SHIFT NC

Mary

Belly Bump: 8 months, Part 2

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Note: In May 2015, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) became SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens). 

Belly Bump is a series where we compare the pregnancy experiences of two women: Delsie, a prevention advocate and UNC student who became a mom at age 17, and Mary, APPCNC’s Community Programs Manager who decided to have a baby with her husband Anthony.  See previous Belly Bump entries.

For this month’s post, Delsie and Mary interviewed each other about their overall experiences with pregnancy so that readers can compare and contrast their different experiences as a pregnant teen and a pregnant adult.

Q: How important was it for you to know the gender of your baby?

Delsie: During the earlier part of my pregnancy I had weighed the pros and cons and decided pretty decisively that I wanted a boy more than anything. I was certain that a boy would be easier to raise and the complications that result with having a girl would be entirely surpassed. But as the months passed, my mentality changed completely. I was not longer concerned with the gender of my baby, but rather the health. I just wanted a healthy baby with 10 fingers, 10 toes, and no health complications. The day that I found out that I would be having a girl, was not one filled with disappointment but rather joy. Sure, she was not the boy that I had hoped for, but she was healthy and that was all that mattered.

Mary: It was VERY important to us.  I’m not patient at all, and needed to know.  My partner and I found out as soon as possible.  We didn’t have a preference on gender, and were thrilled to find out that we were having a boy.  Mostly we were thrilled that the initial sonogram showed a healthy baby.  In the end, that’s all that matters anyways.

Q:  What was your first ultrasound experience like?

Delsie: My very first ultrasound was bittersweet. A positive pregnancy test had suggested that I was with child, but it was not until the moment that I saw my baby for the first time that it really hit home. I was pregnant, and I as I gazed at the unidentifiable blob that represented the end of my childhood, the floodgates of emotions let loose and my eyes filled with tears. Keeping my pregnancy a secret had allowed for me to remain in a state a denial; this ultrasound brought an end to that. But with the acceptance, also came tears of joy. I was going to be a mother. A little life resided in me, and with that ultrasound, came the beginning of a pregnancy filled with many bittersweet moments.

Mary: I was very unmotherly at our first ultrasound.  As I mentioned, we weren’t expecting to get pregnant so quickly, and we had an international trip planned with my family that I was concerned about the due date, and if I could go, etc.  So as our child appeared on the screen, I was talking over his heartbeat to the technician trying to get her to assess an accurate due date.  It wasn’t the emotional moment some people describe…I can be very logistical sometimes.  I will say though, that moment made pregnancy very real to me.  It was then that it finally clicked that this was actually happening.

Q:  With a myriad of names at your disposal, how did you decide what to name your child?

Delsie: When I was a little girl I dreamt about my future; the man I would marry, the kids I would have, the house I would live in- I even had a series of children names picked out. But my dreams didn’t quite pan out the way that I had planned, and when it came to naming my child, all the names that I had entertained before didn’t quite seem fitting.  I was embarking on a new chapter in my life, one that I myself wasn’t even willing to admit to for the longest time. The night before I decided to reveal my pregnancy to my mother, was a night filled with tears and prayers. My back was against the wall, and even though I had felt so far from God, I also felt that he was the only one that would be able to get my through. So I handed it all over to him; my fears, my anxiety, my sleepless nights- I decided to let go and let God. That decision required a lot of faith, especially faced with the uncertainty about how my parents would respond. A couple months later and prayers petitioning God on guidance in the naming of my child, I rested on the name Faith Nicole- a name that I had never entertained before, but one which resounded so well with my situation. A situation that had required an immense amount of faith, brought about an angel named Faith.

Mary: My partner and I began discussing names almost as soon as we found out.  It wasn’t hard for us to narrow down our list to just a few, and by the time we went in to find out the gender we had it narrowed down to about two for each gender.  As soon as we found out we were having a boy, my husband looked at the screen and said “Emmett”? (A name that was on our list).  Looking at his face, so excited, looking at the screen, I couldn’t argue, even though we hadn’t actually decided yet.  And from then on, he was Emmett.

Q:  When you were pregnant, what kind of mother did you want to be?

Delsie: I wanted to be the perfect parent, but then again who doesn’t? When I was younger, I use to swear that I would never be like my mother. I disagreed sharply with the way that she did parenting, especially when I was the recipient of the discipline. But as the birth of my child drew nearer, I found myself wanting to be just like her. I often looked to her for advice and leaned upon her in my moments of uncertainty. It was easy to criticize and make radical claims about how I would be as a parent while I wasn’t a parent, but as the time quickly approached, my views changed. While there were some things that I still didn’t endorse, I began to see an overarching theme in the way my mother parented. There was love. The discipline, denial of some of my requests/wants, and the shielding that she did was all done in love. And so, as I prepared to embrace the title of motherhood, I was determined to be a mother that simply loved my child.

Mary: Now that I am pregnant, I’ve certainly been doing a lot of thinking about the kind of mother I want to be, and honestly I don’t think I know yet.  I’ve been doing a lot of analyzing of other people’s parenting styles, and talking a lot to my partner about how we want to raise our child.  I think right now for me the most important thing is for my partner and I to be on the same page about parenting, disciplining, etc.

Q:  What was the most joyful thing about being pregnant?

Delsie: The most joyful thing about being pregnant was the relationship that developed between my daughter and I. The occasional kicks that reminded me that she was there, and the love that welled up in my heart every time I say her through an ultrasound, was indescribable. There was a little person, with whom I shared a bond that was unlike any other bond that I had experienced and it was this joy that helped to bring me through the trials.

Mary: Honestly, the most joyful thing for me about being pregnant has been how happy it makes my partner.  Seeing the joy that he gets from feeling the baby move and hearing him talk about how excited he is to be a dad.  That’s what’s made me the most happy this whole 9 months, and kept me going on the harder days.

Q:  What was the hardest thing about being pregnant?

Delsie: Initially, the hardest part of being pregnant was dealing with the disappointment that came as a result. But as the months went by, the disappointment became masked by the excitement and the anticipation about the little girl that I would be bringing into the world. And as my pregnancy pressed on, the hardest part was accepting that with the arrival of my little girl, my life as I knew it would be flipped upside down. I would no longer simply be a student and a daughter but rather a student, daughter, and mother, with the latter being the most important of the three.

Mary: The hardest thing for me has been dealing with how others perceive me now that I am pregnant, how society perceives me, and how I perceive myself.  Working all of that out in my mind has been really difficult, and I don’t think I’ve gotten it all figured out just yet, and who knows if I will.

Q:  What is the one piece of advice you would give to other women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant?

