Founder of More Than Maternal, Masters in Business Administration
Wilmington, North Carolina
Pregnancy was never part of the equation, at least not at the time it wasn’t.
My life was in the ultimate transition when we found out that we were pregnant. I was a new graduate student who was newly moved, newly employed, and newly engaged while on the rocks with my fiancé. And to add icing on the cake my fiancé (who’s in the military) was just informed that he was ordered to deploy to Japan for six months. Not only did it mean that he would be away for most of my pregnancy; but that I would also be alone working in North Carolina, pursuing my MBA, while attempting to heal a fractured relationship from thousands of miles away. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. I was confused for multiple reasons (one because our birth control failed us), unprepared, and wasn’t sure I had the strength to handle all of this on my own.
I was very scared. We both were. So much so, to the point where I decided to seek alternative options. I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood to consider what options were available for us. There we received our first ultrasound that officially confirmed our pregnancy. There are many people who have strong opinions on organizations like Planned Parenthood; but as a woman, I can only speak to my experience alone. For someone who felt lost and confused, it was there that I received my first level of support and education when it came to my reproductive rights. I never once was pressured to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with it. As I recall the doctor saying, “we will always be here, take the time you need to make sure you truly want to do this. This is your decision and yours alone. We know how hard this can be and we are here to support you with whichever decision you decide to make”. Those were the words that I desperately needed to hear. It was supportive, it was compassionate, and it was empowering. Most importantly, it wasn’t judgmental, and it reminded me that I am ultimately the one that is in control. It gave me the agency to realize that no matter how overwhelming these next nine months might be, I had the willpower, strength, and faith to pursue this new journey.
I soon realized that there were so many things to do in such a little amount of time that I didn’t know where to start. My schedule did not afford me the time to read pregnancy blogs, watch YouTube videos of pregnancy “must haves”, or dissect pregnancy articles that were mostly based in personal opinion.
The advice I received from family members were valuable, but also outdated. Doctor’s visits were centered on my baby and less so on me. I slowly felt like people weren’t seeing me as Jasmin, but more so as a vessel for this beautiful growing baby. My values of career, ambition, fun, and free spirit were being dimmed by everyone’s growing value (and concern) of my baby. It all started to feel like a zero-sum game where I needed to choose either my identity or my baby, making little room for both to harmoniously coexist. Working too hard at work or school left me with feelings of “don’t overdo it, you don’t want to add stress to the baby”. And sleeping the whole day would leave feelings of guilt and self-talk of “I could/should be doing x y z right now.” I felt like I had to choose one over the other but could never have both.
It wasn’t until I was introduced to pregnancy’s two best friends-surrender and intuition- that I finally understood the power of pregnancy, and ultimately myself.
Surrender means to yield power, control, and possession of another upon compulsion. Surrendering taught me that I was holding onto the power of other’s people’s opinions, the control of maintaining an image of feminine perfection, and the possession of my inner struggles. I needed to surrender all of these things so that I could fully embrace my transformation. Intuition means to understand and know something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. This gave me the permission to trust my ability to go inward for answers instead of looking outward. I found that looking outside for answers was leaving me with self-doubt, procrastination, and worry. Thinking with my body and spirit allowed me to trust my internal compass of judgement and discernment. It gave me the confidence to speak up, ask questions, and question others when I felt that something was array with me or my baby. These two virtues that once were dormant, were now louder and prouder than ever. It empowered me, directed me, and nurtured me. Ultimately it gave me the autonomy to see not just in me, but in every woman, how powerful and capable we all are.
This lesson was also a foreshadow of what I needed to harness for my labor. Like most moms, I felt relatively prepared to deliver my baby. My birth plan was ready, my hospital bag was packed, and my fiancé finally returned home. The distance in our relationship was needed time away for us to carefully reflect, acknowledge our challenges, and heal ourselves separately. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was the best thing that could’ve happened for our relationship. We reunited better than when we left and were ready to heal our relationship together and united.
What we were not prepared for was that a life in North Carolina was prime for hurricanes, and there was a massive one coming our way. Hurricane Florence, a category 4 hurricane, was set to cross our path and cause major damage. All women, 36 weeks pregnant and further, were required to evacuate immediately. This meant driving to my in-laws in Delaware and possibly having the baby there. Not the plan! Those scary feelings, similar to when I first found out I was pregnant soon began to rear their nasty heads. Yet this time I had self-confidence, surrender, and intuition on my side. Although still there, those feelings in no way overcame me like they did the first time. This time I felt calm, knowing, and internally strong. No matter what was going to happen, I knew deeply that me and my baby were going to be okay.
Two weeks later and one week past my due date, we were on our way back from Delaware and on to the hospital. I walked into an induced labor, artificial breaking of my waters, an epidural, and stalled contractions at nine centimeters. This ultimately landed me in a c-section for my delivery. All my steps through labor were manufactured, never ever considered by me or written in my birth plan, and completely out of my control. Everything that I had planned did not go as planned (I hope you see a theme here 😊).
Was it hard? Yes. Was it disappointing? Yes. Do I wish I prepared differently? Yes. Did I cry a lot? Yes. But did I trust the situation and my intuition enough to surrender to the process? Yes. Did I ultimately deliver a beautiful and healthy baby boy? Yes. Did I come out as a healthy and happy mom? Yes, and yes.
The things that I once feared are now my weapons of strength and measures of growth. I successfully received my MBA from Duke University, work in Early Education nonprofit, am happily married, have a beautiful support system here in North Carolina; and all while having more compassion, self-confidence, and understanding of myself.
All in all, the pregnancy journey was truly that- a journey. The highs, the lows, the “a ha” moments, the transformations; are all factors in showing a woman the power that is within her. Which is what ultimately led me to create a practical and compassionate app solution called More Than Maternal.
More Than Maternal was created for women with busy lifestyles to nurture and prepare them fully and confidently for the arrival of their baby. It uses four intentions: mindset (mental wellness & building connections), money (financial planning & assessments), means (employment planning & workplace adjustment), and mission (self-advocacy & maternity rights) so that women feel centered, prepared, and powerful as they navigate their daily lives while pregnant.
The pregnancy journey is unique and I know that my journey was for me and me alone. But I also understand the similarities we face as well. It is my hope that my story and shared experiences will continue to unite women in support, education, compassion, and self-love.