pregnancy

When Zubeyda was turned away from hospital, her sister intervened. It saved her baby's life.

Birth: there's nothing quite like it, and it's clear no two birth stories are the same. Which is why we're asking everyday women and some of our favourite celebrity mums to share theirs, in Mamamia's My Birth Story series.

This week we speak to Melbourne’s Zubeyda Ahmed, mum to one-year-old daughter Izumi. 

This post deals with postnatal depression and miscarriage, and might be triggering for some readers.

It was late 2019 when Zubeyda Ahmed moved back home to Australia from Detroit. 

Her partner Jacoby stayed behind in the States. 

Zubeyda was pregnant with the couple’s first child, and a month after arriving back in Australia, she went for an ultrasound.  

Watch: Questions about childbirth answered. Post continues below. 


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“They told me that I had an issue,” Zubeyda says. 

“I was in the waiting bay for two hours and I was like, ‘What’s wrong? Just tell me.’ They told me I had to go to hospital right away because my cervix was open. At the time, my baby was 19 weeks, so there was no way for her to survive.”

At the hospital, Zubeyda was examined and was told she could have surgery to close her cervix with a stitch.   

“I was like, ‘Surgery, what?’ I didn’t even get a chance to tell my friends at home and abroad that I was pregnant.

“It was during the bushfires. I was like, ‘The world’s ending, there’s smoke outside and I’m undergoing surgery.’”

Zubeyda spent a week in a hospital bed after the surgery. She was told to go home but to return immediately if she was bleeding. 

“They kept pushing me to get off the bed, and I was like, ‘I don’t feel good about this, I really don’t.’ When I went home to my brother’s house, the same day, I bled profusely, and I looked at my sister Habiba and I said, ‘I have to go.’ I was 30 minutes away from the hospital and I was stuck in traffic and I was traumatised.”

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At the hospital, Zubeyda was told by the obstetrician that her cervix was still intact and she could go home. So Habiba took her home, but she started bleeding profusely again.  

“By the third time, my sister was like, ‘You cannot do this.’ I was in so much pain. Now I know that I was actually going through pre-labour. I had contractions, and I was screaming, bleeding, blood clots, and they kept saying to me, ‘No, no your cervix is still intact.’”

Habiba wasn’t going to accept that. She wasn’t going to let the obstetrician leave her sister that way.  

Habiba and Zubeyda. Image: Supplied.

“She called bulls**t,” Zubeyda said. 

“She called the obstetrician back in and she was like, ‘Explain what’s going on,’ and the obstetrician’s like, ‘I don’t have an explanation, maybe it could be the placenta...’ and she’s like, ‘Okay, but can you tell my sister that? Can you talk to her like she’s a human that’s going through pain? It’s not McDonalds where you come in and out. You have to tell my sister what the hell is going on and you have to admit her.’ And sure enough, I got admitted.”

Zubeyda feels sure that if Habiba hadn’t been there to speak for her when she was in too much pain to speak for herself, she wouldn’t have been admitted to hospital.

“I was raised Somali. Doctors always had the say-so. What they said mattered. For me, though, in pain, I realised how lacking they were, how individualised our experiences as mothers could be. Things can go wrong all the time, and sometimes – for me, for instance – they didn’t have a reason.”

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Listen: Mamamia's Leigh Campbell shares her birth story. Post continues below.

Zubeyda spent the next few weeks in hospital.

“In my weeks of bed rest, with my legs closed and having doctors telling me the statistics against me, with pamphlets, I was never once offered a psychologist. This is when I needed it the most.” 

Izumi was born at 24 weeks and five days. Habiba was by Zubeyda’s side. 

“She brought her own daughter, who was a year old, into the birthing room, but she ran the whole f**king program. My sister was like, ‘Zubeyda, breathe, breathe, breathe.’ She played music, stroked my hair.” 

Zubeyda says Habiba saved her. 

