This is a safe space for individuals of any background who may be experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Unplanned or planned, pregnancy is a beautiful, yet stressful, journey. An unplanned pregnancy might come as a welcome surprise or a startling reality.
Do not picture yourself at fault for an unplanned pregnancy; it is simply something that happens. Restrain yourself from trying to place blame on yourself or others. As said by an anonymous source, “no amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of anxiety can change the future.” With or without an unplanned pregnancy, your life has meaning. You are a valuable member of society. While doubting oneself is normal, do not let mainstream views of pregnancy cloud your self-worth.
It may take time to come to terms with an unplanned pregnancy, this is expected with any life-changing event. This is okay, your emotions are valid. In this article, we hope to provide you with resources to support yourself as you come to terms with an unplanned pregnancy.
Finding your Support Systems
An essential step towards coming to terms with an unplanned pregnancy is acknowledging, identifying, and contacting your support systems.
Acknowledging your self-worth is the first step towards building strong support systems. No man is an island; every person is interconnected to society and the world around them. A support system is like your tribe. These are the people that will listen to what you are feeling, and will support you in the best interest of your mental and physical health. An unplanned pregnancy might make you wary of interacting with others. You might be filled with feelings of fear, self-doubt, or self-loathing. By acknowledging that you have connections, you can begin working towards gathering the best minds to support your needs.
The next step is identifying what you need from a support system and, by extension, who you need to be a part of your support system. You might identify that you need emotional counseling and input. Alternatively, you might simply want someone to listen to your story and what you’re experiencing. Both of these are completely valid! You might decide you want advice from other individuals who have been in your situation. No matter the case, your needs and desires should drive this decision-making process. When it comes to your mental health, you must put yourself first.
These roles can be filled by a number of people in your life. You might include family members, friends, professional resources, counselors, and even other birth mothers in your support system. These individuals can help alleviate any mental turmoil you might experience.
The family unit is the most basic level of support. While it differs on a case-by-case basis, your family should be respectful of your needs and wishes for the unplanned pregnancy. Contact family members as you see necessary. Not every distant relative should, or needs to know about the pregnancy.
While family relationships vary greatly from person-to-person, family members can be a great resource when coming to terms with an unplanned pregnancy. They can provide detailed insight into your family medical history; are there any hereditary pregnancy complications? Did your family members typically experience morning sickness? They can give you a greater insight into the changes you’re experiencing.
Friends can also be tremendously helpful while you deal with an unplanned pregnancy. They are the family members you choose to be a part of your life. Friends might be more supportive and understanding than biological family members.
It might also be in your best interest to reach out to a professional emotional support resource such as a counselor. There are a variety of counseling services available to expectant mothers and family members experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. They can help you work through any mixed emotions you might be experiencing and create space for clarity in your thoughts.
You might also be interested in hearing from expectant mothers or birth mothers who have experienced an unplanned pregnancy. These mothers can give you specific insight into the coming months and advice on what decisions you should make. The Gladney Center for Adoption has many ways to contact birth mothers.
After deciding who you would like to be a part of your support system, you should contact them. Consider making them aware of the pregnancy if they don’t know yet. Explain your needs and desires.
Understanding your Emotional Process
As with any life-changing events, you may experience stages of the grief process. This is a completely natural way to come to terms with difficult or unplanned situations. It’s important to understand the different stages for yourself and to inform your support systems.
Within the grief process, there are five key stages: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. Individuals might experience these stages multiple times, in any order, or not at all. These stages can have a number of effects on an individual’s self-esteem, motivation, security, and sense of meaning.
Denial is generally the first stage of the process. As the name suggests, at this point you might be filled with uncertainty or confusion. As an expectant mother, you might be fearful of what pregnancy will mean for your future. You might feel numb or feel nothing at all. You might be tempted to try and place blame. Know that this is a normal cognitive process, and there is nothing wrong with having these thoughts or feelings.
Generally, anger is the next stage in the grief process. As an expectant mother, you might be overwhelmed or frustrated, either at yourself, the expectant father, or the society around you. Any uncertainties or fears from the previous stage might become anxieties. You might feel embarrassed that you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy. Please remember in this stage to be kind to yourself. Use uplifting language whenever possible. An unplanned pregnancy is not any individual’s fault. While it may come at an unexpected time, it is just another stepping stone in the garden of life.
After experiencing anger, you might fall into the depression stage. At this stage, you might experience a lack of energy or a feeling of hopelessness. Those experiencing this stage might have a hard time reaching out to others and sharing their feelings. It’s important to remember to breathe when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
In the bargaining stage, you might feel more open to sharing your experiences with others. Dialoguing with others is important, especially if you find it difficult to find meaning on your own.
