Dealing With Others
DEALING WISELY WITH PROFESSIONALS
"The M.D. after a doctor's name doesn't mean `mostly divine.'"
--M. P. N.
Most professionals are caring, honest people who will treat you as a person with intelligence, rights, and feelings. Once they know you have a plan for your crisis, most will support your decision to give birth.
WHY DO PROFESSIONALS SUGGEST ABORTION?
Because some women have sued doctors for not mentioning abortion, most doctors will ask if you plan to have your baby. Say, "Of course I do." A caregiver who respects you will not question you further.
However, some caregivers imply that your only sensible option is abortion. Others may manipulate you toward, "lobby" for, or even insist on abortion. Why?
Some professionals think that any woman in pregnancy crisis should abort. Others think that women with large families or low incomes should not have children because they might be unable to care for them properly or they might be unable to pay their medical bills. Some are afraid of malpractice suits if the mother or baby has health problems. Others believe that babies with special needs, terminal illnesses, or fatal abnormalities should not be born. Still others simply don't want to bother with difficult pregnancies.
A nurse in a large metropolitan hospital, Yvette cared for a downcast, pregnant foreign woman who was extremely dehydrated due to severe pregnancy-related nausea. Although the woman's chart indicated that she was scheduled for an abortion, the woman told Yvette that she very much wanted her baby, but her doctor told her that she needed an abortion because she was so sick.
Yvette went to see the doctor. "You know she doesn't need an abortion," Yvette told him. "We manage nausea all the time. She'll be fine."
The doctor replied casually, "Oh, you don't know the women from this country. They think that the sicker they are, the healthier their babies will be. This woman will be sick the whole pregnancy. She'll always be in here."
The doctor's casual attitude stunned Yvette. She told the woman that she did not need an abortion. Did she still want to have her baby? The woman began to cry tears of gratitude. After treatment for nausea, she left the hospital still pregnant.
CHOOSING SUPPORTIVE PROFESSIONALS
Always remember--the choice to give birth to your baby is yours. Professionals cannot force you to have an abortion. However, they may try very hard to make you think it's the only sensible choice. It's not.
Unless you will die if you give birth, you can probably have your baby without ruining your lifestyle, reputation, or future.
Friends, relatives, PREGNANCY AIDgencies, hospitals, nurses, or churches may be able to suggest competent professionals to call. A professional should, above all, have respect for your baby, your ability to manage during a crisis, and you.
Respect for Your Baby
Every professional should recognize that your unborn baby is an amazing human being (refer to Appendix A). A good doctor may let you hear your baby's heartbeat, acknowledge that babies can learn and respond before birth, and suggest that you talk to your child. A doctor should treat your child's special needs or terminal illness with the latest medical advances.
If you're like Beth, you'll be wary of doctors who are very casual about your baby's life. Of the four doctors she consulted about the effects surgery had on her unborn baby before she realized that she was pregnant, three said that her baby was probably unharmed. The fourth commented, "If you're worried, just get an abortion." Beth chose one of the first three doctors she consulted. She delivered a healthy baby.
Respect for Your Ability to Manage a Crisis
Professionals should respect your plans to face your crisis. However, keep any information about your crisis to yourself, unless a professional needs to know it in order to treat you. Doctors, lawyers, and psychologists are not pregnancy counselors.
Suppose you mention the crisis or the professional knows about it. A professional should acknowledge that you have the intelligence and determination to make a well-devised plan and give birth. A professional who does not respect your abilities will try to tell you what to do. Jennifer's dentist was such a person.
When Jennifer became pregnant, her doctor stopped the medication she'd been taking for neuralgia, saying her baby would be fine. However, her dentist told her to abort the baby, "who must certainly be damaged." Jennifer bore a healthy child.
Respect for You
Professionals should respect you. Some professionals think that you should accept their suggestions without question. Be wary if your questions are answered with a pat on the hand and the words, "There, there, just trust us." You have a right to know why the plans they suggest are best for you and your baby and why they have rejected other alternatives. If you appear outwardly as someone whom others can manipulate, you will open yourself to the possibility of being manipulated.
Unexpectedly pregnant at forty-two, Faith and her husband consulted two doctors and dismissed the one who implied that Faith might as well abort. The doctor they chose encouraged the couple, laughing with them about "getting pregnant from the well water" and "being the oldest parents involved in Little League." Although depressed at first, Faith and her husband now immensely enjoy their son.
HOW TO TALK TO PROFESSIONALS
In speaking to professionals, be assertive and firm but polite. Be positive about your decision to have your baby. If necessary, share the plans you're making for your baby's future and the information in this book.
If you are asked personal details that have no bearing on the professional's area of expertise, say, "That information is personal." If a caregiver says something disturbing or acts in a rude, discourteous, or patronizing manner, say, "What you've just said disturbs me," or "That tone of voice makes me uncomfortable," or "You seem to be dodging my questions, but I believe I have a right to know that information."
Professionals often ask questions simply to make "small talk" or to "put you at ease." Other pushy professionals have a "Dear Abby" complex and like to give advice! Of course, you needn't take it!
Appendix E contains questions you might ask professionals or yourself. Answers to these questions will help you identify just what you like, dislike, or hope to change about those who are working with you.
If someone else in your family needs medical, legal, or psychological help, you may use some of the guidelines in this chapter to find professionals to help.
Velma was glad when she found out she was pregnant, but her husband Emil worried about stretching family finances and became suicidal. A PREGNANCY AIDgency recommended a good psychiatrist who prescribed rest, medication, and counseling for Emil. Now Emil feels much better, worries less, and adores his son.
YOUR "BILL OF RIGHTS"
The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) has prepared two excellent documents, the "Pregnant Patient's Bill of Rights" and "Pregnant Patient's Responsibilities." Many doctors and hospitals' obstetric units have copies. Your doctor and hospital should be familiar with and agree with these documents.
The "Pregnant Patient's Bill of Rights" explains that you have a right to full information about all treatments, procedures, and medications that your doctor suggests. You also have a right to refuse medications or procedures or to request alternate ones. The "Pregnant Patient's Responsibilities" points out that you are responsible for courteously communicating your preferences to your health care team and for listening to their reasons for suggested treatments. You are then responsible for following the treatments that you and your doctor have agreed upon. In determining a health care program, tell your doctor if you are already taking vitamins or medications or if you exercise, because these things may affect your treatment.
Discuss anything that is bothering you with your doctor. Between doctor's visits, write down your concerns and take your questions with you. Be sure they're answered.
CHANGING AND EDUCATING PROFESSIONALS
If you don't like the caregiver you have, choose another. If you must use a certain professional, or if you like many things but not everything about the individual, you can try to educate the person. Many women have brought professionals to their way of thinking. Use this book to help.
If you must deal with a negative thinker, say firmly, "I appreciate your concern, but I am definitely planning to have my baby and I've got the plans to do so under way. Please respect my judgment and the way I am handling my situation." Then refer to this book and to a trained pregnancy counselor for help. Rely on a positive-thinking confidant to encourage you.
Bernice received a German measles vaccination two weeks before getting pregnant. Three doctors told her to get an abortion; a fourth gave her a zero-percent chance of having a healthy baby. Bernice and her husband comforted each other and prayed that they would accept their baby, who was born perfectly healthy. They ignore those professionals, acquaintances, and family members who still say that Bernice should have had an abortion.
