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.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

No More Epidurals!

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim
I love this mother's journey and dedication to natural, non-medicated birth, masha'Allah!  I pray that all sisters can learn from her experiences and find the dedication and courage necessary to birth naturally.

The thing that stands out for me is, sadly, the mother, her husband, and her mother would have benefited so much from childbirth education classes.  I feel for her husband and mother as unprepared labor companions often feel at a loss for what to do.

I hope you enjoy the story and will consider contributing your own!  Thanks to this sister for sharing!  Now on to the story...No More Epidurals!...

I was pregnant with baby number three and determined not to undermine myself and my capabilities as a woman.  I convinced myself, for the third time, that I will do this naturally, without any pain medication, insha'Allah. 

This time I was having a baby boy, after having two girls, and my pregnancy was a good one, alhamdulelah.

I think I should mention a bit of personal information as well as history. I am not very good at pain tolerance; I never had painful periods and I have a low threshold for pain overall. 

Baby Number One

For my first child I wanted to birth her naturally, without any pain medication because I believe this is the ultimate proof of womanhood. So it was a personal challenge. 

Sadly, I failed for two reasons: 

  1. I was uneducated about being pregnant and we couldn't afford prenatal classes or a midwife.
  2. I had no support or help from family members since they belong to a generation which believe, "the doctors will handle everything and let you know everything."
I lived in a different country from my mother who, herself took pain medication to birth me, an only child. I had no one else except my husband, who obviously is a man, and thus even more clueless than I was.

After 12 hours, I was not dilating, not even one scrawny centimeter and my water had broken since the beginning.  Being in a medical environment, they obviously gave Pitocin to speed my labor.

The pains came on fast and furious and I couldn't handle it.  I was screaming; the nurse was angry with me, saying she can hear me down the hall; and my husband was with me not knowing what to say or do. So, epidural it was. 

I slept for three hours then magically awoke to baby engaging and in 10 minutes she was out with only a few pushes. Yes, I tore. The wonderful thing about the hospital was that there is a policy that they do not perform episiotomies. So I guess among all the negatives there was a positive. 

Baby Number Two

With my second child, my mom was holding my hand.  She was totally speechless (poor her, you should've seen the frown on her face from not knowing what to do or say).  My husband was not there and I was scared. 

I was dilated to five centimeters and couldn't take the pain. I still wanted to do it naturally but again, I hadn't educated myself.  I didn't know what to do or how to manage the pain and I was crying. 

So naturally, I took the epidural again. I slept, baby came out soon enough with a few pushes and I tore...again. This birth was shorter in length, about 12 hours long. 

After these births, the shooting pains up my back which followed was too much to desire an epidural for my third birth. Alhamdulillaah, I had a gym membership and the back exercises helped eliminate the pain after a long time. 

I knew that women have been through childbirth without epidurals since the beginning of time and lived to tell the tale. Why couldn't I do it too? I felt like a failure.  Not to mention thinking about my health. 

Preparing for Baby Number Three
So I reverted to my first and second plans for natural, non-medicated births. I mentally prepared myself for it this time. I spoke to women I knew about their unmedicated births. 

A friend I knew had her baby in one hour from the onset of her contractions.  She said it was so painful, but she had to push it out and afterward had no pain, alhamdulillaah. She said she was reciting dhikr (praises and remembrance of Allah) and making a lot of duaa (supplication to Allah) that got her through.

I told myself I could do this and I was determined that I would do this, insha'Allah!  I felt that I needed my husband there with me. In addition, I had to psyche myself into not taking the medication and reaching the irreversible dilation.  

I prepared for when the nurse would ask me if I wanted medication.  I knew that I would have to  keep saying no, until I reached that point where I could break down, longing for it, but couldn't have it- the last lap of the labor. 

However, I didn't let my husband know this. I felt that I had to do this on my own. Last but not least, I learned a special duaa to recite from the beginning of labor, the "duaa for ease."

It was an overall normal pregnancy, normal pains, normal fatigue, normal hormonal episodes. I was heavy due to my untoned, weak muscles and down to the last weeks I was having a lot of pressure and pain. No false contractions, just the normal dull pains of the baby being in selfish positions.  I was ready for the baby to come out, although they are much easier being in (at least that's what I think!).

Almost Time for Birth!

Finally my 39th week arrived and 3 days before my due date those contractions began.  It was not long after the Fajr prayer (morning prayer for muslims). I started walking at the onset of labour and reciting the duaa. I didn't speak otherwise unless necessary.  I just kept repeating the duaa. 