Delsie: Pregnancy is nine months of limbo. A time in which you are not quite the same person you were before the conception, but not quite yet experiencing the full blow of parenthood. It is filled with highs and lows, joys and burdens, tears and smiles. And despite the fact that as you near the end the only thing that you want is to be relieved of the baby inside of you, my advice would be to enjoy every minute of it. During those nine months your baby is all yours! You experience a bond and connection with your child that is the closest it will ever be. So, during the nine months of limbo, cherish the experience!

Mary: I would say the most important thing to do is to always be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and about what you need.  If you are feeling sad one day about being pregnant, be sad, that’s ok.  If you’re feeling super joyful, be that, tell the world!  Don’t let others dictate how you should feel about pregnancy and parenting.  Be honest about what you need.  If you need a lot of people around, ask for support, find those people.  If you need a lot of space and alone time, that’s ok too, take as much as you need.  It’s easy to want to become a martyr as soon as you become a mother-to-be, be we all have to remember to take care of ourselves, or we can’t really take care of anybody well.

Q:  What is the one piece of advice you would give to anyone supporting a pregnant woman.

Delsie: Support is essential to a pregnant woman. A pregnancy has the ability to take you out of your element completely. It is filled with moments of anxiety, joy, anticipation and frustration and an active support system provides an avenue through which these emotions can be dealt with. Knowing that you have someone to talk to and that is there whenever you need them makes a world of difference when dealing with such a life changing event.

Mary: I agree with Delsie.  Support is so important, especially just being there to listen when she needs it.  I would add, offer her support in the way that she needs it, not the way that you want to give it, because if you don’t you aren’t really serving her, your just serving yourself.  Find out from her what would really be helpful, she’ll tell you what she needs.

Q:  How do you feel like our society supports pregnant women?

Delsie: I believe that our society is at odds about how to deal with pregnant women. And this may just be in part to the fact that pregnancy is not the same for all women. On one hand, you have women that may experience no real complications in their pregnancy and have no need for any “special” attention. On the other hand, there are those women who at some point in their pregnancy will be placed on bed rest. The spectrum is so broad and varies so greatly that I think society has a hard time setting a standard. If they decide to cater to the needs of the pregnant women that have no real complications, then they present an environment conducive to a woman working and carrying out her usual tasks until her delivery. If they cater to the women that have complications, this environment would need a more understanding mentality, as an order for bed rest is a serious matter that would result in an absence from the work field. And here in lies the problem. Finding the middle ground is something that I feel our society has not quite gotten grasp of, which may just simply mean that our society needs to be conducive to treating each pregnancy on a case by case basis. Pregnancy is not a generalized state but rather an individualistic one and therefore should be treated as such. So for the women that is able to continue working up until the point that she delivers- cater to her as such. And for the women that require a little more care- give them that as well.

Mary: I think our society has come a long way in supporting pregnant women over the years, however, we aren’t there yet.  Between pre-natal care, birthing care, hospital policies, our general lack maternity leave options, and the soaring price of childcare (I could go on) pregnant women and families are barely supported here in a country where we claim to be all about “family values”.

Q:  Any final thoughts?

Delsie: Pregnancy is a life changing event. As the child within you grows, you find yourself growing as well. It requires an altered mentality as you take on a world filled with thoughts of “what is best for my child” rather than simply fulfilling my wants. And while it does have its low points, it also has the ability to have some really high highs. But, as with any other life altering experience, your experience can sometimes depend on whether or not this was a change that you had planned or hoped for. My pregnancy was not planned and as a result I had to cope with changes that I was not necessarily ready to make. It was hurdle that I was not expecting, but with my faith and the support of those around me, I was able to clear it!

Mary: I think that pregnancy can be a really hard thing, regardless of if it was planned or unexpected.  It’s definitely a journey, and really only the beginning of an even longer one.  I’m certainly grateful for the pregnancy I’ve had.  I complain a lot, but truthfully I’ve had a very easy pregnancy physically,  I’m totally surrounded by a loving support system, and I have an amazing partner who supports me entirely.  The thing I think about the most though is how little we as a culture talk about pregnancy, and how it’s often kept in the dark.  My hope is that in the future, the struggles and joys that all women share in pregnancy and parenting can be shared and talked about more openly so that pregnant women can all benefit from more community and societal support.

Belly Bump: 8 Months, Part 1

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Note: In May 2015, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) became SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens). 


Belly Bump is a series where we compare the pregnancy experiences of two women: Delsie, a prevention advocate and UNC student who became a mom at age 17, and Mary, APPCNC’s Community Programs Manager who decided to have a baby with her husband Anthony.  See previous Belly Bump entries.

For this month’s post, Delsie and Mary interviewed each other about their overall experiences with pregnancy so that readers can compare and contrast their different experiences as a pregnant teen and a pregnant adult.

Q:    Did you have any strange cravings?

Delsie: With all the changes and adjustments that my pregnancy had brought into my life, I was banking on using it to my advantage when it came to eating. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I did not have any unusual cravings. In fact, the only things that I yearned for during my pregnancy was pizza and ice cream, and as anyone who knows me can tell you, this is commonplace in my everyday life. So, there was no pickles and ice cream, no late night runs, no real perk, except the ability to claim “I am eating for two”.

Mary: The strangest thing that happened to me was that I stopped wanting to eat; at first because I was sick, then later, because food was unappealing.  My partner and I are huge foodies so not wanting to cook or eat has been really hard.  Later in pregnancy though, I became OBSESSED with cereal and instant breakfast, which was strange, but at least healthy.

Q: Physical changes are a tell tail sign of pregnancy, but what (if any) changes did you undergo mentally?

Delsie: The biggest change was altering my perspective on life. I was made to grow up WAY before my time. I was a child preparing to have a child and this resulted in a shift in my state of mind. My decisions no longer affected only me; they also affected my unborn child. I had to be aware about the things that I was putting into my body as well as what I was doing. While certain foods became off limits, other things (which I did not care too much for) became a part of my diet in an effort to make sure that my child was getting the needed nutrients. In addition to making sure that I took care of myself and my baby, my mentality as far as future endeavors also had to shift. My plans now had to incorporate another individual, one that would be highly dependent on me. And with that realization, came the stresses and anxiety not common to most people my age.

Mary: The biggest change has been altering my perspective on life.  At first the hardest thing was realizing that EVERYTHING I did affected my child:  what I ate, how I exercised, how much I slept.  That has been really overwhelming for my whole pregnancy.  I’ve written in previous blog posts also about the mental shift to becoming “a mom” and what that means.  I think figuring out how to fit “mom” into my identity has been a process, one that’s still happening, and I imagine continues forever.

Q:  Were there any worries that you would lose yourself?

