Get Real! She’s Pregnant, and I Just Can’t Deal


Ryan asks:

My
girlfriend has been acting all shifty around me. I thought she’d gone
off me and I started ignoring but then I started to hear rumors that
she was pregnant and it was my kid which shocked me cause we’re always
so careful. I kinda confronted her when she told me it was true I
freaked and completely flipped out at her. It was like world war 3, I
felt so bad after but I feel like I can’t talk to her and shes wants me
to be involved but again I don’t think I can. I’m finding it really
hard to get used to all this stuff and every one around me is treating
me like it’s all my fault, which I know it is but I don’t get why
everyone’s treating me like this. I guess if I was looking in on all
this shit I’d probably judge but I’ve got so much shit going on after
my dad walking out, coping with this is like hell on earth. What can I
do? People are saying I’ll get used to it but I really don’t wanna.

Heather replies:

Hey
there, Ryan. Let’s do what we can to work this out, okay? I know it’s
tough — especially if you’re also dealing with trauma in your family
— and it’s scary, but it really is workable.

I don’t know what you mean when you say you’re always careful, but
there are currently — sparing men or women who get sterilization
surgery — NO methods of birth control which are 100% effective. Even
reliable birth control methods do fail. When heterosexual intercourse
is on the table, pregnancy is always a possibility, so it’s always
wisest for anyone who suspects or knows they simple CANNOT deal with a
pregnancy simply not to engage in any kind of sex in which it is a
possible consequence. In other words, if a person just doesn’t want to
deal with a pregnancy, it’s important that they do all they can to not
involve themselves in one by CREATING one. For you, that’s pretty darn
easy and incredibly cheap: all it usually means is bypassing
intercourse OR just slapping a condom on and using it properly, every
time. Would that most birth control methods were so easy for women!

Now, when using reliable birth control — especially when you
combine methods, always use them and use them properly — the risk of
pregnancy can be greatly reduced, to the point that it can be a very
small risk. You haven’t told me what method you and your girlfriend
were using, but if both of you were cooperating with your methods and
being sure to use them properly, always, then if a pregnancy happened,
it’s no one person’s fault or responsibility more than another. You’re
both equally responsible for managing the consequences of an act which
sometimes has these known consequences. Obviously, if either one of you
sabotaged the other’s birth control method or coerced or pressured the
other to have sex either didn’t want, or if you refused to use reliable
birth control (or she did), then the responsibility might not be so
equal, but if sex really was optional for you both, then you’re both
responsible, not just you, and not just her.

Certainly, you could just opt out of this whole mess — you’re the
guy, after all, you have that option — but you know, you were one half
of making this happen, so I’d encourage you, however hard, to step up
and take your half of the responsibility here. You say you don’t think
you can, but you can, and leaving your girlfriend with the whole bag
would be seriously crappy of you. And flatly, probably crappy FOR you
in the long run: we rarely do ourselves any favors by not taking
personal responsibility, because of and when we don’t, we can wind up
being perpetual children who live in adult bodies. Yuck.

It certainly sounds like neither of you have handled this well. Do
know that that’s hardly all that newsworthy, nor does it make either of
you bad people: unplanned pregnancy is a very big deal, is difficult to
manage, and the less prepared for that possibility any two people were,
the tougher it is to cope. So, she screwed up in not talking to you
right off, you screwed up in flipping out on her, and it sounds like
your friends aren’t being so awesome, either. You’re hardly the first
people in the world to just freak when it comes to a pregnancy.

But you are all capable of turning this around.

First things first? This isn’t about your friends: this is about the
two of you, and I’d suggest you go talk to your girlfriend, kindly, and
suggest that you both present a unified front here by telling any
friends who address it with you that right now, this is you and your
girlfriend’s issue, not theirs, and their behavior is only making it
tougher on both of you. If they really are friends to y’all, then
asking them to back off for both of your well-being, and bear in mind
that this is a real crisis, not a TV drama for them, should not be
asking much of them. If they can’t do that? Time to ditch those
"friends."

You need to open that discussion with your girlfriend with an
apology, which I’d suggest. Her telling others first before you isn’t
so cool, but do also understand that you and she are in a different
spot, here. SHE is the one who is potentially pregnant, and whose
participation in all of this from here on out isn’t optional. She’s the
one who faces the biggest risks and consequences, and thinking or
finding out you’re unexpectedly pregnant can be a really big blow:
however you’re feeling right now in terms of feeling overwhelmed and
freaked is likely only about half as much as she’s going to be. So, do
try and give her some extra room here in terms of how she mishandled
things. SHE isn’t the one who can just walk away.

The very next thing you need to both do is to determine if, in fact,
she is pregnant. In other words, it’s time for a pregnancy test,
pronto. So long as your last risk was at least more than 10 days ago —
or your partner’s period is already late — she can either take a home
pregnancy test or go to her doctor, gynecologist or any sexual or
general health clinic for a test. Until you have a positive test in
your hand, there’s not any sense in talking more about this.