MAKING SURE YOUR BABY WILL BE BORN
What treatment would you want if you ever became mentally incompetent? Should your baby be saved even if you might die? What if your baby has special needs or a terminal illness?
In a recent two-year period, three of the United States' largest trauma centers treated a total of twenty pregnant women in comas. Other centers reported treating additional coma cases. Usually, the coma ended and the woman went home and had her baby.
But that's not always what happens.
Both about three months pregnant, Diane and Goldie sustained severe brain damage in two different auto accidents. Both were in comas.
Diane's husband and mother had a doctor perform an abortion on Diane in order to give her a slightly better chance of recovery. They also felt that her unborn baby might have disabilities, despite no medical evidence of this.
Goldie's husband ordered that she be kept alive with a breathing tube. He and her family visited Goldie daily, and she gave birth to a normal child.
Both women emerged from their comas and are on their way to recovery.
Because neither Diane nor Goldie had written instructions on what they wanted done if they could not make decisions, others decided for them. It is important to tell your professionals what you want done should you be unable to make decisions. Then write it down! Give a copy of your letter to your partner, doctor, lawyer, counselor, and confidant. You'll gain your peace of mind, and possibly your child's life.
CHOOSING AND USING PROFESSIONALS
Every pregnant woman should be under a doctor's care. You may need the assistance of a psychologist, lawyer, social worker, or marriage counselor as well. These professionals should be warm and caring and should treat you and your baby with respect. They should also present a realistic picture of what the future probably holds while admitting that there could be a margin of error, no matter how slight. Professionals should respect your intelligence, your right to complete information, and your ability to make your own decisions. Find supportive professionals and lighten your crisis.
HANDLING FAMILY AND FRIENDS
"God gives us relatives; thank God, we can choose our friends."
If unsupportive people must eventually know about your pregnancy, plan ahead. Conceal your pregnancy for at least four to six months. Use this book to devise a good plan. Record the plan and your reasons for choosing it in your journal. This saves others the stress of having to plan for you. When you announce your pregnancy, announce your plan. Eventually, your confidence and your ability to view your situation positively will influence those around you.
Use your journal to write a short "pregnancy announcement speech" that reveals your pregnancy and plans. Rehearse the speech in front of a mirror and a confidant. If you must cry or shout, do it in private, not in front of those you wish to tell. Prepare a list of community agencies that are helping you and distribute it during your announcement. Consider asking your confidant and counselor to be on hand during your announcement. Your listeners may restrain extreme emotions when others are present.
Choose a peaceful time to make your announcement, perhaps after a relaxed meal. If anything happens to disrupt the peace, wait for a calmer time. Revealing your crisis during another crisis could create hysteria.
Have your listeners sit down. Ask them to save their questions and comments until you are finished. Then, practicing relaxed breathing to calm yourself (Chapter Two), read your announcement speech from your journal. Your peacefulness will make the anger, disappointment, or anxiety of others seem out of place.
Decide how you'll deal with later blowups. Stick to your plans. If you're pressured, speak to your confidant and to a counselor. They will help you.
Paula and Sheila (mentioned later in this chapter) had well-thought-out plans that helped smooth their pregnancy announcements. So did Adele, whose relatives think that her asthma makes her too weak to mother a large family. Before the last three of her six pregnancies, Adele and her husband had many heart-to-heart talks and found support in two other couples who also had large families. When each pregnancy was getting too obvious, Adele and her husband would tell their families how they had already figured out which room the baby would occupy and how Adele planned to parent another baby.
What is the worst that could happen when you announce your pregnancy? Predict people's responses and decide how to handle them. Preparation is 90 percent of victory!
Announcing your pregnancy might bring anything from anger to tears. Decide what to say and do if this happens. Practice remaining calm and in control. If your baby's arrival is poorly timed, remind people that unforeseen circumstances can make any baby's arrival difficult. Let them know that you are reorganizing your plans to include your baby.
Clarissa was worried about renovating a new house after her baby was born, so she and her husband hired a carpenter early in her pregnancy. Renovations were completed the day before Clarissa went into labor.
Clarissa maintains a large garden, does extensive freezing and canning of vegetables, and sells garden produce. Her next baby was due at the beginning of harvest season. Clarissa had her older children help with the housework and let some jobs go undone so that she could breastfeed her baby on demand. By carrying her baby in a backpack carrier, Clarissa kept her hands free to work and survived the summer.
CONCERNS ABOUT IMMATURITY
If people think you're too immature to handle decisions, take control! Your confidence in your plans and your determination to follow them will convince others that you've matured.
Two years before sixteen-year-old Paula's pregnancy, her older teenaged sister's pregnancy shocked her highly respected family and conservative community. Paula and her boyfriend Ron felt that Paula's parents couldn't cope with another unmarried, pregnant daughter pregnancy and would never believe that Paula could handle her pregnancy herself.
A PREGNANCY AIDgency volunteer advised Paula to have her baby and promised help. So did Ron's sister, an abortion clinic nurse who liked Paula as a sister. She did not want to see Paula, who was almost four months pregnant, subjected to the trauma of a late abortion. Paula decided to continue attending school and to choose adoption. Her plan eased the shock of her pregnancy announcement, and her family, friends, and community supported her.
DEALING WITH THOSE WHO AVOID YOU
Some individuals may avoid you because you are pregnant. Psychologists call this "fear of contamination," a primitive, subconscious feeling that your pregnancy is "contagious"! No one wants to think that a crisis pregnancy could happen to them, so they avoid you.
You can ask these people, "What is bothering you? Pregnancy isn't contagious." Then include them in your life. If they still avoid you, let them go. As one true friend told a recovering, formerly suicidal alcoholic, "Remember, a false friend and a shadow stay around only when the sun shines."
CONCERN ABOUT YOUR REPUTATION
If you think that gossip might ruin your reputation, devise a detailed plan and announce your pregnancy before gossip begins. Many highly respected women have withstood gossip, borne their babies, and lived good lives in their communities. Accept yourself and your convictions and others will accept you, too.
Perhaps you believe that poor moral choices caused your pregnancy. If this is so, admit your error and work on changing your lifestyle. Others will forgive and accept you when they see you are trying to change.
President of her church youth group and a peer counselor to teens, sixteen- year-old Faila had intercourse once and regretted losing her chastity. As her lover drifted away, Faila denied her pregnancy, then confided in one friend. During a church retreat, Faila came to feel that God would guide her in the right direction if she trusted God's will for her pregnancy. When Faila's mother took her to a doctor because she was concerned that Faila was not menstruating, Faila was in her sixth month of pregnancy.
Faila transferred to a school that had programs for pregnant students. She chose her baby's adoptive parents, had her baby, then returned to her original high school to graduate before going to college. Urging her peers to chastity, Faila again became a youth group leader and peer counselor.