Delsie: A funny thing happens when you become pregnant. A question that you heard all your life and took to mean one thing, takes on an entirely different meaning. Before my pregnancy the question “How are you doing?” was a means of getting at the state of my well-being. After my pregnancy, this question no longer aimed at my well-being but rather the well-being of my child. “How are you doing” translated into “how is the baby doing”. So was there a fear that I would lose myself?—most definitely. My identity changed as the child within my womb continued to develop. I was no longer simply Delsie, I was Delsie with a baby—and this addition seemed to equate to a subtraction from me as an individual.

Mary: Absolutely.  All the time.  It’s so true, that when you become pregnant and people ask “How are you” mostly they mean “How is the pregnancy”.  Most people don’t ask me about work anymore, or hobbies.  Just the baby.  And, I worry a lot about my identity, and who I’ll be once this new person is in our life.  You have to make so much room in your life for a new child, that you can’t help but wonder what will get pushed out of your life to make room, or at least what you’ll have less time for.

Q:   The thought of babies are often times synonymous with joy, were there any moments in which your pregnancy was viewed more as a burden than a joy?

Delsie: There were quite a few times that my pregnancy presented a burden for me, (other than the obvious additionally weight that I had to lug around). There were times that I wanted to go out with friends, but thanks to my pregnancy, I couldn’t. There were times that I wanted to consume caffeine to alleviate my constant fatigue (also thanks to my pregnancy), but couldn’t. There were times that I wanted to put on a cute outfit, but there was no way that I could pull it off with the massive bump before me. And as I strained to apply a new coat of nail polish on my toes, I felt the burden of my pregnancy. There are times when I simply wanted to go back to being a teenager, but I couldn’t. It was during these times that I realized that while I loved the child that was developing inside me; a part of me couldn’t wait to get back a sliver of my individuality.

Mary: Definitely.  I think this is a “dirty little secret” of motherhood.  We all feel like we need to be happy and love our whole pregnancy, but the truth of it is, that pregnancy is hard, for lots of reasons.  Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I complained about pregnancy (my poor partner).  Days when I would realize how drastically my life was about to change or days when I wanted to go out with my friends, but literally couldn’t muster the energy:  those days were really hard.  The biggest burden for me though was dealing with society and other people mostly.  Strangers asking me random questions about my body and pregnancy.  I really dislike that, I’m just such a private person.  That’s it’s been hard for me to deal with.

Q:  What are some things that you were forced to give up?

Delsie: Cute outfits, a nice figure, caffeine, mobility, marching band, my senior prom…and the list goes on. The reoccurring theme in my pregnancy was one of sacrifice. I had to give up the things that I wanted, in order to make ensure the safety of my child. I gave up my childhood to embrace motherhood.

Mary: Caffeine, sandwiches, exercising as much as I like to, time with friends…cute outfits was hard for me too!  Shopping just became sad.  Happy hour got left in the dust.  Lots of the food things were hard for me.

Q:   What were some of your concerns?

Delsie: In addition to the typical fears that surround the idea of labor, my main concern was my ability to be a mother. I knew nothing about raising a child, but yet I had one on the way. I had no idea how I was going to juggle finishing school (which is a crucial to providing any semblance of a good life for my child), while also playing the role of a mother. I had no idea how things were going to play out. I was completely out of my element, and this scared me more than anything.

Mary: My concerns were both logistical and mental.  Making sure I was doing everything right like getting good prenatal care, eating right, exercising, getting the right gear, getting the house organized and decorated (we had just moved into our first house when we found out I was pregnant).  I really tried to do a lot of deep thinking with my partner, about what we really needed as a couple throughout pregnancy, and about what kind of parents we want to be.

Q:  While undergoing immense changes in your life, sometimes it is easier if you have a support system. Who did you look to for support during your pregnancy?

Delsie: My biggest support system came from the most unexpected place; my mother. 3 months of secrecy was a result of my fear of how my parents would respond. Her initial response was right along the lines of what I would have expected—shock, disbelief, disappointment, hurt, but when she moved passed the initial shock; she became the person I leaned most strongly on. During the first stages of my pregnancy, my child’s father claimed that he would be there for me, and while he did stick around for a while, this promise soon proved to be very flimsy. He didn’t understand what I was going through—true be told, he couldn’t. He wasn’t the one carrying a life, his lifestyle wasn’t altered, and his goals didn’t change. He was a father, not a mother, and this made all the difference. So in the areas where he fell short, my mother filled in. In addition to my mother, another vital piece of my support system was the Adolescent Parenting Program. Not only were the social workers very helpful, but having a support system of other teen mothers was also very beneficial. It helped to know that I was not the only one, and the occasional rant helped to alleviate some of the emotions that were building up inside of me.

Mary: My number one support is my partner.  He has been there for me through everything, from the excitement of finding out to when I have been a hormonal weepy mess because we are out of instant breakfast.  He’s read the baby books, and thought really deeply about pregnancy, what it means for women, a lot of the really big issues that I don’t think a lot of partners take the time to think through.  I couldn’t have made it through this pregnancy without him, and I know he’s going to be a great dad.  Our families too have been incredible supportive, just listening to us and being there when we need them.  Our friends have been supportive, making us laugh and making sure we leave the house….keeping things light on those days when pregnancy is really hard.  Even my coworkers are awesome, empathizing with the hard things of pregnancy and celebrating the joy.  I can’t say how grateful I am for all the people who have helped us through this, because there is no way we could have done it without support.

Belly Bump: 7 Months

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Note: In May 2015, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) became SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens). 


Belly Bump is a series where we compare the pregnancy experiences of two women: Delsie, a prevention advocate and UNC student who became a mom at age 17, and Mary, APPCNC’s Community Programs Manager who decided to have a baby with her husband Anthony.  See previous Belly Bump entries.

Delsie

There are some secrets that are easy to keep hidden but a pregnancy is not one of them.  Entering into the 7 month of my pregnancy, this soon became quite clear. Discretion about my pregnancy was imperative during the first few months of my pregnancy. With so many thoughts and emotions running through my head I wanted to be certain about my situation before I decided to let anyone in on it. After relaying the news to my parents, I realized that a cloud of discretion still hovered over my life. I was 17 and pregnant and this was not something that I was proud of. So with loose fitting outfits and large hoodies, I concealed the belly bump that was forming. I was bent on keeping the number of people that knew about my pregnancy to a minimum, but as I soon found out, this was a huge undertaking. There are many secrets that are easy to keep hidden, but my pregnancy was not one of them.

Entering into my 7 month of pregnancy, the belly that I strove so hard to conceal seemed to come back with a vengeance. I blew up! The hoodies and loose clothing no longer could hide the bundle of joy that steadily grew inside me. And the secret that I fought so hard to keep hidden became common knowledge to all. High school in itself has its own pressures and obstacles. Take the need to achieve and the need to be accepted and add a baby to the mix, and you would have a slight glimpse as to what my life consisted of. For everyone in school that didn’t know about my pregnancy, the 7th month was the tell tail sign. Walking up and down the halls of my high school now was filled with the typical high school apprehensions as well as the anxiety about what other people thought about me. Let’s face it, 17 and pregnant isn’t the ideal situation, especially when you had once previously held yourself to very high standards. And while other people may have thought my moral standards had fallen, it was my academic standards that concerned me the most.

