A Birth Story in Honor of a Birth

We are supposed to go to my dad’s birthday party this afternoon. I’m not sure exactly how that happened given how my husband feels about celebrating birthdays. I mean we couldn’t even go to various baby’s birthday parties. Child’s birthday vs. adult birthday…hmm? It could have had something to do with the fact that the time they were planning it was around Baby’s bedtime, which I just casually mentioned and they went and contacted all the guests (not that there were many) and changed the time of the party just to accommodate Baby.

I still can’t quite understand the not celebrating birthdays thing, at least not for the reasons they give (I think I could understand other reasons). The most common answer I see online, which appears to be copied from a certain Muslim question answer site is:

The evidence in the Qur’aan and Sunnah indicates that celebrating birthdays is a kind of bid’ah or innovation in religion, which has no basis in the pure sharee’ah. It is not permitted to accept invitations to birthday celebrations, because this involves supporting and encouraging bid’ah.

This answer doesn’t even make sense to me, although apparently it does to a lot of people. They act like celebrating birthdays is a religious observance that people are imitating. To absolutely no one I know of is a birthday a religious observance. There are a few speakers/scholars who actually acknowledge this when they talk about celebrating birthdays/anniversaries/secular holidays. They say about the same thing that I said, which is that it wasn’t part of their culture, and the Prophet (s) not doing it doesn’t prove that it’s haram. Dr. Zakir Naik (although he disapproves of it in general) says that he cannot say it is haram because you cannot make something haram if it was not explicitly forbidden in either the Quran or sunnah. The general ruling is that things that are not religious observances are halal unless they were explicitly made haram, and in terms of religious observance everything that was not explicitly practiced is bid’ah and therefore haram. So my question is: how in the world does a child’s birthday celebration get to be a religious observance? I mean how does that even make sense to anyone? That’s kind of where you get people from foreign cultures who seem to interpret our culture in foreign ways. There are people who say that you have to get rulings from scholars familiar with your own culture for that reason, and they dislike the trend of getting information off the internet.

Anyway, here is the wonderful story of Baby’s birth in honor of her upcoming birthday:

I had false starts to my labor for about 3 days before my labor really started. I would have fairly regular contractions for 3 or 4 hours starting at 10 or 11 in the night. On the night before she was born this happened. I waited until about 3:00 in the morning to call my sister who was acting as my doula (If anyone is looking for a doula in the New York capital region they can contact me to get in touch with her. She is trained in aroma therapy, acupressure, and a variety of other comfort measures.). She arrived at my house around 4:00. We didn’t  call my husband. We let him come home from work at his usual time. My husband had not intended to be present at the birth of our child because he was very afraid of childbirth.

I dealt with contractions by vocalizing, “O, O, O” in  rhythm to my contractions. The contractions gradually increased in frequency and intensity throughout the day. I mostly lay on my side on my bed. My husband sat in the other room on the computer and just kind of did his regular thing, occasionally checking in with us. In the morning I had my sister call my midwives to tell them I would not be going to an appointment they had scheduled that day because I was in labor. They insisted to my sister that I agree to come in at 8:00 the next morning. She agreed on my behalf. This made me feel like they didn’t really believe I was in labor. I sipped mango flavored coconut water. In the afternoon, I asked for crackers and my husband came back with 5 different kinds. He also brought back an eggplant parm sub for my sister, and I sat at the kitchen table and ate part of that with her. I felt a lot of pressure in my butt the whole labor, and I felt nauseous. I also felt extremely hot during contractions.  My sister put sea bands on my wrists. I think those helped the nausea. She tells me they cut them off of me at the hospital because they were too tight, but I don’t remember.

My contractions never really got very regular. I was told to call the midwives when they were 5 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute.  My sister was recording the frequency of the contractions for me. She says I had some that were only lasting 30 seconds and were more than 10 minutes apart, and I had others that were less than a minute apart and lasting several minutes. She called the midwives and told them this, and, to my surprise (because I thought because my contractions were irregular that they would think I wasn’t really in labor), the midwife told my sister that I could come into the hospital any time I felt ready, and that it wasn’t urgent. I tried to hold off as long as possible because I was afraid I wouldn’t be very far along yet, but I was starting to feel restless, and also it was becoming difficult for me to even put my shoes and coat on in between contractions. I think I did not put my coat on and just held it in my arms. It was absolutely frigid outside, but I felt so hot that at first it felt good.

