If you just found out you are facing an unexpected pregnancy, you may be wondering what your options are. It can be a very emotional time for you, especially if you are not sure what to do. If you have a support system, now would be a good time to lean on them, and gain some perspective regarding your situation. But, what are your options in an unexpected pregnancy?
One option is to birth the child and become a mother. While the pregnancy has come at a time that you didn’t plan to become a mother, are you willing to make sacrifices in your life to begin a family? Will you be able to support a child? Does the idea of motherhood excite you?
Deciding to move forward when pregnant and making plans to become a mother are both exciting and scary. Being a mother is an incredible responsibility. Having a good support system to rally around you and help will make this choice easier.
If you are faced with an unexpected and unplanned baby coming into your life, you will likely need to find all the baby items you didn’t realize you would be needing. All of these items can add up in cost rather quickly. There are places that offer these items to prospective parents for little to no cost. If you are worried about how you will financially be able to handle raising a child, there are many charitable organizations that offer help to new and expectant mothers. Reach out to those places in your community for help if you need it. They can be an excellent resource for overall support, as well as for helping with the financial burden of raising a child.
There are also government programs that can help when it comes to baby food, formula, and healthy options for children. There are programs that help with medical needs too, such as providing free or discounted vaccination clinics for children. If you are not sure where to find the help you seek, reach out to your local human services department, or ask your doctor for guidance.
Choosing to carry the baby to term will require you to adopt a healthy lifestyle. If you are a smoker, you would need to stop smoking. You would need to limit caffeine and cut alcohol out of your diet. You would need to check with a doctor about any prescription drugs you may take to be sure they are compatible with your pregnancy. Any recreational drug use would need to stop so that you don’t have a child born with drug dependency. In some areas, pregnant mothers, or new mothers can be charged with a crime if their babies have illegal drugs in their system. If you suffer from addiction and are pregnant, please seek help for yourself and for the sake of your unborn child.
What if you don’t believe you are ready to raise a child? Your choices then are to place the child for adoption or to have an abortion.
Which of these choices would be right for you? Both of these choices will carry an emotional toll.
Our current political situation has limited choices in some states. In some areas, abortion may not be a choice you can make anymore. Recently, some states have enacted laws that limit the availability of abortion, and in some cases, will criminalize the procedure depending on when it is performed during the pregnancy. These states are challenging the Roe v. Wade decision which stated women were able to have abortions until the time determined as “viable” for a fetus, typically between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. The term “viable” refers to the ability to survive outside of the womb.
Currently, the laws in Alabama are the most strict in the United States, making abortion for any reason other than the risk to the mother’s health illegal.
Other states that have decided to make stricter laws include Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri, Kentucky, and Ohio. These states have passed what is known as the “heartbeat” restriction on abortion, which indicates that abortion becomes illegal once a heartbeat is detected (usually between six and eight weeks of pregnancy).
If you reside in any of the states with new stricter legislation, you may not have the option of an abortion since many women do not even realize they are pregnant within the first six weeks of pregnancy.
The decision to make an adoption plan for your unborn child is one that will help another family while limiting your responsibility to the child. You will still be responsible for being healthy during the pregnancy, but once the child is born, all responsibility will transfer to the parents who will adopt the child. To be clear, no adoption plan can be finalized until after the child is born, and the birth mother waives her parental rights in court. This means if you are making an adoption plan for your child, but decide to parent, you are within your rights to change the plan to parent your child.
How do you go about creating an adoption plan for your unborn child? There are many agencies that help expectant mothers create adoption plans. The agencies will have hopeful parent profiles that can be viewed to help you decide who you feel is the right family to raise your child.
Agencies do charge fees to families they represent. Some of those fees can be passed along to the expectant mother as living expenses to help cover the cost of pregnancy, medical costs, and any cost related to the adoption process.
While it is illegal to pay an expectant mother for placing her baby for adoption, in most areas it is okay to help with her living expenses. Agencies are often familiar with the laws and limitations for this type of help provided to expectant mothers.