Senior year of high school was the year that I had anticipated greatly. It was the year for college applications, AP classes, and the time to leave my mark on my beloved high school. With a baby on the way, these things included an additional level of difficulty. For once, I had to work for my grades. An AP course load coupled with the constant fatigue made for a difficult semester. Staying awake in class soon became a challenge and completing my homework was a task in itself. There were many nights when my mother would find me asleep amongst a bed full of books and homework. For the first time in my high school career not only had I come across material that was challenging, but coupled with my constant need for sleep; I had met my match. And whether or not my mom had noticed, scattered amongst the opened books and the unfinished homework were the tears of a girl that had simply felt defeated.

But, there was a silver lining to it all; I was only two months away from meeting the face of my angel. My anticipation grew with every passing day and with every kick and movement, I longed for the day that I would finally hold her in my arms. After 7 months, complete with all the ups and downs, I had developed a strong bond to the baby that lay nestled in my womb. I began to wonder about how she would look, what her personality would be like, and most of all, how my life would change when she finally made her appearance. With the conception of my daughter, life as I had known it was already flipped completely upside down. My plans were altered, new goals were made, and new realties were faced but despite it all, I already loved her with everything that was within me.

There are some secrets that are easy to keep hidden, sadly for me; a pregnancy was not one of them.  I eventually had to face the music and embrace my pregnancy despite the stares and the judgments that it would bring. I often found myself struggling with how I should feel about my pregnancy. While the actions leading up to my pregnancy is not something that most people would condone, I couldn’t help but be excited about the main consequence. Sure there was a lot of difficulties, frustrations, and disappointments that came with my being pregnant, but there was also a bundle of joy that I simply could not wait to meet.  There are so many things that I feel that I missed out on as a result of an unplanned teen pregnancy. I missed the joy of receiving a positive pregnancy test, the thrill of planning and preparing for a new life, the companionship of a spouse at doctor’s visits and checkups, and often times the glow that I felt about my child was often masked by the disappointment and stigma that usually comes with a teen pregnancy.  But despite the fact that my belly bump hindered my ability to keep my pregnancy a secret and there was an uncertainty about how I should feel or react, there was one thing that I was able to keep all to myself–the pure joy I felt every time I felt my child.

Mary

At 7 months pregnant I am feeling enormous.   I’ve been lucky so far and have pretty much only gained weight in my belly, but at only 5 foot 2 inches, sometimes just standing upright is challenging and any movement at all is downright exhausting with an 18 pound basketball throwing off my center of gravity.  I’ve reached the point where hiding my pregnancy is no longer an option, a distressing time for a woman who hates being the center of attention, or noticed generally ever.  Strangers often stop me, asking me how far along I am, what hospital I’m using, how I’m feeling.  I know that they are well-meaning, but being a very private person (yes, I do see the irony…being a very private person, and blogging….), I can think of no more uncomfortable situation.  I am not the woman who loves being pregnant.  I find it awkward, uncomfortable, annoying and for some reason simultaneously disempowering, yet also a bit empowering at the same time, depending on the day.  Women often find this horrifying if I share this with them, these women are usually the ones that LOVE being pregnant and cannot imagine why a woman wouldn’t love to sacrifice her body and mind for a new little life….which typically only fuels my dislike for being pregnant.  Regardless, it is not a situation I like talking about with anyone but my partner and a few close friends.  I’d like nothing better than to hibernate for the duration of my pregnancy simply to avoid the well-meaning inquiries and approving smiles of strangers.

Making choices about birth has become exhausting, I constantly feel as though I am going against the grain.  Many of the choices we have made, though the best for my partner and I, are not conventional (Using a birth center instead of a hospital, not having my partner at midwife visits, not having a partner in the delivery room for birth, not wanting visitors immediately after birth, requesting gender neutral clothing, using cloth diapers).  My partner and I often feel as though we’re being punished for making the choices that are best for us.  Being pregnant has been such a journey, both for me and my partner.  I can’t speak for him, but for myself I can say that being pregnant has forced me to openly and unapologetically be myself, for the first time in my life, to make choices that others don’t like, but that I know are the best for me, my partner, and my baby.  Something about being responsible for a new life has made me more willing and able to stand up for myself and my family.

I often say that the more pregnant I become, the more my verbal filter disintegrates, meaning that I say exactly what is on my mind sans edits.  At first it was simply funny saying exactly how I felt at somewhat awkward moments, mentioning that I could use a snack in the middle of a business meeting or that I needed to find a bathroom right that minute.  Now, I find my lack of filter is actually really just honesty disguised.  My brain without filter no longer hesitates to veer towards honesty.  I find myself being honest about all kinds of things that I never would have been in the past:  why I make choices, being protective of time for myself and my family, not letting others make choices for me, giving honest feedback.  I’ve realized I no longer hesitate to be honest, and I expect more honesty from others.  It’s a startling transition for a gal who in the past would often rearrange her schedule to accommodate other’s plans, and tell people often what I knew they wanted to hear.

Being pregnant has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Though I detest almost everything about pregnancy, I will always be grateful for this 9 month incubation period that has allowed me to find this place of truthfulness, both about who I am and how I navigate the world I live in.  I think it will make me a better person, and ultimately a better parent.  I can’t hide my belly bump, and I can’t hide who I am anymore.

Belly Bump: Birthing Choices

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Note: In May 2015, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) became SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens). 


Belly Bump is a series where we compare the pregnancy experiences of two women: Delsie, a prevention advocate and UNC student who became a mom at age 17, and Mary, APPCNC’s Community Programs Manager who decided to have a baby with her husband Anthony.  See previous Belly Bump entries.

Delsie

The cat was out of the bag and with it came a new sense of relief but also a whole new world of worries.  Once I got past the fear of revealing my unplanned pregnancy to those closest to me, I was now able to worry about the actual pregnancy.  A pregnancy carries with it the possibility of many complications and the fact that I was teen only increased the possibility of complications. I soon realized that my anxieties, which I thought would have been vanquished with my confession, shifted towards  the unborn child that I was carrying. The bundle that I was a carrying, which had once presented itself as a tremendous source of stress, soon transformed into a bundle of joy, one which I would give my life to protect. The motherly instincts had begun to kick in, and when it came to my child, I wanted the best for my baby. My world soon became consumed with decisions as to what would be best for my child. Which doctor would I go to? Which hospital would I deliver?  More importantly, what were my delivery plans? I must admit that there were many things that didn’t go quite as planned upon the conception of my daughter. The visions that I had prior to my pregnancy had slowly began to fade, but there was one thing that was still within reach; I would still be able to decide how I would deliver my baby- and I was set on a natural birth.

