I Don’t Know How to Give Birth! Is a manga that does exactly what it says in the title. That’s not meant to be glib. Manga and light novel titles from Japan are shockingly direct when it comes to telling us exactly what they’re about. Writer-artist, or manga-ka, Ayami Kazama tells the autobiographical stressful story of her pregnancy in every single stage, all the way to the birth of her daughter and the stress of dealing with a baby for a first-time mother
There’s an educational component to the story. Asami Kazama starts out with the confession that before she went to university, she didn’t even know where babies came from. Once she and her husband decide they want kids, she discovers the hassles and horrors she needs to go through in order to be able to get pregnant.
The Horror… The Horror… The Comedy!
Manga artists habitually do not draw themselves in a flattering light. They often portray themselves as immature and rather silly. It’s probably a disarming technique, pre-emptive self-effacement.
In other words, she turned her entire ordeal into a goofy comedic manga saga. She’s in total command of the medium as she transforms her story into an utterly farcical, goofy, slapstick comedy of screaming, crying, hormonal lunacy. There’s a surrealism to her drawing herself and her fellow manga-ka husband into cutesy kawaii, occasionally chibi childlike figures freaking out about pregnancy. Underwear disasters, morning sickness, fear of miscarriage, the realization that you are nothing but an animal undergoing natural, uncontrollable biological processes you can’t think your way out of, every imaginable angle of the ordeal of being pregnant is covered here. Kazama had the whole nine months to think about it all, and she relentlessly puts all of it into this comic! And it’s not over once she gives birth. The panel of her pale, stricken face after her baby comes out is both hysterically funny and mildly horrifying. And she shows the first months of motherhood just as unflinchingly as she does the previous nine months of pregnancy. It’s as if she wants us to be as amused, bemused, bewildered, confused, appalled and entertained as she was by the whole ordeal. Even her husband contributes hilarious text entries from his point of view in between the chapters that complement her experience. Hopefully this was therapy for her.
If you didn’t know much about pregnancy or childbirth before, you will emerge from reading this manga knowing everything about it, whether you want to or not.
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