The only time I snapped at my husband during my labor was when I was standing near a wall, waiting to go out to the cars, and I started having a contractions. My husband, who hadn’t attended any childbirth classes, or really knew what to expect from labor, told me to sit down, and I said, “Leave me alone.”

I sat in the backseat of my sister’s car with my seat belt on surrounded by my coconut water, and my ride to the hospital was not any worse than labor at home. In my sister’s doula training and our childbirth class, they said for most women that is the worst part of labor for many women, and most refuse to sit or wear their seat belts. We live 45 minutes from the hospital. At the hospital, there is not much good parking situation. My sister parked in the emergency parking lot, and we had to walk to the door of the emergency room as that is the only entrance that is open at night. I had to pee ridiculously bad, and it was so cold, the walk from the car to the door seemed like forever.

Then we had to go up the elevator and into the birth center. They were waiting for us. A nurse was trying to explain to me how to put on some kind of band they wanted around me and the hospital gown, and she wanted a urine sample, and she was explaining to me how to do that, and I had to pee so bad I was hopping from foot to foot and having a contraction on top of that, so I was totally unable to take in any of her instructions (how come she couldn’t see that?). I complained that I was “leaking.” I meant urine because I had to pee so bad. She thought I meant amniotic fluid. It turns out it was both. I finally got into the bathroom and fumbled through the changing and urine sample, dropping several things on the floor and having difficulty retrieving them.

In the triage room the nurse had to do electronic monitoring, and she wanted to do a cervical exam. In some of my childbirth books and articles I had read that cervical exams are unnecessary and can increase your chance of infection. A skilled practitioner should know other ways of telling how far along you are. In our childbirth class, we were told that we have the right to decline them. I attempted to do so by stating that I did not want one and that I had read that they increased the chance of infection. The nurse insisted that she had to do it and that the chance of infection was only increased if your amniotic fluid was leaking (she proceeded to do a test to see if my amniotic fluid was leaking because I had said I was leaking, but she did the cervical exam anyway). I’m not sure I really actively consented. I really just didn’t feel up to arguing. That cervical exam was horrendous. I ended up having 3 of them, and they were the worst part of my labor. I was 6 cm dilated.

My mom and my step-father arrived while I was in triage, and they were there with me except during the cervical exam. I could hear them talking with my husband out in the hall.

All 7 of us (including my two assigned nurses) proceeded to my room. As soon as we entered the room, I went to check out the bathroom to see if it had a labor tub because some of the rooms only had showers. We were told on our hospital tour that if we intended to have a natural birth we should ask for a room with a labor tub. I observed that my room only had a shower, but I wasn’t inclined to do anything about it.

 

The nurse insisted on doing another cervical exam because I felt uncomfortable to lay on my back, which made her suspicious. I was 9 cm dilated. She was still asking me all those kind of check in paperwork kind of questions, things about my diet and what they could do to make my stay more comfortable. I said that strange men shouldn’t see me uncovered (meaning without my hijab). The only one who didn’t respect this was the pediatrician who came on duty the day we were discharged, a South Asian man; he just stood and stared at me while I was fumbling to get my hijab on. The midwife had asked to be called in when I reached 9 cm.

I had some misconceptions about the kind of care I would receive with my midwife. I guess I should have asked more questions and discussed things more during the prenatal care. I was under the assumption that the midwife would meet me at the hospital and stay with me the whole time I was laboring at the hospital and that she would be my only attendant.

Pretty much right after the 2nd cervical exam, the contractions got really really intense and close together. My mom and step-father and husband were still in the room. My perception is that the contractions got so intense that I was just screaming, totally out of  control. I remember really zoning into the tiles on the floor around my step-father’s feet and part of a curtain. When I said something about screaming sometime after Baby was born, my mom, my husband and my sister all informed me that I was not screaming but merely vocalizing. I felt like I was screaming. It was really intense.

The midwife told me to tell her when I felt the urge to push. I said I didn’t know. They said it would feel like I needed to poop, and I said it’s felt like that the whole time I’ve been in labor. I vomited, which is apparently a sign that you are getting near the pushing stage. They insisted on doing another cervical exam to make sure that my cervix was entirely out of the way before I could start pushing. I was a bit resentful of that.

