Women can show their strength in all sorts of ways, but the one that’s the most miraculous is our ability to create life. This month, as part of our Phenomenal Women series, we’ve partnered with Ammaglow to capture the beauty and strength of the pregnant form, and to reveal the stories behind a woman’s pregnancy.
Stylist and designer Mengly Hernandez Brusewitz is the first in the photo series. Hernandez Brusewitz recently gave birth to her second child, a daughter named Ebba (she had her son Ousmane when she was 17). “I was definitely prepared to not have another child because I’d already experience that,” she tells us, “[but] I met someone, we got married, and he’s a wonderful person. I just decided he would be a great father. We spoke about that and agreed it was something we both wanted.”
She tells us in her own words the difference between being pregnant at 17 and expecting at 35, along with what she’s learned about being pregnant in the years in between.
I waited so long in between pregnancies that it definitely was very special and very humbling when I found out.
The difference between my first and second pregnancies are night and day. First of all I was 17. I had just graduated high school, so I was in major transition with no career established [and] very minimal support from my son’s father. There was no question that I was going to have this child, and it was going to be great, but at the same time I didn’t have a lot of help—most of the support came from my mom. I had to go to school, I had to work, I didn’t have a lot of time off with my son. It was very challenging.
Whereas [with] this [pregnancy], you know someone has your back [and] it’s easier to tackle any challenge that comes your way. Pregnancy doesn’t happen without its challenges, no matter how blissful it is or how much you want the child.
I think that’s the major difference: Having a supportive partner and having something to work on as far as career and passion. You have to integrate the pregnancy into your life, and that’s not something that I had to do when I was 17. I was a liberal arts student; I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I was still kind of young enough where I didn’t have to know. When you get older, and you have passions and career goals, you’re kind of integrating [your pregnancy] into that.
I’m looking forward to meeting her.
At 17 I wasn’t very body conscious—I’m lucky that I am quite thin naturally. But as you get older, things just shift and your energy level is completely different. This pregnancy has actually been a bit of a challenge. I was hospitalized twice because I had severe vomiting. [And] carrying 40-something pounds around [isn’t] the easiest task at times, especially when you still have things to do. I’m not one of those pregnant people who just wants to veg; I like to move and get things done. So that’s a challenge. One day I want to do a lot of different things, and then the next day, I [still] want to do a lot of things, but I physically can’t.
[As for giving birth], my viewpoint is completely different this time. The first time I didn’t want any drugs: “I want nothing to do with an epidural, don’t try to give me any of that.” That was the plan, but unfortunately my water broke hours before—I wasn’t dilating and hours had gone by. Finally I got contractions, but I still wasn’t dilating. They basically said, “You are at the cusp of getting a c-section if you don’t dilate soon, because there’s no protection for the baby and there’s an increase in the possibility of infection.”
At that point, I had to reconsider everything. They said, “You’re tensing up every time you have a contraction, and that may be factoring into the fact that you’re not dilating.” I was like, “OK, you know what? I don’t want a c-section, I want to try and see if I can get this done without a c-section so go ahead and administer the epidural.” I fell asleep for an hour, I woke up, and I was ready to give birth.
In this case, I don’t have anything to prove. I feel like everyone has the right to do what they want. If it means something to you to have a natural, drug-free birth, then so be it. I think that’s amazing. But on the other side of the coin, if the person wants to have an epidural—I don’t see it [as] like I’m getting some kind of points. Like, “Oh, I’m a champion.” I’m already a champion—I carried around 40 pounds for awhile, I don’t have anything to prove in that department. It’s not like I’m going in there, like, “Give me an epidural.” I’ll see how it goes. I have no hesitation about saying, “Yup, give it to me.”
I’m exhausted, [but] I’m really happy; I’m looking forward to meeting her.
This is part of our ongoing Phenomenal Women series. Click here for more pieces on phenomenal women.