Note: To read the first part of this series, click here.
It’s 4 pm on June 2. This is my due date. I am now 6 cm dilated and at the labor room with my husband, both of us changed into hospital wear. It’s showtime.
Le husband rings up my mom to bring BOBB (my Beloved Orange Bouncing Ball, in case you don’t remember). My poor mom goes up to our room on the 3rd floor and comes back with the certainly not subtle BOBB. She said she was trying to ignore eye contact and hide her face behind BOBB as she walked past other families who were waiting outside the labor and delivery section. They must have been wondering what on earth is this lady doing handing an orange ball to the husband of a woman delivering inside.
Inside, the nurses were amused seeing me bounce on BOBB. One of them was curious and asked about its significance and was quite impressed with it.
The nurses come in three shifts, I begin to be known as the patient with lots of demands. My birth plan seems to have been circulated in the ward and different nurses ask me why I opted for certain things, like no pitocin, saving placenta etc. The nurses were genuinely curious and not mocking me. When they understood how much I’d prepared for this they were all on board. I felt a true sisterhood with them and can’t appreciate them enough for the kindness they showed me in my most vulnerable state.
My doctor had left for a function and would not be delivering my baby. In her place comes another doctor. The first thing she tells me is “I’ve been told you have a lot of demands. Tell me what they are.” I could sense that she was already a bit upset about a patient having demands, but since she was smiling and hadn’t said anything outright I let it slide. I told her my main priorities and then turned to my husband and asked him to give her the printed birth plan so she can see the entire list. To this, she says “I don’t have time to read lists now just tell me I’ll hear it” This was the first red flag. At this point, I was trying my best to keep a positive mind frame so I decided not to get confrontational. Instead, I go point by point and tell her my needs during and post delivery. She says okay and leaves.
In the last two months of pregnancy, I used to listen to hypnobirthing audios on YouTube. One of the reminders in it kept me positive- Each surge I felt was taking me closer to my baby. I reminded myself with each contraction that this was me crossing one wave after the other to reach the shore. The beautiful shore- my baby.
Whenever the pain got too intense I would go down on all fours and my husband would exert pressure on my back. It was such a relief at that time.
After some time the attending nurse does another examination. This time it is very uncomfortable. For the first time, I feel like I can’t do this. Once it’s done, I get up and lean into my husband and cry as he holds me. I didn’t want to cry but I felt so frustrated and tired. He hugged me and reassured me that I am doing really well. He then cracked a few jokes that made me laugh and get back into the groove again.
For me, everything seemed to be right on track. Then around 7:30 pm the doc comes and starts rushing things. She begins saying loudly how she needs to be home by 9 pm and how everyone- all the nurses and attending docs etc are getting delayed because of me. She doesn’t say this to me, but it’s loud enough that I can hear. She asks the nurses to check the fetal heart rate. It’s still stable so she can’t say much other than that this is going to take a lot of time if we continue at the same pace.
She keeps talking about being late. Then, I don’t remember what exactly triggered it, she paces in and asks the nurses to set up the bed. The stirrups come up, lights come out, everyone’s running here and there setting up station. I couldn’t bear the back pain in the lying down position so I ask them to let me labor on my knees. It was also one of my requests in the birth plan- to labor in a position I am comfortable in. But they refuse. The pain from that ridiculous position was worse than the contractions, I felt like an overturned turtle and it threw me off the focus I had built up to that point. I felt completely out of control.
The doctor then comes and does another examination and this time and I feel my water bag burst.
Then begins the chant of “Mukk”. Roughly Mukk means “push to poop” in malayalam. It’s what you do when you are constipated. The nurses and doctor ask me to “Mukk” with each contraction. If I was not in that much pain I would have laughed.
I try pushing but it’s just not happening. The doc keeps talking about the fetal heart rate and how it’s dipping. She doesn’t address it to me, she’s saying it to my husband but obviously saying it loudly so I can hear her.
By now the pushing, the excruciating back pain due to that unnatural position, and the screaming were tiring me out. At this point, the doctor takes my husband aside and starts throwing medical jargon at him. She tells him there’s failure to progress here and the baby may suffocate.
She asks if I want to introduce a little Pitocin in the drip so the contractions would bring the baby down. I say okay because I was so done with pushing at that point. What I didn’t imagine was how much more worse pitocin would make it. Within seconds the drip hit me and I was screaming my lungs out. I honestly felt like I was going to die from that pain.
I kept trying to push and there seemed to be no progress. At one point I stopped and asked doctor can I do it? Can you see her? All I needed was some encouragement, a tiny push. She could have said something to motivate me but instead, she stays silent for a moment and then says I will tell you if you can do it. Even in that pain, I could sense her animosity and her need to just make us look ridiculous for having the audacity to hope for a natural, intervention free birth.
In my mind, there were thoughts running now of giving up and asking for a c section. But something kept me from saying those words aloud, even in the moments when I was screaming “I can’t do it”. Looking back, I know that if I had so much as whispered that thought out loud I would have wheeled in for an emergency c section.
My husband understood that the doctor’s attitude was affecting me. So he started stroking my head and telling me “You can do it naaz” over and over. He said it loudly so it would drown out all other noises. I think even the nurses got it and whenever the doctor would step away they would come near me and tell me I can do it.
