Growing up, I had always wanted to find my dream guy, get married, have kids and dogs, and live happily ever after. It wasn’t until I was 18, that I realized fairy tales and American dreams are not reality. My reality was an unexpected pregnancy. My reality was a crisis I was far from equipped for at that time in life. I had been a wildcard most of my life. I was adopted when I was two days old and never knew anything about my biological family, but I did always know that I was an adoptee.
I have amazing parents who normalized adoption as part of our identity for my little sister and I. Growing up, I was proud of my adoptee status, but I didn’t really have much information except that was how my story began and that it meant I was abundantly loved. I began rebelling a lot around 15 and it just kept on over the years. I really liked doing everything opposite of what my parents wanted me to do and now that I am an adult, I still have a bit of a love-hate relationship with rules.
Around 15, I began to put my worth in the hands of boys who didn’t know I was meant to be treasured. To be honest, I didn’t know I was meant to be treasured. Fast forward to 17, I had been running away and living with boys and my parents tried to reel me back in, but I was not having it. I got sick at some point and went to my childhood doctor. While I was sitting in the room, I remember thinking. “Hmm, I haven’t had a period in a while. Maybe I should take a pregnancy test.” I genuinely thought it was me just being paranoid but may as well double-check. I had no idea that I was about to find out I was pregnant.
I was terrified. I didn’t have a stable relationship, I was casually seeing a few boyfriends and I was not financially stable. While I think it went through my mind that I was about to have a dreaded conversation with some guys who would probably deny paternity or some other negative reaction, I was more afraid of telling my parents. I grew up in a pretty religious home and through the True Love Waits Movement, so I knew the conversation was not going to be one of joy.
It’s difficult because now as a parent, I get that my parents didn’t want to hear that their teenage daughter was having a baby because they grieved for me that I didn’t realize back then. They grieved that I was in a difficult position and that wasn’t how they pictured me getting to finally be a mama. I was so young I didn’t get it. I just thought they were angry with me and that I was a screw-up as always. No, they were sad for me like I am sad for that girl now. I thought that I could parent. I chose to do that, but after 6 months realized a lot of my circumstances were far from what I felt my baby deserved. So, my parents ended up adopting him.
It was really difficult seeing my parents raise my son, but I knew it was the right thing for everyone, so I pushed the hurt away or distracted myself from feeling. A few years later, I was back in the same place. Unexpected pregnancy. With the knowledge of my prior experience, I knew I needed to be intentional and look into my options. I chose adoption through an agency. I was terrified yet again to tell my parents that I did it again and was pregnant. But they were supportive and listened to my needs and desires. I ended up choosing a family and starting an open adoption with a couple that lived about an hour or so away from me.
Today, I have an extremely open adoption with both of my kids and they know I am their birth mother and that they are siblings. It’s been one of the hardest journeys being a birth mother, but I still believe I did what was right for us in those moments of crisis. Maybe you are like me and just got stunned with the news that you have a life growing inside of you. It’s a surreal moment. I panicked a lot and I have unpacked my story a lot, too. So here are some words of advice for navigating the crisis that is an unexpected pregnancy.
Let’s face it, you have options: abortion, adoption, and parenting. All are valid choices, but it’s a big choice, so don’t just feel pressured to know immediately what you want to do. You have time. I know it doesn’t seem like it because you eventually will be giving birth if you wait long enough, but you don’t need to rush in. You have a couple of months to really research what your options look like. You can consider what your family or friends say, but I urge you to take it with a grain of salt. You need to decide for yourself what to do. So research the different options.
Find out everything that you could possibly want to know about the process of abortion and what it entails. Find out how long you have to decide if you weigh that option heavily. Learn about the process of adoption and how that could look if you went down that path. Look into WIC and Food Stamps, health resources, daycare options, and other things that you’ll need to know if you decide to parent. Find things that will give you as firm of a foundation that you can achieve before bringing a baby into the picture. Listen to and read stories from women who chose abortion, listen to what your doctor has to say about it, and if there is a father involved, ask him his thoughts as well. Listen and read stories from birth parents who placed a child for adoption, adoptees that are sharing their stories of being adopted, and even adoptive parents to see how they interact with their child’s birth parents. Listen and read stories from women who are parenting and struggled to get a strong footing, women who are single mothers, women who were able to co-parent with the dad successfully, and so on. You can never do too much research.
