The birth story of Sebastian Gandy (delivered at American Hospital at 0358 on January 8th 2010) told by his mum Zanny Gandy.

Having moved to Dubai at 31 weeks (ish) pregnant, and having done internet research on Maternity Services, I held out little hope of a 'normal' birth!

I had heard about Doula's on the TV at home and was considering engaging one in the UK, however with the move to the UAE, I had never expected I'd find a "Dubai Doula's".

I knew little of child birth and don't think I had ever heard a positive birth story until....Enter... Elizabeth Bain (Liz)!

Not only is Liz a Certified birth Doula (Nurturing Birth), but she is also a trained Midwife, Health visitor, homeopathic guru and excellent at massage, hypno birth practitioner and lots of other interesting certificates!!

Firstly, she set about educating my husband and I, filling us with knowledge. BUT Not the stuff I learnt in my Human Biology A-levels, and not the stuff my husband had learnt from the birth of his 2 other children.

More a case of opening our eyes beyond that of TV shows like ER and Casualty. The Media has warped our perception, where everyone seems to be rushed into hospital, on their back, treated like a patient - thus losing their control and often dignity, getting pain relief of all kinds, having the Dr's intervening, being shouted at to push, having 'tools' such as forceps used etc and requiring a crochet job to finish. Or perhaps a C-section after days of labour only to be told that the woman's body is not good enough to have the baby, so surgeons get their way and intervene, so they can get home for their dinner!

Liz lent me books such as Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth, Juju Sinzin's Birth Skills, Journey into Motherhood (a collection of positive birth stories) Also a few DVD's which were certainly 'eye-opening! Including Orgasmic Birth!!

The best thing about the process is that through a series of meetings, in the comfort of my own home, a bond was formed between my husband and I and Liz.

My husband had been sceptical early on questioning me why I felt I needed a 'stranger' to assist me though the birth when he was there. However, he quickly came to realise that this was not a power struggle between Liz and him but a partnership of support for me.
He was still taking the active role (he even read the books and made notes ready for reference when 'it' started) but Liz was there as support and continuity, especially with the medical system here where it's payment first and Paul may be dragged away at any time!!!!

We had a number of meetings and Liz was always great to send me non-bias research paper links on the internet if I had any specific questions. There was informality about the relationship which made me feel like I could ask anything and my inhibitions slowly melted away.

Finally I felt I was 'Ready' to trust my body, my baby, my husband and my Doula.

I was armed with a solid list of birth preferences (agreed by my Obstetrician) a hospital bag packed with stress balls and little Mantra's I'd taken from Ina Mays book.

I also felt empowered and knowledgeable, ready to question the decisions of medical staff and 'hospital policy' from an informed perspective.

I had calculated my due date (which I thought was pretty accurate) of the 7th of January. So after my Obstetricians appointment, where I was told I had one week or they will induce, I looked for alternatives. On the recommendation of Liz I had acupuncture that afternoon (for which Liz was in attendance) then that night I felt my first surges. (There was a bit of grocery shopping, basket ball and mucking about on swings too, but that's another story!)

My husband text Liz at about 11.20, who immediately called us back for an update. On her advice we called the Hospital. As this is my first baby the hospital told me to take it easy as it would take a while, have a bath etc. Paul and Liz stayed in touch and Liz decided it was time she came over.
My waters broke and Liz's timing proved superb as she arrived in what felt like seconds!
She looked at me and made the assessment that I was further on than expected so time to get to the hospital.

Liz's presence at this point immediately calmed the situation as I had panicked when my waters broke. She got me dressed and in the car (on all fours as I was having the urge to push) and off we went. Paul driving and Liz in the back with me keeping me focused and slowing down the labour.
Had we not had Liz's support at this point the I would have been in the back of that car on my own, panicking and probably putting my baby and myself in danger and/or giving birth on the main highway in Dubai!

Having called the hospital on route they were waiting of us and quickly rushed me to the labour ward. I was assessed by the midwife and given to all clear to listen to my body and push when the urge took me.
Liz had made me aware that there are plenty more natural positions in which to give birth than on your back. With no inhibitions I was on the bed on all four then half on half off, finally settling for (a not so lady-like) position of squatting. I held onto Liz across the bed and she encouraged me with positive mantra's and all round good coaching, whilst my husband also encouraged and soothed me. There at that point my husband and Liz were who I was listening to as I totally trusted them. At no point was pain medication offered to me, as requested in my birth preferences I would ask for it, so none even crossed my mind. My body and my natural endorphins had taken over in a powerfully strong and un-inhibited way.
Paul and Nikki (the midwife) guided our baby into the world.

Just under an hour later baby Sebastian was born.
He weighed 8lb 12oz and was 55cm long!

I will be eternally grateful to Liz whose assistance was invaluable in assuring I had the drug-free natural birth. She also was the reason Seb was born in the hospital and not en-route on Sheik Zyed Road!

She knew my birth plan and ensured I did not have to answer any questions whilst otherwise engaged! She helped temper the environment and made sure I was kept re-hydrated at all times. This meant my husband and I could enjoy those precious first moments without distraction.

Liz, has since been a tremendous help answering my daft questions (as a first time mum there are plenty!) And has been a source of trust worthy support. The most important thing of all is that she has become a true friend and when I look back at my positive birth story for the rest of my life Liz will be a major part of why it was so perfect.

For Liz's help, advice and guidance I am eternally grateful."

Zanny, Paul and Sebastian Gandy (delivered at American Hospital at 0358 on January 8th 2010)