Getting Through the Pregnancy

 

 

CONFIRMING, CONFIDING, CARING, CONCEALING--

THE FOUR C'S OF PREGNANCY CRISIS

 

"First choices are often the most important ones."

--M. P. N.

 

CONFIRM YOUR PREGNANCY

 

Some women assume that they are pregnant just because they have missed a menstrual period. Are you sure you're pregnant? You may not be! Now you have to make sure. There are several ways that you can find out if you are pregnant.

 

Use a Home Pregnancy Test

 

Pharmacies sell home pregnancy testing kits. If you live in a small town and are afraid of being recognized, order a kit over the internet. Follow the kit's instructions carefully.

 

Modern pregnancy tests claim to be accurate if performed at least one day after a missed period. But, if a test indicates that you're not pregnant and you don't get your period, take another pregnancy test in two or three weeks just to make sure. If this test is also negative, consult your doctor. You may have a medical problem in need of treatment.

 

Consult a Doctor

 

Obstetricians, gynecologists, and general practitioners usually can perform pregnancy tests. Call a local or out-of-town doctor and make an appointment. If you must go to a hospital to have the test done, a doctor will make arrangements.

 

It is best to think of your doctor only as a medical caregiver. Unfortunately, many doctors are poor crisis pregnancy counselors. You may have one who is compassionate and encouraging, but if a doctor discourages you from having your baby, refer to this book for advice.

 

Use a PREGNANCY AIDgency

 

You won't find a phone book listing that reads "PREGNANCY AIDgency." This term is not the name of a specific agency, but rather is this book's general term for social service agencies that deal exclusively with women in pregnancy crises and help them give birth to their babies. Over 3,000 local PREGNANCY AIDgencies exist worldwide under different names such as Birthright, Lifeline, Helpline, and others. These names and others may be listed in your phone book. Most do free pregnancy testing and can offer you help in many other ways as well.

 

To locate a local office, call one of the national hotlines listed in Appendix H at the end of this book. If you get an answering machine, leave your first name and phone number or else call back when the AIDgency is open.

 

Family Planning Clinics--A Word of Caution

 

Family planning clinics and abortion clinics frequently advertise free pregnancy testing. However, these clinics make money by performing abortions and may encourage you to consider one without offering the options listed in this book. If you want to have your baby, a very caring abortion counselor will only distress and confuse you if the counselor is convinced that this pregnancy will ruin your life. No matter what you're told, you can give birth to your baby. This book tells you how.

 

Some abortion clinics advise over 85 percent of the women who test positive for pregnancy to have abortions, according to JoAnn Gaspar, a former employee of Planned Parenthood. Debra Henry, a certified medical assistant who assisted at an abortion clinic, explains. "We were told to find the (pregnant) woman's weakness and work on it. The women were never given any alternatives. They were told how much trouble it was to have a baby." Knowing this, you can decide if you want to go to an abortion clinic at all.

To research an article on abortion counseling, happily pregnant Krystal made an appointment at an abortion clinic. Her own doctor had spoken to Krystal about her four-month-old baby and had allowed her to watch the child on the ultrasound for almost an hour. The clinic counselor never mentioned the word "baby" and positioned the ultrasound screen so that Krystal could see nothing. Even though Krystal said she hadn't thought through the decision to abort, the counselor discussed no alternatives to abortion and, instead, assured Krystal that the "termination procedure" was like "having a tooth pulled." Krystal's article was published in a national magazine. Krystal gave birth to her much loved daughter.

 

CHOOSING A CONFIDANT

 

A pregnancy crisis is a frightening time to be alone. You need a friend in whom you can confide your deepest hopes and fears. But who?

 

Choosing the right confidant will be one of the most important decisions you will ever make. The right confidant will encourage and support you, dispelling much of your stress and tension.

 

You wouldn't be reading this book if you didn't want the best for yourself and your baby. The wrong kind of confidant will offer opinions without really considering what is best for you and your baby. He or she may be kind, intelligent, and well-meaning. But if this confidant is pressuring you to abort your baby, you will experience much additional stress and tension. You don't need any more of that, do you?

 

Finding the Right Friend

 

A volunteer from a PREGNANCY AIDgency should make an excellent confidant. These volunteers are trained to both help and support you. Why not give your local PREGNANCY AIDgency a call? When calling long distance, call collect so that you won't have to pay for the call. Try to visit your confidant, too.

 

Secret Testing in Progress

 

Suppose you have someone other than a PREGNANCY AIDgency volunteer in mind for your confidant. How can you tell if this person will support you?

 

Strike up a conversation with the person you are considering confiding in. Casually bring up pregnancy problems or abortion, focusing on something currently in the news. Or discuss someone who had a surprise pregnancy, or a book or movie with a crisis pregnancy in the plot.

 

How does your potential confidant respond? People may respond in the following ways.

 

* No matter how kind or well-meaning a person is, don't confide in someone whose remarks are very much in favor of aborting your baby. Such remarks might include, "Abortion is a legal right. It's the best choice." "I don't know why women have babies they didn't plan." "The world is too populated already." "An unplanned baby can ruin your life." "Abortion is the best way out of a bad situation."

People have a right to these opinions. However, no matter how nice these people are, they are likely to attempt to persuade you to abort your baby.

 

* Consider confiding in someone who is against abortion. This person might say, "A woman can always choose adoption." "A baby should have a chance." "If women would just have faith, God would help them give birth." "A woman might have problems because of an abortion."

 

If this person is kind, clear-thinking, and nonjudgmental, you may have found an excellent confidant who would stick by you through good times and bad, right up to and even after the birth.

 

* Many people claim that abortion should be a personal choice. "It's up to a woman to decide." "I would never have an abortion myself, but I can't stop someone else from having one." "A woman has to live with her own decision." "I don't like abortion, but if a woman thinks she needs one, it's her choice."

 

A proponent of abortion who is honestly pro-choice should accept your choice to give birth and should help you to carry out that choice. However, some people who claim to be pro-choice may believe that abortion is almost always the best choice. These people may try to persuade you to believe this, too. Take care in choosing your confidant to ensure that the individual is most interested in your plans--not in a personal agenda.

 

This Is the One!

 

Keep chatting with potential confidants until you find one who seems supportive. Ask your confidant to keep your secret and invite your confidant to stand by you and to help you. If you find that you've made a poor choice, quiz others and choose again.

With two adolescent children, a recently born baby she hadn't planned on having, and a husband who had just gone bankrupt, Harmony got pregnant again. By confiding in a pro-life friend and keeping her pregnancy hidden until her sixth month, Harmony slowly worked through her depression and anger, and came to believe that God had a plan for her baby. Her husband got a new job, and her baby girl brought great joy to her family.

 

CARE FOR YOUR BABY AND YOURSELF

 

Every pregnant woman needs to be under a doctor's care from the very beginning of her pregnancy. A doctor will prescribe prenatal vitamins, which will keep you and your baby healthier, and will be able to spot and treat any medical problems that arise. For your own health and that of your baby, you need to choose a doctor now.

 

Of course, you want a doctor who will be supportive of your decision to give birth. Not all doctors will feel this way. Chapter Three and Appendix E will tell you how to choose a supportive doctor. Refer to these sections now.

