Today we’re excited to share this heartfelt interview with Alexa Hyman, founder of Back in February, a rapidly growing online community for women in unplanned pregnancies. Alexa found out she was pregnant unexpectedly and scheduled an abortion. However, she decided not to go through with it, and is now the proud single mother of baby Renley.
In this interview, she’s sharing part of her personal story with us, why she decided not to have the abortion, and how she was inspired to found Back in February, which she hopes will continue to grow as a resource for other women who find themselves in unplanned pregnancies.
You were living and working in L.A. when you found out you were unexpectedly pregnant. What brought you there? Could you tell us more about what your life what like at this point?
I moved out to LA seven months after I graduated from Albion College. I exited with a well-round liberal arts education with degrees in journalism and business administration, and naturally, had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
I knew I loved to write but I wasn’t sure I was interested in the grind of journalism. I was intimidated by it. And while I had some experience in finance, my creativity was pulling me in a different direction.
A good friend sent me a job posting for a project management role working for a two-year-old non-profit digital marketing team in Los Angeles. They were like a start-up, using L.A. as a beta test market for unifying the brand, data, and communications between dozens of departments within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. They were doing something different and trying to solve a problem. I was hooked.
While I wasn’t initially trying to move out to California, I had always loved to travel, camp and be outdoors. When the opportunity came, the idea of living amidst the mountains and ocean enchanted me. But what really pushed me over the edge was working with a group of people who were trying to make a difference.
Over the course of the soul-searching months leading up to this point, I had asked myself the same question over and over: “What do you want to do?” What I kept hearing myself say had nothing to do with industry or craft: I just want to make a difference. I want to do something that makes the world better.
So I accepted the offer and packed up everything I could fit into my little white KIA Optima and drove 2000 miles to Los Angeles.
Just weeks after settling in, I was chasing starry skies and bonfire nights in Joshua Tree, taking weekend trips up to Santa Barbara and packing my tent up for any adventure in Yosemite that I could tag along on. I bought a surfboard and I was driving out to the ocean almost every Saturday.
Literally and figuratively, I dove right in. And while it was definitely an adjustment, I was thriving in the challenge of it all.
And then one day you found out you were pregnant. What went through your head that day?
Renley’s dad and I worked together and had dated on and off for a year. We weren’t together when I found out, so this was no happy surprise.
That day, when the test read “pregnant,” I was in pure shock, total panic, and full of fear like I’ve never felt it before. The first hour I hardly remember—just that I paced around saying, “No, no, no, no, not me.”
After processing the shock, what did you decide to do?
I scheduled an abortion.
There’s more detail about this on my website, but on Wednesday morning, the day before I was supposed to take the pill, I ran into a good friend of mine. I hadn’t told him the news, and I didn’t plan to, but someone had leaked it to him.
He made a point to make eye contact with me and he said very bluntly, “You can do this, Alexa.”
Up until this point, no one had said this to me. As much as my closest friends were supportive of whatever decision I made, nobody had said the words “You can do this.”
I didn’t realize at the time how much I needed those words. I needed someone to have confidence for me, because I was drowning in fear. When he said those words, I was flooded with emotion (I actually fell down to my knees). I had pulled this door shut in my mind and he was cracking it back open.
I had completely eliminated the idea of going through with the pregnancy — burying the thought in my mind — because I felt like there was no other way. After he said these words, I was filled with hope.
He asked me if he could connect me with a friend of his who had been through a similar situation, and if I would talk to her before I made any decision. I agreed without hesitation, dying to talk to someone who I could relate to.
That evening I had coffee with a woman I’d never met. She went on to tell me that she had an abortion ten years previously, and she cried, telling me she hadn’t told many people this story.
She looked me in the eyes and she said, “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about how old my baby would have been. You need to trust me when I tell you, you can do this.”
That coffee date made all the difference. and while I had already cancelled the abortion earlier that day, she filled me with hope. From that moment forward I never looked back.
What kind of support did you have from friends, family, and others as an expectant mother, and now, as a single mom?
Almost all of my friends were supportive after I made my decision. Some couldn’t believe I decided to go through with the pregnancy, reminding me that I had my whole life ahead of me, but ultimately I think they respected my courage.
I was most scared to share the news with the sister I now live with, Olivia, because I thought she would be disappointed in me. When I told her over FaceTime in L.A., she was the most excited out of anyone; she didn’t even shudder.
