The Importance of Options
A couple of years ago, I was sitting in a class when my professor said something that completely changed my outlook on decision-making. He told the class that “the most important part about decision-making is making sure that you know all of your options first. Don’t commit to any one decision until you’ve weighed every possible option.” I’ve used that principle for pretty much every decision since then from choosing an ice cream flavor to deciding if I should marry my husband. All options I could think of were considered before the decision was made.
My birth mother, unfortunately, wasn’t taught that principle until after she faced her unplanned pregnancy as a teenager. She hid her pregnancy from everyone but my birth father until the day I was born. The only exception to the secrecy was the day they decided to seek help from an abortion clinic.
My birth mother went to Planned Parenthood because she was told that was where you go when you face an unplanned pregnancy. The only option they gave her was the option to abort the pregnancy. She wasn’t necessarily interested in that option but didn’t know where else to turn to for more options. The option of adoption wasn’t presented to her until the end of her pregnancy.
She recalls the day I was born when the nurse came in for a round of vitals and congratulated her. My birth mom explained that she couldn’t keep me. The nurse replied, “Adoption! How wonderful!” My birth mother and birth father chose the option of adoption while at the hospital with me in their arms.
That story is hard for my heart because my birth mom lived in a state of turmoil during her pregnancy. She didn’t know what to do, and she didn’t know where to go to find out what she could be doing. This story also serves as a reminder that, in too many cases, abortion is the only option suggested for women facing an unplanned pregnancy. There are abortion alternatives.
There still would have been hard days and stress with the unplanned pregnancy, but I would imagine some of that could have been addressed if she had an idea of what would happen once the nine months of secrecy came to an end.
If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, it’s important that you know all your options before you make a choice that will have an impact on the rest of your life.
The first option many women hear about when facing an unplanned pregnancy is the option of abortion. That is the choice to terminate/end your unplanned pregnancy. Abortions are fairly common. One in four U.S. women will have an abortion before they are 45 years old.
You are the only one who can decide if an abortion is the right plan for you. You may be leaning towards abortion for a number of reasons. Health, personal, and other reasons may lead you to think it may be the only feasible option for you. But there are abortion alternatives, and I want to address the other two big options you have at this stage in your life.
You could choose to parent your child. This choice, like the other two I’m addressing here today, have lifelong impacts. When choosing if parenting is the best option for your unplanned pregnancy, there are a number of questions you may be asking yourself.
“Am I ready to be a parent?” “How would this affect schooling/a career?” “What kind of support could I get if I choose to parent a baby now?” These and other questions are all valid questions that you need to consider regardless of what choice you decide.
There are places and resources you can go to for help in seeing if parenting is a viable option for you. If your partner/spouse is involved, you may consider if you both would be financially able to take on the responsibility of raising a child. If you don’t have someone in that kind of position in your life, maybe a parent, friend, or another close person in your life would be able to step in to help you. If you worry about the financial aspects of becoming a parent, see if you qualify for government assistance. If finances would be the only thing or one of a few things keeping you from choosing to parent your child, I would encourage you to educate yourself as much as possible to understand all the options you have. This may alleviate some of those concerns.
You may want to seek out a resource pregnancy center. Oftentimes, these centers can equip you with information and materials to point you in the right direction and get you started on these new endeavors in life.
It’s important to acknowledge that this option, as well as the other two referenced in this article, are permanent decisions. You have to be able to look around at the environment you are in and decide if it is conducive to raising a child. If it’s not, are you in a position to make changes and become ready to bring a child into your home? If not, you may be weighing the option of abortion. But I want to reiterate that abortion is permanent and not the only option for your unplanned pregnancy. You have another option if you are not ready to be a parent.
Now, let’s talk about the option of adoption. This option is the one my own birth mother didn’t have a chance to think about until she was already holding me in her arms. I am grateful for how my life has turned out, but I wish my birth mother would have had all the options laid out for her before she made her decision. Because she didn’t have the opportunity to consider an adoption plan for her unplanned pregnancy, her plan was made in less than five days.
