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.