My Birth Story in Tangier, Morocco

I wanted to have a “natural” birth, but aren’t all births technically natural? I think that’s a topic for a whole other blog post, but overall, in my opinion, birth is very very 100% natural regardless of how exactly the baby exits the body and enters into the world.

In summary, I didn’t want to have medication during birth or any unnecessary medical interventions if there were no life-threatening events happening.

I feel lucky to have as much knowledge as I do about what can potentially be expected from birth medically, physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. The best thing that I learned above everything is that nothing about birth can truly be expected as it is in the hands of God. Knowing this was freeing as I would remind myself that nothing was in my control and to just hold faith that everything would go as it was written regardless of whether I was in the United States or not.

My husband and I searched relentlessly for doctors in the beginning. I explain exactly how we found our final doctor here and here. Her name is Dr. Houda Bennis and she speaks a little bit of English, so it made me feel a lot more comfortable. She also speaks a little bit of Spanish. Otherwise, her main languages are Arabic and French.

I gave birth at Clinique Bennis as Dr. Houda is affiliated with this hospital in Tangier. The Clinique is not what I expected upon arrival as I was expecting something similar to a hospital in America. The Clinique is older and not updated. The beds still have metal rails and there are places on the walls missing paint, but as my water was already broken, I was not caring about the details. I just wanted to make sure my baby was okay.

My water broke around 7:30am and we got to the hospital around 10am. My water didn’t break fully all at once, which, thanks to the movies, I always thought was supposed happen.

We arrived at the front desk and I gave the two women there my folder from Dr. Houda that listed my blood test results, ultrasounds, and special notes from Dr. Houda regarding allergies, and special requests from me that I listed in my birth plan.

I brought with me a small “carry-on” sized suitcase with my husband’s clothes and my clothes along with a larger duffle bag with snacks, Remy’s clothes, blankets, towels, diapers, and toiletries.

 If you are also planning to give birth specifically at Clinique Bennis in Tangier, my advice would be to bring food with you. They do not provide food to you until after the birth and there is no food to buy within the hospital (not even bottled water.) Also, have enough food/snack for your stay because there are no close areas to the clinique to buy food. My husband had to take a taxi to another location to bring back enough snacks to get us both by until after the birth and then he still had to go out again after the birth to bring himself back some dinner. He was quite hungry after coaching me through the delivery.

The main room for laboring women was full with someone else, so we were sent to a private room to wait for a few hours until the room opened up. While we waited my water continued exiting my body and the contractions began. My husband and I did exercises together as well as a few dance moves to help move the process along.

I would like to share my advice to be sure to relax and if you feel the urge to have a bowel movement to allow yourself to go as much as needed before delivery. I personally had to go multiple times to the bathroom and I am glad I did because it is best to feel as comfortable as possible before all the pushing begins in the delivery room.

The midwife at the hospital came in to check my cervix and she noticed in my amniotic fluid that there was meconium, which is baby poop, which could mean that my baby was stressed, which could have meant that we needed emergency medical intervention like a cesarean section, or c-section.

This was a moment in time that I was happy that I had done so much research, but also very scared because my baby could be in distress. I had to remind myself that this situation was still out of my hands and in the hands of God.

Dr. Houda was called right away and my belly was strapped up to monitor contractions and heart rate of the baby. I was comforted to hear my baby’s heart beating away and to see that my uterus was contracting very well, but still anxiously awaiting the doctor to hear what step to take next.

The doctor arrived and she checked my cervix to see yet another gush of amniotic fluid with no meconium inside. She said not to worry and that we will proceed naturally.

 I felt very relaxed after this and my contractions actually began to slow down as my stress levels decreased.

We eventually got moved to the normal room for laboring mothers, which had a normal hospital bed for me and a smaller bed to the side for the husband or family member accompanying.

There is another option for a bigger room if you are planning to have more people with you. The price is higher for this room, but it is very nice and has a small seating area with couches.

The smaller private room was perfect for us. There was a bathroom inside, but no shower, a TV without a remote to change channels, and there was also a heater, but you would have to ask a nurse if you wanted to change the temperature.

It is also important to note that if you want to connect to the Internet during your stay at Clinique Bennis, then you will need to purchase your own data for your phone, as they do not offer you the password for their wifi. My husband asked several different nurses and staff members for the wifi password and all of them said they did not know it or could not give it to us. Lame.

My contractions were increasing in pain and I was not able to speak during them any longer. I knew we were getting close. The midwife monitored the baby’s heart and our contractions, once again, and noticed the contractions were inconsistent (not every five minutes) so she called Dr. Houda for her suggestion and she recommended giving me a form of oxytocin to regulate the contractions.

I was put off by the idea of medication for this.

