1) TAKE A LONG BATH
What's the first thing to do when faced with an untimely pregnancy? JUST CHILL OUT. Take a bubble bath. Go for a long walk. Sit out on your porch awhile. Take a deep breath, and RELAX.
Why? Because panic will work against you. You don't need those "fight or flight" impulses, or those fluctuating hormones, driving the car right now. Pull over to the side, until you can clearly and calmly see what lies ahead. You didn't expect this fork in the road, but it's a big one, and the scenery of your life will be affected from here on out based on which path you choose. You deserve the chance to make a thoughtful and purposeful response.
There are three added challenges you may face as you attempt to make such a big decision at this particular time. It might be helpful for you to know more about them, and to see just why you really need to take time out for that bath.
A) When you conceived, your body started producing rising levels of hormones which essentially directed your body to do a lot of extra jobs it's now doing.Your body is "in transition" until about the fourth month of pregnancy, when hormone levels stop rising and stabilize.
Ever tried to think clearly when your house has boxes everywhere and you're getting ready to move? Your body is a little like that right now. It's in transition mode big time, already in a moving process across town to a new job it thinks you've accepted.
Since it's gone to all this trouble, your body won't like to be told, "Don't pack those boxes yet, I'm not so sure about this move". It will respond to that lack of enthusiasm with physical chaos... greater digestive disturbances, sleeplessness, cramping, headaches, nerves on edge, etc. No need for that added tension.
You will feel better if you treat your body gently, pamper yourself a lot, and stay calm. Feeling better will then enable you to have good judgment, which you need now. Pregnancy is not an illness, and the adjustment changes most women feel are normal and temporary. But your body is wired to work better with appreciation, and when it's needs are recognized and met. Immediate post-pregnancy needs are greater-than-normal as well, as your body re-adjusts yet again. Some women assume that choosing abortion is like pressing a delete button. Our culture wants instant fixes. Nature just doesn't work that way. Take time to learn about the added vitamins and iron you need now. Go to bed earlier at night, and take naps during the day. Pass on the big meals and junk food, and instead graze on fresh healthy foods. Don't beat up your body for doing this to you. This is no time to be hard on yourself, but rather to tune-in more intently to what your body is telling you it needs. You'll be rewarded with health and peace of mind.
B) The initial feelings that come in an unexpected pregnancy are commonly shock and panic. Shock insulates you, but like earmuffs that muffle the sound, it tends to make reality a bit fuzzy. Shock will keep you in denial, and make you a little spacey. It's actually nature's protective mechanism when you experience a reality you find hard to accept. As you muster some courage and decide you are ready to acknowledge the reality of a given situation, the effects of shock fade away.
Panic sets off another protective mechanism, the "fight or flight" reflex. When you feel threatened by something, panic raises adrenaline levels to equip you with surges of energy it assumes you need, to fight off an enemy or to leap tall buildings as you run away. While in a panic mode, you might back away from a situation, thinking, "No way am I ready for this!" Or you might raise your fists and yell, "This isn't fair!" Either way, a rash decision is often made when under the influence of panic, and sometimes those are the decisions most often regretted. Like an animal caught in a trap will gnaw off it's own leg to get free, people in a panic mode will take greater personal risks than normal and often wind up with great personal losses.
The effects of shock and panic can even be helpful, when the danger is real and very temporary. But if the effects, like raised adrenaline and hyper-alertness, continue in an ongoing way, and if your fears do not subside to let your body resolve to normal mode, THE EFFECTS CAN BE TOXIC. Normal sleep and digestive patterns are interrupted, and the adrenaline overrides what you really need. In short, you are just not yourself when fear has barged in. Decisions made during this time may not be made by the "real' you.
C) Early pregnancy may also be complicated by OTHER'S reactions. As you are seeing, you don't have the luxury of added stress right now, so if others are pressuring you, try to put some space between you and them. Make a list in your mind of who is "safe" in your life at this time. Seek to surround yourself with gentle and caring people, and definitely set boundaries clearly in place. Perhaps wait on sharing the news of your pregnancy with any whose reactions will be threatening or disturbing to you. Or at least have someone you trust with you at that time.
If you fear that your boundaries and needs will not be respected, seek out another living situation temporarily. If that is hard to arrange within your circle, reach out to community resources. Expectant mother's shelters abound in our country, as do abused women's shelters. You deserve protection and care at this time, and our society acknowledges this. In fact, there are few times in life when you will be more vulnerable. The vulnerability is temporary, but you need to acknowledge it and advocate for yourself.