 

If you are embarrassed by your pregnancy, or don't want others to know about it, you may feel very uneasy about seeing a doctor. Ask a PREGNANCY AIDgency to refer you to a good doctor in a nearby area, or consult the phone book to find a doctor who does not know you. Remember, a doctor should not broadcast your pregnancy to the world, or even to your parents or partner, if you don't want others to know.

 

CONCEAL YOUR PREGNANCY

 

If you're not blessed with supportive family and friends, it's probably best to conceal your pregnancy until you have a plan for dealing with it. By waiting several months, some people who would have pressured you to abort will think that you are "too far along."

By then, you'll feel more confident and at peace because you will be working out ways to give birth. You can carefully plan if, how, and when to announce your pregnancy and your pregnancy plan to others.

 

For now, do not mention your pregnancy to anyone who might discourage or pressure you, not even a parent or lover. Confide in your confidant and doctor only. The following suggestions will help you conceal your pregnancy.

 

* Act cheerful and untroubled. Practice looking happy before a mirror until you feel more comfortable. Get your rest by going to bed earlier or spending time in your bedroom. If you share a room, see if you can rest at your confidant's house. If nausea is a problem, refer to the advice given later in this chapter.

 

* If you engage in strenuous physical activity or have a potentially dangerous job, tell your doctor. If necessary, your doctor can exempt you from some physical activities or request safer working conditions without making your pregnancy public.

 

* Practice good posture. Slouching emphasizes your belly. Good posture makes your tummy recede into your waistline. Ask your doctor for some posture exercises for pregnant women, or consult a library book.

 

* Wear concealing clothing, not maternity clothes. Although your stomach may look fat to you, proper clothing can conceal the bulge from others for at least five to seven months. Fasten your jeans or skirts with pins or leave the snap and zipper open. Choose long, large, loose bulky sweaters, T-shirts, jogging suits, men's shirts, or oversized blouses. Consider elastic-waisted slacks in a larger size; billowy, oversized fashions; or suits with concealing jackets. Purchase maternity pantyhose and you needn't worry about them slipping. As you gradually switch to looser styles, people will assume you've changed your wardrobe or that you've gained a little weight.

Gayle's wardrobe of tasteful suits and loose dresses was perfect for hiding her unexpected pregnancy, especially since Gayle had beautiful posture. She wanted to parent her baby but hid her pregnancy until the eighth month, even from her other four children, the youngest a preteen. At forty-two, Gayle was campaigning for public office after recovering from an extremely malignant form of abdominal cancer. She did not want her family to pressure her to stop campaigning or to choose abortion, as her doctors, who feared the pregnancy might cause the cancer to recur or spread, were doing. Ten days after losing her bid for office,

Gayle gave birth to a son whom she calls "a gift from God."

 

FOLLOW THE FOUR C'S

 

Confirm your pregnancy--then you can begin planning for your baby. Find a confidant to share your burden. Choose a good doctor to care for you and your baby. Conceal your pregnancy until your plans are firm. Soon your crisis will turn into cradlesong.

 

KEEPING YOUR PREGNANCY A SECRET

 

"A secret's a secret if only trustworthy folks know."

--M. P. N.

 

Not every woman has to conceal her pregnancy. In many areas, unmarried moms are common and generally well accepted. Think carefully about whether you really need to keep your pregnancy a secret and from whom. Being truthful is always much simpler than keeping any secret.

 

However, you may come from a very conservative family or a very conventional area. You may be in an abusive or threatening environment. Possibly, you have a very good reason for keeping your pregnancy a secret. But can you really conceal your pregnancy and give birth to your baby? Yes, you can.

 

Most women who keep their pregnancies secret make adoption plans for their babies as Andrea, Kathleen, and Farrah (mentioned later in this chapter) did. Chapter Five and Appendix G will help you make an adoption plan.

 

MAKING A PLAN

 

You may want to keep your pregnancy a secret from your family and friends, but somebody will have to know. The best thing to do is to contact a PREGNANCY AIDgency to devise a safe, comfortable plan. You will probably need to consider one or all of the following in making plans to conceal your pregnancy.

 

Overcoming Embarrassment

 

If you're unmarried but embarrassed by your pregnancy, wear an inexpensive wedding band. If anyone mentions your husband, you could say, "All that guy left me is this baby. I prefer not to talk about it." This statement avoids lying, keeps people from prying, and leaves you free to date.

 

If a new relationship begins to get serious, tell this desirable man the complete truth. If he loves you, he should be able to accept your pregnancy. A PREGNANCY AIDgency volunteer or other counselor can help you tell him lovingly and gently.

 

Alibis

 

If you move away to give birth, you need a believable alibi for going. In your new location, a PREGNANCY AIDgency can help you get a job, continue your education, or learn a skill. You can tell those at home that you're visiting friends, taking a vacation, or caring for a relative. Or say you've been under a lot of stress (don't say why) and a doctor has ordered you to get away for a while. You could make up a unique excuse.

 

Andrea and Kathleen used these techniques to hide their pregnancies forever, even from their families. Andrea said she was "going on vacation" but, instead, went to a PREGNANCY AIDgency shelter home and gave birth. Kathleen went away to college and gave birth in the college town. Andrea returned home with postcards, and Kathleen with college credits, without anyone suspecting that the two had been pregnant. Wealthy, prestigious Farrah's parents would not even tell the PREGNANCY AIDgency their daughter's real name as she took an extended trip out of the country. All three of these women made adoption plans.

 

Other Children

 

If you have other children, what arrangements will you make for them? Can a friend or relative care for them if you go away? Could you have a nanny in your home? Could your children go with you? A PREGNANCY AIDgency can help you make plans.

 

Permanent Relocation

 

Some women move elsewhere permanently. Maybe you'd like to start out fresh someplace else. When you decide where, ask a PREGNANCY AIDgency to help you get settled. Then consider counseling to heal emotional wounds from the past and to provide you with skills for the future.

 

KEEPING YOUR SECRET AND PARENTING YOUR BABY

 

As mentioned before, most women who keep their pregnancies secret choose adoption. Some, however, make plans for parenting their babies themselves. Do you want to do this? Think carefully before you decide. Unless you are in a very difficult, unusual, or dangerous situation, it's much better to tell the truth. People will adjust in time.

 

However, if parenting your baby while keeping your pregnancy a secret is your only real choice, you must plan very carefully. You need an excuse for going away. Then you must fabricate an adoption story. You'll have to be strongly motivated to carry this off without telling complicated lies that might ensnare you. Below are some stories you could use.

 

* You could tell people that your parents have consented to adopt a relative's baby. Make up an excuse for going away. Send your newborn, known as the "relative's baby" to others, home. Then return home several months later.

 

If you want to breastfeed, ask a PREGNANCY AIDgency to place your baby with a nearby family. You return home. Visit and breastfeed your baby daily until you bring the infant home several months later.

 

* Ask a close friend to parent your baby for a time. Tell people that this friend is helping out a friend or relative who can't parent right now. After a time, the baby's fabricated mother either dies or puts the baby up for adoption. Your friend doesn't wish to adopt the baby, but you have come to know and love the child. You graciously "adopt" the infant.

 

* You might tell people that you are making private adoption arrangements. Things are moving along quite quickly. However, you have to go away for a while on business or for some other fabricated reason.

