TW: Infant death. Fortune Faham, a mother of eight, tells her High Risk Birth Story, which includes complications from a short cervix, cerclage, and having twins after losing her newborn daughter to heart disease.
“The Blessing of Good Fortune: Grief, Joy, and Faith” – with Fortune Faham
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Dr. Fox: Welcome to “High Risk Birth Stories.” My guest today is Fortune Faham. Fortune and I discussed the pregnancy and birth of her twin boys 12 years ago, as well as her pregnancies before and after. As the mother of eight children, she has an amazing perspective on grief, joy, and faith. Next week, on Monday, we will have a “Healthful Woman” podcast with Dr. Rachel Gerber on PGT, preimplantation genetic testing, and then on Thursday, another high risk birth story. Be sure to subscribe to both podcasts, and if you like what you hear, we’d really appreciate you giving us a five-star review on Apple. Trigger warning for today’s podcast, Fortune and I are going to discuss the passing of her newborn daughter from heart disease. Thanks for listening. Have a great a day and a great weekend.
Welcome to “High Risk Birth Stories,” brought to you by the creators of the “Healthful Woman” podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Nathan Fox. “High Risk Birth Stories” is a podcast designed to give you, the listener, a window into life-changing experiences of pregnancy, fertility, and childbirth.
Fortune, thank you so much for coming to tell your birth story. How are you doing today?
Fortune: I’m doing great, Dr. Fox. So happy to be able to be here with you.
Dr. Fox: Fantastic. So, Fortune, we go way back. I guess we met in 2008 for the pregnancy we’re gonna be talking about for your twin boys, right?
Fortune: That’s right.
Dr. Fox: Amazing. It’s been a long time, and obviously, you’ve had birth prior to then and birth after that, but we’re gonna focus right now on the birth of your twins. And their birth is in December, right?
Fortune: That’s right. December 3rd, 2008.
Dr. Fox: Got it. So they just turned 12, and we’re looking forward to the twin bar mitzvah, I guess, in December.
Fortune: That’s right, that’s right. Time flies.
Dr. Fox: Take us back to 2008. This is when you got pregnant with them. And prior to then, you had multiple pregnancies and children already. And, you know, tell us about that. Sort of, what was your history coming into this pregnancy?
Fortune: My journey really started in, I would say, 1999 when I had my first son. I had one in 1999, very easy, uncomplicated birth, healthy baby, everything good. Then I had another one in 2001, and another one in 2003. The first two were really very uncomplicated, full term deliveries. Everything, you know, went smoothly. With my third, I started to really have issues. I had a short cervix from really early on in the pregnancy. We saw it probably at 24 weeks. And then I was dilated 2 centimeters from when I was, like, 28 weeks, and we started to really…the doctor that I was with at the time started to really worry that, “Oh, boy, are we gonna be able to keep this baby in?”
So at the time, they prescribed a lot of bed rest, and I was on terbutaline pump to hopefully try to slow down the contractions that I was getting. And at the end, I gave birth to my third at 35 weeks. Yeah, so he was born. He actually struggled to breathe a little bit right after birth, stayed in the hospital for a couple weeks, and then came home. And now he’s 17, and he’s 6’2″, and everything’s good, thank God. But at the time, it was a bit scary. Definitely was. You know, the nurse had seen him in the middle of the night, like, struggling to breathe, so they moved him to the ICU, and he got the help that he needed. But definitely I was somebody that, you know, had a little bit of a condition of preterm labor and preterm delivery.
Dr. Fox: Right. And it was interesting that it just sort of happened out of nowhere in the third pregnancy, and you didn’t have it in your first two.
Fortune: Right, right. Definitely, definitely. So fast forward after that, like about three years, four years later maybe, I got pregnant. I actually found out that I was having a girl, and that was really exciting to me after having three boys. And then later on in the pregnancy, we noticed that…the doctor noticed, he didn’t notice it early enough, but he noticed at 32 weeks that there was something wrong with the baby’s heart, and the baby didn’t seem like it was…that she was gonna make it. And so I had to struggle with that tremendous loss. I gave birth at 37 weeks, and after 2 days, the baby passed away from heart disease. So that was a real, real struggle in my life.
Dr. Fox: And how long after that loss did you get pregnant with the twins? Was it a long time or was it a short time?
Fortune: Two years later, I would say. And I was just, for people out there that are struggling with loss, I think a very big message that I would put out there is that like it’s the…your mental status is so important. Here I was somebody that never, never struggled to conceive, and right after I lost my baby, I was like, “I wanna get pregnant today. Like, now.” And when I tried to conceive, and I never had struggle conceiving before that, it just wasn’t happening for me. And it took me time to realize that, you know, being in that depressed state and not, you know, picking myself up enough and getting myself to a better place, it was affecting my body’s physical ability to conceive. It took me a good year and a half to really, like, sort of grieve and mourn and find a way to get past it. And once I, like, let go of the pain, that’s when I conceived. And boy, was I lucky that I got twins.
