You just found out you’re pregnant. You don’t know what to do. Maybe you’re 42 and your last child just graduated high school. You’re not sure what your husband will think going back to diapers after just having planned what you would do as empty nesters. Maybe you’re 15 years old and your parents don’t even know you’ve had your first kiss, nevermind had sex. You’re still a kid, how will you raise one? Or maybe you’re a happily married 30 something with a carefree life, your dream job, living your best life and suddenly you realize you’re pregnant. You were not planning on kids. Well, now what? You’re sitting at your computer crying, angry at the guy who got you pregnant, yourself, God, the universe and anyone else you can think of. When the shock and the anger wears off you are left wondering, “What will my family think?” or even worse, “Will my unplanned pregnancy divide my family?”
Well, I am not a mind reader, and I don’t know your family personally, but I do think that if your relationships aren’t fairly strong some of them could be damaged, perhaps temporarily or perhaps permanently. I need you to know that whatever happens, their reactions are not your fault. Often people have baggage they have never disclosed or discussed that makes their reactions seem confusing when to them they came to logical conclusions; however, you are the one who will be deciding how to handle this unplanned pregnancy. You will have to decide if adoption, abortion, or parenting on your own is worth whatever happens next.
I have never been pregnant. I was lucky enough to have adopted; however I have heard ugly words from people who were supposed to care about me because I adopted. As a result, I had to make a conscious decision to not involve those people in my family’s lives or decisions. Frankly, the only people who get a say in your family are yourself and the people who are the ones most important to you. That may mean your mom and dad, your partner, or a close friend. I do know that you will have to make some decisions about who to listen to and who to ignore.
As you sit and contemplate if an unplanned pregnancy will divide your family, I want you to concentrate on the fact that if it does, it isn’t your fault. If you are a grown woman in a relationship and your spouse decides to leave, that is heartbreaking but it says everything about him and nothing about you. Things happen. Birth control fails. People’s minds change. What shouldn’t change is how the people in your life treat you. They should be treating you with respect. They should be treating you with deference in this matter. It is, after all, your body that is growing a child. It may be unplanned but that doesn’t necessarily make it unwanted or unloved by you.
If you’re a teen and your parents argue about you, the baby, your future, and whose responsibility this all is, I’m begging you to realize that it isn’t your unplanned pregnancy dividing your family. It may be a catalyst to an otherwise slow burn. It may be a cause for an argument but it isn’t your fault if things go sideways. If your parents split up, or your aunt refuses to talk to you, if your uncle makes unkind remarks, that is a reflection on them. It is not a reflection on you and how very precious you are. You may feel like you messed up. You may feel overwhelmed, scared, sad, nervous, sick, depressed, or angry but whatever you feel, please remember that how everyone else acts is on them, not you.
What I want you to know is that when you ask yourself if an unplanned pregnancy will divide your family, if the answer is yes, and you just know it, there were problems before you became pregnant and there will be problems after you aren’t pregnant anymore. Crises tend to show people for who they are and what they really believe. It is an unfortunate truth that many people won’t really know what they do or don’t believe until their beliefs are put to the test. It is very easy to say “I believe” and it is very difficult to act out that belief when it gets difficult.
Having listened to a number of podcasts from the perspective of birth mothers I have come to learn so much. In my ignorance I believed that women who became pregnant more or less had it coming to them. They were irresponsible, they weren’t careful, they have families that don’t care about them, they are “trashy”. I am so ashamed of how as a Christian I was so quick to judge someone else’s situation. The unfortunate truth is that I was jealous. Jealousy clouded my mind when I learned that a 16 year old girl in a youth group was pregnant. I just could not wrap my mind around how a 16 year old could have a baby when I, a married woman who so desperately wanted a baby could not. I wasn’t unkind to the girl. I didn’t know her so I didn’t go out of my way about her, one way or another. But the sin in my heart remained. I was jealous. Every pregnant belly made me a little ill, a little sad, a little bit more jealous. This was, in no way at all, the fault of the women around me. It was not their fault that I cried in the bathroom on mother’s day. It was not their fault that I cried when my sister in law was pregnant with our first niece. It was not their fault when I silently judged them for having sex while they were unmarried, or unprepared for parenthood. It was entirely, completely, my fault. I was sick with jealousy. I was sick with pain from my own infertility. I was sick from my own shame for being “broken” in a way that even a virtual child was not.
