For some women, discovering they are expecting a child is one of the happiest moments of their lives. For others — especially those who aren't married and aren't ready to become parents — it seems like the beginning of a nightmare. If you are pregnant with a child you didn't plan to have, how do you make decisions about what is best for you and your unborn baby?
Research. Pregnancy directly affects your life and the life of your newly conceived child. Though you can easily see and feel the changes in your body, your child's development is more of a mystery. Even as he grows inside your body, your baby is a tiny person with feelings, behaviors and a personality. He can hear, taste, smell, hiccup and even suck his thumb. Find out from a doctor what he 's really like before you make decisions about his life.
Get some wise advice. Often caring parents and friends are good resources. Sometimes it's easier to talk with your pastor or someone at a pregnancy resource center. Whomever you decide to speak with, make sure it's someone who will help you consider all the moral and emotional aspects of the road you will choose. The hormones and extreme emotions of pregnancy make reasonable decisions more difficult. Don 't make your choice without the advice of someone you can trust to lead you down the best possible path.
Consider your own life. Spending nine months pregnant with a child you don't think you are prepared to parent can be difficult, but taking your unborn child 's life is a decision you can never reverse. Should you choose to terminate your pregnancy, you will likely suffer from guilt, remorse and grief, possibly for many years to come. In addition, abortion can cause medical complications that may make it impossible for you to become pregnant when you think you are ready to be a parent. You may be making a decision affecting not only this child, but also your future children.
Consider the life of your child. Expected or unexpected, every child deserves to be loved. Just like you, your unborn baby deserves a chance at a happy life. As you make a decision about what to do next, listen to your heart, like your baby does; he hears it beating all the time.
It was an old Victorian house. Flaking white paint surrounded by a nine-foot, barbed-wire fence.
Growing up in an upper middle-class southern Christian family, I never expected to visit that house. I had recently graduated from a Christian college — summa cum laude. By all appearances, I had my life together. However, I was in a sexual relationship that had crushed my faith. The decline was slow, but culminated in a date rape that left me feeling chained to a man I hated. My misguided sense of morality led me to think that I "had" to stay in the relationship now that I had lost my virginity. The plunge continued as I discovered that I was in a relationship with a sex addict. My own propensity for immobilizing depression only solidified this hellish union. And then it happened. I was pregnant.
The evening that I confirmed my pregnancy, my boyfriend was interviewing at a church for a youth pastor position. He knew that I was at home taking a pregnancy test. When he stopped by my house, all he could do was tell me about the interview. I knew then, looking at this man I despised, that I would not keep the baby. I felt that there was absolutely no question of what to do — which even now surprises me. We fought, cried, talked, etc. about what to do. But I knew. He knew, too. This could not happen.
For the next six weeks I vomited two to three times a day. People at work began to suspect the truth that I vehemently denied. My female Christian roommates didn 't suspect a thing or if they did, they chose to ignore the truth. I spent my days in constant anguish thinking of "the procedure." I called every provider in the phone book to ask questions about the painfulness, cost and process of what I had chosen to do.
I do not remember at any time feeling as though there were an alternative. Again, I was a Christian woman who had been raised to know that abortion was wrong. I cannot explain the determination I felt. I agonized over my relationship with God. I felt that because I was choosing in a very premeditated way to commit this sin, then surely I was lost and could never be forgiven. Nonetheless, I persisted. My depression deepened. I contemplated suicide. My boyfriend even tried kicking me in the stomach, hoping to cause a miscarriage.
Soon enough, the day came. On a beautiful Saturday morning, we drove in silence to the house — an old dilapidated Victorian. There were protesters outside with poster boards that were only a blur. I felt like a puppet being moved around. The waiting room was packed. We paid cash and waited. He slept. I was called back to begin the chain of events. The blood test to confirm a pregnancy; the video to explain the "procedure." Then, the counseling session to determine if I really understood my decision and wanted to go through with it. I cried incessantly. The counselor said she thought I should wait to go through with the choice I'd made. I said I couldn't, or I would never come back. She sent me on. My boyfriend joined me for the trip upstairs.
The doctor was sitting with his feet on a desk, reading the paper and laughing. We went into a little room with Frankenstein-like equipment. I had never even been to a gynecologist before. After a prick, and noise, and a lot of fear, it was over. Fairly quick, fairly painless. In the recovery room, I saw a mother holding her daughter's hand, and I felt a pitiful connection with the four other women on cots. Leaving the building, I felt overwhelming relief. My nausea was gone almost immediately after the baby was taken. The first thing I wanted to do was eat.
