Meghan Beck (24) and Tristan (2)
Meghan shares -
"I was under pressure to either have an abortion with Tristan or give him up for adoption. I was 20 and still living with my highly conservative homeschooling family when I accidentally conceived Tristan with my first serious boyfriend. I immediately ruled out abortion as I already felt incredibly ashamed for being pregnant in the first place, and because of my pro-life background I didn't really see any option other than to go through with the pregnancy and give him up for adoption. My boyfriend (now ex-husband) and I even met with an adoptive family before I put my foot down and said I was going to raise this child, and my boyfriend could do it with me or not. An uncharacteristically assertive move on my part! Shortly after, we told his parents about the pregnancy, and they reacted with excitement and their full support. Today (in part because of my experience) I am strongly pro-choice and pursuing an education in family therapy and sexuality education. I was someone who fell through the cracks with an abstinence-only education and miseducation about birth control, and I learned the hard way that comprehensive education is vital.
I have struggled with eating disorders since I was 12 years old and also have body dysmorphia symptoms. Just leaving off the eyeliner for this project is a struggle, trivial as it seems. Pregnancy was incredibly difficult, and I don't really wish to repeat it. Ultimately, my body didn't change a whole lot, but mentally I was a mess. I had therapy through my university throughout the pregnancy and met my minimum weight gain requirements, but it was generally a nerve-racking experience forcing myself to eat enough to be healthy for the baby and also not feeling completely devastated watching my body change. I wish I could say parenthood transformed my issues with my body in a positive way, but for me, it did not. I was just relieved when pregnancy was over. For now I am just focusing on finishing my graduate schooling, but I have some body image work to do if I want to have more children someday.
My pregnancy was incredibly stressful, and in comparison postpartum was the best time ever! The whole pregnancy I was pretty much going through this process of growing a human because I felt obligated, ashamed, and guilty-- not because I felt ready for a child. My body felt invaded. I would talk to my baby and tell him I was sorry for him that he had me, that I was doing my best, and that I really did love him even though I was so sad and panicky a lot of the time. I took an overload of college classes and aced them with ease-- thinking about school was better than thinking about anything else in my life.
The pregnancy and related issues, including religious differences with my boyfriend, ended in estrangement from my parents and siblings. My grandfather died. I was still getting to know my boyfriends parents and not sure where I fit into their family. And this was all the first time in my life I had ever slept away from home for more than a weekend. Because I was so ashamed and depressed, I withdrew from most friends, and I treasure the ones who stuck with me through those times. My boyfriend and I got married when I was 31 weeks pregnant, and I was probably one of the saddest bride ever. I felt like a ghost or a shadow.
I was quite lucky that my birth experience ended up being as private and uncomplicated as I hoped. It was a turning point. I delivered in the local birth center with a lovely, calm, nurturing midwife named Sarah. I delivered Tristan on the toilet in a crazy, powerful 17 minutes of pushing. I remember the midwife saying "ok, hold back now--" but I yelled "I WANT THIS BABY OUT!" Truer words were never spoken! I think that's all I wanted the whole pregnancy. We spent a blissful 6 hrs in the birth center before driving home, and I swear it was like I re-entered myself after those 9 long months, only I was stronger.
I invited my boyfriends parents to our house right away! I was able to smile! And boy did I love that baby. Breastfeeding came easily, and we are still nursing. I feel like parenthood was the first area of my life where I really got to make decisions for myself and rely on my instinct, and it built my confidence as a person, not just as a parent. I took on leadership roles in mom groups, breastfeeding groups, became a doula, and went on to graduate school for Marriage and Family Therapy. Postpartum was intense, but I feel like I found myself in it.
I love hearing people's stories. I feel like every time I read a 4th Trimester Bodies participant's story I'm thinking, "I feel that too, I'm not alone," or "I never thought about that kind of experience before, I'm glad to know it." It's nice to be a part of something bigger that might make someone else feel understood or develop understanding the way I have felt understood and developed understanding through this project.