“Can you come home?”

“Why? You know Steve’s in town.”

“I’m worried.”

“What happened?”

“I went to the clinic today to see Dr. Annie, and she said the delivery needs to be medically coaxed. The baby has not gained any weight in the past two weeks, and my placenta is calcifying. She is concerned the baby will start losing weight. If that happens, it will be more difficult to try for natural birth. She said she wants to induce me tomorrow.”


“Yes, tomorrow. Can you please come home early?”

Friday, May 26

So we left Zaynab with my parents and drove to the hospital. But it actually felt like we were about to check into a hotel for a staycation. The birthing process could take six hours or up to three days, the doctor said. “We want to give the baby as much time as she needs and let nature take its course.” So my overzealous wife, Saniha, packed a whole suitcase with all of our belongings.

The feeling that we were about to have a baby had not yet overcome me. My mind was stuck on a presentation I was scheduled to deliver to one of our core clients in a few days. I just prayed that the baby would arrive before then.

Thankfully, the hospital room was pretty and spacious, so I had no trouble adapting myself to what would become my new work environment. I yanked out my laptop and started typing away as my wife was being given an intravenous line to start having mild contractions.

“Feel anything yet?”


Normally, doctors induce and send the mother home. But because Saniha had a Cesarean birth for our first daughter, the medical staff needed to closely monitor her to ensure the scar on her uterus from her previous C-section did not reopen during labor, which would put her and the baby at serious risk. So I made myself comfortable.

“I can feel it now. Ooohh.”

Dr. Annie arrived late in the evening, and my wife was only 1 cm dilated.

“How much does she need to be?”

“10 cm.”

I chuckled and sunk in my couch. “Just go to sleep,” I thought. Saniha was doing fine and wanted to get some rest too.

Saturday, May 27

As I snored through the night, Saniha kept waking up from the labor pains. Her contractions were getting stronger, and she started feeling backaches—a positive sign that the baby was moving lower.

In the morning, the nurses asked if she wanted to take an epidural to block the pain, but Saniha refused. I looked at her, astonished.


“I won’t be able to tell the difference between normal labor pains and if my scar has reopened. I’m scared. I don’t want to disconnect from the feeling of giving birth to my baby.”

But what she described as fear was actually strength. As the renowned pediatrician Dr. William Sears so eloquently said, “How you approach birth is intimately connected with how you approach life.” Living in a superficial era that has numbed our senses, what could be more courageous than experiencing childbirth with all the agony and awareness?

“You’re 3 cm dilated.”

Sunday, May 28

Saniha’s labor was still going slow, so slow that Dr. Annie phoned in to increase the dosage to quicken the contractions. Now, they were really stepping up. She started pacing around the room as I relaxed on the couch, pulling up charts and writing notes.

The midwife helped Saniha try new positions to ease the discomfort and also gave her a birthing ball. Her bouncing around was quite distracting, so I figured I should just take a break and be more involved. I offered words of support from time to time although I’m not sure how welcome they were.

“Do you feel a spiritual uplifting?”

All I got was a cold stare.

Hours later, I was happy to see Dr. Annie return.

“Why is it taking so long?” I pleaded, sounding in pain.

“Everything comes at its appointed hour.”

I was moved by her words. Saniha desperately wanted to have a natural birth, so she had spent months looking for a doctor who would be willing to support her the whole way. In that moment, it felt to me that she had made the right choice. I didn’t think much of it before, but now, I understood why this was so important to her.

Before Dr. Annie left, she broke Saniha’s water bag.

“Fatima should be here tomorrow.”

Monday, May 29

At this point, seven babies had been born in our ward since our time there. Saniha was counting. She also became good friends with all the midwives and acquired enough knowledge that she could deliver our third child all by herself at home if she wanted to.

It was a nerve-racking few days, and although it seems incredibly selfish to mention it, I was exhausted from working out of the hospital. Saniha’s contractions were more intense now and occurring almost back to back. And because she wasn’t able to move about much (plugged to the baby monitor and all the intravenous lines), she was getting very uncomfortable and beginning to lose it. Despite my feeling of uselessness, I pretended to stay calm and supportive.

“Everything will be fine.”

Professor Barbara Katz Rothman was correct in saying, “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers: strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.”

Dr. Annie arrived at 5 p.m. “I’m not leaving till we have your baby.”

Saniha smiled, took a long, deep breath and exhaled, as if replacing every molecule of air within her. I could tell she was ready.

“Shall we try? You’re 10 cm dilated now.”

Saniha’s womb had softened from the pain of labor. And with every contraction, I could see her reach deeper inside of herself and pull energy and strength from a reservoir that I never knew existed, a place only a woman can access in and through birth.

But after hours of trying, baby Fatima remained comfortably turned on her side, and refused to find that opening to be born. Dr. Annie even tried using a vacuum, but to no avail. I prodded Saniha along with reassuring words because I knew she wanted this badly and had given it her all. I never felt prouder of her than at that moment.

It was nearly midnight, and Saniha made a quick, sensible decision.

“Dr. Annie, let’s do the C-section.”

Tuesday, May 30

The emergency team was called, and everyone prepped for surgery. I was handed green scrubs to wear and told to wait outside. They’d call me in just before they would start.

In those fleeting moments, I started to panic. It was strange. I felt so afraid. What if something goes wrong? All these negative thoughts kept pouring into my head. I knew this is stupid; it’s a simple operation. But I couldn’t prevent my heart from sinking in my chest with the fright of losing Saniha. Fatima didn’t even cross my mind.

“Come on in.”

I regained my composure, wiped my tears, and walked into the OR to find my wife ready to be cut open. I went behind the curtain and held Saniha’s hand during the C-section, but it felt more like she was holding mine.

Shortly after, I watched Dr. Annie force the baby out of her mother’s womb. As I peered over the curtain, I was overcome with joy and relief. I thanked God incessantly. Fatima was captivating, just like her name.

There is a special sweetness in being able to participate in the essence of creation, even if only as a bystander. When Fatima grows up, I want to tell her this story, how her mother practically gave birth to her twice—first natural and then C-section. I want her to know it’s not that birth is painful, but that women are strong, strong, so incredibly strong.

“I love you.”

Photo: Unsplash