Victoria Browne, 33, a school nurse from the UK, is mum to Alfie, three, and Ted, who was just 10 days old at the time of the interview...
“I had my firstborn, Alfie (now three), while we were still living in the UK, in a birthing pool in a midwife-led unit with minimal intervention. We moved to Dubai in February 2015, and when I became pregnant for the second time I was hoping to have a similar birth experience, which is why I opted for Al Zahra hospital – the only UAE hospital I know of where you are allowed to give birth in a birthing pool.
“By comparison to my experience with Alfie, I was completely unprepared for Ted’s arrival. He came two weeks before my due date and I wasn’t expecting it at all – I had only just finished work the day before and hadn’t even packed my hospital bag! With Alfie I had been super-organised and had loads of stuff for him ready in advance. Poor Ted doesn’t have half the things I had bought for Alfie and has had to make do with Alfie’s hand-me-downs…
“With Alfie, I had also written a birth plan and just generally felt much more in control of how I thought my birth experience would go, whereas I felt a lot more unsure going into it with Ted – which is strange, considering he was my second and you might expect it to be the other way around. Antenatally, I felt that here they didn’t provide you with as much information in Dubai as they did in the UK; it may have been because it was my second so they assumed I would know everything, but I’m not sure. I felt like here they focus more on the scans and the blood tests and procedures and less on the explanation of how everything works and what to expect from both the experience and the birth. Questions were always answered, but advice wasn’t always particularly forthcoming. I did antenatal classes in the UK but wasn’t aware of any here so I didn’t attend any.
“On Friday, October 28 I woke up at 5.30am feeling some twinges, but I thought they were just Braxton Hicks. By 6am the ‘twinges’ were a lot stronger and coming every 10 minutes. I was still a little bit in denial that I was in labour, but I noticed a bit of pinky discharge so decided that I needed to go to the hospital to be checked.
“My husband Justin and I dropped Alfie off at some friends at 8am and went to Al Zahra, where they told me I was already 5cm dilated! At this point the contractions were coming thick and fast and were significantly more painful – my midwife, Emma, started prepping the birthing pool for me right away! I was in the pool for only about 10 minutes before I felt the need to push. Emma was fantastic and guided me through the pushing stage and it progressed really quickly. Ted was born at 9.42am naturally in the water. He was handed straight to me in the water pool; that feeling of holding him for the first time was so special. The disbelief that you have made that baby and just pushed them into the world and the love you feel for them is a feeling that is quite overwhelming.
“My birth experience was very similar to the first and I feel very lucky that both times I have managed a quick natural delivery with only the water for pain relief. This time I had a second-degree tear so that has been quite painful and I am still recovering from that side of things. With Alfie I was so shell-shocked by the reality of a newborn and sleep deprivation that I had some postnatal depression, which lasted for a few months. It took me a week before I felt able to leave the house and was constantly stressing about feeding. This time I have had to get out and look after Alfie and still be a mummy to him as well as Ted. I feel that even though I wasn’t as prepared for the birth I still remembered how bad the sleepless nights were and was prepared for what life is like when a newborn comes into the world, so I feel that I have adapted better this time and this has helped my recovery... still, it’s only 10 days in, so things could change!
“My tips for first-time mums would be to sleep as much as you can before the baby comes and to rest and listen to your body. Don’t worry about having all the stuff for the baby in advance, you can get anything that you need after the baby comes.
“When it comes to the birth I believe you need to try to stay calm and focus on the end result, one more contraction is one less contraction that you have to go through. Listen to your body! I would love to say that it didn’t hurt but I can’t, although focusing on the fact you have a baby coming will help to get you through that pain.
“Also I think just going into the experience with the attitude of ‘what will be, will be’ helps. I wanted a water birth and a natural delivery, but being from a healthcare background I know that things don’t always go to plan and I had to be open to the fact that this might not happen. In emergency situations you have to look at what will bring that baby into the world the most safely. Don’t beat yourself up over sticking to birth plans, but if there is no medical reason you can’t stick to it, then don’t be afraid to say how you want to give birth to your baby.
“Also, if you have to have stitches, take the gas and air... it makes you feel like you’re having the ‘relaxed night’ you haven’t had for nine months!”
As told to Tabitha Barda