Guinwa Zeineddine is a former pageant queen, TV Host, and content creator. As the winner of Miss Arab USA (2014), Guinwa has always used her platform to empower Arab American women by sharing her own story and giving voice to other women in her community.
This commitment to community transcends that which she was born into. As the founder of The Influencer Lab, she helps aspiring influencers around the world learn the tools to excel in their industry. Here, she shares her birth story.
It wasn't too far after I got married that I found out I was pregnant. I had been feeling depressed and had started overeating at night. I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling very anxious and just wanting to cry. I knew that wasn’t normal for me. I was getting the symptoms I get as though I had my period, but I didn't. So, I decided to take a pregnancy test. My whole family was gathered for my mother-in-law's birthday and I took a test in the bathroom.
I didn’t tell my family I was going to take the test. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, but [in my family] they expect that as soon as you get married, you should get pregnant. If you don't get pregnant right away, they think something is wrong. So basically, since the day I got married, all I heard from my family and my husband’s family was, “You guys should get a baby! We'll help you with the baby! Just get pregnant!” I decided to just tell my sister and my husband I was taking the test. I didn’t want to tell the entire family in case it turned out I wasn’t pregnant. I didn’t want that pressure.
It was taking longer than I had expected [to get the result] and I started freaking out. I called my husband to the bathroom and I was shaking. It turned positive. I couldn't stop crying.
When I left the bathroom, our families could tell that I’d been crying so I ended up announcing. You could see my mom screaming from joy and his mom ran to me. My siblings were crying. Luckily my sister is a YouTuber, so she knew it was the perfect moment to capture and ended up filming everyone’s reaction.
I was a little shocked because we didn't plan on having a baby that soon. I thought that we were being cautious. I was on birth control. But I guess God wanted me to have a baby.
My daughter is the first grandchild on my side, so my family was extremely ecstatic. My dad was the only one that wasn't there [when I found out], so I had to tell him over FaceTime. You could see that he was tearing up on the phone. He was super excited.
Pregnancy was so horrible. The first trimester was the worst. At first I was just very emotional, but able to carry on with my life. When month two, three, four and even the beginning of the second trimester hit, I was throwing up, couldn't get out of bed, couldn't work—couldn't do anything. All I could eat was Saltine crackers.
I lost three pounds in my first trimester and overall, I gained about 28 pounds throughout my pregnancy. My stomach never got that big and people would always comment on that. When I was going to maternity photo shoots, some photographers would tell me they were going to Photoshop my stomach so that it looked a little bigger. I thought that was really weird. Every person gets pregnant differently.
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Every woman is different and every pregnancy experience is different. I did not gain any stretch marks or deal with swollen feet during my pregnancy but I did gain a total of 32 pounds and struggled with heartburn, morning nausea and vomiting during the first trimester and beginning of the second trimester. My third trimester however was my least favorite. I couldn’t sleep, dealt with major back pain, anxiety and fatigue. All these changes along with comparing my weight gain to other women affected my mental health at the time when I should have focused on embracing the change my body was going through to create a new soul, the true miracle of life ❤️ For all the first time moms to be: Love yourself even more while pregnant and don’t feel bad if your pregnancy experience isn’t the same as others because you are not them. Happy Friday 😘
In general, pregnancy was really hard. I always grew up with the mentality that, once you get married, you have a baby and your life is done. It's no longer about you—it's about the child. If you have any dreams, just say goodbye to them. I felt like my life was going to end. But, I decided to challenge [this idea]. I took on a project that I had been wanting to do—to prove to myself and other women, especially Arab women, that I could start something big, even while pregnant.
I wanted to start an influencer conference, created for influencers by influencers to connect, experiment, and grow. I partnered up with Nordstrom and the event ended up selling out. Despite being at the end of my second trimester, I forced myself to start this project to prove to myself that my life was not going to stop because I was going to have kids. Sure, it's going to be a lot harder and it might take a lot longer to get to reach my goals, but I didn’t have to give up on my dreams.
I was starting to hit 41 weeks and the baby would just not come out. I started getting severe back pain and I couldn't sleep at night. Each night I’d lie there and wonder, “Am I getting contractions? What's happening?” I went to my OBGYN and every time he would check: nothing. I wasn’t dilated at all. He tried to get me one centimeter dilated by sticking his fingers “up there” and checking. That whole process was kind of embarrassing and weird.
Everybody would tell me, “You should walk! You should eat certain foods!” I did everything! I even took Pilates! The baby just was so high up. I wasn't getting any contractions whatsoever. At the time, all of my friends were pregnant and most of them had given birth. I felt the pressure: when is this baby going to come?
I ended up needing to get induced, which was the worst thing in the world. I remember my doctor told me when I was about to hit 41 weeks, I was reaching the point where it may not good for the baby; that I might end up having to go through a C-section. My doctor suggested that I go to the hospital that day to get induced.
