Alhamdulillah, last new moon as we entered Rabi’ al-Thani 1444 a new moon was born. We had a baby girl half past noon and we named her Zahra. Commonly translated as ‘flower’, it also means the exquisite and illuminated one. It was my first home birth and it reminded me of my second birth experience in many ways, from the fact that they were both born on a new moon, the general feelings around the pregnancy especially towards the end, length of pregnancy and how my labor started, how long labor lasted and the very intense, overpowering fetal ejection reflex (which was not as overwhelming with my other two daughters). Of course, this birth was a lot more hands-off having taken place at home (I recognize that’s not always the case even at home births), with no routine protocols set in place. I very much liked and enjoyed my midwife’s company during my pregnancy and while that did not guarantee that I would feel the same way at birth, I really appreciated her demeanor and support at birth too. After birth, everything went as smoothly as I could have wished for. The kids were ecstatic and they’ve been in love since.
As this pregnancy was the most I’ve been away from my family, with only one visit from my sister who had to leave before the birth, I really craved being cared for, something as simple as my mom or my grandmother making me a warming stew. I felt a void and yearned for a somewhat motherly nurturing. This might have been why I didn’t even want to meet a much younger midwife in my area after having met my much older midwife initially. It is also why I so appreciated the compassion I felt from a much older Ayurvedic postpartum doula and massage therapist whom I saw several times for prenatal massage. I almost felt bad getting that care from her and asked her once who cares for her. She said that she feels cared for by caring for others, and that when she gives a massage she has to remain as calm and grounded in her body as possible because tension in her body would translate to more tension in her client’s body.
While it’s been stressful in some ways, realistically speaking, it has also been a smooth transition overall and I have also gained a new appreciation for my husband. While this is not our first child and he’s always been there for each immediate postpartum period (with varying lengths), this is a new experience for him in that he’s had to take on a lot more responsibilities with no one else present to take them on. We also hired a traditional postpartum doula, a wonderful Mexican woman, for 4 days in the first week following birth. That was an invaluable investment and I would have hired her for even more days if it were feasible.
In the meantime I haven’t left the house in 2 weeks and I don’t plan to leave for as many days as possible in the first 40 days, especially not to go grocery shopping. While I miss taking the older kids out myself and getting on with my life as normal, I know that once this sensitive period is over I will be back at it inshaa Allah, so there’s no rush…
I am a mother of three as of recently, and I frequently get asked how it is managing three young children. The assumption is that the more of them there are, the harder it gets. That’s true in some ways. However, I would argue that having one was harder for me.
Usually when I put the kids to sleep, the arrangement is as follows:
I co-sleep in a single bed with 1-month old Fatima, 2 year old Abubakr is in a crib with the narrower side attached to my bed, and 3.5 year old Zaynab is in the other single bed beside mine and she usually sleeps with her aunt.
This will change once I go back to Istanbul to our own home but for now while my husband is away in the US and I’m with my family in Cyprus, our arragenment is as such.
Tonight, the arrangement was slightly different. Their aunt was busy so she didn’t participate in the bed time ritual (which includes story telling and then a semi-long religious litany and waiting for all the kids to sleep before sneaking out of the room). Fatima happened to be asleep downstairs in the living room. So Abubakr, who is always eager to sleep beside me instead of the crib, lay next to me and Zaynab laid down in her own bed. By the time I finished the litany, Abubakr was asleep. Zaynab by that point asked me to sleep next to her, so I did. I whispered some more litanies, and she fell asleep facing me, with her hand in mine. In the meanwhile, I began reflecting on something that I frequently remember: how much harsher I was to her as a younger toddler in comparison to her brother. It kills me because I can’t ever undo those moments. I never realized in those moments how small she was, how vulnerable, fragile. I only realized as she grew older and I could compare her to her younger brother. When I had my first child, everything changed. Everything. And probably for good. I was no longer able to do very basic things on my own without having to put another person into account. There was now this human being who literally depended on me for survival. Add to that insufficient socialization with other humans and lack of support. I won’t forget this one time at nap time where she was 13 months old, and I was about 4 months pregnant. I was nursing her and hating every minute of it because I couldn’t stand physical touch during pregnancy. She was taking a long time falling asleep – you have to understand, nap time and night time is like your time off – and I just lost it. I started yelling at her, telling her to shut her goddamn eyes and handling her very roughly. Imagine someone is hugging you and then all of a sudden they start to give you a rough shake. (Makes me sick of myself just thinking about it). Still half-nursing, she began crying, obviously. It was a painful cry. She must have been so confused. I don’t remember the details but I think she fell asleep finally because I remember quietly walking out of the room and hugging my husband who was approaching me in the hallway and I broke down crying because of how horrible I felt about having lost control of myself and hurting this child that I would die for. That’s when I decided I had to wean her because I didn’t want to feel resentment during an act that’s supposed to be an act of love and nurturing. My point of mentioning this is not about how pregnancy makes you feel sensitive or whatever and how you should handle those feelings. The issue here was not simply that. These types of moments were the result of a build up of underlying emotions, exhaustion, lack of support, lack of spiritual and physical nourishment. A lot of possible issues. And of course lack of understanding on how to deal with this little human being, because it was my first time and my life was forever changed. I had so much more patience with my second child in comparison to my first – maybe because we had a different structure as a family with where we were at in our life, having moved closer to my family, taking care of myself better and so on – but I think having had that experience already and this second child not making my already-mom life a whole lot more different played a major role too.
