SHIFT NC

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.

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