pregnancy


photo 2 (3)Smooth indie pop mixed with the din of morning breakfasters — masking the Arabic and English conversations and adding a warm buzz to the many clinking tea cups. It was a cold morning and the wind off Kuwait’s Marina drove patio-goers indoors to the trendy cafés lining the water.

I was enjoying a Moroccan mint tea and nursing Ivy to sleep when I heard a testing, “Hello?”

Expecting guests, I looked up with a bright smile and instantly recognized Heba al-Ali, co-founder of BirthKuwait. Her colleague, a birth doula, gave a quick nudge and joked at me, “When I saw you breastfeeding, I knew you were one of us.”

The three of us had never met before — but a chance tweet and a couple of email exchanges later, there we were, talking all things maternal over poached eggs and organic bread.

BirthKuwait was created to better support mothers by advocating for healthy and natural birth, and to improve maternity services by making resources and information available to women. One and a half years ago, doula Sarah Paksima and midwife Zuzana Nadova spearheaded a plan to get professionals who were interested in maternal care — breastfeeding and natural birth — all together in one room. Health professionals, doulas, pediatricians, and members from the Ministry of Health’s Breastfeeding Promotion and Support Team entered into a discussion to move beyond just breastfeeding support and answer the question, what else was there to offer women in Kuwait?

Heba explained:

We wanted to offer monthly meetings to give out free information, and educate women so they can demand the changes in maternal health. We didn’t want to lecture the government or the hospitals to change — but to empower women to demand the change for themselves.

BirthKuwait is essentially helping to fill education gaps in breastfeeding support, prenatal care, unnecessary medical interventions during delivery and postnatal care that women in Kuwait might not receive from private or government hospitals. Unless someone actively seeks out information from their doctor or government clinics, it’s unlikely they will be made aware of  lactation consultants, childbirth preparation classes, or that the birth experience doesn’t have to include an episiotomy — a standard procedure in Kuwait.

I had read online that birth in Kuwait is a highly medicalized, hospital event and that midwifery isn’t a recognized profession. But I was still shocked to hear the opinion that doctors don’t know how to birth a child without an episiotomy and that women simply expect to receive one.

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As much as I’m salivating to add some snark to a weekly roundup (tomorrow!) — I’m terribly preoccupied with the coming end of my pregnancy and the hopeful birth of a healthy baby insha’Allah.

Actually, what’s been on my mind of late is the preoccupation of my body by the world at large (or so it seems).

Daily emails remind me to do my kegels to help with delivery, maintain my pelvic floor and ensure not only urine retention later on, but some pretty great sex to boot. I’m told not to lift Eryn while I pray or risk having the baby at the mosque. Targeted advertisements on Google and Facebook remind me that I too can get my pre-pregnancy body back in the first six weeks after baby arrives. Am I eating enough? Eat well, but stay away from Sushi, cold cuts, hot dogs, feta, brie, coffee, tea, chocolate, pop, rare steak, poached eggs, and salad bars. Strangers balk at my size and can’t believe I’m due next week (or tomorrow… who knows!) — surely I have at least another month to go… where AM I hiding this baby?

And at this very moment, my dear Hubby just reminded me to sit on my exercise ball instead of slouching on the couch. As much as I really want to balance my fifth peanut butter cookie on my belly while I write, I know he’s only thinking of my inevitable groin pain the second I stand up.

Policing. Preoccupation. Heaven forbid I indulge in a little veggie sushi (or a California roll made with Tilapia-based-fake-crab), drink a large tea, not fit into my bikini by beach season, or birth a petite baby. Because getting caught doing any of these things means I’m just not good enough. Right? Why else bombard me with pictures and stories of women who are “doing it right?” It’s just a little healthy competition. Right?

People love the preoccupation with baby weight. The heavier the better (but not TOO heavy). Heavy means healthy. We proclaim the baby’s weight with the first announcement: Name, Time of Birth, Weight, Mom and Baby are doing fine. So I learned quickly that telling people I was carrying a small baby gained me more raised eyebrows than anticipated.

So today while venting about all of these issues, my mom reminded me of her own birth.

