

Testimonial – Distance Doula Support

I was so happy to see such a wonderful testimonial on a Facebook group I run from a recent client of mine.  Due to coronavirus restrictions at her hospital, she wasn’t allowed to be accompanied by anyone for her labour, so I provided distance support.  She did amazingly.

Hopefully these extremely severe restrictions won’t be in place for too much longer, but if anyone would like to discuss distance support with me until then, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  Even once the restrictions have lifted, if you’d like a doula (either in person or virtually) I still have availability 🙂

Here is her “review” below and you can also see other testimonials from a selection of other clients here.

“For those who are due to have a baby unaccompanied due to the quarantine, I wanted to share my experiences working with Stephanie Katherine Kawai as a ‘distance doula’ when giving birth to my son a couple of weeks ago. Although the prospect of labour alone was daunting, the support I got from Stephanie in the lead up to and during labour was invaluable. Regularly connecting with Stephanie over the phone enabled me to stay calm and put in practice some of the techniques we had discussed. She was also on hand after the birth to help navigate the hospital procedures and to guide me on how best to ask for what I needed from the staff. Even though she couldn’t be there in person, if you’re considering using the services of a doula, I would definitely recommend distance support from Stephanie.”

 

Tickets for Online Classes

With so many of my classes being online for the next few weeks (or longer), I’ve decided to create a ticket system for them to save people from having to pay individually for each class/private consultation.  Instead, you can buy a set of tickets and redeem them for  online classes/consultations of your choosing (one ticket is worth 1,000 yen).  Group classes are between 1,000-2,000 yen each and private online consultations between 3,000-4,000 yen.  The tickets can also be redeemed against  my private online Birthing with Confidence classes!

Options available:

Set of 5 tickets: 4,500 yen (you save 500 yen)

Set of 10 tickets: 9,000 yen (you save 1,000 yen)

Set of 15 tickets: 13,500 yen (you save 1,500 yen)

Please see the current list of online classes and private consultations these can be redeemed against here.

Of course, everyone is still welcome to just pay on a class by class basis, too, if you prefer not to buy a set of tickets.

New Couples Class – Positions and Massage

Introducing my NEW weekend group couples class – Positions and Massage! 

This class is an introduction to some useful basic positions and activities to help make labour a little smoother, along with massage and counter-pressure techniques to help make things a little more physically comfortable.

Join together with your partner for a chance to practice under instruction and get your questions answered.

There is no such thing as being too prepared for labour!

During this current period of self-isolation and social distancing most of us are following, these classes will be held on Zoom, so you can take part from the comfort of your own home.

Each class will be from 9:30-10:10am and is 2,000yen per couple (minimum of 2 couples maximum of 5)

The current schedule for the next 2 months:

May 2020 – 16th and 30th

June 2020 – 20th

July 2020 – TBD (please ask)

August 2020 – (TBD please ask)

(Schedule will be updated in June for the following months)

For anyone looking for a more practice and a more fully comprehensive class to prepare for labour and the post-partum period, please get in touch as I do online and (case by case) in-person private Birthing with Confidence classes.

May’s Zoom Doula Cafe

May’s Zoom Doula Cafe will be on Tuesday, May 13th from 3-3:40pm.  If you’d like to join, please email me here and I’ll send you the link!  The topic of this meeting will be about Birth Plans (your list of labour and birth preferences) 🙂  Grab yourself a drink of choice, relax in the comfort of your own home, and let’s talk!  If anyone is interested in finding out about my work as a doula, I’m always very happy to talk about that, too.

These Doula Cafe meetings are FREE and something I enjoy doing very much.  I really look forward to the day when I can hold them at cafes in person again!

My 7 Tips For Giving Birth Alone in Japan During The Coronavirus Restrictions

It’s already May!  It’s surprising how quickly April went by considering life has been significantly slower than usual due to isolating at home and barely going out.  Have you all been feeling the same?