I’m never going to not feel regret over those ignorant and weak moments and I can’t help but think of how painful and possibly scary it must have been for a little child whose entire life revolved around me but I find comfort in that those moments didn’t and don’t make up the majority of my child’s upbringing. She is loved; she knows it and she feels it. Children are also incredibly forgiving, which is painful to think about, yet heartening.
I want to wrap up by mentioning two things:
A while back, I read something that really stuck with me. I don’t remember the author or where I read it, but it was about the most impactful moments in a child’s day. How they wake up, or rather what they wake up to, their nap time, and their bed time. So I try to really be careful in those moments (not that they nap anymore); to really be present with them, not to be caught on my phone the moment they wake up, greeting them with enthusiasm, kissing them, using a gentle tone, and likewise in the evening. In other words, making them feel safe and look forward to the day and the next day.
Finally… I read this hadith today which I had read before but hadn’t ever really reflected on and intended to act upon:
Narrated by Abu Dharr, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to us: When one of you becomes angry while standing, he should sit down. If the anger leaves him, well and good; otherwise he should lie down. (Sunan Abi Dawud)
Let’s be real. I still get angry from time to time and snap at the kids, especially on stressful days. So inshaa Allah, my intention is to remember the advice of our Prophet next time I feel my anger may overcome me.
I know I haven’t written a recent post in a long time, but when I looked at the date of my last entry (October 30, 2018) and hovered over today’s date, I was shocked that it’s nearly been a whole year. Yes, I had to check today’s date because I really can’t keep track of the calendar. I also can’t believe I am already 32 weeks pregnant with our third baby. We are intending to have our child in Istanbul this time. Trying out a different country each time around 🙂
We also moved into a new home back in February, so that was a very busy period. Ramadhan, a few trips to Cyprus and back, just being already extremely busy with my two toddlers who are a handful – I can barely respond to my WhatsApp messages during the day unless it requires a simple response – so that explains some of the lack of activity on my blog. Also, recently we visited the US as we normally do every summer. We were there for a little over a month and a half, and we traveled quite a bit by car, twice to Chicago and once to Canada from Michigan. We stayed at anywhere from a friend’s house who was out of town, to hotels, a motel, a couple of Airbnbs, and at a camp site.
I try to go ‘minimal’ while traveling in regards to shoes & clothing (we don’t own a lot in that department anyway) but I had to keep a bag of home remedies with me everywhere we went, especially considering we were traveling with small children. I’m going to list most of what we had and mention how they were useful during our travels!
Black Seed Oil – my go-to remedy for sore throat, ear aches, and overall immune boost. Both the kids developed a sore throat during part of our trip abroad and we used quite a bit of this remedy, a teaspoon every other hour but especially at the onset and first thing in the morning. Black seed oil may sting a bit if the sore throat is severe and may taste too bitter for some people (and especially kids) so what I usually do to convince my kids is mix a bit with honey and give them that way. On the contrary, some people love the taste and I am one of those people. In case of an ear ache, I give both internally if it may be related to a sore throat, and I rub in and around the ears. After we arrived in Michigan, my son who had fallen asleep after a very long flight woke up screaming in pain and it seemed he had an ear ache perhaps from pressure, I wasn’t sure, but I rubbed some of the oil into his ears and massaged his body with it too to calm him down and not too long after he was asleep again. Thankfully he was fine in the morning and it wasn’t an infection.