She was born at 28 weeks and weighed only three pounds. Northern Germany in 1944 didn’t have neonatal intensive care units — so she went home after seven days. Her parents lined a leather shopping bag with some bedding and kept her behind their coal burning stove just to keep her warm. For food they gave her cows milk mixed with sugar and corn starch. She was so tiny that whenever they hid in the bomb shelter, people thought her mother was hiding a kitten in her bag.

And she turned out just fine.

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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Every time I see this cute illustration from How to be a Dad, I smile and think: wow, that’s EXACTLY how we sleep. And either smile with a shared discomfort and understanding that others feel my pain, or cringe depending on how many other horrid baby sleep positions we ended up assuming the night before.

Eryn slept in a bassinet from birth until 6 months — and then slept in her crib for about a year, with frequent night wakings.

Bed time was a mixed bag. We’d all enjoy a nice wind-down routine of bath, Qur’an, and massage. After nursing her to sleep, I’d ever-so-gently attempt to place her into the crib without waking her — to varying degrees of success. Even if I did manage to get her down without waking, she’d be up within the hour wanting more “num-nyah” to fall back asleep. She’d wake up at least 3 more times before I just gave up, went to bed myself and let her sleep next to me.

We made the choice to co-sleep full time when Eryn decided that her crib made a better trampoline — and when we finally realized that she would sleep 8-12 hours UNINTERRUPTED when in our bed.

Despite the fact that I’d invariably wake with a hand or a foot in my face, and both the Hubby and I clung to the edges of the bed while Eryn had free reign over the coveted center, those hours of sleep made all the difference to my sanity when I returned to work.

Now that I’m pregnant and need pillows and whatnot to prop up my legs and keep me turned on the side (I’m a back sleeper even now) — we need more room in our little bed.

Luckily, the day bed in the second bedroom/guestroom/prayer room/playroom expands to a luxurious king size. So for the past three nights we’ve been sleeping there to easy my aching back and incredibly sore groin.

With the following results:

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

The Hubby has a good foot of extra space to stretch out.
My support pillow has taken over the coveted center space.
Eryn has migrated north and now shares my pillow — taking it over completely by 3am.
I know this because I can’t sleep during the baby’s 3-5am daily dance party.
I’m still squished in the corner.

But at least Eryn sleeps 8-12 hours without waking.

That is… until the baby is born…

It doesn’t take long for me to regain my commuting feet. Everyone is tired, cold and jaded. But I have a spring in my step and navigate the crowd like a pro — pushing through to get to my stop. It’s been over a year since I’ve made the trek to the downtown core for work, and I’m exhilarated. It’s time for the annual office Christmas party.

New mothers who are slated to return to work within the new year are invited and expected to attend. It’s good office politics to meet old and new colleagues, get caught up on office gossip, and schmooze. But it’s impossible not to feel like you’re just there to be judged and observed. Is your mind a mashup of children’s rhymes? Have you forgotten how to write policy or code? Have you even kept up on business developments?

Within minutes of arriving I have two people ask me if I’m pregnant, and it’s not because of my body shape. When I push through to meet the CEO, I have my witty retort ready: “Oh K, it’s wonderful to see you! What’s new? Pregnant yet?” “Yes. With twins.”

My deadpan response elicits an appropriate level of polite laughter. But there’s so much left unsaid by my colleagues. I spend the rest of the night playing the good and intelligent office worker — yet no one seems interested that I’m writing and thinking critically while I’m owning mommyhood. I’m obviously not on the same level, or even worth assessing by those in a position of authority. I’m just a mommy and no longer a sharp, career-driven, Bay Street worker.  I’m completely defined by what may or may not be in my womb.

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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.

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Some believe that human fetuses are born one trimester too early.

Horses can run at the moment of birth. It’s their survival technique to be able to stand. A human baby at 4 months can socialize, sleep and eat effectively, “babble”, make strange with new people, recognize trusted family, and more. So why aren’t we born then? Why are we pregnant for 9 (actually 10) months instead of say 14? Well… outside of the fact that I don’t know anyone outside of an elephant who wants to be pregnant that long…at 4 months old, a human’s brain has nearly doubled in size. One size too big to pass through the female pelvic girdle.

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