 

Find someone to parent your child temporarily. Leave your baby with this person and return home. In a few months, joyfully announce that your adoption has come through! You return to your baby's temporary home and bring the baby back with you, having "adopted" your child.

 

* You could say nothing about adoption. Instead, remark that a very ill relative or friend has been in touch with you. Get a friend or PREGNANCY AIDgency volunteer to play the role of this imaginary woman. Write her letters and telephone her.

 

This woman eventually asks you to come and care for her, so you leave your family to do so. What you are really doing is going away to give birth. Finally, you agree to raise this woman's baby because she is too ill or emotionally unstable to do so. You might even say the woman died.

 

RECORD THE TRUTH

 

If you are planning to "adopt" your own baby, you need not sign any legal papers because the adoption is only a story. However, someone may question the adoption. Someday your child may want to find his or her "birth mother." Confidentially file the true story with your lawyer. Someday, when your present situation has passed, someone may need to know the facts.

 

At a dance, a married acquaintance offered Sarah, who had a physical disability, a ride home and raped her on the way. Single and pregnant, Sarah went to a maternity home but was so uncomfortable choosing adoption that her parents agreed to raise baby Ria as if she were Sarah's sister.

 

Afraid that Ria would run away if she knew the truth, Ria's family did not tell her who her birth mother really was until she had come home from law school to care for the two elderly "parents," now terminally ill. When Sarah's mother told Ria that she was not Ria's mother, Ria gently responded, "I know. Sarah is. Someone told me years ago."

 

After her "parents" died, Ria returned to law school. Today she has a successful law practice. Sarah lives with Ria. The two are very close.

 

KEEPING THINGS QUIET

 

Pregnancies can be kept secret if they must be. Review your reasons for wanting to keep your pregnancy a secret. Are they strong enough to warrant the suggestions in this chapter? If so, enlist the help of someone you can trust plus your local PREGNANCY AIDgency. If you are strongly motivated, you can keep this pregnancy a secret from those who don't need to know, while still giving birth.

 

RELIEVING PANIC AND STRESS

 

"In the midst of every hurricane

lies a center of calm."

--M. P. N.

 

Does this pregnancy really worry you? You may be unable to think, eat, or sleep. You may feel as if you are losing your mind. Is this stress normal? Yes!

 

HORMONAL CHANGES PRODUCE STRESSFUL EMOTIONS

 

Pregnancy changes your body chemistry with hormones. Hormones are chemicals made by endocrine glands. They are secreted directly into your bloodstream. While keeping you pregnant, these pregnancy hormones also cause mood shifts regardless of whether your pregnancy involves crisis. This is why you may feel confident one minute and despairing the next. You're experiencing the normal emotional roller coaster of pregnancy. As your body adjusts to pregnancy, the hormonal upheaval will end and your moods will stabilize. Then you'll feel better!

 

If you're at the very beginning or very end of your childbearing years, your hormones will be even more disturbed. Even if you are not pregnant, your fluctuating level of hormones during adolescence and menopause can make you feel conspicuous, emotional, and irritable. This is how women who are entering puberty and menopause feel. Rebellion and depression are normal and will subside in time.

 

CRISIS CREATES UPHEAVAL

 

It takes a while to accept the fact that you really and truly are pregnant. When denial disappears, you'll feel emotions that range from worry to despair. How can this be happening? How can life go on normally when you are so tense and jumpy? Are people staring at you? How do you handle anger, guilt, fear, worry, helplessness, and frustration? Do you punch walls, run a marathon, cry? Will you ever smile again?

 

You may feel exhausted, nauseated, or tearful. You may experience cramps. Concentrating on anything seems impossible. You think only about yourself.

 

You're experiencing the normal symptoms of stress and adjustment. Experiencing strong emotions means that you are facing, not burying, your crisis. That's healthy.

 

SUICIDAL FEELINGS

 

You might get so depressed that you think of killing yourself. If you have these thoughts often, or if you are really considering suicide, call a suicide hotline, emergency helpline, or PREGNANCY AIDgency twenty-four-hour hotline. Call now! Chapter Seven has additional information on dealing with suicidal tendencies that you may have during your pregnancy.

 

THE EFFECT OF PAST TRAUMAS

 

Your past affects your self-image and your behavior. You may have unhealthy attitudes that are keeping you from handling this crisis well.

 

Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect can leave you feeling worthless. If no one seemed to care about you in the past, you may doubt that anyone will care now. Why should anyone care anyway? Why care yourself?

 

Perhaps in the past--or now--you did not "fit in" with your peers, and had few friends. Because of that, you may dislike yourself and feel incapable of dealing with others. You may be terrified of how others will react now that you are pregnant.

 

On the other hand, you may want to please your peer group. You may feel that popularity comes from "fitting in" and "going along with the crowd," and your crowd may think that giving birth is foolish.

 

Maybe you were hurt when someone said or did something to you or when someone you loved disappeared from your life. Perhaps you feel responsible, possibly unreasonably, for being hurt. You may be afraid that this pregnancy will hurt others or yourself.

 

Perhaps you grew up in a home where a parent, grandparent, or guardian had addictions or other unhealthy life patterns. Did this person drink too much, abuse drugs, gamble, overeat, nurse depression, or have excessive or deviant sexual interests? Did this person break promises, overreact, or seem self-centered? This may have affected your self-esteem in a negative way. Or did this person give you everything you wanted and let you do as you pleased? This may have caused you to grow up thinking that life is supposed to be constantly easy.

 

We learn coping skills from our parents. If your grandparents had childish behaviors, your parents probably learned similar behaviors and parented you poorly. You learn from your parents. You may never have learned responsibility or maturity because no one in your family ever modeled those behaviors.

 

An indifferent, inconsistent, overly indulgent, overly restrictive, or abusive parent or guardian can make you feel helpless, incompetent, or rebellious. Because of your upbringing, it may be easy for others to manipulate you. You may try to run from a crisis. Perhaps you would rather do nothing than deal with a crisis.

 

THE EFFECT OF ADDICTIONS

 

If you're addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, spending, sex, food, or anything else, or if you engage in self-mutilation, you're running from life or trying to bury emotional wounds. Why are you doing this? Peer pressure? An unhappy home life? School pressure? Stress? Is your addiction enjoyable?

 

Your maturity ends when your addiction begins. In order to plan for your baby, you need to think clearly and maturely. Stopping your addictive behavior definitely helps.

 

However, you can't break an addiction on your own. You need help. Take these three steps first: admit that you have an addiction, that you desperately want to stop the addiction permanently, and that you cannot stop it without help.

 

Understand your addiction. Do  some online research in dealing with  addictions. Call a hospital or helpline for referral to counselors, psychologists, or self-help groups that deal with addictions. Appendix H lists some groups. If your area has no group that deals with your specific addiction, find a support group that focuses on a different addiction. Most "anonymous" groups follow the same twelve-step program. You'll find help, advice, and group support in staying "clean and serene" and in breaking your addiction. Then you will be able to plan a better life for yourself and your baby.

 

CONFIDE IN SOMEONE

 

Speak to someone who can help you work through your past and your problems while supporting your decision to bear your baby. How about your confidant? What about a counselor, member of the clergy, or self-help group? Consult books. Appendix I has some sources to help you. Discover in what areas you need healing and growth, and learn to deal with crisis.