I asked my husband to use his data to research the drug specifically and I read about the use of it for labor. After this I called my mom and asked her opinion and collectively we all decided that since the baby had already showed signs of distress that we should go ahead and move things along to regulate the contractions and keep baby from having to be inside for longer than he needs to in order to keep the risks low.

I was given two doses of the oxytocin through an IV and I was terrified to feel the contractions regulate because I was really enjoying the longer pauses between contractions. I didn’t want to expect to feel one every five minutes or less, but I definitely did and my mind quickly started to think about the epidural, which I couldn’t believe I started to think about, but the pain of labor contractions are pains that undoubtedly cannot accurately be described until you feel them for yourself.

They are all encompassing of your energy and of your mind. I coped by holding my breath (not recommended because you need to breath to get oxygen to your baby), tensing up all of my muscles even my toes, and not moving. I was suffering silently which is apparently not common for many Moroccan women as my husband told me that many of the nurses were telling him that I was very patient because I was not freaking out and vocalizing my pain.

I was dazing in and out of my meditative pain state and reality and someone told me it was time to go to the delivery room…by walking.

 I thought to myself, “I actually have to move my body right now? How?”

The midwife through broken English said, “Walking will help baby.” So, I stand up somehow and I walk about five steps before having to stop for a contraction. The nurses in the area all stare at me, but I close my eyes and wait for the contraction to pass and the midwife helps me waddle the rest of my way down the stairs to the delivery room.

Every move I made felt like a miracle because the contractions were immobilizing.

I ended up in the bed and I saw my husband was in medical clothes and everyone was wearing hairnets and gloves. I slowly realized that we were going to be giving birth now. It truly felt like I was in another world.

The doctor told me to push every time I felt a contraction and I remember having the same thought from earlier that, “If I can’t even breath when I’m having a contraction how will I push?” I asked about the epidural to my husband and he translated to the doctor and then he translated back to me that I was already at 7cm and if I get to 8 it is too late.

Another contraction came and I (REGRETFULLY) said, “Yes, give me the epidural.”

The anesthesiologist came in and from TV shows and movies I knew what he was going to do with putting the needle and catheter into my back to administer the anesthetic.

He did it, but I still felt everything. He said to give it five minutes and I will not feel pain anymore.

Five minutes later and many strong contractions later, I still felt everything.

I told my husband and he told the anesthesiologist, but he assured him that it was working based on my “quiet state” (which I maintained throughout the entire labor) and my husband argued with him that we shouldn’t have to pay for this medication.

It was too late to have been given the epidural and thankfully I didn’t think about it too much as the contractions took all of my focus.

Dr. Houda gave me oxygen as she could tell I was holding my breath and she told me to breathe or my baby would not have oxygen to breathe. I tried breathing and it felt very uncomfortable. The next thing Dr. Houda told me to do was to push. I couldn’t imagine it, but I tried.

I pushed as hard as I could. I felt a contraction and I would nod my head at Dr. Houda that I was ready to push and both Dr. Houda and my husband would coach me to push as hard as I could.

Very quickly I felt the urge to have bowel movement, which was something I heard to be very common during delivery and I was also mortified to do. I told my husband and my husband translated what I said to the doctor and she and all the staff in the room told me how normal it was to do and to just relax and let it happen.

I embarrassingly did it and after that I was able to push harder and feel more in control. It really was not a big deal at all. It’s just part of the process, really. I forgot about it immediately.

The pain was more and more intense and I could tell it was getting close, but I couldn’t tell how long it would take. In my mind, we still had 30 minutes to an hour, but to my surprise, baby Remy was born about one minute after the thought crossed my mind.

Dr. Houda ended up giving me an episiotomy and using a vacuum suction to get baby Remy out as his head was turned slightly. I wish Dr. Houda did not choose to do these things as Remy’s head afterwards was very bruised from the suction (vacuums also can cause a lot of cranial structural problems as well as countless others (Inshallah none will happen or have happened to Remy)) and my episiotomy wound is still tender two months later, but I trust she used her best judgment to have a healthy delivery and there is nothing any of us can really do to change it now.

Overall the labor and delivery lasted from 7:30am to Remy’s birth at 7:20pm.

 Almost 12 hours exactly! Alhamdulillah for Remy; He is a beautiful baby boy.

I remember how shocked I was when I saw him placed on my chest. I heard his screams and saw him for the first time. I couldn’t believe he was here! It’s a moment I will replay in my head over and over and over again as this moment felt so surreal and unimaginable. It was truly an experience and feeling that I cannot put into the correct words.

I felt and still feel so lucky and grateful for Remy and his health. Even that doesn’t truly explain any of the feelings.

After a few moments with my Remy Dr. Houda called my husband to cut the umbilical cord still connecting Remy and I together. Zouhair did it successfully and after he finalized the cut the three of us had a few minutes to connect with each other as a family for the first time.

My placenta was next on the list of things to be removed from my body and my state of mind at the time was not at all focused on pushing. I think Dr. Houda could see I was very tired as she directed her midwife to assist her in the removal process.