Adoption agencies also typically have many hopeful parent profiles to share with expectant mothers. This will make choosing a family for your child easier, as they will all be researched and given to you with little work on your end. You will not have to search for a family to adopt your child as agencies have already been contacted by many and have all the profiles and information waiting for you.
If the idea of an agency isn’t right for you, you can make an adoption plan independently. If a friend or family member is planning to adopt your child, you may not need the help of an agency. It is possible to create the adoption plan independently, usually with the help of an attorney to help with paperwork and adoption petitions.
When entering into an adoption plan you will want to decide what your expectations will be after adoption. Are you seeking an open, semi-open, or closed adoption? Not all states recognize contracts that are part of open adoption, and therefore do not enforce open adoption contracts. You would want to be sure to know the laws of your area, in order to make an informed decision on what your expectations are and what the law allows. If you expect to be able to see the child you place on occasion, or receive updates, this would be considered an open adoption. If you wish to know the full names and address of where the family lives, with little expectations beyond that, it is a semi-open adoption. A closed adoption is the type of adoption where little to no personal information is exchanged, and there is no plan for communication after the adoption takes place. It is important to make an informed decision about adoption and what expectations you can have according to the laws of your state. Some people will make agreements even when not recognized by law, but these are agreements that are made in “good faith” and are not legally enforceable.
These are the three most common options for an expectant mother who has an unplanned pregnancy. A woman should never feel pressured to make a decision about her life and body that she doesn’t want to make. If you are feeling pressure to do something you do not want to do, please seek help. There are often places that offer free counseling for pregnant women to help them with the decisions they face.
A situation that often goes unspoken is one in which a woman chooses to raise her child, but within the first few weeks realizes that she is not capable of doing so. What can be done in this situation?
There are a few options here. In a drastic situation, where a mom is feeling completely hopeless and unable to continue care, there are safe haven laws that will allow you to bring the child to a hospital and leave the child there, without any risk of prosecution for abandonment or neglect. If you leave the child in a safe haven space, you are allowed to do so confidentially and unidentified, if you wish, without fear of repercussions.
What happens to a child that is placed in a safe haven location? The child will be taken in by social services and likely placed with a pre-adoptive foster care family. This family will care for the child until the legal time frame passes for the biological mother to come forward. If the biological mother does not try to reclaim her infant, the family will be able to adopt the child.
What if you choose to parent a child but realize that you just are unable to do so during this time of your life? What if you are struggling even with some help, and feel you are unable to provide proper care for your child?
Is there a family member or friend who may be willing and able to help you with your child’s care? It is possible to allow a friend or family member to take guardianship of your child for a time to allow you to get yourself into a better position to resume parenting. Allowing someone guardianship is a way for you to temporarily give them the right to make legal decisions for your child while maintaining your legal rights as a parent. Guardianships can be done for certain time frames or indefinitely, depending on the situation. In the case of guardianship, the person who becomes the child’s guardian is able to ask for financial assistance from the legal parent for helping to raise the child. This financial help can be ordered and legally required just as regular child support is required in families that are separated. In this way, you may not have the day-to-day responsibilities of raising your child, but you will still financially support them and will have the ability to regain placement of them when you feel ready.
An unexpected pregnancy can be a scary time for an expectant mother. There are many factors in deciding what the best option is for you. No matter what you choose, you should feel confident in your choice, and not feel pressure to do what someone else wants you to do. If you are struggling, reach out for help. Whether you seek guidance from friends and family or from professionals, talking through the situation and the options you have can help you make your decision.
There will always be someone who disagrees with what you choose, or who will try to shame you for your choices. It is important to be able to disregard any negative comments. This is your journey, and you need to follow your own path. You cannot follow the path others want for you because they do not know your full journey and what is best.
No matter what you choose to do, if you need help with the decision you made, there is always help available if you seek it. Whether it is counseling, financial assistance, parenting advice, support groups, etc. An unexpected pregnancy will have you facing many emotions. If you are overwhelmed, do not be afraid to ask for help.
Jennifer is a mother to 3 children (one biological, two adopted). She is also a mom to numerous pets. She enjoys volunteering in her children’s classroom, reading, and crafting in her spare time. She has been married for almost 15 years.