If, after that test, you do have a positive result and a pregnancy,
then the next step is to ask your girlfriend how SHE is thinking she
would like to manage this pregnancy, if she wants to remain pregnant
and parent, remain pregnant and do an adoption, or terminate her
pregnancy with an abortion. Because, again, she’s the one who is
pregnant, what she wants to do is the rule, here. By all means, you can
let her know what you would feel best about doing, but if you do that,
I’d make clear that you understand and respect that her choice still
takes all: you’re just speaking for yourself, and will respect whatever
choice she ultimately decides is best for her.

  • If she decides that’s abortion, then the stand-up thing to do
    would be to help her as you can, splitting the cost, helping her with
    transportation, and so forth. If she’d like you to go with her for
    that, I’d advise you go, and if she would like to go without you, that
    you respect that.
  • If she decides she’d like to remain pregnant and go for an
    adoption, then you can help her by researching the different ways to do
    that, and help her through the process of being pregnant as she’d like
    you to. If she chooses adoption, she may also need and want some extra
    emotional support throughout, as it can be a tough choice to make.
  • If she decides she’d like to remain pregnant and parent, you are
    only legally required to provide financial support, but you know,
    single parenting is very tough, especially for a younger person, and
    even just getting through that pregnancy BEFORE delivery is often very
    hard. I’d encourage you, if she chooses this, to do more than just
    providing child support, and to strongly consider co-parenting as she
    seems to be suggesting she’d like. Even if you two don’t stay together
    as a couple, that doesn’t mean you can’t co-parent: an awful lot of
    parents parent together without being together romantically, or after
    their relationships change in some way. Too, you’d hardly be the first
    younger person who became a parent when that wasn’t what they had
    planned, and wasn’t something you thought you could handle: my own
    parents found themselves in the same position (and in their case, it
    was far more complicated than it often is now, even just because it was
    1969, not 2007), and when they didn’t want a romantic relationships,
    and they did work it out in their way. My father really wasn’t
    interested in or ready to be anyone’s father, and he ended up being a
    great Dad to me, and our relationship ended up being the most enriching
    of his life. You just can never predict how these things go: sometimes,
    even an accident that seems like a nightmare can turn into a positive.

Know too, that either or both of you can get some extra help with
all of this. Clinics which provide abortion always have counselors on
hand to help people consider ALL their choices, to figure out which is
best for them, and can provide support WITH whatever choice you make.
In the UK where you are, you can find these services at Brook or Marie
Stopes centers, for instance. You sound particularly isolated in this,
so I’d also encourage you to find even just one friend or trusted adult
you can talk to about this — once you determine she IS pregnant — who
you know will really be a good support for you; who won’t judge, but
will just listen and be your ally.

And do what you can to keep communication between you and your
girlfriend open right now: open, considerate and kind. You’re both
overwhelmed and freaked, but you both can still treat each other kindly
and with care, okay? Even if you aren’t sure your relationship will be
the same from here on out, you can still be friends to each other,
still be in this together. I know all of this sounds like a lot to
handle, and it IS a lot to handle, but people DO manage and get through
this every day. I know it also may feel like there is no way things
will be okay, but they really, really will: it’s going to be okay.

Just be sure and give yourself what you need through this —
including a little space and time to yourself when you need it — try
and keep seeing this as best you can through both of your perspectives,
and realize that challenging as this is, it is often a very normal part
of life for heterosexual people. Often enough, even people who others
think won’t be able to deal wind up stepping up to the plate and doing
brilliantly: you can be one of those people, too.

Lastly, while I recognize that this is likely a non-issue at the
moment, from here on out, if you just really cannot deal with a partner
becoming pregnant, I’d strongly advise you to put sex on hold until
that IS a risk you can handle, and one you know you CAN handle like a
bonafide grownup. If you want to stay sexually active and can handle
SOME risk, then you’ll just want to make sure that you really both are
using reliable methods of birth control properly and consistently every
time: that still leaves a risk, but it reduces it a lot.

Hang in there, Ryan, and before you do any of this? I’d suggest
doing something good for yourself to just blow off some steam and
regroup: it’s really important that you care for yourself, too, and do
what you can to be in as good a space as you can to manage this
challenge as best you can, for all of you.

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  • invalid-0

    I hate to be pedantic, but I’m pretty sure in most jurisdictions the mother isn’t the sole decider when it comes to giving up a child for adoption. The biological father must agree to surrender his parental rights for any adoption to proceed.

    So, technically, if his girlfriend opted to have the baby and give it up, he would have the option of raising the child on his own. Granted, in this scenario that seems about as likely as a Cuban snowstorm, but technically still a possibility.

  • heather-corinna

    It’s a totally valid nitpick, and was an oversight on my part. I appreciate you mentioning it.

     

    While Ryan was in the UK (and if not named on the birth certificate, his permission isn’t needed), I still should have made mention about consenting to adoption and discussed the possibility of his rasing the child on his own even though, indeed, it didn’t seem like something he would have been likely to consider.