We’ve been in newborn heaven these last couple of months and as the fog of this wonderful, exhausting, precious time in our lives has started to lift, I wanted to write down these earliest experiences of Zayn’s life before they become a distant memory. I will never forget each of these moments but there’s something extra special when it’s captured in the written words of parents, someday to share with their growing children. I hope to include these tales in Zayn and Hayat’s first year photobooks too!
During the season when Hayat was born, we were living out of suitcases, Ali on one side of the earth in humid Qatar, and me in an airbnb in urban Gatineau. We didn’t have a nursery set up and were limited on the time that we had together during her first few weeks of life. Stress was at an all-time high, but luckily I got away with a quick labour. Albeit, it was a rollercoaster onset of intense contractions in the middle of the night. No sleep, no rest in between. It was full throttle from the very start. Like a punching bag, hardly able to catch a breath before the next fist came in.
I was determined to ‘enjoy’ as much of this labour as possible. Luckily, that determination came through (thank you Zayn!). We wrote a letter to Zayn (who at the time, was yet to be named!), took some selfies in between contractions, ordered a delicious vegetarian pizza, took a shower, did my nails, took power naps, all before things got intense. The whole story is laid out below in lots of fun details, so enjoy!
Another preamble: Because we didn’t end up commissioning a photographer to capture Hayat’s birth, I thought it would be cool to document Zayn’s this time around. But, the stars didn’t align since Zayn decided to join us 5 days early - our photographer friend, Agatha, wasn’t in town. Bummer. But she captured our little family a few days later, so you’ll see her incredible imagery interspersed below along with a few photos we took immediately after the birth.
It was 5:30am when I first felt it. My eyes shot open and I looked across from me towards Ali. He was completely zonked, sound asleep. Oblivious to what I knew were the starting pangs of early labour. I stayed cuddled up in bed, hoping that I was wrong. Our fingers were crossed for a 2019 baby. And my photographer/videographer friend, Agatha, was only available starting the very next day (yup, that was one of my odd reasons to hope for a 2019 kiddo!). I cozied up a bit longer hoping that I could somehow fall back asleep, but no. The contractions continued. And this tiny creature that occupied my body for 9 months on end was set on partying it up later that day like it was 2018.
Rewind to the evening before. I was working away on my laptop, editing our family photos that I had neglected over 2018 (I’m sure there were upwards of a few thousand!), we were watching some Netflix show at the same time, and munching on fresh fruit that Ali had bought earlier that day. I suddenly felt a strange kick-like pain in the pit of my stomach at around 11pm. Deep down, I knew Zayn was telling me that he was getting ready to come out. So Ali and I dropped everything at that moment, ran upstairs, got our clothes ready, and went to bed by midnight with the lingering thought that things could get real at ANY GIVEN MOMENT. That night, I had the best 5 hours of sleep I’ve had in a long time. You’d think I wouldn’t sleep a wink, but my body needed every second of that sleep.
Based on our previous experience, our midwife (who is one of my favourite humans on earth!), said that it would come fast. I thought, if this baby is coming today, on New Year’s Eve, then I’m going to start off on the right foot. I finally woke Ali up, and after a few groggy minutes, we were both laser focused on what was to come next. Hayat woke up soon after and we spent a few minutes cuddling up together knowing that this would be the last time together as a family of 3. Those moments were so precious and I distinctly remember hugging Hayat so tightly and tearing up in between the ongoing mild contractions. It was such an emotional time and Hayat no idea that her life was about to completely change later that day.
After Ali dropped her off at my parent’s house, we started the day like any other. We had breakfast in our living room and like typical ‘Batoul-style’, started prioritizing what needed to be done next, knowing that things could speed up any second. For me, it was: shower, get my nails done (potentially at the nail salon close to my house - yes, I was seriously thinking that!), set up the camera to take photos through the phone (yup, was thinking that too!), place hospital bag in the car and labour at home as long as possible until our midwife arrived. The hot shower felt so good and I feel that it somehow slowed down the labour! Biggest recommendation to any pregnant friend out there in the early labour stage - a hot shower will help relieve some of those incessant aches and pains. And, you’ll be spic and span for when active labour rears its ugly head.
Things were progressing rather slowly that morning, and the contractions came on every 6-7 minutes but were mild. I smartly decided against going out to a nail salon. It’s kind of funny because I’ve only had my nails professionally done like 3x in my entire life. I was laughing at myself in between contractions because of where my mind was at in those early morning moments.
