“My first pregnancy was very traumatic. I was a teenager. Yeah, like Teen Mom the MTV show? That was literally me. You can read about it here. I was in a toxic relationship, but honestly, what can you expect from a couple at 19 years old? Regardless of my age, my pregnancy with Zen was a rollercoaster of emotions. I remember alienating myself from everyone I knew. I deleted my Facebook (which was all the rage at the time). I blocked multiple phone numbers. I went from a social butterfly party girl to a ghost town. I was embarrassed about my (teen) pregnancy, but also protective of it. I didn’t want unsolicited opinions. I didn’t want to associate with anyone who knew me as my old self. My pregnancy was transforming me.
Most of my days consisted of me staying in bed, binge watching Dexter and napping. Counting the hours for my mom to get home, just so I could have a conversation with someone. Sadly, I remember listening to Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep,’ crying and thinking about how I was going to be a single mom. I kind of laugh at the memory now, just knowing I was incredibly hormonal and dramatic at the time. (Isn’t it refreshing to mock some of our past trauma when we’re completely healed from it?)
After Zen was born, I experienced a whole new reality. I remember not being able to sleep the first night in the hospital because I couldn’t get my eyes off of him. In that moment, I knew he was born to save me. He was my angel. But, nothing could have prepared me for a newborn baby. Yes, it’s natural to give birth. Having a baby is natural—but having a baby while you’re still a baby yourself is a whole different challenge. I felt guilt for wanting to escape at times. I was always desperate for a ‘break.’ I was desperate for a job, for a friend, for any excuse to get away. I loved my child. But there’s no denying we were both in the process of growing up together.
The tug-of-war living inside my mind was a constant pull between two identities: ‘Mother Elisa’ and ‘Individual Elisa.’ Who was who? Who was more important? It was never-ending. It was never-ending wishing, comparing, guilt, and just a variety of confusing feelings. My postpartum depression devoured me at one point. My 19-year-old body was overwhelmed and exhausted with hormonal rage and despair. I resented everything and everyone, including myself.
I often felt as if I was not in this dimension. I wasn’t able to imagine my life in two years, three years, or five years. I was stuck at my parent’s house with a baby I didn’t deserve to mother. He was too perfect, and I was too flawed. I wanted more than anything to be enough for him. I sulked in the thought of never finding love again, the thought of never having a father figure in my son’s life. It was overwhelming. I was angry. Why was I doing this alone? Why was I such a disaster? Everyday was repetitive, until one day it wasn’t.
The newborn stage was over, and everything fell into place. I was still left with regret, and more guilt about how I was so impatient, ungrateful, and sloppy. I was really hard on myself. I looked forward to weekends when I knew I could go to bars and meet up with friends. I would go out with the intention of forgetting about my stress and maybe meeting a guy. Going out and drinking made everything worse. I was out in the night, which gave me flashbacks of my pre-Zen days. I’d be hungover the next day, and felt even worse than I did before going out. Again, I was at war with myself.
Was I a mom? Was I a person? How could I be both? I had a really hard time balancing. My chest was constantly under pressure and I felt like a phony. How could I be a single 21-year-old person trying to date and enjoy life, but also be a mom and respect myself and set boundaries? It seemed as if every stage of life got slightly easier but remained just as confusing. I pulled myself out of the mess inside my head when Zen was around three years old. I started to take care of my body and prioritized my physical health, which shifted my whole world. I wasn’t able to wrap my head around what had happened the last couple years, but I was happy to be in a better place for myself and Zen. I met my husband shortly after.
Every year which passes is another year I am able to let go of some of my mom guilt. Every year which passes makes the memories more and more distant. Even today, nine years later, I can still tap into some panic if I allow myself. It’s a panic which makes me feel like I can never be at the right place at the right time. A panic which reminds me I wasn’t who I wished I was. A panic which is unforgiving.
