Few events can be as stressful to a relationship as an unplanned pregnancy. Hopefully, you and your partner have already discussed what you would do in the event of a pregnancy, but even if you have not, there are steps you can take to support your girlfriend during this stressful time.
Help Her Decide
The ultimate fate of your girlfriend’s pregnancy is her choice, but you should both be involved in the decision-making process. If you haven’t already confirmed the pregnancy with a medical professional, it can be a good idea to do so before making any choices. Once the pregnancy is confirmed, you will likely want to have an honest, calm discussion with your girlfriend about what she intends to do about the pregnancy. Tell your girlfriend how you feel about becoming a parent. Express your opinions about adoption and abortion, but don’t try to force her into the choice you want her to make. You may want to write down your thoughts before you talk to her so that you can make sure you don’t forget anything. Be sure you actively listen to your girlfriend’s thoughts, fears and reasons for her choices. If there is a disagreement, consider using a mediator, such as a counselor, mentor or medical professional, to help you work through your disagreement.
Prepare Yourself for Parenting
If the two of you are considering parenting your child, you should consider discussing what your parenting arrangement will look like. Where will the two of you live? Where will the child live? Do you want to get married? Can you financially support a child? If not, what resources are available to assist you? If one or both of you are still in school, how do you intend to finish? Who will care for the child? What do you want your child’s environment to be like and what sort of lifestyle changes will you need to make to achieve that? This may also be a good time to agree on parenting choices such as what sort of punishment will you use and who will be responsible for it. What sort of religious influences would you like your child to have? What kind of food do you want your child to eat? You don’t have to plan your child’s whole life out before your child is even born, but it can be helpful to start laying the ground rules.
Prepare Yourself for Adoption or Abortion
If you and your girlfriend have decided against parenting or are unsure what choice you will make, you may want to prepare yourself for the possibility of adoption or abortion. Laws vary by state, but in most states, abortion is an option up to the point the fetus is considered to be viable outside the womb. Educating yourself on the available procedures, regulations, cost, follow-up care, and potential side-effects will help you support your partner during this difficult decision. If you are considering adoption, you will probably want to discuss whether you want to be involved with choosing the adoptive parents, what agency you will use, whether you will see the baby after it is born and whether you prefer an open or closed adoption.
You and your girlfriend do not have to go through this process alone. Your parents or the parents of trusted friends, community centers, childbirth classes and places of worship can be great sources of education and emotional support. If you need financial support, government programs, such as Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, and TANF may be available to you. You may also be able to find assistance through local charitable organizations such as food banks. If at any point the process becomes overwhelming, or you suspect your partner may be experiencing depression, the Maternal Mental Health hotline can be reached at 1-800-662-HELP (2457). A pregnancy clinic in Illinois can provide you with assistance and direct you to other resources in your area.
Dealing with an unplanned pregnancy can be a stressful time. However, being honest, open, calm and supportive when discussing your options with your partner can take some of the strain out the process and help you and your girlfriend ensure you make the best choice for your relationship and your potential child.