My births

The birth of Sarah – an empowering all-natural hospital birth

Our beautiful Sarah Ayesha was born in 2007 in the middle of winter. I had enjoyed an uneventful pregnancy and was excited at the thought of having a baby, something that I had been preparing for for a long time. We were in Australia at the time, and had opted for private obstetric care thinking it would be the “best” for me, as I have a mild heart condition.

As the pregnancy progressed, I learned a great deal about birth from books and the internet, and also attended independent childbirth classes. These classes turned out to be a godsend, as they opened up my eyes to the reality of the very medicalized nature of birth in hospitals today. I became determined to have as natural a birth as possible and tried to do all I could to prepare for it. I got the all-clear from my cardiologist that I was fit enough to have a normal vaginal birth except for a dose of antibiotics during labour. I then tried to go over my birth plan and my wishes for a natural birth with my obstetrician, but each time I brought up the subject she brushed me off. I later found out from the staff at the hospital that she had a reputation for being “cautious”.

Because of this I was concerned that I might be induced in case I went over my due date. I had read about the cascade of interventions and felt strongly about allowing the baby to come in her own time.  I tried to transfer to a birth centre when I was about 34 weeks, but because of my heart condition they were not willing to accept me. I also contemplated on changing obstetricians. I made an appointment with another ObGyn who was willing to see me at that late stage. After going through my birth plan with her, I concluded that she was probably just as “cautious” as my current obstetrician. I contemplated changing to a public hospital, because of the lower intervention rates associated with public healthcare, but my husband,  was not too keen. In the end, I decided to stay put where I was and silently hoped and prayed that everything would turn out OK.

I made sure that I did everything else possible to ensure a natural birth. I talked a lot with my birth attendant – a student midwife, who volunteered to support me at my birth as part of her studies. She turned out to be an amazing source of information and support. 

I had read about women going through days and weeks of prodromal labour, and I was a little concerned when I hadn’t felt any pre-labour symptoms by my 39th week. So I did all kinds of things to try and induce labour naturally, including raspberry leaf tea, castor oil, long walks, sex, acupuncture. On the night of 27 June, I had a bit of a show at 11pm, and felt a slight tightening sensation in my abdomen. I mentioned this to Shaf, my hubby, and he told me not to get my hopes up and to go to sleep.  At 2.52am I was awakened by these “tightenings”. I wasn’t sure what they were and tried to get back to sleep. I found myself dozing in and out of sleep in between the surges. At one point I got up and walked to the foot of the bed, but they were still there. My husband woke and we prayed Subuh before I mentioned to him that I had been feeling some sensations in the night. He got a little excited and suggested we call the hospital. The hospital said to bring me in for monitoring. I was ambivalent about going to the hospital and yearned for a walk in the park to ease what I thought was constipation, but I soon relented, and hopped in the shower before we drove to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital around 9am, and the midwives on duty went about getting a room ready for me. Shaf called my birth attendant, to tell her we were at the hospital. Upon entering the delivery room, I went straight to the bathroom and vomited on the bathroom floor. After a few minutes, I came out of the bathroom and a midwife, who spoke with a British accent asked me a few questions about what I had been experiencing. She was warm and comforting and had a motherly aura about her. I told her I didn’t think this was “it”, and asked if I could go home if I wasn’t very far along (I was dead set on my walk in the park!). She said she didn’t see why not. Another younger midwife came in and beckoned me to the bed for monitoring. I got on the bed on all-fours (this was the only position I was comfortable in), and she strapped the monitor around my stomach. It felt like forever to get that 20-minute reading. I attempted to strap on a TENS machine with Shaf’s help, but it didn’t do anything for me. Then I went over to the heater by the window and commented, “Its cold.” The heater was broken, and soon a maintenance guy came in to repair it. Then we were alone. Just Shaf and I.  Shaf came near me and put his hands on my shoulders, only to be snapped at, “Don’t touch me!”.  My perception of time and everything else seemed to be grossly distorted at this point. I couldn’t remember much else, except that I had gone deep inside me, silent. I then sat on the floor because no other position seemed to be comfortable and something about being on the floor helped. The more experienced midwife came in and told us she had paged for my doctor and she should be here soon. Then she tried to make small talk with me (probably to try and assess how far along I was), but I didn’t respond.

