I met my husband in Dahab, a small fisher town on the shore of the red sea on the Sinai peninsula (Egypt). I got pregnant and we were expecting our daughter due March 2020. Dahab is very popular with independent travellers, divers and ‘bohemian’ thinking people.
Early in the pregnancy I found a pregnancy yoga class and started meeting pregnant ladies around town. Soon I learned that house births are very popular here. In the beginning I was pretty sure this it’s not for me. I want a proper hospital and a qualified doctor. We do have a small clean hospital here in Dahab however their range of treatments are limited. They can do C-sections and deliver babies though. Me and my husband thought we will be better of in Cairo. However, we don’t live in Cairo. Only my husbands’ family is living there. As we settled more and more in Dahab we started to feel that it might be a better idea to have our baby closer to our home. Whether at home or in the small hospital we wanted to decide at a later point.
Meanwhile I stayed in Dahab and met all these amazing women who had their babies at home, in the sea or in a pool. I got fascinated by the idea of owning my birth experience. I already believed for a while that the medicalisation of the birth process leads to disowning the women of her natural rights. Most women can give birth to their babies in the open field my OB said; but in 15-20% of cases you actually need medical intervention. So I started asking myself why is a hospitalised birth the norm?
Firstly, I started to believe that a birth is not a medical event which should be owned by a (male) doctor. Of course, I realise that complications can happen during childbirth and that doctors helped prevent uncounted deaths of babies and their mothers. There is still a very big number of women who give birth to their babies without medicine to be involved. It raises problems when you transmit the ownership and responsibility of your birth to someone else. At the end no matter what happened in the hospital; the woman needs to live with the outcome.
For a doctor this is a job and he/she is on a schedule. He has a protocol and acts upon it without always seeing the individual and her abilities. For a doctor it might be easier to perform a scheduled C-section rather than waiting for spontaneous labor which can take sometimes 50 hours. Doctors in hospitals are usually inclined to do something before in order to prevent you to be in labor for such a long (even 20 hours is usually to much for them) time which usually is invasive for the mother. If something takes longer than ‘expected’ they invade her body in order to minimise risks.
But why do we think we need to have a doctor approving everything we eat, travel to and do while pregnant? I also thought so even 8 months ago because it was the only thing I knew. This is how it’s on TV and in my western environment. I think we’re very strongly influenced by the media and how birth is portrayed as this painful, dangerous experience. This fear sits in our spine and discouraging us from the thought that we can do this. That we were made for this. That our bodies know exactly what they need to do. A woman’s body is a very powerful machine creating life. It simply doesn’t make sense to me that the information of how to give birth to the life it created is not safely stored within us as well – same like in all the animals.
I also got a sense that the doctors deliberately keep responsibility on their side assuming women don’t want or cannot take certain decisions. I have several examples; firstly, the due date calculation. It should rather be called “due range” than due date. It’s an date estimation mostly based on the first day of your last period assuming the woman has a very stable 28-day cycle (which really doesn’t happen that often). The ultrasound machines also can give an estimate of how far due the baby actually is based on the size of the baby. I’ve been to several doctors during my pregnancy and nobody mentioned that this date is only an estimate and could be inaccurate. The gestation varies highly from woman to woman. Why is this a problem? Because once a woman is late all sorts of measurements are being performed based on a inaccurate piece of data. C-sections and inductions are being scheduled based on it; although she maybe didn’t remember the exact date of her last period.
So I was three weeks late. Did anyone ask me to recalculate it to try to make it more accurate? No. Did anyone take into account that my cycle is 31 days which pushes my due date to the back? No. Did anyone even mention all of this for me to be able to recalculate it on my own? No. I find it a very harsh measure to induce a probably much more painful labor (plus 60% of inductions end up in emergency C-sections anyways) based on a poorly calculated due date. I didn’t do any of this and therefore I was pregnant for 10 months.
There are risks connected to babies staying longer in the womb than 42 weeks. When I was informed about those risks I was not informed about how risky it actually is in percentages. So I can maybe take an educated decision and weigh the risks taking responsibility for my body and my baby. The doctors bombarded us with awful problems which could happen if we wait even one second longer. The machine showed my baby weighs 4.5 kg which is by default a C-section in many countries. However, it doesn’t make any sense to me to cut out a perfectly healthy baby out of a perfectly healthy mother because of a weight protocol.
So I’m finding myself in a situation that a doctor is telling me three days after my due date that I should get a C-section done immediately because the ultrasound machine showed that the baby is bigger than average. Induction is not even an option because of the size of the baby. It’s widely accepted that the ultrasound machines give an error range between 10% and 30% and that if they are mistaken by “only” 500g it’s considered within the accurate range. My baby was born two weeks after the day the ultrasound appointment and weighed 4kg. So the machine was wrong again. In fact, I know countless stories where the machine was wrong and measures have been taken as if there are no errors.
I really understand that the medicine needs to rely on data in order to make decisions which will eventually save lives. I truly believe that. However, I want to know before that his machine has a 30% error rate and then I want to think about whether I want to act on his recommendation or take my risks. I feel I’m being left out of everything what’s not according to protocol. Is this how it is in the medical sphere? Do most people just prefer not to hear the but’s and just being told what to do and follow it blindly? I’d like to know what ALL my options are.
When I was informing my friends and family about the happenings in my pregnancy I also noticed that when they were asking about “what did the doctor say” it sounded like he’s the keeper of my pregnancy. I should be the keeper of my pregnancy and doctors come in when shit hits the fan. For whatever reason I feel they are too far in our business. If you are a healthy woman who doesn’t expect a baby from her cousin or have other reasons to believe you are at risk everybody should chill down little. The entire panic around pregnancies and what you are and aren’t supposed to do also seems to be put upon us by the medical community. Most of these recommendations are based on tiny percentile cases. But we’re not informed about that. We are just being told; don’t eat fried runny eggs. On the other hand, many happily accept these instructions and follow them obediently. I feel some of the recommendations are way too restrictive and overcautious.
I truly believe that every woman has an incredible power within herself to be a mother and knowing what’s best and what she can take or not. I believe she becomes a mother when she finds out that she is pregnant. In this moment she is not alone anymore and she needs to take responsibly for her herself and the pregnancy. A birth is an incredibly empowering process shaping the beginning of her motherhood as well as shaping the beginning of the baby’s life. We care of course about the baby’s wellbeing but we should also care about the mothers who can deal with birth traumas often for months and years to come influencing and poisoning their experience as mothers. I believe a C-section should stay a measure performed in a situation when a natural birth is not possible and highly unwise. However, the psychological consequences of that should be acknowledged and taken serious.
We’ve completely surrendered our privileges to the doctors because we were induced with fear about birth. Even the position you see in movies and you supposing deliver your baby into – laying flat on the bed, is only comfortable for the doctor. For you as a birthing mom it’s not very comfortable to lay flat on your back not taking any use of the power of gravity.
At the end I had my baby girl at home in the standing position in my living room. I was the whole time with my husband and my midwife. Nothing can prepare you for your first birth. I was lucky everything went ‘according to plan’ I liked to say when I was asked afterwards. However, I had no freaking clue what the plan was. I felt that everything was right and I would totally do it again, I am grateful for the experience and I’m proud that this is how my daughter saw the first light of this world.
It was very hard for me and my husband to wait for three weeks for our daughter to be baked enough to arrive. Although I believed that we both are fine it's still not easy to keep a cool head all the time believing in yourself and your decisions. Every woman has the wisdom inside her. Whatever the birth will be. Trust in the abilities nature gave us to take decisions for our bodies and babies. One in a line of many more to come.