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Troia's Hospital Birth Story: First Time Mom at 18

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Ever since my early childhood, my one and only ambition was to be a mom. Anytime someone asked, "Katia, what do you want to be when you grow up?" the answer was invariably, "A mom." That's all there was to it. For me, childhood and adolescence were a long wait, a holding period until I was old enough to start my actual life - a life with my children. School, with its seemingly endless years, felt like a needless diversion, a way to keep busy while waiting for my true life to begin. Far from a reflection of my parents' desires for me, this dream was my own. My mother, in fact, held a firm belief that a woman should be independent, capable of supporting herself and her children without having to rely on a man.

This paints an accurate picture of me at 18, having waited what felt like forever to finally connect with my children. The idea of becoming a mother before 18 felt complicated, as I would be subject to others' decisions over me and my children, a situation I wanted to avoid. Thus, I waited. And it felt like a very long wait. Fortunately, the Universe had already sent me a partner who, as a vision revealed, would be the father of my children. I committed myself to him, and luckily, at 23 he was ready to start a family too. Early on in our relationship, we discussed the path we were on - having children early and having many of them. If he wanted to stay with me, this was non-negotiable. Thankfully, he was with me right from the start. As soon as I turned 18, we began trying for a baby, and our second attempt was successful. I still had a few exams to retake before graduating, and I remember taking them with a hand on my belly, the tiny soul inside lending me moral support. Whether I graduated or not didn't matter. My life was starting.

Announcing our Pregnancy

We were quick to announce our pregnancy, sharing the news within days of the positive test. There was no reason to keep it a secret, and the reactions were overwhelmingly positive. I don't think anyone was genuinely surprised. My mother, who had always known this was my path, guessed it before I even had the chance to tell her. While she may not have envisioned this life for me, she was supportive from the start. His parents, too, welcomed me and our impending arrival with open hearts and arms.

At that time, we were both living at our respective homes, so we had a lot to sort out. For a while, I stayed with him and his parents, who took exceptional care of me and my changing needs during the first trimester. The care and nourishment they provided are something I'm still grateful for.

October 5th, 2004

Then came October 5th, 2004. I experienced a bleeding and we panicked. Not knowing what to do, we rushed to my family doctor who immediately referred us to the ER. After hours of tears and distress, an ultrasound was finally performed. I had been certain we had lost our baby, having felt the soul leaving my womb. But to our immense relief, a heartbeat appeared on the screen. Our baby was still with us.

However, a nagging feeling remained. I had indeed felt a soul depart from me. Two weeks later, our first visit to the gynecologist confirmed my suspicion: we had likely been carrying twins and lost one of them. Given our young age, it took us another nine years to come to terms with this information and truly begin our spiritual journey. We always kept it at the back of our minds, but we weren't quite ready to fully mourn or process it just yet.

Transitioning into Our New Home

During the early stages of my pregnancy, my partner struggled to find a stable job, so I took up work as a supermarket cashier, following the ethos that "women need to provide too." This job brought in some extra income, but it reaffirmed my desire to stay home with my baby after birth.

Our search for a home led us to a quaint apartment not too far from our parents' homes. In November 2004, we moved into our own space. As we slowly settled in, we learned how to live together, with our unborn baby being an integral part of the process. The pregnancy, symbolized by my growing belly, became the focal point of our life and relationship.

Coping with Nausea

The first four months of pregnancy were characterized by severe, persistent nausea. It didn't matter whether it was morning, afternoon, or evening; nausea was a constant companion. After four months, a chance encounter with a pharmacist led to the discovery that my pregnancy vitamins were likely causing my sickness. The vitamins I was using, although a popular choice, contained more iron than others, leading to severe nausea in some women.

When I stopped taking those vitamins, my nausea disappeared and never returned during that pregnancy. This experience fueled my already there passion for natural healing, which became a significant part of our lives from that point forward and would only grow in the future.

A Scare at 28 Weeks

Around the 28th week of my pregnancy, a routine appointment with the gynecologist revealed a 1 cm dilation. Panicked and without consulting us or seeking our consent, the doctor arranged for me to be admitted to the hospital. There, I would undergo a procedure to speed up lung development in our baby. He convinced me to agree to this by playing on my fears, suggesting that if I didn't comply, our baby would be born prematurely and wouldn't survive. At 18, naive and terrified, I believed I was going to lose my baby and agreed to the procedure.