ABUSE AND LOSS OF SHELTER
Could you be abused, verbally or physically, or thrown out of the house because of pregnancy? Before you announce your pregnancy, ask a PREGNANCY AIDgency, women's shelter, or social service agency to have shelter ready. When revealing your pregnancy, have a confidant with you. If your parents abuse you, you can legally be removed from your home. Call a child protection agency or PREGNANCY AIDgency. When sixteen-year-old Sandi's father locked her out of the house because she wouldn't abort, a PREGNANCY AIDgency took her to a shelter home. After Sandi gave birth and decided to parent her baby, her father passed out cigars!
If your baby would be in danger of abuse, ask the abuser to go for counseling. If this person refuses, as is likely to happen, or if counseling is ineffective in stopping the abuse, move into a safer home or a women's shelter. Some women prefer to make adoption plans to protect their children from abuse.
Abused severely and regularly as a child, Clint repeated the pattern and hit his fussing, crying infant son. Clint's wife Jean asked her mother to raise the baby. Jean and Clint visit the baby but leave whenever Clint gets upset.
When Jean became pregnant again, her mother could not raise another child, so Jean and Clint made an adoption plan. The agency keeps them informed about their daughter's progress in her adoptive home. Not wanting to have any more children, Jean chose to be permanently sterilized after her last delivery.
ABUSE FROM A LOVER
If your lover is abusive, consider counseling. A marriage counselor, psychologist, or member of the clergy will help you discover why you continue to love or to live with an abuser. You must understand yourself, evaluate your relationship, and decide whether or not to maintain it.
Occasionally an abuser will consent to counseling, too. Even though this probably won't happen, ask the abuser to seek counseling anyway. If an abuser refuses counseling, it may be best for you to leave. Without outside help, an abuser only gets more violent. Verbal abuse can lead to physical beating. Sometimes abusive relationships end with the death of either the abuser or the abused.
Cycles of Abuse
Abuse can be verbal, physical, or sexual, or all three. Abuse also runs in cycles. Perhaps you are aware of these cycles.
The first phase of the cycle involves several small, abusive incidents that increase in frequency and intensity. This is a tension-building phase in which you try to calm your partner and control the abuse. This phase can end with a severe battering incident, a verbal outburst, or sexual abuse.
After this incident, which in extreme cases may lead to hospitalization, the abuser may enter the loving phase of the cycle. Remorseful, he showers you with love and gifts, promising never to harm you again. However, his promises are empty. With abusers, the first phase of minor abusive incidents probably will begin again.
Mimi planned to have children in five years, after she finished college, but she became pregnant six weeks after marrying Gabe, a serviceman. With her family in another state, Mimi confided her anger and frustration to a consoling friend.
Cool during courtship, Gabe was now cold, distant, and angry. His sexual behavior was bizarre. Eventually, Mimi realized that she had married an alcoholic. When Gabe told Mimi to abort, she refused. He then began to alternate between totally ignoring Mimi and belittling her.
Believing that marriage should be "forever," Mimi clung to prayer, especially to the Bible verse, "All things work together for good for those who love God." When Gabe's inattention to the baby began to turn into physical abuse, Mimi divorced him. A self-help group for relatives of alcoholics gave her support. After years of unemployment and struggle, Mimi now has a career, is finishing her education, and has some firm goals. She is very proud of her daughter.
Can You Make It on Your Own?
You probably have many excuses for staying with an abusive lover. "No one else will love me." "Marriage is forever." "I've got to stay married for the children." "I don't deserve anyone better." "I can't make it on my own." Speak to a counselor. Devise better ways to protect yourself. Consider that men who abuse women often abuse children. Boys who watch abusive fathers often become abusers. Girls who see mothers taking abuse often accept abuse. Even if you are married, you may wish to choose adoption or foster care for your baby.
No one deserves abuse! You and your children have the right to be treated with respect. Call a PREGNANCY AIDgency, women's resource center, helpline, or the police for protection. You may have to secretly move somewhere else. While you learn job skills and independent living skills, you can live in a women's shelter or group home. You may have to receive government funds for a while. Eventually, you'll feel capable of living on your own, free of terror.
Linda, an alcoholic and drug addict who was raised in an abusive home, had lost two children to foster care. With no job skills and no self-esteem, she divorced one physically abusive alcoholic and began living with another, who became more abusive when he discovered that Linda was pregnant. Not wanting to raise her child in a violent, alcoholic home, Linda scheduled an abortion.
Feeling ill as she recalled a previous abortion, Linda walked outside the abortion clinic to wait. There she met a woman, a member of a pregnancy counseling group, who allowed Linda to live in her home. By attending alcoholism and drug addiction self-help group meetings, Linda overcame her addictions and learned to refuse abuse. Once she called the police to arrest her boyfriend; another time she obtained a restraining order against him.
Linda obtained visitation rights with her other children. The woman with whom she stayed, and others, taught Linda some job skills. Today, government assistance pays for Linda's small apartment as Linda parents her baby. She hopes to get a job when her baby is older.
PRESSURE FROM OTHERS TO ABORT
You will lessen outside pressure on you to abort by waiting as long as possible before announcing your pregnancy. Many people believe that abortion late in pregnancy is illegal. This may not be true, but if it helps to keep unwanted advisors at a distance, don't tell them!
In many areas, abortion is legal until birth. Don't assume that no one will perform an abortion on you if you are six or seven or eight months pregnant. If you are a teen and you fear that your parents will pressure you to abort, you may be eligible for a court-appointed guardian. If your husband or lover pressures you, you may choose to live elsewhere. A lawyer, PREGNANCY AIDgency, or social service agency for women or children can help you.
If you are forcefully taken to an abortion clinic, tell the personnel that you are being forced to have an abortion. State that you will sue the clinic if they perform the abortion against your will. Do not allow anyone to drag you anywhere or give you any medication. Do not sign anything. Scream if necessary. Not wanting to perform an abortion against your will, the clinic will probably send you home, where the pressure will continue. If you don't want to cave in, call your local PREGNANCY AIDgency immediately. They definitely can help you!
Although fifteen-year-old Sheila wanted to have her baby, her parents insisted that she abort. Secretly, Sheila contacted a PREGNANCY AIDgency volunteer counselor who took her to a lawyer.
Her lawyer advised her of her options. Because she was pregnant, she could receive medical aid. She could place a restraining order on her parents so that they could no longer mentally harass her. Then, either the PREGNANCY AIDgency or the lawyer would have custody of Sheila and become her legal guardian. She would no longer need parental consent to be sheltered in a private home. If she decided against filing a restraining order, her parents might possibly take her to an abortion clinic against her wishes. If this were to happen, the lawyer said, Sheila should then instruct both the nurses and the abortionist that she did not want an abortion. She should not sign any clinic forms and should tell the abortionist that she would sue when she became of legal age if an abortion was performed.
Sheila and a PREGNANCY AIDgency volunteer confronted her parents with the two options. Sheila's parents conceded and allowed her to move into a shelter home. Ultimately, they relented and allowed Sheila to parent her baby. They grew to be doting grandparents.
You may be part of a group that will disapprove of your having your baby. Even if you hide your pregnancy for a long time, the group is going to find out about it eventually, unless you decide to keep your pregnancy a secret forever, as discussed in Chapter Two. However, you may feel a certain hypocrisy in staying with a group that would shun you if they knew you gave birth. You may have to decide if you want to remain with this group.