While ambivalent about the pregnancy, some women find that they are plagued with physical discomforts. If that is your case, try not to let that further scare you about being pregnant. Of those who continue their pregnancies, most find that discomforts often fade away once they reach their decision. Remember, your body needs peace of mind to function best, especially now. So do yourself a favor. Take a long quiet bath.
You will most likely emerge with a renewed calmness and confidence. You are a strong woman. How do we know this? Well, nature usually ensures that weak, sick bodies do not get pregnant! Refuse fear. It won't help you right now. Think creatively, to problem-solve. You CAN handle whatever is ahead. Your pregnancy is a confirmation of this, nature chooses who is fit. Choose to acknowledge this compliment. Say, "I am a strong, fit, capable woman." NOW you are ready for the next step.
2) GET AN ACCURATE WEATHER REPORT
Ever rush off for the day without checking the weather? You can end up rained-on unexpectedly without an umbrella, sweating in 80 degrees with a turtleneck on, or hit by strong winds without a jacket. Most people at least look at the window to decide what to wear that day. The most prepared people take the time to seek out a professional weather report to guide them. They go to a reliable source, one who has a good track record of credibility.
Noting pregnancy symptoms yourself and taking a home pregnancy test is like noting that the weather has changed by looking out your window. It's a good start. But when the weather is changing so much in your life, it makes sense to be prepared by a reliable source. You need good information on what to expect, and which route would be safest for you to take.
It would be wise at this point to get a professional evaluation of your pregnancy. After that, you need comprehensive information about your options. There are no doubt many questions on your mind right now. It's important to get factual info from a credible place. It's time to get answers.
A) "How can I be sure I'm really pregnant?"
Other conditions can mimic some symptoms of pregnancy. And, despite the claims on the box, some tests can be faulty. A second opinion, and a reliable one, is wise in order to confirm your pregnancy. For a reliable and caring place that offers free pregnancy tests, look for pregnancy care centers in your area. There are about 2400 such pregnancy resource centers around the country, and chances are good that there is one close to you. Call for an appointment. If a center mailed you this info or you are reading it on their website, contact them for this service. It will be handled very discreetly, in complete confidence, by caring staff.
A form verifying the results of the test can be given to you, to use in obtaining any services elsewhere. Most tests are urine tests, to detect HCG, a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women. You may be asked to bring in a first-morning sample. HCG levels rise during the first trimester. Occasionally in early pregnancy, there will not have been a rise sufficient enough to show a positive result. You may then be referred for a blood test, which specifically measures the HCG levels. Or you can get an exam which may reveal other conclusive signs of pregnancy.
B) "How far along am I?"
This is important information to have, and will be necessary to know no matter what option you choose. The care you need to receive will be based on it. The pregnancy centers mentioned above can often provide this information as well, especially if they offer any prenatal care, ultrasonic fetal heart detection, or ultrasound imaging as well. Many do, free of charge. The most comprehensive sources are ones that look at several factors, not just the dates you give them. An exam need not be invasive, but helps to provide the answers needed.
You can be most helpful if you note in a pocket calendar the dates of your last several periods, any dates within the last few months when you recall that conception could have occurred, when you first felt pregnancy symptoms, and what the symptoms have been.
C)"Is anything wrong, because I haven't felt that great"?
Specific information about your health, and about how your body is handling the pregnancy, often plays into your decision-making process. Again, the same centers mentioned previously can often provide you with this information as well, and often in the same visit. Or they can refer you to another trustworthy care provider.
If you fear that a pregnancy will compromise your health, mention those fears during the exam. Do not base something as big as an abortion on a fear that is perhaps not founded on updated medical information. It is also standard to get a second opinion before surgery, especially if abortion is recommended. Because of the risks abortion procedures carry, even a high-risk pregnancy (where there are unique health challenges) is usually much safer for the mom. Get the facts.
Because of the adjustments your body is making, discussed previously, it is common to wonder if everything is okay since things sure feel different. Early-pregnancy care is not just for the mom's peace of mind, though. Better health depends on it. Find out from a care provider just what you need. Get the facts on good nutrition, exercise, and how to feel your best. All pregnancy centers will recommend, and many will give free of charge, helpful vitamin and iron supplements which can make a huge difference in your energy levels and general well-being.
D)"Where can I find out more about the choices I have?"
The pregnancy resource centers mentioned above are the most reliable source for info on pregnancy options. They have longstanding credibility, according to recent polls of past clients of them. Most have a hotline or phone number to call for info to be given over the phone, or mailed. A visit to their sites can provide you with tons of free pamphlets and materials which equip you with concise info about each path you could choose. Counselors are also on hand to guide you through the maze of all that information, and to find out what your particular concerns are.
