September 24, 2020 12:40 PM | by Farida Abdel Malek
Nour Emam: A Doula Is a Mix Between a Best Friend and an Encyclopedia
I was incredibly excited to ask Nour Emam as many questions as I could, since she has lately become a topic among my girl friends, from those inspired and empowered by her work to others taking her 'Mastering Your Cycle' class. Her platform Mother Being, has been growing and gaining a lot of attention for it's discussions, spread of knowledge and awareness on women's reproductive and sexual health, as well as everything related to pregnancy, giving birth and motherhood...
1. We’d love to start off by you explaining to our readers what you do and what exactly is a Doula…
So my work has organically expanded into various areas of women’s health such as cycle awareness and education as well as sexual health, but my core practice is maternity care. I support clients through fertility, pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. A doula is a trained professional who offers information, emotional and physical support throughout a family’s reproductive journey.
I’m basically there to offer guidance when needed and to reconnect the mother with her strength and confidence that is often forgotten during pregnancy and birth. We’re like a mix between a best friend and an encyclopedia, but we also have kick-ass massage and pain management skills to help the birthing mom through labor.
2. When should women consider approaching a doula and/or are there any standards they should keep in mind when trying to look for one?
Generally women who are on the search for a doula know what a doula is and they typically have a few questions during the first session to be able to decide if the doula is the right fit.
A doula will be someone integral in a family’s most intimate and special time, so the chemistry has to be there between the client and the doula. For women looking for a doula, it’s always best to check several options and see which one feels right to you. Doulas are not a one-size-fits-all. We are people with characters and energy, sometimes the energy clicks right away other times it doesn’t feel right.
If you want to hire a doula, in my case, the sooner you book and reserve your due date spot the better. I typically don’t take on clients who are earlier than 12 weeks into their pregnancy, but I get booked very far in advance. For example, I’m currently booked well into February.
3. Why is the job, platform and message so close to your heart? Did the journey start with you being a mother or before that?
I think my journey to becoming a doula and an educator in general has always been there. I’ve always been drawn to Obstetrics and Gynecology, but never pursued a medical career.
I wanted to become a doula before getting pregnant, but after an unplanned c section (despite wanting an unmedicated birth badly) and immediate postpartum trauma with my daughter, which then developed into severe postpartum depression for the entire first year of her life, I decided I needed to take the leap and use this negative energy into something good and meaningful that might help other women navigate the rough waters of pregnancy and early motherhood.
4. What are some of the most common questions you get?
I generally get a variety of FAQs. Off the top of my head: "Should I get a vaginal birth or a c-section?", "Am I still a virgin if….", "Why is my period irregular?", "The doctor told me my pelvis is too narrow/ my amniotic fluid volume is too low/ my baby is big enough/ my baby isn't engaged in my pelvis yet and I have to give birth via c-section", which are unfortunately in most cases extremely invalid reasons to make a woman give birth via c-section.
5. What is the most shocking question you’ve gotten far?
I think the most shocking ones are the unwarranted and unannounced photos that women send of their vulvas asking if they look "normal". It’s not something I respond to or when I do, I tell them that these photos are highly inappropriate and that I am not qualified to diagnose or help in this area. I think they were shocking at first, but then I realized that this is mainly due to the fact that they have no one to ask. Nowhere to go. Many unmarried women are not allowed to go see an OBGYN until they are married, which is absolutely outrageous. Every woman deserves and has the right to proper health care if needed.
6. Does the nature of your job get you really close to your clients on a personal level?
Yes, absolutely. I love my clients dearly and some have become friends. I would say this is especially the case with birth clients, because we work together over a long period of time. We share the most special moment of their lives, it’s such an honor to witness such an incredible event with them. I also connect deeply with my clients who come because they have Postpartum Depression or difficulty dealing with motherhood. We work together regularly as well.
7. Is there a certain 'controversial' message or belief of yours that you still find people resisting or not accepting?
I think most of the topics I discuss on my platform are controversial simply because no one else wants to address them. From virginity myths to c-section rates to male and female circumcision. It’s all uncharted territory and has always been reserved for doctors to talk about, when in reality people (those who experience and go through it) need to be the ones voicing their opinions and feelings. We’re a society that prides itself in "seeming great", when in reality there are so many issues and struggles and complexities that no one is willing to address or support those who actually reach out for help.
8. How can people improve their journeys and pregnancies with these more empowering practices and this level of awareness when it comes to their bodies?
I always tell my clients, it doesn’t matter how you end up giving birth. What matters is that you feel that you were the one who decided. I work really hard to make sure my clients know ALL their options and their rights in the birth space. This is something that is unfortunately neglected and violated on a regular basis in Egypt. Maternity care is extremely damaged. It is not focused on the physical and emotional wellbeing of the mother and family, but instead on the hospital systems and doctor’s methods and practices.
This is not what birth is or should be. Doctors should only exist in the "emergency" situations and otherwise support women to birth in whatever way they choose to birth. This is not the case. Many doctors force women into procedures and decisions that they are not comfortable with and women do not know that they have the right to refuse. I make sure every client knows her options well and I help her determine what her wants and needs are.
When it comes to body awareness in general, which is the most important thing, women need to understand and question things that they have been taught. We forget that our bodies are ours. It’s extremely liberating to comprehend that we have the right to choose, we have the right to not live in fear of our bodies or in fear of cultural taboos.
9. People are extremely interested and fascinated by water births, we’d love to know your thoughts and experiences with them…
Water births or the use of water for pain management (hydrotherapy) is an excellent tool to have at your birth if you are choosing to go unmedicated (no epidural). Hydrotherapy makes you feel lighter, so you are better able to move and change positions that feel good to you easily. Water loosens joints and ligaments, helps soften and stretch the vagina and perineum and is extremely relaxing.
Birthing your baby in the water is also great, because it’s a gentler transition for the baby than being born into a cold and bright OR (operating room). Coming out of the mother into warm water and then gently being lifted onto her chest and into her arms for the first hour with no interruption from nurses or doctors is absolutely beautiful to witness and support.
Water babies are usually born extremely chill, relaxed and awake. It’s an extremely peaceful and serene moment. Time stands still and the room is so quiet, respecting and honoring the sacredness of birth.
10. How do you hope your work can change our society’s thinking, mentality and shocking misconceptions or beliefs?
I hope that this page will be the start of a movement for women’s health education and awareness. I feel that it’s already changed the way people who follow the page feel about themselves and their bodies. I love reading messages from girls and women who say that they have learned to love and accept their bodies because of the page. I adore getting feedback from women who have taken my classes and leave having a completely different outlook and understanding of their bodies and their cycles. It’s fantastic. I love my job and am extremely excited to keep pushing the envelope and burst many people’s bubbles.
Main Image Credits: Instagram @thisismotherbeing
Our Living section is a woman's best friend. See for yourself and get a little bit of everything!