Looking back, I can see that my youth and lack of knowledge were apparent. Although I was more mature than many of my peers, I wasn't savvy enough to question medical advice from an adult authority figure. If faced with a similar situation now, I would confidently challenge such a decision. A 1 cm dilation, particularly at that stage of gestation, is not a cause for panic or invasive procedures. Dilation isn't fixed; it can fluctuate day by day. Regrettably, I didn't have this information back then, and the internet, while emerging, was not the resource it is now. Alternative health information was not readily available. To this day, I regret consenting to that procedure. My daughter still has sensitive lungs, and I can't help but feel that the procedure played a role in it. If only I had known better back then.

Bedrest and Anxiety

Following the hospital procedure, I was instructed to remain on strict bed rest to ensure our baby stayed in my womb for as long as possible. Visits to the gynecologist every two weeks became our new normal. He continued to fuel my anxiety, each visit setting a new, slightly farther-off goal for the pregnancy. He warned of the dangers if our baby arrived prematurely, further amplifying my fear. "Let's try to get to at least 30 weeks, otherwise your baby will not survive." - "Good, now 32 weeks. Here's a list of all the things that can go wrong if your baby is born before that." - "Ok, now we'll get to 35 weeks. I don't think you'll make it that far, though."

I took bed rest very seriously, to the point where I was even afraid of using the bathroom, fearing that my baby might be prematurely born while I was on the toilet. I believed that even sitting up could harm my baby, so I dutifully adhered to laying down for many weeks.

During this period, my parents were a great source of support. My mother, a childcare provider who worked from home, was available all day. Each morning before his work, my father would drive me to their home, and in the evening, he'd take me back when my partner returned from work. I am profoundly grateful for their assistance during this challenging time.

One positive in all of this: out of boredom, I taught myself how to knit. A skill that would become a passion throughout the next 18 years and would turn out to be one of the most important growths I would ever make. It all started because I had to lie down for 9 weeks and was bored as hell. Now, working with wool is a big chunk of my life.

Transitioning at 37 Weeks

"You're at 37 weeks. Now it's time to walk around a lot and do a lot of activities so your baby doesn't go overdue for too long!" If I would hear the same gynecologist who had fueled my fears for the past 9 weeks say that now, I would hit him in the face. But 18-year-old naive me was just glad that her baby was fine.

Life returned to normal from that point. Our baby was healthy and still in the womb, which felt like a significant achievement.

Choosing a Name

Throughout the pregnancy and as first-time parents, we started with the assumption that it was our role to choose our child's name. We had settled on the name Seth for a boy, even though this wasn't my first choice and my then-partner wasn't convinced about my intuitive choice. But I was convinced that our baby was a girl, so I didn't argue about the boy's name.

We struggled to find the right name for a girl. We initially considered Amaryllis and later Portia, but neither felt right. Toward the end of the pregnancy, we were watching a documentary about the ancient city of Troy when I had a vision. I saw two little girls, close in age, walking hand in hand. I felt that their names should be Troia and Atlanta. And if we had a third girl, her name would be Maya. From that moment, the name Troia was set. If our child was a girl, she would carry a name steeped in four thousand years of history, a name shared by many wise women across the centuries.

May 9th, 2005: the final walk

At 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant, a bustling day awaited us. That morning, my then-partner and I attended a funeral about 2 kilometers from our home. Without a car, we embarked on the journey on foot. Following the service, we planned to have a meal in the neighboring village, a further kilometer's walk.

In the early afternoon, we retraced our steps for the 3-kilometer trek back home. The day wasn't done yet, though. My partner had theater practice in the same village that evening. We set off on foot once again, covering the familiar 3-kilometer stretch.

After the practice, we decided to indulge ourselves by visiting the village fair. One of the lasting memories from that eventful day was us relishing 'smoutebollen,' a traditional Dutch dessert sold at Dutch fairs. This seemingly ordinary moment felt significant, like a part of her story being written. I had a premonition that this would be our last outing before welcoming our baby, and we savored every moment.

The day concluded with a final 3-kilometer walk back home. An amusing anecdote from this journey involves the final 250 meters. Overwhelmed by an urgent need to use the restroom, I decided to sprint the rest of the way home. In retrospect, I am convinced that this unexpected dash ultimately nudged me into labor later that night! That evening, as we retired to bed, there were no signs to suggest that birth was imminent. Our baby was still safe and snug inside me, and we remained blissfully unaware of what was to come.

May 10th, 2005: the long-awaited day

5 AM. My slumber was interrupted by an unexpected splash. Literally. My water broke with a startlingly significant splash, leaving a trail from the bed to the bathroom.

