"Birth Days" or "Anniversary of Giving Birth"

Naoko Miyaji



Translated from Miyaji, N., Mother is Born, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers 2016


It would be rare to find parents who don't celebrate their own children's birthdays. Birthdays are reminders of how happy we are that they were born and have grown into who they are now. We think about what we might cook, or which restaurant we would go to, and what gifts to get them, that we might get more excited about their birthdays than the   kids themselves.


However, if you think about it, though it is also pretty obvious from the word "birthday", the child's birth day is also the day that the mother gave birth. Every birthday marks an anniversary of the mother going through an extraordinary experience of giving birth.


In remembering the first time I gave birth, I shift the focus from my child to myself. A lot of feelings and sensations come back, like the warm hands of the midwife that comforted me by massaging my back, the fact that the fruit juice I drank in between contractions was really tasty, and that feeling of relief when I first heard the baby's cry.


My memories right before and after giving birth also come alive again. We thought that it would become hard to go out to restaurants right after giving birth, so we went out to dinner with my parents the day before the planned delivery date. That night, even though contractions hadn't started yet, I feel antsy and couldn't fall asleep, so I walked around the house aimlessly. I also remember the other women who became mother s the same day I did at the hospital the next day.


Beyond anything, I think about how I tolerated the excruciating pain. Only because you know that here is an end to the pain, and that there is a great thing waiting at the end of it all, can you get through it. While giving birth, the body produces huge abounds of oxytocin and other hormones, so apparently the subjective pain is much less than it would otherwise be. That must be why giving birth doesn't leave mothers with emotional trauma. Even with the hormones and chemicals produced by the body, the pain is horrendous. It scares me to imagine going through it without the body preparing itself with oxytocin and other hormones. Sometimes that makes me want to say, "Shouldn't the woman that gives birth be ore celebrated?"


Some people say, "You shouldn't tell your children that giving birth was painful because they might feel responsible and upset." Some men also become uncomfortable upon hearing women talk about the pain of giving birth. Maybe in order to protect men from thinking about the fact that people are born through a gory process like childbirth, Virgin Mary became pregnant and gave birth as a virgin. The paintings jump from Virgin Mary's annunciation to suddenly holding the babying her arms. Didn't that completely skip something very important?


Even now, maternal death rate during childbirth is 5 to 6 in 100,000 births in Japan. It is now a very low rate, but giving birth was a very dangerous procedure in the past. In other parts of the world, there are still many women who die from childbirth. The World Health Organization gives the statistic that the world's average fro death from child brith is about 220 for every 100,000 births. In Afghanistan, the number is 1,400 deaths per 100,000 births. That would make is one out of 71 women.


Let's take a moment to celebrate all mothers for having gone through childbirth and delivering new life into the world. Let's be grateful for our opportunity to meet our children and see them grow. I want to appreciate every single person that works hard to ensure a safe delivery for women every day. Most of all, I pray for all of the pregnant women around the world, in the hope that they won't exchange their own life for the new life.