Sunday, October 25, 2009

The birth story

Disclaimer: contains discussion of bodily fluids and other icky things. Reader discretion is advised.

The triage room was puzzling. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. There was a desk and some chairs but considering the three-minute interval between contractions office chairs somehow seemed inappropriate.

There was also a bed of sorts. More like a steel-framed table coated in faux-leather, bent at an 80 degree angle. That seemed inappropriate as well, so instead I stood in my nightgown, leaning against a chair, and wondering, quite loudly, when in the world we were going to be admitted.

Finally the assistant to Dr. Tarek came and checked me, awkwardly forcing me to lie down on the steel framed table, and noted that I was at a seven so we could be shown to a room.

A man with a bunch of keys took us to our room where we were left alone. Poor Andrew, left all alone in a room with a transitioning woman. He was fantastic, though!

He helped me change into my paper gown and then coached me through each contraction, successfully quieting my high-pitched wails of, “I can’t do this! I can’t!” into low moaning sounds. I had told him about moaning after yoga on Thursday and it’s the trick he chose to pull out of the hat and it worked wonders.

Soon, though, I was fighting the urge to push and demanded to be checked again even though Dr. Tarek wasn’t there yet. I was at a nine so they started preparing me to be moved to the delivery room.

I really don’t think they have many non-medicated patients at this hospital. The nurses were awful. They kept trying to make me do things while I was in the middle of contracting—things like getting changed or taking my blood pressure or hooking me up to a fetal monitor or making me climb onto the trolley bed.

I was sitting up in bed with my knees bent, which they didn’t like at all. They kept trying to put the back of the bed down and kept pulling my legs straight out in front of me. I was getting so angry!

Luckily I didn’t even have to snap at anyone because Andrew fought them off for me.

“Istina! Istina!” he’d hiss, shooing them away.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if he slapped a few hovering hands, although I wasn’t paying that close of attention. He was quite protective and successfully made the nurses wait until between contractions to do whatever it was they felt they needed to do and made sure that all of my beds were in an upright position (even though the nurses thought we were crazy).

Dr. Tarek arrived soon after and gave us the go-ahead to move to the delivery room, so the nurses had me climb onto the trolley bed and then attempted to wheel me out of the room. Unfortunately, we got stuck between the chairs and the bed in the room for a few minutes, so I sat in agony while my bed was jostled and jounced.

Andrew took over after a few hard tugs had me screaming and successfully dislodged the bed. We made it out of the room and into the elevator, Andrew coaching me through each contraction on the way. I was a little mortified to find that the hallway was full of people when we got off the elevator.

Here I am, in a paper gown, practically mooing like a cow just to keep me from jumping out of my skin…and then I get to be wheeled through a crowded maze of people. It was…fabulously awkward.

But we made it to the delivery portion and spent a good 3 or 4 minutes banging on the locked doors until someone decided to let us in.

They wheeled me into a delivery room and had me hop up on the delivery table. Hopping is relative when you’re getting ready to push a baby out…there wasn’t really any hopping involved.

Once they had me on the table, they took off the foot of the bed and assembled the stirrups. They helped my legs into the stirrups and then…and then?! Then they strapped my legs in!

“Don’t strap me in!” I shrieked.

This was not, in my opinion, ideal and at the time shrieking was the way I had taken to expressing my opinions.

Andrew did his best to stop the nurses but he was overpowered and I was successfully strapped down to the table. Then they brought out these huge sock-things and put them over my legs, stirrups and all. Then they draped me in a sheet.

And then I was declared modest enough to be seen by a doctor.

Goodness, gracious! Labour is no time for modesty! I think the only skin I had showing was my face, neck, arms, and…well…there might have been a bit of skin showing somewhere beneath a sheet if you looked carefully.

I asked Andrew what the other women being wheeled around were dressed like—because he saw some. He said they were wearing the same thing as me—dark blue paper gown, light blue hair net—only they were all lying down flat on their backs with a blanket covering them up to their necks. I’m sure they all had epidurals. How else would you be transferred from your room to the delivery table while in active labour? The nurses really didn’t have bedside manners to deal with me because they were used to women who would just lie still, flat on their backs, like good little girls. I’m a rebel, I guess.

Once I had finished transitioning, the pushing stage was fabulous. At least in comparison. My contractions were still strong, but I had long rest periods between contractions.

I thought this was great. Dr. Tarek wasn’t satisfied that things were moving along fast enough. I don’t think I will ever understand why since we were only in the hospital for two hours before Miriam was born…and labour from start to finish was less than four hours…that’s pretty fast, right?

