It was now December, 6 weeks after we arrived to this place. The boys were in school and still not liking it, but it was going along as smoothly as it could for two American boys, who didn’t know a word of Arabic but were put into a traditional Saudi school. My two little girls both under the age of 4 were playing around the villa and we passed the time cooking and baking the best we could. I didn’t dare return to the doctor but instead thought of finding a different doctor, but wasn’t sure how to do that. Sitting in the villa with no phone (no cell phones back then) and no way to communicate with anyone made it an impossible task. The doctor ordered many tests and of course I complied and completed these to ensure a safe delivery. I had not produced my investigations or files and that is a basic requirement. This had slipped my mind when preparing for Saudi. He had gone to Saudi 2 months ahead of us to “get things ready” and I stayed behind with 4 children under the age of 6. I was to sell the house, pack everything up and prepare to leave all in 8 weeks time and all alone. So, I had not remembered to get a copy of my files.
My estimated due date was in mid December but according to this new ultrasound it was mid January. This threw me off and I was not sure what to believe. I had kept all of my appointments with my OB in Seattle and had taken all of the required tests but some how my due date was wrong. This seemed overwhelming but there were so many other issues at hand that it all blended together and I just simply lived, cooked and took care of my children.
I had spoken to my parents from a local call cabin once since arriving in Saudi. Before cell phones the call cabin center was flooded with workers (maids and drivers) who, like me, had no other way to contact loved ones. I remember lining up to wait for a tiny booth, sitting on a chair behind a faded curtain, and waiting for my parents to answer. Saudi Arabia is 10 -11 hours ahead in time so the one time I would make it out, there was no answer. While this sounds dramatic, it was my “one phone call” and no one was there. Tears were seen as weak and manipulative so I held them back as I gathered my kids and went to the car. So, finding a new doctor was not even in the picture at that point.
One afternoon after getting the kids from school and eating, we all laid down on our pads and fell asleep. I awoke to the feeling of wet! I stood up and walked to the brown tiled bathroom. I assured myself that this was nothing and I had a month to go according to this new doctor. Although she was unfriendly and aloof I was hoping at this point that she was right in her estimation. I went to the bathroom and a steady but light stream of water continued off and on. I felt panicked and sick at the prospect of going back to this doctor and this hospital. I once again composed myself and held back tears to go and tell him that I needed to go to the hospital! I had one friend from Seattle who had a Saudi husband. She had moved to Saudi shortly before me and we had visited her once in her apartment. I had no phone but knew she would look after my children so I was dropped off at the hospital and the kids were taken to her apartment. This was difficult for me as well as the kids, who had never been away from my side except when I delivered a baby. The thought of leaving them any where gave me great distress but there was no alternative.
I went to the OB floor and checked in and was informed that no men were allowed on this floor. There were, of course women every where and so no men could be roaming around the halls. I told them that he would stay in the room and I needed him with me! They, surprisingly agreed to my request. I was ushered to a room and told to put on the standard hospital gown which I did. I sat on the bed and waited for a nurse or doctor to arrive. The nurse and doctor entered the room, again the doctor did not acknowledge me but checked my cervix and asked me a few questions. She told the nurse several things in Arabic and headed for the door. I understood IV and some type of medication. So, I spoke up as politely as I could and asked “oh excuse me what did you say.” She stopped cold in her tracks and looked shocked that I dared to question her or speak. She turned partially and looked as if she was in a state of confusion. She reeled off her orders to the nurse again and kept going. I tried to get her attention one last time and called to her. She turned and looked at me as if I were a speck of dust or a fly on her arm that she wanted to brush off. She spoke in a harsh condescending tone directly to me, for the first time, “I said we will give you an IV, an enema and medication” She turned to leave just as quickly as she had arrived. “Doctor excuse me!! I do not want an IV or an enema and what is the medication for?” She stopped momentarily as if she would just keep going but after careful thought turned around, “We will give you these things” I told her I had never had an enema and did not want one and wanted to see if I would go into labor before taking medication, I was already having contractions. She simply said FINE and left.
