Juno and Knocked Up might be all very entertaining on the big screen, but an unplanned pregnancy isn’t so funny when it’s the real deal. The good news is, whatever your situation, you don’t ever have to go it alone.
Crisis pregnancy is the kind of term normally reserved for a 16-year-old girl ‘in trouble’. When you hit 25 you’re expected to have more sense and, if you do get pregnant, you’re of child-bearing age so presumably of means and equipped to cope, right? Not necessarily. Just because you’re at an age where biology, and sometimes society says you “should” be getting pregnant, you still might not feel ready to raise a child.
Confirm or Deny
According to the Crisis Pregnancy Programme (CPP), 28% of all women who have been pregnant have experienced a crisis pregnancy.
Economic factors, broadened career prospects, relationship status and living circumstances can all contribute to an unplanned pregnancy being as problematic for some women at 28 as it might be at 18.
CPP Director, Caroline Spillane, says even the most carefully planned pregnancy can turn into a crises. “A lot can happen in nine months – a relationship can break down, an employer could respond negatively – and this can really be very traumatising for women.”
A Little Help From Your Friends
According to Seamus Moran, from the Mayo Crisis Pregnancy Counselling Service, women aged 25+ make up 10 to 20% of their referrals.
“Crisis pregnancy in society’s view is that it only affects teenagers, but it can affect any woman of fertile age and her partner. These people think, this shouldn’t happen at my age, they think others might look at them negatively – there’s often as great a stigma associated.”
Seamus says that women need to get the support as the crisis unfolds to help them explore their thoughts, feelings and options.
“The options women (between the ages of 25 and 35) tend to look at is to rear the child or have a termination: adoption is very rare. When they come to us in crisis, they need space to discuss the impact of the crisis, and where they can go from here.”
Caroline says having a good support system in place at home is crucial too. “The role that the family and partner will play in the pregnancy is critical in how the woman will cope with and define her pregnancy.”
The Hidden Truth
When support is lacking, and a woman is incapable of dealing with the news herself, Seamus says this can lead to what experts call a ‘concealed pregnancy’.
“It’s not just a 16-year-old who hides it from her mum and dad, she can be any age,” he says. “The most extreme case of this was the French woman in the news recently who seemingly concealed eight full-term pregnancies from her husband. She pretended to herself and others that she wasn’t pregnant and this will have a detrimental effect on her psychological and physical well-being. I know people will think in 2010 this shouldn’t happen, but it does.”
Seamus says the Mayo clinic alone could see between three and five full-term concealed pregnancies every year, and over 10 pregnancies that are concealed past five months. “Some women are so terrified they will try and hide it, they’ll be in denial.”
“So, I’ve Got Some News…”
“Even when a woman has acknowledged her pregnancy, she may meet trouble telling her partner, particularly if her decision is something he might not agree with,” says Caroline. “The very people she might turn to for help are the very people that she just can’t turn to because it’s too emotional.”
Baby On Board
The figures of women giving Irish addresses at UK abortion clinics is between 4,000 and 5,000, down from 6,500 several years ago. “If you multiply that by 10 years that means at least 50,000 women in Ireland have had a termination,” says Seamus. “Then, if you multiply that by 20 years, we’re talking 100,000 women… and nobody speaks about it because of the shame.”
Seamus believes it’s crucial for women to know that they can experience the impact of a termination in the weeks, months and even years to follow.
“Some women experience significant grief around the time of the abortion, but they may feel they’re not allowed to acknowledge this. What I’ve experienced as a counsellor, is that it will come back at some stage to haunt the woman, either physically or psychologically.”
Seamus says it’s also important to make the point that not every woman experiences a grief reaction, but not to feel guilty if you’re able to detach yourself from what’s happened. “I have also worked with women where the trauma has been that they have chosen to parent, and now they feel trapped. They’re very unhappy as mothers and they fear this is being transferred into the relationship with their child.”
This is why both Caroline and Seamus says options should be explored out loud so you can be sure, regardless of the outcome, that you’ve made the right decision.
Approximately 75% of women who experience crisis pregnancy decide to go on and parent the child. STELLAR reader, Sarah tells us about the day her world stood still and how she overcame her shock pregnancy…
“On the 25th of September last year at 7pm my doctor told me I was pregnant. Not only was I pregnant, I was five months pregnant. I had no idea. I was still wearing my size-six jeans, had no sickness at all, and felt normal. My first thought? ‘I’m 26, my life is over’.
Of course I was in total shock. I had only gone in for a smear test and come away with news I never could have expected. I was single and living a great life in Dublin that I wasn’t ready to give up. I was the kind of girl who’d get paid and spend most of it in Dundrum on shoes. So, the minute I was told the news, I started thinking, ‘how am I supposed to have money with a baby?’ ‘How will I go out on Saturday nights?’ ‘I’ll have to give up my job and move home.’ My mind was racing a million miles a minute.
I had broken up with my boyfriend who I had been going out with since college the year before. But we have the same social circle so some nights we would end up together. I knew straight away the baby was his, I hadn’t been with anyone else.
I called into my best friend first, but I was barely able to get the words out to tell her before I broke down. I had to see my ex-boyfriend. I had no idea how to tell him, and thought his reaction would be to run for the hills. He also had a great life, doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. But, when I told him, his reaction totally blew me away. He couldn’t have been more delighted. He said we had to make a go of it, and that night we decided we were getting back together and that we needed to start looking for our own place. Straight away he was online looking at buggies and car seats. It was the most surreal night of my life.
The next day I was sitting on a bed while a phonographer put jelly on my stomach. Then I was hearing a heartbeat and looking at a screen seeing a fully-fledged baby, my baby, formed: fingers, toes, ears, eyes, everything. In less than 24 hours my life had changed forever.
I know it sounds silly, but I’m from a small town, and I just expected negative reactions, and people to be staring at me like I was 17, looking for a ring. Like a teenager, I was so nervous telling my parents, but they were so great about it. My friends have also been amazing, and it’s started a knock-on effect; two more of them are pregnant now. As for my job, it isn’t a proper nine-to-five gig, and we had a big project going on that I’d been involved in right from the start, so I thought they’d kill me.
However, their reaction was fantastic and they did everything they could to help me.I used to go out every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, now it might be every other week. But I don’t miss it, and when I do go out, I appreciate it so much more.
I was so worried about the fact that I’d been drinking the last five months and felt so guilty that I didn’t know. I was at Electric Picnic three-and-a-half months pregnant! I still wonder if I hadn’t gone to the doctor that night, how long would it have taken me to realise? I’d had a medical the month before and I was still the same weight. I also had only missed one period, but I’ve anaemia so put it down to that.
My advice to anyone who finds themselves in the same position I did is: don’t freak out. Take a few days to take it in. It’s not the end of the world. Our daughter arrived last February – a perfect, healthy baby. Everyone’s totally in love with her, and I can’t get enough of her. I definitely believe now that everything happens for a reason. Not only are my boyfriend and I now back together, but I have the best daughter in the world.”
To get access to free, non-judgemental, nationwide crisis pregnancy counselling services log on to www.positiveoptions.ie or Freetext the word list to 50444.