UNTOLD STORIES BEHIND THE WOMEN WITH UNPLANNED PREGNANCIES
Since I can remember, I had my life planned out to a T. I would go to college and study hard, graduate from medical school, and then at some point, find a suitable husband to settle down with and start a family with. The last thing I ever thought would ever happen to me was an unplanned pregnancy my senior year of college. But there I was, paralyzed by the sight of the two blue lines on this magical pee stick that determines what the rest of your life will look like. I was disappointed in myself. How could I have let this happen to me? I thought I was smarter than this. But even the smartest of people fall short sometimes. Accidents do happen. Before my oopsie, I used to find myself judging other women for their obvious accidents. We see birth control commercials on television all the time. There are free clinics everywhere available with an array of birth control options for women of all ages. Today, we even have the option of getting birth control shipped straight to our door. Why do so many girls find themselves going through an unplanned pregnancy? I used to wonder how this happened to even famous women, those who surely have all sorts of medical doctors at their fingertips, like Kylie Jenner. Surely her family talked about birth control openly. The Kardashian family is known for their candidness with all things related to sex. Their fame stems from a sex tape after all. But still, even Kylie Jenner found herself among us normal, young girls worried and scared for what the future holds. Truth of the matter is, things happen. You plan on getting on birth control, but don’t get around to it. Condoms break. Birth control fails. Your insurance falls through. You miss a pill. The clinic has an emergency closure that lasts… months. The list goes on and on. None of us usually come forward and admit that we’ve had an accident. We just let people observe the obvious. Our bare ring finger speaks for itself. Of course a marriage doesn’t automatically imply that every subsequent pregnancy is planned, but that’s a matter for another time. We make our pregnancy announcement on Instagram with a cute letter board and smile through our fear. We all have accidents, but some accidents prove more life changing than others. A simple lapse in judgment can lead to a lifetime of responsibility when it comes to sex, but a simple lapse in judgment in any other area doesn’t always have such serious implications. In thinking about my own story, I’ve become curious as to other girl’s stories as well. By learning about each other’s experiences, maybe we can all learn to have empathy and compassion towards women whose life experiences don’t match our own. Maybe, we can stop the judgment and just love one another. The excerpts down below come from various, brave women of varying ages who all experienced the uncertainty and fear that come along with an unplanned pregnancy. When asking around for unplanned pregnancy stories, these courageous women, some of which I’ve never even met before, came forward to share their story with me and the world to tell a story that isn’t talked about enough. The first excerpt is my own story of fear, acceptance, and triumph through the struggles of an unplanned pregnancy.
1. “The instant we decided to be intimate, I knew I wanted to get on birth control. Although we were using condoms, I knew you can never be too safe. I immediately made an appointment at the university clinic so that I could get the birth control shot. As the nurse was inches away from injecting my flesh with God knows what, she pauses and sets the shot down. She asks me if I’ve heard of the arm implant as a birth control option. I respond that I had heard of it but didn’t want to go through a normal clinic because I was scared that my birth control would come out on my dad’s Explanation of Benefits statement since I was on his insurance. She assured me that I could go to a local free clinic to get the implant for free or a very minimal cost. She said if that didn’t work out, I could just return to their university clinic the next day for the shot. It sounded like a solid plan, so I agreed. When I arrived to the free clinic and inquired about their birth control options, they informed me that their services were only for patients without insurance. I was deemed ineligible, so I decided to return the next day to the university clinic to get my birth control shot and move on with my life. The next day, there was a bright white sign that stated the clinic was closed due to an emergency and would reopen at a later date. I checked back everyday for about 30 days until it was time for me to depart for my study abroad trip. The trip was long and hard for us as a new couple. The night I returned, we were so caught up in the moment, we failed to use a condom. This would be the first time we ever had unprotected sex. A few weeks later, I had a feeling that something was off, so I decided to buy a test at a drug store and my worst fear was realized. I was indeed pregnant. I came to find out later that the university clinic closed down the duration of the summer due to the death of one of their healthcare providers. It still gives me chills to think about the fact that because one person died, my son lived. Things have never been the same since my son was born. We graduated a few weeks after he was born and have been fighting through life’s challenges as a family. I walked down the aisle in an ivory dress while my son watched his mommy and daddy make a commitment to continue to love one another through life’s ups and downs. Life isn’t always easy raising a toddler, but it is definitely worth it. Although this isn’t the life I planned for myself, I now realize it is so much better than what I could have ever planned out.”