As most of you are aware right now, the vast majority of hospitals in Tokyo and many other parts of Japan have closed their doors to any kind of labour and birth support – both from the dad-to-be or other birth partners and doulas.  This extreme “hospital lockdown” came into effect in its most strict form since Tokyo and the the whole of Japan was placed under a State of Emergency, although gradually since early March things were slowly getting tighter and tighter.  This means that in many the majority of cases, women re expected to be in labour at the hospital alone.  Even though the hospital staff (midwives and doctors) will be present, it doesn’t mean that they will be able to stay with the labouring woman for the length of her labour – their roles are very different to that of a birth companion, taking on the clinical side of things rather than the emotional and physical side of helping the mum-to-be.  They may have other women they need to attend to and other tasks at the hospital they need to do during labour, which means they’ll be in and out of the room accordingly (sometimes being able to spend more time with the woman and sometimes less).  Plus, as they work for the hospital, their approach will be according to the hospital’s philosophy which may or may not match what the mum-to-be is hoping for.

I’ve been working with a number of different women over the past few weeks in helping them get prepared to labour alone at their hospitals and it’s been quite an emotionally-charged time for all.  Suddenly, the labour and birth environment women have been planning and hoping for has been taken away and that can add additional stress and anxiety to the situation which for some already feels overwhelming.  Hopefully, with the following advice, some of the worry about how things will go in labour at the hospital can be alleviated.

1.  BIRTH PLAN

Your birth plan is essentially a list of birth preferences, a wish-list of what you hope can happen or doesn’t happen on the day of labour.  Of course, it’s always important to be somewhat flexible as unexpected situations can crop up from time to time, however carefully taking time to consider your birth plan for the labour, delivery and post- partum aspects of your hospital stay can leave you more informed, prepared and ready to advocate for yourself if necessary.  Going through your birth plan with the doctor or midwives at your hospital before you go into labour is a very important part of this because it will help you see what policies or practices they typically follow, give you a chance to ask questions to be better informed, and also see if there is any room for negotiation on any of the points.  This varies greatly from hospital to hospital here.

If you are not sure what to include on your birth plan, how to lay it out (remember, it’s not necessary to use the form your hospital provides – you can use your own), or if you want to go through it with someone impartial beforehand, please get in touch with me.  I offer birth plan consultations.

If you need or would like your birth plan translated into Japanese, please also get in touch for more info about this service.

2.  BIRTH PREPARATION

It goes without saying that being prepared for what to expect with the process labour and being prepared with various comfort measures and breathing techniques can arm you with confidence and leave you feeling empowered and more assured about how you can help yourself.  Birth preparation together with your partner is very important even if they won’t be there at the hospital because they will gain a better understanding of what you will be going through and experiencing, they will learn some skills to help whilst you are still at home together in labour, they will be more knowledgable about how they can support you from a distance while you are at hospital, and they will feel less anxious for you overall.

We are all so lucky with modern technology that we have so many online options for birth preparation nowadays and you can never be over-prepared, only under-prepared.  Many of you know the various classes I offer for birth preparation – ranging from my hugely popular (if I do say so myself) group Breathing for Birth classes which are now online, to my comprehensive Birthing with Confidence private sessions which can also be done online or *on a limited case by case basis* in-person.  Please get in touch if any of these options interest you or if you are wondering what other birth preparation options are out there for you.

3.  HIRE A DOULA

Right now, as I mentioned at the start, the vast majority of hospitals are not allowing any birth support at all while we are under the State of Emergency in Japan.  However, doula support can still be an invaluable investment for your family.  A doula can help you with the above two points – birth plan and birth preparation – and also help you on the day of labour even if it’s virtual support.

How does virtual doula support look like on the day of labour?  Well, as with any labour, your doula will be on-call for you at anytime of the day or night and ready to give you and your partner suggestions on what to do at home (depending on how your labour is progressing), instruct your partner on comfort techniques and massage, be a virtual breathing partner, provide advice on when you should perhaps consider going to hospital and more.  Also, once you are at hospital by yourself your doula will stay in contact with you again to help you with all the above – breathing, comfort measures and positions.  Another really important aspect at this time will also be advocacy and helping you stick to your birth plan, and to provide informational support and perspective if anything unexpected comes up in labour, and providing some language support if the staff on duty on the day have limited to no English and you have limited to no Japanese. For your partner waiting at home, the pressure can be taken off them somewhat knowing that you have an additional source of support.  And they are also very welcome to be in contact with the doula, too, if they want a better understanding of what might be happening and just someone to “unload” their anxieties on if they have any.  We doulas can take that.

