Ah, New Year’s.
The time that the Type A’s among us create lists and set goals. The time that diets begin, gym memberships are purchased, and we attempt (yet again) to stick to our budgets.
The new year offers a great chance to reflect on the past and plan for the future. Even so, we cannot pretend that the beginning of this new year means everything from 2023 is behind us. We are still the same people with the same (sometimes messy) lives. Some circumstances require more than a New Year’s resolution to resolve.
Facing an Unplanned Pregnancy
A surprise pregnancy can inspire a wide range of responses, from disbelief to panic to joy. Everyone reacts differently to such news. Your first reaction may be one of many, and it’s okay to go through a variety of emotions. Your feelings may seem to contradict one another at times. That’s okay too! Just take a deep breath and allow yourself to feel what you need to feel. Remind yourself that although your feelings are real, they don’t have to control you.
As you move through your feelings, you can take some practical steps to empower yourself as you start this new pregnancy journey. A good place to begin: make a parenting plan.
Some people looooooove making plans, and others… do NOT. Wherever you fall on the planning spectrum, making a plan does not have to be overwhelming. For one person, a plan might look like a detailed, week-by-week calendar of tasks and to-do’s. For someone else, it might look more like just having a few specific goals you want to focus on during the next nine months. You do what works best for you!
At Clearway, we want to support and empower you through your pregnancy. The following information is meant to provide you with some ideas to help you get started. Use as many or as few of these tools as you need to begin making the best plan for YOU.
A Positive Pregnancy Test
The moment that second line showed up on the pregnancy test may have sent your head spinning. You may have planned to become pregnant one day, just not right now. Or maybe pregnancy was never part of the plan. Whatever the case, it’s important to acknowledge and process this moment.
Breathe in deeply… hold it for a second… and let it out. Begin to allow yourself to move through and process your feelings one by one. You might feel strongly that now is NOT the time for you to begin (or add to) your family. Some people in this situation consider abortion; other do not. Either way, you deserve to know there are other options. One way to feel empowered in your pregnancy decision is to know and walk through all of your options before you decide.
One option you can consider is adoption. Many people misunderstand adoption to mean placing a child in the foster care system, or placing a child with a family and never seeing them again. Modern adoption, however, is different. In an open adoption, birth mothers choose a family for their child. They also choose how much communication they want with that child. If you want to stay in touch, you can! Visit BraveLove to hear true adoption stories from birth moms.
Another pregnancy option is abortion. If you are considering abortion, it’s important to find out the answers to a few questions as you explore this option. These include:
- When was the first day of your last menstrual period? (The types of abortion available to you depend on the gestational age of the pregnancy.)
- Have you confirmed that you have a viable, intrauterine pregnancy? (“Viable” means your pregnancy is capable of developing under normal conditions. “Intrauterine” means the pregnancy is located inside your uterus.)
- Could you potentially have a sexually transmitted infection right now? Have you been tested and treated? (Getting an abortion while you have an untreated STI can increase risks of complications such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.)
- What questions do you have about the various abortion procedures? (Prepare your questions before you visit an abortion provider in order to best understand the process and risks associated with your chosen procedure.)
- What was my view on abortion before I got pregnant? Though often overlooked, how you felt before finding yourself pregnant can have a lasting impact on you depending on the decision you make. When people are faced with a traumatic or stressful event, it can be hard to think clearly. Your prior beliefs can often be overruled by fear. Sit with this question for a minute to allow yourself to engage your belief system before reacting.
Parenting is also an option for you, even if you are not feeling that way right now. Circumstances are temporary and can change. Whatever is holding you back from thinking you can continue this pregnancy may change for the better. Below are a few things to consider in regards to continuing with the pregnancy. Take time to process those that feel relevant for you, alone, with a loved one, or even in a journal.
- Who do I have in my life that will support me in this decision? It is important to reach out to those trusted people close to you to let them know you are pregnant. Even though you will make the final decision, it helps to know that you have support. Oftentimes you may be surprised that their reaction is not what you were expecting.
- Where am I at financially? What does it really cost to have a child? We will talk about this more below, but it is important to think about your financial situation and begin to make some necessary changes or steps that will help you feel more secure.
- Where will I (we) live? Begin to think longer term, but remember you do have some time before the baby arrives to make a plan or arrangements for where you will live. There are also maternity homes that can be a temporary refuge and a place to help guide you to becoming a successful new mother.
- What resources do I need to be a good parent? What do I think I would need to be successful? It is important to remember there are classes and resources to help you in your parenting journey.
- Where do I even start? You can schedule a free ultrasound at Clearway Clinic to confirm that you are pregnant. This will give you time to talk to one of our nurses and advocates about your options and available resources in your area. We are here for you!
As you move through all these options, give yourself the space to process your thoughts and emotions. Fear is a very normal emotion when you find yourself pregnant, regardless of your situation. It’s okay to recognize your fears, but don’t allow your fear to drive your decision. Fear can hold you back and may stop you from having a clear vision for your future. Below we will outline some ways that can help you take charge of your feelings. These are some practical steps you can take to help you take back control.