 

Valerie came from a cold, uncommunicative, alcoholic, wealthy family. She had experienced the death of a sister, had experimented with drugs, and had several sexual relationships and three abortions. Despite a doctor's advice to abort, she had borne one child and was pregnant again. When this child was born severely ill, her mother-in-law, who disapproved of Valerie's racial background, committed suicide.

 

The product of a traumatic childhood, Valerie's husband had emotional problems, too. At Valerie's insistence, he stopped seeing other women, got a vasectomy, and went for counseling. Valerie began attending religious services, prayed daily, and sought spiritual counseling.

 

Today Valerie and her husband have a close relationship, although they are still working through some past traumas. Valerie is a family therapist specializing in Post Abortion Stress Syndrome and the medical aspects of abortion.

 

MANAGING STRESS

 

Regardless of whether you have experienced past traumas or have addictions, you must learn to manage stress or stress will manage you! You can manage stress in several ways, some of which are suggested here. Do whatever seems to work for you.

 

Physical Activity

 

Physical activity and exercise release stress. Because you're pregnant, you must be careful not to strain your abdominal muscles. Avoid pulling, stretching, heavy lifting, and other activities that put strain on your abdomen. Abdominal strain may harm you and your baby.

Always check with your doctor before engaging in sports or other physical activities, including those suggested here. If you have a health problem or have had a difficult previous pregnancy, your doctor may tailor an exercise program to fit your situation.

 

Ask your doctor about walking. It tones your body by strengthening your cardiovascular system and by exercising nearly all your muscles. You should jog only if you are a seasoned jogger, and only under a doctor's supervision. Walking and jogging get you outdoors, where the soothing psychological effects of natural light can help you feel better, too.

 

Indoors, you can walk in place, about fifty-five steps a minute. Do this for twenty minutes a day while watching TV, and you'll feel better!

 

All standard swimming strokes--crawl, breast stroke, side stroke--are usually fine during pregnancy. Check with your doctor to be sure. Swim a half mile or less daily in comfortably warm water.

 

Riding a regular bicycle is dangerous late in pregnancy, because your pregnant body changes your balance and you may fall. Bike stores sell equipment that can convert a regular bike into a stationary one. Or, you can buy or borrow a sturdy new or used stationary bike. Pedal for ten minutes, two or three times daily, at a comfortable rate of about seven miles per hour. You can buy a reading rack for a stationary bike and read while riding, or you can watch television while you ride.

 

Several books contain exercises for pregnant women, and a few are listed at the end of this book. Obtain these books from a library, doctor, or bookstore. Another good idea is to take prenatal exercise classes or prenatal aerobics. Look in your newspaper for details, or call your local hospital.

 

Relaxation Exercises

 

Ask your doctor about the following anti-stress exercise, suggested in many books on pregnancy fitness. Lie comfortably on your side with a pillow under your head. Keep your bottom leg relaxed and straight. Use two pillows to support your upper leg, comfortably bent at the knee. Late in pregnancy, you may use soft pillows to support your uterus or breasts. In this position, your body can be totally comfortable and relaxed.

 

Beginning with one foot, contract (tense or tighten up) that foot's muscles as slowly and tightly as possible while breathing in deeply and slowly through your nose. Then slowly relax your foot completely while breathing out slowly through your mouth. Think "contract" while contracting and "relax" while relaxing. Then slowly contract and relax your other foot.

 

Proceed slowly through each muscle in your body in the following order: each calf muscle (the muscle between your ankle and your knee), each thigh muscle (the muscle in your upper leg), your pelvic floor muscle (the muscle you use to stop urination), your buttocks, your abdomen, your chest, your shoulders, each hand, each arm, your neck, and your entire face. The more slowly you do these exercises, the more relaxed you will feel.

 

After finishing the exercises, take two slow, deep breaths through your nose and let them out slowly through your mouth.

Do relaxation exercises at least three times daily. You will soon be able to relax consciously. If you practice now, you will be able to do relaxation exercises during labor, and you will probably have a quicker, more comfortable delivery.

 

Housework

 

Your doctor will probably agree that nonstrenuous housework offers a safe, effective method for reducing tension, while completing disagreeable or boring tasks. Don't do anything that will strain your abdominal muscles or that might throw you off balance and cause a fall. Don't move or lift heavy items or climb on ladders and chairs! Avoid using disinfectants, furniture polishes, and other cleansers with strong fumes. It is usually safe to do light yard work, light housecleaning, and creative cooking.

 

Hobbies and Other Pursuits

 

Hobbies are excellent ways to relax. Unless you like to skydive or water-ski, most hobbies are safe to engage in during pregnancy. To be sure, ask your doctor.

 

Arts and crafts are fun. Don't worry about whether you're good at your craft. The goal is to relax and release tension, not to win a contest. Be sure to check with a doctor before using any paints or glues with strong fumes. Fumes can make you ill and may be harmful to your baby.

 

Techniques for Releasing Tension

 

Besides exercise and hobbies, there are some unusual tension-releasing methods that can be effective. The suggestions that follow may help.

 

* Scream--either out loud or in silence. But keep in mind that unborn babies four months old or older can hear your voice, so you may want to muffle your screams so as not to startle your child. Scream into a pillow, or turn on the bathroom shower full blast, and scream or sing at the top of your lungs.

 

* Punching pillows releases explosive anger and frustration and is much better than punching people or walls! It also helps if you have a tendency to harm yourself when you are upset. If your children catch you punching pillows, explain that you are upset, but not with them, and that this makes you feel better.

 

* Take a handful of newspaper and twist, tear, puncture, and shred it to bits. Cleaning up also reduces tension (whereas not cleaning up creates it!).

 

* Crying is a wonderful outlet for your emotions. A good cry may make you feel better.

 

* Do isometric exercises with your face, hands, and feet (do not do them with your abdomen or chest). Get comfortable. Contract your muscles as tightly as possible, in one area of your body at a time, then consciously relax them.

 

Quiet Relaxation Techniques

 

Relaxation is important for your health and that of your baby, and helps release tension. There are many things you can do to help yourself relax.

 

Don't overlook gentle touching. Ask a friend for a hug, a massage, or a back rub. Then return the favor. Have someone brush your hair. Touch and play with a pet. Cuddle a youngster or that special someone! Touching and being touched can help release stress from your body.

 

Take a warm shower. The flow of warm water and the murmur of the shower will put you at ease.

 

Get your sleep! This means seven or eight hours at night and a catnap or two during the day as well. Drink a glass of milk before going to bed. It acts as a natural tranquilizer. Or substitute cheese, low-calorie ice cream, or yogurt.

 

Watch Your Diet

 

Remember that whatever you put into your body affects both you and your baby. Some foods increase tension and nervousness, and have other undesirable effects.

 

Caffeine can make you "jumpy," absorb B vitamins, and increase your nausea. Avoid caffeine-containing foods, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and many soft drinks, as well as chocolate- or coffee-flavored foods.

 

Pastries, candies, desserts, soft drinks, and many breakfast cereals contain excess sugar. Sugar's quick pick-up takes a quick downturn to exhaustion and depression.

