As we get closer and closer to Ivy’s first birthday, I can’t help but reflect on the emotions and the physical experience of bringing her into the world. While making serious plans to include some aspect of Star Wars for the performance of her “celebration” (she was born on May the 4th), these plans are punctuated with moments of clarity where I pause and relive the experience of her birth.

The calmness, the pain, the second I knew she was ready, moments of panic, time stretching into eternity as my body stretched to allow her passing, my elation at hearing it was a girl, and the surge of euphoria when my eyes met hers.

It’s a very internalized and magical experience — so I’m constantly asking the Hubby, Eryn and my friend who attended the birth to tell me how they “saw” and experienced her birth. To understand how her grand “opening” made an impact on their lives. I was surrounded by people I love — and their love carried and supported both of us. So, I have this urge to see the event through others’ eyes — as if their words, not so much validates, but punctuates or adds new depth to my metamorphosis into motherhood.

Muslim doula and Hypnobirthing instructor Krystina Friedlander recently shared her experience of a birth that she attended, and it’s absolutely gorgeous:

There’s a quote I like describing contractions from poet Lia Purpura in her memoir of pregnancy, Increase. “The sensation of attenuation, the ropy ligaments, smooth as taut skeins of silk, winching a great weight closer and closer to the edge.” I like this quote because it is beautiful, and because it describes the movement towards an edge which I’ve come to understand, in my own way, to be a sort of no-turning-back submission to what the body needs, what the moment needs, what the child needs. I read it as a threshold moment that separates all she has been as a woman from what she will come to be in addition to who she is; a mother to this new human.

This is where it became strange and magical for me. Mama was too exhausted to hold her daughter right away, and her two cousins took turns and then put the baby down. Mama asked me “do you know the Fatiha?” This is the opening chapter of the Qur’an, a requisite verse for each prayer we Muslims make. I said yes. She said “recite it to her.” And I went over to the baby in her warmer, squalling and red, and leaned in to quietly whisper the verse in her ear. She went silent listening to my voice. Her dark gray eyes were wide and searching. A wave of connection built and crested inside of me, and I loved this child.

Go read the whole thing over at her place. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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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