I'd like to cut in here with a little birthing info.
I've attended a couple of births of Muslim women. Two that come to mind were women who were born in a Islamic country, but were here in our town while their husbands attend the university here for graduate work. One woman spoke perfect English (her mother was actually British) and the other spoke VERY limited English. Both were Saudis. BOth were first time mamas.
I think birthing modesty depends upon individual feelings. Both the fathers wanted to be there at the birth, but one of the mamas didn't want the father to be there when the baby actually emerged. She was the more conservative mama--completely veiled, only eyes visible. She was also the mama who spoke broken English. H. was very modest, even with us, all through her pregnancy. When she labored, her aunt came and was with her, along with H's husband. Once she began pushing, H asked everyone to leave, even her aunt. Only me (the nurse) and the mw were in the room.
Suddenly she threw off the sheet that had been covering, hiked up her gown, and really got down to it. Then, when the baby was crowning, she asked for her dh to come back in, but first she wanted to be covered. So she laid back down on the bed (she had been on her hands and knees), and I covered her up to her neck, and covered the mw as well, only leaving the vaginal opening exposed.
It sounds crazy, but it was like the mw was working under a tent of sorts, with just a tiny opening where you could see the baby emerge. Then dh came in, she pushed the baby out, and then she wanted dh to leave again. So he left while we put ds on mama's chest (obviously we threw off the sheets) and ds and mama bonded for a second or two. Then, when the cord stopped pulsating, mama wanted dh to cut the cord. So we covered her up completely again, except for her head, and dh came in and cut the cord. Then I wrapped ds in a blanket and laid him on the bed, sothat papa could pick him up. I didn't want to accidentally touch papa, so instead of handing him to him, I let him pick up his son (Muslim men should not touch women who are unrelated).
Then the most amazing thing happened. The baby the entire time had been just squalling. Papa handed me the video camera, and while I recorded (and the mw continued to care for mama, while both of them were under the sheet
) papa began to sing the call to prayer in babe's ear. The babe just stopped crying and was wide eyed and alert, looking around quietly. It was so beautiful. Then papa gave him to me, and went out while we did stitches on mama. Mama wanted to watch us do the stitches, so I held a mirror for her. She was totally uninhibited with us, but was with her husband (at least in our presence). They were both incidentally very young and very loving towards one another.
The second mama was not as modest with her husband...she had him there during the entire birth and repair. She was also the mam who wore a veil but no facial covering.
Both mamas were totally in control of the birthing environment. They dictated where their husbands sat, where they looked, where the dhs touched them, when they were in the room and when they weren't. I gave the tour to the more conservative couple, and I told them there were no restrictions on father participation, that papa could even catch the baby if he wanted to. I could tell the dh was interested in this (he was translating everything for the mama) and I could see that there was quite a lively discussion. Then the father turned to me and smiled slightly and said "H. says no, that the mw should catch the baby, not me." She was clearly in control of this realm!
Anyhow, all our foreign Muslim mamas come to us because A) we are cheaper than a hospital birth, and they have trouble obtaining insurance in the US; and B) we can guarantee that no men will be involved in the process--we have no male employees. There aren't any all female OB groups in the area, so this is a big draw for many of our mamas.
So far we have had American, Saudi, and Jordanian Muslim mamas birth with us (well, the Jordanian mama is due this month....). One American muslim mama was just like any other american mama. I didn't even know she was Muslim until I filled out the birth certificate. She always wore her hair covered, but in funky wraps rather than veils. The other American Muslim mamas have been American women who have married foreign Muslim men (usually university students or professors) and have reverted to Islam. They have been veiled, and wore modest but "normal" clothes. Their births were the same as any other mama, Muslim, Christian, or pagan, except that the father always sings the call to prayer in the babes ear. We always make sure that the first person to speak to the baby is the father. That was one Muslim family's request, and we just figured we can't go wrong with that. One father caught his baby, the rest have just been present and supportive.
No mama has worn a veil while birthing.
Several have had specific verses they have read/chanted in Arabic during the birth. All fathers have been present for at least part of the birthing process, with their presence dictated by the birthing mama.
Okay, so there are my brief descriptions of Muslim mamas birthing in the US in our independent birthing center. I don't know what it is like elsewhere (though I would really like to experience some births in an Islamic country, just to see what the typical birth is like for Muslim women).
Oh, and all of our Muslim mamas have breastfed. I believe the Prophet, or at least their faith, encourages them to nurse for two years, if possible. This is my understanding from my conversations with the one conservative mama. We got to be pretty good friends, though we didn't really have a common language, and did alot of speaking through hand signals and basic phrases. So I could have been mistaken.
eta holy cow, I didn't realize this was a freaking book! Sorry it is so long. Chocolate for you if you get to the end of this!