Some groups that might pressure you about your pregnancy are sororities, religious groups, clubs, or professional groups whose members shun, gossip about, or ignore those who do not conform. Other groups that may exert pressure include feminist, environmental, or population control groups that believe children should be planned and family size should be limited. Pressure to abort the child you didn't plan on having can be subtle and powerful, even if never actually voiced. Group members who favor abortion may expect you to "correct your mistake." You may have mixed feelings about your group, since you admire its goals and philosophies yet dislike the pressure to conform to a rigid code of behavior.
Other groups are more blatant in their ability to control their members. These include personality-dominated groups whose dynamic, charismatic leaders promote certain philosophies, religions, or lifestyles. Some of these groups are cults and gangs. These groups often control members by using violence, threats, and harassment. You may hear that the time is not right for you to give birth, and that dire consequences may take place if you do.
Be suspicious of any person or group that tries to manipulate you with fear, humiliation, degradation, or conformity. You will find it difficult to evaluate group dynamics by yourself. You may need help from a trained counselor to decide what is best for you and your baby.
Discuss the questions in Appendix F with a counselor, psychologist, or member of the clergy and learn how to feel confident making your own decisions. A PREGNANCY AIDgency can help you with your pregnancy.
You may decide that your group has admirable goals. Even if its members believe in pregnancy planning, the baby you didn't plan on having can learn from you to make the world better. Or, if you can't parent, you can help influence your child by choosing an adoptive family whose views are similar to yours. Parented well, your child may come to advance your group's cause in ways you cannot yet possibly imagine.
Tell your group how you feel about having your baby and why. If your ideas have changed, admit it. Look for a supportive group member. If your group cannot accept your pregnancy, you may prefer to join a similar, more supportive group or to start your own group.
An active feminist, Joyce endured one pregnancy she didn't plan, convinced that women shouldn't have to bear babies they didn't want. Pregnant again at forty, Joyce had three children in school and needed to work to pay off debts. She went to three doctors in three states to get an abortion. Each said that her reasons for wanting an abortion weren't good enough, so she glumly endured her pregnancy. By the time her son was born, she very much wanted him.
Joyce began to work for abortion rights, but she said that her research slowly convinced her that feminism must include both the mother and the unborn child. Leaving her abortion rights group, Joyce began to speak and write about her own views.
Joyce's first, planned daughter loves her mother, but, because she lives in another state, she sees Joyce only occasionally. The daughter she didn't plan on having lives nearby and visits Joyce frequently. Joyce's planned son was brutally murdered. Caring for her son she didn't plan helped Joyce to overcome her grief. Joyce acknowledges that the children she didn't plan to have brought her much joy. "God has a plan for pregnancy surprises," she says.
You may decide that the group you belong to or the person you are following is too strange, untrustworthy, or even dangerous. You may decide to part company. If so, you might need help over a long period of time, including psychological counseling, life management skills, treatment for addictions, police protection, and medication. However, you can make a new future for yourself and for your baby. Believe in what you can do!
Regina, a popular, straight-A student, tried to convert Satanist students at her school to Christianity, but, instead, she converted to Satanism. Physically abused and raped at a satanic party, she became pregnant. A counseling agency that assists victims of Satanism helped her release her fears about the personality of her baby. She has decided to give birth and is seeing a psychologist to help her regain her self-respect, faith, and goals.
WHEN YOUR PARTNER DOESN'T WANT A BABY
Has your partner threatened to leave if you get pregnant? You may not really have to choose between your lover and your baby. See if he fits into one of the categories that follow. If he does, you may be able to calm his fears or reassure him.
* The insecure lover has many fears: Will a baby rob him of your love? Will pregnancy make you press for marriage? How will he ever be a good father?
What are your partner's fears? To find out, start a conversation with him about someone's pregnancy or baby. Listen to your partner's comments. Try to understand his fears, then calm them.
Lavish him with love and assure him that you love him more than ever. If he's afraid you'll press for marriage, say that marriage is not on your mind. Emphasize his positive, loving traits and help him understand how he can be a good dad. Or make an adoption plan. If you calm his fears, the insecure lover will often accept his baby.
* The misinformed lover thinks it's best for you not to have a baby now.
Show the misinformed lover this website. Assure him that you want to have your baby and that you have plans under way to do so. If you educate him about the support available for pregnant women, he will probably support you.
* The child-shy man doesn't like children and doesn't want to be a father. Ever. No matter what you do, he may remain firm. If you would rather have a relationship with him than with your baby, consider adoption.
However, the child-shy man may become the doting father once he realizes what the baby kicking around in your womb means to him. Get the child-shy man into a doctor's office by telling him that you have a serious problem (don't say what). Before the visit, arrange to have the doctor let this man hear his baby's heartbeat on a fetal heart monitor or view his baby on a sonogram. Hearing or seeing the baby may soften him.
* The abusive, manipulative lover sees women as bodies to be used and sometimes abused. He may physically or verbally pressure you to abort, and may leave you if you don't. An earlier discussion in this chapter may help you decide if you want to stay with this man.
WHEN YOU OR OTHERS REJECT YOUR CHILD
You may feel you don't want your baby. Perhaps your child is not the sex you desired. Maybe you conceived the child with a man you don't love. You may hate the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy. If you can't overcome your rejection, repulsion, or disappointment, consider making an adoption plan. But give yourself time. Your feelings may change as birth draws close.
Even though others may reject your child, you can parent your child if your love is strong enough. Your love may slowly erode the rejection of your baby by others. This is what happened to Sandi and Sheila (mentioned earlier in this chapter).
The Biracial Child
If you're pregnant with a biracial child, you may have a hard time accepting your baby. Others may reject your biracial baby as well. You could reject your baby if you are pregnant after being raped by a man of a different race. Or, you may have loved your baby's father once but did not consider racial mix important until your relationship started to crumble. Now you may hate the man you once loved. Even if you and your lover are still together, prejudiced family members or friends may view a biracial love affair as "wrong" or "foolish," and they may not accept your baby.
How do you feel about your baby's racial mix? Do you hate your baby's father or harbor deep-seated prejudices against his race? If speaking to a counselor doesn't dispel your hatred and prejudice, consider making an adoption plan for your baby.
Do you love your baby's father or feel attraction or indifference toward members of his race? You'll probably love and accept his child. If your biracial child resulted from an affair, refer to information later in this chapter for guidance.
If others are prejudiced, remind them that all races are of equal value. Race has nothing to do with your child's worth or your motherly love.
If prejudiced talk continues, say, "Excuse me, but I prefer not to listen to this," and then politely leave.
Many children, like single mom Roxanna's biracial daughter (Chapter Two) and Fran's biracial son (later in this chapter), live in communities and attend schools with many biracial children. These children rarely experience stigma. Other children aren't so lucky. If your child would experience social stigma in your area, consider making an adoption plan for your baby or moving to another area.
A white woman living in a small, bigoted community, Shannie bore a biracial child after two men, one white and one black, raped her. Shunned and laughed at by the community, Shannie and her son were treated as outcasts. Shannie worked as a seamstress and received government assistance. She hated her poverty and despaired about her son's future.
