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.