-Katarina G. (24), Pregnant at 21
2. “I got pregnant at the age of 20. I remember taking the test alone and praying to God that it was a negative but a bright cross indicating I was pregnant popped out. I was educated on birth control, safe sex and ect. But, I still decided to have unprotected sex with my SO. I felt I wasn’t ready to have a baby, so I viewed all my options. I went to a clinic to confirm my pregnancy and that’s when it really hit me, I’m going to be a mom. I remember telling my S/O, and his jaw dropped. He was just in shock as much I was. We decided the impossible for us, we were going to make it happen. We were going to have a baby. I decided to text my mother and she was very helpful. She wasn’t disappointed, but she said she wished I would of waited till I was a little older. But, she wasn’t the one I was scared to tell. I was almost 4 months pregnant and I hadn’t told my dad yet. My mother insisted I tell my dad ASAP. She said she would be by my side. My dad’s first words when I told him were ‘Do you even know who the baby daddy is?’ My mother reacted angrily and told him not to speak to me like that. He had no right to assume any judgment over me. After a month, he warmed up to me and apologized and said he would help me as family with anything I needed. Honestly, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for sleepless nights, my depression, having breastfeeding complications and much more. But, now I realized my daughter is what I was missing in my life. She is my balance in life. I couldn’t imagine life without her.”
-Anonymous (22), Pregnant at 20
3. “19 and Pregnant! Wow! When I think back, I'm not sure what I was thinking or how I survived. My pregnancy was an accident, I barely knew Kathryn's father for a few months. I was scared, lonely, excited, nervous… you name mixed feelings. I decided to keep my baby. My pregnancy was a difficult one. Morning sickness, day sickness, misery to say the least. My parents barely spoke to me if at all… especially my Mom. I broke her heart. Her hopes and dreams for me. Her GT, honors daughter was pregnant and alone. She said I had to marry. My stomach felt horrible. My nerves, heart palpitations would not stop, a voice in my head said don't marry this fool… you'll be fine... I told my Dad... he said don't get married… you're not the first girl to get pregnant before marriage and you won't be the last… you're a strong young lady you can do anything you want... He said... I love you and the baby and I'll support any decision you make. My old fashioned Dad was all of a sudden my modern Dad. He accepted me. My failures. My accomplishments. All of me... My mom came around but it took months. It's been a struggle... a young single mom… but I wouldn't change it for the world. I have the best daughter and best friend in the world. My Dad is my rock. I couldn't have done it without his support and love.”
-Anonymous (44), Pregnant at 19
4. "Life rarely goes as planned, especially when you are 16 years old and think you know everything. The ‘it can’t happen to me’ mentality ran rampant and I didn’t bother to take my birth control pills on a regular basis. I thought I wanted to get pregnant so using protection wasn’t a priority to me. I knew almost immediately that I was pregnant because I just felt different. I took a pregnancy test about 5 days before I missed my period and it was positive. I realized that I didn’t know what I didn’t know and my life was about to drastically change. Looking back on that experience, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was headed down the wrong path. I wasn’t hanging out with the right crowd or going to school. Getting pregnant pushed me to go back to school, graduate high school early and start my professional career. I climbed my way up the corporate ladder and have experienced much success over the last 19 years in the finance industry. I went back to school and obtained my associate of arts degree a few years back and I am currently pursuing my bachelor’s degree."
-Crystal N. (37), Pregnant at 16
5. “I never thought that I would be the girl to get pregnant. I was an active pro-choice feminist who was confident about her sexual health. I thought girls that had unplanned pregnancies were dumb sixteen-year-olds who didn’t know how to use a condom because America has terrible sex ed. I thought this could never happen to me. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was eighteen, and I had been on the pill ever since, taking it at five pm on the dot every day. I had sex with only one person, my boyfriend of three years. I had an app that tracked my periods and my cycles, but even on the pill, I remained extremely irregular, frequently skipping months at a time. And when I did have a period, they were very light and lasted a couple of days (I know, a weird thing to complain about). Because of my lack of periods, I kept pregnancy tests on hand just in case. Like any long term couple, we had a few scares where it seemed like I hadn’t had a period in ages and I had some other Web MD symptoms of pregnancy, but every time the test was negative. We knew we weren’t ready, we were both finishing our undergrad and I wanted to go to law school. In February of 2019, I was told by my doctor that it was extremely unlikely that I could get pregnant, a blow that rocked my entire vision of how I saw my future. We began to fight, we both knew that we wanted children, but now that meant adoption. He wasn’t sure that he was okay with never having children of his own, which deeply hurt me. Unable to stop fighting about the future, we went our separate ways after three years.
One night in late March, I had a dream that I was pregnant. On a whim, I decided to take a pregnancy test, expecting the usual negative that I had grown accustomed to. I was shocked to see a positive, I had a full-blown panic attack, consumed with fear that a new guy I was seeing was the father. I skipped my classes, called in sick for work and went to a pregnancy clinic for an official pregnancy test in case the at home one was a false positive. The test came back positive, so an ultrasound was needed to confirm.