If you have found yourself in a position facing an unplanned pregnancy, take this opportunity to consider every option and the umbrella of choices within each option. The option of adoption has a lot of factors to consider. If you decide to create an adoption plan, you can set parameters for what you want that to look like.
You can decide if you want an open adoption where you can be involved with your baby and his family and be around as he grows up. You can choose semi-open adoption where you have limited contact for the majority of your child’s life as outlined by you and the adoptive parents. Or you can choose a closed adoption where you don’t have to have contact with your child at all while she is growing up. Although, you can join a reunion registry online so that when your child turns 18, he or she may be able to reach out to you.
Adoption offers a level of flexibility to you. You can choose to be as involved in the life of your baby as you feel comfortable with. You can choose the parents that will raise your baby. You get to choose so many little, important details.
Whatever you choose, adoption, abortion, or parenting, you need to feel good about your decision so you can navigate into your new normal.
Navigating Life After Your Choice
As I’ve mentioned, and I’m sure you already recognize, your decision has a permanent impact on your life and the life of the baby inside you now. There will be feelings, thoughts, and questions for the rest of your life.
If you choose to parent, you will have days filled with pride as you raise your baby. You will participate in the first steps, first words, first drawings. But there will also be moments of stress and probably tears and pulling-out-hair moments as so many parents encounter with a fussy baby in the wee hours of the morning. You will be blessed to be called “mama” and will be able to drop your child off to preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, and maybe even college! But, you will also need to navigate the path of being a mother. This includes soothing tears, snuggling on sick days, learning how to teach discipline and love, etc.
If you choose to terminate this pregnancy, there will be a mixture of emotions and questions for the rest of your life as well. You may choose the route of abortion because you worry about how having a baby would impact your education, career, or your general way of life. It’s possible that abortion may open up options for you. But you also may find yourself wondering what you elected to miss out on by ending that pregnancy. You may wonder what your baby could have looked like, what she would have been like. When you see children that would be about the age of your own baby as she grew, you may feel a pang of sadness for what could have been. You may, however, find success in your life. You may excel in your education, be promoted in your dream career, and/or go on to start your own family someday and move on past this unplanned pregnancy with no problem and no considerations for what could have been.
If you choose adoption, you will also feel a myriad of feelings. Did you make the right choices? Is the family you trusted your baby with the right family? Could you have made parenting work? I’ve been reflecting a lot on my experience with my own adoption journey. My birth mom has expressed the worries of the decision she made, but she has also expressed sheer gratitude. When my birth mom chose my parents to raise me, she chose them largely in part because they emanated who she hoped to be when it was the right time for her to parent. She liked that my dad drove a Jeep and that my mom was a preschool teacher. She liked that music was important to both of my parents and that they would take Sunday drives. She wasn’t in a position to give any of that to me, but she was able to find a couple that couldn’t have children on their own that were ready and willing to bring me home and into their hearts.
My birth mom has a special place in my parents’ hearts. There are specific moments she wishes she would have been more involved in, but overall, she has come to love the decision she made more than 20 years ago.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that abortion is not your only option. If you haven’t taken the time to consider your options, for whatever reasons, please do so now. An unplanned pregnancy is adequately named. It wasn’t expected or anticipated, and it is a moment that will always have an impact on your life.
I wish I could tell you the best plan and the path with the least heartache and the most happiness and success, but that is a decision that only you can make. I hope wherever you are in life that you are able to find a support group if you don’t have one at your disposal already.
Take the time to weigh your options in their entirety. If it helps, maybe write some kind of list on your computer, a piece of paper, or even in a journal with your impressions on all your options. What would parenting look like? What would it look like to make an adoption plan for you and your baby? How will your life look if you decide to abort this pregnancy?
I hope whatever decision you make, it isn’t made hastily. Take as much time as you can to determine the path that you feel the most comfortable with. There are alternatives to abortion, so don’t let yourself feel pushed to that option if that’s not what you want. That sentiment applies to all the options you have before you.
As you hurdle this unplanned pregnancy, I hope you are able to find a plan that feels the best for you and will continue to be the best option as you meander your way through life.
Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.