There was a point—a very long point—where I believed I’d never get pregnant again. It’s not that I didn’t want another child, I just didn’t want pregnancy. I sadly associated pregnancy with, ‘You get pregnant, you get left, you do it alone, it’s over.’ I believed pregnancy was a trap. A burden for only women to carry. A perfect way to end a relationship. A perfect way to create your downfall as an individual. YES, the life you create is SO WORTH IT ALL. I’D DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN FOR ZEN! BUT—you will lose yourself in the process. You will start from scratch, and quite simply, pregnancy equals pain, depression, confusion, and loneliness.
That was what I truly believed. I’m talking for YEARS. Listen, my husband is the perfect partner. I couldn’t ask for better. He’s so selfless, and I look up to his kindness. However, it didn’t change my thoughts on what would happen if we got pregnant. I believed his love for me wasn’t enough to pull through if I got pregnant. I would surely ruin our relationship. I couldn’t risk it. It wasn’t worth it. The trauma of my pregnancy really haunted me for almost eight years.
I’m not sure how it finally happened—the shift in my mentality. I was set in my career. I built a business from scratch and was thriving. Our two boys (we have kids from previous relationships—we’re a blended family) were doing great, and it seemed like everything made perfect sense. We had been married for two years and dating for almost five. I was hitting the gym constantly and felt physically unstoppable. Everything was perfect. I felt like life finally made sense and we could take a breather.
One Mother’s Day, my cousin came over with her five-month-old baby, and I literally COULD NOT get my eyes off of her. I’ve never been a, ‘Can I hold you baby?’ person. But I held her the whole weekend and celebrated every little sound she made. My husband held her at one point and I nearly melted. HOW HOT was he over there holding a baby, looking so fatherly and so bearded, and just steamy!!! ‘WTF!’ is what I thought as I realized (but denied) I might want to go for another baby. When I’d get thoughts of the possibility, I’d instantly shut them down due to my fear. Cute idea, but no way.
After that, I started to slowly joke at making a baby with my husband all the time. We would go to dinner, and two glasses of wine in, I’d try being flirty with him by saying things like, ‘Wanna have a baby?!’ and make a really ugly face with my tongue out. I didn’t realize then I was subconsciously shedding my fears. I was working my way toward a vulnerable state of mind. I was manifesting my future. I was realizing the thought of a new baby was entering my thoughts constantly. It didn’t seem so scary anymore.
(At this point, by the way, my husband was 29, and I was 27. We technically were on the ‘perfect’ path, timing-wise, to have a baby. Most of our friends were pregnant, or already have at least one kid. I do think, biologically, we experience a desire to have a baby at a certain age. I can’t really explain why—but it did just start to feel like the ‘right’ time. It could also have been because we were set in a new home, and our careers were stable, etc.)
One night, months later, I was just annoyed at my husband. He was trying to cuddle me, and I was bothered by his presence. Yeah, I’m a sassy Libra. Whatever. Anyway, he stopped for a moment and said, ‘Dude, what’s going on, man? You’re so annoyed at me, what did I do?’ I realized he hadn’t really done anything. Have you ever been pissed at your partner for not reading your mind? I’m pretty sure that’s where I was at in that moment. I said, ‘I want a baby!’ He looked at me like the crazy-*ss woman I am, and said, ‘Okay.’
My eyes were full of tears and I once again reminded him of my fears. He knew I had issues with pregnancy. He had always been a listener when it came down to me expressing my thoughts about being terrified of experiencing pregnancy alone again, or experiencing postpartum depression again, or watching my body change again. He knew this was BIG for me. He knew if I said, ‘I want a baby,’ it was because I had done some serious thinking and self-work. I can’t put my finger on when I decided I was ready. I think it was a collection of days piling up, where curiosity and desire outweighed my fear.
What if we could have a new baby together? What if I could be one of those women walking around with that pregnancy glow? What if I could be one of those women supported by a partner during pregnancy? What if I could be one of those women taking monthly selfies to document each step of her growing baby? What if I could let go of my past and dive into the world of new possibilities? What if I was able to experience all the beautiful parts of a new baby without the painful parts?