Dr. Fox: It’s so interesting that you mentioned because a lot of people after they have a loss, they’re not ready to conceive again just because the pain is too much. I know you said that you really wanted get pregnant right away, and others don’t feel that way, and obviously, it’s individualized. Some people feel like you did and they wanna, you know, conceive right away, and other people are not just ready. But the fact that you were ready and had a difficult time conceiving, that must have just compounded your loss after the last pregnancy that not only did you have this, you know, really horrific experience, but now you can’t get pregnant as easily as you wanted to. What was that like for you during that year and a half?
Fortune: It made things so hard for me. I remember thinking at the time, “Oh, my goodness, I didn’t want to be done with three kids. I’m never gonna have any more babies.” And it actually might…I feel like it compounded the pain because every month that I didn’t conceive, it was like I was reliving, like, the baby that I should have had. So it was really, really tough for me. Really, it was very hard time. I was really lucky, and I wanna put that out there to others, that I had a really… One of my best friends is a clinical social worker. She was with me the whole time through my loss and through my struggle to conceive again. And just I think it’s really important to note that having somebody out there, a professional friend, a family, a support system is so important when people…when you’re going through a tough time in life because we can’t do it alone.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. No, 100%. And so when you got pregnant with the twins, was it a moment of great excitement for that reason, or was it, you know, extremely scary because now, not only, you know, are you pregnant again and all these things might happen, but it’s twins and it’s a high-risk pregnancy. What were your initial emotions?
Fortune: Well, I remember the nurse called me and she said, “You’re definitely pregnant,” because I had gone and done blood work. She said, “Are there twins in your family?” So I said, “Actually, yeah, my uncles are twins. My brother-in-law has twins. But why do you ask?” She goes, “Because your numbers are really, really elevated. It’s possible that it’s a multiple pregnancy.” So I laughed it off thinking, “Nah, can’t be.” But then when I went for the sonogram and they showed me the two heartbeats, it was actually for me, it was a moment of, like, initially, of so much joy, like, here I felt like, “Wow. Like, here I’m getting my catch up baby for the one that I lost.” Like, for me, it was really, really exciting. But at the same time, like you said, it was really…once I stopped to really reflect and think about it, I started to get really nervous. Like, “How am I gonna carry these babies to term?” Like, on my third, I made it to 35 weeks, and that was with a lot of intervention, and I can’t carry twins. It’s just like my body won’t do it. My body dilates too soon. Like, I was really like, “I don’t know how we’re gonna get there.” At the beginning, it was a lot of joy, and then it was like, “Oh, boy, how are we gonna make this happen?”
Dr. Fox: Is that why you came over to our practice, to “a high-risk practice?”
Fortune: Absolutely, absolutely. So at the time, when I conceived, I really did the research, and, you know, I said, “I need, you know, the best doctors in New York. You tell me who it is. I don’t care if they take my insurance, whatever it is, I need the best doctors.”
Dr. Fox: And they weren’t available, so you found us.
Fortune: Definitely you were the best then, and everyone knows it now. I don’t know, was the practice as big at the time? How many years is this practice going, Dr. Fox?
Dr. Fox: So the practice started in its current iteration in 2005. So a few years before. It was originally an NYU practice. The critical moment was in 2008, which is this year that both you joined the practice and I joined the practice.
Fortune: I remember.
Dr. Fox: We started at the same time at MFM Associates. We were both babes, and we all started together at the same time. So, yeah, when we met, I mean, it was probably one of your, you know, earlier visits, and it was one of my, you know…I joined in July 2008. So that’s five months before your twins were born, so it’s right in the beginning of your pregnancy.
Fortune: Right, exactly. That was right when I came over. So when I found out about the process and I did a little research, I said, like, “This is what I need.” And for me, I had my first son with one doctor. It’s funny because my first is with one. My second one was with another one. My third son was at a different one. So I had three different doctors on my three first children. Then on the baby that I lost, it was another doctor also. So talk about… And I’m not the type that really is, like, always looking for change, but somehow, each time, something wasn’t right.
Then when I came over to the practice and I remember meeting you and Dr. Rebarber, and I was just like, “Oh, wow.” I took this, like, big sigh of relief, like, “Thank you, God,” because it was just…I don’t know, the warmth and the confidence they had, and the professionalism, and just, like, the realness. You find doctors that have a good bedside manner, but then they really just small-time, and they’re not as professional and not as specialized in high-risk situations. And then you find doctors that are really, you know, the best in their fields, but then they just don’t know how to interact with a patient, and then… So just the combination, it was just like I knew that I found my home. And for those out there, I ended up having five more kids with this practice. So even though I had four different doctors for my first four pregnancies, this was a longstanding relationship going forward.
Dr. Fox: Wow. Well, thanks for the plug. Now I’m really glad I had you on the podcast. At first, I just thought it’d be, you know, a really fascinating story, but now this is like a, you know, an advertisement. So that’s awesome. I appreciate that. And, you know, you said how wonderful it was, but little did you know that crazy things we were gonna do to you in that twin pregnancy. Maybe you would have felt differently if you had known. So…
Fortune: No, no, no, no. It was all good. Anything to get the good outcome, the truth. I think that’s all we want at the end. As moms carrying these babies, we want everything to end well. So just having you guys holding my hand the whole way through, that was comforting for me, and it made it so manageable. It really did.
