Diana was shocked to find out she was pregnant. After graduating from college and moving in with her parents, she and her boyfriend were in a long-distance relationship when she started feeling sick all the time. It was her mother who correctly guessed the reason why. Diana discusses finding out she was 13 weeks pregnant, how she and her boyfriend’s differences became apparent, her family’s unexpected reaction to the news, finding a community with other mothers of color, and the reason she’s not afraid for her son.
On thinking of the future, with motherhood. I think I just expected to be the same age my mom was when she had kids, which was in her late 20s. Motherhood was something I definitely wanted and thought of, probably even when I was really young. It just seemed like the natural order of things.
I’d just graduated from college, without really an idea of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to live. I had a vague idea that I’d go to New York or something — it felt like I could go anywhere, find whatever job, then figure it out. That was really my focus — my professional future. I was in a relationship, but I wasn’t thinking about making my own family or marriage at all. We met in college, while we were partying — I met him out, then he came to a party I had. I liked having a boyfriend, but I never took our relationship super-seriously.
On birth control. I had a nonhormonal copper IUD for about two months. Getting it felt like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do: taking responsible measures against getting pregnant. Later, I found out it was probably implanted incorrectly — it did end up falling out during my period. I had sex one time, after the IUD fell out. And that sex was protected as well, by the way. I really, rally thought I was doing everything to not get pregnant.
I was living with my parents at the time, and my boyfriend was living elsewhere. We were both trying to figure out where to move and what to do. And I just started getting sick, feeling nauseous all day. It was my mom who was like, You’re pregnant. I thought there was no way that was possible — I had taken all the steps to not get pregnant.
On unexpected news. When I went to the doctor, I just wanted to know what was wrong with me. The doctor said they’d do a bunch of tests, and he did ask about unprotected sex and I explained about my IUD, about using birth control. No one told me they were going to do a pregnancy test, so I was completely surprised when I found out they had done one — and that it said I was pregnant.
They recommended an OB for me, and I saw them two days later and found out I was about 13 weeks along. It felt like I was having a delayed reaction to the news — I was just shocked. My mom was the first person I told. She was like, I knew it already. That’s what I was trying to tell you. It was exactly what I expected her reaction to be. I was scared to tell my dad. His initial reaction wasn’t very positive. But now that I’ve thought a lot about it, I realize that he was just worried for me — he was asking a lot of questions in what seemed like a mad way. Now I get that it’s a very understandable reaction.
I told my boyfriend about a week after the initial test, a few days after that first OB appointment. I wasn’t really sure what his reaction would be. My head was still stuck in the place where I was so shocked that I’d gotten pregnant in the first place. He did ask whether I was going to have “it.” It’s weird to think of being so far removed to say “it” — now that I have an almost 4-year-old.
I’m very strongly pro-choice. I think having the option makes sense. If I’d gotten pregnant at a different time in my life … I’m not sure I would have made the same choice. That’s also a place where my boyfriend was probably more conservative than I am — he’s for abortion being legal, but he didn’t necessarily want me to have one.
On reorienting her relationship. I’d expected him to react a lot more negatively to the pregnancy, actually. He asked a lot of questions, but then he seemed really happy. I was shocked about that, too.
Not in that initial conversation, but not much longer, he even started talking about us moving in together. He thought we should probably get married. Maybe that’s where it started to go downhill. It felt like he assumed this was all what I wanted to do. I wasn’t thinking of breaking up with him — but I realized, in that moment, that I wasn’t as sure as he was about us. When he realized us, he was very hurt. That hurt manifested into some unkindness, which unfortunately made me turn to unkindness as well.
On being pregnant. I felt sick, all the time. I was one of those women who have “morning sickness” all day long. And I waited a little while to tell people I was pregnant. I have to credit my parents — they really helped me turn it into a positive thing, something to be celebrated. They helped me move away from the shock of it. I felt so lucky to have my parents. Telling my friends was a little isolating — even now, in my late 20s, most of my friends don’t have kids. Most of my cousins who are close in age don’t have kids either. Being the only one felt difficult at times.
Every time my boyfriend and I would talk, things got a little bit worse for us. I was starting to realize that our values were pretty different: He thought one of us should stay home with the baby and not work. I thought both of us should work.
On giving birth. As I got closer to my due date, I felt like I just didn’t have the energy to argue with my boyfriend anymore. He was planning to come and to definitely be there for the birth. I thought maybe we could talk about things in a way that would be less contentious in person.