We started trying for a baby. But we had SO MANY conversations about what was coming. I shed a lot of tears and gained a new level of trust with my husband. I had been healing myself throughout the years but didn’t realize it. I had been preparing myself for this moment before it was even a real thought in my head. I had always desired this kind of experience. I had always deserved a healthy and happy pregnancy. It was time to say ‘yes.’ When I realized I was fully ready to get pregnant, I changed everything. I was in constant prayer, and treated my body like a host for life. I was extremely conscious about everything I ate, drank, and consumed. I think it was my way of being the complete opposite of how I was living when I got pregnant with Zen.
I found out I was pregnant in the bathroom. I was brushing my teeth, and my husband was on the toilet. Yeah, we’re married, we’re gross, I don’t follow the ‘don’t let him see you in the bathroom’ crap. It was our third time taking a pregnancy test, and I assumed it would be negative. I looked down at the test and saw that miraculous ‘POSITIVE.’ My husband and I were shocked—we cried, hugged, and were overwhelmed with excitement. Everything I had been working toward was finally unfolding. I WAS EXCITED TO BE PREGNANT!!!!!!
My pregnancy was amazing. From day one. I really allowed myself to enjoy every single second. I took thousands of pics to make up for the lack of pictures the first time around. I LOVED shopping for bump-friendly clothes and wearing cute outfits, flaunting my belly. I looked in the mirror and loved how I looked, even when I felt my biggest. I never hid, and loved to tell everyone I was pregnant. I posted on Instagram nonstop and lived every d*mn moment to the fullest. I honestly miss being pregnant, and would even love to be pregnant again, right now. THAT is a thought I believed I’d never have.
As my belly grew, my husband continued to remind me of how much he loved me and our family. I do believe his love for me grew as well, knowing his child was living inside me. I know it sounds obvious, but for someone like me who had experienced the opposite, it was bizarre to me my pregnancy could bring us closer as a couple. This pregnancy was so healing for me. There were times I’d look in the mirror in disbelief and wish my 19-year-old self could see me. Sometimes, I’d see that 19-year-old girl with a growing belly, and think about how she needed someone to tell her it was going to be okay. She’d find love one day. Zen was going to be happy. She was going to live a new life.
I am now able to break down all of the conflicting thoughts I had while being a teen mom. It’s okay I felt so guilty, it means I was already a good mom. It’s okay I made mistakes, they taught me to be the person I am now. It’s okay I felt like I wanted to run away, I was a child myself. It’s okay I took the small moments for granted, I make the most of them now, knowing how fast they go. Everything I did ‘wrong’ was leading me to a renewed path. Every mistake, every flaw, every negative thought provides contrast and the ability to really feel my happiness today.
Not only did I lose my perception of pregnancy being a negative thing, I also forgave myself for my first pregnancy. I shed my shame. My postpartum experience with Jaz has been beyond my wildest dreams. I really am so happy to be ‘stuck’ (as I would have referred to it years ago) at home with my baby. I’m constantly covered in spit up, and there are times when I am not able to serve myself a cup of water, but I love every second of it. I am knee-deep in the world of being a new mom. Things that would have bothered or flustered me nine years ago are exciting to me now. My patience is so matured and my gratitude is a constant state of mind. I’m gentle with myself and trust my abilities.
I’m thankful everyday for the wonders of life, and how trauma can work itself out if you allow it to. When you’re caught in a chapter making you feel like you’re drowning, be sure to remind yourself everything is temporary. Life goes on—new opportunities will be presented to you one day. The nitty-gritty days of suffering and darkness can serve you in the future. For me, thinking of the darkest days in my last postpartum experience helps me really savor the joys of this one. Give life a chance and FEEL your feelings as they come to you. Don’t run away from pain—face it and conquer it. Not every situation will play out the same.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elisa Gonzalez-Lara of ElisaFace. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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‘I remember being ripped open. ‘Let me tell him I love him. Just once.’ I can hear the final scream.’: New mom battles traumatic labor and postpartum depression, ‘Some stories don’t have happy endings’
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