Initially, I wanted my body to go through the process naturally. But, it didn't. I came back home and packed all my stuff. I was actually very prepared with these custom socks and a labor gown…matching outfits for my daughter and me. I went all out and honestly, it was not necessary. My daughter didn’t fit in her clothing—everything was too big—and I was personally so exhausted to even worry about looking cute at the hospital.
My husband took me shopping at the Wynn and out to eat at Urth Cafe, but, honestly, I could not eat. All I could think about was the pain I was about to endure. I couldn't stop crying. We went to the hospital that same night.
When we got to the hospital, I was only one centimeter dilated. They induced me and oh my God, I wish that pain upon no one. It was really the worst thing I've ever felt. I was actually saying, “just kill me. I just want to die right now.” It was 10 hours of constant pain.
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Quarantine + being on the island for the past few months gave me the maternity leave I never really had and I’m loving every second of it ❤️. For all the future first time mamas, please don’t feel the urge to return to work so early or the need to proof to yourself that you are going to balance work and motherhood so perfectly from the start because you will NOT and that is OKAY. I was so afraid to let go of all my responsibilities to just be a mother and allow my body to fully recover but when I did, it’s the best and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done 🙌🏼 I learned to shift everything in my world around her ❤️. It wasn’t easy, and it took some time to accept the idea that I may not be able to get to all my emails by the end of day or even attend meetings as long as I used to and that’s OKAY. Remember, life comes in phases, so enjoy every phase of it! I feel like I want to write a novel about this topic because the guilt and need to feel like my life hasn’t drastically changed was killing me so excuse my lengthy caption 😜 I promise this was a summary 😄😅🙊
I couldn't get an epidural because to get an epidural you have to be at least four centimeters dilated and I was still only one centimeter. I had to endure the pain. The doctor and the nurses thought from how much I was yelling that I must be ready for labor, but then they’d check me and see I was still only one centimeter.
They started giving me a bunch of drugs to try to help my pain. These drugs made me almost unconscious. They helped with the pain, but it would last only 30 minutes to an hour and then as soon as the drug effect is gone, the pain was even worse.
I didn't want my husband to see me in this situation. I would not stop throwing up. I just couldn't control myself or my body. When the doctor came, he suggested we go through another process where they actually put something inside my vagina—it’s kind of like a tampon to kind of try to dilate me more. They tried that, but that didn't work either.
Eventually the doctor came in and said, “We can continue trying for another day or we can schedule a C-section and you’ll be done in 15 minutes.”
As soon as he said that, I was like, “cut me open! I'm done! I can't put up with this pain anymore!” The moment he said C-section to my family, though, they had a total breakdown. My mom was crying nonstop and everyone was panicked. We assumed labor was to be easy for me!
I went into my C-section delivery room. They removed whatever they had put inside of me and gave me a shot in my spine similar to an epidural, to numb me. That did not hurt me at all. It was so quick. I didn't feel anything. As the doctor was cutting me open, he was telling me that I would have ended up in the C-section room anyways because of the way my daughter was sitting in my stomach. It would have been near almost impossible for her to come down. “You saved yourself a day of pain by making this decision,” the doctor said. And then suddenly, as he opened my stomach, my daughter was not even out yet, I could actually hear her crying. She was crying inside my stomach!
Because I had a C-section, I couldn’t hold her right away. That bothered me. They took her, my husband saw her, they cut the umbilical cord…I don’t really know what they did.
They did show me my daughter. And it's a weird feeling. I'm a very affectionate person, a very emotional person. But I was kind of too exhausted to have any emotions at that point. I remember before giving birth, everybody told me, “enjoy your pregnancy, because when you actually have your daughter, you're going to wish you're pregnant again!” I never believed them. How could anything be harder than pregnancy and labor? Turned out they were right.
Breastfeeding was difficult for me. Some people told me to give up, but I was persistent. I hired lactation specialists and was committed to try to nurse my daughter. Now, nine months later, I'm still nursing her.
Today, at nine months, Serena loves pulling my hair and scratching me (especially when I'm nursing her). She's very active. She’s very happy. She's always laughing, always smiling. She loves people. She loves to dance. She loves to clap.
My daughter does not relax. I have to be on the clock with her 24 hours a day. I like when it's time to go to sleep. We unwind together. I give her a shower, read her a bedtime story, and then I nurse her and she goes to sleep. That's when I have maybe an hour to myself to get whatever I want to get done before I go to sleep.
At nine months, now I can actually understand my daughter. If she's hungry, I know she's hungry. If she’s sleepy, I can tell she’s sleepy. I can read her body language. But every phase is different. It is challenging, but you somehow find the strength be a better multitasker and learn how to dedicate your time to things that matter.
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