I started pushing holding onto the top of the bed (it was a bed that could incline almost vertical) and crouching on the bed. I had read in a childbirth book about different birthing positions, and I wanted to give birth in a crouching position so that the baby could be born either on a towel or the bed and I could be the first one to touch her (but I didn’t speak to my midwife about that). The midwife decided that I was putting too much of the energy of the pushes into my arms in that position. She also decided that I was putting too much of my pushing into vocalizations. I had only had a few pushes in that position. Then she said something like,” We’ll get this baby out quicker if we put you on your back.” She proceeded to have me get on my back and the nurses hold the back of my knees. She had me push with all of my might. That was a revelation for me because I didn’t realize I was supposed to push that hard. I thought it was supposed to be more relaxed and controlled, that’s why I was channeling some of the energy into my breathing and vocalization. I was pushing so hard I couldn’t see anything during the pushing. It was like blackness. My sister said she worried that she was pushing me too hard because my face turned so red.  I felt so hot; the midwife allowed them to turn the fan on for me. Every contraction, they were yelling at me to push, push, push, push, push, just one more good push. She was coaching me to hold my breath and push so as not to waste any of the energy. My contractions would be fizzling out, and they’d still be yelling at me to push, and this bothered me in some way because I felt like they should be able to tell, but instead I had to tell them.

Anyway, they could see Baby’s head several contractions before I could. Then I could see quite a lot of wet, ratty looking black hair (she doesn’t have black hair; it was just wet, but we expected her to have black hair). The midwife was doing perineal massage with oil during the pushing, and I hated this. I told her to stop, and she told me she wasn’t doing anything, so then I realized the baby was actually coming. But my sister says she lied to me, and that the only time I acted uncomfortable or was saying stop was when she was touching me.

The midwife was at the foot of the bed. The nurses on either side of me, and my mom, husband and sister were all a little off to the left side on the foot of the bed. My stepfather had stepped behind a curtain when I took my pants off, and he stayed there the whole time. He apparently watched the clock and took note of the time of the birth.

We probably arrived at the hospital around 8:15 or so. My sister estimates that they took about 45 minutes in triage, and then Baby was born slightly before 11. It all felt very quick.

When she was born, they held her so that my husband could see her (I wouldn’t allow him to find out the sex ahead of time). Then they placed her all bloody on my chest and put a blanket over both of us. I had a strong feeling most of my pregnancy that she was a girl, but I didn’t even get to see her, and I didn’t want to refer to her by gender until I knew for sure, so I had to ask.

At some point they took her off of my chest and across the room to weigh her and prick her and do all of those things that they do, and I kept whining to my sister that I want her back. I was too weak to get out of the bed.

The placenta came out very easy and squishy. At some point, they had to give me a shot of pitocin because uterus was not contracting. The nurses came along to give me a catheter. They tried to help me to the bathroom, but they wouldn’t when I felt a little dizzy or lightheaded and too weak to stand on my own, so then they brought a bed pan, but I had no urge to go, so they had to put the catheter in. It wasn’t that bad. My grandmother had complained about them extensively, so I was afraid of it. The nurse then informed the other nurse that my uterus couldn’t shrink because my bladder was too full. You are supposed to go to the bathroom before you start the pushing stage, but the nurse told me it wouldn’t have made a difference because Baby came so quick, I wouldn’t have been able to.

They wanted to put me on an IV because they said I had lost a lot of blood. I promised to drink a lot of water and so avoided the IV. I have always had a pretty big phobia of IVs. They freak me out. I’m not really afraid of having blood drawn or getting needles, I just sometimes faint, and I feel sick and hot, and people interpret this as a fear response, but I realized that it is not fear; it is some kind of physical response.

They also kept offering me hemorrhoid medication and pain relievers, which puzzled me because I wasn’t feeling any kind of pain or discomfort at all. Everyone just seemed to assume that I was feeling bad. So far as the blood loss went, one of the nurses said to me, “You feel like someone who has lost a lot of blood,” and I thought to myself, not really. So far as feeling lightheaded when standing, I’ve felt worse in my ordinary life and been expected to carry on (or at least I thought I was), and I really didn’t feel bad at all. I did pass some rather large blood clots, and I did bleed for 10 weeks after Baby was born.