Dr. Fox: You know, it’s hard to know the right thing to do. There’s not great data, you know, on twins in general, what’s the best way to manage them, or twins with someone with a prior, you know, preterm labor, preterm birth. But on top of that, you had term births and, you know, the daughter that you lost from heart disease, obviously, that’s a risk, and we have to check the hearts, but that pregnancy went full term without, you know, the same issues. And so it’s a little bit confusing. You know, why would you have some pregnancies that are totally uncomplicated, and other pregnancies are complicated, and then how do we manage twins? And so, you know, a lot of it is…I mean, you’re winging it almost. I mean, using the best data we have, and, you know, knowledge and experience, but there isn’t, you know, a cookbook for how to do this right. And you just have to sort of be, I guess, flexible.
So for your pregnancy, you have these concerns. I know we did look at the babies’ hearts, and fortunately, they both looked really, really, you know, normal and healthy and good. So it doesn’t make you not worry about it, but certainly worried less about it when the hearts look perfect. And then what happened after that around, you know, 20, 22 weeks?
Fortune: So I was coming for a visit. To be on the cautious side, I was coming every maybe two, three weeks at that point. And when I came from that visit, you know, I’m somebody that I’m really in touch with my body, and I felt like, “Oh, boy. I don’t know, I feel like a lot pressure, like, I don’t know. Just to make sure everything’s good.” And I remember being checked and saying, “Oh, boy, your cervix is short.” And I was told, “Wait, let’s see what we’re gonna do about it.” And then I remember Dr. Rebarber saying, “I really think that it would make sense to put in the cerclage, to put in the stitch, and to try to keep the pregnancy going, and to stop the progression of the short cervix.” And I was like, “Oh, boy. Here we go. This is it now.”
And, you know, I really trusted the doctors, and I think that was when met you, Dr. Fox, I remember. I remember when you…so doctor, I was lucky enough to have the two that I felt the most connected to. In fact, you were there that night doing the cerclage for me, and I really had a lot of [crosstalk 00:14:00]
Dr. Fox: Yeah. It was, like, in the middle of the night, wasn’t it?
Fortune: It was, it was. I remember by the time we did it. Because I had the loss before, I didn’t tell anybody I was having twins. So all of a sudden, I’m going into the hospital, and everyone’s like, “Why are you going into the hospital? What’s going on?” I’m like, “Uh, short cervix. I had this with my third. It’s fine. We’re putting in a stitch.” And I played it down. But just having the doctors there…I remember when you did it, you were joking the whole time. The personality that you have today is the one you had then, and you made me comfortable, and that was great. And so we had the stitch put in. I think it was like a special kind of stitch, right? What was it? Was it like a special kind, or they’re all the same?
Dr. Fox: Your cervix was actually open a little bit also. It wasn’t just short. It was about a centimeter to two, dilated open. When we decide whether to put in a stitch or not, there’s a lot of controversy over that, but when the cervix is dilated, most people agree the best thing to do is put in a stitch. And, I mean, the way we do it, and this is, you know, Rebarber trained me, is one called a Shirodkar. It’s just a certain type. So not a lot of people do it. In our practice, we do it almost, you know, entirely. About a 100% of them are Shirodkars. But especially as Rebarber is, he is the best at it, in placing them. He’s just awesome and, you know, he trained most of us how to it. So you got his skill and my personality. So it was a good combination, because if you got, you know, my skill and his personality, forget about it. It would have been a bad outcome.
Fortune: Oh, boy. Okay, I got the best of both worlds. Thank God, thank God.
Dr. Fox: It’s so fortunate that did go well, and even though it was a scary moment, and you’re there. You did go home, and things sort of, you know, settled down in terms of the preterm labor. For a while, right? I mean, things are pretty calm for another several months, I think.
Fortune: Right, right. No, things were progressing well. I was 20 weeks. I was 30 weeks. I was 30. And then at 32 weeks, I remember feeling, “Oh, boy, I’m in labor. Oh, my goodness.” It’s, like, not stopping, these contractions. I’m in so much pain. I was like, “I think I’m breaking through the stitch. I don’t know what’s going on.” I called up, and I said, “Something’s not right.” And they said, “Okay, come over to the hospital.” So I remember going over to the hospital and seeing Dr. Silverstein. Is he still there?
Dr. Fox: Yeah, he’s right next door to me right now.
Fortune: Oh, okay. So Dr. Silverstein checked me, and he said, “I think the stitch needs come out.” But I think the fear was that, like, I was ripped through and that would be worse. I think that’s what he had said, right?
Dr. Fox: Yeah, if you’re contracting, you know, if the uterus is contracting very strongly, the stitch, A, it’s not gonna help because the problem isn’t the cervix. The problem is you’re contracting. And, B, it could actually be harmful because if you keep contracting and that knot is there, the cervix can tear. So once someone sort of goes into labor with a stitch in place, we do remove it. We try to remove it before someone goes into labor, but obviously, if you’re very preterm, you know, sometimes people go into labor first. So, yes, it was time to remove it. So it got removed. And I think at that time, you probably got, you know, steroids to help the lungs mature and, you know, the medicines again, like you got last time. Did you think they were gonna deliver at that time? Like, when you came into the hospital, were you like, “That’s it. I’m delivering my babies”?