After I shared it on social media at 23 weeks, people came out of the woodwork to tell me they were there for me, proud of me and amazed by my decision. I was overwhelmed by the positive response. Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t as worried about what people would think. I was processing so much emotionally that I didn’t have mental space to worry about the judgment of others.
My family was incredibly supportive, though they went through their own emotional processing. My mom will tell you it was a very hard year for her, but mostly because my future didn’t look the way she’d always thought it would. My parents were extremely proud of everything I’d accomplished up to this point and I think there may have been a glimpse of doubt for how I would overcome this challenge in my life.
Nonetheless, they were the most supportive of all.
They invited me in to move home, and when I made the decision to leave L.A. and move back to Chicago, they embraced me with indescribable love. Being in an emotionally stable environment at this time was pivotal.
When Renley was born, my dad cried like a baby at the hospital. I think it may have been one of the happiest days of his life.
He had three daughters himself, and I think having a granddaughter was one of the most special gifts I could have accidentally given him. Renley now brings so much joy to our family.
Though I have a nanny four days a week, my mom watches Renley every Friday,and it’s her favorite day of the week. I live with my sister, Olivia (the talented artist who created my logo), and she is a constant help for me. She puts up with Renley venturing into her bedroom to steal her art supplies, and she gracefully deals with all of my shenanigans.
Renley’s dad, Tom, also moved back to Chicago in August of last year. He picks Renley up from our nanny every Tuesday and Thursday and brings her back by bedtime. He’s extremely flexible and helpful whenever I need a break or a hand.
Perhaps one of the biggest angels in my life is my adorable Guatemalan nanny, Dora, who came to me through a friend when I was looking into daycares for Renley. After I met her for a brief interview, I was in love with her and intent on finding a way to keep her.
She sings and dances with Renley all day. She speaks to her in Spanish and has taught her some sign language. She’s an extension of me, helping me keep my house tidy and stocked, and I honestly don’t know what I would do without her.
How do you balance work and motherhood as a single mom?
Haha! This is a tough one. After I moved into my own place last July, there was a six-month adjustment period. It was A LOT. I had to learn to come home from a long day at work and still be present. I also had to adjust to the exhaustion of that.
I came up with a couple tricks (more tricks on my website too), but one was to come home, change out of my work clothes and immediately put on some music. This habit kind of moved me out of “work mode” into “mom mode.”
Looking at my week ahead on Sundays and dedicating time for self care (#SelfcareSunday) also changed everything. I think the biggest thing was accepting that the adjustment was normal, that it’s okay to be imperfect, and that all I really needed to focus on was being present for my daughter. The rest takes care of itself.
Have you noticed any other changes since becoming a mom?
Oh, absolutely. Before I became a mother, I was incredibly hard-headed. I wanted to do things my way, and if you can’t already guess, I needed control over my life. I’m sure every mother is laughing right now. Having a child is totally counterproductive to maintaining selfishness and control.
I’ve become more empathetic, understanding, accepting of chaos. I’ve become a little more soft and gentle. That said, I’ve also become more anxious. I think there’s a constant struggle with wanting to control my everyday messiness and with accepting that my life is simply messy.
But the biggest thing that changed about me, I think, is that for the first time in my life I chose someone else over myself.
What inspired you to open up about your story, and to start Back in February?
All my life, I have had a deep desire to help people. You can read the whole story in my Unplanned Pregnancy Action Plan, but when I was in high school my boyfriend dumped me during my junior year. I took all my heartbreak and I wrote a guide to getting over a breakup.
But instead of using the guide (the writing of it was therapeutic enough), I gave it to one of my best friends who was going through her own very difficult breakup.
My pain allowed me to understand her own pain, and I hurt for her, maybe even more than I hurt for myself. I think focusing on others also helped me take focus off of myself so that I could move forward. As I was writing the content of my website, that experience popped into my head and it taught me something about myself.
Because of my own suffering, I feel deeply for the suffering of others and I want to be there for them through it all, encouraging them that they’re not alone.
That Wednesday before my scheduled abortion, those friends who told me you can do this, were also telling me something else: you’re not alone in this.
During the week when I found out I was pregnant, I had scrambled to find someone else on the Internet who had been through this pain, but I could barely find anything that covered the whole journey. I found a few articles where women wrote about the day they found out, but I wanted to know more. How are they doing now? What did that journey look like? What can I expect?
