As a 17-year-old high school student from the Philippines, Trishia felt troubled and unhappy, and then she found out she was pregnant. Consumed with fear, she and her boyfriend kept the news from their parents for the first few months of Trishia's pregnancy, until they had no choice but to surrender and embrace the next chapter of their lives together.
What’s your name and who’s in your family? My name is Trishia, I am 19 years old, turning 20 this year, and I am a mother to a smart, lively 16-month-old daughter. I am the eldest daughter in my family with a 12-year-old sibling. I live with my mom, grandmother, and aunt here in the Philippines. My dad has been working abroad in a different country for almost 2 decades now.
How did you feel learning you were pregnant? I was very scared and shocked after learning I was pregnant. It was April of 2019 and I was only 17 at the time. I didn't have a lot of positive thoughts or feelings after I found out. I was a troubled kid in my high school years – I was depressed and having a baby was never in my plans.
What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up for you? I was studying as an upcoming graduate student in high school, but I never got to graduate on time because of my pregnancy. I went to a private, catholic school which explains why I had to stop going and take a gap year because it wasn't allowed. Teenage pregnancy is such a taboo issue here in the Philippines; young pregnant women get judged, shamed and looked down upon. Yet despite all the stigma, cases of teen pregnancy here in the Philippines are still getting higher and it's very rampant.
Did you feel supported during pregnancy by your family/partner/medical team? My boyfriend was a graduating high school student at the time. Luckily, he got to graduate and go onto college, and I took a gap year to focus on my pregnancy. After learning that I was pregnant, my boyfriend and I both had the same reaction; we were scared, because we were still students, living under the roof of our parents, and it was just way out of our plans. We both didn't know what to do, so we hid it. For the first few months of my pregnancy, only 3 people knew – me, my boyfriend, and my best friend. I wanted to get an abortion, but it is illegal here in our country, and we didn't have, or know, of any other options, so, I just hid my pregnancy until it became much more obvious.
After 4 months, we finally told our parents. It was around July, I had gone and got an ultrasound to see how the baby was doing and after seeing the results, my boyfriend and I began to feel more optimistic about the situation. So that night, we both told the news to our parents. My parents were mad and disappointed. My mom, whom I'd been living with for my whole life, told me to pack my things and go to my boyfriends. I felt ashamed and disappointed, so I did what I was told. It was a relief to get to my boyfriend’s place and find that his parents were more accepting of the situation than my parents. His parents let me stay at their house and took care of me not only during my pregnancy but in postpartum too. I'm very thankful for my boyfriend and his parents, for accepting me and caring for me like I was their own family – I felt very supported by them throughout my pregnancy. My parents didn't completely disown me, but they were very disappointed and were not very accepting of me and my boyfriend.
How old were you when you gave birth? What was your experience like? I gave birth in November of 2019; I was 18 at the time. I started having false contractions during the night but I didn't know that’s what it was (having no experience whatsoever and provided with very little knowledge of what to expect), but later that night, the contractions got worse and worse, which encouraged my family and boyfriend to send me to the hospital.
As we arrived at the public hospital (where I intended to give birth because we couldn't afford to pay the costly bills in a private one and our parents wouldn't support it either) and they firstly checked my cervix and how dilated I was. Because the medical team didn't think I was going to give birth any time soon, they didn't let me enter the labour room.
It was midnight when we went into the hospital, I was restless the whole night and couldn't sleep because my contractions just kept getting more intense. And because they didn't let me enter the labour room, we had to pass time in the waiting room. So I walked around the hospital because they said walking helps with the pain. Around 6am, I felt I couldn't take the contractions any longer, so I went back to the emergency room and asked for the medical staff to let me in the labour room so I could at least lay down and rest while dealing with my contractions. To cut it all short, I think I was in labour for less than 20 hours, perhaps 18 hours. I finally gave birth to a beautiful baby girl around 8pm on November 13th.
Were you able to debrief your birth experience in a way that helped you to process the experience? I'm not sure if I was really able to debrief my birth experience in a helpful way – let me just say, it was EXTREMELY painful, but worth it all once I saw my little one's face. I can never forget the sigh of relief and smile I made after seeing her finally out in the world. I will always be thankful to that one midwife who helped me with my delivery. As a first-time mom, who knew very little about giving birth, her words and support really helped me during that time.