Fortune: I actually did. I did. I remember thinking, “Okay, thank God, I got into 32 weeks,” because I remember, you know, when you’re pregnant with twins, every weeks is like, “Okay, I got to 28 weeks. Now they’re viable. I got to 32 weeks. They say that’s the…okay, once you’re 32 weeks, it’s fine. These babies are gonna be…you know, they’re gonna make it in the long run, and they’re not gonna have any sort of deficiencies.” So even though I wasn’t happy about delivering that time, when I walked into the hospital, I was sure I was delivering. And I remember Dr. Silverstein saying, “Okay, we’re gonna take it out.” And I said, “Well, where’s my epidural?” And he goes, “I got an epidural to get it in you, you’re just gonna take it out.” And he took it out, and boy, did you hear me screaming.
But I remember, and I don’t forget it. But, yeah, it was over in a second, in a minute, and once it was out, I thought that that was it. I was gonna be giving birth. And I was really, like, feeling not ready, and these babies are not ready. And then somehow things just sort of settled down, which was so unexpected. Like, the uterus calmed down, and then, like, I don’t know. Somehow he’s like, “Okay, you’re gonna go home. Some people deliver within a few days of this, and then some can people just hang around.” And I kind of said, “I don’t even know if I’m gonna make it home.” So it was really unexpected.
Dr. Fox: Right. And you went back on the terbutaline pump, that medication to stop the contraction. We were still using it back then. And I mean, even then it was somewhat of a controversial medication because it wasn’t clear that it worked at anybody, let alone in twins. Nowadays, you know, very, very few people use it. We don’t use them anymore. There’s been more and more data that it’s not helpful, and more and more data that it might even be harmful, not to the babies, but to the mothers. So you survived. So that’s okay. But, you know, it’s interesting. When we look at these things, you know, it’s just fascinating. We have no idea. Like, did you stay pregnant because you were getting that medication? Meaning, it did help you. Or did you get pregnant in spite of getting that medication? Meaning, it didn’t make a bit of difference, and you would have stayed pregnant regardless. And it’s so hard to know what these things, and it just, you know…it gives us so much humility over the recommendations we make.
And listen, the same is true with the cerclage. I don’t know for sure what would have happened if you didn’t get the cerclage. Maybe it helped you. Maybe it didn’t because, you know, even after it got removed, you were pregnant another what, three weeks? I think you it was around…
Fortune: Four, four. Four weeks.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, you’re sort of like 36 plus weeks. I mean, these babies were…they were like five pounds. They were big.
Fortune: You know, it’s so interesting what you’re saying because even, like from my third pregnancy where I was on the terbutaline pump and I literally moved into my mother’s house with my children so she can help me take care of them, because they told me I am not allowed to get up, only to go to the bathroom. And when I came to your practice and all of a sudden they’re like, “Listen, I’m not telling you to go run a marathon, but you’re allowed to live your life and be normal even though you’re having a high-risk pregnancy.” To me it was like, oh, it was so refreshing. And I think it speaks to what you’re saying about how sometimes the old approach is not the current approach, and things are, like, totally evolving all the time.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, we were always pretty negative on bed rests, you know, even back then. We’re like, it doesn’t work. It’s just gonna be annoying, and, you know, so we weren’t really prescribing it then anyways. The medications, you know, because they weren’t really thought to be so dangerous. We’re like, all right, worst case scenario, it’s dumb, and it doesn’t work, but, like, whatever. But, yes, so bed rest, you know. So you made it to 36 plus weeks. You ultimately did go into labor, you know, officially. You delivered them both vaginally, right?
Fortune: Yes, they were both vaginal.
Dr. Fox: That was with Dr. Klauser. Yeah, a blessed memory.
Fortune: Did he pass?
Dr. Fox: Yeah, Dr. Klauser passed.
Fortune: Oh, I didn’t hear that.
Dr. Fox: He passed away a few years ago. It was pretty horrible.
Fortune: He was such a kind man. So, so, so kind and so gentle.
Dr. Fox: And you had the two boys, and…
Fortune: So I had two boys.
Dr. Fox: And did they have to spend any time in the NICU?
Fortune: No. So that was such a blessing for me. My twin A was about five pounds. Twin B was six pounds, and they were…I still tell them now. They’re 12 years old. I always say, “You know what the happiest day of life is?” And all my kids always say, “What, the day you got married?” Oh, I go, “No, no. The day the twins were born.” And everyone’s like, “Why them?” But it was such a moment for me, you know, even as…especially with all the history and just having been able to deliver them full-term and for them to be able to come home a day and a half later with me. It was a miracle.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I mean, you’re coming off, you know, a loss of a daughter, and then difficulty conceiving, and then a very, you know, scary pregnancy with a lot going on, and it could have gone in many different directions, and here you are having an uncomplicated birth, and two healthy boys are coming home with you in two days, which is, you know, it’s miraculous. It’s awesome. And so it doesn’t mean you love them more than your other kids, although you might, but it just means that, you know, in terms of…
Fortune: They’re all special.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, the gratitude. I mean, you can’t possibly have that sort of gratitude with your first or second kid. You know, you don’t know any better or, you know, you have no idea all the things that can go wrong in the world, and here you are with so much more perspective on it and how much more meaningful it is that things went right.