And so I think that’s where all of this was born. I know very deeply the aloneness one feels when they’re full of fear and heartbreak. I know it so well that I could cry just writing this. And everytime I meet another woman going through the same situation, my heart actually breaks for her.
So, just like my 17-year-old self, I’ve become passionate for being there for these women, telling them they’re not alone, and reminding them — in my words and by my example — that they can do this.
Back in February exploded overnight, and you already have over 1,000 followers on Instagram. What are your goals, hopes, and dreams for your website in the future? How would you like to see it grow? What are you planning next?
Oh, so many dreams! On the social media side, my goal is to promote a culture of authenticity and community that is very much lacking. I’m finding (very quickly) that women are hungry for real, substantive goodness and truth.
I plan to continue writing my own everyday stories in hopes that women can relate and feel less alone, but more than that, I want women to know the power in storytelling. My dream is that women will start to share their own stories on their own platforms, because stories are what change hearts and cultivate connection.
Social media is like a Petri dish of perfectionism and I’m tired of it; I’m trying to flip that whole idea on its head. If we don’t share, we don’t gain community. If we don’t get real and those who we’re following don’t get real, we all feel isolated in our suffering.
My goal for Back in February is that it becomes a community of women, leaning on each other and telling their own truths. Because womanhood, motherhood, humanness is hard. We are made for community and we simply can’t do it alone.
As for the website, I will soon be launching a page called “The Februaries” where other women will share their own stories of struggle (far beyond unplanned pregnancy). They will be raw, emotional and not necessarily wrapped tightly with a bow. I want to create a living community of women who are strong, vulnerable, and empowering.
I can only tell my story, but there are so many other stories to tell. There will be many other developments but I can’t talk about them just yet ;)!
What is your biggest insecurity as a mother?
My biggest insecurity is not being present with my daughter. I noticed since I launched this on February 17th, that she’s been batting down my phone when I’m on it, replying to messages. She’s telling me something. She’s asking me to be there with her. My biggest insecurity is being in her company and her not feeling like I’m all there.
I’ve already created a new rule for myself to try and counteract this (you’re starting to see my slightly psychotic nature, haha). When I come home from work after posting a story or two, I’m turning my phone upside down for an hour while we play and be silly. She needs that from me, and as much as I want to be there for other women, I’ll always need to be there for her first.
What is your favorite part of being a mother?
Oh my goodness, where do I begin? My favorite part is probably coming to know love in a totally new and transformative way. Before Renley was born, I was extremely hard on myself. I still am sometimes, but I learned quickly, day after day as she looked up at me with adoring eyes for no reason other than the fact that I was her mother, that I had to love myself more deeply.
Other than learning to be kinder to myself, she taught me this naturally with her love. She taught me the way God must love me, and until that moment, I never realized how much He must actually love me. As our love fest ensued, I felt purposeful and more empowered as a woman. Motherhood and the journey to get there gave me my voice.
Before I got pregnant, I didn’t think much about having kids. I knew I always wanted kids but I wasn’t one of those people who dreamed only of having children. After she was born, I felt like I was made for this. Being her mom is my most fulfilling endeavor yet.
What advice would you have for a young woman reading this who finds herself in your shoes?
I’d tell you first and foremost that you’re not alone. This journey of suffering is also one full of life’s most fulfilling joys, and many women (including myself) are walking it with you.
If you’re considering abortion, give yourself at least one week to make a decision. Don’t rush anything, and over the course of the week, let the shock and fear wear off and think deeply about the motivation of that decision. Is it because you’re being pressured? Is it because you feel there’s no other way? Is it because you feel like your life is over and that people will judge you?
Please don’t give way to the pressure; you deserve to be loved and relished in your pregnancy, and if that isn’t what you’re receiving, you will get through this — just as I did — and I believe wholeheartedly we’ll find that love in the future.
If you feel trapped, I promise there is a way through. If you think your life is over, I promise (and you must trust me) it’s just beginning. You’ll be amazed by the people who will embrace you (not judge you) and be moved and encouraged by your “Yes.”
If you’re in my shoes, I’m here to tell you, You can do this and I’m going to help you through it.
If you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy, we recommend reading Alexa’s Letter to You.
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