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Campus & Community

Managing the ups and downs of motherhood

BYUH student who struggled physically and mentally throughout her pregnancy says she wishes people would be more honest about issues pregnant women face

Woman kissing her baby on the forehead
Photo by Photo by Pristine Shek

Ellisa Edeyaoch shared her struggles with pain, fatigue, illness, social isolation and mental health during her pregnancy were all worth it when she saw her newborn son, Elijah, for the first time. “No matter how hard it was for me and how unprepared I was, at that moment, in that split second, I remembered all of the good times I had while I was pregnant.”

Edeyaoch, a senior studying Pacific Island Studies from Micronesia, said she wished she had known more about the trials of being pregnant before her own experience after giving birth to Elijah in September 2022.

“I really wish some people were honest about the issues that pregnant women face,” said Edeyaoch. She shared the first three months were the hardest months throughout her pregnancy, which made her decide to take a break from school and work.

Although it was a lonely process, she said the small moments of joy are the ones she will remember forever. “People need to take time to understand that pregnancy is a beautiful experience, not just scary.”

Joyous news and sleepless nights

Edeyaoch said she was told she potentially couldn’t have children because of a previously diagnosed medical condition. In the Winter 2022 Semester, she said she went to BYU–Hawaii’s Health Center to get tested for COVID-19. While there, she discovered her symptoms of fatigue and nausea were actually from her pregnancy, Edeyaoch said. She explained she was overwhelmed with joy.

“I remember crying because I was so happy. But the joy was followed by a lot of sleepless nights,” she said. She explained she woke up while sleeping and threw up regularly. She said she wished she could say it ended after her first trimester, but it continued throughout her pregnancy.

Woman holding her baby in her arms.
Ellisa Edeyaoch is holding her son Elijah.
Photo by Photo by Pristine Shek

“The first trimester was one of the hardest months with school and with my mental health. ... I was kind of overwhelmed,” she said. While working at the Joseph F. Smith Library, she said her employers were very understanding of her health condition, allowing her to have days off. However, she said she felt guilty for taking so many days off, especially from school.

Edeyaoch’s husband and Elijah’s father, Kaytano Edeyaoch, a BYUH alumnus who studied communications and is currently working at the Banyan Dining Hall full-time, said, “I am sure about 80 percent of our co-workers had no idea what was going on.”

He shared he had several pregnant classmates and saw them missing classes, but he said he did not know what they were going through until he saw his wife going through her pregnancy. She had days when she couldn’t even get out of bed, said Kaytano Edeyaoch.

Asking for help and a sense of embarrassment

Ellisa Edeyaoch said she felt lonely during her pregnancy but thought it was just a pregnancy hormone. Since the culture where she grew up does not consider mental health to be a real issue, asking for help was embarrassing to her, she said.

“I remember feeling very alone, but at the same time, I was too shy to reach out for help,” she added. Because she felt ashamed to have those feelings, she said she kept them to herself until she noticed it was affecting her schooling and work.

When diagnosed with severe depression, Ellisa Edyaoch said she remembered thinking, “Oh, this is bad. I really need to get some help.” After she reached out to BYUH’s Counseling Services, she said the counselor helped her work through her mental health issues during her first trimester to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the following months.

After taking a break from school, Ellisa Edeyaoch explained she could not have access to Counseling Services. “I was trying to remember everything that we talked about during our exercise so that I would be able to withstand all of the emotions,” she said.

Unexpected challenges

During her second trimester, Ellisa Edeyaoch was diagnosed with COVID-19. On top of that, she said she also had two wisdom teeth extracted in one day because some of her teeth had started to shatter. She said her dentist and her doctor told her growing a human requires a lot of vitamins, which leads to weaker teeth and gums. “I was so shocked because I was taking really good care of my teeth. ... I wish someone told me that,” said Ellisa Edeyaoch.

In her third trimester, Ellisa Edeyaoch said she started experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, which is when the body experiences contractions in preparation for labor. Her body started to have painful contractions at random times during the day and night, she said. “It was just a lot.”

Additionally, she said she gained about 50 pounds during the last trimester. “I was so confused why I had gained that much weight, but after I gave birth, I lost 40 pounds in a week. So it was really all the baby and the fluids inside.”

Losing connections

“[During pregnancy,] you kind of become a hermit, [and] no one tells you that you lose connections,” said Ellisa Edeyaoch. She shared she felt she lost many friends from constantly being sick, not wanting to throw up in front of people, and struggling with low self-esteem as her appearance started to change. “You become shy, and you do not become as close to your friends as you were before,” she said.

Ellisa Edeyaoch added, “I think it is so important [people] check up on their pregnant friends, no matter how much they say, ‘Oh no, it is okay.’ You don’t need to come over and visit them in person, just call them or leave them a voice message. It helps so much.”

After discontinuing schooling, Ellisa Edeyaoch said she also had to stop working on campus, causing her husband to work two jobs. One night, as her husband worked late, she said she remembers being alone at home, thinking, “I should be happy. I am growing a human, ... creating this miracle.”

She continued, “Why do I feel so alone? Why do I hate myself? Why do I think that I’m ugly? Why do I think I am so bad? Why am I having all these negative thoughts? And why can’t I just be happy? Why can’t I just be grateful for all these things?” Then, she said her sister called just wanting to talk about random things. At that moment, Ellisa Edeyaoch recounted with tears in her eyes, she thought, “I needed this. I just needed someone to check up on me.”

Man holding his baby out in front of him in his arms.
Kaytano Edeyaoch is holding his son Elijah.
Photo by Photo by Pristine Shek

Kaytano Edeyaoch said, “Social issues are a huge factor.” He said he thinks people aren’t educated or aware of the struggle of being pregnant.

Beautiful moments following the struggles 

Despite the pain, fear, and loneliness she experienced throughout her pregnancy, Ellisa Edeyaoch said she had a flashback of her good memories while pregnant with Elijah as she gave birth and saw him for the first time. After five hours of labor, she said it was a confusing moment for her.

She said she thought about, “The first time I felt a baby kick, the first time I found out that I was pregnant or the first time we saw his ultrasound. ... All these memories came to mind. ... It was such a beautiful moment.” Ellisa Edeyaoch recalled thinking, “‘Oh, I would do this again just to have that experience again.’”

During her first week after having Elijah, she said she felt overwhelmed and exhausted while nursing him one night. While doubting whether she could keep going, she said she saw him looking at her, grabbing her finger with his tiny hands and smiling. She said that moment helped her overcome her challenges and feel happiness and gratitude. “I remember saying a little prayer by heart to Heavenly Father ... for allowing me to be part of this creation process and to be part of this little human’s life,” said Ellisa Edeyaoch.

Baby holding onto mother's finger
Photo by Photo by Pristine Shek

Adapting to life changes

“Life after having a baby is so different,” said Edeyaoch. She and her husband get stressed and overwhelmed when they don’t know how to calm Elijah, especially when he’s crying at 2 a.m., she said.

She emphasized it is important to take good care of yourself, especially for new mothers, because they are taking care of another person. “And it’s so funny because I can barely take care of myself,” she said. She shared she reserves time for self-care, mostly when Elijah is sleeping.

“I like to take naps, crochet, read Webtoons, paint, or eat [my] favorite snacks to recharge.” She said she has been grateful she is becoming more responsible, less lazy and more productive with her time.

While it is hard to find joy and easy to start beating herself up in challenging situations, Edeyaoch said new mothers need to accept they are going through changes. “You will never be the same mentally. [Your whole life, your social circle] will never be the same, but you have to accept that,” she said.

Mother and Father holding their baby and smiling at the camera
Photo by Photo by Pristine Shek