birth


You may have noticed that I haven’t updated as frequently as I normally do. This is in part, due to the fact that I’m gearing up for the birth and have a couple of projects to finish before I’m able to fully concentrate on nesting and the blog.

One project is rereading Dune by Frank Herbert.  I tend to reread this book before every major life event. Sometimes I’ll reread the entire series. But this time I only have time for the first book. I somehow just feel it’s important — the book has a lot of meaning for me, and a lot of wisdom that has impacted my life.

The other project is creating a birth plan for Eryn.

My first birth plan was the standard checklist available on any pregnancy site:  Do you want medication? Limited intervention? What pain coping techniques do you want? And who are your support people?

But it also included tips for hospital staff that included my modesty requests — such as to labour with my hijab on if a male attendant was present; to double up on hospital gowns to make sure I didn’t flash anyone when wandering the halls; and that any male nurse or student entering my room needed to have my permission first.

Well, Eryn came so quickly that I’d thrown the birth plan out the window by the time they had me naked on the table with a male OB between my legs.

This time we don’t have much of a plan, beside the fact that I want to labour outside of the hospital for as long as possible and I’d really like Eryn present at the birth. We also have to prepare her for a night over at my parents house, in the event that we’ll stay overnight at the hospital. She’s never slept away from both of us before.

And of course, we have to prepare her for the baby coming home.

So I made her a birth plan.

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What's your guess? Girl, boy? I think I'm carrying a baby.

I just realised that I haven’t written about my pregnancy. I’ve shown a couple of pictures here and there of my growing belly — but I haven’t gone into details about my cravings, my aches and pains, my hormone-induced rages and cry-fests, or why I hate it when people play the sex guessing-game. Which is about as reliable as guessing the sex of my baby from how I style my hijab — people you REALLY don’t have to look at my butt!

And it’s not that I haven’t thought about sharing these experiences. I’m a mom, a Muslim, a feminist, a saxophonist, a lover of all things sci-fi, and many other things that inform this blog and give me fodder for (hopefully) interesting posts. I suppose this is a mommy-muslim-feminist-activist-saxophonist-sci-fi blog — but I never thought of it as a “pregnancy” blog.

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Maryam couldn’t remember how long she had felt the pains. All she knew was that they were coming more frequently, growing in intensity and there was no one around to help her.

In a moment’s respite, she squatted and leaned her forehead against a boulder. Firm and cool, the rock allowed her to rest as she stretched her back and released some of the pressure in her pelvis. When she lifted her head, she was surprised at the drops of sweat darkening the boulder’s dusty face. Maryam looked around. The valley was eclectic, with patches of firm, tan-coloured sand pans outlined by sharp gravel and bordered by the rocky hills. A solitary palm tree stood dead before her — it’s weeping leaves collapsed downward, forbidding shade to the rock-bed below. Dried thistle peppered the hill outcroppings, adding a splash of vibrant purple colour to a landscape that should only hold browns and grays. The sun was low overhead, casting long, cool shadows across the valley floor. For that she was thankful.

A few days prior, Maryam had set out to the East, away from her community. She had felt her swollen belly becoming tight more frequently and the baby’s movements slowed. Something within her told her it was time to move. Hiding the pregnancy had been easier than she expected — especially within the confines of the covenant. Flowing robes took care of her small, swollen belly and she took strips of pleated wool to bind her breasts as they grew larger. Zacharias never questioned her. He wouldn’t have. He just made sure she was well taken care of — that she completed her studies and had enough to eat and drink.

Remembering his absentmindedness over the past few months Maryam had to laugh. As an old man, he was an unexpected new father, and often forgot his place as he gushed over the wonders of his infant and finding joy in every sleepless hour, cry and gurgle.  Everyone spoke of the miraculousness of how his barren wife had given birth to a healthy son. Maryam smiled, recalling baby Yahya’s shock of curly, black hair and wondered if her baby would have the same.

The pressure started to build and she winced, fearing she would be unable to stop the urge to push again. Breathing rapidly, she tried to ignore the workings of her body — but her mind was overruled and her muscles contracted, forcing the baby down. This time the pressure lasted longer and she felt fire cutting between her legs. Fear overwhelmed her, and Maryam stood up suddenly to run away from it all.

