Looking Back on Birth

I never knew I’d write so much on pregnancy and having babies.
I guess I wasn’t one of those girls playing house or stuffing her kid-abdomen

with a pillow, pretending to nurse, none of that, really.

baby  excited k  swingy girl

I never thought I’d move off to Japan and have kids there.
Then again, I never played “wedding”, never thought past being young and scampering around South Florida. The most I daydreamed about was, perhaps, maybe, at some point, taking a ride to New Orleans where I’d live off beignets and dance round the jazz. I’ll pack for two weeks and end up staying years, I thought. Paris also called me, but I was really a lackadaisical poet, floating in the breeze. It would have taken more planning that I knew how.

Yet, here I am, blogging about having cute little babies in Japan.
It’s a whirlwind, it’s glamour, it’s hard work, it’s pay off, it’s tears, and beading bracelets with gold; it’s exposure to the grandest sort of love, daily. It’s finally getting out of those nursing bras.

-Melissa Maternity Jan 2013 WEB-51

Tired, restful, yawny maternity photo by Mel Willms

Here is my part in an amazing tour of what it is like to live abroad, learning another culture, while growing a family. Here is my experience in Japan.

I am so proud of this series, and just very appreciative of Iulia’s work on Best of Baby. Before I became pregnant while living in Japan, the very idea of becoming pregnant, carrying, and later, carrying for a baby in this new place loomed with scary impossibility. It would be madness! How could I possibly even think of having a baby when I couldn’t even communicate with the clerks at the grocery store! I still cannot carry on any real conversation with my neighbors. How could I even think of taking-on another life? I needed intensive language training! Meditation! And yet…

Life goes on, that “biological clock is ticking like this”, (spoken like a gawdy Marisa Tomei). What are you gonna do, wait, wait, terrified, until you go back to America? You could…you could try…or you can just let life unfold. Learn about care in your new country. Get support. Find out what works. And you know you won’t like all of it. You’ll probably make faces at the traditional old wives’ tales. You may mock the selection of maternity clothes. But you make it work. Life and sweetness all happen. You arrive. You age. You make friends who throw you the shower of your dreams, the one you never even thought of a gazillion miles away, actually. You get everything you need.

-Melissa Maternity Jan 2013 WEB-55


So you write and you blab and you live, wanting to boost the other women you see, pregnant, trying, or wondering, scared if they should really let themselves be so far away from their mothers, far away from the system of care they’ve always known and readied, steadied themselves for. Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes you cry and cry and eventually contribute to a book on raw postpartum experiences. Sometimes, though, like all the hard things, you learn how tough the skin on an egg really is. You learn to let the tough hits flake off of you somehow, too. You are fragile, but my, you are won-over with grace and a deep satisfaction. This is growth. These are the moments for which crazy-loud dance parties with the kids were created.

This is what it is to split and move and multiply cells and have to deliver all that pressure. This is the stuff of growing a family, the making and shaking of love.

I love this series and all the ways we learn it’s okay. It is the thrill of surprise, the joy of life, unknown, unfurling.

All gorgeous photos taken by my friend, Mel Willms


i. I wait for the woman to realize I’m pregnant–tight and round, belly twitching like an egg imminently breaking, like in Are You My Mother.

Wait for her to realize she took my seat–the one reserved for pregnant chics like me expecting a quick sit.

Instead, I mutter.

I wait for the house to be in order, for it to look ready for upheaval, change.

For my toddler-daughter to feel ready for a potty. Instead, encroaching anxiety. When will this baby be born?

When and how will I get baby clothes when I continue to miss every US sale and support. Freaking overseas and in need.

Waiting to meet this Israeli doctor who will perform our son’s bris in a culture that sees our ritual as outlandish, unnecessary, and above all, painful.

Waiting for my mind to join me in exhale.

Waiting to get the chance to sit under the puffy blooms of a tree, which are by essence, evasive and fleeting. Waiting for time to open-up.

For goodness and mercy to calm my anxiety and reach me.

I’m still standing, lady.


hakone 6

ii. While waiting, now slippers on,

soothing rendition of spirituals, Beatles’ Hey Jude,

Matisse coral shapes and humpback whales

block prints of Fuji, baby catalogues, coupons, and onezie giveaways.

Jack Johnson cuts through and I’m back to where I gave birth


and learned to nurse my little girl.

“Times like these, times like those.

What will be will be and so it goes.”

The waiting

and enjoying breath,


waiting giving way to a baby boy.

The Waiting Game is surely part of our human experience. Drive-thru lines, waiting on a pee-stick result, waiting til the little guy is born, trying to distract yourself as you wait on a prognosis, waiting for the turkey’s little thing to pop-out & scream, “Done!”

When has waiting been most painful, exhilarating, or transformative?