First he broke my water to help get things moving along faster. It’s the strangest feeling. I don’t know how it is to have your water break before pushing, but it feels so funny while pushing. It gushes out forcefully and splashes whoever happens to be in the way. I find it both scary and hilarious. It feels like peeing your pants, only with the force of Niagra falls instead of a little trickle. Dr. Tarek got soaked.

Then he insisted I get an IV line put in so that he could start pitocin if he needed to. I shrieked something or other about not wanting it and he explained it would only be used if necessary but that we should put the IV line in just in case.

But I ended up doing just fine without it.

It certainly wasn’t an ideal natural birth. Dr. Tarek coached too fast, I think. I really wanted to take the head slowly to avoid ripping; alas I ended up raw meat for a second time. Oh, and they strapped me to the table (I think I’m scarred for life over that one). But at least she’s here!

She came quickly after her head was out and the placenta followed like 2 minutes later.

I got to hold her for a minute after she was breathing and pink instead of not-breathing and blue and then Andrew took her to the nursery for her measurements and I started getting stitched up.

When Dr. Tarek was finished he left the room and everyone followed him, leaving me strapped to the chair. Thanks, guys! At least they turned on the massager the minute Miriam was delivered, so the chair ended up being not quite so evil. Still…unstrapping myself was a trick, but a totally necessary one since I swear no one came to check on me for a full fifteen minutes and my legs were starting to go a little numb.

The nurses who were sent in to clean up were absolutely obnoxious.

“Mabrouk!” one kept saying, “Mabrouk!”

Then she’d stand there with her hand out. She wanted a tip.

Oh! A tip? I think I left a ten pound note in my uterus, let me just reach on up and get that for you….or not…

Could she seriously not see that I a) was completely nude except for my paper clothes and b) had just delivered a baby? Give me a break.

I was so happy when some different nurses brought yet another trolley bed for me to climb into, not because bed-hopping during labour and post-partum makes me happy but because it meant that I was leaving that awful, awful birthing chair (with the wonderful massagers).

The nurse who wanted a tip tsked at me because I spilled blood all over her freshly mopped floor while I was switching beds. I just shrugged my shoulders at her. Some things can’t be helped. It’s not like I spitefully bled on the floor; it’s just that bleeding is something you do after you have a baby.

I was even more happy to be wheeled down the hall past the same people, this time not moaning like a lunatic. I was also happy to not be dumped down the stairs that are perilously close to the elevator doors. I was happiest to make it to the recovery room only to find that Andrew and Miriam had beat me there.

Andrew helped me get Miriam latched on and “nursing.” It was so much easier this time around than it was with Rachel! Hopefully it continues to go well once I get my milk in…

While we three were bonding, four nurses burst through the door and demanded that I shower and take off my delivery gown. And now! Andrew told them to go away, that we were nursing and needed some quiet and privacy, and that I would shower when I was good and ready to. He’s wonderful like that.

Later, after I had showered, I was doing some skin-to-skin time with Miriam. I think it was right when Grandma, Rachel, and Sister Cannon stopped by. Miriam was naked and resting on my tummy, so I just pulled down my shirt and put her on top, still cuddling and covered with a blanket.

A nurse came in to finally take out my IV feed and noticed that Miriam wasn’t wearing any clothes.

“This isn’t true!” she gasped, “This isn’t true for the baby!”

She was horrified that Miriam was naked. Warm…but naked. I assured her that I could take care of my baby. She gave me that “you’re a bad mother” look. Whatever.

The nurses are getting to me. I so did not want to be here right now. I wanted to be home in my own bed, but hospital policy is a 24-hour stay. Ugh.

Every time I try to sleep I’m interrupted by someone bursting through the door to take my blood pressure, push on my stomach, or try to tell me how to take care of my baby.

“Change her diaper,” one nurse told me at 11:15 PM last night.

“I changed her an hour ago,” I said.

“When she last feeding?” she asked.

“About an hour ago,” I said.

She marched over to the bassinet, unwrapped (and woke up) Miriam, and checked her diaper. It was dry.

“Feed her now!” the nurse said.

“I just fed her,” I said.

“Feed her now!” she demanded again, “She is hungry.”

She handed Miriam to me. I didn’t know what else to do so I put Miriam down on my lap while I got ready to feed her. The minute I laid Miriam down, she fell asleep.

“She’s not hungry,” I said, “She’s sleeping.”

“Feed her NOW!” the nurse said.

I started talking loudly and angrily and Andrew woke up and told the nurse to back off, that we could take care of our baby, and that the baby had indeed just eaten an hour previously. I started to swaddle Miriam and the nurse yanked her away from me and wrapped her up herself in a messy wad of blankets.