Telling Family and Finding Support
If you were young like I was, or even if you are not, telling your parents can be dreadful. Telling your guy or casual friend that you are pregnant—also terrifying. Lets be real, not everyone is supportive. When I told my guys that I was pregnant, it didn’t go well. Honestly, because I had watched so much MTV, I thought surely they’ll step up and love me through it. Well, the problem was that I wasn’t with men who loved, valued, or treasured me to begin with, so a baby thrown into the mix certainly wouldn’t change that. I was alone. At least, it felt that way. I had a lot of support in my family and some friends, but it was still isolating at times. This is why I think it is super important for you to find support no matter what you are choosing to do.
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When faced with an unexpected pregnancy, people can act weird. They can impulsively act out of fear, so first of all, if someone is super awful in response, move on. If you want to come back around in a few weeks or months or give them the opportunity to come back around to you, that is definitely up to you, but could be a change of tune if you are willing to overlook the first response. But even if people don’t rally in supporting chorus at the beginning, find support elsewhere. Find other single mamas or women who have been in your shoes and ask them all of the questions that you are pondering on.
If you are considering adoption, go to an agency and talk with an options counselor to get the lay of the land at that particular agency and ask if they have a mentor program that can connect you to women who have already placed a child for adoption. Talking with women who have already gone through what your current life season looks like, can help you get a better grasp on how they feel now about their decision, if they are healing, if they are struggling or in regret, and words of advice they’d give to someone in your shoes. If you are a woman of faith, the other place to find support can be within your church community groups. Be careful here, as the church is still struggling to love women well in unexpected pregnancies. Not all of them, but some still don’t get it. Guard your heart and know that you are worthy regardless of what choice you make next.
Next Steps If You Consider Adoption
If you decide to consider adoption more heavily, check out several agencies. Even if you don’t have agencies in your immediate area, oftentimes they can still work with you by sending a caseworker to you or virtually connecting. If that’s something that works for you, look into those options! Personally, I needed a physical connection and support system locally, so I went to an agency that is convenient to my location. Not all agencies are the same, so really research the ones you are considering and then when you narrow it down to a few, go and interview them each.
You likely will meet with an options counselor when you first go into an agency or someone like that, so while it seems that they’d do all of the talking, I challenge you to ask them the hard questions. A few I can think of are: When do you match women with adoptive parents? What happens if I decide to parent? What happens if I change my mind after birth? Do you have resources to help me during my pregnancy? What drives people to adopt through this agency? Do you have therapy options for me during pregnancy? Do you offer post-placement support such as counseling when I am ready for it or scholarships for schooling? Do you have a mentor program where I can connect with a birth mother? Can I look through profiles to see the couples that have come to your agency? Do you offer free legal advice throughout my pregnancy? Can I choose my birth plan? What do open adoptions usually look like here? Once you are satisfied with answers from an agency, move forward and begin an adoption plan.
How to Cope with Your Decision
I mentioned therapy a few times already as well as support. If you choose adoption, it’s not an easy journey. And honestly, none of the options will be easy. Every single one of them comes with its own struggles and challenges. Healing is important to your wellbeing, so make sure that when you are ready to talk about the decision you made, reach out to the agency you placed with, an organization that helps moms like a parenting center, or a therapist to help you process your journey. It may not seem like it now, but you eventually will need to talk about this and maybe even cry. I certainly needed to and find my therapy sessions to be a lifeline.
Encouragement Mama to Mama
Regardless of what you decide, I am proud of you. You may not have meant to be facing this unexpected pregnancy, but you are strong and capable of making the best choice for you moving forward. Never forget that you have the power and that you don’t have to do anything until you are ready. It may not seem ok right now, but I promise it gets easier to manage with each day moving forward. One day at a time friend, you’ll find your way. I am sure of it.