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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Comparing Birth Experiences: USA/KSA/MSR

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim
Amani Sitting in front of a symbol of Saudi in Belgium
I am honored to have been asked to participate in the Mummy in Provence blog series on birth stories from around the world.  I love her project to focus in the differences of birth around the globe.

I hope you enjoy reading this interview about my experiences with birthing.  It is from the perspective of comparison between birthing in the United States, Egypt, and Saudi.  I also hope you will visit the original blog post and browse the many different birthing cultures represented in the series.

Let me know if you'd like to share your birth story on Saudi Birth Story.  It's always an honor and a pleasure to share my readers' birth stories.  Now on to the interview..Comparing Birth Experiences:  USA/KSA/MSR...

This week we go to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as part of the series of The Global Differences of Baby-Making. Aisha, who is originally from the USA, talks about the difference of having babies in the USA, Egypt and Saudia, her role as a natural birth lecturer (amongst other things) and the importance of being informed. Here is her story:

Tell me a bit about yourself? Where are you from? How old are your children and where did you have them?

I’m originally from the United States, but I’m married to a Saudi and live in Saudi Arabia.

I have a myriad of roles:

• Founder of AMANI Birth (Assisting Mothers for Active, Natural, Instinctive Birth)
• Childbirth Educator and Lecturer
• Labor/Birth Doula
• WHO/UNICEF Certified Breastfeeding Counselor
• Columnist and Editor for Saudi Life Motherhood and Parenting pages (www.saudilife.net)
• Saudi Birth Story Blogger (www.saudibirthstory.blogspot.com)
• Freelance Journalist for Arab News
• Home Schooling Mother

It’s not as busy as it seems. I’m blessed to do most of that from home and with my children around me all the time!

My first five children were born in California: Khalid 15, Sarah 13, Amina 12, Salman 10, and Rayan 8. My sixth was born in Egypt, Haider, 4. My last two were born in Saudi: Faris 2 and Amani 9 months.

Why did you have your children abroad?
It just happens to be where we lived at the time of their births. Since my husband is Saudi, we eventually migrated across the globe to his homeland.

What do you feel were the benefits to having children abroad?
First and foremost would be the birthing culture’s understanding of Islamic practice. I find it uplifting and refreshing when medical staff make dua (prayer) or say, “Bismallah (for Allah),” before any exam or procedure.

Also, respect for modesty in the Muslim countries during labor and birth; which was lacking in the first five births in the States. Not to mention, not being treated strangely for making dua (prayer) in Arabic during labor and birth.

As an expectant mother abroad how did you feel?
With the first one (sixth birth), I was very nervous about the quality of care. More than that, I was concerned about the high level of medical interventions routinely performed in the Egyptian birthing culture.

I found a doctor who respected my birthing experience and who basically allowed me to dictate what I did or did not want done. As a natural birth mama, this really was a blessing, especially since Egyptian protocols are not normally so “hands-off” for birth.

Did you encounter any opinions that would have been different in your home country with regards to your pregnancy or parenting choices?
Absolutely! First of all, there is simply no such thing as “informed consent” here. Once you admit into the hospital for birth, it’s as if you’ve handed your body over like you would your car to a mechanic. Questioning the doctor, or asking to be informed about what is going on and why, is often met with annoyed resistance. Patients and their families are met with an attitude that portrays that the doctor is “all-knowing” and whatever is happening is “beyond anyone else’s level of understanding.”

Sadly, it’s common to hear about women who have been “put under” for no reason and without warning just as their baby is about to be born. This and other unnecessary procedures and protocols are carried out without a word or explanation before, during, or after the event.

This is extremely disturbing and frightening for those of us from the West. We realize our birthing culture there is too medicalized. However, in the States we expect some level of respect and information and overall control over decisions made with regards to our care, unless a true life or death emergency arises.

As for parenting, most locals in Saudi and Egypt have no concept of home schooling. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. I could probably write a whole post (or more) just on the cultural differences in parenting.

What advice would you give other mothers in your situation?
Knowledge is power. Get educated, be prepared to advocate for yourself and your baby as well as to make your case (and educate your care provider along the way) for what you want/don’t want done during your birth.

More importantly, don’t assume that the type of care or respect for your decisions is at the same level as your home country. Constant and detailed communication with your care providers is imperative. Also, shop around and ask other expats for their recommendations and don’t just go with the provider your insurance covers. When it comes to birth, it’s better to pay more for the experience you desire, then to regret it later.

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