Fortune: Absolutely. You know, I also wanna share that at the time, Dr. Klauser, I delivered twin A, and he was head down, and then twin B was not. Twin B was, I think, he was to the side, or his feet, and Dr. Klauser was, like, he was a miracle worker. You know, he got his hands in there, and he turned this baby, and it was to me, like…I have a sister-in-law that also has twins. So she delivered her first baby vaginally, and then the second baby was breeched. And so she delivered vaginally, and she had a C section for baby B. So I was like…you know, I think that that’s where you see the difference by being with a high-risk doctor that knows what they’re doing, that’s really got the skill to really be able to have that better outcome. So, for me, I was really, really grateful, you know, that he was able to do that for me.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I mean, obviously, having a C section of twins is not a bad outcome if you have two healthy babies, but for many women, they can deliver vaginally, and you’re the ideal candidate. I mean, you’ve delivered four babies before vaginally. You’re healthy. You’re thin. You’re fine. And so even if Twin B is not in the right position, there are maneuvers to deliver them. It’s just an issue of being trained to do them, and some people have that training, and some people, unfortunately, don’t. And it’s not necessarily their fault. A lot of training programs don’t have enough opportunity. People don’t see enough or do enough. And so in our practice, it’s one of the things we’re very proud of that we, you know, do deliver twins vaginally even when the second one is not head down. And listen, it’s great for you. Your recovery is so much easier.
Fortune: Oh, for sure. Definitely. It was easy, thank God. Not even stitch. It was really great.
Dr. Fox: Amazing. And so now that they’re born and you’re home, how was your recovery from the birth in terms of just, you know, physically, it sounds like it’s pretty good, but also just emotionally. Now you have two more newborns. Is it, like, gruesome hard or is it, like, total joy because you have these two healthy babies? How did it go for you?
Fortune: Total joy. Total, total joy. Yeah, like I could see how maybe some people would feel overwhelmed. For me it was like, “Thank you, God. I will wake up. I will figure out how to do it”. And it’s interesting because somehow, I don’t remember a hard day raising them. I don’t remember a hard day feeding them. Somehow they were just…I would prop them in the little bouncer with the bottle. And they would drink, and then I would pick them up and burp them, and it was so easy. And yet the other babies that I had afterwards would kill me. I would have to sit and hold them and hug them. And so something about twins, they become very independent, and they were just really good-natured. So I was blessed that it really went really well for me. It was all joy for me.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I was gonna get to that. So now you have five children at home, five boys, and you have the memory of your daughter, and you decide you’re still going. And you had ultimately three more, right?
Fortune: Three more. So I’ll tell you a little bit about that. Two years after I had my twins, I said, “I’m afraid, you know.” I think that, you know, once you struggle with second infertility, you start to think like, “Oh, boy, you know, maybe I just got lucky that I got pregnant with those twins. Like, maybe I really can’t conceive again.” And so after two years, I said, “You know what? We’re gonna get rid of this birth control, and we’re gonna see.” And, boom, I was pregnant the first month. And that’s where I really realized that a lot of that mental energy of just being positive and being emotionally healthy is so important to conception.
So I got pregnant with my sixth. Thank God it was a really uncomplicated pregnancy. He was actually my first baby, believe it or not, he was actually one day overdue. This is the only one that ever went past the due date. That was baby number six.
Dr. Fox: Isn’t it crazy? And we didn’t do anything. Like, there was no…you didn’t have a cerclage. You didn’t have medicine. Like, nothing. It just, you know, this pregnancy was after your due date. Go figure. Again, it just shows you how we have no idea which of these interventions do and don’t help necessarily for an individual person, and it was…I remember it was really interesting. We’re talking at pregnancy, “What are we gonna do?” Like, how are we gonna treat you in this pregnancy? And I think we just watched you closely, but didn’t actually do anything interventional, and it worked out. So you had another boy.
Fortune: I had another boy. So here I am with my sixth boy, and then I don’t know about it. No, then, actually, I’ll never forget it, my husband tells the story all the time. The sixth boy was three and a half months old, and I’m thinking, “Hey, I’m a little late.” And I was using birth control. I can tell you that for sure. And I’m like, “Nah, can’t be.” And then I got a pregnancy test, and sure enough, there it was, a positive pregnancy test even when I didn’t wanna be pregnant. And I said, “Okay.” I called my husband. I remember he was away in China at the time, and I said, “Are you sitting down?” And he said, “No. Why?” And I said, “I’m pregnant.” He’s like, “What? Are you crazy?” And I was like, “Well, I didn’t do this. You did this.” So it was that kind of thing, but, you know, after the initial shock set in, we got excited about it, and we said, “You know, we’re not in charge in this world, so.”
Dr. Fox: Right. It’s the exact opposite of your other experience. So, you know, after the other pregnancy, you’re trying to get pregnant and you can’t, and now you’re not trying to get pregnant and you do.
Fortune: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.
Dr. Fox: And that was another uncomplicated pregnancy and another boy, right?
Fortune: Another boy. So I had my seven boys. Yes, I gave birth. It was a full-term pregnancy. You know, maybe a week or two early, and he was…yeah, everything went really smoothly and really well, and that was when I said, “We are done, okay?” When I…
Dr. Fox: And that’s the one you named after me. That’s your baby Nathan.
