Mariam, Owings MD (USA)

I was 22 when I got pregnant with my first son. I knew I was going to be on my own. He was very unstable and into drugs. We were both just being young and having fun, but I never had that sort of addictive personality. I spent time thinking about what were my options. I had three different people offering to pay for an abortion and another who thought I should do adoption. Ultimately I told my mom, and she was happy for me, which I didn't think made any sense! The pregnancy was the best ever. I got huge, but I didn't get sick, and I wasn't sad. You'd think that being alone to raise a kid would make you miserable, but I wasn't. Having D. changed me big time. I became more selfless and I had a drive to do better because somebody was now relying on me. I breastfed for 3 or 4 months and then transitioned to formula because that's how it worked then, but also because I got sick of hiding all the time. We've come a long way with breastfeeding. D. is 11 now, and he's just a really good kid. I got lucky. He's got the best traits of his biological father and me. It makes you think that if his dad had grown up in a good environment, he might have turned out ok. It's sad because he has another son that is ten years older than mine. We never got close, and they both have drug-related problems. I didn't want any part of it. To this day, D. has never met either of them. Sometimes I think maybe I should have let him be part of D's life, as dysfunctional as it may be. He's in jail now, got ten years for drugs. We still talk sometimes, but weirdly, he always seemed more interest in me than his son. It's starting to become inappropriate as I've gotten married and started a family of my own. But it's still his dad. I think one day, my son's going to want to meet him. I don't know for sure, but I feel like that because I was adopted myself. My adoptive father and my mother got married when I was little, and they had another child together. When they got divorced, he got custody of both of us while we visited my mother during the weekend. It wasn't until much later in life, at 12, that I found out I had a biological father. It was traumatic but ended up being a really, really good thing. I got to know the other ethnic side of my family: he's from Israel, and I have 5 brothers. I also have a lot in common with them and there was never any animosity. My life with my adoptive father was great, and I have a home attachment here. I often tell him that the only reason why it's so simple with my biological family is that he took such good care of me.

Mariam1

I put myself through dental hygiene school when D. was three months old. It was a very lonely time, but I grew up a lot: it has afforded me a much better life and the ability to support my son and myself. After school, I moved back to the area and decided to live with my maternal grandparents. Not because I couldn't afford to live on my own, but because I'm more family-oriented. I've actually lived on and off with them since I was born. We're super close, and this stay was mutually beneficial, although I think I have always benefited more from them than they probably ever did from me. My grandpa passed recently. He was an excellent man. Really loving and generous. He would sit there with my son when he was little, and they would go through the mail together. We always had dinner at the table, put on music, the easy listening channel you know? And there were always flowers on the table. I started dating my (now) husband when my son was in second grade, and he's been his dad ever since. I had gotten back to school to get my bachelor's degree when we met, and he helped with everything. I mean, above and beyond. He had no kids, so it's not like he knew how important it was. But D. and my whole family just loved him. He moved in with all of us in my grandparents' house. We weren't married, so he had his room in the basement: they don't play with that! But we both care about God a lot and we respected the rules—to a degree!—and didn't have sex until we were married. It was really good for both of us as it's different to get to know someone without that. He is corky, and perfect, with some weird “isms.” He's real particular about cleanliness... But he's incredible, helps with everything. We got married in 2016 and planned to get pregnant after four months. I got pregnant right away but I had a lot of stuff going on this time around: I pulled a muscle in my back, which was the worse pain of my life aside from labor. I was nauseous, gained weight really quickly, and I had heartburn and crippling fatigue. It was a contrast from the first time. I felt blindsided.

Mariam3

When you asked me to do the interview, I sobbed for five minutes. I was like “Sure I'd love to help!” but deep down, I thought, “If I'm to help, I've got to tell her stuff that I'm super uncomfortable with.” So when I was pregnant, I had an insane amount of leukorrhea. Considering my husband is very particular about all things clean, it wasn't is forte. Basically, he wasn't into me, which made me feel awful. It's one thing to be sick, but if you feel physically isolated and rejected by your partner, it's terrible. I became depressed. My hormones were crazy and the last thing I wanted was to live a life of celibacy for nine months. Meanwhile, I'm getting fatter and fatter, I have more leukorrhea every day, and I think to myself, 'I guess this is gross after all.' In a way, the difficulty also came from the fact that until then, everything had been so perfect. When you meet someone who's selfless and puts everybody else's needs before his, you think it's going to continue during the pregnancy. But it didn't. In the grand scheme of things, I guess it doesn't matter that much, but it did for me. It took me a very long time to work through it. I felt abandoned, and a surrogate rather than a wife. I talked to him about it, so it's not like he wasn't aware, but he simply didn't have an answer for that: he wasn't into it. It was actually a horrible topic for him. He tries to be such a good person, so when you tell him something negative, he gets defensive. Even after I had the baby, and he was doing everything at home for his family, I had this level of depression that I could not shake. I've heard so many complaints from friends about their partner who don't do any of that. So when you know how fantastic mine is, it's hard to imagine that I could be upset over any shortcoming. But what had happened during the pregnancy really affected me. I never talked to anybody about it before until now, because I didn't want to betray his trust. I'm also kind of embarrassed by it. But I felt stuck. I was mad at him for doing that to me in a vulnerable time. You swear for better and for worse, and you can't check out when I'm at my worse.

Mariam4

I'm sure it was hurtful to my husband to hear that I felt like a vessel for procreation and not a wife. In the Bible, they talk about abstaining only during your menstrual time, unless you both agree to it. There's no 'Oh no, you're pregnant, discard.' So I spent the majority of my postpartum period trying to make sense of struggles that started during the pregnancy, and from really dysfunctional views of what love is. I went from cheating, abuses, and rejection to perfection, but there's a middle ground. So I listened to audiobooks about relationships and about God. I began to think that maybe I was leaning on others to define me instead of the other way around. I wanted to feel strong at my core and see myself the way God sees me. I didn't think I would share all of this until I prepared for this interview. I thought I was done with those feelings, but as I wrote my story, it made me realize that I'm still afraid: we want another child. What if that happens again? But I think that by sharing this, it can benefit someone else. And when I finished the letter, I gave it to him. I don't think he understood the level at which it was affecting me until he read it. He apologized, said he didn't realize. Talking to him already helped. He told me he was more attracted to me now that we've had a baby together. I'm still hoping to have a sex life when I'm pregnant. In a way, I'm glad it happened. The isolation I felt during this second pregnancy pushed me towards some necessary healing. What came out of this depression is gratitude. I do more self-care now. We already had a fun relationship, and our communication improved. We can say silly stuff to each other, so maybe I'll just tell him “Dammit, you'll get in that bedroom and you will perform! Something's going down tonight.”