How to cope up with an unplanned pregnancy?
How to cope up with an unplanned pregnancy?
It was 3am in Africa – Tanzania to be precise. I cannot forget me shivering over that long-distance chat. It was 2009, I was thrilled to share with my sis-in-law that I was pregnant! This unexpected pregnancy came as an over-the-top surprise. It was just a month ago when we had decided that we were ready to have our first baby and here I was, blushing with joy.
Sadly, not all unplanned pregnancies have such a ‘happy shocker’ moment. As if that is not enough, some unplanned pregnancies come with major social stigmas, especially when a wedlock is not part of the pregnancy or when the woman had no say. In this post, I will want to extend my compassion for moms from all kinds of backgrounds with an unplanned pregnancy. Let’s get you going with some helpful tips for the same.
The Unplanned surprise:
The joy of motherhood, feeling a part of YOU, growing inside you is the most sparkling jewel of life indeed. Unfortunately, an unplanned pregnancy may not allow us to feel that way. My role as a psychologist and life coach is to help empower women through all trials & challenges of life. I want you to know that you CAN cope with this too. By following the protocols I have shared below, you will find the strength, courage and direction you need to move through this phase.
This article is certainly also relevant to those such as me, who are very happy to invite the unplanned pregnancy. It may help you to directly skip to the later sections of this article (From no. 5 in the Next steps section).
The First Most Important Step: Your response
Notice your response: You just found out you are pregnant when you were least expecting it or least ready for it. You are in shock! Now what?
Different people respond to shock in different ways. You may feel completely foggy, blanked out, numb or you may have a turbulent set of emotions – confusion, guilt, shame, anger, joy, grief, fear, feeling traumatized or even unsure how to respond.
In most cases of shock, we may respond with either FIGHT or FLIGHT: either feeling overly angry or overly passive (numbness/silent) about it. The first most important step in this situation is to give yourself a moment, a few minutes to simply SIT with your emotions. Give your emotions a chance to settle (from the fight response) or emerge (from the flight response).
There is no compromise to TIME when it comes to dealing with highly shocking or deeply traumatic situations. Giving yourself time to DIGEST this news is crucial, since it will lay the foundation to how well you move through the rest of it for months & years to come!
The Second Most Important Step: Sharing
Talk to someone you can trust: Do you have a trusted, non-judgement friend or family member to share this news with? If yes, it is a great idea to immediately rope in their unconditional support. Be open & honest in sharing how you feel. TELL THEM how you would like them to respond. For example: “I have shocking news to share with you. I am feeling confused (or devastated, etc.). I need you to be by my side, hear me out & support me.”
If you do not have a close trust contact, consider talking with your gynaecologist, doctor, a therapist or a life-coach. It is IMPORTANT to immediately talk about how you feel with someone who is likely to make you feel supported as vs. judged or condoned.
This may not be a time to discuss this news with anyone you know as generally critical, cautious, judgmental, or hard to predict with their response. Even if they are the most important member of your life, you want to consider first safeguarding yourself and feel a bit more stable. Remember, your emotional and physical health will directly impact your baby as well.
The Third Most Important Step: You time
Allow yourself Time & Grace: Even with an unexpected pregnancy, allow yourself the range of emotions that may come with it. You may take a few days to fully process how this feels. Be gentle with yourself. Remember, this is your body, a direct impact to your present and future life.
Find some quiet time to write in a journal, take a walk with nature, spend time to “hear” your inner voice, your thoughts, feelings, questions about how you feel. Doing daily ‘check-ins’ with yourself for the first few days or weeks will help you get both: clarity & strength on how to move forward.
Here are some helpful tips to continue moving through this phase.
- Seek advice: Feel like you will be coerced into a decision? It could be time to seek legal or spiritual advice if you feel strongly about it. What is the gain vs. loss of either standing your ground or giving up your choice/control? For working women - reach out to HR and your direct supervisor to understand your rights and options for immediate leaves for your appointments, getting settled, etc. and for the maternal leave that you will need later. It is okay to ASK multiple and repeated questions, in order to get the clarity you need. Remember, you want to plan not only for the upcoming month but for the next ENTIRE YEAR of your life!
- This or That activity: Draw 2 columns on a blank space & list the pros & cons of each decision. Consider short- & long-term impact with the worst-case scenarios in mind. You may need a sounding board or google what other similar women have moved through such a situation. Remember, you can only decide based on what you know best as of today. Trust!