The midwife pushed on my stomach while Dr. Houda massaged the inside of my uterus to coax the placenta out. It was a bit painful, but I was too distracted to care much as all I could think about was my fresh little baby awaiting my cuddles.

A few moments after final stitches were put into place of the episiotomy I was placed out of the birthing chair onto a bed to be wheeled onto an elevator to my original room.

I was told to wait two hours after birth before I could have something to eat. I gratefully accepted two hours of rest as did my husband and baby Remy.

For dinner, two hours after birth, I was given a vegetable puree type of soup with a side dish of chicken and rice with a yogurt.

I really didn’t feel like eating. I felt nauseous and had a headache, but the nurses encouraged me to eat anyway. They were right. It helped me feel much better.

The nurses changed shifts and I felt a bit bombarded by the amount of night nurses that were in my room.

A nurse with three of her own children helped me to try to latch Remy on to breast feed for the first time.

It was a very hands-on approach, which I personally did not mind.

Remy did not take onto the breast quickly and the nurse was telling my husband in Darija that he should go to the pharmacy to buy formula. I couldn’t believe it. I saw a bottle in her hand and very directly told Zouhair to tell her NO BOTTLES. I didn’t want the first thing his mouth to feel and become accustomed with to be a bottle as it could cause nipple confusion.

The nurse left the room for a few moments and I tried very hard to get Remy to latch on. He finally did Alhamdulillah. I felt so proud of him.

Afterwards the nurse came back to see Remy eating and she congratulated us.

This was one of the moments that I wished to be in the US as a lactation consultant could have assisted me with getting a proper latch from the very beginning.

Needless to say we have latch issues now, but we are working through it and I am hoping that as Remy grows things will improve.

After dinner we all needed some rest and rest we did. Remy slept through most of the night and didn’t cry Alhamdulillah.

Throughout the night I would ring for the nurses whenever I needed to go to the bathroom.

“The bathroom” after birth and an episiotomy consisted of a nurse bringing a bedpan and cleaning my wound with a type of medicated water. It was nice and convenient for me, as I didn’t have to leave bed. I’m thankful for the nurses helping me through everything at the clinique. They were very patient.

Morning came very quickly. Breakfast was a croissant and bread with the option for jelly or butter, with a side of yogurt, and coffee (I skipped the coffee and asked for hot water for raspberry leaf tea I brought with me (it’s notably very good for strengthening the uterus)).

My husband’s family came to visit us and meet baby Remy shortly after breakfast. They brought flowers for us with a cute blue ribbon tied around them. It was nice to introduce the newest family member and share the moment with them.

The staff and doctors for birth at Clinique Bennis did a great job. I left my expectations at the door before I entered the clinique, which is very important especially with a birth.

It wasn’t necessary to have expectations as everyone made the experience a positive one.

For those interested, the overall cost was $760 (7780 MAD) for the birth, private room, epidural, and blood test. It would have been $200 less without the epidural. Also, you can only pay in cash.

I hope our story can help expat women who are expecting a baby, whether in Morocco or another part of the world, to not feel afraid just because you are a foreigner. Birth will go as it goes, but always be educated and find a doctor you are comfortable with and trust. There is always the option of traveling midwives if you have the finances.

Facebook groups are fantastic resources for help. Google groups for your specific need as a foreigner and there is bound to be a Facebook group with thousands of women and/or men willing to help and share their experiences with you. Personally, I have met many great women on Facebook and in real life from these groups that helped me throughout my time living in Morocco.

In closing, motherhood is beyond comprehension and it took me about a month to wrap my head around this new life in my life.

The hormones postpartum I was not prepared for. They knocked me off my feet, really. Sometimes I could not stop crying.

I think I went a whole day crying and it’s what I needed to do and I didn’t make myself feel weak or guilty for it.

I learned to understand that giving birth is HUGE.

It’s ridiculously easy to fall into the comparison bus and think to yourself that, “Well, what about the women who are grocery shopping, cooking, exercising, and parenting other children after birth? I’m lazy compared to them. I’m a bad mom.”

It’s all not true. All moms recuperate differently. All bodies are different. All hormones react differently. EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.

What is important is what feels best and for me I needed rest and what I really needed was my mom. I missed her more than anything. I still can’t believe I went through pregnancy, labor/delivery, and postpartum without her, but I did and let me just say that it would not have been possible without my husband. He stuck through the hormonal fluctuations and that alone he deserves a trophy, chocolates, and a year supply of massages for.

I love him both my husband and my son unconditionally.

Remy is my sunshine. His energy is strong and I can feel that he will have an overflowing source of light to share with our world as he grows each and every day.

I felt lucky to be his mother before he entered the world and now that he is here I do my best every moment to make sure he knows how lucky we all are to have him in our lives.

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