Lightheaded and disoriented with pain she stumbled into the palm tree. Her body shook uncontrollably and she thought she heard a voice screaming in the distance. But as suddenly as it came, the pain subsided. She shivered and covered her mouth, realizing the scream came from her.  Maryam longed for water, for a cool, caring touch to wipe her forehead. She needed to hold her mother’s strong hand, not the rough calluses of a dead tree. She started to cry.

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Eryn seconds old I’ve been thinking about getting pregnant.

Pregnant bellies have started looking really good to me and I’ve actually felt some jealousy when shopping for baby items and bumping into random bumps. I loved being pregnant and alhamdulilah I had a great birth experience. And of course it’s something that I’d like to experience again.

Naturally, there were definitely some things about my birth experience that I’d like done differently a second time around.

The hospital we chose was AMAZING. Apparently the labour help is  top-notch, allowing labouring mothers to walk around and not to be tied down to an IV; no invasive baby monitoring; a low use of invasive delivery techniques such as forceps or episiotomies; and a dedicated nurse to coach you through labour (I wouldn’t really know first hand though, since we essentially walked in and delivered on the spot).

They don’t routinely suction newborns and will hold off administering any injections or clean-up if you request it. And the first place baby goes after being born is directly onto mama’s chest. There baby is left to calm down, breathe, and get some help latching on from lactation consultants if necessary. The aftercare is also brilliant — with daily group breastfeeding help sessions with one-on-one help available.  I ended up using their breastfeeding clinic’s helpline almost weekly until Eryn was about 2 months old.  They’ve also gone through extensive renovations and now have birthing units so that you deliver and recover in the same room. Each birthing unit is also equipped with a specially designed tub for water birth — which would be really neat in my mind.

Now, there were some things that I could have gone without. We were admitted at 7cm dilation. But within the time it took me to get changed and walk to the birthing unit (oh, about 10 minutes), I had hit the 10cm mark. When I walked into the delivery room I immediately said, “I have to push.” That’s when the nurse gave me a rigorous internal exam.

She swirled her hand around like she was washing rice and I quickly sat up and shouted, “woah! Not so fast!!” To this day I wonder if she was attempting to strip my membranes or trying to get my water to break.  Once she determined I was 10cm, she lifted my legs, told me to grip behind my knees and push.

I was overwhelmed, confused and shocked. First I asked about the Hubby and if we should wait for him to come. He was SUPPOSED to be there. He was my voice and my support network. She said push. I then asked about my position — was it alright being flat on my back? In my head spun the unspoken options that we learned about in prenatal class: side lying, squatting, sitting. My crazy, hippy prenatal instructor was repeating over and over again, “avoid giving birth on your back.”

But instead the nurse said, push.

So I pushed. And a cheering purple push squad came into the room. After 10 minutes when her head crowned and the delivering OB came in he said, “stop pushing so hard. Ease into the push like you’re saying ‘house’. The slower the push, the less you’ll tear.” Great advice, but too late. Recovery had some interesting challenges outside of the broken blood vessels in my face.

So now that I’m wiser about how to deliver and I’ve been able to revisit my birth experience mentally and on film (God bless my techno-Hubby), I have a pretty good idea not only how I want to deliver, but how I’ll have the strength of mind to say, “I want to be side-lying or squatting. I’ll have none of the stirrups thank you very much.”

I also have been thinking about having a midwife instead of my OB. But I really have no idea about what the practical differences would be between a supportive OB (like mine was.. late, but better late than never), and a midwife. I could have my awesome OB throughout the pregnancy and end up with a dud on call for the actual delivery — which is what happened with Eryn. I had a dud throughout the pregnancy only to be delivered by Dr. Wonderful.

