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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Brown

A Swedish experience of a challenging pregnancy and birth in the US - Sophia's Story

I was born and raised in Europe but I lived in the US when I found out I was pregnant. I had come to the US in 2005 to be an au pair (live-in nanny), and then ended up staying, getting my Bachelor’s and Master’s and working throughout. I started out in Washington DC, but moved west to Los Angeles about 6 months into my first year here.

My maternity care and labor happened in Southern California. I found out I was pregnant in March 2019, and I was as happy as could be because I had dreamt of having children for what felt like decades! At the time, I was with the man I loved, and had a fantastic job with good benefits, so I found my OB/GYN through them.

Unfortunately I was incredibly sick in the beginning of my pregnancy, and I had a hard time standing, and sitting, plus I was dizzy and throwing up. I had taken about 7 pregnancy tests (JUST to make sure ;) ), and I was probably in week 5 or 6 when I went to the hospital. First, I waited for 1.5 hrs in the waiting room, dying from morning sickness, then I got called into a room, waited for 45 minutes before hitting the ‘I need help’ button. I did not know it would set off an alarm and have 4 nurses running in to make sure I was ok, but I was really too sick to sit there any longer. The doctor came in, essentially stabbed me with the ultrasound-stick, shoves it around, and tells me “there is a little black spot there, maybe it is a baby, maybe it is not, I don’t know”. She proceeded to yank the ultrasound out of me as if trying to rip my uterus out and left the room. I didn’t have a chance to ask any questions, and I was so upset about the visit, I cried the whole way home in the car. Needless to say, after this encounter, I switched, and set up an appointment at a different hospital, and that went a lot better. I absolutely loved my OB/GYN there. She was kind, empathetic, caring, genuine and knowledgeable.

In May, my boyfriend of 7 years was banned from being with me by his non-accepting family because I was pregnant and not who they wanted him to be with. His uncle called me and told me I had to get an abortion, tried to bribe me into moving back to my home-country, or come to the Middle East with them. None of the above options appealed to me, so I asked them to let me be. I have not heard from my boyfriend since - I don’t even know if he is ok.

Unfortunately, in June 2019, most of my colleagues and I were laid off because the company was bought, so I lost my insurance. Getting on Medi-Cal was a bad dream, but getting a doctor to see me was a NIGHTMARE. No-one would accept ‘straight up Medi-Cal’, and it would take a month for one of the plans to kick in, so I was without doctor’s visits from the end of June, all of July and to the beginning of August - and I was about 6 months pregnant at that point. On August 24th, 2019, I was in a terrible car accident. My car was completely totaled, and again, I was about 6 months pregnant. By the grace of the Universe, I somehow walked out of the car. I truly had several guardian angels around me. I know it sounds weird, but I felt them surround me and protect me and my baby belly from the impact, sort of like I was in a cocoon of light. Luckily, the car behind me was an ambulance so they got to me almost right away, and helped me get to the hospital. Thankfully, both baby and I were ok, and I was FINALLY seen by a doctor.

By the beginning of August though, I had gotten a new job, so I was back on an insurance, which my old doctor accepted, so I could go back to be seen by her which felt like an amazing blessing since she knew everything about my pregnancy background. However, unfortunately, the job was not very accommodating to my pregnancy, and I didn’t get the breaks during 10-12 hr work days, or desk-props that I needed, such as a foot-stool. I was incredibly swollen (think elephant legs), borderline gestational diabetes, and I developed hypertension as a result.

Because of all this, I was induced on November 14th 2019. It was the worst. I had a bad reaction to the epidural and started throwing up and passing out, so I was in and out the whole time. I pushed for 4 hours during the night on Friday, and eventually they took me to the OR for a c-section. Before they did the c-section, my doctor tried the forceps. This was something I did not want to do, but I was so out of it from the drugs, I couldn’t say anything, and I barely noticed. Luckily, I had a girlfriend with me in the room who told my doctor not to use them anymore after 2 tries. Then they pumped me with more epidural and morphine, but unfortunately I had a bad reaction to the morphine as well and started hallucinating and telling lies, haha. I remember thinking, “why am I lying”, but I was. I was making up a story about a neighbors dog (so a gentle lie), but that is all I remember. I have also never been so thirsty in my life, as I was throughout active labor. They wouldn’t let me have any water or even ice chips since I would just throw up, but my lips, mouth and throat were literally like the Sahara. I didn’t even get a wet cloth to suck on for some moisture.

Eventually, after 37 weeks of pregnancy, 3 days of labor, 4 hours of pushing, and a c-section, my beautiful daughter was born on Saturday, November 16th at 4.12am. Because of all the drugs and my reaction to them, I wasn’t able to hold my daughter until more than an hour later in the recovery room at the hospital. Thankfully, she latched right away and we got some much needed skin to skin. I stayed at the hospital another 4 days since I was alone, and had to heal a bit from the major surgery. The stay was great, everyone was very kind and sweet. It was an incredibly hard journey, but my daughter is the absolute best thing that ever happened to me, so it was all worth it.

It was hard to do it on my own, without close family around, but I knew I could do it - I had been prepping all my life. I always knew I wanted children and I have worked with 100’s of kids in my day! I don’t go a day without talking with my mom, so a hot tip would be to make sure you have a fantastic and supportive team around you, even if they are not physically there. It is all about that mental health! Further more, having a couple of amazing, close friends locally to help you when you arrive home with your baby is important. Definitely have people bring you food - set up a food train even before you give birth between the close people you have locally. And lastly - don’t be shy, please ask for help when you need it! I absolutely suck at this, and many friends keep reminding me to ask for help when I need it. That is what friends are for, and you would do it for them, right? Right! Thank you so much for reading my story <3.

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