'Back in February'- How an unexpected pregnancy led to joy

by Jenny Uebbing

Catholic News Agency

Alexa Hyman and Renley Jane (courtesy photo)


Chicago, Ill. (CNA) — Alexa Hyman navigated her white Kia Optima, peering through sheets of rain, as she made her way to a Southern California Rite Aid. She already knew the answer, but she had to see it in flashing black and white. Sixteen dollars later, sitting at home in the tiny bathroom of her apartment, she had her answer: she was pregnant. And she was alone.

It was February 2017. Hyman was 23.

Months earlier she had loaded that same white Kia up with boxes of clothing and a lot of hope, headed from her hometown in the suburbs of Chicago to a new job and a future on the West Coast. This — an unexpected pregnancy from a relationship that had already ended — was not in her plans.

In an interview with CNA, Hyman said she remembers feeling her whole life contract to that one moment, alone in her bathroom, the test in her hands confirming what she already knew.

“It was terrifying. Everything I thought about my future, my plan, my life… any perceived control, it was all in jeopardy,” she said.

Numb, she told her roommate the news and tried to wrap her mind around her situation. She called and made an appointment for a first trimester abortion.

“I just thought that I had to have an abortion. At that very moment I didn’t feel a lot of support, and I just kind of let my whole body go numb.”

“I just desperately didn’t want to be alone in my suffering,” Hyman explained. “I was a problem solver, I’d always seen myself that way. And I didn’t see any other way out.”

“If you had asked me before this happened, ‘was I pro-life?’ I would have said yes. I was raised Catholic. We went to Mass. I even went to a March for Life in Chicago once. So, absolutely. And yet, once it happened to me, once it was me facing the unplanned pregnancy, abortion seemed like it was my only way out.”

Hyman said she felt like she had no choice other than to take an abortion-inducing pill.

But the day before she was supposed to take the abortion pill, five days after the positive pregnancy test, she ran into a friend with whom she hadn’t shared the news of her unplanned pregnancy.

Hyman tells the story on her new website, ‘Back in February:’ “Wrapped up in my own fear, I hardly made eye contact — worried I’d just break down then and there and cry uncontrollably. He made eye contact with me intentionally and blurted out a sentence I didn’t expect, and that would change everything: ‘You guys can do this.’”

“Confused by how he knew, I proceeded cautiously, ‘What?’”

“He responded, ‘You can do this. And, heck, if you don’t want this baby, I’ll adopt it. But you can do this.’”

Hyman writes that “It was the first time I felt courage to make the decision that deep down I knew I needed to make. I dropped all of my bags and fell down on my knees, ready to puke. After a few minutes, I left for work still wrapped up in fear but with a new energy to find my way out of it.”

Joy, she realized, would be the key to unlocking the fear and anxiety that threatened to overwhelm her. And joy would offer her a way forward.

Forward in joy

“Underneath the fear there was this tiny, little persisting sense of joy. Just this tiny little gut feeling that my body was starting to do exactly what it was supposed to do, and to do something unnatural to stop it just felt wrong,” she told CNA.

“I couldn’t bury that joy no matter how hard I tried.”

“I imagine it’s a tiny glimpse of what most women must feel like when they find out they’re pregnant under normal — or ideal — circumstances.”

“When I thought of abortion,” Hyman continued, “I felt this emptiness. I felt like I was getting a glimpse of exactly the grief I was going to feel afterwards. And that emptiness felt so much deeper and harder than even what I felt being about being pregnant.”

Later that morning, during a coffee meeting for work, Hyman revealed her news once again, bracing for shame, for judgment, for disbelief. The reaction from a colleague surprised her.

“Immediately he came around the table, placed a hand on my shoulder and with so much joy, said, ‘Alexa, there’s a baby inside of you!’”

“I immediately broke down in tears,” Hyman said. “He was pulling out that inkling of joy and magnifying it. [He] responded to my scary surprise pregnancy with the joy with which we respond to all other pregnancy announcements. His eyes filled with genuine excitement, he smiled and I smiled back — for the first time allowing myself to exhale with the news that a baby was really beginning to grow within me.”

Hyman knew then that she wouldn’t have an abortion. She called the clinic and cancelled her appointment. And then she began to make a plan for how she was going to tell her family, her friends, and her coworkers.

