The young woman was still a minor when she traveled to Jikei Hospital in southern Kumamoto Prefecture. She had not had a single checkup during her pregnancy and was already close to her ninth month.
But she had chosen the right place. In 2007, Jikei Hospital started Japan’s first baby hatch — a place where unwanted newborns could be left safely, no questions asked. Now, 14 years later, hospital staff accepted the girl, who didn’t want to reveal her full identity. She also wanted her information to be kept from the baby — a possible first case of a confidential birth (when a mother’s identity is not disclosed) and an anonymous birth (when a mother’s identity is not provided to the child) in Japan.
Just before she gave birth, a staff member at the hospital gave her a piece of paper and asked her to write a message to her child.
“I don’t know what to say,” said the girl, who was emotionally distraught at the time.
When doctors and nurses asked her if they could tell the child who she was in the future, she shook her head.
Even after she gave birth to a healthy, 3,400-gram baby girl, held her and breastfed her, the girl, who had no one else to turn to, was still worried about what would happen if her family knew what had happened.
“I want to go home before my family finds out,” she said. “I may not be able to take care of her now, but I may be able to in two years.”
It was after she met a 2-year-old foster child taken under the wing of Takeshi Hasuda, the president of Jikei Hospital, that she changed her mind.
On the morning of Nov. 10, Hasuda told the new mother that her baby girl was likely to be in foster care in the future, just like the child Hasuda was fostering.
“He calls my wife ‘mommy’ and myself ‘daddy.’ That may be a sad situation for you,” Hasuda said.
After an hour or so, the girl told hospital staff that she was willing to take care of the baby herself and agreed to contact her family.
When Hasuda called the family, they became emotional over the phone.
“She may have thought that even if she came back for the baby two years later, she may not be able to have her,” Hasuda said at a news conference.
This section features topics and issues from the Kyushu region covered by the Nishinippon Shimbun, the largest daily newspaper in Kyushu. The original article was published Nov. 11.
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