Our baby was on the way! Amidst a swirl of excitement and slight panic, one thought looped incessantly: We were about to meet our baby!

In the rush of this realization, it became apparent how unprepared we were. What were we supposed to do next? The memory of our befuddlement, both embarrassing and amusing in retrospect, is etched in my mind. Devoid of any solid plan, we decided to call the ER. "Hello, my girlfriend is almost 39 weeks pregnant. Her water just broke. Do we come in now?"

I could almost picture the ER staff chuckling at our naïveté. Nevertheless, they offered the right advice: wait it out and monitor any changes in symptoms, and head to the hospital if anything changed.

Sleep was a lost cause by then, so we nestled into the couch, each engrossed in our own thoughts, the radio playing softly in the background. The tunes that filled those early morning hours still hold a special place in my heart, taking me back to that moment every time I hear them.

By 8 AM, I noticed some spotting and decided that this indeed counted as "things changing". Looking back, I can't help but laugh at my young and naive self. After informing my parents about my water breaking, my father offered to drop us at the hospital between his rounds of dropping my brothers at school and heading to work. This arrangement sounded significantly better than summoning an ambulance, so we went along with it. During the ride, I experienced the first intense waves. I remember thinking that if they were this intense, our baby must be close. The naïveté!

When Birth Becomes a Battleground

Upon arrival at the hospital, I endured labor waves while waiting at the ER front desk. It seemed our urgency didn't echo among the staff, as we were left waiting for what felt like an eternity before finally being attended to. Throughout this, I was visibly laboring. Upon check-in, they handed me paperwork for an epidural as if it were a standard procedure. I informed them that I intended to have an unmedicated birth and didn't require the papers. They responded with laughter.

Following our check-in, we were transferred to the maternity ward, where I was given a room. The first instruction we received was about their policy regarding noise during labor. In an effort to avoid disturbing other patients, we were encouraged to select an epidural when the pain became too intense rather than resort to any vocal expressions of discomfort. This directive cast a daunting shadow over my birth experience; instead of focusing solely on my labor, I had to think about the others around me, disturbing my birth process. My protective birth bubble was punctured.

It is important to mention that I had a long history of emotional hyperventilation. These episodes, brought on by emotional stress, resulted in blackouts when they escalated. A constant during my teenage years, these hyperventilation attacks were deeply distressing. Once an episode started, I would spiral toward oblivion. The mistake was sharing this with the midwives. Armed with this knowledge, they used it against me. I emphasized that under no circumstances was I to modify my breathing patterns as it would trigger an episode. My coping mechanisms during labor were sound-making and body movements to regulate my breath. Regrettably, the rest of my labor experience would become a battleground.

The midwives chastised me for my sound coping methods and restricted me to bed. When I attempted to alleviate my discomfort by shifting my position, they physically restrained me by sitting on top of me to hold my arms and legs down. My then-partner, too young and not assertive enough to challenge them, was warned to maintain his distance or risk expulsion from the room. Their justification for this abuse: my young age. They didn't agree with women getting pregnant that young and this is how we would learn.

As feared, a hyperventilation episode ensued. They played the dead baby card again and insisted that an epidural was now the only viable option to save our baby. Wearied by the ordeal, I agreed, and an anesthesiologist was summoned. The following events are hazy in my memory. I recall the anesthesiologist attempting the epidural multiple times amidst cursing and blaming Murphy's Law for his failures, which did nothing to reassure me and only grew my anxiety. Post-epidural, I was numb, both physically and emotionally. It felt as though the epidural didn't merely block the pain but also severed the bond with my baby.

In the Midst of Chaos, A Miracle was Born

Around 12:45 PM, the midwives announced that I was fully dilated and led me to the delivery room. The directive was to resist pushing until the gynecologist arrived. Once he arrived, I spent over an hour pushing, positioned on my back. Their so-called encouragement involved taunting my efforts and making fun of my age. My partner remained silent throughout. Without my consent, they performed a double episiotomy to widen my birth canal. They attributed every challenge and complication to my young age, blaming me for being too young and weak to deliver naturally. Looking back, it was pure obstetric abuse.

At 13:53, my beautiful daughter arrived. Instead of placing her in my arms as I'd hoped, the gynecologist passed her to the midwives for a check-up. My pleas to hold her fell on deaf ears as they proceeded to weigh and dress her.