Lemons – whole lemons to squeeze for fresh juice as natural vitamin C. At some point I realized it wasn’t very practical to travel around with whole lemons and no easy access to knives, but I ended up peeling one with my hand during a car ride and just eating the lemon pieces. My daughter loves lemons. If you can carry around some rock/sea salt and sprinkle a teeny bit on the lemons, it’ll taste even better. Yum. A shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice is also a great pick-me-up, and excellent for breaking up a congestion, or for sore throat.
Raw Honey – again, good for sore throat. Even better with powdered cinnamon, ginger &/or marshmallow root. You can carry those spices/herbs in those tiny resealable bags. Kids usually love honey so that’s also a plus. Honey is also good in case of cuts and scrapes and on burns.
Herbal Tea Bags (Camomile, Fennel Seeds, Lemon&Ginger) – I told myself I wouldn’t be having any coffee or black tea during the plane ride this time and I carried around a bunch of herbal tea bags with me. I stuck to my intention and believe it was the right decision. Caffeinated drinks can also be dehydrating and you don’t want that on a plane ride which is already dehydrating in itself. I carried herbal tea bags without during the rest of the voyage too and prepared the kids tea when they caught a cold several times. My son at some point developed diarrhea for a few days and other than cutting down most foods that may have aggravated his problem, I found that fennel seeds helped him the most from all the herbs I tried, and maybe thyme but we stuck with fennel seed the most. I got whole fennel seeds that I carried around with me, as well as some anise seeds (you can also get them in tea bags as that would have been easier or put them ground in tea bags yourself), simmered about 2 teaspoons per cup for a few minutes and then had him sip that throughout the day.
Homeopathy Kit – I carry with me a combination of homeopathic remedies, from Arnica to Belladonna, Apis Mel, Nat Mur, Mag Phos, Kali Mur, Lycopodium, Hypericum, Camomila and so on. I’m no homeopath by any means but I get advice from my mother usually who has quite a bit of experience with homeopathy herself considering she raised 5 children on homeopathic and herbal remedies, or consult one of several homeopath friends if I must. I tend to most commonly use the remedies I have on hand for falls, allergic reactions, insect bites, colds with congestion & runny nose, and fever. My son fell and hit his eye and forehead during our camping trip, so Arnica for that. I predict both my children caught the flu towards the end of our camping trip, with sudden onset of fever, sore throat, runny nose and whatnot so I used some homeopathy in combination with herbal remedies to ease their symptoms and help them recover. Our camping trip in Canada was at the Seekers Guidance Retreat, so there were a lot of other brothers & sisters with us. A sister who got stung by a mosquito experienced an aggressive reaction and her hand was extremely swollen. She didn’t react well to Benadryl and experienced some of the side effects associated with it, so somehow my youngest sister who was also with us told her I might have something for her if she’d like to give it a try. Luckily, I had Apis Mel as well as lavender EO and I gave her both remedies. She came to me at the end of the next day to show me how much better her hand was and said she would be buying the homeopathic remedy as well as the lavender essential oil because she was so pleased with the results, whereas initially she was always a bit skeptical of ‘natural remedies’.
Arnica Gel – I’m not here to prove whether natural remedies work really well or not, it’s your call. I wholeheartedly believe so myself, and being a mom for the last few years with my kids bumping their heads quite a few times and developing anything from a goose egg to a small bump, this thing really works in bringing down swelling when applied immediately. Do not apply on cracked skin. Only bumps or achy areas.
Lavender Essential Oil – as mentioned above, really useful for insect bites and excellent for burns when applied immediately. This is all I use on burns when I am in the kitchen. I never apply ice, and I never get those burns that develop water retention. Another sister at the camp was also stung by mosquitos and experienced some swelling. The other sister who happened to have the remedy gave her the essential oil, and she said she’s never seen something work so well on insect bites.
Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil – excellent for the immune system, being a natural source of Vitamins A & D, as well as Omega 3. I only get Dropi. Rosita is also another brand I can suggest, just a little more expensive than Dropi. Otherwise, if it’s not extra virgin (i.e. raw) it’s either going to be low on the vitamin content, or have added vitamins which defeats the whole purpose and makes no sense at all. If I want added synthetic vitamins, I might as well just get a synthetic vitamin and not some smelly fish oil. (It does smell. Somehow my kids love it, though.)
