We took it nice and slow this morning and then met up with Y to head over to Machino Sanbasan, the birth center that originally inspired Allison to create this trip. We were warmly welcomed upon arrival and met with the founder, Atsuko Kawano, and staff. Serendipitously, one of the staff members was from Nishinoomote, so we spent a few minutes name dropping and exchanging anecdotes about our lives on Tanegashima. As we were talking, I again felt the tug of desire to return to that little island, not so much as to try to recapture some of the magic of that place, but more to convince me that my life there was real. We spoke to some other women – some who worked there, others who had given birth there. There stories were similar to what you might hear in America – women who were looking to heal birth trauma, women who were jaded by the current system, women looking for that transformative aspect of birth, not just for the woman in labor, but for her child, society and the world. Atsuko talked at length about the importance of birth stories, about how much power they held and how influential they could be. At some point, she excused herself to go to a prenatal check-up – a third time mother whose two older children popped in to say hello and crawled all over everything, including the staff. It was wonderful to once again see the emphasis on family and to know that for these children, birth would be a normal part of life.
After our feast of a lunch, one woman shared with us the videos of her three births. The first two were in the birth center and the last one was at home. Atsuko attended them all. It was fascinating to watch the same woman give birth three times – all so different and special in their own unique way. In her last birth, her two older children donned gloves to assist with the birth of their younger brother. Her daughter even put on the midwife’s apron! After a while we said our goodbyes and promised to one day return. Lisa and I were once again reminded of our responsibilities as midwives and the burdens and joys we would share with women at their births.
Since Ikuyo had a graduation ceremony to attend, Lisa, Allison and I spent our evening shopping at Aeon. As was becoming our custom, Lisa and I got some ice cream (sweet potato – delicious!) and then walked around the shops to pick up some last minute gifts. I finally got everything that I was looking for and then the three of us met up for dinner at some Italian restaurant in the mall. A little while later we caught a cab back to Ikuyo’s, packed our bags and prepared for our journey back to Tokyo.