I’m in the ninth month of pregnancy and still working in an office. It was very difficult to find an ob/gyn hospital open till 8 or 9 p.m.; most are open only till 3 to 5 p.m. Even female nurses don’t understand working women’s feelings in a male-dominated working world. Some nurses at the hospital where I go say things like, “If you can’t take some time off or a day off to come to a doctor’s examination in the morning, why don’t you go to some other hospital?”

More and more women nowadays don’t want to quit working just because they are pregnant. Even many of my friends who went abroad to get a master’s degree and quit working to raise their children want to go back to work after a while, but they cannot get any help due to the lack of availability of kindergartens or nannies or even support from their family.

Every day I commute through rush-hour crowds. I can’t get a seat on the train — even in the women-only car. Many women in the seats are too busy putting on makeup to realize that a woman nine months pregnant is standing in front of them. (Actually passengers in the women-only car are the worst when it comes to giving up their seats for a pregnant woman.) After I get out of the train, there’s no elevator in the station.

I just want to finish my duties before taking maternity leave and to prove that I’m not just a “childbearing machine.” So I push myself too much sometimes. My male coworkers are very sensitive and helpful. My bosses were very nice to suggest I take maternity leave earlier, but I have a job.

If Japanese society and government keep ignoring working pregnant women’s opinions, fewer and fewer children will be born. This country will then have to pay for that. Women want to work and have free time and so on — the same as men. We want Japan to become a pregnancy-friendly country.

mieko shinomiya

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