Uncategorized

Saudi is many things…

There aren’t many moments that I can look back on in life and say, “that was huge,” because most things build up over time. Sure I can map things out in a nice straight line – high school, my first job, college, my favorite classes, my first PR internship, the client that hated us (this actually needs its own blog post), converting to Islam, graduation – but the fact is that it wasn’t neat or linear. It was messy and chaotic and beautiful. 

Some moments, of course will stick out in mt mind no many how many years pass. Meeting my husband and falling in love – although it was pretty instantaneous – and building our life together was obviously one of the highs. The birth of my son was bittersweet, but let to something amazing, as did moving to Saudi. I can unequivocally say that making the choice to move to Saudi was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

There were a ton of things that went into it when I decided to come, but ultimately it was just about stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a chance; I got on the bus.  Living here has allowed me to experience sunsets under the Bosphorus, sway along with flamenco dancers in Barcelona, and savor dim sum in Hong Kong. I’ve found love as a wife, fulfillment as a mom, chased my passion into birth work and breastfeeding support, and still manage to make some killer banana bread sometimes. Above all else, I’ve grown up; I’m not the same 23-year-old girl who left home in search of something bigger.

Saudi is many things, but for now, it’s home. There are things I would change, sure, and the list is probably almost as long as the one I have for my home country. I wish people respected personal space, I wish the concept of a line was a bit more common, I wish customer service existed, and I wish our attire (and lifestyle in general) was a bit more colorful and free. But, it’s here that I learned how to take care of myself. It’s here that I learned how a strong and supportive a community of friends could turn into family. It’s here I learned that life is challenging anywhere you go, and it really is just what you make of it. I learned that if you put yourself out there openly and unapologetically, the universe will respond in kind and the right people will find their way to you; your vibe will attract your tribe. And that tribe may come and go, but the lessons they shared, the love they showed, the insight into who you are they reflected, these things will be a part of you forever.

I look forward to many more milestones reached, for me and my family, for Saudi and its people, and to all those who call a home-away-from-home home (say that 5 times fast), take a second to appreciate the life you’ve made, the chances you’ve been offered, and the adventure that awaits you.

doula, Uncategorized

Sisterhood Sunday

Growing up, I was always looking for a fight. In every situation, I always seemed to find the underdog and defend them vigorously. My nana used to tell me I’d make a great lawyer, my mom would tell me I can’t fight for everyone, my dad would tell me some causes and people are better stood for in private. And while each person was attesting to some truth, there’s just something about being able to speak for people who aren’t able to speak for themselves; I’m instantly attracted to the downtrodden, no matter how hard something is to look at, I want to see it for all that it is and I want to know what I can do to fix it.

Things haven’t changed much (especially the looking for a fight part, according to hubby), so it’s no surprise that, as a woman, I feel called to support other women. Or, maybe in today’s highly but secretly competitive society – where perfectly posed shots of handcrafted cupcakes are currency and not liking someone’s picture on Instagram is grounds for excommunication – it is surprising. But that’s a different post for a different day.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that delivering my son was no walk in the park, nor was it a picnic (seriously, someone described their labor to me as being like a picnic before I delivered; no wonder my expectations were so unrealistic!). It was traumatic, and it still, to this day, has the power to flip my mood upside down. I’d always thought it was that way because the hospital that I went to wouldn’t give me the epidural, the country that I delivered in didn’t have higher standards of care, the doctor that was on duty at the time wasn’t nice to me and treated me as though I was weak and whiny. And, it may have been in part a combination of those things. But the biggest reason why I had such an awful birth experience was that I wasn’t prepared.

Yes, I Googled everything: pregnancy aches and pains, what was OK and what wasn’t, what to buy for baby, how to handle baby once he’s earthside, but all of that preparation was for before and after the labor. I didn’t research one thing related to the actual part where I was going to push a baby out of my lady parts. Looking back, it’s like, duh how could you be so dumb, but if I actually dissect why I didn’t feel the need to, I feel a little less stupid and a little more angry.

Growing up in a Western culture, we are often taught to see drugs as a blessing, a technological advance that we are lucky enough to have access to. It wasn’t until recently that the resistance and skepticism of such “advances” became mainstream and people started questioning our dependence on Big Pharma. What’s even worse is that the healthcare community and Big Pharma are in on it together. So it’s no wonder that one of the most natural things in the history of the universe – childbirth – has also become heavily medicalized, with all interested parties making a pretty penny off of every birth they highjack.

I’m not saying there haven’t been leaps and bounds made in terms of maternal morbidity and mortality due to technological advances, but I am pointing out that a majority of mamas don’t need any of that stuff because our bodies know what to do. (And, I would also like to point out that as far as developed nations go, the US is failing mamas and babies BIG TIME; two of the biggest reasons? The rise in C-sections and a greater focus on fetal and infant health over that of the mama.)

Y’all – we have been making and having and raising babies for as long as time has existed. We do not need a trained Obstetric surgeon to attend every birth. 

Naturally, when it came time for me to have a baby, not getting an epidural didn’t even cross my mind. Um, yes I will take the drug that makes me feel nothing so I can smile pretty for pictures when the baby is placed in my arms. So when the doctor told me I couldn’t have one, I really – for the first time in my life – was woefully helpless. I hadn’t studied even one technique to get through the pains of labor naturally, and at that moment, I was sure there weren’t any. My husband was at a loss, my doctor and nurse were overrun with patients, my closest female family members were 7,000 miles away, and I thought I was going to die from the pain. I didn’t have any other options because I hadn’t given myself any other options.

In retrospect, I know that beyond the other responsibilities that come along with mamahood, figuring out how and on which terms you want to labor is a huge one. It goes beyond whether you want drugs, episiotomies, or to breastfeed, and some may even say that it’s a political issue, the subjugation of women how it’s in the patriarchy’s best interest to make sure we’re not empowered (again, another post for another day)…

At your most vulnerable moment, when you’ve reached the lowest of lows, you’re lucky to have someone to be able to pull you out, or at the very least to chill in the darkness with you. This togetherness – this sisterhood, if you will – is something we all crave, but not many of us have the skills or resources to seek out. Yet, this village plays such an integral role in whether we’re successful in life, whether it’s in business ventures, creative adventures, or – yup, you guessed it – child rearing.

So, to do my part in empowering women with education and knowledge, I’ve become a doula and childbirth educator, as well as began my formal training to become an IBCLC.

No matter what you want your birth experience to be like, you deserve to be informed and supported completely. If more women empowered and supported other women, there’s no telling the things we could accomplish. If more women enjoyed their birth experiences and came together to help others enjoy theirs, who knows how our communities would change.