Story & Art by Ayami Kazama
Translated by Julie Goniwich
Lettering by Abigail Blackman
Manga essays have received a growing amount of attention in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Stories such as Nagata Kabi’s My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness have been able to directly depict the personal feelings of their authors while also being incredibly relatable to their readership. Ayami Kazama’s I Don’t Know How to Give Birth! is another manga essay in this vein, but it covers an unexpected topic: pregnancy.
I Don’t Know How to Give Birth! details Ayami Kazama’s personal experiences with childbirth, starting from her attempts at conceiving to the early care of her newborn. Kazama quickly learns how much work goes into preparing for a baby, and discusses each of her milestones in the manga. The road to motherhood is a steep one, and Kazama wants to better educate readers through her story.
What makes I Don’t Know How to Give Birth! such an entertaining read is Kazama’s humorous framing of her struggles. Throughout her pregnancy, Kazama is clearly stressed by the obstacles in her way, but she channels those feelings into the manga’s comedic bits. This doesn’t undermine the severity of her struggles, but rather adds a humanistic touch to the narrative. Kazama’s humor is a reflection of her own personality, and it makes the manga feel genuine and personal. Kazama also uses humor to explore the deeper questions around her pregnancy, particularly her motivation for wanting a child and her perception of motherhood. Early on, Kazama explains that it was mainly her husband who wanted a child, but during her pregnancy, she begins to form her own reason to be a mother. Kazama often tackles these sections by comparing her feelings to that of an animal’s instincts, creating amusing analogies to convey her opinions to readers. I Don’t Know How to Give Birth! perfectly balances its educational messages and humor, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining manga.
Kazama’s artwork is simply adorable. The innocent and round faces of her characters make the manga immediately charming and easily approachable. A lot of visual gags come from Kazama’s in-story reactions. Kazama’s mannerisms will drastically change based on her mood, emphasizing the severity of her challenges. When talking about animals, Kazama is also occasionally depicted as a mother lion, which leads to a number of hilarious panels and scenes. Like it’s story, I Don’t Know How to Give Birth!’s art has a personal touch that allows readers to sympathize and relate to Kazama’s life.
I Don’t Know How to Give Birth! is a fantastic manga that explores the struggles of motherhood through a lighthearted and informative lens. Kazama’s story is incredibly entertaining and readers will find it easy to invest in her journey. I hope we see more of Kazama’s autobiographical work in English, because I will be sure to pick it up!