 

Many processed foods, mixes, candies, pastries, and dry cereals contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. If you are sensitive to these additives, you'll feel jumpy, frustrated, sleepless, angry, or depressed for hours or even days after eating them.

 

One in ten people has a food sensitivity but does not know it. If you have a food allergy, you may feel ill, tense, or grouchy after eating the offensive food. Appendix I lists some books that can help you discover food allergies and tell you how to handle them.

 

Avoid alcoholic beverages, smoking, overeating, and taking drugs. These are bad for you and your baby, can cause addictions, and can mask your problems without really helping you to solve them. Find better ways to relax.

 

BURNOUT

 

Heavy involvement in your career or in home, school, social, or civic activities, coupled with pregnancy worries, may make you feel as if you are losing or out of control. You may be burning yourself out by trying to do too much.

 

With your confidant, evaluate your lifestyle and what you should do. You may need to make some changes.

 

If you feel as if you are doing too much, reduce your activities. Re-examine your hectic schedule and keep only those activities that give you the most satisfaction. Learn to say "no" to requests for your time. Each day, consciously take some time to relax. Each week, do something that you really enjoy.

 

Make lists of jobs you would like done, do what's important, and let the rest go. Admit that you cannot do everything well at the same time.

 

BE CALM

 

You can help yourself calm down. As your pregnant body's rapid hormonal shifts slow down and attain an equilibrium, you will begin to feel better. As you start to manage your life, you'll feel calmer, too. Each day, do something to reduce your tension. As you feel calmer, you'll be able to deal more rationally with your future, think more clearly, and make workable plans. Meeting these objectives is cause for rejoicing!

 

DEVELOPING A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

 

Doubt sees the obstacles--

Faith sees the way!

Doubt sees the darkest night--

Faith sees the day!

Doubt dreads to take a step--

Faith soars on high.

Doubt questions, "Who Believes?"--

Faith answers, "I."

--Author unknown

 

Remember the familiar children's story The Little Engine That Could? The little engine faced the almost impossible task of pulling a much larger disabled train over a high mountain. The little engine chugged up the mountain, chanting, "I think I can. I think I can." And she succeeded because she worked hard and thought positively.

 

When you talk to yourself (and we all do that--quietly or out loud), what do you say? Do you make plans with confidence or are you a negative thinker? Do you think, "I can never solve this problem" or "I can't do it" or "This will never work out"? If so, negative thinking paralyzes you!

 

You must learn to think positively. "I can solve this problem." "I can do it." "This will work out."

 

"I think I can" will help you get the job done. Positive thinking really does work. Try it. You'll be surprised at how good you'll start to feel about yourself.

 

BECOME A POSITIVE THINKER

 

You will have to keep reminding yourself to be a positive thinker. Below are some ways suggested by Robert Handley, an expert in positive thinking, to do so.

 

* Remind yourself by sticking colorful children's stickers in various locations such as on your refrigerator, typewriter, phone, and notebook. Whenever you see a sticker, examine whether you feel relaxed and what you are thinking. Are you tense? Are you engaging in negative self-talk?

 

* If you're tense, relax following a technique mentioned previously in this chapter. Change any negative thoughts into positive ones. If you're thinking, "I can't do this," think instead, "I can do this." If you're nervous, tell yourself, "I can feel calm." If you feel that your situation is hopeless, think, "This will work out."

 

* Visualize yourself working successfully through your problems. Visualize how you would act, what you would say, who you would see, where you would be, and what you would have to do to make this vision a reality. Let this book guide you.

 

* Act like the person you want to be. Act peaceful and confident, even if you're nervous, and you will influence your subconscious mind. You will actually start to become a more confident, calm woman.

 

* Avoid people who tell you that you can't handle your life and who feed you other negative thoughts. They will undermine your confidence.

 

* Find inspirational books in a library, bookstore, church, or synagogue, or borrow some. If you read ten or fifteen minutes a day, your outlook will brighten.

 

* Whenever you do something to build your confidence, congratulate yourself. Say, "Great job! You did it!" or a similar praiseworthy comment.

 

TREAT YOURSELF WELL

 

Gain perspective by "getting away from it all." When you return from your "vacation," you will feel more relaxed and better able to cope. If you can't afford to pay for a vacation, consider a brief visit to a relative or friend who lives in another area.

 

If you are financially able to do so, take an actual vacation in an enjoyable location with a minimum of stress. Stay as long as possible. Do what feels comfortable. Check with a doctor to see what kinds of physical activity are advisable.

 

Go on a retreat. Religious groups allow individuals who pay a minimal fee to visit retreat houses for periods of time. Meals and a bedroom are provided. Counselors are available if you want to talk. Even if you aren't "religious," you can still "make a retreat." Retreats can be made in groups or alone. No one will try to convert you! It will help you immensely just to get away. If you like, you can seek out individuals who can encourage you. If you don't want company, you will be left alone. Local churches and synagogues may be able to direct you to a nearby retreat center.

 

For a few hours, enjoy a quiet spot of natural beauty and gain perspective. Watch the sunset or sunrise or lie beneath the stars. Your problems will seem smaller.

 

Do you have pretty house plants, an aquarium, or a flower garden? Get into a comfortable position and simply meditate on the loveliness of nature. If you don't own any living thing, purchase a plant or a pretty dried flower arrangement to use as a meditative focal point. When close to nature, we see our problems in a more realistic way.

 

Try to do something nice for yourself every day. Even if you only read a short poem, play a relaxing record, or have a cool glass of juice, give yourself a little treat and learn to relax for a moment or two.

 

Once a week, treat yourself to something special. You'll soon begin to feel better.

 

DO FOR OTHERS

 

When you feel washed out, depressed, and confused, you may wonder how you can give anything to others. But, as long as you don't overcommit yourself, doing something for someone else often helps to put your own problems in perspective. It lets you see that others are in need, too.

 

Find a religious or community group that helps others. Volunteer at a nursing home, school, thrift shop, soup kitchen, or hospital. Visit a lonely person. Play with a child. Shop for a shut-in. Pray for someone. Do someone an expected favor. It's easy to find someone in need. Brightening another's day will brighten yours, too.

 

Of course, thinking about what you are doing for your baby can help you feel good, too. Your child will have a good life because of your plans.

 

KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR

 

A famous person once said, "To laugh is to jog internally." Laughing really helps, both your body and your attitude.

 

Now it may seem cruel or ridiculous for someone to tell you to keep your sense of humor when you are in a pregnancy crisis. Your whole future seems to be spinning away! What's funny about that?

 

In the midst of every crisis should be something bright and light. If you cannot find anything at all, speak to a counselor. You may need to live elsewhere, in a more peaceful, comfortable, and joyful environment. Only then can you deal with the seriousness of your crisis.

What can you laugh about? You might laugh at your mistakes, about how you've changed, and about how you've taken life so seriously. Read a joke book, a funny story, or the daily comics. Watch a genuinely humorous movie, video, or television show. See a comedy in the theater. Go to a playground or zoo and watch the children. If you like to play on the playground equipment or go to an amusement park, ask your doctor if you can. Remember, you're pregnant, so avoid jolting, jerking, and wild rides.

 

Laughter is medicine for the soul. Look for the odd, funny, and unexpected. Make yourself smile again.