My husband mostly insisted on taking care of her in the hospital, and I was too weak to really get out of the bed the first day. She tried to breastfeed, and by the 2nd day something just clicked and she took to it, but I didn’t realize my milk had come in because a WIC peer counselor had told tried to describe what a letdown felt like, so I was expecting it to feel like something big and grand. My husband and I didn’t notice the pee pee diapers because they were mixed in with the poopy. A nurse saved us from supplemental feedings by digging through the trash to find them. My breast was engorged for the first couple of weeks, which made breastfeeding painful, but I didn’t realize at first that it was engorged because I didn’t know my milk had come in.

In the hospital, I was mostly just trying to learn how to take care of her. I really fell in love once we brought her home. I just gazed at her, and tears came into my eyes as I thought what an amazing thing Allah has created.

 

A Random Bit of Everything

I’m tired tonight. I thought I should work on my sewing, but now I’m thinking just work on my blog a bit and join Baby in bed. Last night I finished making a khimar hijab for my mother-in-law. After we get back from Bangladesh, I think I will finally get my business up and running and really start trying to sell them. That is if we go to Bangladesh on time, which is still uncertain as we are waiting to see if my husband will get his passport.

Tough Skin and a Soft Heart?

My sister stopped at my place after work yesterday. She was a bit upset and needed to talk.

At work, she was getting a container of laundry detergent to fill an order. A couple was standing talking a little in front of the display. They weren’t really in her way, and she just reached around and took a container of laundry detergent. The husband said, “Excuse me.”

She said, “Sorry.”

The woman said something to her.

She said,”Sorry.”

The woman said something further to her.

She said, “Sorry,” again.

The woman said something more.

She said, “Sorry.” (I’m thinking to myself did she seriously just say sorry to them four times just for reaching around them?).

Then the woman said, “You’re awfully rude for someone who works here.”

Another sorry.

“Just don’t let it happen again. Other people might not be as nice as we’ve been.” (Really? She thought she was nice?).

My sister walked away, and after a couple of minutes started crying. She says to me that if at over 30 she hasn’t learned good manners and people still think she’s rude, is she ever going to. She says, her whole life she’s always tried to be polite, and no one has ever thought she was polite. People always say she’s rude.

This is interesting to me, our divergent experiences, because my sister really does try, and I don’t try to be rude, but she’s probably more polite and considerate (seriously I’ve never met anyone who worried more about how other people felt and what they would think of her), and I don’t really recall people telling me I’m rude. Also, so far as life goals, I never really worried about people thinking I’m polite; my goals were to live with honesty and integrity and be a good person.

My sister and my aunt were nervous about ever traveling to Bangladesh because they worried they would be ignorant of some point of etiquette and accidentally offend someone. I can’t say I ever worried about that. It probably is a valid worry. It seems, however, that we can unintentionally offend even in our own culture (I’ll have to do a post sometime on why I think I might have Asperger’s).

My sister really thought the whole thing out. She didn’t say excuse me because it makes people feel as though they are in your way or you have annoyed them in some way (I know it makes me feel that way), and they weren’t in her way. Also many people use excuse me in a rude way to show that they are annoyed with you or they feel you have done something wrong. Her logic makes sense to me; I understand where she’s coming from.

To me etiquette is kind of hogwash. That isn’t really what good manners are. To me, good manners is kindness, plain and simple. It’s about real consideration for other people, how you treat people, how you make them feel. Intentionally trying to make others feel low and bad about their shortcomings, there’s nothing polite about that. So who was the rude one here?

She has a lot more forbearance than I do. I’m afraid I would have lost my temper. I’m sure (if I was their employee) that the store would not like me to say what I would like to say to these people even if I’m right (and no I wouldn’t have spoken disrespectfully to them or swore at them because I don’t do that).

My whole life people have told me I need to get a tougher skin (so such things don’t upset or hurt you), but my heart is hard. How does a tougher skin and the goal of a softer heart go together? My sister says they don’t. She says they are opposing goals. I think maybe, it isn’t a tough skin, you need at all. Maybe what you need is more patience and forbearance. You bear it patiently even though it hurts you. Maybe that is the goal.

 

Teaching Again

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I was having thoughts as if I was still teaching at the school I used to teach at. I would really like to teach again, and I would like to teach at that school, despite some of my negative experiences. I came slightly more awake, and I was thinking should I try to return to teaching? I want to home school our daughter and be home with other babies. I used to have the thought that when she was a little bit older, maybe no longer nursing or something like that, that I might teacher until I had another baby, but now I can’t quite see my way to it.

