Sophia Demirtas is the Haiti-born, Turkey-based designer behind Fanm Mon. After years as the director of a homeless shelter in New York City, Demirtas decided to pursue her passion for fashion and launched a successful eBay store; a precursor to her now Insta-famous (and Hill House-approved) brand, known for vibrant colors and show-stopping embroidery. Here, she shares her birth story.
I got pregnant with my first son, Arda, now 11, in February of 2009. We live in Turkey, now, but both my sons were born in New York at Beth Israel Hospital. When I first found out I was pregnant with Arda, it felt surreal. My husband and I, we talked about getting pregnant. We tried and then he came. It was sort of shocking to get the test and have the confirmation that I was actually expecting. Mentally, I was trying to understand, “do I really have a baby forming inside of me?” I guess you can't know that feeling until you get the gassy, bubbly feeling in your stomach.
There was a lot of information that could be easily accessed online. Every day, every week, you are able to see what size your baby is. I was going to see if the baby was [the size of] a grain of rice, an apple seed...you just cannot imagine, especially as he started to get bigger. I think when he got to the cantaloupe size, I thought, “Well, it doesn't feel like I have [a cantaloupe] inside of me.” Obviously, I felt that I had something in my stomach, but it's just so much more personal [than the apps makes it seem]. It just it becomes a part of you that's just growing. It was a beautiful, beautiful experience. Being pregnant is probably one of the most beautiful experiences that I felt as a woman and I didn't take a moment of it for granted.
With Arda, if I didn't tell you I was pregnant—if you didn’t see my obvious pregnant belly—you would not know. I did gain a lot of weight, but other than that, I mostly thought, “What are these other women saying?” I didn't experience any [bad symptoms] during my pregnancy with Arda.
I guess in some ways, that was good and that was not so good. It was good because I was still able to move around and do things. I didn't have morning sickness or all that heaviness. But it wasn't so good, I felt, in the end, because I think those early signals of morning sickness tell the body that there's something happening. You start to be prepared in some way. For me, having been fortunate enough to have two pregnancies, I saw the difference with each of them during all three trimesters. With my second son, Ömer, it was like total kick [in the] ass. Totally sick. But, when it was time to give birth to Arda, I didn't have any symptoms. I didn't have any cramps. My water just broke. I literally thought I had peed myself because that’s all it felt like.
I carried both my sons to full term. My mother-in-law came from Turkey about a month before I went into labor and stayed with us for about four months. I had a sense of security with her being there to walk me through all of it. But it was a scary experience for me.
It was my first pregnancy and my midwife, whom I was hoping would be there when I gave birth, went off duty when I got to the hospital. I was dealing with doctors that didn't fully know my language or what I had set up with the midwife. They were super professional, but the person that had been a part of the journey with me from the beginning was not there to deliver the baby.
I didn't want to have epidural. I was very strict with that. But they started to induce and my body still took a long time to respond. I was in labor for, I think, about 16 hours when suddenly it felt like every single doctor in the hospital rushed to my room. The baby’s heart rate started to drop rapidly because he'd been under a lot of stress from having the injections. When the contractions started to become more severe, it became too much pressure for him. Of course, I'm like, “What's going on? What's going on? What's going on?” And then as quickly as they rushed in, they all exited. Two doctors stayed and told me not to worry—that [the baby and I] were stabilized, but I insisted to know what was going on. They said that everything was normal because I had been in labor and my contractions were becoming strong. I said, “ I don't want to hear anymore. I want to have a C-section.”
The intensity when everybody came into the room, it was just enough. It was just enough. I didn't want to rely on what they were telling me. What if something happened again and they couldn't save him? It’s a matter of having my baby in my hand. I didn’t want to be told later on, “Sorry we lost him” or have to rush into having an emergency C-section. Now that his heart was stable again, I wanted a C-section.
Everyone listened and respected me [in that moment]. I didn't give them another choice. I think in situations like that, especially when you're drugged and dealing with pain, it's very easy for your loved ones to think they can make decisions in your best interest. But with that, I would not budge. I wanted a C-section and that was that.
I remember being so freezing because after you have the C-section you crave crunchy stuff, so they gave me ice water. So, there I am—I'm eating ice and [the nurses are] putting heat packs on me because my body temperature is literally dropping, but I was still craving that crunchiness, so you keep wanting the ice…it was very interesting.
Recovering from the C-Section was brutal. It took a while for me to feel that part of my body again. When I would be putting on my panties or getting dressed, I’d literally feel as though my lower abdomen was not connected to any part of my body. After a couple of months, I started to massage it, just to bring a little bit of feeling back. It took over a year for that kind of rawness to go away –to feel like that part of my body was actually a part of my body again.
Recovery from my second labor was definitely a lot easier. With the vaginal birth, I had a little bit of [tearing] and things like that, but within 12 days, I could walk normally and I felt like myself again. With the C-section, it took me over a year to start feeling that my body was completely mine again.
I strictly nursed both my sons for the first six months. Everything that they consumed came from my body. After Arda was born, my milk started to flow right away. With my second child, it was the total opposite. I gave vaginal birth to my second child, but my body didn't produce the lactation right away. It took nearly a week.
At the beginning, you almost have a movie visual of what everything “motherhood” is going to be like. Then there's the reality. I wanted to do things completely naturally; I didn't want to have any sort of lubricant for my nipples, for instance, and then I learned the absolute hard way. They literally stuck with all their might and [my] nipple could only take that so long. Within a couple of days I was completely sore, to the point where nursing him caused intense pain. But for me, these were all things that were absolutely worth it. Painful, yes, but completely worth it.
Bringing home Arda—I felt absolutely complete. From that moment on, you just understood that this is home. Before that, yes, you have a home with your husband. But when your child comes home with you, it's not just the two of you anymore. You understand things differently. I guess for me, that's when maternally, my mindset started to shift.
Now my sons are grown – Arda is 11 and Ömer turned eight in July. They’re small with big mouths. Their mouths are a lot bigger than their age. They're both very sporty. We live in an area that provides so much activity for them. They're into painting a lot. Arda is very creative. He's into making his own jewelry. Creatively, I allow them to just express themselves and explore. They have their own little ways of expressing themselves, which I let them do completely. I let them find what makes them feel confident.
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