Katherine Meeks, the wife of one of Alexa’s coworkers, told CNA that while it came as a surprise, the pregnancy “very quickly became very purposeful. It was a growth opportunity for me, to put myself in her shoes and be the objective strength and shoulder when she was so scared and alone.”

“I think that our generation needs more models in the faith of hope and joy. It was hard, and in many ways I will never know, but Alexa had the support and the courage to make this experience a beautiful one and wasn’t ashamed to share this unexpected life with the world around her with such confidence and joy.”

“The Church as a community of people was really incredible,” Meeks continued. “Immediately, everyone recognized the joy of life within her. This decision and experience was not going to end her future, but rather was something to be excited about.”

“No one was quiet, no one made her feel guilty or shamed, they all genuinely wanted to see her through this and give her hope. Everyone I talked to within the Catholic community was not only supportive but shared joy,” Meeks said.

Meanwhile, Hyman was beginning to experience a glimmer of that joy for herself.

And while her parents, who visited LA just two weeks after she took the pregnancy test, were rocked by their daughter’s announcement, they emphasized their unwavering support.

Nanci Hyman, Alexa’s mother, told CNA that the day her daughter revealed her pregnancy to them she “was terrified for her, but I just kept repeating to her, we will help you, we are here, you are not alone.”

Nanci said that while incredibly difficult in the beginning, it soon became clear that this was not “the worst thing that had ever happened to us, but one of the best things.”

“You want your children to know that you love them unconditionally, that you will never stop loving them, no matter what. I am so grateful Alexa felt safe enough to come to us. Once her story began to get around, our eyes were opened to how many other women have walked this path, and how important it is to have support.”

Nanci said when Hyman did finally start to share the news of her pregnancy, several young women reached out to her and confessed that they too were pregnant and had been considering having abortions. Alexa’s story gave them courage to carry their babies to term.

“There are women out there — good girls from good homes who are being raised in the Church, attending Catholic schools, learning the faith from their families, and we are not immune to this. The shame drives so many women to make irreversible decisions, and the silence enables the cycle to continue,” Nanci told CNA.

Alexa Hyman, meanwhile, was beginning to feel more confident that maybe her life wasn’t totally derailing after all.

“You can do this, Alexa.”

“It was a real turning point,” Hyman confessed, “when people responded to my situation with joy instead of fear or disappointment.”

“Women are so buried in this fear. And the future looks totally black. But in sharing this message, I want other women in this circumstance to know that there is another side to the story. I know that it feels like your life is ending, but it’s really just beginning.”

The pro-life movement expends heroic effort and resources on material assistance to women in crisis pregnancies, meeting women in their deepest need and helping them to make a way forward.

But Hyman says that fear is a huge motivator for many women facing unplanned pregnancies.

“A woman is so afraid she will lose her relationship if she goes down this road. But you can’t make a decision based on fear. At the end of the day, if the relationship doesn’t work out, the relationship wasn’t meant to be, but you’re still left with a darling child.”

“If you make a decision based on fear, based on trying to preserve a relationship - well, would you rather grieve the relationship or the baby who you sacrificed for the relationship?”

“Back in February”

Asked how her faith factored into her experience, Hyman said she grew close to Mary during her pregnancy.

“I kept praying the joyful mysteries of the Rosary, I became so infatuated with those reflections because I felt so alone, and I wanted to understand how she did it. And all the while, I kept hearing from her that I needed to share my story.”

And so, after two years of journaling and countless revisions and second guessing, last month Hyman launched a website and accompanying social media channels called “Back in February,” after that fateful month in 2017 when the course of her life changed.

“My big hope for ‘Back in February’ is that, specifically for women facing an unplanned pregnancy, this place becomes a living, breathing community of women … where you can realize that you’re not alone.,” Hyman said.

Hyman now lives in Chicago, close to her family, where she works full time in the financial services industry and navigates life as a single mom. Her daughter, Renley Jane, is now almost 17 months old, and splits her weekdays between her nanny and her grandma.

“There is not a single day that goes by — even my hardest days — that I would make a single different choice,” Hyman declared. “I have my daughter. She has opened me up to unconditional love.”

Chicago, Ill. (CNA) — Alexa Hyman navigated her white Kia Optima, peering through sheets of rain, as she made her way to a Southern California Rite Aid. She already knew the answer, but she had to see it in flashing black and white.

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