January 31, 2011

Aisha Al-Hajjar on Birthing Naturally

Aisha Al-Hajjar is an American-born Bradley Method® Childbirth Educator/Lecturer, Bradley® Labor/Birth Doula, columnist, blogger, and natural mom of eight. She currently lives and works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  

What is birthing naturally? 
The term “natural birth” was coined by obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read in his book, “Natural Childbirth,” in the 1930s.  In today’s medical birth culture, natural can simply mean vaginal, rather than cesarean.  For me, natural means more than this, it means trusting Allah (SWT) and allowing ourselves to birth as we were created to do.  Birthing as Eve and Maryam (may Allah be pleased with them) must have done…completely drug free, without medical intervention or procedure.  This does not mean homebirth, although I love homebirth; rather to me, it means finding a birth attendant and birth place that will watch over you for complications and allow you to calmly birth without interventions so long as everything is going well.  This involves learning how to cope with labor and birth with natural pain management techniques as well as the physiology of labor so that the woman works with her body, rather than against it at this critical time.

Why did you decide to birth naturally?
All eight of my births have been drug-free, natural births, alhamdulelah.  My first five births were before I’d ever even heard of Islam.  Yet I somehow knew that my body had been created to birth and feed my babies.  Intuitively I knew that the drugs and interventions offered at the hospital would only complicate an event that was perfectly designed to be experienced naturally, subhanallah.

What are the different ways a woman can birth naturally (i.e. at home, in a hospital, etc)?
Natural birth can be experienced in any setting.  Of course, the less medical the environment, the less likely a woman will be pushed or encouraged to allow medical process into the event.  Having a supportive birth attendant is paramount.  But even without such support, a calm and confident mother who is able to be strong in advocating for herself and her baby can accomplish her birth goals, insha’Allah.

Unfortunately, there are no birth centers in Saudi and with homebirth there is the hassle of securing birth documentation afterwards.  My last baby was born at home, alhamdulelah, and only my husband was present to assist me.  It took us four months to get her birth certificate, but we did get it, alhamdulelah.

In your experience, what are some of the greatest obstacles women face when they attempt to birth naturally and how can these obstacles be overcome?
In my opinion, the woman is her own biggest obstacle to completely natural birth.  Unfortunately, in the medical birthing culture that exists today, most women just go to the hospital and turn their bodies over to medical process like a car to the mechanic.  Doctors are used to women who seek to be “rescued” from their births.  Rarely, if ever, do they see a woman who took the time to get educated and prepared (physically, mentally, and emotionally) for her birth.  It takes trust in Allah (SWT) and HIS perfect design of our bodies to calmly and confidently ignore the media’s portrayal of birth as a medical emergency and let the process work naturally.

What are the risks of birthing naturally?
Birth is never without risk, subhanallah.  But frankly, the routine and elective medical procedures we are given (and often ask for) set up a chain of unnatural birthing that require even more medical interventions to manage.
There is far greater risk in any procedure initiated by well-intentioned medical staff than in allowing the natural process to unfold.  This is assuming there are not real complications (about 90% of births would be without complications if left alone) and the woman has learned how to cope naturally with her pain and how to work with, rather than against her own body during labor and birth.

What are the benefits of birthing naturally?
First of all, it’s safer than medically interfering in the process.  Secondly, if we avoid starting elective procedures (pain meds, routine IV, fetal monitoring, inductions, etc) we also avoid the domino effect that these procedures often times cause.

For me, the greatest benefit is the recovery time.  Mothers who are able to birth without any medical interventions usually feel great after the birth, when it counts most.  As compared to women who have undergone procedures and taken medications, who are often miserable, nauseas, and need time to heal and recover.

Personally, I am up and about within two hours after delivery, alhamdulelah.  I feel great and I am joyfully caring for my infant.  I also advocate for delayed umbilical cord clamping to ensure that my baby’s blood is returned to his/her body, rather than lost in the cord when cut quickly.  My baby, who was not subjected to narcotic medications or abnormally strong contractions (brought on by induction or labor speeding drugs) is alert and active and nurses within one minute of birth.  In my opinion, this is what makes it all worthwhile.

To whom would you recommend natural birthing and why? 
I recommend natural birth to any woman who has the confidence and determination to learn and prepare for it.  This does not mean birthing without the watchful eye of experienced birthing professionals.  Complications, although rare, may require the skilled hands of rescuers for mothers and babies in need.  My advice is to prepare for normality until true abnormality strikes.  In this way, we maintain a balance between nature and technology and only employ procedure when truly needed.

