I spent many mornings in the winter of my senior year pretending it was a snow day. For up to an hour, I would ignore the persistent alarm clock. I cherished my time asleep: I could effortlessly ignore the heartache of my pregnancy and gain reprieve from nausea and morning sickness. Unable to share what was going on, I shrank away from the world. I spent my off-hours in the black wings of the auditorium. The first twelve weeks of my pregnancy were among the darkest of my life.
Remembering that girl in theatre, I feel an empathetic pang for the other women facing an unplanned pregnancy. The women considering adoption are various, but nearly all of them ask, “What do I do now?” I offer these six steps for managing early pregnancy in hindsight, outlining how I survived this intimidating time:
1. Get to a Safe Place
Physically, a safe place is one where you don’t feel you will come to harm. Ideally, your home should be a safe place. You work and your school should also be safe places. Now that your body houses more than one life, keeping yourself away from physical harm is of heightened importance. If you are homeless, in an abusive living situation, or otherwise feel unsafe at home, consider finding a local women’s shelter or maternity house where you can stay. If possible, consider staying with a close friend or relative until you are able to find a new situation. Don’t be complacent in an unsafe place.
You also need to be in a safe place emotionally. You are likely to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or even hopeless. However you feel, recognize that pregnancy is life-altering. You should be overwhelmed! Realize your emotional boundaries, and take special care to raise your self-awareness in regards to them. If you fear that you will harm yourself or are considering suicide, don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Call a crisis hotline and seek counselling.
I personally assure you that things get better. You are capable of carrying on, as long as you believe in yourself.
2. Decide For or Against Terminating
Once I was able overcome the sluggishness of my depression, I felt an enormous sense of urgency. Each week that passed felt like a reminder to take some kind of overdue action.
Although I was raised to see abortions as morally deficient, the option crossed my mind. I began researching costs, procedures, and testimonials of women who’d voluntarily terminated pregnancy. I wondered if I could do it. Like the kick of a shotgun, instantaneous protest erupted within me. The anxiety I’d been feeling subsided, and I realized that my overdue action was to make an active choice to remain pregnant.
Whether you choose to terminate or not, it’s important to make the choice thoughtfully. Pressure from others may sway you toward one option, but you are the only person who can decide. Realize that both options are permanent and will have a lasting effect.
3. Seek Prenatal Care
Some women may not feel ready to see an OB or midwife in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. That first appointment can be emotional, especially if you find yourself in that waiting room alone. Maybe you haven’t told your family or partner and don’t want it showing up on statements from insurance. Regardless of your ability to see a health professional, it’s important for you to make your prenatal health a priority.
The first trimester is developmentally critical. Consider purchasing prenatal vitamins and enriching your diet with fruits and vegetables (whatever you can eat with morning sickness). Limit your caffeine intake, stop drinking and smoking, and read the labels on medications to avoid anything potentially harmful. Even common drugs such as ibuprofen and flu medicine can have adverse effects.
4. Rearrange Your Priorities
I remember disclosing my pregnancy to a close friend, who told me to always come second to my baby. The idea of putting my child above me came naturally. I realized that coming second was actually a huge improvement; I’d never been that high of a priority to myself. Take care of yourself in order to take care of your baby. Your emotions have a direct physiological impact on the baby, and your well-being will contribute to the baby’s.
Part of making you a priority is identifying good support. Now is not the time to allow others to drain from you; instead, seek people willing to give love and help freely. During this rearrangement, I found a number of my friends fell away from me. But the ones willing to care and understand persevered.
5. Consider Your Options From a Number of Perspectives
Adoption.com is full of birth mother testimonials, forums, and stories explaining why they chose adoption. As with other decisions in pregnancy, the choice to pursue adoption is yours. Consider your options from a number of perspectives. Evaluate your apprehensions about parenting and placing and the benefits of each. Consult with a trusted individual or professional who is willing to give you unbiased counsel.
Some expectant mothers choose adoption from the beginning, while others don’t make the choice to place until after birth. However, I would advise weighing options as soon as possible so that you have time to warm up or cool down to an idea.
6. Make a Timeline
Using your due date as a bench mark, map out how much time you have and the things you need to get done before the birth. Making a timeline can help you to break down the long gestational period and responsibilities into manageable chunks. Consider adding a budget of expenses to your timeline as well; although many agencies will offer you compensation, you may find it empowering to pay your own way. Having measurable goals, such as when I would choose and contact the adoptive parents, diminished my anxiety.
Unplanned pregnancy is the best of times and the worst of times. Through the turbulence, persevere. Be brave and surprise yourself with your own strength.