Women have been having babies since the world began and it would have been foolish for me to believe that I was the first. I was simply one among many and there was sure to be many more. This presented with it a sense of comfort and provided the assurance that I could do this as well and with that came the decision to have a natural birth.

I am one of four children belonging to my mother, all of which were natural births. All of her mother’s children were the same and I didn’t see why mine should be any different. As I would soon realize with other aspects of my pregnancy, opinions were freely offered, even when they were not necessarily invited. When it came to my birthing decision, most people advised me to consider taking an epidural. All of these suggestions were complimented with a reminder of the immense amount of pain that child birth would bring (as if I didn’t take that into consideration myself). But despite the prodding of others, my mind was made up. I was going to deliver my baby naturally-no medicine, no epidural.

Child birth is a beautiful thing. It is the product of nine months of development, bonding, and an immense amount of anticipation, and this is an experience that I did not want to miss. My desire was to feel every ounce of pain and experience every contraction. Sounds kind of crazy, but that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want to simply go through the motions of child birth; I wanted to be an active participant. After all, millions of women had done it before me—couldn’t be that bad…right???

Mary

“A woman dies every 90 seconds from complications of pregnancy.  90% of these deaths are preventable.”

I got this statistic from everymothercounts.org, an amazing campaign started by Christy Turlington Burns (yes, the supermodel).  She’s working to prevent maternal mortality across the world, which, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know is a HUGE issue.  Maternal mortality is a big deal not just in underdeveloped countries, but in more industrialized countries as well.  The MMR or Maternal Mortality Ratio is used to describe number of maternal deaths per  100,000 live births.  The country with the lowest MMR is Italy with a ratio of 3.9.  The country with the highest MMR is Afghanistan with a MMR of 1575.1.  Using 2009 ratios, the United States is ranked as having the 39th lowest ratio in the world with an MMR of 16.7.  Compared to Afghanistan, we’re doing pretty good, to have the 39th lowest MMR, however, with American women having access to some of the best medical care the world can offer this ranking is indicative of deeper problems.

Our ratio numbers  could be due to lots of factors, more women given birth at an older age when complications are more likely, lack of access to those top notch medical resources for lower income women could be another, and many advocates and medical professionals cite an increase in medical intervention during birth and a rise of elective cesarean sections as another.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, “the cesarean rate rose by 53% from 1996 to 2007, reaching 32%, the highest rate ever reported in the United States”.  This statistic terrifies me, as there is nothing scarier in my mind than being awake while someone digs about in my stomach to pull out a baby. 

Knowing nothing about pregnancy at all, several years ago I took it upon myself to learn all that I could about pregnancy and birth.  I started off by reading an amazing book by Tina Cassidy called “Birth:  The Surprising History of How We Are Born”.  This book really brings to light the medicalization of birth that our culture has experienced over the past several decades along with the injustices many pregnant women have been forced to experience in their births.  I soon became obsessed with the idea of being a doula, and read every book on birth I could, reading more and more about birth and learning about birth outcomes associated with medicalized births versus birth outcomes associated with natural births facilitated by a midwife.  Soon, the literature and data convinced me that natural birth was the safest way to go and I became a natural birth advocate.  And then I got pregnant.

Upon learning that I was pregnant, I felt it necessary to find medical care as soon as possible.  I called the only free-standing birth center in North Carolina, only to realize that there is a screening process to become a patient, as well as a possible wait list.  Also, the birth center does not provide epidurals, which even though I knew could lead to negative birth outcomes, I had started to think I might want…because birthing is associated with pain and pain is scary.  I became disheartened and immediately called a local hospitals system and became a patient there after spiraling into a mommy vortex, concerned I was murdering my baby by not immediately seeking medical care.  A few days later, they scheduled my first appointment.  I can only describe this experience as climbing mountains of paperwork and being subjected to all kinds of medical tests.  The experience sent me into a panic.  I was just a number to them, and all of sudden, I felt completely disempowered.   One more pregnant gal.  Is this how all of my appointments would be?  Logistics?  Blood work?  Tests?  I’m a healthy woman, was all of this really necessary? 

After researching the hospital’s birthing facilities, I realized several policies that bothered me as well:   I could not eat or drink ever while in birth, I could not move around at all if I was to use an epidural, and time in a birth tub would be limited.    Most of these policies were in place due to the assumption that I would receive an epidural or that I would be a high risk birth and would ultimately need a cesarean section.    Again, I spun into a spiral of panic.  5 weeks pregnant and I was already constantly worrying about birth.   Would there be students there?  Would I actually be able to dictate the level of pain medication I wanted?  Did I even want pain medication?  All of my doula reading had convinced me that epidurals often slow down labor and making pushing nearly impossible, increasing a mother’s chances of  episiotomy or forceps/vacuum extraction, both things I am desperate to avoid.  What would be easier, being at a birth center with no access to an epidural and just dealing with the pain, or worrying that in a hospital setting I would be unable to resist temptation and receive an epidural and the subsequent interventions?  I didn’t know what would be worse.

After talking to my partner, my family, and friends, all signs seemed to point to the birth center, so my partner and I took a tour and I began the screening process.  Because the birth center uses so few medical interventions (as they believe a low risk pregnancy is healthy and normal), they only accept low risk patients.  After a week or so, I received the news that I was accepted as a patient and felt immediate relief.  My first appointment was wonderful.  No tests, no interventions.  My midwives focus more on having a low stress pregnancy, healthy eating, and lots of patient education.  I never feel like a number, and I always leave feeling a little bit more empowered.

The initial shock of pregnancy and other women’s horror stories made me doubt all of the research that I had done ahead of time about natural birth, but having the initial experience of a hospital system made me only more confident in my choice to birth naturally at a birth center.  When my time comes to give birth, I will have a midwife and a doula at my side.  No bright hospital lights and interventions, just a quiet room and loving people.  As the time gets closer, sure, I think about being in pain and it scares me, but I also know that that pain in birth is normal and that it will end.  I also know that a little bit of pain can have some pretty solid birth outcomes, both for me and my child. 

I see it as my first lesson of motherhood:  Very often, the best thing to do for your child is the thing that hurts you the most.

Belly Bump: Telling the World

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Belly Bump is a series where we compare the pregnancy experiences of two women: Delsie, a prevention advocate and UNC student who became a mom at age 17, and Mary, APPCNC’s Community Programs Manager who decided to have a baby with her husband Anthony.  See previous Belly Bump entries.