- Get out, get social, get active: The best way to cope with emotionally challenging situations is to surround yourself with people for at least ¼ of your weekly time if not more. Ranging from light social outings to close friends, social support, sunshine, and exercise, can be powerful natural anti-depressants. Load up!
- Forgive yourself: Notice your inner thoughts & feelings. We often discover deeper layers of how we feel when we are silent, when we ‘check-in’ as vs. pretending to be ok. Cry when you need to, box a pillow if you need an anger release but ultimately forgive yourself and possibly others if applicable. We suffer a lot more from how we respond to a situation vs. what really happened.
- Fill up on nutrition: I mean literal nutrients, nutritious food but also on laughter & comedy. Sometimes, temporary distraction is the key to faster healing. Be sure that you feel comfortable with your current doctor, if not, ASK for a change. You have the right to get the best service for one of the most sensitive times of your life.
- Seek elongated professional help: Hypnotherapy, life-coaching, reiki, polarity, cranial sacral therapy and psychotherapy or counseling are some possible ways to find release as well. (**These are simply suggestions based on the writer’s personal experiences. Please be discreet in seeking out alternative methods of healing, find credible practitioners and do not consider this as medical or professional advice**).
- Plan the next year of your life: It is crucial to plan your life for the next few months. With the baby, you could be anticipating minor to major changes with your living and job situation, finances, health, time & relationship with your spouse, family & friends. If you already have kids, consider how that impacts your dynamic with them. Making a list & having a practical, step-by-step approach to upcoming changes could be the key to making this journey smoother. Who are the people you can 100% bank on for support, especially if there were any complications or emergencies? What are your anticipated requirements with childcare AFTER the delivery? Do you have enough room for a baby? Always anticipate needing way more time to adjust to all the changes, than what it seems on the surface.
- Get organized: This phase can get a ton easier if you organize your day - set up a strong routine, start organizing your living space little by little, set reminders on your phone calendar, prioritize which social events or commitments are most important and which ones you may have to let go to make room for your REST, care and health. Do not feel guilty about delegating tasks to others or hire help when possible. Plan your next full year of finances in as much detail as you can.
Looking Through the Microscope:
Still in a dilemma? Consider taking immediate professional (counseling, etc.) help. This can help you to make an informed choice, be emotionally prepared and confident. If you feel sure about not wanting the baby, going through that process can be emotionally & physically draining. It is common to have after thoughts, mixed emotions, or doubts about your decision as well. You may need time off work & additional emotional support. Also, talk to your doctor about the possible future impact on conception.
My intention from this post is to leave you feeling empowered, not jarred. Here is a simple but impactful exercise to help you cope with your situation. As a mindfulness & spiritual coach, I appreciate sharing activities that can lift your spirits and give you the extra boost you need to keep going, just a little bit stronger, one step forward every day.
Activity time = 5 to 10 mins.
- Sit in any comfortable position in silence. Recommended with eyes closed.
- Place your hand over your heart. Follow the instructions below either aloud or within your mind.
- “I hear my voice. I hear my heart. My heart is filled with the feelings of ____. I allow them to flow”.
- “I trust life for what it offers. I learn, I grow. I welcome these gifts.”
- “I do what I know best. I love and forgive myself.
- I love, accept and bless this baby. I thank them for choosing “me”. (Whether the baby stays with you or not, you can still welcome & bless the baby for choosing you and bless it for its next stage of life).
- Wrap up by praying to / calling upon the higher faith or anyone (crossed over or alive) that you look up to for support & inspiration. Feel them bless you. Trust that the blessing is true!
- Open your eyes. You may repeat this activity as many times as you wish. If you find yourself getting overly emotional, you may want to do it around a time when you know you have additional support if needed.
I hope this article has left you with more than you anticipated. I pray that your motherhood journey is blessed with immense joy. You have what it takes to get through. You got this! Leave me your comments, thoughts, suggestions. I am here to learn & grow as well.
Author: Dr. Rima Desai is Mindfulness & Spiritual Coach for women & kids, USA.
The writer has taken a neutral approach on the decisions made around an unplanned pregnancy. This article is not a substitute for any medical or personal advice, nor does the writer favor any decision as right or wrong. The intention of the writer is to help moms move through their challenging times as easily as possible.