Magnesium Citrate/Glycinate – I like to use Magnesium even when I’m not pregnant, but especially being pregnant, I find it really helps with the restless leg syndrome I experience sometimes as well as being regular if I’m having some difficulty. I don’t tend to use any vitamin or mineral supplements but Magnesium is an exception. It’s so essential. Get citrate or glycinate for optimal absorption and best form.
Mama’s Chest Rub, Vapor Balm – I find this at Whole Foods and you can also order via Amazon, to rub on the kids’ chest and/or upper back to ease up congestion. It’s a perfect size for travel and smells so good I always smell my fingertips after rubbing it onto their skin. An alternative is eucalyptus essential oil (which I didn’t have during this trip and never got, but used rosemary instead with some desired results) which you can use in combination with a carrier oil as a massage oil on the upper torso, or in a steam bath (no. 5) to help break up congestion, get that mucus moving out of your system, and to ease coughs. I had both my kids get in the shower and used rosemary essential oil at one point when they were ill just before bed time. They washed up while inhaling the scent of rosemary that filled the entire bathroom. Maybe eucalyptus would have been a better option for this particular case, but it was quite soothing to say the least.
I didn’t have a particular issue with fertility but I wanted to share some of the things I learned ever since I got concerned with having a baby.
TMI warning in advance.
Nearly two years ago, I conceived my first baby girl Zaynab. We had been married for a year and a half, and having been one of these women who almost always had a regular menstrual cycle, I found my cycle to change dramatically and never go back to normal right after getting married. My cycles seemed to be longer, and I just never knew how long or short each one would be anymore. No cycle was the same as the previous or next one again. Once I noticed this change, I downloaded a period calendar app to keep track. I also didn’t know anything about fertile mucus, ovulation and so on until after I got married. I thought getting pregnant was a lot easier, just join the two cells any time of the month excluding the days of menstrual flow; but no!
My husband and I weren’t living together for the first 15 months of our marriage, until I finally got my green card and was able to join him in the US. In the meanwhile, he did visit every couple of months for a few days but I still never got pregnant. I experienced three other cycles before I would conceive after my move. I got my first period shortly after the move. I do remember having menstrual camps around the second day, which was typical for me, for a few hours.
After that, I discovered a practice called bajos, which are vaginal steam baths. This practice is found in a lot of different cultures across the world, but I particularly came across an article by Dr Rosita Arvigo. Without wasting much time, I prepared a steam bath using some herbs from my garden and from my herbal apothecary. I did this first bath at the peak end of my second period. I also noticed that this second cycle and eventually third cycle were shorter than my usual cycles for the last few months, and they were also about the same in length, lasting approximately 29 days. God knows best, but I attributed that to healthier eating as I was buying more organic, wholesome foods after moving into my own home, or eating less meat, which maybe didn’t have to do with less meat in general but rather less meat that was full of hormones. I still ate dairy but only organic.
Then I did some more research on some of the practices that Dr Arvigo advocates for, and found out about Mayan Abdominal Therapy. Luckily, I found a practitioner nearby and made an appointment to see her. At our appointment, I first filled out some personal information, followed by a discussion mostly about my reproductive health, and then finally, I was taught how to perform the abdominal therapy on myself.
One thing I remember mentioning to her during the appointment was that I never notice that fertile, stretchy, egg-white, cervical mucus. She told me that having a period doesn’t necessitate successful ovulation. She also told me she felt that my uterus was a little tilted to the right. The Mayan abdominal therapy would help lift the uterus and realign it. Other benefits would be undoing tight knots in the abdominal area, and encouraging improved blood and lymph flow. The practitioner told me it’d be best if I did this therapy every day, excluding a few days before the predicted start of my cycle, and the days of menstrual flow. So I stuck with it.
I did a second steam bath at the peak start of my third and final cycle. Sure enough, this time I didn’t experience any cramping. A few days after the end of my cycle, I felt a tiny pinch on the lower right side of my abdomen. When I went to the bathroom a little later, I noticed blood-tinted, thick clear mucus. This egg-white mucus continued for a couple of more days. I wrote my practitioner telling her about my experience, and I wondered if that pinch I felt was ovulation, followed by a little bit of ovulation spotting.