Delsie

It’s kind of crazy how when your entire world turns upside down, disclosure about this new phenomenon, especially to the people that are closet to you, seems to be the hardest thing ever. You start to question how they will respond to the news, whether or not they will still accept you, and more importantly, whether or not they will remain by your side.  As you know from my previous blog, my best friend was the first person to receive the news but while she played the role of encourager that day, it was uncertain what role she would play in the days to come; when reality would finally sink in, the secret would come out, and she would become the best friend of a teen mom. Would she still be by my side, walking the halls of my high school with a protruding baby bump? And there laid the reoccurring uncertainty of my situation.

Unlike most things, repetition did not bring with it ease. Every time I had to relay the news to someone else was just another instant for me to face the reality that simply terrified me. But I was certain of this one thing, my boyfriend would make me feel better. I knew that he would be able to understand the gravity of the situation better than anyone else and he would know what to say to make everything okay—I was wrong.  In short, the conversation that was supposed to make to feel better, the person that I always looked to comfort me in my times of need, just left me feeling lonelier than ever. Sure we both consented to having sex. We both were having a baby. But somehow, after talking to him, these facts didn’t quite seem like my reality. I was the one that was pregnant. I was the one that had to break the news to my parents. I was the one whose entire future was in question. I was the one who was scared and uncertain about everything. And so, two confessions later, I was no closer to feeling comforted, no closer to a sense of security or peace of mind. I was still very much alone and still the confessions continued.

If you recall from my previous blog, finding out about my pregnancy happened prior to track practice and even though it had felt like my world was over, life still went on and I still had to be at track practice. Following the conversation with my boyfriend, I walked down to the track, making all attempts to fight back tears. Apparently my attempts were shy of being successful because my coach called me aside to inquire what was wrong. I broke down in tears. I don’t quite know how I got the words out or better still how he understood anything I said behind all the sobbing. His initial reaction was one that I would grow use to receiving as i would go on to relay my news to others- “No, not you!?!” Shock and disbelief filled his face, followed by deep pain and compassion.  He hugged me as a cried and offered those simple words of encouragement that I needed to so much. The rest of that day is a blur. I don’t know how I made it through practice or even how I pulled myself together enough so my parents didn’t question what was wrong. But what I do know is that after relaying the news to three people, my reality had already become more than I could bear and I simply wasn’t ready to share it with anyone else- so I didn’t.

While it was my intent to keep this pregnancy to myself as long as possible, things continued to not turn out quite the way I had planned. Racked with the uncertainty of my future in the marching band, my best friend decided to ask our band director whether or not someone how was pregnant could still participate in band. The answer was a resounding “no” and with that my heart sank. But of course my band director was too nosy to leave it at that, he had answered the question and now he wanted answers.  Needless to say, the following day I found myself in my guidance counselor’s office (per the request of my band director).  Another confession and with it another instant in which I was forced to face my reality. While she tried to offer words of encouragement, I began to feel like she just couldn’t understand. It was so simply for everyone to tell me that it would be okay as long as everything in their life was okay. Would they be so certain if they were in my shoes faced with the anxiety, fear, and worries that I had? I think not. So I left her office with the number of a nearby clinic that she suggested I go to for a professional opinion about my condition and also with the determination that no one else would find out.  Again-plans flawed.

Not too long after my visit with the guidance counselor my cousin, who was also in the band with me approached me about rumors that he had heard about me being pregnant.  I was determined not to let this get out, especially not to my family, so faced with his question, I lied. “Common now, do you really think I would be pregnant?”  and with that question, I affirmed his beliefs about me, the same beliefs that everyone else had held, Delsie had was too smart and had too much going for her to do something so reckless. But while I was able to affirm everyone else’s beliefs and suppress their suspicions, I couldn’t do the same for myself. I knew the truth and it weighed on me every single day.

As time went on, I knew that this pregnancy wasn’t something that I would be able to hide forever. I would eventually start showing and I would have to open with everyone. While I feared what my peers would think and how they would react, I feared more my parent’s response. Sex before marriage was unheard of in my household much less a baby before marriage. Not to mention the fact that my mom had stated once before that if I ever got pregnant that I shouldn’t bother coming home. So, faced with this daunting prospect, I hid my pregnancy. I cried myself to sleep every night for three months straight until the stress and anxiety had become too much for me to bear. One day following a night full of tears and prayers I decided to tell my mother.

I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. Disbelief and denial filled my house that day as she tried to cope with what I was telling her. But more than that, there was utter disappointment. I had let her down. She didn’t want me to come near her and she cried uncontrollably. Needless to say, my dad got a phone call from her and he made his way home from work. Yet again, another confession but it was still no easier than the first. Nothing could have ever prepared me for my dad’s response. He told me that despite the fact that they didn’t agree with my actions they still loved me and that they were going to love this child as well. Three months of anxiety had led to one response-unconditional love.

I would eventually go on to telling my church congregation about my pregnancy and the response that I received mimicked that of my parents-love. Everyone went out of their way to show me that they still loved me and that they would be there to support me. From there on my reality, while still not so easy to accept, became a little easier to handle. Even though my world was turned upside down and my future remained uncertain, I was loved.

Mary

Like I mentioned in my last blog, telling people made me feel relieved, supported, and loved.  My best friends were thrilled, our parents were even more thrilled, and our friends were totally supportive. But initially telling ANYBODY at first felt like a big cliff to jump off of.  I realized that as soon as people found out, other people’s perceptions of my identity would change.  I wouldn’t just be Mary anymore.  The Mary that likes to try to new restaurants, take spontaneous trips, travel whenever possible, and  stay out late with her friends wouldn’t be the same, because once you have a baby, some of those things just become more challenging.

So, I knew that in a way, my identity WOULD change once I have a baby.  Sure I can still be the Mary that likes all those things, but then, I will also be Mary the Mom.  Mary who likes to be adventurous, but also has a small human to think of who depends on her for sustenance and safety.  Mary who might not make happy hour because she has to pick her boy up from daycare, who can’t afford that fun looking trip because she has to pay for daycare, and who can’t make it to the new restaurant because the babysitter bailed.  How  much of pre-baby Mary could stay, and how much had to go.  Would I like this new me?  Would I be any good at being this new me?  What does being a Mom even mean to me?

The media and society send us all kinds of messages about what a mother is or isn’t, should or shouldn’t be.  That I shouldstay at home , quit my job, devote my whole life to my children, move to the suburbs, wear Mom jeans (yes, I worry about this), give away all of our breakable possessions to baby proof the house.  I’ve even had people say to me that we should give away our dog (a 150lb Great Dane) because he’s “dangerous”.  This is another votex a pregnant lady can get stuck in, worrying about who she will be.  Turns out telling people wasn’t really my worry, it’s what came after that I worried about.  It was about their perceptions of me, and the waterfall of parenting questions and advice that would surely drown me.

