I’m currently 22 and am expecting to graduate next May, whereas my boyfriend, who is 23, spent four years in the military and is hoping to graduate in three years. His college is two hours away from me. We’ve already discussed some planning for the pregnancy; I’ll be moving to live with him and we decided not to get married due to the pregnancy. Most everything else, though, we haven’t talked too much about just yet.
Although we’re scared for many reasons, our biggest concern is how my conservative parents will take it. The plan was always that I would work, go to school, pay bills, and live with my mom and step-dad till I graduated college – this was their idea so that I’m financially stable when I move out. They’ve stressed time and time again that my boyfriend and I better practice safe sex, and that, if I ever got pregnant, I couldn’t rely on them to help us out. Even though they love my boyfriend and of course love me, I can expect them to be extremely angry with us – and my boyfriend even fears that they’ll kick me out over the news. Due to this I know to expect yelling, disappointed looks, snide remarks, and probably some tears when I tell them. I’ve felt like I might have a panic attack when the time comes to let them know that they’ll soon be grandparents.
Do you have any tips for me on how to tell them? And what are some tips that my boyfriend and I can benefit from as we prepare to become parents? — Pregnant Daughter
Readers won’t know this about you, but I recognized your name when I received your letter because you have written to me about a dozen times in the past few years asking for advice. I’ve published at least one of your letters already and have answered you privately at least one other time. And now I’m just shaking my head at the news that you’re pregnant. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see this as a “wonderful blessing” at this point in your life. You’re 22, unmarried, living with your parents, still in school, and in a relationship with someone who is equally unprepared to be a parent (and no, he is not a “father” already if he is not involved, financially and emotionally, in his child’s life; he’s simply a sperm donor). Based on previous letters I’ve received from you, I can surmise that this is a fairly new relationship, too, and it should give you serious pause knowing that the mother of your boyfriend’s biological child doesn’t want him in her son’s life. That’s a pretty big red flag there and one that you, as someone who is now pregnant by this man, should be very concerned about.
I know you wrote in asking for tips on how to break the news to your parents and how you and your boyfriend can prepare for parenthood yourself, but I’m going to give you a different kind of tip: think really, really hard about whether raising this baby is the best choice. There are other options (and this doesn’t have to be your only chance to become a mother). I’m concerned about two college kids whose prenatal planning so far is to not get married and whose biggest concern is how to survive some snide remarks from mom and dad about raising a child together.
How do you both plan to support this baby? How will you pay your medical bills? How will you finish school when you’ll have a baby to take care of? Who’s going to watch the baby while you’re in class or doing your homework? How will you pay for childcare? Honestly, telling your conservative parents that you’re pregnant should be one of the least of your concerns right now, not the biggest one. The biggest one should be how you’re going to provide a decent life for this child.
Have you watched an episode of “Teen Mom”? How about “16 and Pregnant”? If not, I recommend checking them out. They’re enlightening. I’d also recommend connecting with anyone you know who has small children and then spend an afternoon in their company. Interview the parents and ask them what their day-to-day lives are like. What kind of sacrifices have they made? How have children affected their relationships? Ask them how much money they spend per month on diapers and food and clothes and childcare.
Then, listen to your parents. They warned you — “time and time again” — to practice safe sex with your boyfriend, and my bet is you didn’t listen very well to that advice. Start listening to them now. I don’t know what they’ll say when you tell them you’re pregnant. Maybe they really will cut you off and kick you out. But maybe they’ll have some advice for you. Maybe they’ll offer some assistance — perhaps not the assistance you’re hoping for, but the kind of assistance they think will actually help you. Listen to them. Let them help you in whatever way they may be willing to help you, even if it means swallowing your pride or shouldering some blame and criticism. If you keep this baby, I assure you that blame and criticism from your parents will be the least of your worries.
Finally, and I hope this goes without saying, see a medical professional right away if you haven’t already. Get your pregnancy confirmed and find out the next steps in proper prenatal care. If you decide to give birth to this baby, whether you raise it yourself or not, there are many things you should and should not be doing to grow a healthy baby. A medical professional can also point you in the right direction for exploring options other than raising the baby yourself. (Even if you’re adamant about keeping the baby, it doesn’t hurt to educate yourself on different options available to you, as well as any assistance you may qualify for).
Whatever choice you make – and thankfully we live in a country where women HAVE choices when it comes to their bodies and healthcare … at least for now — you will need plenty of support. Surround yourself with people who are willing and able to give you the support you need, whether that’s your parents, doctors, a few trusted friends, or counselors at school. Good luck.