Nour Emam, a certified maternal support practitioner (MSP, doula) and certified relationship and sex educator, always had a strong interest in women’s health issues even while pursuing her previous career in music production. It was after the birth of her toddler that she decided to study to become a doula and to create Mother Being, an educational online women’s health platform focused on providing information on the female body and dispelling the many misconceptions surrounding it. eniGma’s Tymour Gazayerli talked to Emam about her platform and its impact on women.
During the birth of her daughter, Nour Emam underwent a medically unnecessary C-Section and was then separated from her newborn baby, only allowed to see her for 20 minutes a day behind a glass barrier – never allowed to hold her in her arms. When it came time to go home, she was told that her baby had to remain in the hospital for observation and she was to drop off breastmilk every few hours while her baby remained there. Her feeling of helplessness throughout this difficult time was followed by her suffering from postpartum depression and mild PTSD which went undiagnosed for eight months. It was that experience which motivated her to give up her career in music production in search of something that would help her heal from and overcome her postpartum challenges. Sparked by an early interest in gynecology, and fascinated by pregnancy and childbirth, Emam decided to enter a field where she could support other women and help them be better educated about themselves and their medical options.
In September 2019, Emam joined a five-month doula (MSP) online training program from Canada, one of the best and longest programs available in the field. Her MSP certification allows her to accompany expecting mothers and couples as a trained companion and mental health supporter during their journey of pregnancy and childbirth. By December 2020, she will have also obtained certification in relationship and sex education after completing another rigorous training program. Emam launched her Mother Being page on Instagram in January 2020 and began routinely providing informed posts about various women’s health topics, each based on at least a week’s worth of research. Some of her posts, such as her educational videos on the ‘hymen’ and ‘male circumcision’, involved even considerably more research than that. Then when the news of a horrendous rape case by an AUC student came to light several months ago, it fueled a thirst for reliable information on women’s experiences and concerns, and interest in the Mother Being platform ballooned. One of the platform’s video posts went viral, and the number of its followers grew at a rapid pace.
The aim of Mother Being is the promotion of wellness and health by providing detailed science-based information and by encouraging women to self-examine their bodies, to understand them and know when they are healthy and when they are not. “There is a preconceived notion of shame that is deep-rooted in our cultural norms when it comes to certain areas of a woman’s body, often compelling women to hide them, even from themselves. There is a severe lack of awareness of the function and importance of these areas, and the dangers associated with neglecting or trying to alter them. One of the misconceptions is that self-examination is a form of masturbation – no, it is not,” Emam insists.
In addition to easily accessible online content, Mother Being also provides courses created by Emam on topics such as ‘PERIODS | Mastering Your Cycle’ and ‘THE BIRTH CRASH COURSE,’ where she encourages both women and men to actively participate. She often receives messages from men asking how they can be more informed, aware and supportive of their partners. In the birth course, Emam encourages fathers to always be involved. “An integral part of my own success has been my husband’s support. Relationships are a team effort. They have evolved from that of a traditional breadwinner and housewife dynamic to an equal, interdependent team effort. I am only able to do my work because my husband and I found a balance our individual work and parenting. We truly co-parent and share responsibilities at home and towards our daughter,” says Emam, who also stresses the importance of keeping these courses affordable. “I want my services and information to be accessible and available to as many people as possible. If I could secure funding, I’d love to offer these classes for free,” she adds.
Mother Being also offers female-only open discussions, such as on ‘The Pill, Pleasure & Power’, a safe space for women to ask anything they want. Emam also plans to create male-only open discussions within the coming year – a similar safe space for men where they can learn about understanding women, their bodies, pleasure and sexuality in an open and judgment-free zone. “The aim is not to teach men sex-ed; it is rather a means for men to up their game and their connection with their partner,” she explains.
Despite attracting a growing number of followers, Emam has experienced a certain degree of public disapproval and backlash, including accusations of encouraging promiscuity and ignoring religion. While most of her critics are male doctors and medical students, they also include women. “As a culture, we have a hard time separating religion from fact. I think it’s time for this separation to take place in society. These critics don’t understand that I’m not encouraging anyone to act against his or her religious belief. I simply provide information, and it is up to you whether you explore it and learn more about it for yourself or not. I do not say virginity doesn’t matter, I say hymens don’t matter – and yes, there is a big difference,” Emam explains, adding, “Young women growing up have so many questions, and they deserve to be properly informed.”
While she realises it’s difficult for society to change its norms, Emam is encouraged that the new generation is starting to challenge the status quo. She sees more young people seeking more information, refusing to settle for the way things are without discussion. She believes that her audience, which consists of girls and women aged 15 to 25, will be spearheading the needed change in society’s perceptions. “I’m proud that my classes now reach wider audiences from all walks of life throughout the region, with participants from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Dubai. Of course, I acknowledge that with larger audiences comes a larger responsibility to ensure that our content doesn’t trigger adverse reactions from too many people,” says Emam. She also has expansion plans for Mother Being to be even more accessible, while developing it as a brand. “I will be removing my name and the platform will soon be run by a team of people who offer accessible services for women and men,” she explains. She is also working with a company of young doctors promoting women-friendly healthcare solutions in clinics and hospitals. Her own contribution is in the areas of pregnancy, birth and post-partum care.
Looking to the future, Emam is determined to continue challenging the status quo and delivering her message, which she sums up as follows, “You deserve to be properly informed about the risks and consequences of what doctors present to you. Demand better healthcare and do not settle for responses that undermine your pain or suffering! Understand that there are alternatives to what you’re being told. Do your research and don’t expect to be spoon-fed information. I never formally learned things and I had to rely heavily on the internet to figure things out. I am now creating courses that can help you improve your quality of life. The courses are for everyone, whether you’re a young individual getting married, or even if you are a couple who have been married for ten years and are miserable because neither of you is able to connect with the other. The growing number of people interested in challenging the status quo, who are not accepting being in the dark, compel me to persevere. I will keep being loud until it is not loud anymore, but normal – until there are educational outlets for future couples and married partners, and until this information becomes a routine part of the curricula in public and private schools. My vision is that perseverance is what’s going to really make the change. If my work can be the reason that a future mother doesn’t go through what I did then it will all be worthwhile.”