What is Giving Birth Really Like?

You hear the horror stories but what really happens when you give birth and does it ever go to plan? Five new mums reveal all
Komal-Nishka Manglani
Komal-Nishka Manglani
Heather Chuter
Heather Chuter
Anjum Khan
Anjum Khan
Patsy Kerr
Patsy Kerr
Heidi Raeside
Heidi Raeside

Komal-Nishka Manglani, 29, a PR consultant and blogger at Lifealicious gave birth to Anay Manglani on July 14 2011 at Latifa Hospital, Dubai
THE PLAN: A natural birth
THE REALITY: A natural premature birth

BEFORE: My pregnancy was surprisingly smooth and much better than all the horror stories I’d heard from friends. The whole delivery thing did scare me, but I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t think about it until it happened. I’d read a lot about how a natural birth can be quite painful but recovery is much faster, so from the start I was keen on a natural delivery. However, I didn’t prepare as well as I’d have liked as I didn’t last the whole nine months...
DURING: I was having no complications at all, but at 27 weeks in I had severe cramps and we rushed to the hospital where we were told they’d have to deliver immediately. This is something you never ever want to hear so early in your pregnancy! It was horrifi c news but at the same time I knew keeping myself calm would keep my baby calm. After a seven hour labour my son was born via a natural birth with no drugs or epidural weighing at 1.2kgs and he was immediately rushed to their NICU unit which was excellent. He came home, happy and healthy, two months later.
AFTER: I wish I had the chance to go through a full term pregnancy but with my experience, my son’s survival took over any pain I felt that day. I was very numb throughout it all only hoping he would be healthy and make it through And the statement that you don’t feel any pain after the baby has popped out through a natural birth is absolutely spot on! I would strongly urge prospective parents to read up on premature birth as it’s something I didn’t really think about and it is something that you don’t feel will happen to you, especially when you’re having no complications during the pregnancy. As for being a mum, motherhood is the biggest responsibility anyone can ever place on you. For all its challenges, it is also the most fulfi lling role ever and it completes me as a woman.

Heather Chuter, 32, is a Dubai based professional photographer (heatherchuter.com). She gave birth to Abigail Beatrice Pearl Chuter on May 26 2011 at American Hospital, Dubai
THE PLAN:
A natural birth with epidural
THE REALITY: A natural birth with a Doula
BEFORE: This was my first pregnancy and it really was an incredible journey for my husband and I. I’m a Canadian farm girl so I’m pretty relaxed, and I continued to be active and was still able to do pregnancy friendly yoga positions ‘til the bitter end. My initial plan was to have an epidural for pain relief and then attempt a natural birth. But then a friend suggested a book called The Spiritual Midwife by Ina May Gaskin as well as having a Doula to assist and prepare for the arrival, which we did, so I opted to have a completely natural birth with no interventions instead.
DURING: Luckily the birth did go to plan, although Abigail was nine days over 40 weeks. I’m thankful I didn’t know how big our baby was going to be (she was 62cm and 4.8 kg) or I’d have been more skeptical about going au naturelle! Beforehand I was stressed because I didn’t want any unnecessary interventions in hospital - and perhaps my having this apprehension was why our baby was late - but once I went into labour it was all psychological and I was in control. I just chilled out and asked everyone to be a bit quiet when I was concentrating during the contractions.
AFTER: It’s good to think through a birthing plan with your partner and your healthcare team in advance. Have it with you on the day, because if you’ve formulated a plan - you have at least communicated your preferences and considered all of the other options out there.
So far I’ve really taken well to motherhood - it’s been challenging at times, and exhausting, but amazing. Being a mum means the world to me. I’ve always dreamed of being a mother and we’ll certainly try to have another one or two more children.

