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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Choosing Your Birthing Culture

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim
Masha'Allah, this story is a beautiful reminder of our responsibility for making choices about our pregnancy, labor, and birth.  I'm so happy to share this mother's journey to the natural birth she knew was right for her and her baby.

Although not a "Bradley Method®" birth, the story reminds me of a statement in the Bradley Method® Student Workbook, "Educated parents have the responsiblity to make these choices themselves and to hire the personnel who will support their choices.  This takes considerable effort and sometimes requires changing your situation or traveling great distances to seek the safest possible birth."

I hope you enjoy this birth story.  Please let me know if you'd like to share your own.  Now on to the story...Choosing Your Birthing Culture...
Salam alaikum,

My name is Umm Adam and I would like to share my birth story with you.

Finding out that I'm pregnant

It was last year in spring, when I found out that I was expecting my first baby. I had been living in KSA for almost a year and was thinking about where I was going to deliver the baby. So I started collecting information online and asked other women about their experiences with doctors and hospitals here in KSA.

I was horrified when I heard stories of really bad birthing experiences, due to the fact that births seem to have been “automatized” in this country, as in many places in the world. There is this wish to schedule a birth and make it calculable and to make it fit into our busy lives. So doctors recommend having cesareans, because they are more convenient for them and some think they are also easier for the mother than a natural birth. And even during vaginal births nurses and doctors tend to give medication to the women, even if this is absolutely not necessary.

Women have become afraid of a natural birth and the pain that comes with it. They have been made to believe that they are unable to deal with it. Nothing could be further from the truth! Our bodies have been designed to have pregnancies, to give birth to babies and to feed and nurture them. I was absolutely sure about that, which is why I did not in any case want to have a cesarean, if medically not necessary, nor have pain killing drugs.

So I decided to give birth in my home country, Germany.  Every birth in Germany has to be accompanied by a midwife, that is by law. Whereas the presence of a doctor is optional. Midwives there are usually trained in natural medicine, herbal remedies, acupuncture, massages etc. and promote natural, unmedicated births.

My pregnancy

The first 4 months were horrible. I didn't believe morning sickness would ever end. But it did, alhamdulillah, and then the enjoyable part of my pregnancy started. I was doing just fine, until about 9 weeks before my EDD (estimated due date).

I started having minor cramps all of a sudden which would come and go. I thought those were Braxton Hicks contractions and didn't pay much attention. But they started to occur more frequently and were getting stronger, so I decided to consult my doctor here in KSA.

My appointment was about 6 weeks before my EDD and I was planning to travel to Germany two days later. The doctor didn't seem very worried at first when I told her about the cramps. But I insisted on a vaginal examination to have the cervix checked. She checked me and told me my cervix was 2 cm and already open, about the size of a fingertip.

“Great,” I thought, “she will probably not allow me to travel by plane two days later.” I needed a medical report from her for the airline in order to be allowed on the plane. I was devastated. “So what about my plans to travel?” I asked her carefully. She knew that I was planning to stay with my family in Germany and to deliver there.

“Ok, I'll let you fly,” she said, “but from now until the day of your flight you need to really give yourself some rest and move as little as possible.” I promised to do so and was so relieved that she hadn't objected.

Two days later I was on the plane to Germany, where I arrived safely, alhamdulillah. But those contractions still occurred.  I consulted my midwife about it. She gave me a homeopathic powder and told me I was wise to have come to her first, instead of consulting a doctor, because doctors in those cases usually admit women to the hospital right away, where they would have labor induced. So I took the medicine she had given me, and it worked wonderfully, the cramps completely stopped and I was enjoying the last weeks of my pregnancy.

Giving birth

I had decided to give birth in a birthing center, which is a place that is run by midwives only, no doctors. They promote natural births, so they don't do cesareans, nor do they administer any drugs during delivery, except for herbal remedies.