Le husband kept reminding me to do praise and remember God. I was screaming prayers so loudly…every dua that I could remember. In between my husband would say “you can do it” and I would repeat screaming I CAN DO IT.
After all this, we still were getting nowhere and the doctor asked me if I want to do a vacuum delivery. My husband said, don’t worry Nnaaz, relax and trust the doctor. You can do it. At this point, I completely submitted myself to Allah. And I said ok. Then there was a flurry of action, a nurse climbed up behind me to help me push..other nurses assisted the doctor and she began the suction. They continued asking me to push. The first time it failed and the baby didn’t come out. The second time I felt an intense intense pressure and the head of the baby came out. Then in one fluid motion, the rest of her body slid out. For a fraction of a second there was no sound and then I heard the most beautiful sound I’d heard in my life. My daughter crying. Honestly, the second that sound hit my ears I forgot every bit of pain I’d endured upto that point. My husband rushed to me and said Naaz she’s here. Then they put here in my arms. This screaming, slithering little thing covered in the gooey fluid was my beating heart outside my body, now placed in my arms. I loudly exclaim alhamdulillah and could not stop saying it again and again.
After a few minutes, they take her away from me and tell me I need to push again. The placenta needed to be out. By now the high of my daughter’s birth had given me some energy and I didn’t even feel any pain delivering the placenta.
After that, I started shivering, to the extent that my teeth were chattering and legs shaking. I continue doing adkhar and thanking Allah.
Soon my husband came back with our daughter. She was wiped and put on my chest. I felt the tears streaming down my face and couldn’t stop looking at her beautiful face as she gazed back at me, this squirming little bundle with an unruly mop of jet black hair. How blessed was I that Allah chose me as her mother.
The activity around me had subsided. Everyone was exhausted I guess. I thanked them all for the support they gave me. Even the doctor. (My husband made it a point to thank only the nurses and not the doc, lol)
Le husband was like a gleeful child rushing back and forth between the nicu and the labor room. He had finally fallen in love with this little thing. He told me later that when they took her away for the first time she was wailing (as babies do) then he started cooing to her, calling her by name, and she stoppd crying. She recognized his voice, mashaAllah.
Once the stitches were done I got to feed baby Z. Again, couldn’t stop crying. After two hours in recovery, I was showered, changed and wheeled back into my room. In this time my husband had given the adhaan (call to prayer and success) in Z’s ears and shown her to our nervous family waiting outside.
The rest of the events are a daze for me.
They gave us the placenta as per request. It is now buried in our garden. On top of that spot, we planted a mango sapling, which inshallah will grow with my little Z, rooting her to where she came from.
Alhamdulillah. I cannot thank Allah enough for what we have been blessed with. Allah gave me the best outcome in all respects. I feel the bond with my husband stronger. He was my rock and pillar in that truly helpless time and I won’t forget that. I also realized that my biggest blessing is my family. Their selfless love in doing everything they can to make this transition into motherhood smooth for me continues.
The best thing that happened was that my daughter came into this world surrounded by pure love and lots of prayers. As she grows I’ll make sure she knows that always. Inshallah
Some take aways from this whole experience:
1. While medical advancements have saved the lives of millions of women during labor and delivery, it’s sad that now doctors don’t think twice before intervening in a low risk delivery that can proceed at a normal pace. Interestingly, the word “Obstetrics” (the Ob of Ob/Gyn) is derived from a word that means to stand opposite/stare. They are meant to observe and intervene only when required. Yet pregnancy is made to seem like a disease these days, where every stage is micromanaged. The mother is supposed to be the primary agent in this journey but now it’s the doctor running the show from start to end.
There’s a greater push towards surgery by scaring unaware and terrified new parents by unloading medical jargon on them. It’s shocking to note that in some southern Indian states the rate of c sec is as high as 60%.
2. That said, trust your medical team. I know it might seem like I am pissed at the whole medical fraternity, but at the end of the day they did deliver a healthy baby and kept me safe. I am happy I chose to trust their competence in keeping us safe. I am especially grateful to the nurses who did such a wonderful job from start to finish. Not one of them said a negative word, instead they kept telling me that only I can deliver my baby. Even post partum all of them were so lovely. Our nurses truly do not get enough credit.
3. Go into pregnancy and labour knowing what’s going to happen. Educate yourself. Research. Hire a doula or attend classes. Let not misinformation hold you from having the birth experience you deserve. Know that your body has reserves of strength you don’t know about until the need arises.
4. Engage your spouse and family from the beginning. Educate them, talk to them of your fears and hopes. Having them with you as partners and advocates at one of your most vulnerable time will be the best support mechanism you can ask for. Le husband’s presence and support made such a difference in my experience. I dont know what I’d have done without him constantly by my side, urging me on, feeding me, telling me I can do it.
5. It’s all about the mind. Keep a positive mindset from the very beginning. Don’t let negativity come anywhere near you. Tell your self “I can do it!”
6. At the end of the day, trust and submit to God completely. He knows what’s best for you. He has your back. Know that and take strength from that. Whatever your mode of delivery, wherever you deliver, how much ever time you take, what matters is you get a healthy bundle of joy in your arms. Your own little “good news”.
Note: This is the final part of this post named “The Great Indian Birth Story” written by an Indian Muslim writer Nazreen Fazal. This story was reproduced on Dunya Blogs with the permission of the writer.