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My Birth Story: Farnoosh Torabi

Trigger Warning: This article mentions loss and/or miscarriage. 

Farnoosh Torabi is a financial expert and host of the podcast So Money, which highlights inspiring conversations with everyone from Queen Latifah to Margaret Cho about their personal money lessons (the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly). In addition to her podcast, Torabi travels the world (pre-COVID) offering financial advice best described by the New York Times as "perfectly practical." She's written multiple books (her latest bestseller is When She Makes More: The Truth About Love and Life for a New Generation of Women) and has two beautiful children. Here, she shares her birth story.

Farnoosh Torabi

My first pregnancy happened shortly after my husband and I got married. We tried and it happened right away. But, I had a miscarriage, which nobody prepares you for. Now I think people are more aware of the likelihood, but this was seven years ago, and it was a total shock to me. I was pregnant and then I wasn't. I didn’t believe it. I had done everything right.

It was eight or nine weeks into the pregnancy, which now I know is a pretty delicate time for pregnancies. We went for our ultrasound and the doctor said, “I don't see anything anymore.” I almost would have preferred if she said, “We made a mistake. You were never pregnant.” But I was. All that hope and expectation died in that moment. In hindsight, it was so routine for the doctors. They knew exactly what to say and who to call in. Another doctor came to verify it and she was very careful about her words. We had a sit-down meeting and she told me I was going to have severe bleeding, or, I could have a procedure done where they remove the remnants. In other words, the miscarriage was not complete, but was on its way. I immediately scheduled [the procedure].

We were on the Upper West Side and the hospital was about six blocks from my apartment. My husband and I just walked home in silence holding hands.

I went under, they removed everything, I woke up, and I went home. Usually about 40-72 hours after, you start to experience the worst period of your life. We had previously scheduled a vacation for that following week, so that part happened for me in St. Barts. Thirty-six hours of my trip was spent on my hotel bed just asking for toilet paper. Going to the French pharmacy and trying to tell them I needed the extra strength Tylenol was especially difficult. It was also my birthday and Valentine's Day, so my husband gave me a ring. It’s a simple ring, but I've never taken it off my finger. For me, it symbolizes the first child that we lost.

Everyone mourns differently and every miscarriage is worth mourning. It's a personal experience that you go through and you need to move on from it in a way that feels honest and respectful to you. I tell my friends who are going through fertility issues or have had a miscarriage: “I understand. You’re allowed to be upset. Take your time.”  For us, the memory of that child lives on every day when I look at my hand.

[Doctors] say that after a miscarriage is the best time to get pregnant. Apparently, you're really fertile and your body already knows how to make a baby. It’s like muscle memory. So, we tried and tried and tried, but I wasn’t getting pregnant.

You start to wonder, is there a bigger problem? I was in my early 30s and my husband was about 35, so it wasn't an age thing. My parents are Iranian, and it’s hard to know if my mom would have told me if she herself had had a miscarriage. [For reference], the translation for “miscarriage” from Farsi to English is “dropping the baby,” which places a lot of guilt on the parents—like they did something wrong.

After almost a year, I was about to go for a fertility consultation. Before we could even get to the appointment, I got pregnant. I think there’s something to be said about letting go of control of the whole thing. I tossed my books in the closet, I deleted my ovulation app, and then it finally happened.

 

 

My pregnancy symptoms were pretty normal. I was very nauseous during the first trimester. I got one of those sea sicknesses, acupressure bands from the drug store. I also gained a little bit more weight than my doctor would have liked. At one point, I failed the sugar test. To combat the nausea in the first trimester, I was eating a lot of comfort food. My doctor suggested a clean diet of eggs and fruit, so I followed her orders for two weeks before my sugar test and I felt better.

On my due date, we went to get pizza, and as I was lying in bed watching TV, I felt like I was peeing against my will. I called the doctor and described the fluid, and she said it was amniotic fluid and to come to the hospital right away. My mom and my husband came with me to the hospital and were in the room with me for the birth.

 

 

I wanted the drugs, all of the machines, and all of the resources. I didn’t want pain. As much as I wanted to be the wife who gave birth in the bath with the candles, I was scared.

I couldn’t feel anything because of all of the drugs. My brain wasn’t able to process what was happening to my body, which made it difficult to know how to push when it came time. Pushing should be a natural occurrence, with your body telling you what to do to relieve yourself of the pain. Once they stopped administering the anesthesia little by little, I began to feel the pain and it was easier for me to understand what to do with my body. I pushed for about 20 minutes.

Evan was born on June 21, 2014. [When it came to the name, my husband and I] just both unanimously loved it. It means "young warrior" or "God is gracious" depending on the translation. He embodies both of those things.

 

 

One thing I didn’t like was minutes after my son was born, the breastfeeding consultant came and sat right next to me to educate me on breastfeeding. I had just had a baby, and though I planned to try to breastfeed him, I needed time to bond with my baby at that point.

My mother formula-fed me, my husband was formula-fed. My pediatrician told me to do whatever I wanted to do. On the other hand, I had all of these friends who were super into breastfeeding. I think if you can breastfeed and you and your baby are both happy, you should go for it. But it became apparent to me on the first day that my baby was unable to latch on and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, so I wanted to give him formula. I tried breastfeeding him for about six hours after he was born, and the nurse even wanted me to try a suction device. Finally, I gave him formula. He was eating and he was happy.

Once I got home, I tried to reintroduce breastfeeding. A couple times he latched on, but only for a few minutes. For me, formula-feeding was a way for my husband to be involved by feeding him. It also gave me more time to sleep. The people that mattered—who had a stake in this—said formula was fine. They were my “board of advisors” and I was going to stick with that.

 

 

In the moment, though, I felt guilty and confused. Ultimately, the journalist in me was very fascinated by what I was experiencing. I thought, “This is bullshit! Why do we do this to mothers? Why do we have to do one thing or another?” As a working mom, I also wanted to get back to work quickly and I didn't want to be beholden to the breast pump. At the time, it was a private matter to me and I didn’t want to have the discussion. But now, I think we really do need to have this discussion in a way where people don't feel right or wrong.

Evan is now 6.5 years old. He is extremely animated and loves to perform. He's been really obsessed with the Muppets lately and staging puppet shows for all to watch (all the time). He is also a fast runner, eater, learner, you name it. Speed is his middle name. It's actually Kiani, but...

He loves to play with any and all of his action figures with his 4-year-old sister, Colette (Coco) who just turned four. She loves gymnastics, climbing, giving her dolls pretend haircuts in her "salon." She still clings to a swaddle blanket any chance she gets.  As she told me, even though she just turned 4, she's only "a little four."

 

 

[With the birth of my daughter], I experienced epidural headaches. I didn’t know anyone who could relate and I was trying to find any information I could online. I would go down these dark internet holes and read studies from the ‘90s that said a lot of scary things. Thankfully, a doctor friend of told me to lay on my back, keep my head down for a week, and drink a lot of caffeine. It was nice to rest after giving birth, but it definitely took away from some bonding time that first week.

[Editor note: you can read more about epidural headaches here.]

[Our kids] are very close, which we're so happy to witness. The pandemic has been hard for them in some ways, but having each other has been an absolute blessing. Theirs is a deep bond...but of course, sibling squabbles are a daily occurrence. By Sunday (after 6 full days together), we definitely try to separate them for an hour or so, just to give them back their space and reduce the screaming!

Follow Farnoosh on Instagram.

Interviews and stories on hillhousehome.com are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.  

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