Listening to my body...The experience of my pregnancy by Naomi Hyodo
"You can't do it" my father used to tell me whenever I wanted to do something unconventional. Japanese society was very compliant to its social norm. Individuals who don't comply quickly felt outcast. Fixing my teeth line was one of my biggest dreams. I hated seeing the reversed occlusion whenever looking in a mirror. They looked like a dinosaur's teeth line and caused a chewing problem throughout my teen years, but dentistry wasn't so common then. Also I strongly believed my case needed surgery, not just braces.
Age 23, in 1984, I went to a dentist provided by the company of my employ, for a minor treatment. He looked at my teeth and asked if it interested me to fix my teeth line. I told him it was a lifelong dream! He told me it was no longer just a dream. He introduced me to a friend of his who was a specialist and his friend said, "TRUST ME" and "there's no need for surgery." I definitely had that 'right people, right place and right time' feeling. In the 1980's treatments like braces for teeth were limited to healthcare for children in Japan, anyone older than teens with braces on their teeth would've been chided as vain, outcast!
To have braces on my teeth in my mid twenties was asking for trouble. People looked at me with doubts and wonders on their face, asking if I wasn't too old for braces. It felt awkward, but their words didn't influence my commitment. I'd always wanted to fix my teeth and feel the freedom to laugh without wanting to cover my mouth. As fate would have it, my braces were the precedent that broke the social taboo in Japan, and set the example used in dental colleges to show it could be done. Braces for women of all ages soon became the accepted norm.
At age 37, after 10 years of recovery from a broken heart, I was feeling as though I was suffocating in my own world. I started calling for a man who would unconditionally share my thoughts and feelings with me, somewhere under this sky. I felt I needed a threshold. So I quit my job as a dental assistant and decided to go overseas to learn English. Understanding and speaking English was another big dream of mine.
In 1999 I arrived in Toronto, Canada. The other students in ESL were much younger but I really enjoyed the freedom to feel my youthful spirit again. Being outside the box that had been prepared for women of my age by a very conventional Japan, was fresh. And I started not to want to go back to Japan. Two years of living in Toronto, age 39, I met a strange man at a gift shop where I was filling-in for a friend as a shopkeeper. The stranger burst into the shop barging through the door, all grumpy and complaining about "George's car". But he was emitting an unmistakable aura, something FAMILIAR. We exchanged a very brief conversation. My body whispered to me "Hey, he is something different" My curiosity about this stranger was aflutter. Just over a year later, the stranger became my husband. I was 41yrs old.
My parents were very happy about the marriage, but had lost hope of any grandchildren. My father said "It's good that you finally found a man you wanted to be with. But you might be too old to have a baby". Deep inside I knew, having a baby and learning everything from scratch with my baby was my BIGGEST dream. His words sunk into my gut and didn't sit well, like a food that didn't belong in my stomach. My body tensed, even though my brain knew society believed I was too old to have a baby, it was spitting his negative words out.
Age 43, in 2004, my husband and I were sharing a place with a couple with twins aged 2 years old. The wife had the twins (her first babies) when she was 43, and her husband was 60. I felt inspired by their experience. I was 2 years into my marriage and really wanted to have a baby by natural pregnancy and natural birth, so I told my husband. Given our ages, me at 43, him at 47, and that we'd never discussed having a family, his surprise was to be expected. What he didn't say was, "Are you kidding?!" or "Be realistic! We are pretty old, honey!" What he did say was "Okay. We should find out what's possible".
We did all the necessary tests and took the results to two Gynecologists in Toronto. The female Gynecologist recommended we do a $10,000 IVF (in Vitro Fertilization), which was definitely not my dream. The male Gynecologist advised us the chances are "less than zero" of my husband and I having a baby either by natural pregnancy or by IVF. I cried in front of the doctor when the doctor informed us. My husband looked like a soldier staring through the doctor's words. The opinions from the two doctors were a very hard reality for me to take. It felt like solid walls had been put around to stop me from moving any direction, further forward.
But even as I faced that walls, my thought of having a baby stayed exactly where it was in my gut, in a different reality than the ones the Gynecologists saw. It was soon after that our landlady suggested I look into Traditional Chinese Medicine. The first Chinese Medicine Practitioner I went to was in Toronto. She was very famous for fertility, using acupuncture and herbal medicine, but her technique wasn't for me, so I continued my search. The next Chinese Medicine Practitioner specializing in fertility was in Japan, near my parent's home. In 20 years of practicing he successfully treated 13,000 women, ranging from mid-thirties to mid-forties, and more often than not, with complications that western medicine seemed unable to address. His fertility 'Periodic Treatment' focuses on creating a HEALTHY womb using a combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine.
The 'Periodic Treatment' cost around $200 per one's menstrual cycle and provides 4 different combinations of medication for the 4 stages of the cycle; menses period, lower temperature period, ovulation period, higher temperature period. After a brief, long-distance phone call, I sent him my test results. Next time we talked on the phone he said, "You still have your period and you are healthy. I don't see any problem with you having a baby." His tone of voice was full of positive energy, very uplifting. To me, his positive words sounded like "TRUST ME". In my gut I felt a tickle, as if it was cheering up. After taking the herbal medication for about 8 or 9 months and keeping up a positive attitude about having a baby, my resolve began to fade. I felt doubts enter about whether it could happen. Maybe everyone was right, maybe I was too old, or being unrealistic.