My fourth period never came and I got my positive pregnancy test on the evening of August 9th, 2015. My estimated due date was April 14th, 2016. I went into labor April 12th, and gave birth on April 14th at 2.15am.
I was 10 days past my estimated due date, frustrated and tired that I was still pregnant, having expected to give birth a very long time ago, when I felt the first contractions around 2 a.m. in the morning. I had gone to bed around 11 p.m. At first I didn’t realize it was a real contraction and I went back to sleep after using the restroom. I woke up again about 15 minutes later and that’s when I realized I was in labor. I texted my husband who was at the time in Istanbul telling him to start looking for tickets. I didn’t want to make the same mistake as I did the first time, not taking the time to rest before the long labor ahead. I texted my mom a few minutes later too informing her I was in early labor and that I didn’t need anything at that moment and that I was going to try to go back to sleep. She joined me in bed not much later. I was able to doze off and on between the contractions, breathing mindfully through them. I used my small Sweet Marjoram sample to help me relax and go with the flow. A couple of hours later, I got up to pray Fajr and felt like this might be the last prayer for a while. After texting my grandmother to ask for her prayers, she decided to walk up to our house to join us. Soon later, everyone was awake except for my 19-month-old daughter.
A day earlier, I had had it with the built up emotions. I needed to cry for a long time, and I did. Unable to put my agitated daughter to nap, I came downstairs furiously, left her with my mother, grandmother and sister who were cleaning some dried Moringa seeds, walked out the door and found a spot near the Myrtle bush heavy with her berries, behind our large walnut and olive trees, and let it all out. (I managed to eat a couple of berries as I sobbed too). I tried to reason in my head what I was exactly crying about, and I didn’t have a clear reason. I was simply frustrated, physically and emotionally tired, and scared. I didn’t know what to expect, both in regards to how my birth was going to take place and the postpartum experience. It wasn’t going to be my first time but I knew every time is a different experience. Every time a child is welcomed in to the family, the family gets permanently re-configured. I had, on multiple occasions during my second pregnancy, felt that I was not ready for a second child. I was dreading the unknown. After some minutes of letting my tears flow freely, my grandmother approached me. Long story short, after some discussion, she told me I needed to have stronger faith in that God knew exactly what I wanted and needed as an outcome of this upcoming birth and postpartum and that He would not leave me alone. She told me I should pray that His hands would be above theirs and that I’d be protected by His angels. It was a comforting conversation to say the least. For the longest time during this pregnancy, I entertained the idea of having an undisturbed birth, dreading the idea of going to the hospital. I imagined that I would have to argue and fight during labor and thought of all the unnecessary routine interventions that are done during and after labor. I did not want any of them.
After having a small breakfast around 6.30 a.m., we decided to call the obgyn and tell her that I was in labor. She said she would call the hospital and notify them that I was coming and when I’d arrive, she’d join soon after. We decided I’d be leaving with my mother and grandmother, and everyone else would remain home. We left the house around 7-7.30 a.m., my contractions now much nearer. The roads were open, there was no traffic, and the ride was a lot more comfortable than I was fearing it to be. I sat at the back seat with towels covering the seats just in case my water broke during the ride, (or even better in case I gave birth) facing the back of the car on my knees, holding onto the headrest. I was almost falling asleep between the contractions, and during the contractions I was very careful to let my facial muscles including my jaw to relax. Instinctually low moans were what I found to help me through as well. I was very much in the moment. On the contrary, I was a lot more quiet during my first birth but I was also a lot more tense. During the other half of the ride, I had to change positions because my legs were numb so I leaned against the couch sitting somewhat sideways and held onto the handle above the window. When we got to the hospital I told the nurses and the midwife that I was Dr. so-and-so’s patient. One of the midwives asked if I was even having contractions and I told her yes. I think we got there around 8.30 a.m. A nurse led us into my room, the room I thought I’d be giving birth in. It had a bed, a couch, a wardrobe and a bathroom with a shower. After leaving my stuff inside the room she led me to another room where I thought she’d just have me change into a hospital gown. Instead I was tied onto a fetal monitor and for a short while panicked that I would have to remain that way until I gave birth. The nurse didn’t do much explaining. I was clearly not happy though and after some clarification, I understood that she needed a few pages of a graph reading