Delivering in a hospital setting is something I still would like to do, but to have more control over the actual delivery, which is what a midwife could potentially offer.  There’s also the continuity of care provided by a midwife that the one 8-week OB appointment just can’t compare to. Instead of running to clinics, calling helplines, making specialist appointments during recovery, a midwife would coordinate all of that, or avoid the issues that would require extended aftercare. In fact, from what I understand, a midwife would also be able to mitigate purple push squad nurses and slow the delivery down to avoid a natural episiotomy (or as Dr. Wonderful told me to watch out for in future: prolapse 😦 )

What do you think? Anyone with practical experience willing to share?

We haven’t exactly started trying yet, or even really talked about it, but I’m starting to think the Hubby and I should start doing some research and have a couple of numbers on hand in case of a happy chance.

Eryn just turned one.

She’s ridiculous and wonderful and growing up so fast.  I’m more in love with her than I could ever imagine — I actually get excited to go to sleep because I know in a few hours she’ll wake up and start poking at my nose ring and smacking my face, presenting me with books to read or sock puppets to animate (who coincidentally eat the books and various parts of her body. It’s cavity-inducing when she asks to have the sock put on her own hand.)

In just one short year, she’s developed an amazing personality. She’s stubborn, but willing to listen to reason (for the most part anyway. She is entering toddlerhood); she’s got a great sense of humour, but it’s selective, so we have to work pretty hard to get a guffaw out of her, while she’s a card who loves to entertain; she’s an actress and loves to dance; she’s self-determined and knows exactly what she wants; she howls; her favourite app is the Lightsabre; she loves animals, isn’t afraid of water, and is all-around just a nice, happy baby.

So for her birthday we went back to the place where I spent the most time in labour.

I laboured in a Spirit house on a metal pentagon.

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The blue silk was soft against my face and cascaded down to my fingertips. Little circular mirrors woven into the fabric reflected the sun and dazzled colored prisms on my white walls. My favourite prayer shawl felt familiar and embraced me like an old friend. I took a deep breath, raised my hands to my ears and prepared to pray.

Then it happened.

That minute betrayal threatening to nullify the prayers of Muslims worldwide.  That innocent, but offensive state of affairs. The embarrassment of self conscious individuals, the horrific shame of some, and the sadistic, reveling delight to those under five years of age.

I farted.

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In three weeks today, Eryn will be a year old (God willing).

Because her birthday for the next few years will fall in the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, we thought it would be a good idea to celebrate her birthday a week early with a “summer is almost over–we’ll be fasting during the day for a month–let’s party while we can–oh yeah, it’s Eryn’s day too” BBQ with close friends. That way, the adults can be adult and throw around a frisbee while eating yummy burgers, and the babies can be babies and stuff their faces with cake (ok, the adults too).

We didn’t want to have a kids’ birthday party with extravagant invitations, party hats, kid-themed games, clowns, air castles (although, I’d love that), because really, what does she care?  Eryn probably won’t remember the day and will be entirely embarrassed when I showcase her cake smeared cheeks to her tween friends.

We also only have three close friends with babies, everyone else is newly married or single. I even themed the “save the date” e-mail to be an Alice in Wonderland unbirthday celebration, and emphasized a BBQ for us and our mostly babyless friends — who do indeed love the summer BBQs. All of our couple friends throw at least one each summer and we rotate through monthly BBQs, pulling out kites, bubbles, football (that’s soccer for some), and even friendly games of cricket. Everyone contributes a dish and we cook up a storm in a local park. Good times had by all.

Now that almost everyone has replied back with a resounding, “sorry! we already have plans” and Hubby might be in Seattle for work, I’m upset.

I can’t believe my little baby isn’t going to get a birthday party! Only one couple can make it (the single guy with his new girlfriend whom I haven’t met), and the grandparents of course.

I’m going to have to cancel her unbirthday and every time I think about it, I get a little more sad, nostalgic and like an irritable mama bear. She should have a party!  She deserves horses and eco-friendly party favours; helium balloons and a new party outfit; a three-tiered cake and a magician! Who cares if she doesn’t remember.

I’m just going to take her to the museum on the 13th and then have cake with the grandparents.

*Grumble even though she deserves a novelty party hat with all of the people who came to see her at birth grumble.*

Image credit: AnitaInverarity

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