When the boy was three years old, a national newspaper story made public Shannie's plight. A prominent business person set up a trust fund for Shannie's son. Using some of this money, Shannie moved to a large city where she made a down payment on a small house and secured a good job. Growing up among other biracial children, her son is proud of who he is and is doing very well in school. Shannie receives counseling to resolve the anger that she still experiences because of the sexual assault.
If you live in a prejudiced community, you'll have to build your child's self-esteem. Books can give you ideas to help your child feel capable, hopeful, worthwhile, and self-confident.
FEELING GOOD ABOUT TELLING OTHERS THAT YOU'RE PREGNANT
Handling family and friends will require tact, confidence, and a detailed plan. Devise ways to deal with upsetting reactions before they occur. Planning will increase the chance of a positive response. Think positively, avoid negative thinkers, and manage stress.
Most people who react dramatically at first will eventually accept your decisions. You needed time to adjust to your pregnancy. They will need time, too.
INFLUENCING YOUR LOVE RELATIONSHIPS
"Only the wise know how to love."
How nice it would be if every baby was born into a loving, supportive relationship! But life is not ideal. Often, we must work with what is, rather than what we think should be. To do this, you must first examine the complications and emotions involved in your love relationship. Then you can plan for your baby.
IF YOU ARE UNMARRIED
Being unmarried and pregnant doesn't bring the stigma or rejection that it used to. Some unmarried women purposely become pregnant. If your family and boyfriend would support you in your pregnancy, your biggest problem may be that your sexual relationship or pregnancy is about to become public knowledge. Embarrassment is not fatal! You should be able to plan successfully for the future.
Because sixteen-year-old Julie's parents promoted chastity among teens, Julie's pregnancy was a terrible crisis. Surviving gossip, financial setback, and embarrassment, the family helped parent Julie's daughter until Julie graduated from college, began a career, and married the child's father.
Julie's boyfriend stuck by her. Will yours stick by you? He may be using you by promising marriage but never following through. Give your lover an ultimatum--have him either make a commitment to you or leave. Be firm. You need to know how he fits into your life.
By setting a marriage date, Nathan persuaded Sally to have intercourse one night when she had been drinking. Although she felt used, Sally wanted marriage and soon was having sex frequently. She became pregnant. Throughout her pregnancy, Nathan kept postponing the marriage date until Sally's uncle told him, " Either marry Sally now, or get out of her life." Nathan left. Sally, who had been living with distant relatives to keep her pregnancy a secret, made an adoption plan. Nathan's mother called, promising Nathan would marry her if she'd parent the baby. "Let Nathan call himself," Sally said. He didn't. After completing the adoption, Sally returned to college.
AFFAIRS AND PREGNANCY
A love affair complicates your life. Really! Whether you're the other woman or you have two lovers, you've been walking a tightrope. Why did you enter into an affair? What will you do now? A member of the clergy or a marriage counselor can help you evaluate an affair and understand your motives. A social service agency may be able to arrange affordable counseling. You need to answer questions such as those in Appendix F.
If your lover is tolerant, he may suspect or know about the affair but not care. Maybe you don't care if he has other lovers. Evaluate your lifestyle. Maybe it's time for a change or a commitment.
If one or both lovers are jealous, you'll be afraid to let them know about each other. One lover might even become violent toward you or toward the other man. You'll have to know how to protect yourself and your baby in addition to deciding which of the relationships, if any, you want to preserve.
Before ending a relationship, hold your lover to any promises he's made. Give him an ultimatum: if he's married, he must file within one month for divorce. If he's single, he must say good-bye to any other lovers. Give him another month to "set the date," preferably for marriage to you. If, within two months, a lover cannot break any other relationships and be committed to you alone, he will never do it.
If your lover offered you only false promises, decide what you will do. If you end one relationship, end it quickly. Tell your lover you'll no longer see him, and then do it.
Who's the Baby's Father?
You may know, or think you know, who your baby's father is. Ask yourself, "Could the man I'm planning to stay with be my baby's father?" He could be if you are having sexual relations with him, even if you are doing so only occasionally. He could be the father even if he has had a vasectomy or has a fertility problem. Only medical testing can prove otherwise. This subject will be discussed in further detail later in this chapter.
The man whom you are planning to stay with will probably assume the baby is his unless you tell him otherwise. If there is no way the baby could be his, you will either have to hide your pregnancy, fabricate a story about how it happened, or admit to having had an affair.
Who will the baby look like? The lover you're leaving? Will everyone suspect your baby's true father? Not unless you tell about your affair.
You have blood relatives. So does the man whom you've chosen to stay with. Decide which one of these relatives looks somewhat like the man you think is your baby's actual father. If anyone remarks about your baby's appearance, comment that your child certainly does bear a strong resemblance to that particular relative.
Both married to others, Peg and Hal concealed a fifteen-year affair, which resulted in a son whom Peg raised along with the children of her marriage. Only when the boy was nine, and Hal's wife discovered Peg's photo in Hal's wallet, did the truth come out. Peg's husband wished to grant Peg a divorce to marry Hal, but Hal's wife refused to divorce Hal. Peg realized that she should have chosen between the two men long ago.
Revealing Your Affair
Should you disclose your affair? Who knows about it already? Who will benefit if you do get it out in the open? If you need help dealing with your feelings and don't know what to do, speak to a counselor. Remember that you can talk to one freely and be assured of confidentiality.
You may feel that your partner deserves the truth. Perhaps someone suspects the affair, or you and your partner have not been having intercourse, or your baby was fathered by a man of another race. If you don't want to claim that you're pregnant from rape, and you don't want to live elsewhere until after the baby is born, you may want to tell about your affair before it becomes common knowledge.
Admitting that you've had an affair can be frightening. Tell a family counselor or member of the clergy about your situation and predict your partner's reaction. Telling your partner in the presence of this counselor will ease the shock. Both you and your partner may need several counseling sessions before you can begin to make plans for the baby. Through a counselor, Pearl and Ken (Chapter Five) made an adoption plan for a baby conceived during an affair.
If you wish to parent your child, your partner will have to sort through his feelings for the baby. Perhaps he can accept and love this child as his own.
After a troubled youth, Fran married Peter, a very understanding man. Following the birth of her third child, Fran had a love affair with Dean, a man of another race. Pregnant with Dean's child, Fran knew that her husband would love and forgive her, and told him of her affair with Dean.
Peter accepts and loves as his own this biracial child. If someone asks where Fran adopted her son, she responds, "He's mine," and refuses to discuss the details, since she doesn't "have to explain another person's reason for being." When her son gets older, she plans to tell him the truth about his conception.
If you prefer to go somewhere else to give birth, and then convince your husband that you've adopted someone else's baby, refer to Chapter Two.
SURVIVING PREGNANCY IN A BROKEN LOVE RELATIONSHIP
Are you facing divorce, separation, widowhood, or the breakup of a relationship? What emotions are you feeling? What is causing these feelings?
If your husband or lover died, the pain of loss may be unbearable. Reach beyond grieving family and friends for guidance. A counselor, member of the clergy, or support group for the bereaved will help you to understand your emotions and to gather enough strength to plan for your baby.
When Kimberly's husband died in a tragic accident, she was left with one child and pregnant with twins. Shock, anger, and rejection of her babies yielded to love for her children and a determination to succeed in life. Inspiring books, songs, and movies, in addition to time, slowly helped to lift the depression of widowhood and the strain of living with overbearing relatives.
