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“For Heliena, throwing a gender reveal was a turning point in a series of turning points. She had found herself pregnant and single at 20, unexpectedly expecting.
Heliena moved into her first apartment, held down two jobs, and kept all her doctor’s appointments while also coping with the emotional reality of becoming a parent by herself. “It really marked the ‘I need to care about what happens to me’ point in my life,” she says. It was daunting, and left her with little energy for excitement or anticipation.
After finding out that she was having a girl, Heliena told only her stepmother Carolyn, who baked a cake filled with pink candies — “those almost inedibly terrible shiny round chocolate candies,” Carolyn recalls — which they cut open with the immediate family. “It was very sweet. We cried,” Heliena tells me. “And hugs all around,” Carolyn adds.
That small party and the cake full of awful candy was transformative for Heliena. “It took the spotlight away from the logistics and onto [my daughter] as a human being,” she says. With the weight of negative stereotypes about young single mothers worrying Heliena throughout her pregnancy, her gender reveal party reminded her that this was also a time for celebration, and that she had a community to see her through. “It validated everything I was doing to make sure she was going to have a good life, and reassured me that she would have the best family to support and love her.””
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