What were the first few weeks of motherhood like for you? What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up? The first few weeks of motherhood as far as I can remember, was both comforting and unsettling. I think those were the times I felt anxious about being a first-time mom and anxious with my baby. It was comforting to me because I felt so happy to have her in my arms; unsettling because of the baby blues and perhaps a little bit of postnatal depression. I just remember crying suddenly, in the middle of a meal, for no apparent reason at all. It was a bit tough, mostly emotionally. But it was also probably the easiest time for me because my baby wasn't very fussy as a newborn and there wasn't much work for me, especially when I compare it to having a toddler!
How did you find transitioning into parenthood? What challenges did you face in the first year? I found transitioning into parenthood difficult, and honestly, like I lost part of my identity – that I’m mostly a mom and have forgotten who I am and the things I used to love to do and experience. I feel like whenever I'm not mummying or I'm not with my baby, I don't know who I am. That's one of the many challenges I faced in the first year of motherhood. Another challenge that I’m still currently facing is having to do everything by myself most of the time because my partner and I are not able to live together. In the first few months after having my baby, my boyfriend would come over and stay at my parent’s house to help out. Now my daughter and I have frequent sleepovers at my boyfriend’s parent’s house, especially when I’m feeling too drained to function. I'm so glad he and his family are always open to help.
Did you have strategies in place to manage stress and anxiety? Regarding anxiety and stress, I honestly wasn't very good with coping and managing, I just cried it all out! Haha. In the first year of motherhood, I felt my anxiety peak like never before – I experienced feelings and moments for the first time, like staying up all night because of my nonstop stream of thoughts and hearing my heart palpitate. I even asked my OB-GYN if it was because of my contraceptive method which was an IUD, but she said it wasn’t because it wasn't a hormonal contraceptive. Some days I don't even feel like myself at all, and I'm just thankful to have an understanding and loving partner who's with me despite everything I go through.
Do you feel that you had a healthy support network? As a young mom, which as I mentioned earlier, is a taboo thing here in our country, I think the only lack of support I experienced was with my parents. I cried most of the time during my pregnancy and even after mostly because of the lack of support I received from my parents, both emotionally and financially. I am most grateful to my boyfriend and his family, and all my friends that had my back during my pregnancy and also as I began my journey as a mom.
I feel I have a healthy support network, which consists mainly of my boyfriend and 2 best friends, with whom I can have a good old cry with at any time! But if we're talking about a support network that consists of fellow moms who you can exchange your struggles with, I didn't have that. I only have one person who I go to that has shared a similar experience to me – my cousin who is now 25 and has 3 great kids – she also became a mom when she was just 18.
What do you love most about being a mum? What I love most about being a mom is the bond I have with my daughter and seeing her experience the world. I love witnessing her ongoing progress of growth. Being a mom makes you reflect and evaluate yourself. You also practice accepting your imperfections and that we all make mistakes because nothing is perfect. It makes you more forgiving, understanding, caring, and loving, not only to your child but most importantly, to yourself.
What do you wish people could understand more about being a young mother? I wish people would understand that it's not easy being a mom, especially a young mom, and that nothing is wrong with that. I wish people would be more compassionate because where I live, they mostly just shame, laugh, and look down upon young mothers, which feels awful. Nonetheless, despite the negativity of others which doesn't really matter, having and being in this experience is beautiful.
What’s helped you the most in becoming a mum? The internet and social media, as funny as this may seem, really did help me in becoming a mom as I often find really helpful advice and tips from posts that I read about parenting: I learned a lot from managing my own emotions and triggers as a mom, how to bond with my child, and how to help my child experience her emotions. My support network has been very helpful, including my parents, because despite everything, they still try to help and provide what they can to me and my daughter. I also believe my inner strength has helped me through this experience – because on this journey, I mostly have myself to turn to, and I pat myself on the back that to this day, I keep going despite how hard things can be, and I’m proud of myself for wanting to continually grow and learn.
Photography by Josh Bean via Unsplash
Thank you so much Trishia for your vulnerability in sharing your story.
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