I began teaching my HypnoBirthing classes ; and letting people know that this class was not about ‘hypnotizing people’ but a method that taught women how to relax and trust their body for birth. We soon began holding monthly meetings called Birth Talk.
In Birth Talk classes, we would discuss a range of topics from comfort measures to women making informed decisions about their birth. I really began to see women being empowered during their pregnancies; asking questions to their providers, and they started taking in birth plans into their birth. These same women began to spread the word.
Our community was growing, and there was starting to be more of a need for birth doulas on Okinawa. I was desperate for help as the need began to grow and I wasn’t able to fill all the requests for birth doula work. This compelled me to reach out to Geri my trainer from California, and she wholeheartedly agreed to come over and host the first ever DONA birth training in Okinawa. At first, I did not think too many people were open to doula work.
I was overwhelmed at the response. We had two women join us from Iwakuni and about 14 women on Okinawa join the training. All I can say it was a huge learning experience. With all the change and the doulas from Iwakuni wanting to expand their resources the Japan Birth Resource Network was established as a Private Organization. Birthing in Okinawa was reinvented and with the help of dedicated women wanting to grow the birth community. This not only have us a platform to reach families on a bigger level but create an accountability program for the birth doulas on Okinawa. There was a lot of learning curves and growth for myself. I had to learn that not everyone will see eye to eye with one another. I learned that in order to have a healthy doula community, there needed to be structure and continued training for those new doulas on island. I felt in my heart of hearts, that no matter how hard I attempted to build bridges within the hospital that they were not ready for that door to be opened. Yet with much frustration, I kept pushing through. I had to let the chips fall where they may. I continued to go forth with supporting and educating families in hopes one day the rumors, miscommunication and division would soon come to an end and we could go forth working together building a safe place for women to deliver their babes.
During this season, a couple of expecting friends began to explore options off base. This led to the finding of Yui Clinic. I cannot express enough the willingness on their part to open the doors to the English speaking community on Okinawa. This was a much needed resource for women looking to birth their baby’s in a more homebirth/birth center setting. Over the course of a year I was able to establish a very good relationship with Dr.Fumi and her team of midwives. They would sit down and listen to what my hopes and goals were and establishing more resources for families on Okinawa. I began to see more options becoming available and resources that perhaps not many knew were here. Also during this time, many of the doulas from the previous training were PCS’ing or having baby’s of their own. We were back down to square one and began to explore having another doula trainer join us for another workshop.
Sarah Harre, a certified DONA doula, had contacted me and said she was moving to Okinawa. I was excited but not sure how involved she wanted to be in our growing birth network. Thank God she was willing and open to help. I basically told her where I needed the help and she jumped right in. I also got her going very quickly with doula work and before she probably was expecting it, gaining clientele and got voted in as Vice President of JBRN.
Sarah Harre has been quite an asset to this community. Not only as a sounding board for me but someone who I could confide in through some of my struggles as a birth doula. I have watched God strategically place people on my path that help this grow. Our board now consists of women who share the same faith and vision of making this network grow. Sarah has been a great business partner in keeping the network flowing. Little did we know that we shared the same vision of opening a facility where we could provide resources to the military families?
We were in the making of holding another birth doula workshop. Linda Herrick agreed to join us. This was another pivotal point in the Okinawa birth community. This training allowed for 23 women to become trained as birth doulas on Okinawa. Linda was also able to travel to Yokosuka where she trained 5 more women.
The doors from this point on continued to open. The hospital had gone through some transitions and relationships started to be created within. We have a doula photo album placed up on the labor and delivery floor where families and staff could see the doulas within JBRN.
For a while God had been placing the thought in my spirit about opening a facility where women and families could come to find all around support. Throughout my work here, I kept seeing women fall through the cracks when it comes to not only education for birth but breastfeeding. There are over 100 baby’s born each month at our base hospital. At this time I had done a handful of births off base. I began to see the difference of needing that continual support that our American culture doesn’t always provide for families. I was seeing women leaving the hospital 2-3 days after delivery and having breastfeeding issues. I increasingly became more and more frustrated. One, I was beginning to see huge gaps in what our current options were. From having to qualify to be seen through certain places to current limited support for education and breastfeeding in others. God always has a plan, Sarah had briefly said something about how great it would be to have a one-stop facility where women could come and receive that continual support. To fill those gaps where it was needed. This was all an idea in Dec of 2014. Within a month God began to open the doors and it was amazing to watch everything fall into place. The connection I’d had with Yui, grew into their support in opening The Birth Education Center. Kyoko, a good friend of mine and has helped with so much with translating and our birth adventures off base became a business partner and she invested into our dream of opening a storefront.
Within two weeks we found a building. We started building our resource team. Two very important women that joined us were Christy Googe and Maria Alexander. Both very knowledgeable with breastfeeding and have provided amazing support to women on Okinawa wholeheartedly joined our vision. Having done a lot of work with families on Okinawa already, it was a perfect fit. Since then, we've had people come and go. But someone has always stepped up to take the spot. Everything has come together beautifully. A previous client of mine had a business of creating logos. She said to me that she wanted to share her talents with helping a business that God was establishing. I was so humbled at her offer.
Here we are. A year into being open. It’s a huge faith walk. This is simply another chapter of a new season in my life. It’s teaching me to grow and trust in God at a whole new level. He has a plan for us and it’s been very humbling to look back to see how everything was building to point me in this direction. I am excited for what the future holds.
Japan Birth Resource Network Doulas.
My message to you: We grow up in a culture where pregnancy and birth isn’t always valued. Many women feel left to their own devices to just figure it out. There is not a good support system in place to help families navigate through one of the most exciting and possibly stressful events in their life. Women leave the hospital and go home to a husband who returns to work not long after the birth. A woman’s family cannot always be present to help after, even more so here in Okinawa. I want our facility to be a safe place for parents to come and not find good education but quality care from others who can assist you through those milestones in life. We don’t have all the answers but we can listen and help to provide resources if needed.