The final stage is acceptance. You might find the inspiration to create a new plan for your future. You might also start researching and exploring options. This is the stage for new beginnings.
While coping with an unplanned pregnancy and all the emotions that come with it, don’t forget to care for your body. Pregnancy can bring about many new stressors. Taking the opportunity to step back and address your immediate needs is vital.
Here are a number of self-care tips you can utilize to calm some emotional turmoil.
- Eat nourishing foods
- While experiencing emotional and hormonal fluctuations, you might be tempted to eat whatever you desire. Focus on finding space within your schedule for healthy foods. While dealing with the different emotions in the grief process, you might blame yourself for the unplanned pregnancy. Don’t let this negatively affect how you treat your body. Love yourself through self-care.
- Get enough sleep
- Give yourself the best chance at clarity of thought each day. Getting the proper amount of sleep can greatly affect your mood and outlook. Try to set yourself a bedtime. This will help you self-regulate your sleep pattern (sometimes subconsciously).
- Drink water
- Hydrate! While it might seem self-explanatory, emotions are exhausting. Replenish your body by drinking plenty of water each day. You can do it!
- Talk to your family and friends about things other than the pregnancy
- Your life does not have to revolve around unplanned pregnancy. Continue having conversations about other parts of your life. Pregnancy is not the be-all-end-all of personality. Ask your friends about their lives, work, relationships, etc.
- Make time for your hobbies
- The unplanned pregnancy does not define you. Continue enjoying the things that have made you who you are today. Write a poem. Go on a walk. Adopt a dog. Bake a cake. Do what you need to find balance.
- Don’t forget to laugh
- An unplanned pregnancy can make life feel serious. Give yourself opportunities to laugh and have fun. Watch your favorite comedy special. Play a board game. Reread old diary entries. Remind yourself of good things happening in your life.
- Listen to your body and set boundaries
- You do not have to be productive every day. Far from it. You are experiencing a difficult emotional journey and your feelings are valid. Make space for self-care, but don’t push yourself too far.
A Word for Expectant Mothers
As you come to terms with an unplanned pregnancy, you might find yourself ready to make decisions for the future or yourself and your baby. There are generally three accepted routes for expectant mothers; parenting, placing the child for adoption, or terminating the pregnancy. Depending on your cultural and religious beliefs, terminating the pregnancy might not be an acceptable option.
In your decision-making process, you should consider a few things:
- What is your relationship like with the expectant father? If you decide to parent, would he be a part of the child’s life? Would you want to co-parent with him, or would you want to be independent?
- Are you financially stable? Could you financially provide for yourself and a child?
- How far along are you in your education? Is there additional schooling you would like to complete before starting a family?
- Are you ready to start a family? Are you interested in the suburban lifestyle often associated with raising children?
If you decide you would like to parent your child, congratulations! Parenthood can be a stressful but rewarding experience. Communicate with your partner, if they are part of your decision, and your support system about your decision to welcome a new baby into your life. Ask for advice and assistance in preparation for this change.
If you are considering placing your child for adoption, know that the adoption community welcomes you. There is no judgement; your situation is unique. You are not a cookie-cutter and not constricted to a single path. Pregnancy can be a scary and stressful experience. By placing a child for adoption, you are acknowledging that you might not be able to provide for their needs. This is a very mature action. You are selflessly giving your child a chance at a better life.
While considering placing a child for adoption, you may reach out to an adoption agency or attorney to help you along the way. Agencies can provide services to identify what you are looking for in a prospective adoptive family, find potential candidates, and meet to discuss shared interests. They can also help you find financial stability, create a hospital plan, and contact certified counselors.
Regardless of your decision, continue reaching out to your support system. Share your thoughts with them; tell them what you’re experiencing, your fears, and your hopes. Humans thrive on interaction! Don’t hurt yourself by staying silent, put your voice out there. The people that truly love and appreciate you will stay and listen.
There is no one correct way to be a mother. There is no handbook for dealing with pregnancy or raising the perfect child. Life probably would be easier if there was. What is important is doing your best; making the best decision you can for the parties involved. Pregnancy is a big step, and you are strong enough to decide whether to take it or not.
Each individual will have a different journey as they come to terms with an unplanned pregnancy. This is part of the beauty of human experience; we can experience things and make decisions for ourselves. Nothing is set in stone.
Readers, please know that you have a beautiful soul of immeasurable value. I ask that you be patient and have compassion for yourself. Respect your journey, wherever it may take you.
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