A former nurse at a hospital in the city of Kumamoto, which has received a sharp increase in the number of calls for help from mothers regarding child-raising, is urging teenage mothers to seek help and not give up on their children.
Yukiko Tajiri, 66, was head of the nursing department at Jikei Hospital, which has installed a controversial baby hatch for mothers to leave children they cannot care for. Last fiscal year, the hospital's hotline for mothers seeking help for childcare problems received 5,466 calls, over 10 times what it received nine years ago. Nearly 20 percent were from teenage mothers, bringing to the forefront the isolation faced by these young mothers.
Tajiri, who has published a book this September on the subject titled "Hai. Akachan Sodanshitsu, Tajiri Desu." (Hello, this is Tajiri of the baby consultation room), calls for teenage mothers to "Treasure both their children's life and their own."
In 2007 the hospital set up the baby hatch and a 24-hour hotline (0120-783-449). A 2013 television drama raised public awareness about the hotline, and on its website the hospital urged mothers to first call the hotline before using the hatch. The total number of calls has risen to about 14,700. The most common problems raised by callers are that they may be pregnant, or that they are pregnant and need help.
In one case, a 16-year-old girl who grew up in the Kanto area in a single-mother household was pregnant. In the eighth month of the pregnancy, the mother sought help. The girl was ready to try to raise the child, but faced financial difficulties and the problem of how to maintain her school studies. She had not wanted to trouble her mother, either, who was busy working to support the family. After meetings with Tajiri and others, the girl gave birth at Jikei Hospital and gave the baby up for adoption.
In another case, a 25-year-old housewife couldn't accept that her child in the womb had a disability, and she wanted to give the child up for adoption. The hospital secured enough time for the mother to think about her situation, and showed her support. The mother later changed her mind and decided to raise the child.
Most of the callers to the hotline remain anonymous at first, but after Tajiri and others listen to the callers' problem and express sympathy, the callers start to reveal their names and where they live, and the particular problems they face come to light, leading to solutions, Tajiri says.
Tajiri retired from Jikei Hospital last spring, but she continues to work as a pregnancy consultant at the office for a lifelong-learning center in Kumamoto. In her recently published book, she writes about how she struggled through her education and devoted her life to nursing and welfare.
Tajiri says, "As someone involved with the establishment of the baby hatch, it is my responsibility to tell people about the importance of life." She also urges young people to become educated about sex so that they can better plan their lives.