Our daughter is a month old today! We’ve been getting used to sleepless nights and everything else that comes with having a newborn. Thankfully everything is much better now and I actually have time to sit down and update this blog.
So, what is it like giving birth in Saudi Arabia? Well, let me first tell you that we only have a clinic (KMC) in KAUST. They are not equipped to handle births (only gyno check ups) so as soon as you feel contractions, they will ask you to come in to the clinic, get checked and immediately send you to your preferred hospital in Jeddah in an ambulance. My friend told me that she had been on the ambulance and the ride was so bumpy because of bad shock absorbers or something so I considered just taking our car when the time arrived. Anywway, KMC has a working relationship with Dr. Soliman Fakeeh Hospital meaning we can book appointments through KMC and there is actually a KAUST liaison officer when you get to the hospital. You give the officer your documents and he/she makes sure to handle everything while you wait in the VIP section (!!!) of the hospital enjoying snacks and drinks before your appointment.
Well my due date came and went so my doctor scheduled an induction for June 2nd. The appointment was at 8am so we had to get up really early and leave our house at 6am since you know, Jeddah is a million miles away. We got there on time and were greeted by Filipino nurses (probably 90% of the nurses there were Filipino). Unfortunately, the induction medicine was unavailable. The nurses told us that they ran out and the pharmacy didn’t have it. We waited until 1:30pm before they got the meds and by that time I was pretty annoyed and impatient. One nurse told me not to eat but I kept sneaking bites of cake, nuts, fruit, etc since I was pretty hungry and I didn’t know when the damn medicine would arrive!
The induction medicine arrived and they gave it to me. Jose and I waited and walked around the maternity ward. He did some work on his laptop. At some point I started to feel contractions and a first they were bearable but they slowly started becoming more and more painful. By around 4 or 5pm I started to tell the nurse that it hurt and I wanted an epidural. She kind of scoffed at me and told me that on the monitor my contractions were registering at 40-60 so it must not have been that bad. At that point I’m not sure if she told me to wait to see if I really needed the epidural or if I was the one who tried to delay it. I’d been listening to Hypnobirth CDs and going to prenatal classes and of course they all encouraged natural, unmedicated births so that was what I was aiming for in the beginning. Anyway she offered some kind of anesthetic and I said yes. She injected me and I swear it didn’t work (although the nurse said it worked that’s why the intense pain I felt could’ve been MUCH worse). Later on I really couldn’t take it anymore and I was dry crying (no tears) and moaning. I begged the nurse to give me an epidural and she checked how dilated I was. Guess what? I was already 9cm dilated and it was too late for the epidural. WHAT??? I wanted to kick myself for not demanding it sooner. “Why? Why did I wait???” They wheeled me in to the delivery room. The doctor told me that I needed an episiotomy and I said no, I wanted to try it on my own first. Well I pushed for 2 hours and was really exhausted. The doctor said, “You need the episiotomy.” and I finally relented. After a few more pushes Jasmine was finally out. This whole time I felt like I was in a trance probably because of the nitrous? Pain mixed with nitrous? I remember telling the nurses over and over again that the nitrous wasn’t working haha. Basically I insisted all the pain relievers they gave me didn’t work. They stitched me up but not before administering ketamine. Halfway through the suturing I told them I could feel it and it hurt so they gave me another dose. I’d only ever heard of a k-hole before and little did I know that that was the day I would experience it. I felt like I was stuck inside a rolling marble and everything was kaleidoscope-y. It took me about 2 hours before I came back to Earth. The whole time Jose cheered me on and took photos and videos and made sure that I was alright. He was really great.
The nurses wheeled me into the recovery room and served us a late dinner. Jose was starving so he finished his food but I had no appetite and I was exhausted. I was dozing off as I was biting into a banana. The room was lovely, with a beautiful view of the city. There was a basket of fresh fruit and a plate of Arabian desserts on the table. There was a sofa bed for Jose and they provided pillows and blankets. The nurses brought our baby into the room for feedings and took her back to the nursery when we wanted to rest.
The next day, Joses’s parents came to the hospital to visit us. They flew in the week before and we taught them how to take the KAUST bus that goes to the hospital. They were so overjoyed and Jose’s dad had tears in his eyes.
We stayed at the hospital for able two and a half days. Jose needed to run around the hospital to get paperwork done and we just enjoyed the 3 meals they served us each day. The food was pretty good–meat, vegetables, bread/rice, dessert, juice, water. A physiotherapist came in and hooked me up to a small machine that sent vibrations down my tummy. It was to help my uterus contract and eliminate leftover blood or something. A BUPA (insurance) rep came in to congratulate us. My doctor also came by to see if I was doing well.
On our last day at the hospital the doctors ran some tests to make sure Jasmine was healthy enough to take home. Thank God everything was fine. BUPA covered all the costs so we didn’t have to pay a single cent. If there were complications then we would’ve had to pay out of pocket but since my birth was pretty straightforward there was no extra cost.
During my stay at the hospital I was convinced that giving birth was the most traumatic thing that ever happened to me. But every mother says that you will eventually forget the pain. True enough, I look back at the experience now and think, hey it wasn’t so bad. But one thing is for sure—mothers are amazing! Whether it’s a natural birth or c-section, medicated or unmedicated, mothers have to sacrifice so much in terms of labor pain, recovery, sleeplessness, etc. I have a newfound respect for mothers after this experience.
So I guess giving birth here is like giving birth anywhere else. Everyone speaks English and documents are in English as well. The only hassle was how far the hospital is from home but besides that, everything is great.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention one thing that makes giving birth in Saudi different from all other places–the mandatory wearing of abayas anywhere that isn’t private. I was induced in the observation room which had no bathroom. That meant that if I wanted to go to the bathroom I’d have to go outside and use the maternity ward bathroom. The maternity ward is public space and there are men (husbands) who walk around so of course we had to be covered up. It was a big hassle to put on my abaya every time I needed to go especially since I has a needle in my hand. Eventually the nurses said I could just drape the bedsheet over myself every time I went out so that’s what I did.