I am a midwife, childbirth educator, lecturer, doula, and natural mother of eight children. This is not a medical reference; I do not proclaim to give medical advice. Anything stated here is from personal experience, research, study, and opinion. Each woman has the responsibility to do her own research, consult with her own medical team, and make her own decisions about pregnancy and birth.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Baby number six...My first baby with my Saudi husband!

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

Haider's Birth Story
Alexandria, Egypt
April 2, 2007

Although my ex-husband wasn't much of a labor partner, at least he had taken childbirth classes with me and was present at each of my births. This time would be different.  My Saudi husband wasn't interested in participating in the labor and birth and preferred not to be there. This was heartbreaking to me, but what could I do?  I was in another land, half way around the world from "home" and the culture was different.  In this place, birth was "women's business" and men simply didn't get involved.

I hope you enjoy reading these birth stories.  Please let me know if you'd like to share yours. Now on to the story...Baby number six...My first baby with my Saudi husband!... 
I had divorced and remarried between Rayan and Haider's pregnancies. Now I was living
in Egypt. I was five months pregnant when I made the move overseas. I was concerned
about the quality of health care and of delivering my baby in a "third-world country."

I did like my new doctor in Egypt. She was kind, listened to me, and respected my wishes
in regards to my birth plan. I discussed having the baby at home, but she advised against
it. "Unlike the States," she warned, "we don't have good medical transport or emergency
facilities. If you rush in as an emergency case, you may not receive the care you need."

Despite her warnings, I tried to find a midwife. I was unsuccessful. It seemed home births
were unheard of in this country. Well, home births by choice that is. The very poor
women in the country have babies at home without assistance all the time. But that's
because they don't have any other option.

Determined to have a home birth this time, I searched for childbirth classes online. I figured
if I could find a
childbirth class instructor, she'd know who to contact for assistance with a home
birth. I was disappointed to find that there was no one listed in Egypt, or anywhere in the
Middle East for that matter. I began to seriously think about becoming a
childbirth class
instructor myself.

When Haider's birth day came, my husband was working in Saudi Arabia. He had
planned to come home in two days, but Haider wasn't waiting! My water broke at 6:00

a.m. When I called my husband, he said, "I'll catch the first flight after my meeting. Can
you wait until evening?"

"I doubt it," I told him, "just get here as soon as you can."
I proceeded to wake the five older children. I got the four school-aged kids ready for
school. I called a friend, Dina, to come sit with Rayan, who was now four years old.

Dina arrived with another friend of ours, Hanifa, at 7:00 a.m. I was shocked to see Hanifa,
but glad she came, as she had a car and offered to drive me to the doctor's clinic. I had
planned on walking or catching a taxi.

At 7:30 a.m. I sent the older kids out for their bus. I expected Dina would stay at my
house with Rayan, while Hanifa dropped me at the clinic. But they had other plans. Both
of the women accompanied me to the clinic.

It was 9:00 a.m. when we arrived. Another friend, Anissa, was waiting for us and she had
brought her neighbor, whom I had never met before. I was surprised to see them both.

I was uncomfortable with all these people in my labor room. I had never shared my births
with anyone besides my husband and necessary medical staff. I focused on relaxing my
body and tried to keep quiet as they all watched me labor. I was especially aware of the
need to keep calm as my four-year-old son was also present.

My doctor came in at 9:30. I was relieved when she asked everyone to leave the room as
she checked me. I was fully dilated. She had me follow her to a back room for the
delivery. This was the first time I had ever been "taken back" for delivery; in all of my prior
experiences, the labor and delivery were in the same room. The table for delivery was
extremely uncomfortable. Never before had I had my feet strapped in stirrups for delivery.
To make things worse, the table was at an almost 90 degree angle. It was the most
uncomfortable and unnatural position for birthing! I told the doctor, "I don't know if I can
deliver in this position."

I had to push hard and I screamed a lot, but I was able to deliver Haider within twenty
minutes. By 10:00 it was over. Once again I was glad to hear that I hadn't torn and
wouldn't need any stitches. I asked the doctor, after the delivery, "Had Mohammed been
here, would he have been allowed in the delivery room?"

"No," she replied, "we don't allow anyone in the back. That's not a common practice in
Egypt." I was somewhat glad he hadn't been with me that day, because I would have
been really upset when I realized that he wouldn't be able to be with me for the delivery.
Since he wasn't there anyway, it was not an issue.

I wasn't impressed with the nursing staff, nor the cleanliness of the clinic. But I did
appreciate that they didn't have a nursery and no one tried to take my baby out of my
room. By noon we were discharged. I was home by 1:00 p.m. and waiting for the older
kids when they got home from school.

My husband never did make a flight that day. By the time he finished his meeting I had
delivered the baby. He decided to stick with his original ticket and arrived two days after
the birth.