When the twins were four, Kimberly moved away and completed high school and college, earning two degrees. Today her children are grown, and Kimberly is a highly respected writer, lecturer, and television producer.
Divorce or breakup can cause confusion. Perhaps your lover left you, possibly for another woman. Or perhaps you ended the relationship. You might be angry at yourself, your lover, and your baby. People may misunderstand the situation or offer poor advice. A trained counselor will help you deal with your emotions and make plans. Divorced and about to begin a high-paying job, Evaleen's husband advised her to give birth despite family pressure to abort. With a PREGNANCY AIDgency's guidance, Evaleen has continued her career while parenting her son, who has, she said, "fulfilled my life."
What Changes Will Have to be Made?
When a love relationship ends, you will have to cope with life without your mate. A counselor can help you understand what adjustments will have to be made. These might include finding a place to live and furniture, obtaining custody of your children or visitation rights, or acquiring job skills and a job. You may need to learn living skills such as budgeting, car maintenance, house upkeep, or single parenting. Legal, financial, medical, or real estate advice may help you. You may need to sort through your lover's belongings and dispose of them. You probably also need time to yourself, and someone to talk to about the grief, anger, or pain you're feeling. Defining and meeting your own needs will clear up some confusion and help you make better plans for your baby.
How do you feel about your baby? Do you resent or pity this child? Or do you see this baby as your lover's final gift? No matter how you feel now, you may deeply love your child in time. You may want to parent. Work through your emotions, make plans for your baby, and keep your options open.
After just about everyone--relatives, friends, and social worker alike--told Shelley to abort, she found encouragement in one of her sisters and decided to give birth. Since her partner Frank was immature, hypocritical, and irresponsible, Shelley considered making an adoption plan for her baby, but decided to break up with Frank and be a single parent.
Knowing that he was a father, Frank obtained a job and settled down. He and Shelley married just days before their baby was born. They now have two children and are a very happy family.
THE VASECTOMY ALIBI
If your partner had a vasectomy and you've been loyal to him and still got pregnant, then either the vasectomy was unsuccessful or you had intercourse too soon after the vasectomy was performed. A doctor can examine your lover and discover what happened. As you get over your initial shock, you can plan for the baby. A sense of humor and a great deal of love definitely help!
Everyone knew that Vera's husband Jim had a vasectomy during his previous marriage. However, two months after the wedding, Vera was pregnant!
Delighted to be a father, Jim wanted more children. Vera was glad about her pregnancy, too, but embarrassed because, she said, "People will think that I'm running around with someone else."
"Nobody's going to think that," Jim said jokingly, shaking his fist.
Although Vera wondered if people gossiped about her pregnancy, no one made any direct remarks. Vera had a daughter. During the fourth month of her second pregnancy, doctors discovered uterine cancer, so Vera had a hysterectomy following her son's birth.
Vera laughs about how her "sterile" husband fathered two children. She wonders how many children she would have had if she had not had a hysterectomy.
Vera's husband actually had a vasectomy, but it was unsuccessful. Your lover, however, may have lied to you. By claiming to have had a vasectomy, some men might more easily persuade women to have sexual relationships. If you suspect that your partner lied, confront him. In the first three months after a vasectomy, only 1 out of 200 vasectomies is unsuccessful. After three months, only 1 out of 2,000 vasectomies fails. Vasectomy failure rate is very low.
Don't assume that your partner will sheepishly tell you the truth. He may insist that he actually had a vasectomy. Ask which doctor performed the vasectomy, and when and where it was performed. If your lover can't come up with this information, your suspicions may be true. If he does give you names and places, he should be willing to have the doctor assure you that the operation was performed.
If a man lied to you about a vasectomy, he has probably told other lies, too. Consider breaking off a relationship with a man you can't trust. Then decide what to do about your baby.
Some men who claim to have had vasectomies accuse their pregnant lovers of being unfaithful. If you have been faithful, suggest that a doctor examine your lover to determine if the vasectomy was unsuccessful. A man who refuses to submit to an exam is probably lying about his vasectomy or else he's so overbearing that he refuses an examination because you suggested it. Some men prefer self-righteous jealousy to the truth. Do you want a relationship with this type of person?
Suppose your lover did have a vasectomy, but you have been unfaithful. Earlier sections of this chapter and the questions in Appendix F will help you think more clearly about your affair and your pregnancy.
IF ONE OF YOU HAS A FERTILITY PROBLEM
You or your partner may have a fertility problem. Doctors may have told you that you would never be able to give birth. Now that you have become comfortable with your childless lifestyle, your pregnancy has caught you off guard.
Most couples who were previously infertile adjust quickly to having a baby. Guidelines in this book can help you adjust, too. Many couples parent their children. Others make adoption plans for their babies.
If your partner has a fertility problem and you're pregnant, you may find yourself wondering if others will think that you became pregnant as a result of an affair. If you didn't, try to be like Vera (mentioned earlier in this chapter) and Barb (refer to Chapter Four) by developing a sense of humor. Although it took two years of artificial insemination with her husband's sperm before Barb became pregnant the first time, a few years later she became pregnant unexpectedly. Despite the constant nausea she felt with both of her pregnancies, and the threat of miscarriage that she experienced with each, Barb was delighted to give birth to both of her babies.
LOVING IN SPITE OF THE PAIN
Some love relationships complicate pregnancy. You have difficult choices and adjustments to make in some confusing situations. Simplify things by smoothing out your love life. Then, plan for your baby. A counselor or confidant can help you and your lover define problems and make plans.
No matter what your love relationships are, don't overlook another relationship--that is, the love that you should feel for yourself and for your baby. Do you love yourself and your child? If you don't, seek counseling. When you love yourself, you can more easily handle other love difficulties. Then the decisions you make will be best for both you and your baby.
CONTINUING YOUR EDUCATION AND CAREER
"Remember this also, and be well persuaded of its
truth: the future is not in the hands of Fate, but in ours."
Continuing an education or advancing a career may help you have the life you desire. Can you have your baby without giving up your future plans? Certainly!
If you're in high school, vocational school, or college, you may be considering dropping out of school or college, at least for a while, to parent. Education is valuable. Even if you have to go to school part-time for a while, it may be wiser to continue with your education while you parent.
Women who drop out of school often regret their choice and have great difficulty motivating themselves to go back to school and complete their education. Moreover, they may resent their children for "causing" them to sacrifice their education. Before you fall into this trap, answer the questions in Appendix F, read this section, and discuss your options with a confidant and an educational counselor. This pregnancy won't ruin your education. Many pregnant women, both married and single, complete their education. You can, too.
If you're threatened with expulsion from your school, contact a lawyer. In most situations, it is illegal to expel you from school or college for pregnancy. Even a private institution may be brought up on charges if it discriminates against a pregnant woman. A lawyer can advise you.
Speak to a school or college counselor or nurse about your pregnancy and any adjustments you must make with regard to classes. If a nurse or counselor pressures you to abort, speak to an administrator. Educational employees should support you, not badger you. If the pressure gets severe, ask a PREGNANCY AIDgency to contact the administration, or threaten to take your story to the local newspaper. Either of these actions will probably end the pressure.