Then with little more urgency she said, “I’ll try to see if your doctor is on her way”, and left the room. I suddenly stood up and leaned my whole body weight on Shaf in a kind of embrace. I realised I was in an altered state when I heard deep grunting noises coming out of me and found myself tossing my head and upper torso from side-to-side. It was at this point that it occurred to me “Maybe I AM having my baby”. I suddenly was worried about my body weight being too heavy for Shaf, and funnily I was able to ask him in between surges if he was OK and suggested that he lean on the bed! After what seemed like ages, the midwife returned. She took off my pants to see how much more of my plug I had lost, and immediately said “You better get on the bed. Your baby’s coming.”

I somehow managed to get on the bed on my hands and knees. There was a flurry of activity as she and the other midwife prepared to receive my baby. “You’re baby’s got a lot of hair!”. I wasn’t sure what to do then because I didn’t really feel an urge to push, just tremendous pressure. The midwife said, “Maybe you want to be a little bit more upright”. I straightened my body up slightly and then heard, “The head’s out!”. With the next surge the baby’s body was born.

SubhanAllah! I did it!! I can’t believe it! My baby’s here!” I turned and laid back on the bed, and baby was placed on my chest. “It’s a girl!” She was so alert and looked at us with her big beautiful eyes. It was 11.28am. I was ecstatic… It took me some time to register what had actually happened. I was awed by what just happened.. the whole experience.. just awesome and other-worldly.

After a few minutes, the midwife got Shaf to cut the cord. My doctor came in and said she would leave us alone for a few minutes to bond. My husband recited the Adhan in her ears and called my birth attendant in the room. He called my parents to tell them the good news.

Then the doctor entered the room and examined my perineum and told the midwife to prep me for stitches. I noticed the look on the midwife’s face – surprised at being told that I needed stitches. She began to object but was silenced by the doctor and acquiesced as she did as she was told. My legs were placed in stirrups for this, and the doctor consulted my cardiologist on the phone about my antibiotics. I felt like there was WAY more fuss created about the stitching and that the process took longer than the birth itself! All I wanted was to be left alone with Shaf and my beautiful new baby… but that was not to be. My parents and the student midwife arrived soon after, and I spent the next couple of hours trying to nurse my baby. The next days in the hospital were spent trying to establish breastfeeding, but I felt 100X happier when I finally got to go home.

Sarah’s birth left me feeling on top of the world – that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do or any mountain I couldn’t climb. Of course, parenting Sarah came with practice and huge learning curves – but I’ve never looked back since. I am so grateful to my family for giving me support and understanding I needed to achieve my all-natural birth. In retrospect, the birth definitely facilitated an easy transition into motherhood for me and also provided a gentle transition into this world for Sarah. It was the best gift I could give to her I reckon. I’m so glad I put in effort into preparing for it. The birth of my daughter also left me feeling humbled at the awesomeness of God’s handiwork and the design of birth. What an awesome rite of passage it is. I truly felt I had reached the pinnacle of my womanhood!

A couple of years later I fell pregnant with my second girl, Iman.


The birth of Iman – a precipitous unassisted homebirth.

Iman Ayra was born on a peaceful Sunday afternoon. I had a birth show at 7am. Feeling fine, I tried to get more sleep. Shaf and our 32-month old Sarah went for a swim at 9am while I took a walk by the pool. The surges (also known as contractions) began at about 10am and I got Shaf to strap the TENS machine on. He told me to get the hospital bag ready, just in case. I remember thinking “Oh I don’t think it’ll be that soon… maybe tomorrow?” He then left to buy some groceries.

Contrary to my first experience, I felt more sensation this time and because of this was a little concerned about managing it. Since I didn’t have much to do, I started timing the surges. They were irregular – most of them lasting 30 seconds and about seven minutes apart. With the TENS strapped to my back, we went out for lunch with my parents at noon. By then, the surges were getting closer but still irregular. After lunch, we headed to my mum’s place and I went into the guest bedroom to rest. It was almost 2pm.

