If our son, Benjamin, could speak, he would tell you he’s from Egypt. No, he will not be an Egyptian citizen and likely will not speak Arabic like the locals do (although that would be nice!), but from his first few months in the womb, to birth, to his first 2 weeks breathing this polluted city air, he has spent all of his young life in Egypt. Having a baby in Egypt felt a lot like having a baby anywhere else in the world, only without the IV pumps and intermittent blood pressure checks. Of course, we have nothing to relate it to as this is our first child, but through each step of the way, we felt confident and prepared to bring this child into the world here. So, how did it all go down?
An interesting thing to note about childbirth in Egypt, is that most women here have c-sections. They are predictable, can be planned, and the mother doesn’t feel any of the pains of labor. Because of that, we actually had to seek out a specific doctor who would be comfortable with letting us have a natural delivery, as it’s just not a normal thing here! Thankfully, we found one pretty quickly who we felt would do a good job bringing little Ben into the world. So since September, we’ve been meeting every 3 weeks with our amazing doctors, head doctor Dr. Cherif and his assistant Dr. Karim. At each appointment they would do an ultrasound, a general check-up on Becca, and a brief consultation to talk about the progress of Benjamin. Each appointment cost us 250 LE or about $14. We also managed to find an Egyptian midwife, or “doula”, here named Dina. Midwifery has been on the decline in recent decades as the profession isn’t seen as an important asset in a doctor-heavy country. She was the perfect addition to our team as she provided a lot of important information before the delivery, as well as acted as our advocate with the nurses and doctors. In the hospitals, only the doctors speak English – all the nurses and staff speak only Arabic, so it’s helpful to have someone there to translate as well. Rounding out our “dream team” were Becca’s parents who flew in a week before Becca’s due date to provide emotional support as well as lend a helping hand around the house. Becca’s mom, Ruth, was also right by her side throughout the labor and delivery.
Eleven days after the due date, we headed to the hospital for Becca to get a check-up to see if things were progressing. To Dr. Karim’s surprise, Becca was already 4-5 cm dilated without registering any contractions! Becca was admitted around 11 a.m. and put on a slow drip to help her start the contractions and get them going on a regular basis. Our room was comfortable and large enough to fit all the busy bodies that would eventually be coming in and out of it. For now, in likely our very last moments alone, Becca and I prayed together for the afternoon/evening ahead, taking one last moment to remember what it was like to be “just us.”
Midday turned to late afternoon, and slowly the contractions increased. To help get things going, Becca walked the halls of our floor and did squats on a medicine ball. By 7 pm, the contractions were getting pretty intense and Becca was ready to move onto the next stage, the water birthing room. No, it is not common to have a water birth in Egypt. In fact, we were told that our hospital was the only hospital in the city that had a water birth facility (And by facility, I mean they have one water birth room to serve the 20 million people of Cairo). We didn’t always want to have a water birth, but once our midwife had talked to us about the benefits of it and the fact that our doctor and hospital were equipped to handle such a delivery, we decided to go ahead with it.
Becca was wheeled up to the water birthing room just after 8 pm. By this time the contractions had gotten to be almost unbearable for Becca, who didn’t have any pain meds, so the pool seemed a good solution to help with the laboring. Dr. Karim in this moment really encouraged Becca to get into the warm pool, as Becca could barely manage to get off the stretcher, telling her that the pain would be reduced by 60%. I’m not sure to what percent Becca’s pain went down, but she did feel instant relief by getting in the water. The water itself was very warm, so Ruth, myself, and Dina took turns rubbing ice cubes up and down Becca’s arms and draping a cold rag on her forehead to keep her from becoming overheated. Becca began trying to push little Benjamin out around 10 p.m.
As her husband, I felt incredibly helpless at times. It was all I could do to not break down and cry during such a trying time. As she pushed, I held Becca’s body up in the water by wrapping my arms around her from behind. I prayed with her, I encouraged her with my seemingly weightless words, and just stayed by her side throughout every minute of the night. Becca was amazing. She was gracious towards everyone in the room, determined between contractions, and strong when she had to push over and over again. I will never forget how in awe I was of this woman I had married.
Around 3 1/2 hours and an immeasurable number of pushes later, Dr. Cherif decided to pull Becca out of the water and have her try pushing from a bed. Benjamin just wasn’t coming out and he was getting worried about Becca’s endurance. About 15 minutes later, at 1:24 am on May 4th, Benjamin was born. Finally.
As I type this, Benjamin lies just inches away from me cuddled up in his favorite blue wrap, healthy as can be. In fact, he went on his first felucca boat ride just last week! Of course, our lives’ have been flipped upside down, but we knew that going into all of this. He does all the things a baby is supposed to do and is a full-time job to his Mama and Daddy. We are so in love with him already. Becca continues to recover well and is quickly adapting to being his primary care-taker while I’m back at work.
So having a baby in Egypt, would we do it again? Yes! We understand that everyone is different and there are certainly some specific issues that might concern some expats away from their home countries. However, for us, it was an incredible experience that we wouldn’t trade for anything. In the end, our hospital bill was right at $1000 for the entire thing. It was possible to do things cheaper, but we decided to spend a bit more to have a few extra comforts (like those cappuccinos 😉 ).
Of course, all you parents out there understand that the adventure has just begun for our little guy. There will be challenges ahead for sure, but we are overwhelmingly thankful for how God has provided for us in so many ways up to this point. We ask that you would continue to pray for us as we navigate these uncharted waters as we raise our firstborn in this wonderful and wild country. Benjamin the “Egyptian.” It’s kind of got a ring to it, don’t ya think?