 

Lynn and Fred planned on having four children. During her fifth pregnancy, Lynn joked about her "surprise package," who was really a surprise when he was born on the way to the hospital. When Lynn got pregnant with number six, she said, "What's one more?" and was glad that her youngest would have a playmate.

 

For an hour a day, Lynn has the older children babysit the younger ones, giving Lynn time to herself. She attends a weekly prayer meeting. Fred gets up an hour early and has that time to read or walk outdoors. Fred and Lynn often go out on a "date," without the kids along.

 

Lynn and Fred have stopped trying to be perfect. They saved time by switching to convenience foods and work-saving gardening methods. The older children "clean" their rooms (Lynn keeps their bedroom doors closed!), and Lynn cleans less frequently.

 

Lynn and Fred are able to handle and enjoy their busy, large family because they divide up work, laugh about their frustrations, and take time for themselves.

 

YOU'RE GONNA MAKE IT!

 

Success doesn't come just because we think it will. Yet success hardly ever comes if we think it won't! Usually only those who think they will succeed do.

 

Remember Dumbo the elephant? He could fly--he certainly had huge enough ears. Yet he didn't believe in himself. He could fly only when his mouse friend gave him a "magic" feather.

 

Dumbo became the star of the circus. Then, one day, while Dumbo was soaring, the feather slipped out of his trunk. Realizing that the feather was gone, Dumbo panicked and began to fall. His mouse friend shouted, "You can fly! It wasn't a magic feather. You can fly. Try!"

 

Faced with death from crashing into the ground below, Dumbo tried. He really could fly! The feather was just a mental crutch.

Maybe you're used to seeing yourself as a "dumbo." You're not used to believing in yourself. Now is the time to begin! Every "dumbo" has gifts and talents. Use yours now. When you think positively, you'll be surprised at what you can decide and do.

 

WRITING YOUR WAY THROUGH YOUR CRISIS

 

"One good plan is worth ten million regrets."

--M. P. N.

 

If you hate to write, the idea of a journal might give you a headache! But a journal is more than a diary or essay. A journal is a tool for defining your problems and organizing and meeting your needs. A well-kept journal will reduce your tension, not increase it. And a journal is only for you. No one else has to read it, so you can write whatever you want.

 

Lots of women get through their pregnancy crisis without a journal. However, some of these women would have managed better had they kept a journal.

 

On the other hand, lots of women do keep journals. Ruth Heil kept one during each of her five pregnancies. Then she turned her journals into a book, My Child Within.

 

Will keeping a journal help you? Try it and decide.

 

How long should you keep a journal? As long as it's helpful. Some days you may write much in your journal; other days, nothing. How much you use your journal depends on you and your situation.

 

HOW TO KEEP A JOURNAL

 

A journal is simply a notebook. Begin filling the blank pages by writing down the emotions or symptoms (such as frustration, anger, guilt, loneliness, helplessness, fear, depression, or weakness) you feel, one emotion or symptom to one page, and the day's date.

When you finish that, go back and look at what you've written. Under each emotion or symptom write the problem that causes it. This will help you understand what is bothering you. You may not realize what is on your mind.

 

Be thorough. Write down everything that is bothering you. At least you'll know why you are upset, and writing may inspire some solutions!

 

Be patient. For a few days, don't attempt to solve your problems or make snap decisions. Just record your emotions or symptoms and your problems whenever you think of them. Then you can start to solve them.

 

After writing down your problems for a few days, reread your journal. As you do, encourage yourself with positive self-talk. Write it down!

 

Here is a sample journal page that shows how recording your emotions can lead to defining your problems.

 

June 5--I'm scared

 

I think I'm pregnant. If I am, I might lose my job. I'll embarrass Mom and Dad. What about the gossip? I hate to be talked about. And what will Daddy do?

 

June 7--Today I'll encourage myself. I can handle pregnancy. I'm twenty years old. It's not as if I don't know about life. If I embarrass people, then I embarrass them. I can make it. I can stand gossip. I can handle Daddy. If I don't like what he tries to do, I can leave. Things are going to be all right.

 

Define Your Needs

 

Think about what you've written. Can you discover what you need to solve your problems? Your confidant may be able to help.

For example, if you are worried about your family's reaction to this pregnancy, you will need to formulate a plan to tell them. You may need to live someplace else. You may even decide to conceal your pregnancy.

 

Write each need on a separate page of the journal, starting each page with the words "I would like" or "I could use." Also record the date.

 

Each woman's needs differ. Take several days to define your needs, then reread them. Do they accurately reflect your concerns?

 

Put Your Needs in Order

 

After you've used your journal to define your needs, you can refer to what you've written and divide your needs into several categories.

 

What needs should be met as soon as possible? One vital, immediate need is medical care, and you may also need other professional advice. It might be helpful for you to obtain emotional support, and you may wish to see a PREGNANCY AIDgency as well. You will probably want to find a confidant.

 

What needs have to be met soon, but not immediately? Perhaps you don't want anyone to know about your pregnancy. In that case, it might be good for you to relocate elsewhere, but you don't have to move this weekend. You have time to plan.

 

What decisions have to be made, but can be put off until the very end of pregnancy or even after birth? You have ample time before making a final decision regarding adoption or a decision about resuming your career once the baby is born.

 

Which things would you like to do, but could live without if you had to? Perhaps you want to attend your school prom, but it is scheduled right around your due date--you can go if you're not in labor or the delivery room! Or you may have a passion to learn skydiving that is best put off until after your baby is born!

 

As you read through this book, you'll find it easier to separate immediate needs from future ones. In a pregnancy crisis, it's definitely better to put off until tomorrow what doesn't have to be done today. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't plan ahead, but it does mean you should take one day at a time.

 

If necessary, conceal your pregnancy so that you can postpone dealing with some situations until you are ready. Work out how to meet future needs later on. Right now, concentrate on the needs that must be met now.

 

If you have problems ordering your needs according to their urgency, ask for help from a trusted friend, counselor, PREGNANCY AIDgency volunteer, or member of the clergy.

 

Record Vital Information

 

You will need to remember the phone numbers, addresses, locations, fees, and business hours of agencies, doctors, childbirth classes, shelters, and counselors, and any appointments you have with them. If you have specific prescriptions or vitamins to take, record that information. You may need to request maternity leave or reschedule plans.

 

Record all specific information in your journal under the need you are meeting. That way, vital information will be at your fingertips. Everything you need to know will be in your journal. Just make sure you keep it in a safe place and don't lose it!

 

Meet Your Needs

 

The remainder of this book discusses how to meet the specific needs of your pregnancy crisis. Once you have used your journal to define just what you need, you can refer to the sections of this book that discuss your specific needs. As you look through this book, you may think of other needs as well. Continue to record your needs as soon as you understand them, and to date your journal entries. Think positively about your ability to obtain what you need. Check the dates recorded in your journal to see how far you've already come. Encourage yourself!

 

Here is a sample journal page that shows how one woman defined a problem, classified it as an immediate need, and went about meeting that need.

 

Immediate Problem to Solve

 

June 8--I want to find out for sure if I am pregnant.

 

Looked in phone book. Birthright--777-7777. Appointment for June 10. 12:00 p.m. (my lunch hour).

