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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Brown

Finding Empowerment in Motherhood in Turkey - Sarah's story

Some little girls grow up always wanting to be a mother with several children. That was never me. I’ve always been independent, a little bit rebellious (although I don’t usually show it) and full of dreams that I wanted to fulfill. This didn’t leave me much time to think about marriage or children. It was only in more recent years that I really started to pray to meet someone to share my life with, and even then, a child was far from my mind.

I have been living in Turkey since 2015. It is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to live in another country and learn another language and culture. Turkey captivated my heart from the beginning with its exceptional hospitality and friendly people. I never thought I would meet my husband here, but that’s exactly what happened when I moved to a city in Central Turkey. He is from Mongolia and had been living here for several years to complete medical school. We each came from opposite corners of the world and met in the middle. I never thought I would meet someone like him who fulfilled so many desires of what I was looking for in a husband. We got married just before the pandemic hit in January of 2020. Looking back, we are so thankful for this timing as our family was able to be here in Turkey to celebrate with us.

Even after getting married though, I was in no rush to have children and thought it might be a few years before we started to think about having a family. Then… SURPRISE… I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant in June of 2020. I was not ready for it. We were newly married, I was going through a lot of stress with work and we had just gone through 3 months of lockdown together. So, let’s just say, this was definitely a quarantine baby! I felt like we hadn’t had a chance to do anything together as husband and wife besides sit at home.

However, I quickly started to wonder at the life inside of me as the baby began to grow. I found that I really enjoyed being pregnant and felt good and strong. This was a huge blessing as I know many women really struggle with pregnancy. I started to dream about who this child would be and what it would be like to have my own little family. As the pandemic raged on, though, it was heartbreaking to realize that none of my family, particularly my mom, would be able to make it for the birth. I always imagined that she would be there. I was so thankful for the wonderful support of my husband, but there are moments when you just want your mother. And for me, pregnancy, and especially birth, was one of them.

I had always imagined having a very natural birth. I studied nursing at university and for a while wanted to be a midwife. Because of this, I had done a lot of research on natural birth and had very strong feelings and preferences about this. In Turkey, natural birth is not emphasized as much as it is in the States. There are not home births and the rate of elective C-sections is high. It can be hard to even find a doctor who is supportive of a natural type of birth. Thankfully though, I found a great doctor in my city who was very supportive of vaginal births and open to my desires to labor and give birth naturally without a lot of interventions. I felt so energized by this. Even though I was in a foreign country without my family close by, I would be able to have the kind of birth I had always wanted.

At 39 weeks I went in for my weekly check-up and my doctor was concerned about a lack of amniotic fluid. Up until that point, there had been no issues with my pregnancy. I came back the following day and there was even less fluid. She started to become seriously concerned and recommended that they induce me that day or the next morning. I felt so overwhelmed as I had not wanted to be induced. A few hours later, I found myself laying in a hospital bed with a Pitocin drip. The nurse was increasing the dose slowly with absolutely no results. Finally, after a few hours, I was having very mild contractions. I started to get into the zone that this was it. I was going to have my baby and I was going to still do all the things I wanted to do during labor. It would be fine. Then, the nurse came in and said, “You need to get ready for a C-section. Since your contractions started, the babies heart rate is dropping too low. He won’t tolerate labor with the lack of amniotic fluid.” I was in shock, full of fear and heartbroken.

In 30 minutes time, I had to try to prepare myself for something I had never thought would happen. I can’t express the range of emotion I felt during that half hour. I had spent months preparing myself for a vaginal birth and had not even read one thing about a C-section. Not only that, but there was no time to communicate my wishes for the birth in this capacity. Before I knew it, I was being wheeled into the OR without my husband beside me. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. It was the most afraid I’ve ever felt in my life. The only thing that kept me going was knowing I would see my baby soon. In that moment, I had to let go of the dream of a natural birth, let go of the dream of seeing my baby for the first time with my husband beside me, let go of the dream of spending the first hour with my baby skin-to-skin. I felt powerless to control what was happening to me.

But when I saw my son for the first time, as they lifted him over the barrier, nothing else mattered anymore. I felt so much joy in that moment and the fear left me. He was healthy and strong and that was the most important thing. The time spent finishing up the surgery and in recovery were the longest minutes of my life. I could only think about my baby and what he was doing. When we were reunited in our room, I finally felt like I could breathe easy again. It was so strange for me to not be able to move well or do the things I expected to do to care for my son after the birth, but thankfully my husband was ready to do all those things. I didn’t have the birth or recovery that I had dreamed of, but I couldn’t have dreamed of how this little baby made me embrace motherhood in full force.

Leo, my little lion, has made me a stronger, braver and bolder person. While I was pregnant with him, I finally found my voice in a way I never have before. Carrying a life inside of me helped me to stay true to myself and make hard decisions that were best for me and my family. Through his birth and every day since, I have faced my fears in a way I never had to before and found myself stronger than I thought I could be. There is something about birth, regardless of what type or how it happens, that makes a woman feel powerful. I am thankful to have experienced that. This little boy has changed my life for the better. Despite my hesitancies in the beginning, there is truly nothing better or more rewarding than being a mother.

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