I could see possibilities for how it might work, but I’m loving being with my baby so much. I feel like it’s better for her, so I would have to make sacrifices in that regard. If I waited until she was school age, I would have to make sacrifices in her education as I already know the school provides a mediocre education even in Islamic subjects, and that the administration has a much different educational philosophy and would expect her to spend the bulk of her time in her studies, so she just plain wouldn’t have as much time for being a kid and just exploring and playing.

I also had the strange thought that if I got good enough at my Bengali (I’m still studying) that I could teach English over there, but that’s not going to happen. My husband would think I was nuts. We spent such a long time waiting for his visa, and he doesn’t want to go back there. I was really just thinking that my daughter (when she is older) could have a bit of an International study abroad kind of experience, but I don’t think my husband would see the point of that as we wouldn’t be sending her to one of those expensive schools in Dhaka, and I doubt he thinks there’s anything too great about the schools in our area of Bangladesh.

Our family donated money to two schools in the area though. One was an Islamic girl’s school, and the other was an English medium school. I was invited to come visit the schools (and I really wanted to), but no one ever took me, and I wasn’t allowed to go out on my own due to my limited Bengali, the political situation, and general attitudes toward women and foreigners.

Bilingual Children’s Books

I thought it would be nice to buy our two nieces in Bangladesh these bilingual Bengal-English children’s books. I got them The Very Hungry CaterpillarThe Giant Turnip, and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Unfortunately, The Giant Turnip is not the cute version my 2nd grade class read with all the animals. It is an adaptation that left out all the animals. I don’t actually like it, but I’m not going to return it. My nieces should still find it helpful for practicing reading in English.

While I was at it, I also bought Baby Are You My Baby? in Arabic. I have to say here that we are not an Arabic speaking family. My husband and I can both read Arabic to recite Quran, and we know some basic grammar and phrases, and that is about the extent of our fluency. Not being Quran or written for learners (even though it’s a baby board book?), Are You My Baby? lacks the diacritical marks to tell you how to pronounce the vowels, so I looked them all up online before reading it to Baby for the first time.

She loves it. I was reading it to her in Arabic. It starts out with the Papa dog asking, “Are you my baby?” Then the next page has a picture of a donkey, and the donkey says, “No!” Then there is a flap with the picture of a puppy, and the puppy says, “Yes.” So, I was reading it to her (in Arabic) and I when we lift up the flap to reveal the puppy, I hear her gasp in delight and look back and forth between the dog and the puppy. She realized that the dog and the puppy went together. She understood the whole point of the story, and I wasn’t even reading it to her in our language.

I’m not really fluent in Bengali either. I understand a fairly good amount, but my speaking skills are behind. I still try to speak with Baby in Bengali sometimes, and her reaction amuses me. For example, today I said to her, “You have to get dressed and put on some nice clothes.” Then I said, “Shoondor jama.” She grinned at me. This is her typical reaction when I speak Bengali. She grins or laughs like it is a very amusing game between the two of us.

What I’ve Been Busy With

I finished five fleece baby jackets, a jacket for our 10-year-old niece, and a sweater for Baby. I also made 3 hijabs to sell, so far. I still have to make a fleece jacket for our 7-year-old niece. I also want to make a hijab for my mother-in-law.

People have been saying I should sell baby jackets I have been making so many of them. Although that was not my original idea for a business, I would be perfectly happy to sell them, but they are not really my own design. It’s a simple, store bought pattern that I adjusted to fit my own preferences.

 

I went to the fabric sale on Saturday to take advantage of a sale, but I didn’t buy anything for my business. I like to wear shalwar kameez when we are in Bangladesh, but although my sister-in-law had no trouble nursing discreetly in them, I don’t find them very convenient for nursing. I don’t like having to pull my shirt up from the bottom. I feel like my belly is being exposed, and when Baby is nursing the whole night, I feel like I feel cold and more exposed. I like tops that are a little stretchy and pull down. I had the idea that I could try to make something like my shalwar kameez, but with stretchy fabric around the top so that I can pull it down. I’m going to try out my pattern and see how it goes.

Before I had Baby, I used to think I would like nursing clothing that had little discreet openings so that people could hardly even tell you were nursing. Nope! Not at all. What do you know before the Baby is born? Also, Baby doesn’t particularly like nursing under a scarf, and I also prefer to be able to gaze freely down at her beautiful face. I’m going to try putting a big cotton scarf over top of both of us when we are on the airplane. I’ll have to see how that goes!