Unprepared for the Unplanned
What to do if you’re not thrilled about your positive pregnancy test
Posted by guest blogger
I feel like as a young married woman, sometimes there can be this expectation that you’re going to start a family right away or that as soon as you see that positive pregnancy test you are going to be just over-the-moon ecstatic. This is especially prominent in a family-centric environment, like the Catholic faith I grew up in. And of course the gift of fertility and family is such a wonderful blessing! But what do you do if you—like so many women—suffer in silence from anxiety and fear when you get that positive test back, and feel so guilty that you are not excited like everyone else?
It can be really hard grappling with these feelings. Case in point. My husband and I had only been married 7 and a half months—previously being long distance for two years—when I started getting the stereotypical pregnancy symptoms and missed my period. At first I thought these were just a result of the laparoscopy I’d had less than two months prior for endometriosis. (Learn more about endo here.) But something nudged me to take the pregnancy test. At 4:00 in the morning, I watched in horror (it’s hard to admit that, but yes, it was horror) as the cross and line appeared. Positive. How could this happen? We had ‘cheated’ on NFP literally just one day in the past month, but I found it hard to believe I’d get pregnant so soon after my surgery, even on a fertile day.
I took another test in disbelief. Positive again. I feel like I should have been filled with overwhelming joy, but instead I started having a panic attack in the bathroom.
I’d just had surgery, so my health hadn’t been great for a while. My husband and I were struggling with certain aspects of our marriage. Plus there was the finance issue. We were paying off the surgery as well as some other debt that couldn’t be postponed any longer. To top it off I had literally just been laid off and accepted a job in another state which meant we were most likely moving. I couldn’t imagine a worse time to have a baby.
Has that ever happened to you? If so I want to reassure you that this is ok. It happens to so many women. You are not alone! Feelings are feelings; you can’t help when they pop up. The only thing you can do is learn to manage them.
So what do you do if you are feeling overwhelmed by your unplanned pregnancy? Here are a few tricks that have helped me. I hope they help you, too.
Be an investigator. This is really tricky if you are a born pessimist like me, but pull out your magnifying glass and find at least one or two blessings to focus on. An ancient Chinese proverb states, “The darker the night, the brighter the stars.” There are always a few stars hiding in your dark night. It just sometimes takes a sleuth to find them.
Be proactive about your circumstances. A lot of times it’s the circumstances that make a pregnancy more of a disappointment at first than a thrill. (Again, it pains me to say “disappointment,” but that’s what I felt.) My husband and I brainstormed how to get around some of these obstacles. We cut some things from our budget, for example, and came up with a few options for my career path once the baby was born. This didn’t fix everything, but it helped us feel more in control of the variables.
Find someone to talk to. Dealing with difficult emotions—especially when you’re throwing up every morning and dealing with changing hormones—is never fun. And it’s worse if you have to do it alone. Find a good friend, a counselor, a spiritual director you can talk to. Of course, you’ll want to talk to your spouse too, but it really does help to have a third party source to offer guidance to you. I’ve found that when I let other moms know I have an unplanned pregnancy, they are quick to sympathize. “That happened with my third child! Let me tell you…” And suddenly you feel so much less alone.
On that note, your husband is likely experiencing tough emotions of his own. It may be a little more tricky for guys to reach out sometimes, but it can help to gently nudge them to find a confidant or counselor (or even your pastor) to confide in if they are struggling. Be sure to talk to one another honestly about your feelings, too.
Reach out to those who can support you. There are so many sources of support for expecting women, but many of these just don’t get talked about enough. Of course, if you have family members and friends or a community at your church who can pitch in to help you buy baby supplies, run errands, etc., by all means, reach out. You can also contact your local pro-life crisis pregnancy center or find a local charity: search for your local pregnancy resource center (this is a good place to start if you are in the Midwest), or check out Catholic Chartites. It helps so much knowing you don’t have to go through it alone.
Keep up some exercise. You won’t want to exert yourself, but keeping a regular light exercise routine while pregnant works wonders. Some days you won’t be up to it and that’s okay, but when you are up to it, it can really boost your mood and help you keep your mind upbeat for a little while. In some gyms and fitness centers, you can even join a prenatal fitness class and bond with other moms there.
Learn as much as you can. Being prepared is a great way to combat fear. Learn all you can from your OBGYN, a birthing class, books, articles online, friends who are moms, and even your own mom so you can build up the confidence to face the future. There are lots of great resources out there but this article is a great starting place.
The good news is, children are such a blessing. You are going to have so much fun on this crazy journey, and there will be a lot of joy along the way. It can be hard to see at first, or at times throughout the pregnancy, but the important thing to remember is you’re never alone, and this new pregnancy is an amazing gift.