I’ve come to the conclusion after lots of talks with the Moms in my life that I look up to, that we don’t need to be any kind of Mom, we all just need to be.  Be the kind of Mom you want to be, whatever that is.  You probably won’t be a good Mom if you’re busy trying to be someone else.   Once I figured this out, I felt a lot better about telling people I was pregnant, because I honestly stopped caring about whatever they might think, or whatever unwarranted advice they would throw my way.  They could throw any question my way (Will you breastfeed?  Will you use a day care?  Will you give your dog away?) and I could confidently answer them.  (Yes.  Yes. And no way.)

Now, this gets more challenging once you get bigger, and you don’t  tell people you’re pregnant, they just start to notice.  For example the lady a Starbucks who gives me dirty looks for my occasional half-caf latte, the folks at the gym who stare at me on the elliptical with a look on their faces that says “I’m worried your hurting your baby, maybe you should stop”, or the strangers who judge me about putting my child in daycare.  It seems to me that if parents spent more time supporting each other’s choices instead of judging each other, we’d all be a lot better off.

Lucky for me, because I told people I was pregnant, I have a network of family and friends who support me.  Most importantly though, I have a loving partner who supports me unconditionally.   He supports our parenting choices always, and especially in the face of judgment.  He supports me keeping a job that love.  He supports me going on fun trips and trying new restaurants.  Now, I don’t worry about who I will or won’t be.  I’ll just be.  I’ll just be whatever kind of Mom I want to be.  And I know I can be, with my partner, family, friends, , and 150lb dog along for the ride.

Belly Bump: Coping With A New Reality

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Note: In May 2015, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) became SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens). 

 

Belly Bump is a series where we compare the pregnancy experiences of two women: Delsie, a prevention advocate and UNC student who became a mom at age 17, and Mary, APPCNC’s Community Programs Manager who decided to have a baby with her husband Anthony. See previous Belly Bump entries.


Delsie

Seventeen and pregnant. It sounds pretty close to a TV show, but this was my new reality.

I had often times fantasied about the day that I would have a child. I had picked out names and everything.  But this was nothing like my fantasies. My fantasies had included a degree, a nice stable job, and a loving and supporting husband. So far I didn’t have any of these things. I didn’t have a basic high school diploma, a job, and I was in a relationship that was subject to the whims and fancies of teenage hormones. Needless to say, my new reality wasn’t an easy pill to swallow. It was more along the lines of those really big horse pills, the ones that no matter how much water you try to chug back, it remains lodged in your throat. I was pregnant, alone, and worried about my future. Though I had taken on adult responsibilities with the conception of my child, I wasn’t ready to take on the role of an adult. Reality kept on knocking on my door, and like a stubborn child, I refused to answer.

It is amazing how quickly your dreams can change, how quickly the certainty fades. The excitement of my senior year of high school vanished with a positive pregnancy test.  The little things that I had once taken for granted and accepted as the norm now came into question. Would I be able to march this year, perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? What about attend my senior prom or, more importantly, go to college? The things that I had once viewed as being a sure thing now came into question and with that simple fact; my reality began to sink in. The door that I had fought desperately to keep closed, began to slowly creep open and with it came my daunting reality; one that I was not prepared to cope with.

Mary

Twenty-seven and pregnant.  That’s about average nationwide I guess, but still I felt like an outsider.  I was the first of my friends to be pregnant.  Would they still want to be friends with us?  What would our parents say?  How would our jobs react?  When do we tell people?  We were planning on having kids, but babies are easy to glamorize in your mind.

Two weeks after finding out about “Nugget”, we moved into our first home and I started to experience the horror that is the first trimester of pregnancy.  For days all I could do was lay on the couch, try to keep food down, and make lists of things to do:  find doctor (or midwife!), look into day care, research my office’s maternity leave policy, find prenatal vitamins, buy baby books, even learn about babies in general!  It quickly became overwhelming.  Thinking about “baby” stuff can turn into a vortex; it can suck you in if you aren’t careful.

Once we were done moving and I started feeling well enough to rip myself off the couch, it was a relief to come back into work and feel like a normal person again. I started to understand that people are pregnant for nine months for a reason:  there is a lot to do! But nine months is time to do it all.

Slowly we started to tell the people closest to us, which made me feel better.  It felt good to be honest about what we were going through.  I soon realized what a great support system both of us had in friends, family, and work. Suddenly it all seemed like we would be ok.  Perhaps we had over-glamorized having a baby, but after a few weeks to let it all sink in and a few conversations with  very supportive friends, bringing a small human into the world certainly seemed more than just attainable, but down right doable.

Belly Bump: Finding Out

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Note: In May 2015, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) became SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens). 


Belly Bump is a series where we compare the pregnancy experiences of two women: Delsie, a prevention advocate and UNC student who became a mom at age 17, and Mary, APPCNC’s Community Programs Manager who decided to have a baby with her husband Anthony. See previous Belly Bump entries.

Delsie

In my last entry, I told you all about how I thought my boyfriend – Mr. Arrogant – would turn down sex altogether if I insisted on using a condom. He turned out to be really persistent, and convinced me it was okay to use the withdrawl method…

Weeks went by and I started to get worried… Where was my period?  I told Mr. Arrogant my problem, but he was sure that I was worried about nothing. I still felt that something wasn’t right.

My period had never been an entire month late before. I had heard that stress could cause a late period – and I was certainly stressed out! I still had the nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. Not knowing was the worst part.  I decided to get a pregnancy test and take it at school after classes. That way I wouldn’t have to take it home and my parents would never find out.   

My friend and I went to the CVS before track practice one day and bought a pregnancy test.  We got in the car and headed back to the school and I began praying like I have never prayed before in my life. I made promises to God that if he got me out of this pickle that I would start praying more, reading my Bible more, I would do anything as long as the results came back negative.

Back at school, we went into the restroom, making sure that no one else was in there. I closed the stall door and my heart began to race. I was convinced there was no way that I could be pregnant. This could happen to anybody else but NOT ME! I was a straight-A student, in the marching and concert band, and a member of the track team. I was preparing to enter into my senior year and contemplating which universities I would apply to. It couldn’t happen – I had too much going for me. I guess the pregnancy test didn’t get the memo.

After the two longest minutes of my life I got my result… POSITIVE. A second test the next day confirmed it.

I had never felt more alone. I was seventeen and pregnant.

Mary

While unplanned pregnancies don’t just happen to teens – about 49% of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned – Anthony and I were planning and trying to get pregnant.  And we tried….once.

Now, I’ve made a career out of preaching the gospel of “it only takes one time to get pregnant” but even I was shocked when it only took us one try. I’ve known lots of people who had to do lots of trying, and lots who had “oops” moments of unprotected sex that very luckily didn’t result in a pregnancy.

