It was February in Al-Khobar and temperatures were cooler making the constant humidity more bearable. See See, Foof and little Abude ran around the house playing, singing and creating memories of the special things that little ones do. The boys were enjoying their 3rd grade year and the disturbing tactics of the two Riyadh schools were now in the past. In the previous schools there were numerous problems and among them was the lack of supervision. Physical education meant a teacher throwing an old soccer ball to the children letting them tussle around in the dusty play area for the class period on their own. This westernized school had an actual P.E. class complete with instructors. It was difficult living alone and the idea of moving to a large compound was exciting but thoughts of going back to the Riyadh school system made it bittersweet. I was almost 9 months pregnant and my 3 closest friends on the compound were about to stage an intervention that would send me straight to a Saudi Obgyn for a check up.
These dear ladies put together their own plan of action in case he was not in Al-Khobar for delivery. They had inquired for months about the doctor, hospital and my birth plan and finally they would take no more of my nods and smiles but insisted on a solid plan of action. One day while sitting with Gloria at the park, Guadalupe and Michelle approached and started discussing the need for a “plan”. They insisted on having answers and impressed upon me the urgency of addressing the upcoming delivery. They spoke of what would be done to accommodate this birth if he was not able to make it back in time. As I listened to them planning and speaking of the upcoming delivery I felt a sick twinge inside of me. It was a feeling that did not align with my outer image as a God fearing, loyal wife. Guilt and shame rose inside of me each time these thoughts ran through my mind. I secretly hoped that one of these three women would be forced to accompany me and he would not make it back for the delivery. He did not allow complaints about pain or discomfort nor did he see the need for medication in what he deemed a “natural” process such as this. He was always there during delivery which supported the theory that he cared deeply and would never allow me to be alone during this important time. He was calm and cool under pressure and always managed to remind me that the pain was not as bad as I thought. This created more of a panic inside of me especially given the circumstances of delivery in Saudi.
I accepted the fact that it was time to make an appointment with a doctor. Michelle told me there was a male Saudi Obgyn who had been educated in Europe. She encouraged me to make an appointment to see him and reminded me that it was indeed at this point a necessity. I called to schedule my first check up although I felt very doubtful that it would work out . A few days later Ushruf (our school driver) picked me up and dropped me off at the little office that looked more like a house. In Saudi most doctors have an office in a hospital which is sterile and unwelcoming. For my first delivery soon after arriving in Riyadh no one would speak to me or answer my questions when trying to see a doctor. I stood at the desk in the hospital lobby until I finally enlisted his help in getting someone to respond. I felt as if I were some how invisible and definitely not welcome. As I opened the door of this little house, I saw candles, plants and colorful pillows warmly placed throughout. I sat nervously filling out paper work when a lovely lady from Austria stepped out to call my name. She was the receptionist as well as medical assistant, and the doctor’s wife. She smiled and chatted as she took my blood pressure and asked me about my general health. The three little ones sat playing with toys, chattering and trying to be on their best behavior. I couldn’t imagine having a male doctor and sat holding onto the gown that was awkwardly draped over my body. The doctor finally entered the room as my anxiety reached it’s peak. He was a middle aged man dressed in pants and a casual shirt, a calm and gentle soul. He sat next to me and spoke in a soft voice asking me questions about my previous births. I felt a certain comfort knowing that he would be there for delivery.
I spent my days performing the same routine as I had for many years, contractions came and went as I made my way into the last couple of weeks. I didn’t think of delivery because that brought with it great fear and agitation, but prayed for an easy delivery and most of all a healthy baby. My friends were present each day and gave me support and comfort. Gloria and her husband offered to take me to the hospital at any hour needed and Guadalupe said she would come to my home and stay with the children. Each week passed and while contractions got stronger they didn’t bring about any results. The doctor did stress tests and as I reached the point of being two weeks over due he said he would wait no longer. A dread washed over me as I knew it would mean leaving the children at home and entering into the unknown.
When he came home that week we made our way to the hospital where they administered medication hoping to start labor. Although I was away from the children it was much different than the first experience in Riyadh. I sat alone for hours worrying about my kids and had no contact with the outside world. This time I had friends and family and the support of a qualified physician. Finally at nightfall light contractions started and it seemed as if labor had finally taken hold. He and I had spent the day laughing and perusing baby names. As the pain got stronger I wanted to walk as I had done when delivering in the states and so he grabbed my hand and lead me out to the hall. He guided me to the elevator and we headed down to the street below. We walked and laughed and reminisced in the moon lit night, it was as if we had returned to those happy college days. He drove the old green Vega and we parked at Spring Valley sleeping in the back after a day of fishing. We felt as if there were no one else in the universe as we lay huddled in the old green Vega gazing up at the stars and moon. A security guard hailed us as we rounded the corner of the building and we blissfully skipped to the other side of the street to continue our midnight rendezvous. As pain became too intense he helped me to the building and back up in the elevator. We were met by a Filipino nurse who smiled and said they had been looking for us. She helped me to the room and I stood against the bed breathing heavily. It was now nearing morning and a female doctor asked that I be moved to the delivery room. She broke my water and after several more pushes my beautiful daughter was born. The Saudi doctor didn’t make it in time but just knowing he was behind my care was comforting. It was once again a relief to be finished with labor. He held her in his arms and repeated the Iquama (call to prayer) gently in her ear and read from the holy book.