While this is ultimately a post written for the benefit of the young unmarried women who have found themselves pregnant unintentionally, I also invite those of you who do NOT fall into the category of the young, unwed, pregnant woman to read these words. As it is highly likely that during our lives most of us will encounter at least one of these women, it is important that we open our hearts and respond to them with understanding and empathy.
Dear Young Pregnant Single Woman,
Hi, my name is Paige.
I would say that it’s a pleasure to meet you, but considering the circumstances, it breaks my heart that you are in this position, searching for answers, searching for support, for peace of mind, for something to help you feel like you have your situation under control. My heart breaks thinking about how you are weighed down by the decisions you must make in the near future that will affect the rest of your life in colossal ways. I ache with the loneliness and isolation you might feel, because few people around you at this point in time can relate to your feelings of hopelessness. If you are a young woman reading this who is actually excited by the surprise of a pregnancy, than congratulations! I truly wish all the best things for you and your new family. However, if you are anything like I was, your heart stopped beating and the world stood still the moment you saw the positive pregnancy test- and then you went to throw up, partly because of the first trimester nausea, and partly because you were in shock.
It is difficult to put into words the panic and confusion of that particular moment- the utter shock, the disbelief, the denial. This cannot be happening. Frenzied thoughts. I cannot handle this. Hysteria. How can I fix this RIGHT NOW? Then, the silent, booming repetition of the phrase that plays in your mind until you begin to believe that you are lost in a queasy dream. I’m pregnant.
The following days bring reluctant acceptance. Then comes hope.
Right now, you are thinking, how can there possibly be hope? My whole life is ruined.
That might be the way that you feel, and that is okay. It is okay to grieve because of a seemingly devastating and unplanned life event. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Your feelings are valid and real.
It is my wish that sharing my experience might help you find a small amount of peace, a sense of resolve, or a fragment of hope during a seemingly hopeless time. If reading about my experience cannot give you those things, then at least I offer you my complete empathy and solidarity- I have stood where you stand. In the spirit of using my own heartbreak and struggle to help others who are going through a similar situation, I will share with you some things that gave me the hope and strength I needed to survive this rough period of my life.
Call your mom. Telling my mom I was pregnant was the hardest conversation I have ever had- but her reaction to my news was one of the most beautiful moments we have ever shared. I feared that she would be angry, judgmental, or gravely disappointed in me. Instead, she reacted with kindness and empathy, and most of all, astounding love. Of course she did- she is my mom. No matter what you imagine your mother (or mother figure, or dad) might say or think, remember that there is no love on earth quite like the love between a mom and her child. Your mom’s unconditional love and support can be the source of hope that you need to survive during this rough time.
Find at least one friend who truly supports you. Likewise, dump any friend who tells you to “just stop thinking about it” when you are in the midst of navigating the most arduous and complicated period of your life. Distance yourself, at least temporarily, from anyone who is too selfish to love you even when life swallows you in chaos. There is nothing quite like an unplanned pregnancy to reveal to you your true friends and support system. My advice to you is to cherish those true relationships and allow them to support you, because now is a time to accept help, no matter how independently spirited you may be.
Try to connect with someone who has lived through what you are experiencing. If the conversation with my mom was the most hopeful experience at this time, then the second most hopeful experience was the conversation I had with a woman (I’ll call her “E”) one year older than me, who, one year earlier, had found herself in the exact same predicament. About to graduate college, unmarried, and pregnant unintentionally. We were connected by a common friend and she agreed to meet and talk with me. When she got out of the car to meet me for coffee, she walked to the other side of the car and, to my horror, produced a small baby from the back seat. I knew that she had a baby, but I did not expect her to bring the child. Seeing my discomfort, she laughed and said “I hope this isn’t too much”. What proceeded was a calm and hopeful conversation about life, struggles, feelings, options, and love. I get emotional when I think about how this small connection gave me a renewed sense of hope, and how our two-hour conversation restored my strength and self-esteem in a drastic way. She got it. She knew the struggle. This was such an important connection to make.
Do not get married just because you are pregnant. Marrying the father is not always the best decision- in fact, you might be worse off in a miserable and wrong marriage. In my case, I am so utterly relieved that I remained single. Marriage does not magically fix the dysfunction.
Disregard the stigma and perceptions that society perpetuates about young and single mothers. But what will people think? Who cares? It’s your life, your decision. I view this experience as an event that clearly revealed my true friends and family. All the other opinionated voices are insignificant to you.
Spend time praying. If praying is not your thing, reflect or meditate- spend time thinking to yourself. How do you feel about all this? What decisions can you live with for the rest of your life? Because you are the one who must live with the decisions you make. Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you have the courage to raise your baby? Is there a family member or friend or acquaintance who might want to raise your child? Would you consider adoption? Is there a way your family can help support you if you choose to raise the baby yourself? What choices can you live with for the rest of your life? You have options.
For full disclosure, I do not believe in abortion- I believe a baby is a baby from the moment of conception. Before you instantly discount everything I have to say because I must be some ultra-conservative right-wing nutcase (I assure you, I’m not- I will leave this country if Donald Trump becomes president), hear me out. The decision that I made to bear and raise my daughter, despite my inconvenient and less-than-ideal circumstances, had nothing to do with a political ideology. It actually did not have much to do with religious conviction either, if I am to be completely honest. The reason that I could not abort my baby, the reason that I sacrificed my body, career, friendships, reputation etc., was that I could already physically feel a small knot in my abdomen, and the truth slapped me in the face and woke me up to reality: this was already happening. This baby was already in progress. The act was done, the consequences had been set in motion. The creative process had already begun. It was already happening.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that I do not understand the appeal of abortion. I understand it completely. It’s an attractive theory: make a mistake? Get it fixed. Problem? Gone. Carry on, live your life as if nothing happened.
I would hypothesize that it’s not that simple and clear cut. Given the two options, keeping or aborting, I knew I could not live with myself if I chose the latter. I am not anti-women’s rights in the slightest, but I am pro-baby.
Please do not think for this reason that I judge those who choose this option, or those who are attracted to it, or those who see it as the only option. I do not judge. In fact, I stand in complete solidarity with you, and I have complete empathy for your situation. I have stood where you stand. I know firsthand the heartbreak, the feelings of shame, of embarrassment, of hopelessness. The sense of despair. The pressure from your friends, maybe even the father of the baby, to “get it handled”. This is when you need to be brutally honest and make the decision that you can live with. No matter who you are, you have options other than abortion. Email me if you need to know more.
Lastly, but most importantly, you are loved. Consider this a love letter to you, from someone who’s been there. It is also the truth that bearing this baby might be the best thing that you have ever given yourself. Having a baby opens your eyes to a love you never could have imagined before. Being a single mom is so hard. But the love is beyond profound. No one loves you like your baby, and no one loves a baby quite like its mother. From the moment my daughter was born into the world, I did not once regret my decision to love her into being.
There is always hope. You will heal, I promise. No matter what you do, be brave.
Email me if you need to talk.