Cope with discomforts. Catnap in the nurse's office if you tire easily. Carry low-salt crackers in your purse and munch on them to fight nausea. Walking to class is good exercise and releases stress. Ask for different desks if seating becomes awkward.
Your doctor can arrange for adjustments in physical education classes or sports. If you're trying to hide your pregnancy, have a PREGNANCY AIDgency ask your physical education instructor, coach, and guidance counselor to keep your secret. Tell your classmates whatever you like to explain your altered gym or sports routine. If you're afraid the institution would reveal your secret, tell a PREGNANCY AIDgency. You may be able to relocate to another school or college, have a doctor sign an excuse for you (without mentioning pregnancy), or make another plan.
Classmates will adjust to your pregnancy. If any of them pressure you to abort, remember that many students and faculty have had abortions or have supported those who did. Be firm in your decision to give birth, and others will soon support you. If you're single, your community may take longer than your classmates to accept your pregnancy, but it will do so in time. Despite her pregnancy, popular, congenial Jill was elected senior prom queen over the objections of some community members. After graduating with honors and giving birth to a son, Jill married her fiance.
If you want to continue your education, but not at your school or college, request a home tutor. If your request is denied, a PREGNANCY AIDgency may be able to locate a tutor. Ask about taking courses with a home study option. Mail in course work and keep up with your classes. You may want to skip a semester and return to class after giving birth, or take classes at another institution where no one knows you. Be sure that you can transfer your credits to your original school or college.
What plans will you make for your baby while you are attending school? If you decide to parent, you may want to take some time off from school until the baby is a few months old. Perhaps you'll just keep going to class. Some large high schools and college campuses have day-care centers for students' children. If yours doesn't, perhaps a friend or relative, day-care center, or baby sitter can care for your baby while you're in class. If you'll graduate soon, foster care may care temporarily for your baby. Sixteen when she became pregnant, Julie (mentioned earlier in this chapter) completed high school while her parents watched her baby. Wendy, also sixteen when she became pregnant, lived with her boyfriend and went on welfare when he joined the United States Navy. An A student, Wendy used in-school day care for her child while she completed her education.
You may have to lobby to have family housing facilities at your college campus opened to single mothers. If the college refuses, ask the college to house you in an apartment for the same fee you'd pay for on-campus family housing. If the college still refuses, tell the administration that you will speak to the press, a lawyer, or a civil liberties union, and then do so. Single-parent families have a right to family housing.
A graduate student, Felice decided to stop feeling guilty about her pregnancy, and severed ties with her unemployed, unstable, threatening boyfriend. She continued to take courses and earn money as a college assistant.
The public health system paid for her medical care. A social service agency gave Felice information on child care and referred her to a support group for pregnant women. After Felice requested an apartment in married student housing, the housing opened up to single mothers and is called "family housing" today. After her baby's birth, Felice continued as a graduate assistant and took independent study classes. She and other mothers took turns babysitting for each other's children.
If you want to continue your education, you may wish to choose adoption so that you will have more freedom, or, if you are single, so that your child will have the benefit of two parents. Chapter Five discusses adoption in detail.
As a career woman, you're used to managing your life. You may feel stupid or careless for becoming pregnant. Will coworkers consider you unenlightened if you have your baby? Not if you're firm about it. You have several options available. You may choose adoption, decide to stay home with your baby, or combine your career with motherhood.
Married and single career women in very public positions are having babies. Confidently announce your plans and expect acceptance. A well-known, unmarried anchorwoman on a large television station, Esther went public with the pregnancy she didn't plan and continued her career as a single mother. Yolanda and her husband (Chapter Two) have chosen their careers over parenting by placing their two children in adoptive homes. Aimee and her husband made an adoption plan for their first child so that they could successfully launch their careers and become financially secure. They plan to have more children and parent them later on.
If your employer threatens to fire you because you're pregnant, contact a PREGNANCY AIDgency, women's resource center, lawyer, or civil liberties union. Although employers can move you to a different job or take safety precautions, they probably cannot legally fire you just because you're pregnant. You may have grounds for a lawsuit.
You may work throughout your pregnancy or take maternity leave. If you prefer to leave your job temporarily, request a specific leave of absence. You you may prefer to find a new job.
You can choose from a vast network of child care services to use when you go back to work, including day care, live-in nanny, babysitting, nursery school, and preschool. You can hire a housekeeper or employ a housecleaning service. Your greatest crisis may be deciding when and if to return to your career, and you face the chore of finding good child care when you do. Questions in Appendix F may help you make good decisions.
Some mothers find that they can remain at home and still work for pay. Jobs that can be performed in the home include the grooming of pets, the teaching of health fitness courses, and cottage industries such as the making and selling of crafts or foods. For a listing of over 200 ways to make money by working from your home, write to Focus on the Family, Pomona, California 91799, and request that group's fact sheet on cottage industries.
A soldier in the United States Army, Alice Hendricks has never been married and is the mother of two girls. She lives in rent-free, on-base housing and utilizes the base day-care center while on duty.
You, too, can combine a military career with motherhood. Whether you are married or single, you probably cannot be discharged from the military because you're pregnant. If you are threatened with discharge, contact a lawyer or PREGNANCY AIDgency. You should also discuss any potentially hazardous working conditions with your commanding officer and request a transfer if you or your baby could be exposed to radiation, harmful chemicals, or other hazards.
Physically Demanding Careers
If you're in a physically demanding career such as sports or dance, you may fear that your pregnancy will get you out of condition. Mary Decker Slaney, Valerie Brisco, and Evelyn Ashford are three track stars who have successfully combined motherhood with a sports career. Each has participated in the Olympics and won several medals. Many other mothers are in physically demanding careers, too. If you're in top physical condition, ask your doctor if you can continue your current physical activity until your sixth month of pregnancy or beyond. Whenever you exercise, protect your baby by keeping your body temperature below 101oF,
and follow any other guidelines a doctor gives you. As your pregnancy progresses, you may prefer doing less strenuous exercises and drills, and then easing back into shape after your baby's birth. By the same time next year, you should be in top condition again.
When Nadine, a professional ballet dancer, married and became pregnant, she stopped dancing professionally but continued to take classes until her fifth month of pregnancy. When her baby was a few months old, she returned to classes and did extensive exercises so that she could dance in the Christmas ballet The Nutcracker.
Keeping Your Pregnancy a Secret at Work
If you don't want anyone to know you're pregnant, follow the suggestions in Chapter Two. If you're the owner, manager, or executive of a business or corporation, formulate a reason for going away for a few months. Then begin to look for a temporary replacement. By maintaining contact by phone, your establishment can survive in your absence.
If you're an employee, you'll need to take time off without threat of losing your job. Will a certain boss keep your secret and hold your job? Might your boss be more sympathetic if a PREGNANCY AIDgency makes the contact?
If you don't feel comfortable with any supervisor and you don't want to change jobs, try making yourself an "indispensable" worker. Be self-assured and reliable: care about your job and work diligently.