Why am I telling you all this? Because of this . You are probably worried sick right now. You may be wondering how this happened when you were so careful. You took all the right steps, did all the right things and still, you are unexpectedly pregnant. You are worrying ifl an unplanned pregnancy will divide your family. You are worrying if your partner will leave you. How will you move on? Will you be a good mom? What will others think?
1000 thoughts are racing through your body betraying you by making you sick. It grows round and full as the baby you didn’t expect to exist audaciously takes up space inside you. You are exhausted, hungry, tired, weepy, scared, and overwhelmed. And you are worried about your family. I am telling you all of this, about me, about my heart, and my anger, jealousy, rage, and depression because I am just one person but I could be anyone’s aunt, mom, or cousin. We don’t talk about these things because they are so private and feel so selfish and isolating. Everyone has a differing opinion, everyone has a different background, and a different story to tell. I want you to know my story so that when you feel like your unplanned pregnancy is dividing your family, you can realize that it has more to do with the other person than it ever has had to do with you. It is precious that you care about your family. It is amazing and kind of you that in the midst of all you are feeling you have taken time wonder how it will affect them. You are asking questions that are keeping you awake at night for not knowing the answers.
I’m here to tell you that an unplanned pregnancy will divide your family. It will divide them into the people you can trust and the people you cannot. It will divide them into the people who love you for who you are, and the people who only loved you for who they thought you were. It will divide them into true friends, and false friends. It will divide them into people who are compassionate, kind, and giving and those who are back bitey, cruel, selfish, and ultimately not worth spending time with or knowing.
People will tell you all sorts of things about themselves if you ask. Things they don’t even realize they are telling you. It can be hard to realize that someone you were sure was a friend turned their back on you when you needed them most. That person told you loud and clear “you cannot trust me. I am not available” They might not have meant to do so but their actions spoke for them.
Also want to say that if you give people time, they might come around. Sometimes shock makes people say and do things they are not proud of and ultimately wish they hadn’t said or done. In a podcast I was listening to called Birth Mother’s Amplified a woman described how her relationship with her parents went from good, to poor, and back to good. She explained how she had pulled away because of their expectations. A less self aware person could have perceived only that their parents were moving away from her but this woman was clear that her actions had caused them to back off and that later when things were less new and raw they were able to reconcile and have a good relationship again. They were entirely supportive again by the end of her pregnancy and subsequent adoption. Not all women are so lucky but it bears mentioning that sometimes it isn’t just the other people being unkind, it is a response to what they feel you are telling them.
For instance, the person who spoke unkindly about our second adoption was actually very concerned about how the dynamic would impact our family. She was concerned that I was letting emotion get in the way of good decision making skills. She has since come to love our kids and regrets having ever voiced dissent in their adoption. Thankfully she never made her concern known to our children. Had she done so she would not be a part of our lives today.
An unplanned pregnancy doesn’t have to be a crisis. It can feel like one if you don’t have a network of supportive people around you; however, there is help and hope. Seek out people who love you and will support you no matter what. Go to a crisis pregnancy center and find help for you and your baby. Go to a church and talk to the pastor. There is help. Will an unplanned pregnancy divide family? It absolutely can but that is not necessarily a bad thing if it divides it into the people who can and will support you and the people who won’t. I hope you can find comfort in that, even if it feels wounding and hurtful at the moment. Some people are not worth your time as much as you would like them to be. Are you facing an unplanned pregnancy and don’t know who to turn to? Go to Adoption.com’s forums and talk to people who have been there or are going through the same thing right now. There are expectant parent support groups that can help you. There are families who would love to adopt your baby if you don’t feel like you can parent yourself. There is help. You don’t have to do this alone.
Christina Gochnauer is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with her husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from “hard places” in her church and community.