Although Mae was super fit, young, and healthy, having maintained a rigorous practice of daily Ashtanga yoga for over seven years prior to her first pregnancy, like any woman, she found herself facing many unknowns. For her first birth, she opted to birth at a small birthing center outside of Fukuoka, in the southwestern region of Japan, where she lived at the time. This was because she wanted to choose “the hand that would touch her baby’s head first.” She was able to have a natural, unmedicated birth with her then-husband, but the experience had her screaming at the top of her lungs in PAIN and left her feeling torn apart–mentally, emotionally, and physically–for weeks afterward. The sense of disconnect left an inkling of a thought in her mind that said: “If I ever get another go at this, I think I can do this a lot better next time.”
Mae went through a difficult divorce from her first husband only six months following this birth, leaving her to be a single parent to her firstborn son. In her mid-thirties, Mae met and remarried a wonderful man. They came together as a family and decided that they wanted another child.
Eight years after her first birthing experience, thanks largely to the keen intuition of her husband, for the second birth, Mae switched from a clinic birth plan to a home birth at 28 weeks. In preparation for home birth, Mae spent a considerable amount of time intentionally repainting the landscape of her mind, from viewing birth as a painful process to a possibly pain-free one. Her teachers were: yoga, meditation, guided relaxation practices, and a whole bunch of wild animals on YouTube that she watched and learned from.
In the end, Mae was able to have an all-natural and almost all pain-free birth in the bathtub at home in Tokyo, assisted by her midwife and husband. Why “almost”? Wait ’til you hear her full story!
Five months after the birth of her second son, Mae lost the love of her life and the father of her children to a sudden traffic accident. The tremendous grief plunged her into the depths of sorrow and isolation for a few years. However, Mae says, “Everything she needs to know about coping with Pain in Life, she learned from childbirth,” referring not only to her wisdom from all of her years as a yoga practitioner, but ultimately from the redemptive birth experience that taught her this: If you can change your mind, you can change your experience.
Mae Yoshikawa Bio
Mae is an author, yoga & meditation practitioner, teacher, and mother. In 2006, Mae became the first Japanese woman to be authorized by the founding school of Ashtanga Yoga in India. Having graced 42 consecutive covers and penning a widely popular column for Japanese Yogini magazine from 2003~2013, Mae helped to spearhead a cultural shift in Japan—making sure that yoga would not be seen merely as physical exercise, but rather as a holistic practice and lifestyle that would restore health and balance to the busy lives of modern people. Currently, she is known as the face of adidas yoga. Her third book (her first in English) is a heart-wrenching and heart-arousing memoir titled Kizuki, which chronicles her experience of finding herself again through grief by metaphorically weaving through her experiences of childbirth and childrearing (coming soon).
Connect with Mae at https://maey.live/ or on Instagram @maeyoshikawa.
Today’s episode is sponsored by Needed. Needed is the leading women’s health supplement brand recommended by nutritionally-trained practitioners. While most perinatal supplements include the bare minimum of the nutrients needed during pregnancy, Needed’s products are based on the latest clinical research and in-practice experience of nearly 4000 practitioners. Needed has all your needs covered, from your prenatal vitamin to pregnancy-specific Pre/ and Probiotics, to egg quality support, sleep, stress, immune and hydration support, as well as your protein needs for blood sugar balance and postpartum healing. Needed’s Complete Plan delivers unparalleled nourishment for every phase — whether you’re trying to conceive, pregnant, or postpartum! Instead of having to pair 6 different products together to meet your needs, I love that Needed has simplified things by bundling together four core products you need, in an easy and flexible monthly plan. Save 20% off your first order of Needed’s Complete Plan or any of their other perinatal nutrition products at thisisneeded.com with code BIRTHHOUR.