of my contractions and baby’s heartbeat. Obviously I didn’t think that was necessary and it was not a comfortable position at all, but I was glad it was temporary. After she was done and I got into the hospital gown, I labored in the room I was initially taken to. Soon after the obgyn walked in. I tried to say hello but I was in the middle of a contraction. When she heard the accompanying moans I heard her encouraging me to continue that way. She checked how far I was dilated, and I was surprised to hear her say ‘nearly there’. They did another but much shorter fetal monitoring. I was then told that my membranes would be artificially ruptured once dilation was complete. I was moved into another room, the labor room, a very small room with a laboring couch/bed of some sort that I was not familiar with, two midwives and the nurse in addition to the obgyn. At that point I was fully dilated and the obgyn proceeded to break my water. Then she told me she’d like me to walk around holding onto the IV stand to allow gravity to do its thing and encourage the baby to descend into the birthing canal. They would later transfer me onto the birthing bed last minute when the baby was close to crowning. I started laboring in that way. Soon transition hit me and it was so intense, so much more intense than my first labor – I did not fight it, instead I allowed myself to deal with it however way felt best instinctually. I found myself being very vocal with each contraction and I found that standing with knees slightly bent felt best. I could barely breathe between the contractions because of how fast they came and went. I was so looking forward to the fetal ejection reflex (FER) because during my first labor, that was the most relaxed phase for me. I could talk between the pushing contractions, I was no longer in pain, it was coming to an end. But this time, I wouldn’t be getting a break. When the FER kicked in, I found that I was still overwhelmed with how powerful each contraction was. My body was pushing with full force and I couldn’t help but push along. I couldn’t breathe mindfully through them, I couldn’t breathe my baby out the way I hoped I would. I was overtaken by this incredible force of bringing a soul into the worldly realm.
They transferred me onto the birthing bed, legs up in stirrups, and the obgyn accurately predicted a nuchal cord because she felt the baby was taking a while. (Well, he was actually MUCH faster than my first who didn’t show any signs of difficult positioning or nuchal cord or whatnot). My mother was allowed into the laboring room last minute. She stood behind me and rubbed fresh sage near my nose during every push while she called onto Mary the Mother of Jesus, whose birth story is mentioned in the Qur’an like no other. At around 11.20 a.m. my baby was finally born and placed onto my skin. His purplish face began to change into his pale skin color almost immediately and he let out some small cries. I felt exhausted. I was trembling from exhaustion. I didn’t feel the euphoria I felt with my firstborn. I remembered how my mom would tell us that by the time she was done with laboring, she wouldn’t want to hold us from the amount of exhaustion she felt. I always thought that was so strange because when I saw my firstborn, I forgot everything. The 30-hour labor that left me sleepless, the 5 hour pushing, the transfer to the hospital from my dream home birth. I could barely hold him. I gently rubbed his back before they took him from me to carry out the routine procedures on newborns. I can’t remember if they clamped his cord before or after placing him on me. I do remember my mom attempting to ask them to delay it but everything happened so fast, and I just remember his precious cord blood splashing onto his body.
Fast forward, everything developed fine after that. I managed to avoid an episiotomy and had a second degree tear. The obgyn also allowed me to birth the placenta without manually removing it like they had done in my previous birth. We haven’t had any issues related to hemorrhaging, nursing, milk supply and so on. I left the hospital later in the evening. They had already prescribed me a bunch of medication that I was to get from the pharmacy including antibiotics, pain killers and uterotonics – none of which I wanted to use. I was given antibiotics during labor. Before I could leave the hospital, they injected me with a dose of pain killers and some uterotonic medication. I wanted to avoid getting any more of that. I took Shepherd’s Purse tincture in my water after labor to decrease the likelihood of hemorrhaging. I also took Arnica homeopathy to reduce swelling. I had prepared a combination of Calendula and St. John’s Wort oils with Helichrysum essential oil prior to giving birth and I began using that on the laceration. After a couple of days, I began belly binding using the bengkung method. I started drinking nettle tea and enjoying the broths that my grandmother kept sending over to nourish and restore my depleted reserves. I felt less sore in comparison to how I felt after my first labor but my afterpains which lasted for 2-3 days were definitely more prominent. Albeit not as careful as I needed to be and not as easy as it seems with a demanding toddler, I tried to remain laying down for most of the time and avoided strenuous work.
