There are no two words that can cause such varied and extreme reactions as the words, “I’m pregnant.” If you are in a committed relationship and you have been trying for months, maybe years, to conceive, these can be the happiest words of your life. But if you are not in a situation where you are committed to the girl uttering the words, or the two of you simply are not in a situation where you can raise the child, this phrase can sound like a death knell.
When you are first told of an unexpected pregnancy, you will experience many emotions: shock, disbelief, fear, horror, anxiety. No matter what your first reaction, it is best if the first words out of your mouth are not: “Are you sure it’s mine?” If this is your first impulse, just don’t say anything. You might as well just call her a slut and say that this is clearly her fault. If she didn’t think the baby was yours, she probably wouldn’t be having this conversation with you.
The other thing you want to avoid from the get-go is the laying of blame. Maybe you are both to blame for this situation, maybe it’s a broken condom’s fault. It really doesn’t matter much at this point, does it? Every time you have sex you are taking the chance that a child will be conceived. That’s just the gamble you take with sexual intercourse. If you don’t accept that, you have no business ever taking your pants off in the presence of the opposite sex in the first place.
What comes next will be a very difficult conversation about what you want and don’t want and what you are both going to do about it. If you want to be supportive, use the word “we” when discussing how you are going to handle the pregnancy. If you ask her what “she” is going to do about it, you are sending her the message that she is on her own. If this situation is making you want to flee the relationship, at least be man enough to stick it out through the process of decision-making until the pregnancy is through, whether that is full-term to adoption or through an abortion – which is another issue altogether.
Many men that I have spoken to who are in the process of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy in a relationship are of the opinion that they will support whatever decision the mother makes because it is her body. This is a noble stance. But what do you do if the mother is considering terminating the pregnancy and you are against it?
This is a very prickly situation. If you have strong feelings against abortion, then the argument could be made that you should have done everything you could to prevent pregnancy. Perhaps you should even consider abstinence until you are ready to take on the responsibility of raising a child, possibly alone as a single parent, if these are your convictions.
Many women are of the opinion that it is easy for a man to be anti-abortion because he can always leave a pregnant woman and her unborn child and wash his hands of the situation. For women, the reality is that they are locked in physically, emotionally and possibly financially, for the rest of their lives regardless of whether they give the child up for adoption or decide to raise it themselves.
In the end, the bottom line is this: even if you don’t believe in abortion and are willing to care for the child when it is born, the woman has to carry the child for 9 months, and it’s her body. In the end, she can do it without your permission anyway. While this may seem unfair, it is the necessity built into the system due to absence of many, many men that came before you. Take it up with them.
As harsh as this sounds, and unfair for those men who are man enough to take responsibility for their decisions, in the end, you have to realize that whatever you want, in the back of your girlfriend’s mind is always the inherent reality that you will always be able to walk away from this pregnancy and she won’t.
There is also the possibility that your girlfriend doesn’t believe in abortion. In this case, the same advice of ‘keeping her pants on’ applies to her as well. Adoption, on the other hand, is a very noble thing to do. There are many loving couples out there who really want to love and raise a child, and it’s really the most beautiful gift one human being can give to another. Just be aware that there can be deep emotional ramifications to giving a child up for adoption. The best thing you can do is encourage your girlfriend to find a professional to talk to, to help her through it, as well as being there yourself to help her through the pregnancy and aftermath.
If the two of you decide to go ahead and parent the child, take the time to explore your options together and with a professional counsellor. Spend time with friends who have children to see what they go through. Having a child is the biggest emotional and financial responsibility you will ever have and is not to be taken lightly or with your eyes closed. It’s really difficult, but it’s also really wonderful. Your relationship needs to be solid and you need to make a commitment to be there for this child as a team, even if your relationship does not survive, for the rest of your lives.
If you find yourself in the situation of impregnating a girl who you are not in a relationship with, whether it be a casual acquaintance or, god help you, an ex, recognize that as a sensitive human being, your responsibilities are not very much different than if you are in a relationship with the girl. If you cannot help her out emotionally, then it is your very basic duty to do your part financially, whether it’s helping to pay for medical expenses, counselling or paying child support. Not only is that your legal responsibility, it’s your responsibility as a man and as a human being.
Since none of this is as easy as just having safe sex, make sure you do so. If you are afraid of getting “trapped” by fatherhood, then take control of protection yourself. By letting her worry about it, you are putting your life, and that of your unborn child, in her hands, and the easily-avoided consequences will be yours to contend with.