At the first appointment they have a long talk with you, explaining what they can and cannot do for you during delivery, and pointing out the differences to hospitals. Only if they think that you will physically and psychologically be able to have a natural birth, will they admit you to their birthing center.

During the last trimester of pregnancy they do weekly check-ups, where they take about one hour with you, answering all the questions you might have and explaining things like positions during childbirth and childbed. They support several positions during birth and are flexible to change positions anytime you feel like it. They also have a bathtub where you can sit during labor and can even give birth in, if you like.

After the delivery you leave the birthing center about 4 hours after giving birth. For the following 7 days they visit you at home daily, checking on you and the baby, seeing how the nursing is going, how your bleeding is going and answering questions of course. After the first week they come to your home once per week for up to 8 weeks, if needed. All of that is covered by health insurance.

Two weeks before my EDD I started having those cramps again. I didn't think too much of it, since I'd been having them for several weeks prior to that. After I had stopped taking the medicine the midwife had prescribed, the cramps came back. But she told me that was ok, as we were very close to the EDD now.

So one afternoon I started having those cramps again and I was generally feeling tired and exhausted that day. My sister gave me a very relaxing foot massage that evening. After that I went out on the porch for a few minutes. It was November and the air was fresh and cool, just the way I like it. I went to bed early. But before going to bed I called my husband, who wasn't with me in Germany, as he had to work. I told him about the cramps I'd had that day and that I was worried the baby would be born early. He told me not to worry about a thing and that our baby was welcome anytime.

The next day was the day of Arafat. I woke up at around 8:30 and decided to try to sleep for another hour. At 9 o'clock I felt my waters break while I was lying in bed. For one moment I didn't know what that was. This was my first pregnancy, so I had no clue what it would feel like. But all that warm water couldn't be anything else but my waters breaking. I didn't have any pain whatsoever, so I figured the baby would be probably born late that night.

I called my mom, she was at work, and told her what had happened. We agreed that it was time to call the midwife and see what she thought. The midwife told me to give her another call in an hour, since I didn't have any pain at that point.

But within a few minutes my contractions started, they came every 3 to 4 minutes and lasted about 20 seconds. I couldn't believe what was happening. I was expecting to first have contractions every hour or so, before they would come more frequently. But my contractions came every 3 to 4 minutes from the start.

I called the midwife again and told her what was going on. She told me we would meet at the birthing center at 11:30. It was then 9:30. So I called my mom again, told her that we would meet the midwife in two hours and went to take a shower and get dressed. My contractions were getting stronger and stronger, I was starting to lose my breath. At shortly after 10 I called my mom again, she could hear my breath and knew that there wasn't much time left. I told her to hurry up.

About 20 minutes later she arrived at home and found me on my knees in front of the couch, with my arms holding on to the couch, as this was the position that was most comfortable for me. I was screaming with every contraction and noticed that I already felt the urge to push. I couldn't stop it, although I tried at first. But the urge to push was too strong.

My mom called the midwife again and informed her that I was already starting to push and that she was worried we wouldn't be able to make it to the birthing center. The midwife told us to come immediately and to hurry up. The car ride was horrible. I was pushing and screaming and I remember telling my mom that I would never have a baby again. :-)

By now, there were almost no breaks between the contractions and they were very strong. We finally arrived, it was shortly before 11, and I rushed into the bathroom first, as I had the strong urge to use the bathroom. Then I went over into the delivery room, incredibly glad that we had made it. Now the baby could come.

I entered the room and immediately went down on my knees in front of the bed, as I had done at home. My mom and the midwife helped me change my clothes. I had a few contractions in this position and was pushing as hard as I could. The midwife suggested I change my position, as she noticed that the baby was not moving through the birth canal properly. So I laid down on the floor, next to the bed, where she had prepared sheets for me to lay down. I laid on my side, as she had instructed me to, for the next contraction and I instantly noticed that the pushing was much more effective in this position.