Be aware that, like weather reporters, some sources of information are more reliable than others. You need clear, complete, and updated info. How to tell if the source will provide that? One tip that should make you wary is if they or an agency they are connected with stand to profit from one of your choices. The recommended centers are non-profit, and do not stand to gain anything from you. Planned Parenthood and it's many family planning affiliates are big in the abortion industry. With abortion on the decline, they need your business. Steer clear of their informational services, as they tend to be incomplete concerning all your options, and tend to gloss over risk factors. Statistics show they are not the safest place for abortions.
As is usually the case when finding out more about basically anything, knowledge is power. And women who are empowered by factual information see their options broadened. Ignorance and fear narrow options, but the world is full of possibilities waiting to be discovered. Discovering about what is possible is liberating. Don't let yourself feel trapped. At pregnancy centers you will also be offered the opportunity to attend support groups for women in similar situations. These can be helpful by allowing you to hear about the choices other women made, and how they felt those choices affected them. More knowledge=more power.
It takes a little time and effort to click on the news or weather channel, but most who do feel it's worth it. And women who slow down and take the time to equip themselves for their rough weather find that they not only survive more intact, but come through even challenging circumstances having grown personally. Sooo, after you get that accurate weather report, what then??
3) SPOT THE SCARECROWS
Â Scarecrows look scary to crows, and maybe to other birds or animals. But people see them and laugh. Why? We know that the strange man with arms flapping in the breeze is an imaginary threat. Crows don't know that. They are convinced he can keep them from enjoying the garden, because he looks big and menacing. They decide not to risk it. They make a choice to forego something yummy based on an assumption that is not correct.
The blue jays are usually a bit smarter than the crows. They see sunflowers gone to seed in a garden, and they don't let a nearby scarecrow stop them from enjoying their full. Maybe they surveyed the scarecrow and figured out he was only a deception. Sometimes, it's all in how you look at things.
Anxiety can make problems loom larger than life, and situations appear hopeless. Recall the previous section on how fear and panic work? If you're busy trying to run away, or angrily swinging away, you're not going to have a good opportunity to sit and survey the threat.
It's time to get specific now. Ask yourself what exactly overwhelms you the most about this pregnancy. Face your fears. The stories are different, but the fear is always the same. "I CAN'T DO THIS BECAUSE?" Some women considering abortion are women convinced by an assumption. They cannot see the future, and thus cannot know for sure about the outcome.
"My plate is too full."
"My boyfriend wouldn't stick around."
"I'm not ready to have a child yet."
"It's too late in life to start over."
"I could't afford a child."
"There may be something wrong with the baby."
"Then I'd always be reminded of..."
"I'm not up for the whole birth thing."
"I couldn't carry a child for nine months and then give him up."
Maybe it's time to name your scarecrow...what's your fear? Have you researched it? Have you checked out the possibilities?? For example...some women assume they would have to quit school, or work. Not true, lots of women juggle both and find that the schools, and employers, are more than accommodating. Some women assume that their loved ones will never be supportive...but turns out they just needed time. Prenatal tests and adverse pregnancy diagnosis are notorious for being wrong and causing false scares. Birth is a big deal, true, but if it was so bad no one would do it...yet it happens constantly, with joyous results. Women who in rare instances get pregnant from rape or violence later declare that their child was the one blessing that came from the hurt, and helped them survive. Mothers who have tons of kids admit amidst the happy chaos that there are none they would send back. Scared teenagers blossom into strong confident women through the adoption process, and go on to excel in college while enjoying sound sleep at night. Mature women who carried day planners find that a baby is just the thing to spice up their lives. Single mothers discover each other and form rich friendships that far exceed their past broken, romantic ones...all because of the babies they have in common.
If you think every scarecrow is real, maybe it's time to get out more. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Women in our culture can wind up feeling cut off from the "village". Sometimes women simply shut out distractions in pursuit of their dreams. Sometimes it's not busyness, but fear from past rejections, that cause women to back away from the "village". What they don't realize is that good villages are still out there as resources, waiting to be found. Successful moms find their "village" and plug in. Community resources for mothers abound. Many women find that what they once perceived as impossible becomes quite doable...in fact extremely satisfying...WITH HELP.
For more info on community resources for mothers in your area, contact...you guessed it!...your local pregnancy resource center. At least figure that info into the equation. Don't base your future on a lie. Learn to spot your scarecrows.
4) TRY ON THE JEANS
Not many women would think of buying a pair of jeans before comparison-shopping, taking them off the rack for a closer look, checking for quality, and especially TRYING THEM ON. Women want to know, "But will they FIT ME?!" before finally deciding. Some ask others for their opinion, but few ignore what their own voice says about it. Do the jeans fit? Do they feel right? Before going to the check-out stand, it has to get personal.