Also, once baby is born your virtual doula can also provide post-partum support, too, and provide you with breastfeeding support, information, advice with infant care, and help you emotionally process your own personal labour experience.

Having that relationship with a doula that has been built up during pregnancy can help you feel that little bit less alone on the day with someone who has a lot of experience in birth in Japan and who is looking out for you and your best interests and cheering you on.  If anyone would like to talk more about the various options I have for this, I’d love to hear from you!

4. TECHNOLOGY

FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Line, Messenger etc.  There are so many ways to stay connected to your partner and other birth support people.  It’s a good idea to think about who you would most likely be contacting in labour whilst you are at your hospital and for what reasons, and how many devices you’d need if you want to be in touch with different people at the same time.  Thinking in advance about how you can set these devices up (phone, tablet, computer if you bring one) in your LDR room, and putting this down in your birth plan is a good idea.  Getting the hospital staff to support and help you in setting these devices up is probably going to be necessary, so knowing how to ask them (if their English isn’t great), is good.  Also, depending on the hospital, WiFi may or may not be available.  Finding out the WiFi situation beforehand and preparing accordingly is necessary.

In addition to this, consider setting up a camera or other recording device – to capture videos of the process or photos.  Again asking the midwives on duty if they can help support you in setting these things up is important.  Normally your birth support people would be the ones taking the photos or videos, but, since they won’t be there, thinking of how things can be set up in the room so that these moments are captured is a good idea.

5.  ROOM ENVIRONMENT

Your labour environment at the hospital is another important aspect to consider because being comfortable in the room you’re in can help things go a little more smoothly.  If your hospital offers a tour of the facilities beforehand, either in-person during one of your check ups or virtually via video, it’s good to take a look.  Knowing what to expect with the environment on the day can help relax you and take away the fear of the unknown from that side of things.  Knowing whether you’ll have control over the temperature of the room, the lighting and what you can wear can make you feel calmer and make for a more positive experience with those things you do have control over.

In addition to all this, bringing some comforting items from home to make the room more your own can help, too.  Don’t be shy to bring a photo of your husband or partner, comforting or relaxing objects for you, essential oils, and so on.  It can all play part in helping you feel more relaxed.

6.  BRING AN ITEM OF CLOTHING THAT SMELLS OF YOUR PARTNER 

This one is pretty self-explanatory but it’s not for you, it’s for your baby.  In normal circumstances, your husband or partner would be at the labour and be able to stay or visit you afterwards.  Now, that isn’t possible and your partner and baby miss out on those first few days together.  Having something that smells of your partner that you can either wrap your baby in (such as a baby blanket your partner has kept close for a few days leading up to the birth) or an item of clothing you can hold near your baby can help familiarise your baby with your husband.  It can also emotionally help your partner to feel more connected to their baby despite the distance.

Following on from this, having baby hear your partner’s voice can be another way for them to connect.  Whether it’s with pre-recorded messages made by your partner to baby before birth that are played to baby during your hospital stay, or whether it’s with regular phone or video calls after baby is born, baby is recognise and respond to hearing your partner and help connect them both despite the distance.

7.  LET EMOTIONS OUT

Finally, know that’s ok cry and mourn the loss of the labour you were originally hoping for.  Both before labour and during labour.  That release of emotion can be cathartic – releasing any sadness or stress can sometimes be much better than trying to “keep it all in” during labour.  Once you’ve had that moment (or moments) of release, you can then continue to labour with confidence knowing that what you are experiencing and the sensations you are feeling physically are a positive sign of progress and bringing your baby to you.

If anyone does feel that their labour experience has overwhelmed them or been traumatic in any way, having a session with me afterwards to debrief, cry, and talk through everything that happened can sometimes help.  Having a listening and understanding ear to hold space for you to say what you feel you need to say about it all can make a big difference emotionally in how you approach the post-partum period.

I truly hope that for those of you who will be in hospital without your birth support people around you everything will go as smoothly as it can.  Please don’t hesitate to reach to me whenever you need to.  Even though you may be physically alone, there will always be support for you and hopefully some of the above tips can help.