Am I really ready to have a baby right now? Do I even want to have this guy’s child? Can I get the degree I need and raise a baby at the same time? Will I still be able to accomplish my personal and professional goals? Can I actually do this by myself? What will the father think when I tell him? How will my family respond?
These are likely just a few of the questions that came to mind as you held your first positive pregnancy test. You may have been filled with excitement or crushed by dread and fear. Depending on your personality, background, relationship status, and resources, what is a pleasant surprise for one woman may be a nightmare come true for another.
An unplanned pregnancy in your 20s will almost surely cause plans to change, but countless women that choose to carry say they feel more resilient and more mature because of the journey. Below are just a few of the emotions and lifestyle changes you’ll experience as well as some helpful ways to successfully navigate this unique season of life.
It’s natural to experience feelings of denial, anxiety, fear, shock, and depression after learning about an unplanned pregnancy. Growing and delivering a baby requires a lot of sacrifice, so becoming overwhelmed by your new reality is completely understandable.
Maybe you’re afraid you won’t be able to finish your degree or be subjected to a life of financial hardship. Maybe you’re scared that the father or your family won’t react well to the news and abandon you. Maybe you feel too immature or ill-equipped to care or parent a child well. You can expect a number of deep and intense emotions to arise during the days and weeks following the discovery of your pregnancy as you take stock of the situation and its implications.
Though you may feel like you’re spiraling, it’s important to remember that someone else has experienced the exact same feelings—perhaps even more deeply! From fear to dread and inadequacy to hopelessness, you are not alone. There are people out there that understand what you’re dealing with and are more than willing to journey with you.
Confide In A Loved One
After you find out about your pregnancy, it’s critical that you find a wise, respected friend, family member, or counselor to share, grieve (if needed), and process with. If you’re still experiencing the fallout of the first positive test, hang tight. The sharpest, most painful edges of your emotions will start to soften soon, but until then, all you can do is acknowledge the state of shock you’re in and wait for the worst to subside.
Those trusted individuals you’ve surrounded yourself with will take the next steps with you. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear,” writes author and activist Nelson Mandela, “but the triumph over it.”
Journaling your thoughts and emotions is another great way to regulate your feelings and assess them more extensively. Once the intensity of the shock has waned, you’ll be better situated to go back to these notes and evaluate. You’ll likely find that while some of your fears remain very real and profound, others have dissipated and may now seem less important to you. For those fears and insecurities that remain, deal honestly with them. Bring them up with a professional and help them understand your thought process. It is at this point you can best take stock of your circumstances.
It’s completely understandable for an unplanned pregnancy to produce feelings of indignation. We’ve all created life plans for ourselves, along with timelines for marriage, career development, and childbirth. When circumstances change, we all want to identify the root cause of our pain and direct our ire there. However, Helen Gahan Douglas notes that once “fear or hate or anger take possession of the mind, they become self-forged chains” that shackle us to despair.
Unaddressed fears about your pregnancy are perfect soil for anger to take root. This anger may manifest itself aggressively through harsh words and actions or simmering resentfulness. You might be angry at God for allowing you to become pregnant or the father for not using proper protection during sex. Maybe you’re even angry with the baby in your womb for derailing the life plans you painstakingly put together.
Women in your situation may also be angry with themselves—anger that comes in the form of guilt, shame, or chagrin. If family members and close friends reject you because of your pregnancy, you may harbor bitterness toward them as well.
Connect With A Counselor
When you feel animosity bubbling up inside of you, connect with a neutral, non-judgmental third party (such as a counselor) about it. Honestly and transparently describe your emotions and why you’re angry. Anger is best dealt with when it is pulled from the dark corners of your mind into the light where it can be processed with the loving help of others.
Starting a daily gratitude journal is another way to rebuff the hate in our hearts. Identify life lessons you’re learning from the situation and how they’ll help you become a better partner, daughter, friend, or mother. Though this may be incredibly hard in the midst of deep hurt and resentfulness, practicing gratitude is a great way to grow our sensitivity toward and appreciation of even life’s smallest gifts.
“I’ve had to grow up, become less selfish, and do things myself without depending on others. But I’ve been able to see how much I can withstand and still make it,” said one twenty-something experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.
Another shared that she was forced to mature more quickly and take on more responsibilities but later discovered that “being a single mother, while constantly challenging, is also a unique source of strength and perseverance. It has helped me focus and prioritize my goals, and to constantly grow and improve myself for both of us.” Even in an unexpected and difficult situation, there is always plenty to be thankful for.
Expect an unplanned pregnancy in your 20s to upheave every aspect of your social life. Many young men and women in this season of life aren’t even thinking about children, much more concerned with fun adventures and exciting romances. With a baby, the nature of your friendships will almost undoubtedly change. Late-night bar crawls and casual dating are no longer as easy with morning sickness, infant feeding, and sleeping schedules.
Some friends may wish you the best and move on, leaving you to pick up the pieces of valued relationships. Some women believe a new baby will strengthen their relationships with the fathers of their children, but the care and attention a newborn requires often increases the tension and deepens existing cracks.
The loneliness will only be exacerbated if family members refuse to speak to you. It’s one of the many reasons single women experiencing unexpected pregnancies are so vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. We were not built to experience such unstable times in our lives alone, and the panic only becomes worse when we have to trudge through the unknown by ourselves.
As the old African proverb goes, it truly does take a village to raise a child. Though you might feel alone, community is literally at your fingertips. Join a parenting community board online, find a support group for single mothers, or find a seasoned mom at your church, university, or company to mentor you and connect you with other networks of people and resources. You’re also likely to find other mothers in your age range to share responsibilities with in playgroups, early childbirth classes, or other parent events.
If your family is willing to help, ask them to be on diaper duty or babysit while you connect with friends or complete work/school assignments. If the dad is involved, see if he’s willing to pitch in even if you’re no longer in a romantic relationship with him. Some guys make poor partners but may still be helpful fathers and assist with the baby. Although certain friends will become more distant because of your pregnancy, you’ll almost certainly find a new group of young mothers willing to embrace you and make you one of their own.
One day, you may even find that your new friendships are richer, deeper, and more meaningful.
Remember, You’re Not Alone
The fear, anger, and isolation you’re experiencing make the journey ahead of you feel dark and uncertain, a trek you’re unsure you’re willing or even able to make. But this is the beauty of community—you never have to find your way alone. Whether friends, family members, fathers, churchgoers, neighbors, or counselors, you have access to others who will cry with you, rejoice with you, go to appointments with you, make dinners for you, include you, and enter the trenches of pregnancy with you. Your next 60 years may not look the same, but life’s deepest blessings often spring from the most unexpected of gifts.
At The Source, we make it a point to be there for moms-to-be and new moms. We know you don’t just need diapers and a good night sleep, you need healthcare and peace and soul care. We’re committing to support you in those important ways; that’s why we offer emotional health services for women who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
At each clinic location, you can book a licensed professional counselor to help guide you through a myriad of emotions. We focus on the exact feelings you’re facing right now and help you identify the root cause of your emotional responses. We also work with clients to recommend the right mix of coping strategies to help women process their emotions and come to a place of healing and joy.
We also offer free ultrasounds and prenatal care. Book an appointment to come see us. We’d love to learn about you and offer you the support you need right now.