“What to do when you’re five days overdue?” This was the question I asked myself on May 18 and the best answer was to pack up the family and go to the beach. Lil’ Z woke up too sniffly to attend her swimming lesson, and we thought the sand and sea would be much more therapeutic for her. It turned out that we all needed that day out in the sun together—to play, relax, and savor our last day as a family of three before expanding to accommodate our new addition. Much like many mornings previously spent on the beaches in Oman, we had fun splashing about and looking for something to discover on the shores around us.
Just before leaving the beach, I took a long walk alone thinking about labor and how it might unfold. We returned home sun-whipped and all crawled into bed for an afternoon nap. Arising first, as I usually do, I headed to the bathroom and felt a small gush of fluid I couldn’t control. I thought it was my water breaking, but in reality it was just the outer layer of my membranes rupturing, as my midwife assured me. She also prepared me for the possibility of labor beginning in the night.
As the day came to a close, I felt cramps on and off that evening and made sure my bags were packed and ready for a sudden departure. Urbndervish and I sat down with my mother-in-law to go over what we would need her to do following the birth. After midnight, I laid down to rest but found myself up and down, drifting between light sleep, then arising to monitor and time my contractions. My labor pattern wasn’t gaining any momentum. Some sensations were strong and short, while others were less intense and spaced out. Even by the morning, there was still no consistency, so I called my midwife to inform her of the night’s happenings and she suggested that I bring my birthing bag to my appointment with her later that day.
By the time of my appointment, there was still no noticeable progress in my labor and my midwife assessed that our baby was in a posterior position. She demonstrated a Rebozo technique to encourage our baby into an anterior position to expedite labor. After about ten minutes of Rebozo, we were sent home to repeat the same every hour. Urbndervish and I did so for the following two hours and then I laid down for a nap. When I woke up, I felt strong sensations every five minutes and managed them in the same manner as I did the night before. My Hypnobirthing readings advised me to take long deep breaths to give my uterus as much room as possible to expand both upward and outward. The visualization was so strong for me that I found myself reaching up along the wall, stretching myself with every contraction. Elongating myself helped counter the knotting feeling deep within me. Knowing for sure that I was in active labor, I called my midwife again and she planned to meet me at the birthing center in a little over an hour.
As earlier, I packed myself into Urbndervish’s two-seater pick-up truck but this time it felt smaller. There was hardly room for the two of us, my bag of labor snacks, baby bag, and birthing bag. I tried my best to stretch diagonally in the confines of the packed Toyota Tacoma. I arrived at the same time as the birth preparation class students that I shared a classroom with just two weeks prior but I was heading to the birthing suite instead.
Arriving at around 6:30pm, the midwife checked me and I was 7cm dilated with the baby at a +2 station. I asked for a birthing ball and found comfort in Urbndervish’s counterpressure to my back but not for long. As the birthing tub filled, I hoped that it would offer relief to my core where the sensations were most intense. I changed my clothing and mounted the stepstool to climb into the tub and felt a balloon pop inside and fluid gush down my legs onto the floor. Stepping into the tub, the water felt too hot and I asked for the water to be cooled. But with the next contraction drawing close, I needed to do something so I just sat and it surprisingly felt much more comforting than I anticipated.
Settled into the birthing tub, there was nothing left to do but keep breathing and hold on for the ride. By 7:45pm, I was already 10 cm dilated and the baby was at a +3 station. The fact that I was progressing kept me sane and hopeful. The midwife suggested some little pushes but I didn’t respond. I had already made up my mind not to push and just let the baby emerge in his or her own time. There was little that anyone could do to offer any relief, other than massage my right leg which seized with muscle cramps. The long, slow breathing that helped me manage the earlier contractions were no longer helping either. No amount of stretching or movement would help, so all I had left was my voice. Moaning and remembering my Lord were my only recourse. I imagined escaping the birthing tub and climbing out of the window for some relief but that wasn’t an option. I turned from one side of the tub to the other and sank my body into the water but there was only one way out of the tub—with the baby in tow.
In between contractions, Urbndervish put a cool washcloth on my forehead, the midwives monitored the baby and me, and I did my best to catch my breath and speak only as needed with very little small talk. I remember mentioning that they make birth look so easy on Youtube, telling my husband to take off his watch to avoid damaging the wristband, and asking for calcium magnesium tablets to relieve my Charlie horse cramp. As I felt a contraction coming along, I took as deep a breath as I could and moaned on the exhale. When I felt my body pushing the baby down, I panted to slow everything down and resisted the urge to intentionally push. This continued for a little more than an hour until the baby’s head crowned. My moans went from “oh” to “aah” when I felt the baby barreling down but my midwife assured me that all I was feeling was my baby. I also thought of a mantra I heard from a relaxation cd: “this is you experiencing you”. I was in awe of how intense my body’s strength had become and then how I had to counter the urge to push to prevent from tearing. When I could no longer hold the little one back, our baby was received by my midwife and husband a few minutes before 9pm. Finally, our child was born and as much as I thought I would be bawling in joy, I was overcome with relief. Our baby had arrived safely, wailing a good strong cry, with healthy pink color, and robust activity, al hamdu lillah (praise be to God)!
Urbndervish recited the call to prayer in the baby’s ears as is customary and I examined our little one’s full lips, bright eyes, and full head of hair. While talking to our little one, I felt something hanging between the baby’s legs and realized that Lil’ Z was right—we birthed a boy. When the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, Urbndervish cut it and I delivered the placenta. As the midwife and birthing assistant emptied the birthing tub, they helped me shower and make my way to the bed. When our son was placed on my chest again about 20 minutes after his birth, he latched on quickly and started nursing. After he was assessed and dressed, we discovered that he was born 9 lbs. 5 oz. I asked the midwife to check if I tore and she saw a tear so small that it didn’t require stitches. I was grateful that I was advised not to push by the birthing stories of others, as well as my hypnobirthing readings.
After making some calls, eating a delicious packed dinner, and relieving myself, I was free to leave whenever I felt ready which was after midnight. Lil’ Z fell asleep before reaching the birthing center, so she didn’t meet her little brother until the morning and it has been an absolute love affair ever since.
Recovering from this birth was so much healthier and quicker than my first. The effort and expense to leave Morocco prematurely and give birth in the U.S. were significant but more than worth it. The support of our family and friends complemented the sensitive midwifery care we received and I left this birth feeling whole and intact on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. Instead of standing over me, telling me what to do, my midwife kneeled by my side, offering her support, confidence, and respect. Both she and her birthing assistant told us that they hadn’t attended a birth like ours in a long time but preferred it over others where mothers actively push. The midwife added that the gentle birth of our son will leave an imprint on his personality and nature in years to come.
Our son, whom we nicknamed Moulay, has been such a joy. He’s very demanding when it comes to nursing and hates to have his clothes removed. But when he’s not tired, hungry, or nude, he is calm, pleasant and inquisitive. He stares with intensity and reaches with purpose. He enjoys tasting the outside air and smiles at the sight of his big sister. With his passport application already submitted, we look forward to the newness he will add to our lives and the adventures to come.