I felt sick and worried and had no way to call my mother who was an RN. I missed my children and worried about them being away and lonely for me. The contractions kept coming and got closer together and then after a couple of hours just stopped! I walked around the OB floor and tried to get the contractions to start up again but nothing happened. After 4-5 hours he went to the nurse’s station and asked about the doctor. They told him she would be coming just wait, wait and wait some more. I spent the night sleeping off and on, waiting for the doctor, but she never came.
Morning arrived and still no sign of the doctor. I spent the morning calling my friend every few hours to check on the kids. They were fine but wondering when I would be coming to get them. I asked the nurses off and on when the doctor would arrive. They were very kind and reassuring and told me not to worry. I had entered the hospital at 4 p.m. the day before, now it was 2 p.m. the next day. I felt a panic and doom as I waited, having no power to do anything. Finally after 22 hours the Doctor came and gave me medication to soften my cervix. She was rough in her exam and in her application of the medicine, “you know you could have had this baby by now if you had listened to me” she said sharply as she finished up and walked away. I felt like crying but did not, I also felt blank and helpless and defeated. After an hour contractions started again and got stronger. The doctor entered the room and put something into the IV and at this point I knew not to question. It had been almost 24 hours since my water started leaking and I knew I must have the baby soon. After a few minutes my body was wracking with pain, not the usual pain I had felt in previous labors, but a piercing, all consuming pain that I could not gain control over. I asked the nurse to check me as I felt the sudden urge to push. “No mama no, not time the nursed warned gently.” But at this time an overwhelming urge to push led to a type of convulsing I had never experienced before. I could not hold back pushing it was like holding back the ocean as my body heaved in pain. The nurse cautioned me that my cervix might rip it was not time, but there was nothing to be done it was not in my control. The nurse looked and must have seen the baby’s head because she yelled for the doctor and they wheeled my bed into the delivery room. The doctor stood over me as I writhed in pain, I TOLD YOU TO LISTEN TO ME YOU WOULD NOW HAVE THIS BABY! As she said these words my beautiful son was born! I lay in a heap of jumbled relief and agony. The doctor tired to continue her tirade but to my surprise I said YES OK in a raised voice! She stopped talking, finished up and left. I was then wheeled into another room for recovery where the kindly Filipino nurse gently cleaned me off. She was comforting and spoke softly as she washed me. She then left for a few minutes and brought someone with her, an American lady! She greeted me and sat beside me, she told me she was in charge of the nurses on this floor and regretted not being informed of my arrival. She explained that us Western women asked questions and wanted to be involved in our healthcare and that was seen as an annoyance and disrespectful. She had tried to change this perception and involve patients but it did not go far.
I was taken to my room and he went to bring my children. They had taken my baby to the nursery soon after he was born which worried me after my delivery experience. I called to the nursery and asked for my son, they said no they could not bring him. My reply was that I would walk in my little gown down the hall to get him myself and didn’t care who was there or who would see me! They brought him straight away. This delivery was different, each time I tried to stand blood flowed as if a faucet had been turned on. I ran to the bathroom, if you can run after delivery, and made an attempt at emptying my bladder. I made my way back to the bed and tried to stop the bleeding, I looked to the floor where a spotted trail of blood was left behind. I could do nothing but lay back and try to control this bleeding which did subside when I was not walking. After a few minutes my children came running to the bed, hugging and kissing and sitting with me! It was a relief to have them back with me. He looked angrily at the floor and a sharp reprimand followed regarding the tiny spots of blood from the bathroom to my bed. I explained that I could not control it and could not move to clean it up, I then realized these were usually taken as excuses so I apologized and he called a maid to mop up. I didn’t let this bother me because this chapter was done, I had my children back and my baby was healthy and safe.