The following weeks and months brought a myriad of emotions. My relief quickly turned to grief. I felt a debilitating isolation because no one knew what had happened but he and I. Life went on. I continued to work. Didn't miss a day. But I began to slip.
Before long, I wanted to die. I had assassinated the presence of God in my life. And, without that, I had no desire to go on. After an interrupted suicide attempt, there was a brief respite.
My relationship ended. Thankfully, I was more hopeful for the future. But the damage was done. I became promiscuous, drank and experimented with lesbianism. I felt a separation from everyone whom I had loved and who loved me. My family could never know. This was a burden I carried alone.
Over time, faithful Christians heard parts of my story and continued to love me. They held me close and encouraged me. Various counselors and books broke through some of my defenses.
Now, almost 10 years later, I still struggle with the consequences of my actions. I have lost a child. Weeping, I see my niece who is two months younger than my child. Sadly, I chose to turn away from God, and the choices I made will always be part of my life. And though I still feel the shame of my actions, I feel the atonement of a loving and faithful God. Psalm 91:4 says, "His faithfulness will be your shield…"
Thankfully, His faithfulness isn't dependent on mine. God's spirit has returned to my life now. Finally, I have found some measure of healing. Looking back, I believe that all of my previously understood arguments against abortion fell short because I didn't understand what God says: that every life is sacred — even a broken one.
Before considering how you might respond to the news that your unmarried teenager is pregnant, take a brief tour of the emotions and thought processes that are likely to be swirling through her mind and heart.
Fear is an overriding emotion in nearly every teen pregnancy.
"I can't tell my parents. They'll kill me!"
"How can I finish school when I'm pregnant?"
"My boyfriend will take off if I don't have an abortion."
The adolescent with a crisis pregnancy probably sees nothing but loss on the horizon — loss of love, time, education and physical health. Fear of one or more of these losses propels most of her other responses. Remember that the average age difference between the father of the baby and the teenage mother is 6.4 years.
Denial is common, especially during the early weeks of pregnancy when the only indication might be one or more missed periods, a little fatigue, possibly some nausea or even a positive pregnancy test. The longing for things to be "the way they were" may delay acknowledging the problem and seeking appropriate help for weeks or even months.
Ambivalence about being pregnant may cause fluctuating emotions. One day the only solution may appear to be an abortion, while the next the prospect of a cuddly baby may seem appealing. Time spent with a friend's crying newborn may jolt the emotions in yet another direction. Indecision and apparent lack of direction in such an overwhelming situation are common.
Guilt. When a pregnancy results from the violation of moral values held since childhood, an adolescent will usually feel ashamed and worthless. Her growing abdomen becomes a constant reminder of her failure. This is a time when you can come alongside your child and cement a lasting relationship with her.
Pressure to have an abortion. This may come from several directions. A teenager may be weighing what appears to be a dismal future of hardship and remorse against a quick and relatively inexpensive procedure. "No one needs to know, and I can get on with my life."
A boyfriend (who may be dealing with his own fear and guilt, along with concerns about future financial responsibilities) may exert considerable pressure to abort, even offering to pay the bill. He may also threaten to bail out of the relationship if the pregnancy continues. Some parents, worried about their daughter's future or perhaps their own reputation in the community (or even the prospect of being responsible for the actual child-rearing), may also find abortion attractive.
The "cuddly doll" mentality. Some unmarried teenage girls see their pregnancy unrealistically as an escape from a difficult and unpleasant home situation. They may envision a baby as a snuggly companion who will require roughly the same amount of care as a new puppy, not realizing the amount of energy a newborn will take without giving much in return (especially during the first few weeks). Teens with this mindset need to adjust their expectations of child-rearing — not to drive them to abort, but to help them make more appropriate plans. If adoption is not chosen as a solution, some careful groundwork should be laid to prevent serious disappointment and even the mother's abuse of the baby.
The Bible is far from silent on the topic of the sanctity of human life, especially preborn life in the womb. This resource provides just a few of the Scripture verses that speak to the value of preborn life created in God's image from the moment of fertilization.
Why Should We Value Life?
"Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture" (Psalm 100:3, NASV).
"Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself, and spreading out the earth all alone . . .'" (Isaiah 44:24, NASV).