I took my doubts to Japan for a visit with my family and decided to earn some spending money where I met some very tough, older Japanese women who were mothers. They asked if I had any kids. I said No. Very casually they then asked me if I knew how to make a baby and we all burst into laughter. The sounds of our laughter reminded me that having a baby is not such a complicated thing. Even so, after my trip to Japan, I told my husband I intended to stop the Chinese Medicine treatment because it felt as though I did enough. He said to me "Why don't you take it for one more month?" His words were absorbed into my body. While I was taking the last month of my medication, I noticed something different in me. Yes, I got pregnant. I was 45 years old. We returned to our family doctor in Toronto after pregnancy was confirmed by a self-test and he asked us how we wanted to proceed from there, with a Medical doctor or Midwifery? There was some question around whether Midwifery was available to women of my older age, but my husband and I chose Midwifery without hesitation. Once again, as if by fate, there was a Midwifery clinic very close to our home in the middle of nowhere and we took it as a good omen.
I was at second trimester stage when we arranged to meet a midwife. Linda looked at our test results, and said, "You are both healthy, so of course you can have a natural childbirth!" Linda's first statement and tone of voice was so grounded and confident, just like the Chinese Medicine doctor in Japan. I experienced some minor morning sickness during the pregnancy, but thankfully no real complications. I was emotionally stable most of the time although I tended to get a bit anxious about the results of the each test I had because of my age. Working with our Midwife Linda was like building a Lego house, block by a block. At each stage, the decisions were always ours to make. Linda never gave us an impression we should take her suggestions or opinions as the basis for our decisions and was fully supportive of the decisions we made. We agreed to most of the routine tests such as ultra sound, several blood works, but we were not willing to do the amino fluid test for Down Syndrome. Even though risk of Down syndrome is said to be much higher for mothers of age 45, the fatalities resulting from doing the amino fluid test itself were too high for us as older parents having a first child.
At home, after my water broke, I had no contractions for 13 hours and started to question whether a home birth was the best choice. I originally had wanted a water birth because a friend had such great experiences water birthing! We decided to relocate to Stratford Hospital ON to be safe, and to be honest I felt relieved about relocating to the hospital and at that point began to intuit the vision of having my baby. I no longer needed the experience to be a wonderful water birth experience like so and so had. My husband helped me into the car a little after 7pm, we both felt a bit anxious and excited. It was a winter's night and a 2h drive, and 30 minutes along the way the highway was blocked by a Santa Clause parade! All the main roads were closed! My husband asked a couple at a gas station how to detour, adding, "MY WIFE IS JUST ABOUT TO HAVE A BABY!!!" The words felt so protective and supportive deep inside of me. Even the drive to the hospital became a fun adventure. I was thrilled with the unknown.
Linda, the midwife and her assistant had gone ahead to prepare a delivery room. We arrived at the hospital just before 10pm. The doctor stayed long enough to meet and brief us. Linda was entirely in charge of my delivery. Knowing my midwife was fully in charge at the hospital gave me a huge emotional support. Because my contraction hadn't really started, I needed to take Oxytocin. Also I was Group B strep positive (considered to be a of causes of sudden death syndrome), so an antibiotic was prescribed throughout the delivery. When the doctor asked if I wanted "medication for pain", the words went right over my head and I answered without thinking, saying that I'd decide later. As it turned there was no 'later'. I held my husband's hand through the entire process (he told me that his hand was turning blue and white). The experience was all-consuming for me.
Anjou was born without incident or an epidural. As Anjou was being born Linda moved to one side to allow my husband to cut the cord. In 2007, November 25 (Sunday) 4:17 am, I had a baby girl after a 4 hour labor. She was 6lb 5oz, 18.5 inches, no complications, no epidural, no cesarean, no-stitches, in the container held by Linda the midwife and her assistant, and very powerful Attunement* team that my husband set up (he was one of the members) for my delivery and doctors and nurses at the hospital. We were able to return home the same morning I gave birth to my daughter.
Looking back to the experience of my pregnancy and birth, it clearly shows that there were so many people involved in the process regardless of positive or negative. Positive energy works powerfully, but negative energy questions my resolve and commitment. The two work together harmoniously. Lastly, thanks to my own body. It responded really well towards the possibility. By listening to my body, even some negativity became very important processes for me to keep me moving forward.
**Attunement is an energy practice along the lines of Reiki, Joh-Rei, Qigong and Therapeutic Touch, and was brought into public practice in 1940 by Lloyd Meeker and associate Albert Ackerley (Canadian Chiropractic). Attunement allows universal energies to balance the personal energy levels maintained throughout the endocrine system and chakra. By opening a space for a patient's own natural balance of centring, his/her process can move effectively during stressful times. If you would like to get in touch with Naomi, she can be contacted via email: [email protected]