This time I favored postpartum help over choosing the birth that I prefer and feel safest with. Yes, it’s possible that just like last time, I would have arranged for the birth that I want and ended up not experiencing it. Some things in life are not in our hands and I had to accept that. I was forced to accept that twice in regards to childbirth and to let go of hard feelings. That’s not to say that I don’t advocate for women to demand what they want and feel safe with most in regards to their birthing experience – I do whole-heartedly – or that I find it acceptable for professional care providers to violate women’s bodies, that of their newborn’s, and their wishes. I didn’t want to be on IV fluids that left my hands swollen and pierced at three different locations, I didn’t want the antibiotics, I didn’t want to be deprived of water and food during labor, I didn’t want my water to be broken, I didn’t want the fundal pressure they applied while pushing, I didn’t want to have to change positions in the middle of pushing, I didn’t want to be coached to push, I didn’t want my baby’s cord to be clamped prematurely, I didn’t want any of the drugs I was given following birth. But it is what it is, and I also had to get over this idea that our birthing experience – both as the mother and the child – is what shapes who we are primarily. It is an important experience that plays part in who we are, but it’s one out of many. I also want to mention a few notable positives, other than the obvious such as the fact that I had a healthy, beautiful baby that I’m increasingly falling in love with every day and can’t wait to watch grow up and become friends with his older sister and that I also am in ‘one piece’. The doctor, midwives and nurse were all cheerful during the labor. For the most part, they let me be as vocal as I want and get in whatever position I wanted without making me feel like I was being watched. They didn’t say anything hurtful to me during labor, which should not even be a matter of concern for a laboring woman but unfortunately happens often. I also heard the doctor and one of the midwives ask the nurse if this was her first time witnessing a natural birth i.e. one that didn’t involve an epidural or one that was not a C-section. She said it was her second time and that the first time she actually left the laboring room before the birth ended. Later when I called her into the room to tell her that we were preparing to leave the hospital, she told me she thought my labor had went by very well. I laughed and asked if she wasn’t traumatized, because it might have appeared too intense for her liking. She told me, not at all. It made me happy to hear that, especially since it was pretty much the only natural birth she had experienced (as natural as could be in a Turkish Cypriot hospital with the craziest C-section rates of all time).
Having said that, I still hope to experience a home birth some day… They say third time’s the charm 🙂
A few weeks ago, I was listening to Maryn Green’s livestream on Facebook where she talked about prenatal care. She concluded her video by asking what prenatal care means to you, the expecting mother. This is my second pregnancy and I am past 40 weeks right now. Last pregnancy, I was in Michigan and I had two midwives whom I saw regularly. Their prenatal care consisted mostly of just chitchatting about how I felt, if I had any concerns, questions, and they offered me different assessments I could take at certain stages as the pregnancy progressed. I did a few blood tests at the very beginning of pregnancy to check for blood count, whether I was Rh positive, iron levels, and Hepatitis B I think. These were all blood tests that I decided to do from the list my midwife read out and explained to me. I could have done more or less. In addition, we listened to baby’s heartbeat both with a fetoscope and a doppler throughout the pregnancy when it was possible to do so, and I had a GBS test done later in pregnancy which I tested positive for. No scans and nothing else.
This second time around, I happened to be living in Istanbul. It took me a while to settle with one care provider. Most care provıders in Turkey, no matter how ‘natural’ leaning, seemed to be adamant on me having at least a few scans which I did not want to do. While I was still looking for someone, my mom convinced me to have the baby in Cyprus where my family is because I’d be getting a lot more help postpartum IF the one obgyn a few of my friends had their babies with would be OK with me not having a scan and if I liked her. So I accepted to meet this doctor. Anyway, long story short the first meeting with her was short and pleasant. She seemed chill and didn’t care about me not having a scan. She asked for a lot of blood tests, if I agreed, weighed me and took my blood pressure and sent me off. It was a rushed appointment though, to say the least. The feeling I got was that she didn’t even care to see me throughout the pregnancy unless I wanted to which I was totally fine with because I lived abroad and felt healthy really and didn’t see much benefit in going in to check my blood pressure and weigh, pay about 200 Turkish liras and walk out. She didn’t say anything about having a scan later in pregnancy and from her attitude I assumed she wouldn’t ask for one. Fast forward, I made an appointment at 36 weeks because I wanted to at least pop in to say hi and make sure that when I called her during labor, she would at least have a clue on whom I was. So I thought this appointment would be very similar to my first and last one back at 10 weeks pregnancy. I was also planning on telling her a few wishes I had in regards to labor and after labor. I tried to limit my list to four things, two during and two after labor so I wouldn’t sound like a control freak and so that she wouldn’t end up, rightfully, telling me to go find another caregiver if I didn’t want to go by her rules. During the appointment, I didn’t even finish telling her exactly what I wanted. I didn’t feel comfortable or confident. I ended up having to do a scan because it seemed very important to her. She wanted to check the position of the placenta to rule out placenta previa, and obviously the position of the baby. She had me take an appointment for 10 days later for a cervical check, and I walked out the clinic wanting to cry. Later I called and canceled the appointment for the cervical check.