To whom would you NOT recommend natural birthing and why?
I cannot recommend natural birth for women who have no interest in preparing for their birth and who do not believe in their body's design and ability to birth naturally.  I feel sad for such women, but not everyone is able to ignore the media portrayal of birth as an emergency, nor see past the hospitals’ and medical communities’ views of birth as a business.

What has natural birthing taught you?
Alhamdulelah, the miracle of natural birth is really a confirmation of my trust in Allah (SWT).  HE is the perfect designer and creator of our bodies and our ability to carry, birth, and feed our babies.

What advice can you give to women who may be scared to try natural birthing?
Seek as much information as you can.  There are tons of resources on the internet, alhamdulelah.  If they can find childbirth classes (I offer such classes in Riyadh), enroll and go to all the classes offered.  Enlist someone to be their coach (husband is my preference, but mother/sister/aunt work well too).  Hire a doula to assist them during their labor and birth; doulas have a lot of knowledge and can help the woman understand the process and decipher the medical world of birthing during the heat of the moment.  Discuss their preferences with their doctor well ahead of time to ensure that he/she will support their choices in birth.  Don’t wait to the last minute and don’t be afraid to change doctors or birthplace if they are not satisfied with the support they will receive.

Any final comments?
Obviously, natural, non-medicated birth was the way of Mother Eve (may Allah be pleased with her) and all women until just this past century.  Knowing this fact, I can confidently state that natural, non-medicated birth is Sunnah, as this is all there was at the time of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him).  Many medical procedures save lives, alhamduelah, but in the end, it’s all Qadr Allah and regardless of where we are or what we plan, HE is the master planner.  If our births are meant to go smoothly they will, if they aren’t they won’t, subhanallah. Trust Allah, tie your camels with education, preparation, and  birth where you feel safest (be it home or the hospital).  May Allah bless us all with healthy easy pregnancies and births and may our babies be pleasing to HIM and his/her parents…Ameen.

To read more from Aisha Al-Hajjar, visit her blog at www.saudibirthstory.blogspot.com and her Motherhood column on Saudi Life at www.saudilife.net/motherhood 


  1. Salam alaikum, Umm,

    I enjoy your blog and am honored to share my passion for natural birth through this interview.

    JZK for the opportunity to be a part of your blog. May Allah (SWT) bless you and your readers through your efforts.

    Best regards,

    -Aisha, Natural Mom

  2. Assalau alaikum Hajar,

    Like you I also have 8 children mashaAllah and have them all naturally, 2 at home, one in the car and I also have twins. I breastfed them all including the twins until I was half way in the next pregnancy. I'm passionate about parenting and brought my children up without television. I had a school called Dar-al-Quraan with other sisters wherein we taught and gave our children tarbiyah until they all went to school. I have plenty to share...

  3. @Natural Mom: Wa Alaykum Salaam wa Rahmatullah, JazakiAllah khair once again for the interview. Ameen to your dua'a.

    @sharifah: Asalaamu Alaykum and MashaAllah at all your natural births. In the car too! SubhanAllah. I would love to hear your stories. Care to share them? Email me if you do inshaAllah. idealrespect@gmail.com

  4. Assalaamu `alaykum!

    Masha'Allah this is such a great blog! Love what you're doing with it. This particular post reminded me of this documentary called the "The Business of Being Born" - I highly recommend everyone to watch it especially those that are in the states! It changed my whole outlook on birth and all and I'm all about natural birth! My friend had a water birth for two of her children and totally recommends it. After hearing her experience, I'm leaning towards that option when the day comes insha'Allah!

    samina :)

  5. Asalamaleikum!!

    MAshallah what a beautiful post. I had both of my children 'natural' without any medications al7emdallah, but never even gave thought to natural birth the way it was before all of this technology. We had a few complications though with the umbilical cord for both of my children so I would have been way to scared to have done it without having the comfort of the doctor there.
    May Allah reward you for having your children the natural way, Masha'allah tabarak Allah.

  6. Salam alaikum,

    I love the comments here, masha'Allah. I'm also loving all the mamas I'm finding lately with as many kids (or more) than me!

    I am always looking for new birth stories from Muslimas around the world. If any of the commenters here would like to share on my blog www.saudibirthstory.blogspot.com please let me know. You'll find my contact information under the "Share Your Story" tab.

    Duas for all the Ummah mamas to realize the sunnah of natural birth. :)

    Best regards,

    Aisha (Natural Mom)

  7. My wife gave natural birth at home last month alhamdhu lillah