The surges felt more intense by now. I upped the notch on the TENS and wondered if my baby might be a little posterior. Getting in the most encouraging position for baby to descend, I phoned my doula, Karin, to ask if I should make my way to the hospital. “It’s up to you,” she said calmly. The sound of her voice had an amazingly soothing effect on me. As soon as I hung up, things started to escalate and I could feel the surges occur in a regular rhythm. “This feels much better”, I thought.

At this point, I couldn’t remember much, only that even if I had wanted to get up, I couldn’t. I found myself scrunching my fingers to get through the surges. They were coming fast – one on top of the other, and I couldn’t do much except to get into as comfortable a position as possible. I found myself flung forward on a pile of pillows, unintentionally gritting my teeth. Then, the thought of groaning occurred to me. I let out a low groan and it felt so good. And then I was more relaxed.

Suddenly, I felt a slight urge to push. “But…I must be only about 4-5cm dilated, max. Could it be now already? Would I have a lip?” I can’t remember much after this – in fact I felt my body just rest and I actually had a little (but powerful) snooze!

I got up, headed to the bedroom door and called to Shaf. He came, and upon seeing me, said “Let’s go now”. At this point, I knew there was no way I was going anywhere. I said, “I have to go to the bathroom”. Once inside the bathroom, I sat ont he toilet and knew baby was near. Shaf said, “Get in the car now!”

I replied, “I can’t!” and got on my hands and knees, getting ready. Shaf came in and started calling out to my parents as he realised what might be happening. “Get towels!”

Chaos stirred outside as reality sank in for my family, with Dad running up and down the stairs panicking and Sarah bawling. Then I felt the baby move into the birth canal (what an amazing feeling!) and the unmistakable urge to push. ”I can see the head!”, said Shaf. I let my body take over. I could feel my baby’s head crowning and what many refer to as the “ring of fire”.

“Sakit!” But only for a moment. What do I do now? Pant? Before I knew it, with the next surge, the head was out. With another surge, the body made a slithery exit.

“Subhanallah! My baby! My baby’s here!”

Shaf held our baby up to me and she let out a little whimper. I sat down and held her to my bare chest. It’s a girl! She was wide-eyed and alert, taking in her surroundings. Shaf recited the Adhan in her ear and took note of the time of birth: 2.48pm.

I leaned back against Shaf and held my baby close to me, savouring the moment with this precious new being. We took pictures and chatted, while admiring our little bundle of joy. I made a mental note of the blood loss and waited for the placenta to be expelled. She started suckling my breast within 20 minutes or so. The placenta came soon after.

Meanwhile, pandemonium continued outside as my parents were in shock and there was confusion about which ambulance to call and who was calling whom. In the end, it took one and a half hours before the ambulance arrived. God works in wondrous ways because it turned out to be the sweetest, most magical one and a half hours ever! In the silence of the bathroom, I got to enjoy my new baby and bask in the afterglow of the birth. I attained the peace that didn’t come with my first birth.

When the ambulance arrived, the midwife took the placenta and Shaf cut the umbilical cord before we were taken to the hospital. We stayed a night at the hospital, partly for observation and partly to quell my family’s concerns, and left for home the next day.

What a HIGH! I felt a zillion dollars after the birth and couldn’t get enough of my new baby. The recovery was fantastic and I felt on top of the world for the next few weeks. It was an amazing experience.

I think of all the women in my family who birthed at home – my maternal grandmother who birthed seven babies at home and my paternal grandmother who apparently also birthed my father in the bathroom – and I am awestruck and humbled that I got to experience birth the way they did.

To all the strong and amazing women with whom I talked prior to the birth, I thank you for your support and love in countless ways! To my doctor, thank you for standing up for our rights within a medical system devoid of empathy and understanding.

I pray for a time when birth can be accepted as a sacred and safe event once again, surrounded by familiar faces of loving family and friends instead of the relative coldness of hospitals and indifferent caregivers.

Hi, I'm Nadine

A self-confessed birth junkie, I love all things birth and breastfeeding… I’m so lucky to be able to work with expectant families and share this very special time in their lives with them :) I am also a Life Coach helping mothers overcome burnout and overwhelm.

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