 

June 10--Yep. Pregnancy test is positive. My volunteer counselor, Flo, is really nice. I can trust and confide in her as a friend. She told me I could go live in a shelter home and tell Mom I was taking a secretarial course. A secretary can teach me when I'm there. Then I can make an adoption plan for my baby, without Mom knowing, if I want to. I have to think about that.

 

Flo also gave me the name of a doctor--Dr. Hayes. Appointment with him, 34 Beech Street, June 17, 4:45 p.m. 681-2349. Will tell Mom I went to the mall to get pantyhose.

 

June 17--Dr. Hayes is nice. Prenatal vitamin prescription at Grimes Pharmacy, 465 Main Street. Open 24 hours. Will hide vitamins in my bureau drawer so Mom doesn't find them. Next appointment with Dr. Hayes--July 21, 4:45 p.m. Call first to make sure he's not delivering a baby. I can't believe this is working out at last.

 

USE YOUR PLAN

 

You're creating a plan for your pregnancy crisis! This plan is going to work, and you are capable of seeing that it does. By wisely using your journal, you can define your needs. This book will help you meet them.

 

One knot today. One knot tomorrow. Some knots will be easy to untangle, others will be more difficult. Some knots will untangle after a single phone call, and others will take months to straighten out. But you can untangle every knot you face in the jumble that seemed so hopeless a short while ago.

 

Right now you may not know exactly what you are creating. However, as you untangle your crisis, you can be sure that you are knitting its threads into something new and beautiful.

 

OBTAINING THE ESSENTIALS

 

"You cannot escape necessities;

but you can conquer them."

--Seneca

 

All pregnant women have similar, basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. This section will help you define and meet some of these needs.

 

FEEL WELL

 

Many minor physical complaints often accompany pregnancy. Deal with them and you will feel better.

 

* If you tire easily, get to bed early and catnap during the day.

 

* If you get skin rashes, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a lotion or cream that is safe to use during pregnancy.

 

* Sleep on your side or back and buy a bra in a larger size to ease the pain of swollen, sore breasts.

 

* To control heartburn and belching, eliminate spicy foods, eat slowly, and don't overeat.

 

* If you get a leg cramp, immediately get up and walk until the cramp disappears.

 

* Wear support stockings to help varicose veins.

 

* If you have an irritating or itchy vaginal discharge, ask your doctor for medication and wear a thin menstrual pad or an extra pair of cotton panties.

 

* If you urinate frequently, continue to drink water and fruit juices for good bowel regulation--but stay close to a toilet!

 

* If you have constipation or diarrhea, ask your doctor for a diet to control these conditions.

 

* If you have morning sickness, try munching on saltine crackers, dry toast, or dry cereal before you even get out of bed. Then, get up slowly. Eat small, frequent meals, rest a bit after eating, and keep a small amount of food in your stomach. Don't skip meals. Avoid spicy and greasy foods and foods you used to love that now make you ill. Suck lollipops or hard candies. Or make ice pops from fruit juice frozen in paper cups, and stick in a spoon for a handle.

 

* Talk to your doctor about prenatal vitamins and a vitamin B supplement or injection, both of which might control nausea. Your doctor can manage severe nausea medically. A mild tranquilizer prescribed by a doctor will make you feel better if stress is making you ill.

 

EAT WELL

 

Proper diet is essential for your health and the health of your baby. The following guidelines will help you plan and maintain good eating habits.

 

* Follow a sensible diet. Choose natural, unprocessed foods. Cut down on salty, sugary, and fatty foods. Don't overdo on starches and carbohydrates.

 

* For a well-balanced diet that can meet the demands of pregnancy, consult your doctor. Your diet should include dairy products, meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, breads, and cereals. You can treat yourself now and then to a frankfurter, cupcake, or soft drink.

However, a steady diet of high-calorie, low-nutrition foods will put on unnecessary weight and provide few nutrients.

 

* If you cannot afford to buy nutritious food, consult government agencies for assistance. Government aid may also help you obtain prenatal vitamins, another necessity for good health during pregnancy.

 

* Teens often have premature, unhealthy babies because teenaged moms often eat very poor diets. Eat wisely and your baby will probably be fine.

 

* If you've been dieting, the idea of gaining weight during pregnancy may make you feel faint! A doctor will help you develop a good diet so that the weight you gain will come off easily and quickly after you give birth.

 

* If you're anorexic or bulimic, see a doctor and a psychologist at once. Anorexia and bulimia are dangerous conditions and need professional management.

 

* If you're trying to keep your pregnancy a secret, don't starve yourself to stay thin. Instead, eat well, wear concealing clothing, and tell everyone that you're on a health food kick.

 

* Don't drink alcoholic beverages, smoke, or take drugs--these habits are bad for both you and your baby.

 

Saving Money on Food

 

Natural foods stores and groceries carry many affordable, nutritious foods. Buy store-brand and generic items instead of name brands. Plan menus around foods on sale. Use coupons only if you need the food item and only if the price, minus coupon savings, is cheaper than any other brand of the same food.

 

Instead of buying relatively expensive processed foods, mixes, or heat-and-serve dishes, use a good cookbook to make simple, nutritious meals from scratch. If you don't cook, ask a friend or neighbor to teach you how.

 

Buy basic cooking equipment cheaply at garage sales, thrift shops, and store sales. Make sure it's not damaged and is made of safe materials. A doctor or consumer protection group may be able to advise you. Grow your own vegetables or buy some from a home vegetable gardener. Stop buying nonessentials such as cigarettes, alcohol, sweets, snack foods, soft drinks, coffee, gum, and pastries.

Addictions to drugs, alcohol, and even cigarettes are dangerous and costly. Use clinics and self-help groups to help you overcome any addictions.

 

Feeding the Baby

 

Feeding your baby doesn't need to be expensive. The following suggestions will help you with this area.

 

* Breastfeeding your baby is cheaper than buying formula. Breastfeeding groups or nurses can tell you how to store breast milk for your baby if you are working outside the home.

 

* If you must use formula, government assistance may pay for it. If you are not eligible, a PREGNANCY AIDgency may be able to provide free formula.

 

* Make your own baby food using a special, inexpensive baby food grinder or a blender. Baby care books, nurses, and mothers' groups can tell you how to do this so your baby will be healthy.

 

* Ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend a good, inexpensive children's vitamin. Vitamins keep your child healthier and cut down on visits to the doctor.

 

HOUSING OPTIONS

 

Shelter means a supportive, relaxed environment where you can think positively about yourself, your baby, and your future. If you're not in such a home, you may want to relocate. Perhaps you can live with a friend or relative.

 

Some of the agencies listed in the back of this book can refer you to maternity homes and group shelters. Maternity homes provide shelter for several pregnant women, sometimes for a fee. If you can't pay, many homes will drop the fee.

 

Free group shelter facilities house homeless women and their children, usually for a short time only. A social service agency can refer you to women's shelters.

 

A PREGNANCY AIDgency can house you with a family in a "shelter home." You can choose the location of this home, either in your community or elsewhere. You and the family must be able to get along. The family will treat you as a family member and expect you to help around the house a bit. You may be able to stay with some families for a few weeks after you give birth.

 

Housing for Minors

 

Each society has designated a certain age, usually in the upper teens, at which they consider a young person to be an adult. Call a government official, police officer, or school guidance counselor to find out the legal adult age. If you are older than this legal age, you can live anywhere you like. If you are under this age, you are considered a minor and different laws apply. A PREGNANCY AIDgency and lawyer can advise you.

