The pain of childbirth, Genesis says, is God’s punishment for the original sin of womankind — if only Eve hadn’t given Adam that apple! But in Japan, traditionalists contend, it’s to be embraced, not lamented, since the deeper the agony, the deeper the motherly love. So hold the epidurals, please, we’re Japanese.
I don’t subscribe to either view, but as someone who has gone through the whole pregnancy-to-birth process twice as a father — that is, as a supporting player rather than the lead — I understand its huge significance, as well as its vast variations and sheer arbitrariness. Expectant mothers in Japan, where the infant mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world, seemingly have little to fear. But as two new documentaries show, anxieties can still be overwhelming, choices difficult and outcomes hard to cope with — or accept.