Buy Prenatal Vitamins: An Intentional First Step
Even if you are unsure what you want to do, as soon as you get the chance, go to the store and buy some prenatal vitamins. This is a simple, practical step to take control of your pregnancy and show love to your body. Good prenatal care is essential to your health during and after your pregnancy journey, no matter where that journey takes you.
This step will also empower you. If this pregnancy was unplanned, you may feel paralyzed by indecision. To get yourself out of that state, sometimes all it takes is accomplishing one practical, positive task. So run to the store and buy those vitamins!
What Are My Main Concerns?
Now, you can start making a plan. Usually, a woman will have a few specific concerns when it comes to an unexpected pregnancy. These might be financial, educational, relational, or something else. Let’s take a look at some of the most common concerns and provide you with some tools to work through each one.
It’s no secret that life is expensive these days. Financial challenges look different for everyone, so the first thing to do is recognize what’s right in front of you. Are you worried about housing? Employment? The added cost of a baby? Identify your biggest concerns. Depending on your circumstances, you can use some of the following resources to get started:
- If you already have a source of income, create a budget to financially prepare for a new baby. See our guide for Budgeting an Unplanned Pregnancy to get started. She Might is also a great source of career resources, including information about maternity leave, work-from-home careers, and more. Use their free Baby Cost Calculator to estimate the cost of the first year of life with a baby.
- Is your living situation insecure? If housing is a concern for you, see our Pregnancy Housing Guide for local resources.
- It’s possible that you might feel even more worried after looking at your finances. In that case, it’s time to research local assistance resources. For example, Bethlehem House is an organization in Western Mass that offers free supplies for moms and their babies. Local churches often host food pantries which provide groceries at a low cost or free of charge to members of the community. There are also government resources such as WIC, PCAP, and more. Schedule a resource appointment for help navigating the many resources near you!
If you have concerns regarding health and safety in your current relationship, take this Safe & Healthy Relationship Quiz. You and your baby deserve to be in a safe and healthy environment.
If you are in a healthy relationship, an unplanned pregnancy may still bring up unforeseen conflict and challenges. Remember, healthy relationships are built on communication. Whatever your concerns, start by talking through them with one another.
If you are in a relationship or plan on co-parenting, take some intentional time to discuss your expectations for the pregnancy, what you desire, and/or what you are considering for this pregnancy. If you are planning to have the baby, talk about what life will look like after the baby arrives. Use these principles to guide your conversation:
- Start with empathy: While you both are probably thinking a lot about how this pregnancy will affect you personally, consider what your partner may be feeling. Don’t assume the worst (He only thinks about himself!). Instead, offer some grace (How does she usually handle stress? Maybe she’s shutting down because of the stress this has caused her, not because of me. How can I make her feel supported at this moment?) This mindset will help you both understand each other better.
- Listen to one another: This situation involves multiple people, so try to offer a listening ear. Cultivate an environment where your partner feels confident they can be truly vulnerable with you, and they will still be accepted and loved. Making someone feel heard goes a long way!
- Talk about it: Many people avoid anything that stresses them out. Avoidance is not the answer; this situation is not going anywhere. Take a breath, order your favorite take-out, get cozy on the couch, and talk it out with those people in your life that are important in this decision. Express yourself honestly and graciously. Let them know that their thoughts matter, and that you don’t want to go through this alone.
- Get some help: Sometimes communication is harder than we’d like. If you and your partner are having trouble communicating about this issue, consider asking for support. A trusted friend, family member, or even a counselor/therapist could meet with you once or a couple of times to help you to hear what the other is saying and feeling.
- Gather all the facts: If you are not sure what you want to do with this pregnancy, you’re going to need good information to empower your decision. Do your research; find out all your options. If you need resources, don’t worry! Massachusetts has many organizations just waiting to meet the needs of couples facing unplanned pregnancies. It’s just a matter of finding where those are. And we can help you with that!
Am I Ready For This?
Many other things could be crossing your mind as you consider this pregnancy. Education, health insurance, career goals, family expectations… the list goes on. To an extent, all of them boil down to the question, am I ready for this?
Answering this question involves knowing yourself and facing your fears. Sometimes, life’s unexpected challenges teach us something about ourselves. In the moment, it’s normal to experience some anxiety, fear, or psychological distress. But we are bigger than these moments.
If at this moment you may not feel ready and that’s okay. Reflect on the amazing, unique, strong woman that you are. Ask yourself:
- What are some obstacles I have faced in the past? (How did I overcome them?)
- What are my strengths? (How could these strengths help me in this pregnancy?)
- Who do I want to become? (How would parenting fit into that?)
A friend of Clearway once told us that her pregnancy showed her a new inner strength that she didn’t know she had. After finding out about her pregnancy, she left an abusive relationship, found housing, started a new job, and was planning to go back to school after the baby was born. “I’m stronger than I thought I was,” she said, “and every day of this pregnancy has shown me that.”
As you navigate your own unique pregnancy journey, Clearway is here to support you. We offer a confidential and supportive environment to process through all your options. We have appointments available for pregnancy confirmation, STI testing, and resource referrals. Schedule your appointment today!