Activities, Events & Happenings, Health Activities

Childbirth Education and Doula Workshop in Riyadh

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Zahra Anwer

Associate Editor at Destination Riyadh

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We had a chat with Aisha Al Hajjar, founder of AMANI Birth, a Midwife, Childbirth Educator and Trainer in Riyadh about midwifery and natural birth.

Can you tell us about why you decided to become a midwife, and what influenced your decision?
Midwifery is a calling and a passion to serve others during a very vulnerable time, yet one that can be the most empowering of their life. My desire started with my births…but more, from realizing that not every woman has an empowering childbirth due to lack of a supportive birth culture. There is a need for people to step up and support families for normal physiologic birth, especially in Muslim countries were childbirth education and support for normal physiology is rare.

Can you talk about your concerns with how modern culture handles birth?
The modern culture of birth is one of fear and intervention. There is little trust in the natural process.  The World Health Organization summed this up succinctly, “By medicalizing birth, i.e. separating a woman from her own environment and surrounding her with strange people using strange machines to do strange things to her in an effort to Assist her, the woman’s state of mind and body is so altered that her way of carrying through this intimate act must also be altered and the state of the baby born must equally be altered. The result is that it is no longer possible to know what births would have been like before these manipulations. Most health care providers no longer know what ‘non-medicalized’ birth is. The entire modern obstetric and neonatological literature is essentially based on observations of ‘medicalized’ birth.” [Wagner, M. (2008)]. Born in the USA: How a broken maternity system must be fixed to put women and children first. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press]

Tell us about your workshops – what do you enjoy the most?
There are two components to AMANI Birth: a childbirth teacher/doula training workshop, and a curriculum for expectant families (in English, Arabic, Indonesian, and German).  I really enjoy working with potential teachers/doulas, but equally love working with expectant families too.

We train workshop participants to use the AMANI curriculum for teaching expectant couples how the body works during pregnancy, labor, birth, and breastfeeding, to demystify the birth process, and empower families with knowledge. This is combined with tools and coping mechanisms to prepare for labor and birth naturally. A person who completes the requirements is certified as an AMANI Birth Teacher/Doula (a professional who supports women emotionally and educationally through labor and birth).

The first component is for those who want to become AMANI Birth teachers/doulas. The second component is these people going into their communities to teach expectant couples using the AMANI curriculum.

What do you look for and how do you teach this skill to others?
We look for eagerness to learn and a will to serve.  Anyone who can understand the language of the materials and has a passion is qualified for the training workshop. They do not need medical experience or knowledge, although midwives, nurses, and OBs enjoy the workshop.

Our materials are very comprehensive and laid out such that the common stay-at-home mother can serve as childbirth educators and/or doulas…yet there’s a lot for medical professionals to learn too.  Everyone brings their own knowledge, but no one knows it all and each will take away new skills and a respect for birth.

Our workshops are intensive, knowledge packed, fun, diverse, and empowering.  Every participant leaves motivated, energized, and excited for the next step.  There are workshop testimonials on the website

What do you offer expecting women and new mothers?
Knowledge is power and our goal is to provide women the keys they need to make informed decisions. There are no right or wrong answers in birth. We aim for every mother to prepare, physically, mentally, and emotionally for birth. We support mothers no matter what their decisions are…we just want to ensure she knows the truth and can assess Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, make Istakhara, and consider how urgent the situation is (what if we do “Nothing” now). We call this using our BRAIN and it’s a key to making decisions along the way.

We have affiliates in 22 countries, alhamdulelah. We also have the AMANI Birth book, found in local bookstores in the Middle East (Jarir), at the AMANI Center in Riyadh, or from www.amanibirth.com online. Additionally we have a birth preparation CD with dua, dhikr, and positive affirmations. Coming soon is our AMANI Birth Quick Guide for Fathers and our mini book for mothers who have had cesareans.

Share the best testimonial by a mother that touched your heart.
I will speak generally to protect privacy.  Many are first-time mothers, coming fresh and not knowing anything…others have experienced birth that was traumatizing and seek empowerment the second, third, (or more) time around.

Some are pursuing vaginal birth after cesarean and some truly need interventions and are empowered when making decisions with knowledge and control of choices.

The underlying theme is that of confidence, empowerment, and removing fear of birth.  Birth should be a joy to look forward to and an opportunity to get closer to God as we welcome a new baby into our lives.

About the Expert:

Aisha Al-Hajjar is an American-born Muslim Convert, Founder of AMANI Birth, a Midwife, Childbirth Educator and Trainer, Lecturer, Doula, Author, and natural birth mom of eight. She currently lives and works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

For more info about the Amani birth worshops, please check out their website.

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One comment

  1. 1

    Aisha, this was a very nice interview. I enjoyed it and I have several friends that have taking your training and have ventured into starting their own businesses as doulahs. i only pray that my services can help inspire female entrepreneurialship as well.

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