Then she stormed out. And I rewrapped Miriam.

Ten minutes later another nurse came in to give me my medicine. Andrew explained that we had taken the medicine and hour ago and were planning on sleeping. She also stormed out.

We haven’t been bothered since. And I’m happy about that, even though I still haven’t been able to sleep due to the noise of the traffic outside and the chit-chat in the hallway and the clinking of dishes (are we right next to the kitchen or something?) and the hardness of the mattress. I really, really, really just want to go home.

But Miriam is beautiful and such a peaceful child. She has squawked only once or twice since her initial crying at birth. Mostly she’s content to sleep or look around. When she starts to get a little fussy she calms down the minute she notices that we’re trying to fill her wants (which is quite different from how her older sister was when she was a newborn).

It’s strange to think that we have “kids” now. I don’t know what we’re going to do now that we have two! What were we thinking?!

We’ll handle it, I’m sure. Kids basically raise themselves—they grow up whether you want them to or not.

Hopefully the next time I write I won’t be so grumpy. I haven’t slept for more than fifteen minutes in who knows how long AND I was strapped to a bed today. That’s bound to make anyone cranky.


  1. Wow! Definitely not an ideal birth story, but you made it through! Good luck with the rest of your stay and recovery.

  2. You are a superhero! Now punch those nurses in the face from me :)

  3. Ummm remind me not to birth in Egypt. That is awful! Luckily, something good came out of it. Congratulations again to all of you! She is eveyr so gorgeous. Hopefully you will not need a PTSD therapy session after that birth though. If so, I know of some good people here at Fort Hood ::wink wink:: I agree with Tasmin to punch the nurses for ALL OF US! Oh, I am feeling frustration here in Texas!!!! Cannot wait to read more blog posts on the growing up of Rachel and Miriam!

    P.S. For some reason I am all teary eyed and I only know Andrew a very teeny bit from school. You guys are both wonderful people and great parents.

  4. Wow, those nurses are definitely NOT doing their jobs right.. mother knows best, and especially the one who came in and demanded that you feed Miriam? Seriously, she yanked her away and just threw the blankets around her all messy!? Horrible.. I can't wait until you're home, too. That hospital doesn't sound ideal... but I'm glad you and Miriam are healthy and ..well, in 24 hours you'll be happy! Love and miss you guys.... I SOOOO wish I could be there to see baby Miriam :) I'm sure she's perfect....

    Okay, now go rest up!

  5. Congratulations on your beautiful Cairo baby!! I'm so so so happy for you guys and hope everything is well and your 24 hospital hours pass quickly so you can get home.

    Those nurses make me so angry!! Our experience wasn't as bad but I still wished we had someone who spoke Arabic to fight for us. Good for you guys fighting back.

  6. Wow, congrats on standing up to all that! It sounds like you gained a little assertiveness since it's your second baby and you knew what was going on. I can't believe stirrups still exist in this day and age. Good for you for doing so well and I'm glad everything turned out ok!

  7. Stories like this are why people like me can't imagine living in Egypt. Ever. At all. I would cry. And die. But...GOOD FOR YOU! Way to go. :)

    PS She's beautiful.

  8. Wowsers! Congratulations though, she is beautiful!! Your labor sounds like a dream, but the rest sounds like a nightmare! I'm glad you're surviving and standing up to them, and that at least they listen to Andrew.

  9. I'm a blog stalker, natural birth hippie, and friend of Bridget and Melissa, but I just wanted to say Congratulations! I'm very impressed with your whole story, especially your willingness to fight for what you wanted, despite it going against the grain. Congratulations again!

  10. You are amazing! I was absolutely horrified when I read that they straped you to the bed. You are one brave woman (not like you had a choice, but still, props to you). I hope you can get out of there, and into your own comfy bed soon.

  11. Um Nancy thank you for sealing it for me. We will have all are children here before we leave the states! I'm glad you have a beautiful baby. Sorry the whole birth experience sucks so bad. I'm mad just thinking about it. Makes a person just want to stay home and have a baby in the bathtub. For real. Can't wait to see some more baby pics! Hope you are out of there now!

  12. I was thinking about the whole silent, docile woman thing and I remembered that when I was researching giving birth in Syria, someone told me that while many women do it unmedicated, they are still docile and silent. The whole American style of working with your contractions through vocalization hasn't really caught on there. So I bet the nurses were just terrified by your strong Amazon woman form of birth :).

  13. um... whoa. ... whoa.