Fortune: Yes, that’s my baby Nathan. [inaudible 00:27:40]
Dr. Fox: Or your grandfather. One of the two.
Fortune: Yeah. I know. He’s really named after my father, but I like you a lot, Dr. Fox, so I’ll give you the credit for it.
Dr. Fox: It’s fine, it’s fine. It’s just, it could be both. There’s no problem.
Fortune: That works. That works, definitely. So at that point, we really felt like thank you. We’re done. I was really satisfied. When I got married at 20, because people go into marriage thinking, “Oh, I want two kids, a boy and a girl.” I walked in saying, “I only want three kids. I don’t want a big family.” And then somehow life happens, and you lose a baby, and then you realize how much you want babies, and then all of a sudden, you have all these other babies, and then here I am, and I have seven, and I’m like, “Whoa! How did I get here? You know, I didn’t set out for this.” So at that time, I was really done, and I had put in my IUD, and I was like, “Okay, this is it.”
And then a bunch of years later, I think Nathan was already…he must have been, like, four or five. My grandmother kept saying, “Have one more. Have one more.” And I’m like, “Grandma, I have seven. Are you crazy? You only had four. Why are you telling me to have more?” She’s like, “You never know if you’ll have a daughter. It’ll be so good. And if you’ll have one more boy, it will be in with the bunch.” So, yeah, she crazy. And I kept thinking about it. And then I said, “You know what? I’m gonna take out the IUD. Who knows? Maybe.” And that was the greatest. That was like the biggest miracle. I took out the IUD. I actually, at the time, I was already 36. So I was like at a different stage, you know. I had my first baby at 19, so now I’m 36. I’m above the 35-year old sort of threshold of, you know, it’s more of a high-risk thing, and I actually conceived, I think, twice, and miscarried both times. So then I said, “You know what? Maybe like my body’s done, you know. Maybe that’s what it was.” And then I got pregnant, and it was strong, and everything was good. And at that time, I remember talking to you, Dr. Fox, about it. It was at 10 weeks at the… Before that, in my other pregnancies, they didn’t have this, but at 10 weeks, they can just take blood work, right?
Dr. Fox: Right.
Fortune: And from the blood work, they can tell you the gender of the baby. They check all, you know, sort of birth defects and anomalies and stuff like that.
Dr. Fox: For genetics, chromosomal problems. Right. Either NIPT is sort of what we use, or we were using Panorama, which is the brand name of the company. But, yeah, it’s a blood test to find out about…
Fortune: It’s a blood test.
Dr. Fox: …Down syndrome, about whether it’s a boy or a girl. It’s pretty cool. Yeah, that was around when you were pregnant with her, and it wasn’t really around during Nathan’s pregnancy.
Fortune: Right. So at the time, I was… You know, you have to also realize, after having a pregnancy where you have a baby with such, you know, big defect, every single time, it was like a miracle for me when things were good. You don’t get used to that. So even after I had had two healthy…the twins that were healthy, and then two other babies, you know, when I was pregnant here, I wanted, you know, some sort of assurance that things were looking good. So I did the blood test. I remember where I was standing, Dr. Fox, when you called and you said, “Everything looks good. Do you wanna know the gender?” And I was like, “I know I wanna know, but I’m scared to know. What if it’s another boy?” But [inaudible 00:30:44] would be good. It would be a blessing. I knew it would be a blessing. I said, “You know what? Tell me.” And I remember you telling me it’s a girl, and I said, “No, it’s a mistake.” And I remember screaming. Do you remember me screaming on the phone?
Dr. Fox: I do.
Fortune: Because I was screaming.
Dr. Fox: I do. I remember. You know, some of those calls, you really remember. You know, it’s not that often you get to call someone who has seven boys and say they’re having a daughter, especially after someone lost a daughter. I mean, it’s, like, crazy exciting at that time.
Fortune: Yeah. It really was very, very, very special, and I was so happy to have you on the other end sharing that news with me. So that also was like a really good pregnancy. Everything went really well. The delivery was great. You know, I was living in Jersey at the time because it was the summer. I go to Jersey for the summers. So, like, getting to the hospital was a bit of a struggle. I had a few actually false labors, you know, where I thought I was in labor and I wasn’t. But then, you know, at the end, everything went really smoothly. And my daughter is now three and a half, and we have a really, really, really lively home, but a very, very, very grateful and excited home as well. So everything is really…we’re really blessed.
Dr. Fox: Right. I was gonna ask you. Your oldest is, I guess, 21, almost 22, right?
Fortune: Yup, yup. Turning 22 in April, yeah.
Dr. Fox: Wow. So, you know, and you’re coming on that age. Have you thought about what it’s gonna be like to be a grandmother?
Fortune: Wow, Dr. Fox, you’re really jumping ahead with that. You know, I don’t know if he’s just ready yet. We probably still have another few years before that. It’s interesting because when you’re young and dumb and you have your first baby and things go smoothly, you don’t realize the miracle and everything going well. So, yeah, I mean, it would be really exciting to get to that next stage and to have grandchildren, and I look forward to it at the right time. But I also, I think that being older and knowing what can go wrong, and all the different difficulties that can arise, I think just being able to appreciate when things do go right, I don’t know. I think that only comes with age, Dr. Fox. I don’t know if you can…I don’t know that a young person can really understand that.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I was gonna ask you. You know, you’ve obviously, in the world of pregnancy, you’ve been around the block a couple of times. And if someone came to you for advice, you know, someone, she’s either about to get married or about to, you know, she’s married and think, “I’m gonna have kids.” Whether it’s, you know, one of your own kids or just someone you know, what advice would you give to them before they’re starting pregnancy? Would you even give them anything, you know, at all? You know, saying that, you know, maybe they can’t even grasp that it’s not worth it, but is there advice you’d give to somebody?
