And on the Topic of Japanese People Reacting to a Pregnant Westerner…

A week or so ago, I wrote about my hospital midwife’s reaction to my being 1.5 kilos over the Japanese target weight for a pregnant woman at my stage. The encounter with the midwife happened a little more than a month ago, so now, my belly is even rounder.

I’ve actually been surprised to find that, once my nausea waned at about 19 weeks, I’ve really enjoyed having a pregnant stomach. There are two things I like about it:

  • One, I love not having to suck my stomach in after eating. I used to favor tight-ish tops before I got pregnant, and when I ate a big meal, I’d want to tuck my little belly roll in. Now I don’t even need to think about that.
  • Two, I kind of like being able to touch my own stomach in public! Is this weird of me? I realized yesterday, as I was coming home from a walk and rubbing my belly to see if I could feel the little one kick, that being pregnant is one of the only times we’re really allowed to touch our bodies in public without it seeming inappropriate. (I think this prohibition against interacting with our own bodies in public goes for both women and men, in both the West and Japan.) I didn’t realize being pregnant would provide a kind of unique bodily permission, and I really like it now, how it feels both secretive and special and public all at once.

My Japanese neighbors have seemed very sweet about my pregnancy, cooing over my belly, urging me toΒ kiwo-tsukete, “be careful!” But they invariably seeming bowled over when I tell them that no, I am not about to give birth, I am due in about four months. (I don’t have enough Japanese skills to explain that, according to my American pregnancy books, size-wise I am right on target, so I just nod and smile and say Oki, ne? “Big, right?”) One neighbor, who has three incredibly polite kids of her own, is especially sweet, but every time she’s seen me for the past month or so, she points to my stomach and asks, in all seeming earnestness, if there are one or two babies in there.

I always smile and hold up one finger, but inside I’m always wondering, “Does she think, at 6 months, they are suddenly going to discover a hidden twin?”

11 thoughts on “And on the Topic of Japanese People Reacting to a Pregnant Westerner…

  1. Tracy, I loved reading your post — particularly how you shared the positives of your pregnancy. It seems far too often you only hear about the negative side, and it was kind of cool to read about some things you’ve enjoyed in the process.

    Well, if nothing else at least your neighbors aren’t as Draconian in their responses as that midwife!


  2. This is so funny! I’m almost at 35 weeks and have gained too much weight according to US guidelines, but my mother has reassured me that it’s genetic, since she gained 50 lbs and lost the weight within 4 months.
    I’ve had people asking me “Any day now?” and “Are you sure it’s not twins?” for the past 3 months. My favorite was a Chinese lady at a takeout place in Lexington who said “Baby come soon, yes?”.
    Visits to my midwife were frustrating (and very upsetting) because I knew I wasn’t eating excessively. They stopped bringing up my weight gain when I lost 3 lbs one month. Now that it’s almost over, she thinks I have a lot of fluid and is concerned about that.
    I’ve decided that I can’t win, the baby is fine and is coming out in a few weeks no matter what, so everyone just needs to chill out πŸ™‚


  3. Thanks, Liane! I appreciate your sweet message. And Amina, I just realized I never responded to your post from Sept. Sorry about that! But I can totally relate to all the comments about “Baby come soon, yes?” I have been getting them constantly lately! Anyway, wishing you and your little one and your whole family (and you too, Liane) all the best.


  4. It’s funny because I’ve had several little old Japanese ladies ask me if *I* was pregnant. My husband in Japanese; I’m white, I guess we stick out in the countryside. We’re far too young to think about having children, but everywhere we go, there seems to be a “why” question hanging in the air.
    I can’t even imagine how you dealt with questions like that for so long (especially while trying to get pregnant).

    I think I’m the most excited for kids (aside from the fact I LOVE children) is to finally be able to tell people “yes, we have children” instead of “no, not yet, we’re not ready, and no, that’s a perfectly acceptable answer.”

    In any case, it’s lots of fun reading your blog. Sorry if I’m leaving a ton of comments!


  5. Grace, I love all your comments! Thanks so much for taking the time to post them. I feel sorry I’m not better about keeping up with the blog on a daily or weekly basis, but having a newborn at 46 while working on the final edits for the book is definitely challenging my energy level! As for the invasive questions, I got to the point where I just told people, “I’m 42 (or 43, or 44, or 45) and we’ve been trying but I haven’t been able to hold onto a pregnancy,” and that usually stopped the invasive questions right there! But I guess that wouldn’t work in your case because of your age. You could always just say “We’re working on it,” and that would make any further questions a little awkward (Like, “how’s that going for you two??”), I imagine! Anyway, looking forward to following your blog and staying connected, and wishing you and your sweetie the best of luck! PS. We are moving to Yokohama from Osaka next week, so I may be near you if you’re still in Tokyo!


  6. I realize I am late to respond to your post but I must say it strikes a deep cord with me. Yoshiharu and I have been married for 19 years and our oldest daughter who was born in Tokyo is returning in August to go to university. I have been looking for information to support her and realized that there are a few more mixed marriages than 20 years ago. We meet in Tokyo but after Lina was born I knew I wanted to return home. My amazing husband agreed in spite of hardly speaking English and having only left Japan once(on our honeymoon). We had two more children here in Massachusetts, it is not always easy having an inter cultural marriage but it is never boring. We are amazingly happy. I hope at some point to return to Japan in the next 5 years to live once our two younger children are finished with high school and have started university.
    I love my Japanese family and while even after all these years they are still confused where the blonde blue eyed gaijin came from, they have embraced me and have always been supportive and maybe a little scared! Jeanne Takahashi


    1. Jeanne, what a lovely comment! It seems we both have a Japan/Mass link! I love what you say about the intercultural marriage never being boring. I feel the same way, and I feel so lucky b/c of it! All my best wishes to your family and especially your daughter returning to Tokyo for college.


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