“You’ll have such cute babies!” My husband and I heard this from the moment we started dating. It was usually the first thing out of someone’s mouth as soon as they realized that my partner was Japanese. I couldn’t help wondering if people would be so excited about my future offspring if my partner were Black like me.
As it turns out, we did have really cute babies—but that’s not the point. Before I was even thinking about kids, I learned that there were already expectations for them based on their parents’ ethnicities. The weight of that expectation didn’t hit me until years later when I found myself pregnant and living in Japan.
The best laid plans
When my husband and I made the decision to leave the U.S. and move to Japan indefinitely, we had big plans. It was a great career move for us both and a good opportunity to enjoy everything Japan had to offer, just the two of us.
Life, however, had other big plans.
The week before I was set to fly out to Japan, I found out I was two weeks pregnant. I felt a mix of excitement, anxiety and complete disbelief about the timing. Life had taken a detour, but it was to someplace I wanted to go eventually, so I rolled with it.
What I didn’t anticipate were the mental obstacles along the way, ones that were much harder to get around than the actual obstacles of dealing with my first pregnancy in a foreign country.
One day while waiting at my clinic, I looked around and was suddenly aware that not only was I having a baby, I was having a baby in Japan as a foreigner—specifically a Black foreigner. I’d remembered my own experiences being the only Black child in my first-grade class and the microaggressions or racism I’d experienced throughout life. I asked myself, “Is that what I’m getting my child into?” This was the beginning of the downward spiral of worst-case scenarios that I expected before my child was even born.
I’d carried my emotional baggage from the U.S. with me to Japan and handed it off to my kids.
Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I was under a lot of pressure to not just be as good as my peers, but better. By the time my first child started preschool in Japan, I expected the same of her. I feared that any mishap would be blamed on her Black heritage. Non-minority parents of biracial children in Japan may have similar worries, but the difference was my frame of reference that was based on my own experiences. I’d carried my emotional baggage from the U.S. with me to Japan and handed it off to my kids.
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