Tuesday, April 06, 2010


A young woman from the Philippines called our church this week asking for help. The pastor responded and the church members jumped in to give aid. A young mother with a two month old baby, and a Japanese older husband who works long hours. Being left alone day after day with a crying baby. Not being able to sleep or eat. Not knowing if something was wrong with the child. Not being able to communicate in Japanese. Not having friends or family to depend upon. Postpartum blues is too mild a word. The young woman had had or was on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

The husband was called. He wouldn't be able to come until evening. The young mother and baby went home with one of the church members. Warm clothing was offered (whether she didn't have clothing or just was so stressed that she didn't realize it isn't summer, I don't know). Food and a bath were taken gratefully. City Hotline telephone numbers were jotted down. But the bottom line is that she has a husband and he must make the decision to get the woman help. In turn, we church members felt very helpless.

The general opinion is that the young mother is shut off from the rest of the world with a baby and that would drive anyone boggles. And there is a language barrier (she didn't speak English and only the basics of Japanese). But Tetsu and I see many parallels between the young foreign wives that come to Japan and myself. (A similar situation happened a few years ago involving an Iranian woman.) How was it that I made it through those baby years without going completely batty?

Tetsu too worked (works) long hours. By the time Takumi was born I'd lived in Japan five years and my Japanese was fair. We had lost our first child two years earlier though, and I was at the top of the neurotic new mother pyramid. A recent move to a new city meant that besides our church family, I had no friends or people to talk to. Takumi had mild eczema, he wouldn't nurse and Tetsu and I took turns walking a crying baby around a neighborhood park at night (hoping not to disturb our apartment neighbors). After a month I was at the end of my rope.

One day I took my crying baby to the park again and sat on a bench crying with him. Another young mother and baby came by and I apologized for all the noise telling her that my baby wouldn't nurse and I didn't know what to do. Right away the mother gave me the telephone of a place that would help new mothers breastfeed their babies and I had Tetsu call and take me there the next day.

I'm sure that that breastfeeding center saved my sanity.

Everyday I would go to the center for a breast massage and then sit around with the other mothers and breast feed our babies. After another massage I'd go back home and record the measurements of how much, how long, how many times, counting the hours until I could go back to the center. The midwife in charge saw how intent I was on following her every smidgen of advice and after a month or two she stopped charging me altogether. I followed her strict diet (losing about 20 pounds. It's amazing what one can do for their child but can't do for themselves!) in order to produce delicious breast milk and just listening to the other cheerful mothers, having an authority figure tell me what to do and seeing other babies who had terrible disfiguring eczema (many mothers were there to purify their breast milk in order to relieve their child of eczema) made me realize my blessings and get my mind off of my "problems".

I don't know how I or others can help the young woman that cried out to us on Sunday... She does need some professional help... But I'm prayerfully keeping her in my heart and I'll reach out to her if she calls again. She needs a friend.

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