SUPPORTING A WOMAN FACING AN UNPLANNED PREGNANCY
Even when you recognize that LIFE is a gift, facing an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy can leave a woman feeling a wide variety of intense feelings. They may feel fear, shame, doubt, sadness, confusion. But an unexpected pregnancy can also bring joy, excitement, awe, gratitude and a deeper love than you have ever known! If you know someone who is facing an unplanned, unexpected or crisis pregnancy you can play a huge role in helping them feel supported, encouraged and loved on this life changing journey of being a mother! Here are a few ideas of ways to help!
JUST BE THERE FOR THEM
A woman facing an unexpected pregnancy can be in crisis mode! She may not be thinking rationally or clearly and will feel like her life is suddenly out of control. Be there for her. Be aware of how she is acting and responding to you. Listen to her and let her know she is loved. You may be the first person she confides in and your reaction can set the tone for the decisions she has to make. Strive to be calm and understanding and reassure her that she is not alone, that you are there for her, and that there are many other individuals and organizations ready to support her on her parenting journey.
A couple things to remember. One is that women often choose abortion based on the the perceived financial struggles that they think lie ahead for them. They can’t imagine how they will be able to afford all of the ‘things’ they will need to look after their baby – the diapers, formula, baby clothes, wipes, stroller, high chair, car seat! We know that these fears are in no way a justification for ending the life of their pre-born child. But society today, and even those close to them, can have a strong voice and can impact their decision and even deliberately coerce them and have them believing that the simplest solution is abortion. Often women will be more inclined to make a life-affirming choice if they are able to recognize the undue influence of others, and are helped to fully understand what an abortion involves, and the regret and trauma they would experience afterwards.
There is a way to lovingly help them come to realize that not only is there a way to do this, but that they MUST protect their child. Help them recognize that they are already a parent, and that their child growing inside of them is depending on them for protection! And let them know that you are ready to stand and walk alongside them and see that they have the support and resources they need! Help them recognize the reality that ending the life of their child should be an unthinkable choice.
BE HONEST AND POSITIVE
The journey through an unexpected pregnancy can be challenging and it’s okay if you don’t know the perfect words to say. Just be honest. Let your friend know you are there for her and ask her how she is feeling and what you can do to support her. This can open the door to communicate further and she will likely be grateful for the chance to speak freely with someone! Be the person she knows will be patient and calm and won’t judge her during this time when her emotions (and her hormones) are running high! Depending on where a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy is emotionally, it may or may not be helpful to congratulate her at this time. It is however important to affirm that every person’s life, including the life of her child, is precious and beautiful no matter what the circumstances.
OFFER SPECIFIC HELP
Don’t be afraid to ask her if she needs help with anything specific or to make specific offers. She may not be used to asking for help, and might be too overwhelmed right now to know what to ask for. You can offer help with rides to appointments, help with navigating forms or search for housing, help with cleaning or shopping, help finding a good doctor or pre-natal care or courses, help with planning other things for the months ahead. But remember to read her cues and make sure you’re letting her control the plan and that you’re not being overbearing.
HELP SET UP A SUPPORT SYSTEM
In addition to perhaps starting an on-line baby registry or arranging for a baby shower with friends, family, or even your church family, help her get other kinds of supports in place. Food is a good place to start. You can help organize a meal train for those busy first months when she will be caring for a newborn. Or start helping her prep and get some freezer meals into her freezer as well as identify any local programs that can help with food security if money is tight. Help seek out any parenting support groups in your community where she can connect with other moms and if needed can learn skills that will be useful going forward such as budgeting, meal planning, nutrition and baby-care. A mom’s group can also open up a whole new social world and support for her. We encourage church families to walk alongside women in an unexpected or crisis pregnancy situation and to assist when possible, for an extended period of time with food needs, baby items, or donations. Churches can even assist with housing when feasible, and with babysitting. Speak with your church leaders or reach out to us to help connect with local resources or your nearest pregnancy resource centre.
TELL HER SHE IS BEAUTIFUL
She may be feeling physically, spiritually, and emotionally drained with this pregnancy. Take the time to reassure her of her beauty, both inside and out, especially when morning sickness might make her feel otherwise.
ENCOURAGE HER AND HELP HER TO RELAX
Especially if she’s a first-time mother, she may have difficulty adjusting to her new role! It is important to help her realize that it is still fine, and even important, to focus on her goals and dreams, whether that be education or career or travel, and that it’s important to still take care of herself. Assure her that while there are adjustments to be made now that she can still do all the things she plans, with the blessing of a child in her arms along the way! Assure her that her feelings are valid and that every woman may need an adjustment period as they cross that threshold into their new life as a mother, and that she is not alone. Society, and no doubt those around her, may tend to focus on just the challenges of her unexpected pregnancy. Help her think about the benefits and the blessings too! Remind her that she is not the first or the last woman to find herself unexpectedly pregnant. And that other women have discovered that even when they are suddenly unable to follow the exact plan they had for their lives, that something beautiful and good came out of all the twists and turns in the road. That their baby blessed them with opportunities for growth and joy that they could never have imagined! For her good health, and the health of her baby, encourage her to relax and enjoy her pregnancy!
LET HER KNOW IT IS OKAY TO BE HAPPY
Recognize that there may by others in her life who will continue to see her unexpected pregnancy as unfortunate, poorly timed, irresponsible, or worse. Let her know that she can be happy about the pregnancy regardless of what others think or say. Assure her that she deserves to be and show that happiness. Help her get excited about the pregnancy and focus on the miracle of her child growing inside of her and the blessings now and that are still to come! Show her that YOU are excited about her baby, helping her feel comfortable enough to share her own excitement with you! Continue to show this excitement and interest throughout her pregnancy. Ask her questions. What is she learning at her doctor’s appointments? What names is she considering? What does she think the baby will look like? What foods is she craving? Take her shopping for maternity clothes, baby clothes, nursery items!
An unexpected pregnancy can be a difficult and frightening time. Every woman is different and every woman will have unique circumstances. Although the tips mentioned can be helpful, don’t forget the most important thing is to pray. Even if it’s just a quick two-second prayer, prayer is the most effective way we can help. Pray for her, for her child, and for guidance in how you can give her the best possible support. Encourage your church family to pray regularly for her as well, and let her know there are many lifting her up in prayer daily.
The following links can help connect you with organizations that provide counselling and support for women facing an unplanned pregnancy. We encourage you to reach out to them as well and to share these resources with the mom-to-be!