CONTRIBUTED BY ERIN GODDARD
Giving birth is a journey: a beautiful, difficult, breathtaking journey that will forever change a woman. Whether you give birth by caesarian, with an epidural, completely naturally, in a bathtub, a hospital or in the backseat of a car (seriously, I met some grandparents at the airport last year whose daughter just did that here on island!). No matter how or where you give birth, it is incredible– and also a bit frightening because there is always that aspect of the unknown.
As a mother of two, I understand and love this journey, and have a heart for women launching into this grand adventure. That is exactly why I was so excited to hear that The Birth Education Center of Okinawa opened in February of this year!
What is The Birth Education Center of Okinawa, you ask? It’s a resource center for women thinking about getting pregnant, women who are already pregnant, as well as moms and families who want information about birthing options, breastfeeding support, baby care and/or new mother care. Recently, I went in to tour the facility and met with Sarah Harre (co-founder and doula) and Christy Vasquez-Googe (lactation specialist).
Upon entering, you are immediately set at peace. The decor is minimalist and comforting, there is a hint of essential oil in the room; and with a toy corner, a coffee machine and a full kitchen, it’s easy to imagine that you’re simply in a friend’s house for a visit. That is exactly how these women want you to feel: safe, encouraged and comfortable. Even their personalities reflect a sense of familiarity, like no matter what you ask or say, it is alright here.
There is a large main room for meetings, classes, groups and yoga, and a smaller private room for individual lactation consultations complete with a bed to practice ALL kinds of breast feeding positions (even those difficult side lying ones!).
The Birth Education Center of Okinawa works with U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa to offer supplemental support and education not only before and during labor but also after (when life gets way more complicated). When dreaming of the idea for the center, founders Amanda Dodson and Sarah Harre noticed that the classes offered by the hospital were geared toward a hospital birth, that some services were not offered to all military branches on island, and that there was a serious lack of lactation and postpartum support. And so with a positive relationship with the hospital and the common goal of having healthy deliveries, babies and mothers, the Birth Education Center is here to let you know, you are NOT alone!
One of the wonderful aspects of the center is the continuity of care. These women get to know you. They remember your struggles and triumphs in the birthing process and build up from there. They have terrific follow up, calling and emailing clients to make certain things are working and to help when they are not. They are readily available for questions and concerns, and these women really know their stuff!
Classes offered include: Breastfeeding, Prenatal Yoga, Hypnobirthing, Lamaze-based Childbirth, Aromatherapy, Nutrition, Cloth Diapering, Breastfeeding and Back to Work, Baby Wearing, Introducing Solids and Infant Massage.
Support Groups include: Breastfeeding Support Group (also you get to weigh your baby) and Bereavement Support (for miscarriage, stillborn or loss of a child).
Other things to know: They welcome babies and kids to groups and classes. Since some classes and groups are at mealtimes, they invite you to bring your lunch (or dinner) – they have a microwave! They have a lending library. Eventually they will have a retail section of the center.
Parking is a beast here – they only have two parking spots (directly behind the building) and almost zero street parking options! You may have to get creative…but hey, that’s Okinawa!
Hours: Monday 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (drop in at the center)
Wednesday 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (drop in at the center)
Lactation Consultations: M/W 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Tues 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. times are also available).
Call anytime, classes and groups may be in session
Phone: 81 080 4079 0124
Cost: Support groups and prenatal yoga are FREE!
Single classes are anywhere from $10-$25
Lactation Consultations are $35 per hour
Series classes (several classes that go together) start at $35
Facebook Page: The Birth Education Center of Okinawa
Address: 4 Chome-20-1 Uechi, Okinawa-shi, Okinawa-ken 904-0031, Japan
Directions: Coming from Gate 2 Kadena, make a right onto highway 23. You will pass McDonalds and Coco’s Curry Take Out on the left. Immediately after Coco’s Curry is a Soba restaurant and an Eneos gas station. You will make the left onto the road in between these two buildings (there are flags by this road). The Birth Education Center is located on the second floor of the soba restaurant, and parking is directly behind the building.