Haider nursed until he was twenty-five months old. By then Faris was one month old...and on to the next birth story...


  1. oh, subhaanAllah... stirrups and sitting down... why did you accept that? what if you refused the stirrups? I just can't imagine being in that position... what other birth plan accomodations were you able to get, such as IV/fetal monitoring etc? Alhamdolillah that they didn't try to knock you out or take the baby away quickly for washing. Can you mention the name of the doctor (at least first name) and clinic in Alex?

  2. Asalam Alaikum,

    Thanks so much for you comment. If I had been as educated then as I am now, I certainly would not have accepted that birthing position! I am a bit stronger-headed now!

    I did not have an IV nor fetal monitor. But I don't think they even have fetal monitors where I deliverd. It was more of a clinic than a hospital. I did not have episitomy and my baby stayed with me and never left my side. I went home two hours after birth.

    I'm so grateful that my doctor respected my wishes and did not initiate any medical interventions. I love her so much for that! In fact, I've recommended many of my friends to her and they've all been very happy.

    I wouldn't recommend the birthing clinic where I deliverd, but I do recommend the doctor. Her name is Dr. Mona Barakat. I also highly recommend Dr. Hana Abo Kassem. Dr. Hana has taken great steps to learn the Bradley(r) Method and is very willing to assist in natural birth. I love her as my sister!

    Both are in Alexandria. Dr. Mona is at an IVF clinic in Miami. Dr. Hana works at The Suzanne Mubarak Centre on the Corniche in Ramleh Station Square.

    You can email me at aisha_alhajjar@yahoo.com if you'd like more information or phone numbers. I'd be happy to put you in contact with them.

    Thanks again for your time to read and comment.

    Best regards,

    -Aisha, Natural Mom

  3. Stacey Umm TasneemJanuary 16, 2011 at 1:21 AM

    Assalaamu alaikum Aisha,

    When I moved here to Saudi I was 8 months pregnant with #3. I had been planning my dream home birth back in VA until we arrived. I was determined that I would not deliver lying on my back, feet in stirrups. I met a few drs before settling on one. Alhamdulilah after some discussions, she allowed me to try squatting to deliver. One push and out popped my baby. he fell on the bed bc my dr wasn't ready. She had never seen a baby delivered like that before. Alhamdulilah I was able to do it and maybe show her something new. When I had #4 I did the same. I always tell friends to go to her and they mention my name. She always says, :"Oh... one of Stacey's friends..." At least she knows that they aren't the typical Saudi patients then, lol.

    1. As salamu aalaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh sister, which Dr is it and which location in ksa

  4. Wa alaikum asalam, Stacey,

    JZK for sharing your experience and for blazing the trail for others!

    Frankly it baffles me that an obstetric doctor can go through all their training wihtout learning that the squatting position is the most natural and best for birth and the supine position (flat on the back) is the absolute worst!

    Obviously, I'm on the extreme natural side...whereas many doctors are on the extreme intervention side. A happy medium would be nice...where natural is at least recognized by doctors and even promoted (in absence of complications)...if that were the case, maybe I'd be more trusting of their advice if complications occur and less likely to avoid them all together!

    Please do write up your stories. I have blog space just for you. :)

    Best regards,

    -Aisha, Natural Mom

  5. UmmuYahya SultaanahMarch 22, 2011 at 6:41 AM

    Lovely to read these stories and comments mashaaAllaah. BarakAllaahu feekunna!

  6. Salam alaikum, UmmuYahya Sultaanah,

    Jzk...so glad you enjoy them! May Allah bless all the Muslimah sisters with easy births and healthy babies that are pleasing to HIM and their parents!

    Best regards,

    -Aisha, Natural Mom

  7. Subhanallah, it makes me sad to read this because I am pregnant and living in a small town in Egypt. I have been shocked and appalled by the lack of cleanliness and sanitation at medical facilities here, let alone the ridiculous work ethic of the doctors and staff. Any woman who lives in our town goes to the nearest city 1-3 days before her "due date" (ha ha!) and stays with family or something until she is in labor. Then, she has to drive around the city in a tuk tuk looking for a doctor's office that is not too booked to take her! And the road between here and there is very bumpy and very rough and it takes an hour, minumum! After going there a few times and meeting with a few doctors, I said no way, Jose! I wanted a natural homebirth the day after my daughter was born via pitocin and now God has given me the chance. There is a hospital here in our town, but (as I am sure you know...) it is hardly an excuse for a hospital. a few times now we have been and there were people literally DYING while the doctors smoked cigarettes and chatted it up outside. Insane! I have been told of a few great midwives and we are gonna work hard to find an experienced one. Someone who speaks English is a nearly hopeless cause, but hey. This is Egypt! ha ha

  8. Umm Dayo, wow, you've heard of a few great midwives in Egypt?! like traditional village midwives? What village are you in? (I'm in Alex).