First of all. Take a breath. Breathe. You will be okay. This is going to be a hard conversation, and what comes after will be even harder. But you CAN be okay. You’re going to need to stand up and take charge right now, even though you’re scared and feel alone. You’re not alone though, cos I’m here, talking to you.
What should I do?
I’m not going to answer that. Only you can know what you should do. I’m going to ask you “What do you want to do?”, and you’re going to find your gut feeling.
Forget logistics or money or other people for now. If none of those outside issues existed – what do you want? We will get to the practical problems in a minute. First you have to know – thinking of yourself as a mother, right now, do you get an immediate NO feeling or a maybe yes feeling? Feelings come first, then asking those hard questions – to see if you can make it work – then back around to feelings again. Over and over until you reach a conclusion.
You might have a feeling about what you want to do – but after looking at the practical issues, you might realise that you won’t be able to do it. You will then have to go back and look at the other choices again.
There is no easy choice here. All of your options have consequences – there is no right answer. There is only the choice that is right for you.
No – I don’t want to be a mother
Okay. That’s okay. I’m not going to ask you if you’re sure, not just yet. Nobody is deciding anything yet.
Just to be clear: is this what YOU want? Making ANY decision here – to keep someone else happy – will not end well for you. This is one of the most personal and difficult decisions you will ever have to to make, and you are the one who has to live with the consequences. So it HAS to be your decision alone.
- How do you feel about abortion? Is it something you’re willing to do?
- If yes, is there still time? Currently in SA, the law says you have to be less than 12 weeks for an abortion – and up to 20 weeks in special cases. Are you still within that time frame? If not, then this option is off the table and won’t work.
- How do you think you might feel afterwards, if you choose to terminate the pregnancy? Some people struggle with it after, some people do not. You can and should receive counselling before and after, if you want it.
- Termination of pregnancy HAS to be done in a safe, legal environment by trained professional medical staff, like at hospital or clinic. There are NO shortcuts. There is NO way to “do it at home without anyone finding out”. Put that idea out of your mind completely – trying to induce your own miscarriage, or using illegal abortion providers can kill you. Please, this is serious.
- You will need to approach your local clinic URGENTLY to get the process going. That means you will HAVE to tell the doctor / nurse your situation and what you need. This will be hard, but it has to be done. There is a chance they will not treat you well. But this is their JOB. They are required to do it. You need to be strong enough to handle what people might say to you, when you’re feeling your most vulnerable.
- You need to consider where the clinic is, how you’re going to get there, how you’re going to pay for it (if you are choosing a private clinic), how much time you will need away from school / work / home – if you’re not planning on telling anyone where you’re going, how are you going to explain your absence?
- It’s very hard to do this alone, and you shouldn’t have to. Please consider asking your boyfriend, friend or relative to go with you.
If you know you don’t want to be a mother, but you do not want to have an abortion OR it’s too late for an abortion, you might consider adoption
- What do you know about adoption? Read about it here
- You will still need to make your pregnancy known to your family. How will they react? How will they react to your adoption choice?
- How will you manage school while pregnant, and after giving birth?
- Adoption is forever. You cannot change your mind once it is final. There are options for open adoption, where it’s possible you might still be able to keep in touch with your child’s new family.
- How will you feel afterwards?
- Make sure that you follow the adoption process properly: you need to be in touch with a social worker who will organise it for you. Do not be tempted to “hand over” your baby to anyone else without following the proper legal procedures. For you, for your child and for the adoptive family, you MUST make sure that everything is done legally.
Yes – I want to be a mother
This choice has the potential to be the most life-changing. YOU are the one who will be taking responsibility for a child’s life. Your life will change – will have to change – forever. It is not the easiest or best choice for everyone. Remember that nobody is READY to be a mom – you have to be WILLING to make the sacrifices your child needs. Read about being willing to be a mom here.
- How will your parents react? Will you have their support? Remember that they will naturally be angry and upset at first. You must expect this, and be able to accept it
- Speaking to your parents early in your pregnancy is VERY important. You will need an open, honest situation where you are able to begin planning for your future, and getting the health care you need. Do NOT put it off.
- Are you basing your decision on your baby’s father being with you? What if you break up? Are you willing to be a single mother? Read about dad’s responsibilities here.
- Where will you live, while pregnant and afterwards? Do you believe that your family will let you stay with them? Speak to your doctor / nurse – ask them for an appointment with a social worker who will help you with this.
- Who will support you financially? The government child support grant (SASSA) is NOT enough to pay for all baby’s expenses. Do not rely on this alone.
- What about school? It is very important that you complete your education. Will you be able to stay at school for as long as possible and return after baby is born? It’s important you speak to your school soon to make a plan. Read about being pregnant at school here.
- Do YOU have issues with drugs or alcohol? We all know that these substances are dangerous for baby (and you!) – and that an addicted mother will not be able to give her child the life he / she deserves. It is not something you can just “stop” doing by yourself – you will need help.
- If you will be staying with your family – what kind of family is it? Is your home a safe and loving environment for a child? If there are issues with abuse in your home – this will not get better just because there’s now a baby. It will only get worse. Think hard if your current living situation is the best place for a child.
- Will you be willing to sacrifice your social life and change your life plans to raise a child? If you will be resentful – your child will feel it. A resentful mother will never be a good mother. Are you really willing to do it?
- People will judge you – society, your school, family, friends – will you be strong enough to handle that?
- Do you believe that being a mom will be easy or fun all the time? It’s not. It can be a wonderful, loving, beautiful experience – but it IS hard work and sometimes it’s not fun at all. Can you handle that?
- Do you think that having a child will keep your boyfriend with you? It won’t. A child will never make a bad relationship better. It will only make it worse – and your child will be the one who suffers the most.
- Your child is 100% your responsibility – it’s not right to hand him over to granny to raise. YOU must do the hard work and take charge. Are you strong enough to stand up to people who might want to take over? Read more about this here.
Now that you’ve answered all those hard questions – maybe your options have changed. Maybe you wanted to have an abortion but it’s too late. You need to look at the other choices. Maybe you wanted to raise your child but you know that your family will not support you and you cannot find another place to live. You need to reconsider if being a mom is going to be possible.
Above all – remember that this is your decision alone. If you have regrets later, let them be YOUR regrets, not someone else’s. If you make a choice based on what someone else tells you to do, you will never know what you might have had yourself.
You’re still okay. You will be okay. But right now, you have to take a deep breath, stand up – for yourself, your future. Be scared. That’s okay. But be strong. No matter your choice, as a pregnant woman you need medical care urgently. Get yourself to the doctor, as soon as you possibly can.
Don’t hide away from the situation, don’t think it will go away. What you do today will be with you forever – don’t let time or other people make your choices for you. You can do it.
No matter what you choose, you can be happy again.