    And as frustrating as those nurses were, why do I find it somewhat amusing to think of how outrageously confused, frustrated, and baffled they must have been with you! I just don't think they could remotely fathom where you were coming from, and yet it's hard for me to understand why not!

    I suspect/hope that at this point the not-so-hospitable-hospital ordeal is over. Congratulations on your beautiful new girl! And congratulations Miriam for coming to such a great family!

  14. Liz--you're a friend of Bridget and Melissa?! That kind of blows my mind because I don't think they know each you?

  15. I don't think so! Melissa is in my ward here in South Bend (we are in YW together) and Bridget was one of my roommates in college. Weird how all these paths cross, right?!

  16. Wow! That is quite a story. I felt angst for you with all those nurses thinking they know how to care for your baby better than you do. How obnoxious.

    I'm so glad Miriam is here!!! Congratulations Nancy, Andrew and Rachel. Now a family of four. It only gets better, believe me. :D

  17. I just realized that despite all the ways I heard about Miriam's birth (in order - Twitter, Facebook, here), I'd forgotten to add my congratulations! She's beautiful! And, if I can help, it vow to never give birth in Egypt. :)

  18. Congratulations you guys on a beautiful baby girl!!! Wow, Nancy you really are wonder woman - doing a natural Egypt...dealing with those nurses... I'm glad you and Andrew were able to fight them off. And I'm glad that you are home now!!

  19. Congratulations. Not only for a beautiful baby girl, but for surviving those circumstances at all and doing so without punching everyone that came into your room. Do Egyptians have an inferiority complex with Americans? That would be my first question. The nerve... Boy, you are a strong woman. Seems you should be home by now, thank goodness. I wanted to go home reading your story.

  20. And that's what most expensive hospitals in Egypt hire Philippino nurses!

  21. Thank you for sharing your story. I was also thinking of giving birth in El Nada Hospital, but after reading your story, I think I will just pack my bags and give birth home in my own country :)

    All the best to you all !


    1. Cristina, there are other options if you still want to give birth in Egypt. I've had a few friends give birth at other hospitals and I don't think they had as hard of a time. And I think a lot of it depends on what time of day/who's on duty at the time. For example, when I had my first baby, the delivery nurse was WONDERFUL but then there was a shift change and the nurse that came on duty was a little surly. I've also heard of some pretty bad horror stories in Canada/the US/Europe (specifically Switzerland comes to mind) so you still have to be careful about choosing a hospital. But it would definitely be nice to do it in your native language with familial support, especially if it's your first one!

      That said, I was worried that I had over-exaggerated my story because your comment and my memory of Miriam's birth weren't jiving in my mind. So I just reread this and...nope, those things actually happened. But it was still wonderful to have my baby.

  22. mikystixATyahooDOTcomMay 30, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    I'll have to give birth in Cairo,Egypt. I don't want a c-section but both my husband's sisters were "advised" to have it cause their labour was not fast enough. I dont want them to force me into c-section. I dont want them to tie me i want to be able to shower during labour and move around.
    Im soo scared... is there no place in cairo that you can have natural birth or get a doula?

    1. I looked into a doula while I was there but our finances were a little too tight.

      This might be helpful:

      I know there is a hospital in Heliopolis that some of my friends have used and liked. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be many options when I was looking into it...

  23. Hi hi!
    Thank you for this. I just found out that my husband and i are expecting. We're also in Cairo. I've been living here now a number of years, but I'm still not fluent, and I don't think I ever will be fluent enough to stand up for myself this way. However, the hospital as bad as it sounds, could definitely have been worse, same for the doctor. Do you happen to have contact information on either that you'd be willing to share? I've heard El Nada hospital is decent, not sure if that's where this was? Thank you very much in advance.

  24. I had both my babies in Cairo at the international medical centre and it was a great experience, (thats why I chose to have the 2nd baby there) I guess I'm the exception to the rule. My 3rd is due in July and I will definitely use the same hospital, sorry u had a bad experience but i think the hospital chosen would have made a difference. Btw I'm Nigerian and my husband is Russian, he'd like me to go to Russia but having had 2 safe and healthy deliveries there, I am not willing to take any chances lol.good luck to all the expectant mothers and make sure you check out the hospitals in advance to avoid disappointment

  25. Wow Idk how you did but it's great you had your hubby there to be your bodyguard and baby guard!
    I just had a baby in Edmonton Alberta in August 2015 and then moved to Egypt in October of that year as my husband got transferred there for work. I don't think I could have done what you did! But it's nice to know that it is possible as I would like to add to our family in near future.