I was nervous for the birth. I even requested that my doctor not tell me if something weren’t going right — that a family member be told before me. My labor was very long: I started having painful contractions about 8 p.m., and he wasn’t born until about 11 p.m. the next day. But everyone stayed very calm, which I appreciated. My boyfriend and I didn’t argue at all (though he did almost faint at one point). I think all of our attention and energy was completely focused on the baby. My son’s face was just so angelic to me. It still is.
On early parenthood. After about three weeks, my boyfriend went back to work and where he was living at the time. Things were fine for a little while after that, but then the baby bubble definitely wore off, and we were back where we were initially: not agreeing. I started to really question whether I wanted to be with him. We lasted a few more months, but that was probably the beginning of the end.
My son and I lived with my parents until a little after he turned 1. My parents were so helpful and so supportive; my relationship going south was really my main source of stress. Had I been already on my own … I think the end of my relationship would have been much harder, emotionally. My boyfriend and I saw each other only every couple months or so, but thanks to technology — we talked so much it felt like he was there.
Near the end, I interviewed for a job in the same city he was in. My inclination was not to live with him — I guess I was already thinking things were not working out. I was the one who finally initiated the conversation. He pushed back a little bit, but I think he knew it too. It was the first time in a little while we didn’t really fight.
On moving on and moving out. I did get that job. Initially, I moved by myself, and my son stayed back with my parents. I think I was a little excited, to be by myself for the first time in a while. This was the same city I went to college in, and most of my friends live here. I was looking forward to catching up with people, getting them used to the idea of me as a mom. But it was much, much harder than all that. I felt pretty bad and guilty at being separated from my son. So when I found the first place I could move into, I did move in. It was a three-bedroom with a roommate, so the idea was I’d pay for two rooms.
Once he was finally there, I was just so relieved and happy, and the transition didn’t feel too stressful or difficult. My roommate was someone that I knew; we weren’t great friends but we’d known each other a long time. Living here has been a very positive experience: We’ve been able to make a community, full of people who’d be there for both of us if we needed them. It’s been good. I’m definitely ready for us to move out on our own — but living with a roommate hasn’t been terrible, not at all.
I’ve had two additional jobs after the one I initially moved here for. With all of them, I’ve had to do a lot of work outside the hours I actually spend in the office — that’s been hard to juggle, with a child at home.
On co-parenting her son. This is how it’s going to be for — people like to say 18 years, but that’s not true, it’s for forever. We will always have to take each other into consideration, because of our son. It’s been difficult to navigate that, for both of us. We both used to feel like if we were done with someone, you were really done with them. You can’t do that, in our situation. Right now I think we’re better than we’ve ever been, though there’s always room for improvement.
We don’t have a formal custody agreement, but we do have a regular routine. I’m definitely the primary parent. It does look like he’s going to start getting more time. We’ll see how that goes. Right now, our son is with him two nights a week — more if something comes up, or if he happens to be in the neighborhood. I think I would’ve preferred something more set in stone, but I wanted to compromise rather than keep going back and forth.
I grew up with two parents who were together, who are still married today. I realized I had no idea about my son’s experience when a friend and I were talking one night — I was worrying about my son and how it would be for him, once he’s old enough to really know. But my friend’s parents were never together, and she explained that she’d never known anything else: No one ever said anything to her, and she never really thought about it. Her parents not being together never bothered her at all. That conversation made me worry a lot less. As long as his parents are respectful and getting along … he’s not going to be screwed up by this, not at all. It’s definitely something my ex-boyfriend and I have talked to about, and we both agree that we need to keep getting along.
On constructing a support system. I’d been a little nervous about how my extended family would react to me becoming a mom the way I did. I thought they might shun me, or at least talk behind my back — which they might have, who knows. I’m first-generation, so I have a lot of family overseas, a lot of whom I wouldn’t say I was very close to before. Now, though, I get messages all the time, asking about my son. We’re closer now than we’ve ever been.
My other main support system — full of wisdom and guidance — is mostly made up of other mothers of color. I already had a tight-knit group of friends who were women of color, who were also first-generation like me. It just made sense to extend that, and we’ve really created a really tight-knit community where we are. I’m friends with some mothers who are single like me, and some who have partners. Hearing about experiences from other women of color — whether they’re like mine or not — is really important to me. I suppose you could find this just in other mothers, even if you didn’t want to find a community also rooted in your identity. But for me, I don’t know where I would be without some of these friends. Some of them I’ve never even met; we know each other through Instagram or Twitter or Tumblr. I can’t speak for anyone else, but those relationships are what get me through it all.