“Congratulations, you are expecting a baby.”
There is the assumption that the statement is one news every human would be excited to hear. Yes, if you are 36 and have been trying to have a child for, maybe 8 years, it literally is a dream come true. But how do you get excited with the news when you are 16, you are a freshman in the university and still dependent on your parents, who are very old-fashioned and unforgiving? How do you handle the information when you have been out of job for over a year and you are struggling to raise the 4 children you already have with the little profit your wife makes from her business? How do you feel excitement, when you are at the peak of your career and the pregnancy will just ruin everything you have worked for?
An unplanned pregnancy is one of the most difficult things to deal with. Usually it comes as an absolute shock, followed by an array of overwhelming emotions and stress. You are filled with feelings of fear, disbelief, confusion, panic, guilt, and even a little shame for “letting” it happen. And while these feelings are totally normal, and you have the choice of saying “yes” or “No” to the life growing inside of you or your partner, you have to keep in mind that all future decisions require a much needed reflective attention; and also, while it can be a big task, it is possible to cope with an unplanned pregnancy and to not only survive it, but to thrive in the role of unexpected parenthood.
An unplanned pregnancy is not something you can just wrap your head around overnight. Coping with it requires quite a lot. It is a deeply personal and individual task and requires time, space and a network of support. Usually, you are tempted to make a rush decision upon getting the news, but doing so when you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed is not a good idea.
First, take a moment away from the chaotic thoughts and conversations and reactions, think through your situation and be sure of the responsibilities, implications and what you want, prior to taking action.
Do not waste time deliberating on how it happened, who is to blame, what you did to deserve your situation, what you were thinking or any other questions that focuses on blame and finding fault. Instead, ask yourself, ask questions that help you find solutions and move forward: “What do I need?”, “What do I want?”, “Will I be okay?” And while it may be difficult, try to stay objective and look at it from a general point of view. Ask yourself: “If this were happening to your sister or best friend, what would tell her to do and why?” Asking these questions will help you come to terms with your pregnancy and the life-to-come with your child.
Once you are done deliberating and you realize the best option is to keep the child, go on to evaluate your immediate needs. Make a list of everything you are unsure of or would like to learn more about, the necessary steps you need to take to care for both yourself and the unborn child. You can go ahead and do some research on the internet.
The internet has a wealth of information, however you need to be careful not to bombard yourself with too much information and become overwhelmed. Being informed empowers you and gives you the confidence to sail through your pregnancy and look forward to the challenge of being a parent.
Even after getting the information, go ahead and visit a doctor for advice on medications, excercises, and habits to drop or take on, to ensure you and the child remain healthy. The doctor you meet should be someone you are comfortable with and whose advice regarding your health, both mental and physical, you can trust.
Next, develop a support system. A problem shared is a problem half solved. Confide in people that you trust and respect. It could be your partner, parents, siblings, friends or even religious leader or counselor if necessary. Surround yourself with a network of people and places to draw strength and advice from. Discuss your feelings with them, your expectations, and your needs.
If you your partner or family is not supportive, then look for someone that you trust and feel comfortable with or accept any offers of assistance and rely on as many people as are willing to share in this wonderful time of your life. You can even join counseling groups and prenatal classes. Most hospitals offer those.
In all you do, remain strong about your situation rather than wallowing in self-pity. You will have mixed feeling per time, but remind yourself daily that it is natural to feel any number of emotions at any time, and that you are important enough to allow yourself the opportunity to work through them. Try to deal with issues as they arise, to gain a sense of control as even though the pregnancy may not have been planned, everything you do to deal with it from that point forward can be.
As an expectant mom, the more positive you are about it, the better. Being an expectant mom will certainly change most aspects of your lifestyle that requires you taking on an entirely new perspective on life. Take the time to consider what changes you can make to be a parent while still aiming for other life goals. For example, if you are still in school, you can change your study schedule from full-time to part-time; if you are a man who doesn’t earn enough, you can take on a second job to ensure you can support the mother when the baby is born.
Some aspects of your life will be compromised, but pregnancy is not the end of your life; it is rather the amazing beginning of another’s. Notwithstanding that a pregnancy may be unplanned; bearing a child is a unique experience and a feat that one can be proud of. It can be overwhelming at the best of times, but like anything in life, developing a personal action plan will go a long way towards helping you cope with it all and having a positive experience.
Photo Credit: Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang)