As you may know, I’ve been wearing hijab for 10 years now. So what I was going to wear, and who I wanted to interact with during Eryn’s delivery was a bid deal. Little did I know we really wouldn’t have time to worry about that.
This is a post about Eryn and how she came into this world.
I LOVED being pregnant. Loved it. Thank God we had an easy and healthy pregnancy. The baby grew right on schedule, my pee sticks were always the right colour, the placenta was in a great anterior position, my blood pressure was normal throughout, and I exercised every day. Alhamdulillah. Sure, I had morning sickness, swelling, sciatic pain, terrible backache… but we were healthy. That’s all that mattered.
I completely and utterly fell in love with the little life inside, and really, never felt more in tune with “my purpose” as a woman. (I’m not saying that women are baby factories. I am saying that personally, I got a little hippy dippy sometimes with the hormones and just felt so damn fertile that flowers would grow in my footsteps as I walked barefoot in the fields. In reality, it was more like I got terribly protective of my belly as I trudged through pedestrian commuter traffic on the subway each day — and growled at anyone who dared to bump the bump.) We even named the fetus “squishy” after the baby jellyfish that Dory meets in Finding Nemo. What can I say, a baby jellyfish looks a lot like a fetus on ultrasound at 8 weeks.
I fell so much in love with squishy, that I actually got a little sad when they had to break my water. The intern asked me what my problem was, and while in active labour, I had to explain this unspeakable, ethereal connection I had with my unborn baby, and that I just didn’t want to sever the tie. I was so much in love that it took about 6 weeks post-partum for me to stop crying over the end of my pregnancy and that I had given my baby to the world. Squishy was no longer mine alone.
Being the novice pregnant couple, Hubby and I took prenatal classes where we were introduced to the concepts of kangaroo care, attachment parenting, slings, how to breastfeed, changing baby, and most importantly, how to deal with 17 hours of hard labour.
In mock sessions we pushed, massaged, groaned, moaned, swayed, grimaced, visualized and breathed as my prenatal teacher suggested by, “imagine a great big golden light surrounding you. Now breathe in deeply. Breathe in the light. Fill your lungs with it. And as you exhale, shine that light out your vagina!”
We even attended a “family” night at the hospital where representatives from the Obstetrics, Nursing, Midwife and Family Care departments held a free-for-all for people to ask questions. That’s when people started throwing the term, “birth plan” around, and I realized that there was a good chance that I’d be naked in front of strange men.
I even asked the OB representative if we could request an all-female staff. Everyone kind of looked at me funny and I really felt put on the spot. The answer I was given was very general: no one walks in unannounced. I found that strange given this: Women from different traditions find their cultural needs met when giving birth in the GTA. Wow. If Fatima can have 13 female hospital staff helping her deliver, surely I could have 2 or 3.
The hospital we delivered at is a known teaching hospital. And it’s almost expected that students, interns, the one male nurse “Steve”, researchers, cord blood technicians, and more can come in to your room at any time and ask questions or perform medical tasks. There was no guarantee that any of these people would be women. My OB/GYN was a woman — but even she might not be on call. So what was I to do? I knew that I was going to have to be creative if I wanted to maintain hijab and labour comfortably.
Really, my only issue was comfort. We were taught that labour is 17 hours or more. You’re hot, sweaty, moody, and in pain. Like I want to throw on a hijab and cover up each time some male staff member wants to check the baby’s heart beat. The actual delivery was no problem. At that point (or any time your life is in danger, or you require immediate medical attention), the relationship between a male doctor and female patient (or vice versa) is as close as father and daughter. No worries! But it was the labouring that I was concerned with.
So we found a super awesome delivery gown, picked up a comfy hijab cap that would provide optimal coverage without being a pain to put on and off, and outlined my religious preferences in a birth plan. We wanted to labour naturally, without any kind of intervention.
Well that was the plan anyway. It turns out, all of my concerns and preparations were unnecessary.
I woke up that morning feeling fine, but a little bubbly in the tummy. Gas I thought. Maybe the asparagus from last night. So I suntanned on the balcony a little and did some stretching. We had an appointment with the OB that afternoon at 2, so I just chilled — but asked the Hubby to pack the car in case the internal exam stirred things up. Every so often, the asparagus reared its awful head… but it was nothing to worry about as I wasn’t in too much distress.
At the OB’s office, an internal exam revealed I was already dilated 4cm. Actually, she kind of looked at me and said, “um.. you’re 4cm. You can go to triage if you want. You don’t seem to be in any pain.” I looked back at her blankly. So what was I supposed to do? We didn’t cover this is prenatal class. I was in denial. No one actually told me I was in labour and I didn’t have a clear sign saying, “yes! yes! it is time!”
So we went to the museum. The Dead Sea Scrolls were on display and I didn’t want to miss them.
Around 6pm things started happening. Hubby was counting asparagus — timing the frequency and length. It was all over the map. But at one point, the sensation became pain, and instinct took over. A voice in the right corner of my mind said, “Get thee to the hospital.”
We checked in at 7pm. They hooked me up to a machine that measures the length and strength of the contractions. One of my favourite memories, is of my Hubby standing there next to the visual printout of my contractions saying excitedly, “oh oh! Look! Here comes another one!” and me gritting my teeth and saying, “I know. thank you”
At 7:30 another internal exam revealed I was already at 7cm. The intern prefaced this with, “Your contractions are still pretty weak and irregular. We’ll probably have to ask you to walk around for a couple more hours.” Then with her hand inside of me, “Oh! You’re at 7cm! We’d like to invite you to stay.”
Still with the idea that this process would take another 10 hours, I told hubby to get our labour aids from the car. The nurses got me a room and I was left to change into hospital gowns until I could wear my cool designer one that didn’t show off my naked butt. That’s when “Transition” hit. I think I went from 7-10cm in about 5 minutes. I had 3 very strong contractions and knelt on the floor to deal with them.
They next thing I knew, I told a nurse that I felt like I had to push. She “sounded the alarm” so to speak, and nurses were scrambling to get things ready. They didn’t even have gloves in the room. They threw me up on the bed and told me to push. I was in a blind panic. On one hand I was thinking, “but I still have 10 more hours to go!” and on the other I was screaming, “but my husband isn’t here! Go get him!” WE DIDN’T COVER THIS IS PRENATAL CLASS!
2 contractions later Hubby was standing at the door with my huge exercise/labour ball in one arm, and all of our bags and labour snacks in the other. It was like he was headed to the beach.
He threw everything into the bathroom and ran to my side. Somewhere in all of the chaos he managed to set up the video camera, bless him.
I pushed. I cracked jokes. I pushed. I chatted up the intern. I pushed. They broke my water for me. I pushed. I cracked more jokes. It was all quite festive.
At 7:52, Eyrn was born. Healthy, gorgeous, and raring to go. Thank God. She actually ordered steak and potatoes and was really upset that there was nothing of the sort on the menu.
They put her on me right away and she latched well, although that would change and eventually require help from 2 different Public Health nurses and a trip to the Dr. Jack Newman clinic. Hubby leaned over and recited the adhaan (call to prayer) in her right ear, and the iqaama (a shortened call to prayer), along with some blessings and verses out of the Qur’an in her left.
It didn’t matter who was in the room or what I was (not) wearing. At that moment, it was just the three of us in the entire universe.
In her wonderful, tiny and absolutely perfect universe.