While my precious child was being weighed, the gynecologist began to mend my injuries. He was preparing to inject me with a local anesthetic when the syringe malfunctioned, spraying the contents into his face. He was astounded by the potency of the drug, commenting, "What on earth are we injecting these women with? My entire lip is numb! It's potent enough to knock out a horse. I'm lucky I wear glasses! Get me another syringe!" Despite his comments, he proceeded to inject me with the same anesthetic to sew up my wounds. I would later realize that without my knowledge or consent, I received the infamous "husband stitch." It would take nine more years of discomfort to recover from that.

Finally, I was allowed to hold my daughter. The moment I held her, I shared a thought with my then-partner - I would never again give birth in a hospital. Even without knowing what other options were available, I instinctively knew that what had happened was far from what I desired. Never again would I surrender my birth experience to such circumstances.

Breastfeeding Battles and Triumphs

Before becoming a mother, I was adamant about breastfeeding. It's the ideology I grew up with: breast is best, and every mother should at least try. But in the hospital, my determination was met with opposition. When they moved us to our room, we were left alone with little support or assistance. It seemed as if they expected me to formula feed, just as they had expected me to opt for an epidural. They continued to bring up my young age, saying I was "too young to breastfeed." I felt as if they were doing everything in their power to discourage me from nursing.

Breastfeeding was harder than I thought. I'd assumed instinct would guide me, but I was struggling, particularly after such a tumultuous birth. The first time my daughter fed, she latched for an hour, slept for an hour, and then woke to feed again for another hour. This pattern of her seeming ravenous was a sign of what was to come in the next 18 years, but we of course didn't know that back then, so I thought from early on that I was doing something wrong or that my milk wasn't good enough. My nipples, not used to such use, quickly became sore and cracked. When I reached out to the staff for help, I was blamed for not following their advice. I never received any help.

After three days of this, my nipples were bleeding and the mere thought of nursing was tear-inducing. One evening, a nurse walked in just as I was about to nurse my daughter. Seeing my tears, she berated me, accusing me of harming my child and being a selfish, inadequate mother. She pushed the idea that I was too young to breastfeed. Feeling defeated, I finally agreed to feed my daughter from a bottle. The act of doing so was one of the most heartbreaking experiences I've had. I bawled my eyes out. That was my breaking moment. I bawled my eyes out. All cropped-up emotions of those past days came out. My ruined birth, the days after, all the mistreatment, the feelings of not doing good enough... it all went through the floodgates. I promised my daughter that she or any of her future siblings would never have to drink another sip of fake food again. If anything, that one bottle is the cause that I eventually would nurse for 18 years non-stop and breastfed each and every one of my children between 4 and 8 years. That one single bottle and the abuse of those nurses put me on the barricades for natural connective birth and postpartum, and natural age weaning. One of the biggest fighters of our movement was born because of this single moment, that single bottle.

The next morning, I sought help from my mother who immediately contacted a friend of hers, a nurse at another hospital. Her friend quickly purchased all the supplies I needed for healing my nipples, including nipple shields to alleviate some of the pain. She visited me, offered valuable advice and guidance on proper latching and healing, and gave me the support I desperately needed. She even confronted the hospital staff about their poor treatment of me. I will never forget the moment her voice filled the hallway while she yelled and screamed at the staff there. Her act of standing up for me was the first time someone treated me with the dignity I craved during those days. Her intervention halted the harsh treatment, and though I was mostly ignored afterwards, at least no one dared mistreat me again. I will forever be grateful for this moment. She will never realize it, but she changed more than just that experience in the hospital. She planted a seed that would grow big one day. She planted the seed that 17 years later made me stand up for myself in every single way when I ended my abusive marriage. That one small seed is still growing today. I can only hope to pay it forward one day.

From then on, breastfeeding became easier. Though there would be more hurdles in the future, I felt ready to face them.

The Catalyst for a Lifelong Crusade

Though it may not be the story I'd have preferred to recount, it was undeniably the experience I needed. Each and every moment of this pregnancy and birth marked the beginning of unexpected growth that I couldn't see back then. This ordeal shaped both my daughter and myself, helping us evolve into the people we are today. If not for this struggle, I may never have discovered my unique approach to guiding her through life. These experiences planted seeds that would, with time, grow into resilient plants and towering trees.

As I reflect on all of this, I feel a profound sense of gratitude. I am thankful for the lessons learned, for the seeds planted, and most importantly, for my incredible daughter who has forever altered my world. Her birth was the spark that ignited the flame of a pioneer who would not only defend the rights of mothers and their babies, but also construct the platforms for others to join the fight.

Her birth started my journey as a mother, the beginning of my life.

Ultimately, her birth gave me her - an irreplaceable gift in itself.

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