Fortune: No, I actually think that I wouldn’t. I think, you know, there’s a place for just being young and dumb and things going right. And if you can get through your whole life like that where things just go smoothly, you know, I’ll be happy for you, and I don’t think that we need to really, like, alert them about all the different difficult things that can happen. You know, I think that another thing that I would share is, you know, you said it before, and I don’t wanna be one of the doctors, but when I had lost my baby and the baby had a major heart defect, at the time, I remember someone suggest to go for genetic testing. So my husband and I went for genetic testing, and it comes out with, like, this really sort of, like, very professional report, and the report had your chances of getting a baby with Down syndrome is this. Your chances of having a baby with this defect and that defect, and it gives you a whole sort of list. One in 1000, 1 in 10,000, 1 in 600, 1 in 82, and it really scared me.
Like, I remember at the time after I had had my three boys and I had lost my baby, they had scared me that, like, maybe you’re good. Like maybe you should just be good because your chances of having another baby with a birth defect is 1 in 82 in this one. That’s not so low, 1 in 82. And I remember thinking to myself, you know, sometimes having that knowledge could be helpful, but sometimes you also have to just take it with a grain of salt and just, for me, I guess my faith helps me that, you know, there’s a higher authority in this world. So I think it’s important to know that people have to pick the signs that’s out there, but, you know, incorporate it into your own life and make educated decision, and not allow it to paralyze you or to cause a lot of anxiety for you.
So I was really lucky that I was able to look at that report and then just say, “You know what? I’m good,” and I just was able to, like, just put it away. And look, I’m so lucky that I did because I had five healthy children afterwards.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, what you’re saying is really important. I totally agree. And, you know, these tests, before we do them, we talk to people about them before. We say, “Listen, do you want us to do this or not?” And I think that that’s really important because sometimes these tests just get sent. It’s sort of routine thing. “Oh, we’re gonna do this, this, and this.” And then you get these results back, and for some people, it’s horrifying, and they don’t want these results. And so we have to talk. We say, “Listen, do you wanna know what your risk is?” And some people do, and some people don’t. And even for those who do, you have to sort of present it in a way that’s, you know, both understandable, but also put it in context, and what is it that they’re looking for? And it has to be individualized. And I agree. It’s not something that you just want to throw it out at people because it can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety they didn’t sign up for.
Fortune: I don’t even remember it being a conscious decision, but it was just like, I was given over the information, and somehow I was able to just take it and say, “Okay, this is what it is. Let’s see what life brings.” So I wanna put that out there to people because I think that a lot of people can get paralyzed from that. And then just say, you know, like, “Oh, I’m not gonna attempt that kind of thing.” And that’s not how this world works. We’ve seen people, you know, have difficult pregnancies, and then all of a sudden have, you know, healthy babies and smooth pregnancies. So I think it’s important to just be hopeful that, you know, each time is, you know, its own sort of bride, and I think that, you know, your past doesn’t predict your future really with these things. You can use it to make good decisions, but it doesn’t mean that just because you had a bad outcome once, that it’s gonna always be that way.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I was gonna ask you that, you know, obviously we’ve known each other a long time, and you always appear to be very calm, right? You just seem to be very calm, relaxed, and you don’t appear anxious at all. And that may just be your demeanor. How do you present that way with all these crazy stuff going on with your pregnancies, your life, and all the things that can go wrong, and you know about them. Is it your faith that you mentioned before, or is it something else about it that either you’re always this way or you learned from your pregnancies that it’s able to keep you so, you know, at ease despite all the craziness?
Fortune: I would say that by nature, I’m not an anxious person. I think that, you know, some people are just born that way where they have a temperament where… I have a friend that tells me every day, “Oh, my gosh. I think I’m getting cancer.” Like, you know, that’s not my style. I’m a much more laid-back kind of person. But I definitely think my faith is a big thing. For me, it’s been so helpful because when you sort of resign yourself that you’re not the one in charge and we’re along for the ride, it allows me to just live and to just sort of accept and sort of just go with it. And, yeah, I definitely think that when you look back at, you know, let’s say I think of something that I was really, really worried about, and then if you can press forward a year, and then you see that, “Oh, it never even came to fruition. It never even happened. And why was I even wasting time and energy worrying about it?” it allowed me to, like, sort of let go of those small anxieties that I had in my life because I realize that most of them never even end up becoming an issue or presenting themselves.
So, yeah, definitely I think that with time, we learn. And honestly, Dr. Fox, I got eight kids. I work as a life coach. I volunteer. I’m a vice president of a social services organization. I think the lack of time also helps a lot with the lack of time to be anxious. You know what I mean?
Dr. Fox: You’re too busy to be anxious.