We continued that way for several contractions. The midwife kept cheering me up and told me that she could already see a part of the baby's head, approximately as big as a coin. “What?!” I thought, “all of this pushing and she can only see that little?” I was starting to feel exhausted. The contractions were coming strongly and there were practically no breaks in between. As soon as one contraction was over the next one was approaching. I could hardly catch my breath and I was getting tired.

My body must have sensed that I needed a break, because all of a sudden the contractions started to change. They started to become longer but with longer breaks in between. That was exactly what I needed in that situation, just one minute before every new contraction to catch my breath, re-focus and collect all of my strength for the next contraction. I had about two more contractions and then the midwife told me, “We need just one or two more contractions, then we'll be finished. So focus with me now, just two more!”

I remember I was thinking, “I don't have the power for two more contractions, I have to finish it in one.” So with the next contraction I pushed with all the power I could collect, and my son was born!

Alhamdulillah! I was so happy. The midwife laid the baby on my stomach and covered us with towels that she had warmed. We were laying there together, my son on my stomach, and I just thanked Allah and was relieved that the pain was over. My mom and me looked at my little son and were both so happy. It was half past 12.

About 15 minutes later the placenta was born, which was a bit painful, but nothing compared to the contractions before. Then the midwife came to sit next to me, handed me some scissors and told me I could cut the cord if I liked to. So I cut the cord while my mom took a picture. After that we moved up to the bed where we relaxed underneath cozy blankets.

The midwife came again to take care of my tear, as I got torn during the last contraction. After she had finished I told her that I had cramps in my stomach and asked her where those came from. After checking my stomach she said I seemed to have a very active uterus, which was already starting to regress, which was causing the pain.

I continued relaxing with my son on the bed. I had some dates and some very sweet hot chocolate to get my blood sugar up again. That was my first meal that day. Then I chewed some of the date until it was very soft and rubbed my son’s gums with it, as it is Sunnah. After that I started breastfeeding him. He didn't drink very much though, as he was really tired and exhausted and just needed to sleep.
After a while the midwife came back to do the baby's initial check-up. She checked his weight, his length and did the Apgar.

About 4 hours after my son was born we were getting ready to drive back home. We dressed my son, put him in his car seat and left the birthing center. The midwife told us she would be coming to see us the next day. After that she came every day for 7 days, checking on me and my son.

The birth of my son was an extraordinary experience. He was welcomed into this world in a quiet and cozy atmosphere. He was able to spend almost 60 minutes with me before the midwife came to have him checked, so there was plenty of time for our initial bonding. Only hours after he was born we were already able to go back home, where my family welcomed us warmly. There was no stress whatsoever. I really wish every mother could have such a positive experience.


  1. Maashallah what a great birth story!
    In Finland we have similar ways of dealing with labor pain, like the bath tubs and there are many non medical remedies to choose from. Natural birth is definitely easier to accomplish in european countries than here in Saudi!
    Here its like work on an assembly line, you must be done by this hour and not much focus is on the actual experience, its viewed only as a technical procedure..

    Btw Aisha there is something for you on my blog :)

  2. Salam alaikum, Princess Laylah,

    Finland is way advanced in natural birth as compared to Saudi, for sure! You know I'm praying for your birth and can't wait to share your story here (hint, hint). :)

    JZK for the nomination. :) I think I totally missed that you have a blog! I'm linking to yours now under "Blogs I Read"...love it! Do you do the photography for the photo blog too?

    Best regards,

    Aisha, Natural Mom

  3. Maasyaa Allooh..

    May Allooh give every mother such that beautiful experience.. Aamiin

    I would like to share it on facebook, if it just if you don't mind.. Thank you before

    Baarokalloohu fiiki

  4. Salam alaikum Umm Yahya Malda,

    Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Love your dua, ameen!

    I would be honored to find my blog on your FB wall! Jzk!

    Best regards,

    -Aisha, Natural Mom