Being pregnant in a foreign country is a particularly perplexing experience: so. many. questions! Every time I'm around international pregnant women, there is a flurry of information exchanged. Often, I find the questions more fascinating than the answers. They indicate so much about what is normal in the culture of the questioner, and I find myself reflecting on the normal birth narrative in the States as I make my way home from these meetings.
We all have a culturally-prescribed list of what we must do to ensure a healthy pregnancy, labor, and postpartum period, but we often ignore how this list differs between cultures. And yet, healthy babies are successfully born all over the world. Here are some recent questions that have made me think...
- Will my husband be allowed in the delivery room? Will my doula / sister / mother be allowed in the delivery room?
- Will it ruin my marriage if my husband witnesses my birth?
- Are you sure I can eat sushi while I'm pregnant?
- Will I get in trouble if I hold my baby in a taxi on the ride home from the hospital?
- Do I have to attempt a natural birth if I'm pregnant with twins?
- What food will the hospital serve while I'm in labor?
- Do I really have to stay in the hospital for a week after my baby is born?
- Should I wait a full month after birth before leaving the house with my baby?
- Will it hurt my baby if I exercise while pregnant?
- Will I be able to get an enema before labor?
- What will happen if I tell my doctor or the hospital staff "no"?
Finally, I ask myself: What do these questions teach me? I'm learning that every question makes sense, and that the answers aren't so simple. Before my experience in Japan, I might have been quicker to answer clients' questions about what they should or shouldn't do during pregnancy or labor. Now, I'm not so sure. I find myself telling women to trust their instincts and their own truths more than ever.