Fortune: Yeah, I wanted to touch on that. If you could talk a little bit about sort of where you are now that you are a life coach and talk about, you know, SBH, which is the organization you’re involved. But first just, you know, what you do and what are these? And then I’ll sort of ask you how it might relate, you know, to your pregnancy history.
Dr. Fox: I’m a vice president of a social service organization in my community. It’s called SBH. SBH is an organization that helps people facing difficulty, be it financial, medical, emotional, sort of anything. Most recently, we launched a new division called Fertility Division. In the past, we felt…I think it’s really like a worldwide issue where fertility had been a little bit of a taboo topic where people weren’t really talking about it so much, where people were embarrassed about it, and it wasn’t so widely spoken about. And so in our community, especially it was like that because in the Jewish community, sort of these things sometimes tend to be, like, swept under the rug and not spoken about. So we opened this fertility program. It’s about a year and a half ago. And now it’s really become very robust. It’s a huge division by us.
We have women that are struggling conceiving that are matched up with peers that have been through, let’s say, a similar type of medical issue and can understand, had gotten to the other side and can be a support system for them. We have support groups for people struggling with fertility. We have support groups for people dealing with loss. I recently attended a loss training where, you know, you really train on going into the hospital and helping somebody through that loss. Like, I remember when I had lost my baby, when I had delivered that baby, how traumatic it was, and I was just doing it alone. Like, I knew at the time instinctively that I wanted to hold my baby till she took her last breath. But some people are not as smart, and they have regrets later on. So we really have a fertility division that really deals with all different types of…any type of issue related to fertility or loss or stillborn or anything, and we’re really there to support them.
I just heard the other day that, you know, like I said, we started a year and a half ago. We actually have four women that are pregnant and due within the spring, which is really, really exciting, you know. You don’t always have such success with people struggling with infertility, but, yeah, the fact that we have four babies that are hopefully gonna be born soon due to our help, it’s really, really exciting. And I think it’s a great resource for anybody that’s struggling with fertility and can use the support, you know. You’re not alone, and I think that it makes it so much more manageable when you realize that there are other people out there that are going through the same thing and can sort of lean on each other. It makes the burden much, much lighter.
Dr. Fox: Do you feel like you’re involved in this specifically because of everything you went through as a mother?
Fortune: Yeah, I definitely think that, you know, when you feel like you have lots to give because it’s the experience that you’ve had in your life. When I heard about it, I said, “Oh, I need to be a part of this because it speaks to me.” Absolutely, absolutely. And especially when they were working on the loss training, I even got a call last night that can I go on the loss school. I happened to not have been available, but just having been through my own loss, you wanna help somebody else that’s going through a similar struggle and help them through it, and, you know, in a way that might be better than you went through. So, definitely, I think our experiences in our lives lead us to the work that we become passionate about, for sure.
Dr. Fox: It’s so interesting because you said before that you probably wouldn’t burden a new mom with all the horrible things that could happen to her in her fertility journey. And I agree. It’s not like there’s no reason to sit someone down and say, “Here’s a fifty terrible things that could happen to you.” On the other hand, for people who are going through that, you want there to be sort of open conversation about it, and resources, and the ability for them to find somebody and find out that this is not so uncommon that a lot of people struggle, that you’re not alone, all those things. And to try to balance those two ideas of not throwing out, you know, all the horrible things in front of people, but being available to them if things aren’t going right is a really important balance. And I think it’s just amazing that you’ve volunteered your time and your experience and your own personality and all your efforts to this cause. I really think it’s amazing, and the people who you are gonna help are really gonna appreciate it, obviously.
Fortune: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I wanna offer that to, you know, any of your patients that feel like they can use a little help, definitely SBH, the Fertility Division is there is to help.
Dr. Fox: How do they find SBH? What does it stand for? Is there a website? Is there a phone number? What’s the best way to find you?
Fortune: The phone number is 718-787-1100, and they could just ask to be transferred to the Fertility Division. It’s that simple.
Dr. Fox: Fantastic. Fortune, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. You were sort of like, “Why do you wanna talk to me?” And I’m like, “Like, you’ve been through so much. You’re so interesting, and you’re so easy to talk to.”
Fortune: And I don’t think I’m so interesting. Okay, well.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, and you know that, obviously, you know, I love talking to you. You know, we’ve known each other a long time, been through a lot.
Fortune: Dr. Fox, am I still your favorite patient? You used to tell me I’m your favorite patient. I always said you’re my favorite doctor. But I said, “I think he tells that to everybody.” So, guys, if he tells you that you’re his favorite patient, just know that he said that one before.
Dr. Fox: Well, it could be that you’re also my first favorite patient. How about that?
Fortune: Okay, okay, you’re qualifying. That works. That works. Okay, it sounds good.
Dr. Fox: Wonderful. Thanks, Fortune.
Fortune: Okay, thank you, Dr. Fox. Thank you.
Dr. Fox: I always enjoy talking to Fortune. She has an amazing perspective on life, and it is no surprise that she now volunteers her time to help others. It’s hard to imagine someone with eight children having a lot of spare, but she makes it work. For those of you interested, the organization she was referring to is SBH or the Sephardic Bikur Holim, which can be found online at www.sbhonline.org. Thanks for listening. Have a great day.
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