The responsibility that comes with bringing a child into the world is no small thing. It affects every aspect of life – socially, physically, emotionally, psychologically and financially. For many women the experience of falling pregnant is welcomed, planned and embraced as a joyful life event, but when pregnancy is ‘unexpected’, as 50% of them are1, it comes with a mixture of emotions from shock, dread, surprise, fear and feelings of ‘what do I do now’?
I was pregnant ‘unexpectedly’ at 24 years old. I was well aware of how to, and how not to get pregnant, so no blame of insufficient sex education rests here. For me at the time life was ticking along; I was newly in a relationship with a man I was besotted with and although his feelings for me were not fully reciprocated, you could say we, ‘enjoyed ourselves’. The result being a night of passion where caution was thrown to the wind with us knowing I was likely to be ovulating. At the time I was not taking any oral contraception and that night having no other means of contraception available the choice was made to ‘carry on regardless’ throwing caution and implications to the wind in the moment…only to have them blow right back again after the moment had gone.
In many cases falling pregnant is an ‘accident’ that comes from a lack of regard.
At no point did I consider all of this at the time. Yes, these concerns were there but the end result of being pregnant, and the new found excitement of having my own child, enabled me to push all this aside and emerge with a smile on my face at my achievement – I was pregnant and somehow it proved something about me to the world.
I was not alone in my situation – many around me were in unstable relationships and falling pregnant. Looking back, the unspoken around us all and in the heads of others was a sadness as they saw young women slipping into motherhood without care or consideration for the consequences of being pregnant and without any true support or a true relationship.
The only person that did not hold back his concerns was my father. In no uncertain terms he told me I was being a complete fool, and wasting my life as I could have a career instead. But later I understood his reaction was coming from the fact that he was still reeling from the hurt of already having seen one daughter leave home at 16 years old and head off into the world with a young baby and in an unstable relationship.
In my case the news I was pregnant was often met with smiles and congratulations, but all the time the congratulations being offered, were laced with a feeling of sadness and a judgment of ‘what are you doing?’ At the time I found out I was pregnant I was no longer in a relationship with the father, but over an Indian meal out, we decided to ‘give it a go’ as we realised we were pretty much bound together through the fact that I was choosing to have his child.
Nobody around me said they were concerned or offered any steady advice and I don’t remember anybody asking me how I thought I would manage, where I would live, how I would cope financially or even pose the question of how I would cope if I found myself alone. The Doctor offered practical support for the pregnancy but of course was not allowed (probably for fear of being biased or sued) to lay out all the pros and cons on the table.
I was still living at home and my parents were in so much reaction that there was no steady support or advice there either, just disapproval and reaction from their own hurts and broken pictures of me and my life ahead. My older grandmother loved babies and was pleased for me, along with the assumption that a marriage would follow, as would be the case for her generation, while my other older grandmother reminded me that I was about to ‘bring another bastard into the world’.
The choice to continue with pregnancy was easy for me as I had chosen to have an abortion three years previously and having another was not a desired option. Then came all the concerns about the relationship. Will I have to go it alone? This was a big concern and I even did a crash-training course whilst pregnant in a trade, which I felt could earn me enough money should I need to support myself alone. Although I pretended I was prepared; I was actually far from ready for what came along. I’m now able to see that this had an impact, not only on myself but on all those around me, but it was so easy then to put on the ‘rose-coloured glasses’ when I found myself in a tricky situation, and choose not to see it all, in the avoidance of taking true responsibility – that is caring deeply for myself and others, by honestly being able to see the full impact of such a choice.
The decision to ‘do the right thing’ by living with the long term consequences of a short term choice made in a brief moment, came with the father and myself buying a house and ticking all the boxes, including getting married two weeks before the birth. All complete and made ‘right’? I think not. The foundation of the marriage was not a loving choice and behind all the smiles the real underlying feeling was that of, ‘we are making the best of what we have.’ We managed to keep this up for ten years but eventually it all fell apart.
Not all choices have as dramatic and permanent an outcome as following through with an unplanned pregnancy, but any decision that does not come with care, love and appreciation for ourselves has the strong potential to bring complication and harm.
Building a loving, honest and caring relationship with ourselves is of paramount importance for making choices that truly support us all. From an unexpected pregnancy to the choice of whether to eat that chocolate or not, every decision has consequences that we, and those around us live with for a moment and sometimes for a lifetime. Being deeply aware, respectful and embracing of this power is a great gift we give (or withhold) to ourselves and each other.
by BB, UK
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1 Finer,LB and Joiner, MR; Shifts in intended and unintended pregnancies in the United States, 2001-2008; American Journal of Public Health; Feb 2014;