All of the items for the “Hospital Bag” were washed and prepped but somehow they couldn’t make it into the actual bag. I procrastinated packing the bag for about two weeks, thinking that having the bag ready seemed too real for me. I had a strong feeling that the packing of “the bag” would herald the beginning of labor.
On Wednesday morning, December 1st, I woke up with a dull pain that wrapped around my abdomen and lower back. I was quickly preparing to leave the house with Urbndervish because he invited me to attend his classes that day. I also had a 9:00 am appointment to visit the university’s health center for a follow-up urine test. Not sure if I was experiencing a contraction, I thought it wise to have the hospital bag ready in the event that my labor would start just as I envisioned it- I visit the doctor at the university health center for suspected start of labor, she examines me, and then tells me that I’m 4cm dilated.
Urbndervish was a bit stunned by my sense of urgency to pack this bag but agrees that it can’t hurt. I enjoy a delicious Peanut Butter Jab and we head on the road. On the way to the university, I felt more dull pains; one of which was very strong as we approached the university. I sat with Urbndervish in his office for a bit and headed to the health center. I shared the sensation I was experiencing with the doctor and she told me that I might be starting labor. She conducted an ultrasound and examination with a startled look on her face. She says “Would you believe me if I told you that you’re already dilated 4cm and the baby’s head is engaged?” “Really?” “Yes. The baby’s head was right there. You need to go to Muscat because you might have this baby tonight or tomorrow or the coming days.” She advised me that I have nothing to worry about, just pray and she’ll be praying for me. She told me that the baby’s position and my pelvic span were good, so I shouldn’t be afraid. This bolstered my confidence tremendously; so much so that by the time I reached Urbndervish, just minutes before his class, I already had a strategic plan in place.
“I have to tell you something but don’t freak out, ok?” “You’re dilated.” “Yup.” “How much?” “4 cm.” I assure Urbndervish that I’ll be fine until his classes end two hours later. As I enter his class, the female students are reeling. “Teacher. This your wife? Thank you teacher for bring her.” The girls were giggly and bubbly as if Urbndervish introduced his new, hot girlfriend, not his very pregnant, waddling wife of five and a half years. Occasionally throughout the class we exchange nervous smiles and think of what to do next.
After class, Urbndervish left materials and attendance sheets for a substitute teacher, just in case we had the baby over the weekend. I walked around and casually chatted with the colleagues, not wanting anyone to suspect that I was in early labor. At around 12:30pm, we headed home. I wanted a hearty meal to help me endure the labor. I cooked whole wheat spaghetti with tofu in tomato sauce to eat on the road. We prayed and by 1:30pm, we left the house. At this point, contractions are noticeable though irregular and inconsistent. In the car, I recited Qur’an and then ate. The ride was leisurely while we timed contractions at about every 7-10 minutes. Though somewhat regular, they were still very manageable. Urbndervish was tired, so as we approached the hospital, we stopped for coffee for him and a mango banana smoothie for me.
We arrived to the hospital at around 4pm and waited to be registered but come to find out that the hospital is for Omani patients and government employees only. They wanted to send us to a private hospital about 20 minutes away but traffic in Muscat on the weekend could make the trip much longer. After examining me, they concluded that I was dilated 3 cm and too far along to risk getting stuck in traffic, so they decided to admit me.
My contractions became more intense but less frequent while they monitored the fetal heart rate. I couldn’t wait to get off that bed and walk to pick up the pace of my labor. We got settled in our labor/delivery room, prayed and I started walking the halls. I told Urbndervish to rest because I knew it would be a long night and I would desperately need his energy when mine started to deplete.
I walked the halls back and forth, praying and timing my contractions- coming more regularly but still very manageable. At around 8:30pm, they attach me to the fetal monitor but the contractions slow down. It’s apparent that I didn’t progress much since my arrival and they offer to “break my water” to get things going. I ask them to give me more time to walk and they did.
As I started my second round of walking, the admission nurse stopped me in the hall for a brief word. “If you’re going to walk, you need to walk faster.” “Faster?” “Yes, faster.” Obviously, my usual pregnancy stride wasn’t going to get the work done and I knew I had to prove that I didn’t need to be induced. After this timely advice, I went bolting- it was the fastest I had walked in nearly three months. I felt like my spirit was propelling my forward. The usual aches and discomforts that made walking uncomfortable at times were suspended for my body to do this necessary work.
As I speed-walked, the other mothers-to-be and nurses looked on and smiled, some praying for me as I passed. I could hear the recitation of Qur’an in some of the rooms. I could hear women moaning. I felt like an endurance athlete being refreshed by “breezes of mercy” with every lap. The contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes and much stronger. I can’t say I was in pain (yet). The labor was becoming more intense but I felt my body working progressively towards a desired goal and though difficult, it felt right.
At around 11pm, the contractions started to slow me down, like pulling the reins of a horse. I felt my shoulders throwing me forward but my train was losing steam. I consult with Urbndervish and we agree that I should conserve what remains of my energy. I labored in upright or standing positions with Urbndervish applying strong counter-pressure to my hips during contractions. Still, with Urbndervish’s support, the labor is manageable.
The doctor and midwife returned to examine me. Once lying on the bed, attached to the fetal monitor the contractions got more intense. They examined me and said I was 5cm dilated and proceeded to break my water. I then dilated to 6cm and the contractions were suddenly much more difficult. NOW, I’m feeling pain! Laying on your back is the worst position to labor in! You feel so helpless. All you can do is writhe. Of course, Urbndervish was there but he was pushed to the sidelines because something was wrong. With every contraction, our baby’s heart rate was plunging and taking too long to recover. The young doctor and midwife were obviously nervous and started an IV line to give me more fluids. They bustled around me and consulted a senior doctor for guidance. With each contraction we watched the heart rate plunge and slowly recover. At this point, they explained their concerns to me and suggested a C-section. I wasn’t dilated enough for them to believe that the birth would be soon pending and they couldn’t risk our baby being in distress. At this point, I felt nauseous. The intensifying contractions, the whirl of activity around me, the thought of a C-section- I wanted to hurl. All I could do is pray through the contractions and embrace my circumstances.
I was speedily prepped for the C-section. Once I accepted my fate, I just wanted them to get the anesthesia going. Why add insult to injury by being disappointed AND in pain? They inserted a catheter, I clumsily signed the consent form, the IV line was going, and I was being wheeled to the Operating Room. What else could I do? I believed that they were sincere in their concern for my baby and while I’m a woman of faith, I’m a woman of reason too. Their rationale for the C-section was logical and apparently necessary, though undesirable.
In the Operating Room, I became restless and pined for my husband. He wasn’t allowed in the Operating Room. Now, I’m REALLY feeling helpless and can only continue to make dhikr (prayers of remembrance). As I laid on the “cutting board”, masked faces preparing to rescue my baby, the doctor announced in an excited voice that I was fully dilated and that the baby was close to exiting. She said “Listen to me. If you push really hard, you can have this baby naturally. I’ll have to give you an episiotomy and use a vacuum to get her out because we have to get the baby out quickly.” Then she and the other attendants started yelling commands at me to push. I tried to focus, center myself, and practice the ujai breathing I learned from my yoga dvd, pushing on the exhale. They yelled at me “That’s not how you push!” “Listen to me! Bite your teeth, grab your legs, and bear down!” I understand the urgency and insanity of the moment and resolve that sometimes insane moments are to be met with a little insanity. I followed their commands, still pushing on exhale during contractions. “No! Keep pushing. Don’t stop!” Essentially, they wanted me to hold my breath. This is known as “purple pushing.” I knew the baby was close and pushed like a mad woman. They cheered me on for doing the exact opposite of what many moms and midwives coached me to do when pushing. I felt lots of pressure but eventually my daughter slipped out and I was relieved. I could hear her crying and after wiping her, they showed her to me. She was born just pass midnight.
The moments following the birth were not yet euphoric. I was still in disbelief about what just had and had not happened. As the doctor said, I went from 5 to 10 cm in about 15 minutes. I can only consider this event as an act of God. I was given the opportunity to have a natural birth and appreciated the synergy between my daughter and I during the birth. We both worked hard and were present enough to experience something miraculous together.
Urbndervish was relieved to hear that she was birthed naturally and saw her briefly. After being stitched up, I joined Urbndervish and we received our daughter at around 12:30am. Urbndervish held our baby and recited the adhan (call to prayer) in her right ear. Looking up at them both from the hospital bed, I just bawled. Our daughter had arrived safe and sound. I nursed Lil’ Z and Urbndervish and I embraced, knowing that our baby is a beautiful reflection of God’s generosity towards us and our love for each other. This was the start of our little family of three.
Overall, the birth was a clumsy tango of give and take. The birth was not exactly as we wanted, nor was it exactly as we dreaded. Our destiny laid some place in between and this is the story of life. One of my prayers for the birth was that we would experience the might and majesty of Allah (God) and that we would be drawn closer to the Divine Presence. In the weeks leading up to the birth, I reflected on one of the Names/Attributes of God- Al Fattaah (The Opener). I had reflected on the spiritual meaning of opening possibilities, opportunities, and consciousness, and pondered more literally that God opens wombs that give birth to babies. Our birth story was an opening in more ways than one, and we pray for more “openings” to follow.
The End Beginning.