Women have a strong distaste for the whole abortion process. Not one single woman out there who has had an abortion enjoyed it. They endured it. Most women, when calling to request information about abortion, cannot bring themselves to say the word.
They call it "the procedure" or "termination". Odd...we still call a root canal a root canal, not "the procedure", even though it's distasteful. Most women are quick to admit they don't like the idea of an abortion, even if they are considering one. The idea of what they are terminating is uncomfortable to consider. Easier to call it fetal tissue or the products of conception .
Some women, having chosen the abortion option but remaining put-off by it, simply blank out their inner voice, assuming it will make things easier. But like buying a pair of too-tight jeans...or shoes...or a size-too-small bra...what is purchased that DOESN'T FIT will continue to irritate. No one else may know what misery we are enduring...but we know. And that's how it is with an abortion that doesn't fit. Many women later struggle with a phenomenon now widely recognized as post-abortion syndrome. They took home the decision they bought and found it didn't fit. And the private irritation grows.
We Americans are unique in the world, for going goo-goo over babies. We actually have one of the most child-friendly cultures in the world. Compared to the growing number of countries literally dying from fast-declining birth rates, we have a lot of kids. Some Asian and European visitors to our country can't get over all the kids here, and the much-bigger families. Most American females still grow up with dreams of white picket fences, and BABIES. And with the many services to help moms out here, women in the U.S. really do have a choice, more than women anywhere else.
America is also largely an optimistic and faith-based country. Our values stem from our beliefs that our people are our greatest resource, that life is a gift, and that a good God holds us in His hand.
It's not too surprising, then...as a country, we seem to be saying that, after we bought it, maybe abortion doesn't fit us after all. Because abortion just about all over America is greatly declining. It just didn't turn out to be the answer we thought it would be. It doesn't fit lots of Americans, at least not anymore. Abortion was legalized before ultrasound. Now we know it's a life...we've heard the heart beating loud and clear. Most kid's baby books now begin with a picture of them in the womb...we acknowledge that Christopher was, well, Christopher, even back then when he was the size of a peanut. Puts us in a bit of a quandary, doesn't it?
Ever noticed a very hip, stylish pair of jeans that you really WANTED to fit you...but you'd glanced at the size and just knew they probably wouldn't? "But," you reasoned in the store, "Wouldn't my friends think I was so cool in these...and wouldn't Nick maybe notice me and dump that Tina and ask me out if he saw how hot they made me look?!" Don't you remember DREADING going to the dressing room with them? You didn't want the annoying truth to get in the way of your plans.
My bet is that you DID go to the dressing room, because you didn't want to risk losing half your paycheck on what might not fit. The risk of a costly mistake can motivate you to do a very mature, responsible thing. You may dread this step of "trying on the jeans" but it's for your own good. Time to be mature.
What is your mindset about abortion? Do you have a faith? What does that faith say about this choice? What about your family's opinion? What about your own values? Are you being true to yourself...or are you screening out your own voice?
Do you know the facts of fetal development? Here comes another mention of that pregnancy center...they can help you out on this one too. There you can view a DVD about the stages of life in the womb, see life-sized fetal models, and even get your own little model, or a picture of one, of a baby at a stage when (gulp) lots of abortions happen. Better to see it now, than later...
How do you feel about the risks of abortion, to your body? Back when abortion was first legalized in the U.S., women grabbed at it, without concern for their own health or safety. Now, over thirty years later, women have grown more discerning, due to increased awareness of complications from this blind surgical procedure where a doctor operates by feel...complications can be as high as 1 in 3. Now we know that abortion radically raises a woman's risk of breast cancer, too. And that all the risks increase with each abortion you have. So if you escaped the complication-factor after a past abortion, you may not be so lucky this time. Are you okay with that? What if infertility, one of the possible complications, happened to you...and you ended up aborting the only child you would ever have? Are you okay with that? These worries aren't just "scarecrows"...they are real, real enough to have lowered the abortion rate by 50% in some states like Maine. Ever asked why? Why are so many women, many of whom have had abortions, now saying that abortion has ceased to be an acceptable option to them?
Abortion is a MUCH bigger deal than buying some jeans. You owe it to yourself to go to the try-on room...ask questions of yourself...ask, "DOES IT FIT?"
The Women's Health Clinic at 91 College St. in Lewiston, Maine is a good resource for you, to get further help. Call them at 207-577-1165, or email them at email@example.com.
©2007 Jan Willson
After you take that long bath, visualize another bath scene some months up the road.
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