I should mention that in Istanbul, I saw one other obgyn for an actual prenatal rather than to meet her – she was respectful of the fact that I wanted to avoid scans. She checked for positioning with her hands, we listened to baby’s heartbeat and we did the usual body weight and blood pressure. She said she wanted to see me again before I left to Cyprus and asked for a few blood tests. She didn’t feel happy about my skin color which is very pale and gives off the feeling that I have very low iron although I have never suffered from major symptoms of anemia, pregnant or not, and my blood tests have always come out borderline to low iron levels but never alarmingly low. I had already done all the tests she wanted me to take. I was planning on taking them again anyway because frankly, I was just hoping she’d give me an OK note for traveling in case they asked at the airport at 35 weeks pregnancy. I was too tired and busy to get the blood tests done and schedule another appointment so I never did, and no one asked anything at the airport.
So Maryn made so much sense during her live session and talked about how prenatal care should really revolve around what the mother considers prenatal care to be. What she feels like she needs whether that’s physically or emotionally or spiritually. For example, I always felt like a regular massage during pregnancy would be such a bliss but I never placed it in the category of prenatal care. I had the blessing of knowing a professional massage therapist in Michigan who offered her services inside your own home. Personally I would be making use of that opportunity if I were to have access to it throughout my pregnancy, more so than a frequent trip to an obgyn’s or midwife’s office for a weight and blood pressure check which can really be done at home. If you can only afford or have access to very limited massage therapy, you can make sure you practice some self-massage with sesame oil before a shower, followed by a relaxing 2-minute facial gua sha.
In addition, I saw an osteopath on three different occasions during my current pregnancy and felt relief each time from some hip issues I was experiencing. Some expecting mothers frequent osteopaths and chiropractors on a regular basis. Another practice that moms can benefit from is prenatal yoga, either at home or in a group setting. I had established a routine habit of practicing yoga in the mornings especially during Ramadhan and it was a great start to the day. Eating mindfully and taking regular walks is another essential part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Despite how constipation is seen as a normal and expected part of pregnancy, I never seemed to have an issue with it in relation to pregnancy but rather I realized that tension during my day and an inability to relax and take a break for at least 15-20 minutes with deep breathing is what causes me trouble. I need to put my mind to it. I like to include an essential oil into the breathing session too, sweet marjoram being my personal favorite. You can intend for the deep breathing to relax & benefit your womb and prepare you for the upcoming labor too. It’s a good habit and needs to be practiced prior to labor, if you are planning on using breathing techniques during labor. I tend to experience restless leg syndrome some nights especially if I’m going to bed late (which is best avoided!) so a 10-minute soak in a small bucket of warm water with epsom salt does wonders and is a great treat. Massage your feet with raw Shea butter or olive oil after drying them with a towel.
As other women, I’m guilty of sometimes feeling like pampering myself is selfish. I’m still young and maybe don’t experience the aches and pains and the struggles of life that older women do, I feel, but I need to remind myself that I am a full-time mom, wife and homemaker. I need to acknowledge that I do work hard; I’m trying my best to keep up and sometimes I have very high expectations of myself. If I expect myself to function as a sane humanbeing and avoid going out of my mind from exhaustion so that I could continue doing what I have to do, my body and emotions need to be taken care of. And so do yours.
So these are some things that I consider to be essential parts of prenatal care for me i.e. what a pregnant woman needs and really, what a non-pregnant woman needs. Another mom could feel that she needs that extra blood test and frequent blood pressure and weight check, as well as the many other routine checks that modern obstetrics and some midwives have to offer. Others might have things to add to the list of practices I mentioned. Maybe a warm cup of herbal tea or milk with honey before bed or while reading a book, meditation… I’d love to hear comments from other moms!