By: Aisha Al Hajjar, AMANI Birth Founder
During my eighth pregnancy I was living in the Egypt where childbirth education was virtually unheard of, general anesthesia for second stage labor was still used for many cases, and elective cesareans was the trend. I felt compelled to bring quality childbirth education to the women of this region. However, I was expecting to find a lot of obstacles and I wasn’t sure if women would be interested in non-medicated, natural birth. I also knew it would be difficult to find supportive obstetricians. I prayed that my work would improve the births for a select few women and babies, but I couldn’t have predicted the scope of impact it would have.
I was six months pregnant when I traveled to the United States for to train to become a Childbirth Educator. I returned to Egypt eager to share what I had learned. However, I was planning to travel to Saudi for the birth of my own baby and figured I wouldn’t even begin teaching until after that. Subhanallah, Allah had different plans! When I arrived home my mother was practically jumping up and down, “You have to read this post on the Internet!” I was tired and weary from the long journey, but took the time to read:
“Salaam to all,
I hope this e-mail finds you in best of health and Eman.
A doctor at a medical teaching center is preparing free lectures for expectant mothers on the 13th of July.
She is interested in having also with her an American or Foreigner to give insight on delivery methods or midwifery from our perspective.
They are doing some wonderful things at this Centre to promote women’s health issues and are supported by the government so the medical fees are very reasonable.
If anyone is interested, please contact the doctor directly…”
Subhanallah, this was right up my alley! I couldn’t believe the timing! I had JUST come from my Childbirth Educator training and here was an opportunity jumping in my face! Allah is so good, Alhamdulillah! But even still, I had no idea of the implications and results that would come from this.
After making istikarah, I phoned the doctor. She asked me to meet her in person to discuss what I could offer to her lecture. I packed up my bag of teaching materials and went to see her. She was impressed with the curriculum and professional layout of the student workbook. She showed me some basic exercises she had planned to demonstrate at the lecture and felt validated that I had some of those same exercises in my repertoire. We began working closely together to prepare for the upcoming lecture on natural birth and in the process became very close friends.
I was impressed at how intently she threw herself into the natural birth material. She became totally consumed as she delved deeper and deeper with a thirst to learn more. I had no idea at that point that she had never seen a totally natural birth.
(Think about that, an experienced obstetrician of 16 years who had never seen a non-medicated, natural birth!)
At one point she confided in me that she actually didn’t believe in natural birth. That prior to meeting me she was recommending elective cesarean surgeries to her patients. I remember feeling betrayed by this. I asked her to explain how she decided to lecture on the topic of natural birth. It turns out she didn’t decide, it was assigned to her! In her desperation she reached out to one of her foreign patients who had made the obscure post on the e-group for foreign sisters living in Egypt. Hence came our “chance” meeting and partnership, Subhanallah.
We worked night and day and prepared a phenomenal lecture. When the big day came there were over ninety obstetricians, nurses, pregnant woman, and other interested persons in attendance, including the media. This began a chain of events that keeps me saying Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar over and over again!
She decided to put her new knowledge of natural birth to the test in her private practice. She invited me to attend a few births with her and I acted as doula for laboring mothers (more like doula for the doctor). It was an awesome experience for me to participate in the births, but more than that, to see her transform her ideas about the process of labor and birth.
After these births, one of the nurses was touched by the miracle of witnessing a truly natural birth and asked her in Arabic,
“Is this a new way to give birth?”
The doctor replied, “No, it’s the ORIGINAL way!” Masha‘ Allah.
The doctor then became my translator for teaching the childbirth classes. Our class was all Egyptian women and most of them did not speak English. Through this experience I learned a little more Arabic and she learned a lot more about natural birth in general.
When our classes ended, I was nine months pregnant and rushed off to Riyadh to deliver my eighth baby. In the meantime, the doctor back in Egypt knew that she could not keep the “secret” of natural birth to herself. As I went on to develop the AMANI Birth program, a childbirth education program from an Islamic perspective, she went on to open her own private clinic for natural childbirth and serves mothers with AMANI trained Childbirth Education and Doulas, Masha’ Allah. We remain dear friends to this day.
This is a transformation that I never could have foreseen. I am so blessed to have witnessed this change in her and am so happy for the many women that this change has affected. I can’t even tell you how honored I feel to have been able to introduce her to birth the way Allah intended, natural and unmedicated. It’s such a joy to see her discover the true miracle of birth and this was just the beginning of my journey...one that has led to many more doors being opened and exponential growth of the AMANI Birth program and its affect on birth practices across the Middle East and all praises are due to Allah, the Most Merciful.