Anjum Khan, 28, a sales and marketing analyst, gave birth to Zoya Abdla on Nov 7 2011 at Dubai’s Medcare Hospital
THE PLAN:
A natural birth
THE REALITY: A sudden epidural and c-section
BEFORE: I loved being pregnant, everyone kept telling me how happy I was, which was true, I think because I found the whole thing so miraculous. My plans for the birth were to do it as naturally as possible – I hoped I wouldn’t end up having a c-section because the thought of being cut up and the post recovery was scary. I was strongly against having an epidural because I was afraid of the concept of something being administered into my spine.
DURING: I was induced in the early hours of the morning and things started well, but then my biggest fear came true and I had to opt for an epidural because the internal examinations were too painful and I started dreading them. Eventually, because the baby wasn’t in the right position, her heart beat was dipping and there was a long wait for progress (I wasn’t really aware of time, the total labour was over 16 hours), I was finally taken for a c-section. When they took me into the operation theatre I was so scared, but it took all of five minutes to get my baby out and I’m so glad I had opted for the epidural because I got to hear her first cries – such a relief!
AFTER: The only thing I regret is not having contact with my baby immediately after she was born, as I was passed out. Initially, motherhood felt really difficult. I was in a lot of pain because of my stitches, my daughter refused to breast feed and you can NEVER be prepared for the loss of sleep! But Zoya has been the best thing that has happened to us. No matter what life throws at us, she fills our days with laughter. Being a mum has been utterly fantastic so far. Now my husband and I have something to look forward to everyday.

Patsy Kerr, 31, a micropigmentation specialist and full-time mother gave birth to Sienna Lucyna Kerr on August 15 2011 at American Hospital, Dubai
THE PLAN:
A birth with epidural
THE REALITY: A pre-planned c-section
BEFORE: As this was my fi rst pregnancy, I tried to enjoy it as much as I could. I suffered from bad nausea for the first four months but it was smooth sailing after that. I’d opted to try a natural delivery with the help of an epidural but as I reached the third trimester, it became clear that the baby was breech so I was booked in for a c-section at 38.5 weeks. This had its advantages; I started pregnancy yoga and watched a lot of the TV show One Born Every Minute as it gave me the opportunity to research.
DURING: When the spinal block was administered, my legs went warm quickly - it felt very strange but not as frightening as I’d imagined. It only took my doctor ten minutes to get Sienna out. As she was stuck I felt a lot of pressure on my chest which made me panic a bit but it was momentary. Once I heard her cry, I was distracted from anything else going on (like the suctioning of the amniotic fl uid etc) because I just wanted to see what our baby looked like. Thankfully, the c-section wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it might be. I felt I was in good hands which made the experience more relaxed. In hindsight I wouldn’t have changed a thing!
AFTER: Becoming a mum is the most wonderful, terrifying and fulfi lling thing I’ve ever done. Being there to nurture. protect and support my child has given my life a real sense of purpose. The best bit so far has been watching this little human being develop week by week; seeing the first smile, the first laugh - the love you feel is indescribable. I’ve made some great friends too (I really recommend Mumcierge coffee mornings). The worst part is seeing Sienna in discomfort and not knowing what is bothering her, but that is normal.

Heidi Raeside, 31, a fi nancial PR consultant, gave birth to James Jan Raeside on August 16 2011 at City Hospital, Dubai
THE PLAN:
A hypnobirth
THE REALITY: A birth with epidural
BEFORE: I had lost my fi rst baby at 22 weeks, three months before I conceived James, so this was my second pregnancy. Having had such a horrible experience, I was a lot more nervous than I had been before. I followed the hypnobirthing programme which focuses on spending time to meditate yourself into a state of relaxation and preparation for the birth. I would listen to some (very amusing to my husband) tapes that helped me visualise what was to come and they also helped me to approach the birth with the attitude that whatever happens happens, and you will deal with it calmly. Hypnobirthing believes it’s your job to relax during pregnancy and for your partner to take care of everything around you. Having said that, just before I gave birth I also prepared by getting waxed, having my eyelashes tinted, highlights done and a spray tan!
DURING: James was growing so fast that my gynae advised that if the pregnancy went full-term, I would have to have a c-section which I didn’t want. In the end I was induced and accepted the offer of an epidural which made me very sleepy. My husband followed the hypnobirthing plan by encouraging me - he also cut the cord.
AFTER: My mum compares birth to a really long flight, which is horrible to endure, but you’re so happy to see your family when you arrive that you forget those 25 nightmare hours in an instant - and I agree. It’s not for everyone but for those who decide to have children, it’s the single most important thing you will ever do and the most wonderful.

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