Then request a few months leave of absence, beginning around the time you feel you can no longer conceal your pregnancy. Say that you need to care for a relative, work out some personal matters, or do whatever else seems plausible. Ask your employer to hold your job, and volunteer to help find a temporary replacement. Offer to do some work from your temporary location. If all goes well, your employer will grant you a leave of absence and your job will be secure.
If you have trouble getting a leave of absence, ask a PREGNANCY AIDgency to speak in your favor, perhaps without revealing your pregnancy. If this fails, work as long as possible, move into a PREGNANCY AIDgency shelter, and prepare some resumes. You'll be able to find another job after your baby is born. Meanwhile, unemployment compensation should help you.
Balancing your pregnancy with an education or career requires adjustments. Some of these will be minor, others major. With the help of your confidant, PREGNANCY AIDgency volunteer, or counselor, you will be able to make the adjustments with the least amount of stress.
Problems work themselves out in time. Soon your pregnancy will fit into your new lifestyle.
HANDLING PREGNANCY IN PRISON
"You can put a body in prison, but the soul has wings."
--M. P. N.
Today more women than ever are being put in prison, and more of them are pregnant when they enter. You might be a hardened criminal, a naive prostitute, a teenaged shoplifter, or a drug user. Being pregnant and in prison can be frightening. You're worried about your baby and yourself.
A few prisons and county jails are sensitive to the medical and emotional needs of pregnant women. In these, you'll receive excellent care. You may even be able to parent your baby in these prisons.
However, many prisons neglect the special needs of pregnant women. If you ask to see a doctor, request prenatal vitamins, or complain of illness or pain, you may be ignored or given medications that are unsafe for your unborn child. Because you're pregnant, you need to eat a high-protein and high-fiber diet, but you probably won't get it in prison. Your cell mates might have contagious illnesses. You may have to go off alcohol or drugs "cold turkey," which could be dangerous to your baby. You probably won't receive much prenatal care.
After you give birth, or if you miscarry, the prison staff might be insensitive to any postpartum depression or physical problems that you might suffer. Shortly after birth, your baby will probably be taken away. If you don't arrange for parenting, your child may go into foster care and then be adopted, even without your consent.
There are people who will help you in any way they can while you are pregnant and in prison. Because they act on your behalf, they are called advocates. Contact a group that will act as advocate for you, or have a friend or relative contact a group. You're fortunate if you have a prison advocacy group nearby. It will provide you with the help you need. Your second best choice is a PREGNANCY AIDgency. Most PREGNANCY AIDgencies will accept collect phone calls. You may have no money to make a long distance phone call to another agency that will not accept collect calls, and the prison will probably not pay for your calls. Ask a PREGNANCY AIDgency to call other agencies for you. You might also contact a women's resource center, a civil liberties union, or a church's social justice committee. Any of these groups may be able to provide advocates who will help you and your unborn child.
Your advocates will speak to prison officials, local groups, and national prisoner advocacy groups (see Appendix H) to get specific help for you.
Advocates should attempt to have you receive a shorter or changed sentence because you are pregnant. Or they might request an alternative to imprisonment. If you must stay in prison, advocates may be able to arrange for medical care, prenatal vitamins, childbirth classes, and postnatal care, and to pay for these services and dietary supplements if the prison refuses to do so.
If you're promised a shorter sentence or other favors if you abort your baby, your advocates should support you in your decision to give birth. If they don't, then they aren't helping you, and you should select different advocates. If the pressure to abort gets extreme, contact a lawyer, a pro-life group, or a civil liberties union. Prison officials cannot force you to have an abortion and cannot legally make life miserable for you if you don't have one. A lawyer can handle this situation. Contact a PREGNANCY AIDgency or prisoners' advocacy group if you are unable to pay for legal advice.
PARENTING YOUR BABY
Being in prison doesn't mean that you are automatically a poor parent. It does mean that you have some real problems to solve. It's unfair to raise your child when you get out of prison if you could face another arrest. You may have to learn skills, change attitudes, or make new friends in order to keep "clean" after you are released. Join a self-help anonymous group, a women's group, or a religious group, or attend sessions arranged through a mental health or social service agency. Group members can help you learn ways to deal with pressure.
If you plan on parenting your baby after you get out of prison, advocates will be able to help you find someone to parent your baby in a safe environment while you're in prison. A partner, relative, friend, or foster family may do this. Your advocate should try to have you parent your baby as long as possible and should also work for frequent visitation with your children and partner, visitation that allows physical contact. If you are planning to marry, advocates can make arrangements.
Advocates can find people to teach you skills in parenting, discipline, housekeeping, and meal planning, as well as job skills. You may need new housing or you may want to relocate to escape your past. Perhaps you will need legal advice, religious guidance, or marital, family, or psychological counseling.
If you choose to make an adoption plan for your baby, you can straighten out your life while giving your baby a stable home. Advocates can bring you and an adoption agency together. Perhaps the prison will allow you to make the type of adoption plan you want.
If you're still in contact with your partner, he and any children you have will have to know about your baby, especially if you're planning to parent the baby yourself. If they can't visit you often, write letters to them, or have an advocate write the letters for you. Some prisons may allow you to tape-record your messages and mail them home.
YOU AS ADVOCATE
Getting help in prison may require that you change your personality and the way you are used to getting things done. You may be used to bullying your way into power, demanding change, or taking what you want. When working with prison officials, gentle and kind persistence is more likely to get you what you need.
Prison officials see themselves as authorities who deserve respect. The saying "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" definitely holds true when requesting help from prison officials. Be polite and cooperative, yet persistent. Avoid the image of a troublemaker. When you do receive help, even the most basic help, generously thank those who gave it. You'll be more likely to receive help again.
Help prison officials to understand how helping you will actually help them. Show that your requests will make less work, not more. Dale Carnegie's classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People offers excellent advice on working with those who may be unsympathetic to your cause. Be patient. You may not get all that you request, but you should get some help.
Drug abusers Pam and Molly were both carrying high-risk pregnancies, yet received little prenatal care in prison without lobbying for it.
For a time, Pam lived in maximum security in a poorly lighted, barren, and shabby cell. She got little exercise and was shackled whenever she left the prison grounds. Her back pains went untreated until she actively confronted the health services unit. Having lost four children when her mother obtained custody of them and moved away, Pam bore two more in prison. Her father and stepsister care for one child, and a prisoners' advocacy group found a local family to care for the other. The couple often brings the baby to see Pam.
Molly's family arranged for an early release date if she'd enroll in a substance abuse clinic and also take a psychologist's advice to abort. Rachel and Victoria, jailed briefly after an abortion clinic protest, supported Molly's decision to give birth and tried to get her prenatal vitamins, care, and treatment for her asthma. They were unsuccessful until Molly was seventeen weeks pregnant, two weeks before her release date. After a short stay in a shelter for pregnant women, Molly lived with Victoria and received medical assistance, food stamps, and help from a PREGNANCY AIDgency. She avoided drugs and alcohol and even quit smoking! When her son was a few weeks old, she moved into a girlfriend's apartment. With Victoria's and Rachel's help, she is trying to make a new life.
A NEW LIFE
You can have a new life, too. Prison can hold your body, but not your soul. If you want to be free of the past and make a future for yourself and your baby, you can do it. Many people will help you learn the skills you need. Believe in yourself, work hard, and you will succeed.