Coping with an unplanned pregnancy is overwhelming at any age, but to face this as a teenager was absolutely horrifying. I was seventeen years old when I sat with my now-husband as we waited for the minutes to tick away. It was the winter of 2000, my senior year in high school, and unfortunately, we didn’t have a digital pregnancy test. We had to wait three full minutes to learn that our lives would be changed forever. We had no idea what to do or even know where to start. Here are some things I wish I knew at the time in order to cope with it a little better.
Find Your Support Team
It’s so easy to feel alone and isolated right now. You are now facing a huge life-changing event that you were just not prepared for or anticipating. Our fears want to keep us separated from those that we love. We worry about disappointments, anger, and frankly just the fear of actually having to face the situation head-on. Finding a support team is the best thing you can possibly do right now.
I kept our pregnancy a secret from everyone we knew for the first five months. It helped that I was a teenager and barley showed at all. Truthfully, this massive secret I carried around weighed heavily on me. I was scared, excited, and dealing with a constantly changing body all alone. I wish I could go back and open up to those around me sooner. Maybe that pregnancy wouldn’t have been filled with such bad memories if I just came clean earlier on. Also, telling our parents that we were not only expecting a child, but it would now arrive in just four short months did not go over well. It didn’t allow our parents a chance to process this information long and they struggled with the fact that we hid the situation for so long.
Additionally, because I was still in high school and not making my own money yet, I also didn’t make sure I received proper medical attention. I was lucky enough that our son was not born with any complications due to a lack of prenatal care. However, that is not always the case. One of the very first things you need to do is get in touch with a medical professional that you trust. There are plenty of organizations now that helps expectant parents to receive the care needed. Websites like Adoption.com and Adoption.ORG help you begin to research and connect you with basic medical care as well as help set up counseling to help assist you during this time. Or, you can contact your local woman’s hospital to see if it suggests a medical professional in your area. Making sure you are healthy and prepared to take on this pregnancy is so important for those first few months.
Consider Your Options
Even though you feel like your life is a major crossroad right now, you actually have a few options. If you choose to keep your child, there are many programs available to help you. Depending on your age, like in my case, as I was in high school, there are plenty of organizations that assist young single mothers to continue high school and college. Even most local high schools offer assistance for expected mothers. Many offer nursery care once the child is born to allow the mother to continue her education while attending school. Personally, my now-husband and I knew we wanted to keep our son. We knew our lives would be difficult and that we were not starting off on the easiest path, but we wanted to be a family. I was lucky enough to have a partner who had a good steady job and was able to take care of me both financially and emotionally. Not all expectant parents are in the same situation and that is ok. If you do not feel like you can take on a child right now, no matter what your age, that is ok.
Adoption is also a very valid option. There are many families that would welcome this baby with open arms. This will allow you to continue on with your life plans and still help another family fill empty arms. The process for adoption is not as scary as it seems. First what you want to do is speak to an adoption specialist to see if adoption is right for you.
If adoption feels like something you think is right for you, you can move forward to finding the perfect family for your child. This means setting up an adoption plan, meaning what type of relationship would you be interested in having with the child. Some birth parents would like to be including in the child’s life with updates, photos, and even meetups. Others wish to have a fully closed adoption, meaning all contact is closed until the child has reached legal age. There are even semi-open adoptions that are a mix of the two, with updates here and there; however meetups generally do not happen.
There is no wrong type of adoption. The most important thing to remember, and what most agencies will focus on the most, is figuring out what is the right choice for you. You are in control during this time and you are the one making the decisions for you and your unborn child.
Your agency will assist you in locating a family that feels right for you. You will be able to review parent profiles, learn about what legal rights you have as an adoptee parent, and set expectations for both your role as well as the adoptive family’s role in your life. All of this will be mediated by your agency and adoption counselor.
Many agencies also assist you during this time with health care, financial burdens you might face, as well as help you connect with other expectant parents in the same situation as you. Remember, the agency you choose will be a part of your support system during this time and you will be in contact with them constantly.
Right now, you are full of emotions and hormones. Your body is going through some of the biggest changes it’s ever faced, so now more than ever is the time to practice self-care. Taking time to make sure you are well is so important to not only you but your unborn child.
