Stephanie Kawai has been in Japan since 2000. Originally from the UK, she met her husband in Osaka where she first lived and they moved to Tokyo in 2003. They have 3 sons together, all born in maternity hospitals in the westerns suburbs of Tokyo. As well as being a doula, she also runs Tokyo Mothers Group – the largest English-language support network for families in Japan.
“Pregnancy and motherhood changed me. I was never one to coo over other people’s babies or want to hold them. But once I became pregnant with my first son, something switched on inside me and I became obssessed with learning as much as I could about the whole process of pregnancy and birth and was very much looking forward to the challenge of it. Of course, nothing prepared me for my actual labour…It was a long and hard 29 hours and I certainly understood why it was called labour afterwards. Looking back I wish I had had the support of a doula then as I’m certain I wouldn’t have felt so scared or overwhelmed with what was happening to my body. My husband was a great support during the experience and never left my side, breathing through each contraction with me, but it was equally as tough and stressful for him with neither of us understanding if what I was expreiencing was “normal”.
Well, after my baby was born that magic switch you often hear about of all the pain immediately disappearing was flicked. Endorphins rushed through me and I was on the biggest high of my life. It took only a matter of 2 weeks before I was saying that I wouldn’t mind having another baby and going through labour again…thinking to myself how I would cope better and what I would do differently to help the process along more smoothly and quickly. I had also started hearing about doulas at this point and the thought of working towards becoming a doula myself.
I went on to have 2 other children and had very different birth experiences with them. My second labour was one of those urban-legends you hear about where there wasn’t any pain, just mild discomfort at worst. And my 3rd birth experience was my most enjoyable as my other 2 children were in the labour room with me and saw their brother born. They helped keep me focused as I wanted them to feel birth was a wonderful experience and not something scary.
In 2014, once my youngest entered toddlerhood, I began to pursue my doula dream. Another Tokyo-based doula (Celia Hughes) has been a wealth of knowledge and a great mentor. I’m also currently studying through the doula organisation Childbirth International.
For anyone who is interested in hiring a doula for their birth in Japan, I’d love to get in contact and meet!”