I sat in the waiting room for over an hour, going over the abortion information that the nurse handed to me. Since I didn’t know I was pregnant, I had been drinking, smoking and living off of energy drinks to get through my demanding job and last semester of college. Surely I had hurt the fetus with my unhealthy habits, abortion had to be the only option. I didn’t want to bring an unhealthy child into this world to suffer, but abortion lowers your chance of being able to have children in the future. As someone who supports a woman’s right to choose, I actually didn’t know how an abortion worked.
Finding out was horrifying to me, and I wasn’t sure that I could go through with it and live with myself. But at the same time, I couldn’t have a baby with a man I barely knew, and adoption didn’t seem to be an option either, I had been accepted to several law schools to start in the fall and I couldn’t start there pregnant. I couldn’t even fathom giving up my baby, putting them into the hands of an ever-failing foster care system. I was overwhelmed with this choice, this life-altering choice. I knew that whatever I choose, it would change my life forever. The ultrasound showed an eight-week-old fetus, eight weeks? I hadn’t started seeing this new guy until two weeks ago, it couldn’t be his. I did the math in my head, eight weeks ago I was still with my ex, oh no. We had not spoken since our messy breakup, but I called his number and left a panicked voicemail, a voicemail that he still has on his phone to this day.
He came over to my apartment that afternoon, when I opened the door and I saw him I burst into tears, he wrapped me in a hug and told me that it would be alright, we would get through this and we would figure it out. We came to an agreement that if the fetus was unhealthy, the best thing for us was to abort it. Next week I went to my OBGYN, and the tests came back normal. By all definitions, our baby was healthy. The due date was October 31st, an eerie date for us because we were both supposed to be due on Halloween, but I was born on November 11th, him November 9th. The Scorpios made another Scorpio, something we interpreted as a sign to keep our baby.
We decided that this was a sign from God that we were meant to be together, and we needed to try to make it work. After I found out he was the father, I ended things with the fling and he ended a new relationship as well. We told our less than excited families, the only ones who were happy for us were our best friends (who we later named the Godparents), my younger sister and his younger brother. My father and I did not speak for a month, while my mother slowly became excited to be a grandmother. My family had always adored him, while his family never really cared for the northerner-democrat-vegetarian that I was. I decided to go to grad school online and get my Master’s of Arts in Political Communication, I got accepted into Johns Hopkins online program, the best in the country. I started my first semester in the summer while I was pregnant while my boyfriend looked for a job.
Our situation was by no means glamorous. He struggled to find a job in his field until after our son was born, we had to move in with my parents for six months while we saved up. Unable to take my anti-depressant and anxiety disorder medication while pregnant, I became an emotional wreck throughout the entire pregnancy. I felt like a failure, I thought he was letting me down, and I thought that my parents were ashamed of me. Embarrassed from my situation, I withdrew from my friends and reality. I didn’t go outside, I didn’t leave the couch and I cried myself to sleep every night. When my mom said they were going to turn the office into a nursery, I lost it. We were three weeks out from my due date with no job, nowhere to live, and not ready for the baby. I eventually picked myself up and started preparing for the baby, he was coming whether we were ready or not, and I needed to be ready. My partner started to work odd jobs to save up, and I read every baby and pregnancy book I could find. We turned my parent’s small office into a nursery and went to parenting classes at the hospital.
Oliver was born on November 9th, 2019 (on his father’s 25th birthday!) at 3:12 pm, he was 8 lbs 7 oz and 21 ¾ inches long. I just assumed he would look like his father, but he actually looked just like me. I cried when the nurse put this beautiful baby boy on my chest, and he opened his eyes when his father held him. We lived at home for one month and then my partner got a job in Waco, Texas. Our little family relocated before the end of 2019 and I started school again a few weeks ago. Oliver is such an amazing baby, he already sleeps over six hours most nights, he smiles and loves to laugh, especially at his Dad. Even though we live in a little apartment making it month to month, we have never been happier. We have no regrets, our little blessing brought us back into each other’s lives, something that may not have happened without him. Sometimes God has a plan for you, and it may be hard, it may be crazy, but it will leave you with unimaginable joy and happiness in the long run, no matter how hard the beginning was.”
-Anonymous (22), Pregnant at 21
Unplanned pregnancies are far from glamourous. Your parents aren’t jumping for joy from the news, you don’t feel confident flaunting your baby bump, and you don’t usually get to decorate the nursery of your dreams for your baby. You’re lucky to even have a separate room for your baby. But despite the uncertainty during pregnancy, one thing remains certain once your baby is born and that is the love you have for this tiny human that you brought into this world. Our little children wouldn’t be able to experience the joys of life and we would have never met them if it weren’t for our accidents. Sometimes, the saying that all things happen for a reason really does ring true.