Spiritual well-being is so important, no matter what you believe in. Some women carry shame and regret finding themselves in this situation. Those feelings will create darkness in your life and not allow you to fully heal as you start this new venture. Speaking to a spiritual counselor is a great option to help stabilize your life.
Exercise is the number one way to just feel good physically. During the first months of pregnancy, you might not want to get up and move around much due to exhaustion and morning sickness. However, if you can push yourself to take daily walks, go for a light run, or even continuing your active lifestyle, it will help you feel good, not only physically, but mentally as well. Whether you are planning on keeping your child, right now your body is changing dramatically. Taking time to make sure you are physically feeling good is so important to your overall well-being.
Lastly, emotionally, I’m sure you are feeling like a wreck. I remember crying for no reason, feeling angry and frustrated often, and basically just feeling so emotionally drained. Depression is so common postpartum, however, many people don’t discuss how common it is to feel those emotions during your pregnancy as well. It is normal to feel emotionally unstable during this time because your hormones are on overdrive. Having someone close to that you can share your thoughts and emotions will really help you deal during this time. Counselors are obviously a preferred option. However, even a close friend who is willing to listen can help immensely. The most important thing to remember is that these feelings you are feeling are valid and true. But holding them inside will continue to drag you down and not allow you to plan for the future.
No matter what your decision is, you need to be able to plan for your future. So many women who face an unplanned pregnancy struggle to see the future. Expectant mothers may fear that all hopes and dreams are now destroyed. It doesn’t need to be that way.
Right now, keeping your focus centered will help you plan ahead and keep your eyes on the future and getting through this pregnancy. Ten months of your life are set aside for this new little life. Once that is complete, you can focus on your next step. If you choose to keep your child, how will that look? Do you have a support system in place to help raise the child? Do you have an adequate living situation for not only yourself but a growing child? What about your education or work situation? All these things are important things to keep in mind while you are planning for your future.
If you choose to place your child for adoption, what goals do you wish for not only you but for this child? Will you hope to have a relationship with them in some way? Will you want to receive updates and photos as the child ages? Or, do you want a clean break and be able to fully focus on yourself now?
An unplanned pregnancy does not mean that your life is over. I was able to graduate from high school, continue my education, and live a happy life. Yes, we struggled a lot and I wish I could have done things a different way, but my life continued.
Be Ok with Not Being Ok
This wasn’t planned. This wasn’t how you wanted to welcome a child into the world. I understand. You might not be happy about this; you might not be picking out cute outfits or dreaming about baby names. You might be overwhelmed, angry, and unhappy about the situation you are in. That is ok. Give yourself grace during this time. Understand that you can overcome obstacles.
I remember struggling so much with the feeling like I trapped my now-husband into marrying me. I felt like eyes were always on me, judging me and looking down on me. This caused me to deal with some depression that I never should have dealt with. Truthfully, yes, there might be people in your life that are not happy with this situation. That’s ok too. People are allowed to have opinions. Just remember that unplanned pregnancies do not change who you are. No matter what you choose to do, your life will continue on. You will reach goals, set new dreams, and live your life. Give yourself some grace to move on from this mistake and continue on your new path.
Again, relying on your support system, taking care of yourself spiritually, physically, and emotionally, and planning ahead will all help you get through this time. This is one small stage in your life and it does not need to define who you are.
My son is now eighteen years old. The exact age I was when I held him in my arms for the first time. I can’t imagine him being a father right now, and thankfully, we haven’t had to face that situation yet. My son did not enter our lives the way we planned originally, but I am thankful for him. He knows how much we struggled growing up, and really, I feel like I’ve grown up right alongside him. I don’t know how much my life would be different if he never arrived, he definitely sent me down a different path than I originally thought. But I am proud to be his mom and grateful that I was able to cope with my unplanned pregnancy as well as I did.
Jen and her husband Juan live in a small southern California town with their four amazing kids, two dogs, a cat, a rabbit, a bearded dragon and some fish. Their youngest was adopted almost 5 years ago and turned their lives upside down in the most amazing way. Their daughter has Down syndrome and Autism and through this journey, Jen has found her voice as an advocate, blogger and author. Jen is a proud stay-at-home mom, youth pastor’s wife, writer, crafter and kitten raiser. When she isn’t spending time with her family she is online interacting with families from all around the world.