UAE: This marketer-turned-baby coach is spreading awareness on positive birth experiences

Her platform enables expecting mothers to be in a positive frame of mind when they set out to give birth


Anamika Chatterjee

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Photos: Shihab
Photos: Shihab

Published: Thu 9 May 2024, 5:41 PM

Last updated: Thu 9 May 2024, 6:57 PM

Parenting isn’t always roses and peaches. Modern conversations on the role of nurturer have already thwarted that myth. But we continue to romanticise the journey to motherhood. How often have we heard that certain someone claim that a woman truly blooms during this period, that the best in her comes out when she is about to deliver a child. All this is but only a part of the truth. On the other side of this journey is a mind trying to come to terms with changes in its own body, fearing the pain that will define the moment of childbirth, the hormonal alterations that will define your life from that point. Women may not always speak up about their fears but that doesn’t mean these do not exist.

Marie Diab knows these fears. Heck, she’s lived them with her clients. A certified doula, she has seen many examples of good births and bad (read painful and messy) births. A reason that has informed her decision to start Empower Your Birth, a platform that allows Marie to take expecting mothers through a journey of holistic wellness that allows them to be in a positive frame of mind when they set out to give birth.

There is a certain quality to Marie that allows her to do this job to perfection. For one, she did not start off being a doula or a birthing coach. Born in Germany, she studied European business and came to Dubai in 2014 to work with a luxury automotive manufacturer as a marketing professional. But things changed when Marie got pregnant at 29. “It was Covid time. And somehow, when I really needed to go back to office, it turned out to be super tough. I was suffering psychologically at the prospect of leaving my child at home and have someone else raise my child. That’s when I began my training as a baby coach and doula,” says Marie, who is a breastfeeding specialist. “I also do baby sleep coaching in that I educate parents on the ideal surroundings and ambience in which the baby is likely to sleep.”

Photo: Shihab
Photo: Shihab

Marie’s work as a doula had got her to witness first-hand the fears women have about giving birth. More often than not, the fears also emanate from a lack of knowledge about what to expect. “We don’t know what will happen when the water breaks or when contractions start. I had been thinking about how we can support women. At Empower Your Birth, my mentoring will include a lot of these tough questions. For example, how do you prepare your body for the birthing process? Birthing on the back, for example, is not the right way to give birth because it’s against gravity. I teach women to understand their bodies, how to squat, train your muscle, use your breath to give birth to the baby,” says Marie.

The most important aspect, however, remains the mind. Marie says this is what needs the most amount of work because “if you are scared, you will tighten your body”. It is the single most defining moment in a woman’s live. She enters the birthing room as a woman but exits as a mother. “But when the birthing is traumatic, it is a bad start. That is when women are most likely to sink into post-partum depression. You struggle with breastfeeding, you are sleep-deprived, you do not know how you will survive your day.” Marie’s coaching is meant to tackle the mindset a woman is most likely to inhabit after childbirth. But she emphasises the importance of entering the process with as much fearlessness as possible.

The hard birthing

Giving birth is an intimate process. Marie says it makes a lot of difference when expecting mothers are in a quiet, dark space and are not observed simply because it stops them from opening up about how they are truly feeling. “In my experience as a doula, I have noticed that when the birth process is normal, for example, water births, babies do not cry. But when the process has been traumatic, you will find that babies tend to cry a lot more. I feel this trauma is stored at a cellular level. And this is exactly what I want to prevent,” she says.

C-sections have often been frowned upon by traditionalists who do not deem it a normal way of delivering a child. But for birth coaches like Marie, no subject is taboo. “We teach them what happens during a C-section. Ultimately, it’s a woman’s decision on what kind of birth she would like to opt for. My focus is on them having a positive birth experience,” she says, adding that a gentle C-section can be a game-changer for women. For the uninitiated, a gentle C-section is a procedure that marries traditional birth experience with the regular experience of the C-section. Women are allowed to watch the birth and hold their babies rightaway for the skin-to-skin contact, popularly known as ‘kangaroo care’.

Does age matter?

Traditional wisdom suggests that your biological clock ticks after 35. But medical advancements in the area of fertility treatments are increasingly ensuring you are able to become a mother at any age. As a doula, Marie has worked with women delivering children in their late 30s and 40s, who are typically deemed high-risk patients by doctors. One piece of advice she offers is that getting second or third opinion is a must for women looking at embracing motherhood in that age. Reason? “If you are deemed high-risk, chances are that the doctor may ask you to induce early, in which case it is important to have another opinion,” she says. “I had a birth experience where the woman was 45 years old and was giving birth through in vitro fertilisation (IVF). She was told her baby weighed 4.5kg and hence she needed to be induced. Now, a woman should reach the point of delivery in 41-42 weeks to prevent calcification of placenta, but some ask you to hold on for a little bit longer. If you are a high-risk patient, doctors like to induce you to be on the safe side. This women ended up with a C-section, and when the baby came out, it weighed 3.5kg. Which is why, sometimes, taking a second or a third opinion makes the most difference.”

As part of her role in Empower Your Birth, Marie goes the extra mile to check on the new mothers at the hospital and ensure if they are able to breastfeed properly. “I do belly binding for them, which usually involved wrapping a piece of cloth around the belly, so that women feel comfortable after childbirth. I teach women how to knot themselves. It feels like someone is hugging your belly all the time. If you have this bind, it brings your body back together.”

Self-care, especially during and after childbirth, is important. Marie is trying her best to spread that message that actually comes from her own experience. “I remember when I gave birth, I did not want my nanny to be taking care of my child. I wanted to do that myself. Which is why I ended up completely forgetting my own needs. I don’t want new mothers to fall into that trap,” she says. “Because you don’t know what to expect, it’s alright to accept help.”

Can women thrive during their pregnancy? Marie says with right knowledge and mindset, they certainly can. “It’s impossible to be in a stress-free environment, for example. But I have a lot of mindfulness exercises that help expecting mothers to calm down. If you are stressed, go out for a walk and see nature’s colours,” she says. “When you see beauty, your body translates it for your baby.”

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