“My sister made a really tragic situation into the happiest, happiest situation.”

The doula Zubeyda had organised to be at the birth was also impressed with Habiba. 

“She looked at Habiba and said, ‘This is your path in life.’ She gave her a business card and Habiba is now a doula.”

Izumi weighed just 581 grams. She went straight to the neonatal intensive care unit. 

Zubeyda and her daughter Izumi: Supplied.

“She was in the incubator – so tiny, not even skin formed, not even lungs formed.” 

With her husband still in the States, Zubeyda didn’t leave her daughter’s side.

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“I slept in a chair by her incubator, every night. The only thing that I did for myself and for her was to go shower. 

“I would walk the hallways and everybody would be like, ‘I’d hate to be her,’ because my child was dying.

“I was given all these options to turn her oxygen off. They wanted to give me an experience where I had control of her dying. I said, ‘I can’t. I cannot do that.’”

One night, a nurse convinced Zubeyda to go to sleep in a bed in a family room across the hallway.  

“She said, ‘Your daughter’s not going to die tonight, but you want to go to sleep so that you see her pass away.’”

Zubeyda slept in the bed. When she woke, she ran back to her daughter’s room. Incredibly, Izumi’s condition had dramatically improved overnight. Her blood oxygen saturation level had gone up to 95. 

“The doctors that do the rounds every morning, they said, ‘Don’t get your hopes up. Maybe it’s a fluke.’”

But it wasn’t a fluke. Izumi kept improving.

“By the fourth morning they said, ‘Extubate her,’ which means take the tube out. They said, ‘Get that out of her throat.’ My daughter has been great ever since.”

Newborn Izumi. Image: Supplied.

All up, Izumi spent six months in hospital. Zubeyda battled postnatal depression. She also had to deal with the pandemic, and all the fears that brought for the parent of a premature baby.

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Once Izumi was home, and Zubeyda’s husband was in Australia, Zubeyda fell pregnant again. 

“I was so elated,” she says. “I was like, ‘My kid is going to have a sibling! They can be best friends!’ I called everybody and I was like, ‘I’m pregnant again!’ And they were like, ‘Too soon! Too soon!’ But I was like, ‘I don’t care.’”

At 14 weeks, Zubeyda had an ultrasound. The woman told her to wait. In came the same obstetrician who had done her cervical stitch. 

“I could tell from their faces. They were like, ‘Do you want to call your partner?’ I said, ‘Just tell me. Really, tell me,’ and they said, ‘You’re days away from having a miscarriage. Your cervix is so open.’ 

“They were like, ‘You could either have a miscarriage when you’re going to the bathroom or you can have it here where we’ll facilitate it. Do you want to do it right now?’

“I went in two days later and I pushed the baby out. I saw my baby. It was terrible. It was the worst experience [of] my life.

“I still get letters in the mail from the clinic, saying, ‘You’re at 20 weeks,’ or ‘You’re at 35,’ and it’s triggering.”

Zubeyda was told she had an incompetent cervix. 

“It’s really painful to know that your body can’t carry a baby,” she says.

“My daughter’s at the point now where she’s almost walking and talking, and I want to give her a sibling. That’s what I want most in the world. I grew up with eight. It was bunk beds, it was everybody playing video games together... it was such a vibrant house.

“I’ve got my husband, I’ve got Izumi, so that’s my silver lining. She’s the best. She defied the odds and I love my baby girl. And even if I don’t get blessed with another child, I’ve got the biggest blessing in the world.” 

Zubeyda shares her story on the Insight episode “Giving Birth Better”, airing on SBS on Tuesday, April 20 at 8.30pm.  

If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, contact PANDA – Post and Antenatal Depression Association. You can find their website here or call their helpline – 1300 726 306.

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637.

If you have an amazing birth story to share, let us know by emailing some details to: [email protected] and including 'My Birth Story' in the subject line.

You can find more birth stories below:

Feature Image: Supplied.