I made breakfast for the two older kids while getting my things ready to go to the hospital.  Then when my contractions were seven minutes apart I decided it was near time to go to the hospital.

The pains were coming on stronger and I knew I was dilating. I could feel my cervix opening with each contraction, as if a vice was there and forcing it open, masha'Allaah! Due to previous epidurals, it was a feeling I had never felt before! So that's what dilation feels like, huh!?!

Off to the hospital my husband and I went.  My in-laws had come over to look after the kids, alhamdulilah.  I was grateful that my husband could be with me for the birth.  

When I got to the labor room, I continued my walking and reciting and stopped to hold on to the table during contractions. My water hadn't broken yet.  When the doctor came in he broke it for me to encourage the labor to progress quickly.  I didn't mind this. 

The nurses assumed I would be many more hours and thought to send me home, but the doctor said he didn't want me giving birth in the car.  It was my choice to stay.

Luckily I listened to him.  I didn't want to go back home when I too knew that I was progressing quickly.  Besides this, I really didn't want to give birth at home as I was not prepared for it and the hospital is a personal comfort for me (I will explain why).

My Faith in Doctors

Since I was a child, my father would take me to the doctor.  Even at one am,  just for a fever.  Thankfully, the doctor lived just a few houses away. 

In a third world country, the villages and towns bore people of warmth and hospitality. So every time I got ill, I was taken to the doctor.  Our doctor was no ordinary doctor.  He would give the conventional medicine then tell us, "If you want to take yuh bush-medicine, feel free, it eh go kill yuh."

I love him to death! He was my doctor until the day I left my country.  Because I knew him to be a comfort when I was ill, I associate him with every doctor's office or hospital. 

Naturally, I feel safe in a hospital environment.  However, after being in this country, I have been weaned off conventional medicine and it wasn't by personal choice! The doctors here do not give ANY medication to a sick pregnant woman except for acetaminophen and amoxicillin...if you end up in a walk-in clinic or your virus is persisting more than three days and you're not improving. 

Another medicine called diclectin which is solely for nausea experienced during pregnancy is given and it is only a B vitamin-Antihistamine combo drug, only sold in Canada. It really works!

Children under six years of age also are given nothing when they are ill and parents are discouraged from using even acetaminophen for fever. They encourage the use of cool towels and letting the child's immune system rid the body of fever. 

I have found that some doctors even encourage the herbal remedies and the major pharmacies carry herbal medications, masha'Allaah. It's so ironic because if you do happen to dodge your family doctor and go to a walk-in-clinic, THAT'S when you will get bombarded with antibiotics etc. by the immigrant doctors. Anyway, back to my story.

Birth of Baby Number Three
After only two hours, I was past seven centimeters. My husband had worked the night shift and was exhausted.  It was daytime so I let him sleep until I really needed him. Soon enough, when I couldn't stand anymore, I woke him up and asked him to take me to the shower.  I hoped that would help as I had never tried this before. 

I couldn't stand there either. The pain was too much and the water on my back was irritable. So I asked him to help me out and I finally went onto the bed. I lay down; he sat next to the bed and held my hand. 

The nurse came in; saw me; checked me, and told me to lay on my side so that the labor would continue progressing as it was doing. I did so and it kept progressing, alhamdulilah.  

I couldn't recite anymore while lying on the hospital bed so my dear husband picked up where I left off, praying for me. He saw my pain and started whispering to me,"Say what you want. You don't have to be a hero."

I looked at him briefly and said, "No, I don't want any epidural." I continued shaking my head saying no to him and the nurses who were gently suggesting it. Alhamdulilah, this time I had a wonderful nurse.  She was kind and told me to breath through the contractions, not to push, and to relax. 

She helped me when she saw me breaking emotionally.  She showered me with encouragement as she realized I was going to do this naturally. Then the irreversible point came; eight centimeters and I was both thankful and in intense pain. 

My head was becoming dizzy with the pain, tears were rolling out of my eyes; but I was not crying. I kept my voice low (since I didn't want any nurse yelling at me this time).  I kept saying, "Help me please, I can't do this." 

And there she was, the nurse, encouraging me and telling me,"You're nearly there, a few more contractions. You can do this! You're doing great!" Her words did help and they were what I needed to hear. 

I kept looking at the clock which was right in front of me and I thought, "How MANY more contractions?! Two? Ten? If it is ten then I don't know how I'll do this!" My husband held my hand still praying and encouraging me. 

After twenty minutes the baby started engaging. Thankfully that was only about three contractions later. I was not quite ten centimeters, but I wanted to push so badly. 