 

Are you a minor living on your own? You may be considered an emancipated minor. You may be able to move elsewhere without parental consent.

 

Are you an abused minor? You may be eligible for a court-appointed guardian. Then you can possibly live away from home without your parent's consent.

 

Are you a minor living with your parent or legal guardian? Your parent or guardian will probably have to consent to your moving elsewhere during your pregnancy.

 

Permanent Housing

 

If you're not planning to return home to live, you'll need to find permanent housing. Perhaps you can afford to share an apartment with a friend or relative. Look in the rental columns of a newspaper or place an ad yourself. Interview all potential apartment mates--you need someone who will respect and encourage you.

 

Read the help-wanted ads. Someone may need live-in help. If they hire you, you will have a job, income, and home.

 

Government agencies can often refer you to low-income housing in your area. Or, you can move to an area where housing costs are low.

 

A PREGNANCY AIDgency or women's resource network may help you find housing and inexpensive furniture.

 

FURNITURE, CLOTHING, AND OTHER MATERIALS

 

If you can afford to buy everything you need brand-new, great! If not, save money by shopping at thrift shops, secondhand stores, and garage sales. Watch the newspaper's classified ads for used baby furniture, baby clothing, and maternity clothes. Go to an auction, listen to a radio "flea market" where callers advertise used items for sale, or shop in factory outlets. Borrow what you need from a friend or persuade someone to host a baby shower. Some PREGNANCY AIDgencies might give you free baby furniture, baby clothing, and maternity clothes. Check with a consumer protection group to see if all secondhand items meet government safety standards.

Be creative. A baby can get by without a lot of gadgets. However, you will need a car seat to keep your baby safe while you are driving. At home, be sure that your baby sleeps in a sturdy, safe place, such as a crib that meets current safety standards. If you're furnishing an apartment, consider doing it in "Early American Garage Sale"!

 

When three women living in different areas became pregnant, they could no longer live with their parents. Each of these women--Aster, Jessica, and Roxanna--sought housing through various agencies. After moving from tenement to hotel, Aster lived in a church-affiliated home for single mothers. Through a government agency, Jessica found a maternity home that helped her locate an apartment after her baby was born. A PREGNANCY AIDgency moved Roxanna, whose parents disapproved of her biracial love affair, into a low-rent apartment that was furnished with donated furniture. Various agencies provided these women with medical care, vocational training, government assistance, food aid, baby items, and training for parenthood.

 

SOURCES OF MONEY

 

If you need money, government assistance may help with medical expenses, food, and rent. You may be able to receive food stamps, heating assistance, aid to families with dependent children, free school lunches, and admittance to soup kitchens. This might be true even if you are not receiving government assistance. If you are receiving assistance, you may be due for an increase because of your pregnancy. If you are relocating, you should be able to receive assistance in your new area. A social service agency can advise you.

If you meet judgmental, rude, or harsh government workers, as Shelley did (Chapter Three), remember that you have a right to have your baby and receive assistance. It is illegal to cut back your welfare payment if you choose to give birth or don't consent to sterilization or abortion. A social service agency can help you deal with threats.

 

Private Sources of Financial Help

 

You may be in financial need yet ineligible for government funds because you are not a citizen or because of other factors. Perhaps government funds have been cut or are simply not enough. Call churches, PREGNANCY AIDgencies, charity groups, and possibly even your local newspaper's consumer rights reporter or features editor. A reporter might do an article on your desperate situation. See if a social service representative will write a letter to the editor about your situation.

 

A group may hold a fund raiser in your behalf. Someone may make an outright money gift. Churches may have "benevolent funds" that can give you money. Perhaps you can work part-time, even from your home, providing child care, filling mail orders, typing, or doing phone work (refer to the information on careers in Chapter Three). Cut back on nonessential expenses. If your financial situation is very bleak, you may choose to consider an adoption plan for your baby.

 

Both Alexandra and Lisa had huge bills to pay when they became pregnant.

 

Alexandra was taking her two-month-old, breast-fed son with her while she worked two babysitting/housekeeping jobs to supplement her husband's meager paycheck. Lisa's husband was unemployed.

 

Alexandra's doctor said breastfeeding while pregnant could have harmed her baby. This is highly unlikely. Lisa had health problems so serious that doctors thought she'd never get pregnant. When she did become pregnant, they predicted that she and her baby would have severe health problems. Both Alexandra and Lisa prayed that they would somehow find help.

 

After using up a savings account to buy formula, Alexandra received government assistance. Two months later, her husband got a better job and Alexandra was able to quit hers.

 

In despair, Lisa scheduled an abortion but met, outside the clinic, a pro-life sidewalk counselor who offered her free baby items and financial aid. Lisa accepted the help. Her husband got another job.

 

Both women had smooth pregnancies and healthy babies whom they deeply love.

 

If you are not a citizen and you wish to parent your baby, your baby will be a citizen and should be eligible for government assistance even if you are not.

 

How Will You Pay for the Doctor?

 

Who is going to pay the doctor, midwife, or hospital? If you're not eligible for government aid, a PREGNANCY AIDgency may be able to find a doctor and/or hospital to care for you free of charge or at very minimal cost. You will be able to pay back any bills over a long period of time. After a normal birth, you can save money by going home within twenty-four hours or even earlier, if you have someone at home to help you.

 

Home birth is less expensive than hospital birth and generally not risky if your pregnancy is normal. However, unforeseen and possibly dangerous problems can arise in any birth. Talk over the pros and cons of home birth with your doctor. Your doctor can also refer you to a midwife who conducts home births.

 

If you make an adoption plan, the adoption agency or adopting couple should pay your medical expenses.

 

LONG-RANGE FINANCIAL PLANNING

 

Social service agencies can refer you to a financial planner who may give you free budgeting advice. Books on financial planning can also help. You may have to learn to budget well if you're going to parent.

 

Earning a high school diploma, if you're without one, will get you a better job and higher pay.

 

Try to choose recreational activities that are not costly. Be creative. Visit parks and other free recreational places. Pack your own lunch instead of buying it in restaurants. Invite friends over for a bring-something-to-eat-with-you party. Give inexpensive gifts. Have fun by being with those you love without spending much money.

 

Unmarried and pregnant, seventeen-year-old Rheta lived in a cramped attic and worked as a maid. After her daughter's birth, she worked nights and studied for her high school equivalency diploma days while a neighbor babysat. Rheta continued working low-paying jobs and receiving welfare while she bore two sons. She moved into a low-income housing project and eventually obtained an associate's degree from a nearby college.

 

Rheta always took time to do simple, fun things with her children. She became involved with their school and sports events. Her two oldest children attended college, and her youngest is doing well in high school.

 

BEGINNING TO UNTANGLE YOUR CRISIS

 

Helping yourself means meeting certain basic needs. Start a good, healthy diet and obtain prenatal vitamins as soon as possible. You may be able to delay answering shelter and clothing concerns until later. If finances are a problem, much help is available from government and private agencies as well as PREGNANCY AIDgencies. If you want additional information on any topic, Appendix I lists many excellent sources to consult. Meeting basic needs is a good place to begin untangling your crisis.