"But now, O LORD, Thou art our Father, we are the clay, and Thou our potter; and all of us are the work of Thy hand" (Isaiah 64:8, NASV).
Who Is the Creator of the Preborn?
"For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works and that my soul knows well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them" (Psalm 139:13-16, NKJV).
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5, NIV).
How Is God Concerned With the Preborn?
But when He who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through His grace . . ." (Galatians 1:15, RSV).
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for giving us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of heaven! For consider what he has done—before the foundation of the world He chose us to become, in Christ, His holy and blameless children living within His constant care" (Ephesians 1:3-4, PME).
Are the Preborn Human Beings?
"When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit…[saying] ‘As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy'" (Luke 1:41, 44, NIV).
The Lord Jesus Christ began his incarnation as an embryo, growing into a fetus, infant, child, teenager, and adult: "While they were there, the time came for the baby to born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son" (Luke 2:6-7, NIV).
Who Is Responsible for Life and Death?
Then God spoke all these words, saying . . . 'You shall not murder'" (Exodus 20:1, 13, NASV).
"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19, KJV).
Are Humans Permitted to Take Life Before Birth?
"If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise" (Exodus 21:22-25, NIV).
Should a Child Conceived as a Result of Rape or Incest Be Aborted?
"Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin" (Deuteronomy 24:16, NKJV).
Should a Child Who Might Be Born Deformed or Disabled Be Aborted?
"So the LORD said to him, 'Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?'" (Exodus 4:11, NKJV).
"Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'He has no hands?' Woe to him who says to his father, 'What have you begotten?' or to his mother, 'What have you brought to birth?' This is what the LORD says—the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question Me about My children, or give Me orders about the work of My hands?" (Isaiah 45:9-11, NIV).
"Yet, to shame the wise, God has chosen what the world counts folly, and to shame what is strong, God has chosen what the world counts weakness" (1 Corinthians 1:27, NIV).
How Should A Woman View Her Body and the Preborn Life Growing in Her Womb?
"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3, NASV).
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NKJV).
Does God Forgive Those Who Have Had Abortions?
"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace . . ." (Ephesians 1:7, NKJV).
"I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins" (Isaiah 43:25, NASV).
If your son has had a sexual relationship from which a pregnancy has resulted, remember that he will probably be experiencing many of the same emotions as his girlfriend, including fear, guilt and ambivalence. In addition, he will feel considerable conflict and confusion over the role he should play.
Usually the relationship with the mother-to-be has not, until this point, involved any long-range plans. Now he must make a decision about the level of commitment he intends to assume, and the issues are significant. What does he owe to this young woman? Can he walk away from this situation? Should he make a lifelong commitment to her because of the unplanned pregnancy?
He does not bear the biological consequences, of course, and the mother of the baby has the legal right to have an abortion or carry the pregnancy to term with or without his input. This may leave him with the impression that he has no control over the unplanned pregnancy and therefore no responsibility for it. As his parents, you are one step further removed from the situation and may have similar questions about the role you should play.
Above all, your son will need encouragement and guidance to assume the appropriate level of responsibility for his role in the pregnancy. He should not be allowed to abandon his girlfriend with a cavalier, hit-and-run attitude. "It's her problem now," "She should have protected herself" or even "She should just get an abortion" are shallow and disrespectful responses to a serious situation. Pushing for a quick marriage may seem honorable, but it's probably unwise. Teenage matrimony carries with it very short odds of long-term success, and the combination of immaturity, lack of resources, and the intense demands of a newborn baby will usually strain an adolescent relationship to the breaking point.
In the best-case scenario, the families of both participants will cooperate to find a productive balance among several tasks: facing the consequences of the sexual relationship, accountability of adolescents to the adults in both families, short and long-term planning, and mature decision-making.
Your son will need encouragement to acknowledge his responsibility to the girl's family and to accept with humility their response, whether it is measured or angry. All of you may have to face the possibility that the other family will choose to deal with the pregnancy on their own, even if you are willing to participate in the process. And if that decision includes forbidding your son to have further contact with someone about whom he cares very deeply, he will have to find the strength to abide by the other family's wishes. If he is allowed to continue the relationship and support her when the going gets tough, clear ground rules (including abstaining from sexual contact) will need to be established and respected.
Having a pregnant girlfriend is tough and painful. But it can also be an opportunity for your son to mature—to find out what he is made of. In the long run, the pregnant adolescent girl isn't the only one who has to make important choices.