So THAT is what the urge to push feels like! I was so happy with myself, but I was in pain and was tightly grabbing onto another nurse's arm. Unknowingly, she got angry with me, subhan'Allaah! 

I released her and apologized. Then I refocused on my labor. The kind nurse stretched me because the baby was coming down. I was so thankful she did that because he started to crown.  She was yelling for the doctor to come. 

Finally, he strolled in. I was told to push and as soon as I did the baby came out! It was that quick! The nurse nearly delivered him!

It was over already? Wow. So many things to say now with thoughts rushing through my head at the moment he was born and the things happening around me. 

I was amazed it was over this quickly! I felt no more pain. I closed my eyes and started to relax. It seemed as if I'm lying there and everything around me was moving in fast-forward. It was a priceless time.

My husband kissed me and said, "Look at him! He is so beautiful. He has my nose!" That was super funny since I never thought I would hear him say something like that at that moment. I smiled, barely opening my eyes. I just wanted to sleep. 

The nurses offered him to me as soon as my husband cut the cord.  I refused because I was too tired and just wanted some "me time". They strongly suggested I take him and put him skin-to-skin but I strongly refused and let dad take him so that the adhaan could be recited in his ear. 

The Beautiful Bonding Moments

After he was taken for eye ointment and brought back, I held him. That gave me enough time to want to hold him. Some may say I'm weird or heartless to not take my baby immediately, but I needed to have that little fifteen minute rest to gather myself and my strength to begin nursing my baby, which in itself is a big task (for me). 

When he was brought to me, I started feeding him and the nurses took care of everything else. One more bonus from this birth? I had no tears, so no stitches! What a bonus masha'Allaah. 

I was so amazed at the wonders of my natural childbirth! The birth was only nine hours long and he was my smallest baby so far, 6lbs 11oz (maybe that's why he slid out so quickly and easily?). 

I was so happy with myself now; proud that I did this!  Even from that moment I was anticipating my next natural birth! I was not scared anymore and this was an overall pleasant experience that I wanted to experience again and again, insha'Allah. I had psyched myself into thinking it was going to be much more painful than it actually was so this was another bonus!

After some hours, the nurse came in to give him a bath (I'm grossed out by bodily fluids and didn't want to kiss him and wanted him bathed as soon as possible- as did happen with all my other children when they were born).

She bathed him right next to me. This is how it's done here in the hospital, thankfully. She dressed him and then I got him to kiss-up as much as I wanted! 

They left the hospital bassinet next to the bed and dimmed the lights so that baby and I could get some rest. My husband had to leave due to hospital policy.  I had to stay 24 hours for them to do jaundice and sickle cell testing, also hospital policy.  I didn't mind staying as I knew I would get some rest and not have to deal with my two toddlers at home, in addition to the new baby. 

I like that one night to bond with my new baby and give him undivided attention before returning to the drama the following day. The nurses checked on us routinely and there was the pantry where I could get snacks in between my meals (such as milk, crackers, peanut butter and jelly). It was an unlimited supply! I enjoyed the pampering for this one night. (Generally this is how it works.  I have had the same experience with my previous two births in the hospital:  same routine and pantry access). 

Alhamdulilah, the nurses were trained to be more humane so I did not mind being in the hospital this time.  I felt like I was in a hotel!. Some mothers get a spa day; I get my hospital day when I deliver my baby! That's good enough for me! 

Going Home

I returned home the next day to my two screaming princesses.  They were waiting for their little brother prince to hold and play with like a real doll. I felt like the woman I was longing to be and I couldn't have been happier!

I hope you enjoyed my birth story. I have one more story to tell, baby number four...but let's give someone else a chance before I tell that one, shall we?


  1. Agreed! She has a lot to be proud of! :)

    Best regards,

    -Aisha, Natural Mom

  2. mashaAllah...

    Mabrook for you sister! I'm on my 7th month pregnancy and I can't imagine how will my labor be cause inshaAllah this will be my first childbirth experience. Reading your article gave me confidence that I can be like you in childbirth. Like you said, '... women have been through childbirth without epidural since the beggining of time...' so why can't we?? I'm proud and happy for you sis!

  3. Asalam alaikum, ya Ukhty Chandra,

    Masha'Allah and alf mabrook on your pregnancy! May Allah bless you with an easy birth and healthy baby who is pleasing to HIM and his/her parents, ameen!

    Please click on the Yahoo Group on the right side to join the Natural Birthers in Saudi.

    Best regards,

    -Aisha, Natural Mom