It might seem odd that I’m writing about processing the experience of an unplanned pregnancy—after all, I’m an adoptee, not a birth parent. Stay with me, though! I chose this topic because I saw it as an opportunity to revisit the story of my birth mom’s experience, and we were able to have a wonderful chat about what it means to “gracefully” navigate an unplanned pregnancy.

By the end of our conversation, my perspective about this topic expanded as I realized more fully how much this “how to” applies not only to women with an unplanned pregnancy, but also many others, including the father-to-be and would-be grandparents (especially if the woman is under the age of 18).

Though the seven tips included here are written with the expectant woman in mind, it’s also intended to generate exploration of how these also apply to the other family members who wish to gracefully navigate an unplanned pregnancy.

1. Have self-compassion.

Before you can begin to “gracefully” navigate your unplanned pregnancy, there will likely be a period (or many periods) of denial and/or significant distress about the reality of being pregnant. Remember to cut yourself some slack—there will be moments that feel far from graceful. You’re human, and you don’t have to “get it all right”!

2. Seek counseling from an unbiased professional.

Friends and family will always have their own reactions and biases about what you “should” do about your unplanned pregnancy. Even some counselors will push you towards a particular outcome. Find an unbiased professional counselor who can help you process the immediate and long-term impact of your decision.

3. Explore your definition of a “graceful” approach to an unplanned pregnancy.

One person’s idea of “graceful” will not be the same as another person’s concept. Take time to determine what this means to you (a great topic to explore with your unbiased counselor!)

4. Find a good balance in communicating with the other parent-to-be. 

If you’re in contact with the other parent-to-be, communicate with them about the unplanned pregnancy and how you’re processing it. To the best of your ability (given your specific circumstances), keep this communication open throughout the pregnancy and afterwards.

5. Trust your intuition.

Find ways to tap into your intuition to know what course of action is going to be the right one for you. You may use a meditation or mindfulness practice that lets you quiet your mind and feel what your body is telling you; you may feel into the energy of a higher power. However you connect to your intuition, take the time to check in with that part of yourself. After your intuition speaks up, you’ll be able to begin taking the practical steps to follow this intuition.

6. Sharing your news with family and friends may feel ungraceful – and that’s absolutely okay!

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know exactly how others’ will respond to your unplanned pregnancy. You can take your time deciding when and how to share your news. For some, sharing about the pregnancy with others feels immediately crucial. Others may feel the need to wait until further along in the pregnancy. In some cases, you may want to have a counselor or someone you trust come with you for moral support and to create a greater sense of safety and security if you’re unsure how others will respond to your news.

7. Let yourself have the waves of emotion.

Even if you’ve chosen to place your child for adoption and feel positive about the prospective adoptive family, know that there’s no ticket for an “emotional bypass” to the weight of the decision you need to make. Some experience positive outlook about the adoption process all the way until the birth, and then are hit again with “Are we making the right choice? Can we really do this?” In contrast, others may feel so relieved to be through the process that there may be a sense of guilt about feeling a sense of relief. Whatever your experience is, own it and keep exploring with your counselor throughout the journey.

What it means to “gracefully” navigate an unplanned pregnancy is up to you to determine. Trusting your intuition, allowing your emotions to be what they are, having self-compassion, and seeking professional counseling can help you find your own definition. Ultimately, embrace the experience, complexities, and your process of growth through this transformative journey.

Are you unexpectedly pregnant? If you’d like to connect with a compassionate adoption professional who can help walk you through the adoption option, click here