I was actually confused and annoyed about the slow progression because I was expecting everything to happen so quickly as it did with Hayat’s birth. I sent Ali to bed to take as long a nap as possible so that he could be energized to help me through the next phase. I was even able to join him for a short nap leading up to the middle of the day.
As I was in and out of sleep, the clock struck 12 and things began getting serious. Then everything happened all at once.
One: the contractions were coming on more frequently and the hard pains that come with labour crept up at me.
Two: suddenly, I was hungry. As if I hadn’t eaten anything in days kind-of-hungry.
Three: my parents called telling us that they didn’t know how to set up Hayat’s mobile crib for her mid-day nap.
So again, we prioritized. Ali ordered our pizza and drove over to my parents’ (luckily they live closely!) to show them how to get the crib working. For the record, that bed is still a pain in the neck and so hard to set up! I laboured on my own and prayed to God that little Z wouldn’t decide to push through in that very moment. The doorbell rang and and I told the delivery man that I was in labour, then I laughed. He laughed along, but I don’t think he believed me. I wouldn’t believe me either! I was in some sort of hysterical, worried state because of being alone at home. I could have sworn that the thought of asking the delivery man to wait around until Ali came back crossed my mind.
For what felt like hours but were actually only a few minutes, Ali came back home and relief washed over me. At least someone would be there if baby Z decided to come early.
After enjoying the most delicious vegetarian Pizza Pizza pizza (maybe it was my hormones, but man I will never forget the juiciness of this lunch!), we decided to call our midwife, Grace (from East Ottawa Midwives - best midwifery practice in town!) and she was at our place within half hour. I was 6cm dilated at that time and she recommended that we head on over to the birthing centre because we were progressing well and fast.
When we gave birth to Hayat at our local hospital, the one thing I didn’t like was how much walking we had to do from the entrance, to the waiting room, then from the waiting room to the delivery room. Plus, parking was a nuisance and expensive and Ali was absent figuring it all out while I was close to giving birth! One of the reasons we chose the birthing centre instead of a traditional hospital was because of the easy and quick entranceway. Yes, I’m serious that this was one of the biggest consideration! We literally parked right in from of the main entrance, within a few steps we were at the main door and another few in the check-in room. It was so wonderful to have Ali by my side the whole time rather than him running back in and out to find a parking spot and to grab our hospital bag.
We arrived at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre at 2:30. By the time we walked over to our room, got settle and checked, I was closer to 8cm dilated and felt ready to push. By 3:30pm, after 7 minutes of pushing (please don’t hate haha), holding Ali really hard (more like strangling him because there weren’t any side railings to hold onto!), baby Zayn Ibrahim joined us just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve that night!
Here’s our timeline summary, which I think is pretty fantastic and fast:
12:30 - painful-I-cant-breath-through-them contractions begin
1:30 - midwife comes over for a check, confirms active labour in progress
2:30 - at birthing centre
3:30 - baby Z joins our world
7:00 - home
Both Ali and I enjoyed some skin-to-skin before our families arrived at the centre to celebrate with us! Luckily, I was able to shower and clean up good before everyone arrived, which somehow made me feel like I recovered much quicker. My over-the-top cleanliness tendencies served me well here! One of my favourite moments was when my parents brought Hayat over to meet her new baby brother, just a couple of hours after Zayn was born. She sprung into the room filled with so much excitement, because that is how she is all the time! But as soon as she saw Zayn in my arms, she turned around to everybody, brought her finger to her mouth and said ‘shhhh, baby’. I wanted to eat her right then and there!
Ali was an incredible support! He did make a couple of jokes here and there throughout the labour, and whenever he tried to massage my back or touch me, I probably bit back like a raven, but I couldn’t have done it without him encouraging me the whole way through. I’m also proud of him for not flinching as much as I thought he would throughout the process. He was probably more focused on not getting strangled by me. #labouringhusband for the win!
As much as everything was such a blur going through each stage of labour, I remember it all so vividly and I felt more present and focussed than ever. If you’ve read all the way through to the end, kudos to you! I didn’t think that my rambling would get anyone that interested to get to this point haha. This may very well be our last 'birth story’ (cue the tears), so I am extremely lucky to have enjoyed the experience this time around.