It didn’t even occur to me that I could be pregnant so soon. One day at work, I was so tired I ran to the Starbucks inside of the Target near our office to grab a cup of coffee. It dawned on me that my period was late. Deciding it couldn’t hurt to check, I grabbed a box of pregnancy tests. I took one at work to set my mind at ease. (A funny side note here: I’m not the only person to have taken a pregnancy test at work. Delsie took hers at school. I’m starting to think those pregnancy test ads showing women at home in their fancy bathrooms are pretty unrealistic.)

Before I could blink my test turned positive.  No two minute wait for me.  Incredulous, I took another.  Positive.  Now, my story is nothing compared with the drama of Delsie’s, but I can say that the shock of finding out was immense.  I was surprised that I could be pregnant after our first go around. I suddenly felt alone, and unprepared for motherhood.  What would Anthony say?  What would my friends say?  Can we afford it?  I think every mom-to-be has this moment of panic at some point in her pregnancy.

After a good cry in the privacy of my car, I took one more test just to be sure.  Hooray for pregnancy test multi-packs! After work, I raced to Planned Parenthood. I still needed confirmation from a doctor that I was actually pregnant.  Giddy after a fourth and final test, I grabbed my fistful of positive pregnancy tests, and headed home to tell Anthony.

Belly Bump: Context

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Note: In May 2015, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) became SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens). 

It’s so interesting when your professional life and your private life intersect!  For the past 3 years,  I’ve been working to make sure young people don’t get pregnant before they’re ready.  Much of that time is spent talking about the drastic difference between a planned pregnancy and an unplanned one, especially when that unplanned pregnancy happens to a teenager. That difference has never been as clear to me as it is right now.

After finding out I’m pregnant (surprise!), I was talking with a coworker about the difficulties pregnant women often face in our society.  Ever on message and focused on the job, she pointed out how much more difficult it is for teens to navigate a pregnancy. She suggested I blog alongside one of our youth council members Delsie Bailey, who had a child at age 17, to compare our experiences.

For the past two years, Delsie has been on our Teen Health Now youth council.  She joined because she wanted to make sure that other young people never had to go through what she did as a teen mom.  Now she’s a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. I’ve always looked up to Delsie, and admired her for her journey, her perseverance, and her attitude. Now that I am pregnant, I’m seeing her story in a whole different way.  I’m seeing her story through my story.

So, that’s what Belly Bump is – a place where we can compare our experiences and shine a light on what it’s really like to experience pregnancy as a young person in America.

Delsie

Okay, where to start? Well, this one time at band camp… Alright, I know that was a bit cliché but to be honest it’s really not that far off from how my story began. He was a band kid, I was a band kid…

Our relationship didn’t start with love at first sight. Quite frankly, in the beginning we couldn’t even stand each other. He was on the drum line, and filled with the arrogance and over-confidence that comes with that position. I was a delicate, well put together flute player. With him on the drum line in back field position and me up front in flute position, we rarely crossed paths on the marching field.

"At the end of the marching season, we traveled to Indianapolis for a band competition."Delsie and Mr. Arrogant at a safe distance.

At the end of the marching season, we traveled to Indianapolis for a band competition. Band trips can be pretty eventful, and this band trip wasn’t any different. The highlight of this trip was the moment my path crossed with Mr. Arrogant’s path. We got to know each other a little better and realized we liked each other more than we both initially thought.

A serious relationship developed as our band schedules became a little less hectic. We were inseparable. The L- word became a regular part of our conversations. One day after track practice (yes, I was a well-rounded student!), the topic of sex came up. It was a topic that I had always carefully tried to side-step. When he said “If you love me then you will do it’”, I felt like my back was against a wall. I did love him and I wanted him to know that, but sex was not the way that I wanted to express that love. But Mr. Arrogant was very convincing.

I thought asking him to use a condom would be a way out of the situation. I was positive that he would not have a condom with him, and we wouldn’t be able to move forward. I was partially right. He did not have a condom with him. But he was persuasive, and he convinced me that he a PRO at withdrawal. (We didn’t have real sex ed in school and my parents only ever told me to wait until marriage. I really wish I had gotten the lessons that I now know good sex ed includes about effective/ineffective contraception and negotiation skills!)

As you can probably tell by me writing this blog about how I became pregnant, PRO didn’t stand for professional. In his case it was more along the lines of PRObably likely to get you pregnant.

I went into this situation wanting to prove my love for my boyfriend but came out of it anxious about my future.

Mary

If you told me when I was 16 that I would have a child at age 27 – or that I’d be the first of my friends to marry at age 24 – I  wouldn’t have believed you.  In fact, I would have straight up laughed at you. My parents eloped at age 39 and had me at 40, so my mental “settling down” timeline has always been a little extended.  Life doesn’t always follow an exact plan.

My pregnancy has a lot to do with tornadoes.   In late April, a powerful tornado moved through downtown Raleigh.  I hid with my husband Anthony and our 150lb Great Dane while the tornado destroyed buildings just blocks from our house. Relieved and grateful, I left the next day for St. Louis for a sex ed curriculum training.

If you follow current events, you may be giggling to yourself right now. That’s right: An F4 tornado hit the St. Louis airport a week later while I was supposed to be boarding a flight back to Raleigh. I was on the phone updating Anthony on my flight delay when the ceiling insulation started falling. Then the sliding doors nearby blew in.  The other passengers and I ran through the blowing debris to take shelter in a bathroom.  I made it home several days later.

Mary watches as a guardrail introduces itself to a stoplight."Our lives had gotten really stressful with my daily commute from Raleigh to Durham, and the tornadoes shook us even more."

Anthony and I started to reflect on how lucky I’d been.  Our lives had gotten really stressful with my daily commute from Raleigh to Durham, and the tornadoes shook us even more. Being spiritual people, we thought about what meaning the tornadoes could have for us and came to the conclusion that our life had been like a tornado, crazy, hectic and unpredictable, and that we needed to take steps to make some needed changes.  We decided to look for a home to buy in Durham.  We’ve moved every year for the past 9 years.  It was time to stop.  So we found our dream house and within a month we bought it.

Just before our big move, I offered to help a good friend move to Seattle. The weather started getting hairy around the Kansas-Colorado border.  The sky darkened, hail started pelting the car, and I got that “I’ve been here before” feeling.  We got to a visitor’s center as the weather worsened, and bolted for the door – barefoot – through marble-sized hail.  A tornado passed nearby, while our building shook and flooded.

When I got back, Anthony and I shifted our “settling down” plan into high gear.  Left with a sense of the shortness and sanctity of life, we decided it could mean only one thing: It was time for a baby.

Stay tuned for our next edition of Belly Bump… Finding Out.