THE PARENTS: Svetlana Oganisean, 31, and Vardgas Oganisean, 30, of Feasterville
THE CHILD: Simona, born April 11, 2019
WHAT HELPED DURING THEIR LONG STRUGGLE TO CONCEIVE: An acupuncturist who specialized in treating infertility; though Svetlana’s first treatment — in a small, dark room, and with all those needles — made her feel panicky, she persisted and believes the treatments helped her sustain a pregnancy.
Svetlana just wanted to understand the problem. Why had it taken three months after their wedding for two young, healthy people to conceive? Why had she miscarried at 12 weeks, then lost a second pregnancy on the exact date that first baby would have been due?
When the fertility specialist shared the results of extensive testing of both Svetlana and Vardgas — “You don’t have anything to worry about. You are healthy. Things are fine” — all she could do was weep.
“I was waiting for a problem, to solve it, and he was telling me there was no problem,” she says. “Everybody was saying the same thing: Don’t worry. It will be fine. But I had a fear inside of me, to get pregnant again, that I would lose it again.”
They met at St. Andrew’s Church in Center City, at Easter, a significant holiday in Svetlana’s birthplace of Moldova and in Vardgas’ homeland, Armenia. There were decorated eggs, sweet yeasted bread, and mutual friends who thought the two would make a great couple.
But Svetlana was grieving the demise of a six-year relationship. “I thought, ‘OK, Vardgas, nice to meet you.’ I was cold; I didn’t want to talk too much.” He persisted, later, at a friend’s barbecue, then with an invitation to a Cirque du Soleil show. She declined. Finally, Vardgas reached out through social media, using a nickname and teasing her gently with jokes.
“I was depressed at that time. He was the person who tried to make me smile. After a couple of days [of messaging], he said, ‘This is Vardgas; we met at the church and the barbecue.’ Then we became friends for half a year.”
During those six months, Svetlana insisted on a chaste relationship: no kissing, not even a hug. “I was getting to know him better,” she says — how Vardgas’s friendliness and energy complemented her quieter nature — “and I realized that he is the person I wanted to have next to me for my whole life.”
She recalls the exact moment, July 29, 2013, when she agreed that they could date. A year later, she moved into Vardgas’ apartment, which he’d readied for her by painting, retiling the bathroom and rehabbing the kitchen. He proposed that Christmas, during a dinner with friends.
At that moment, and during their 2016 wedding at Trinity Armenian Church, Vardgas says, he knew he was doing the right thing. Svetlana recalls her tears: There was the priest, talking about being together through the bad and the good; there was her own mother, who was just 17 when she became pregnant with Svetlana. “The tears were more of happiness,” she says.
Friends and family expected news of a pregnancy right away. And wanting children was never in doubt for the pair. “Children are to continue our lives,” Vardgas says. “Somebody to have our last names. When you have children, you feel absolutely different; you understand your life, why you’re living, why you’re working.”
But nature didn’t comply. After the second miscarriage, Svetlana fell into a depression. She suffered panic attacks. She searched desperately for something to lift her spirits: yoga, meditation, physical activity, acupuncture, online research. It helped that Vardgas listened to her fears and remained unwavering in his faith. “I was sure 100 percent that we want our baby and we’re going to have our baby,” he says.
Finally, after the fertility doctor’s counsel to try again, Svetlana became pregnant. At seven weeks, she had some spotting and felt cramps similar to those that preceded her miscarriages. Panicked, she went for an ultrasound. The baby was intact, the tiny heart fluttering. What’s more, he or she appeared to be waving.
“The doctor captured a picture where the baby is showing a hand like, ‘Hi, I’m here,’ like they were giving a high-five,” Svetlana recalls. “That was a sign that I would have the baby.” Still, she prayed — in church each Sunday, and at every prenatal appointment — that the pregnancy would endure.
“My acupuncturist told me, ‘You need to tell yourself you are having a healthy, happy baby.’ I was always saying to myself: I am having a healthy, happy baby. That phrase was kind of calming my thoughts.”
Svetlana was alone, after a brief housecleaning frenzy, when her water broke. Vardgas rushed home to drive her to Holy Redeemer Hospital. An induction, an epidural, a bit of fitful sleep … and finally, at 5 a.m., Svetlana called the nurse to say, “I think I feel something.” Simona was born an hour later.
“I remember she was crying. I held her. I was talking to her. She was listening to my voice, and then she was just so silent. I couldn’t hold my tears.” Vardgas gropes for words, reaching past barriers of language and feeling to describe that moment. “It was incredible. Emotional. I don’t know how to explain it. A new baby born — a little bit blue, gray, red, but so beautiful. I remember that moment. Hopefully, we never will forget about it.”
They named their daughter after Romanian tennis star Simona Halep; now Vardgas holds her up whenever women’s tennis is on television. He hopes someday she will swing a tennis racket of her own. For now, “the most important thing is when I work all day and come home. I’m tired, and I see the baby and take her in my hands. The same moment, I relax and forget about all the problems. She takes hold of my brain, my heart, my head. I love her so much.”
Svetlana considers their long journey toward parenthood. “This is the baby that we were waiting for,” she says. “When I was going through all those miscarriages, I always questioned, ‘Why is this happening?’ Sometimes it’s because now is not the right moment.”