Missing Pieces
Missing Pieces by Lisa Ritter Starr

During Pregnancy

by Lisa Ritter Starr

An unplanned pregnancy is something few women want to face. Nonetheless, something like this can happen anyway. When it does, you should at least face the fact that it must be dealt with both in a timely manner and in the healthiest way possible.

Services to women with unplanned pregnancies are best sought by looking first in the local paper, phone book, or closest chapter of Planned Parenthood. This way you will receive the personal, personalized attention you need. You can also use the Internet, though I wouldn't recommend it to decide on an agency, prospective adoptive couple, private clinic, or lawyer, for example. Before making any decisions, you need to meet with living, breathing people: counselors, knowledgeable friends, or others who have no personal stake or overbearing judgment regarding what you choose to do.

Let me state also that I realize the controversy and problems associated with Planned Parenthood. However, I believe the organization to be of social benefit in many ways. Planned Parenthood may perform services that many morally object to, but their primary goal is to educate the public in the many ways one can avoid problems such as unplanned pregnancy to begin with.

Since this is not the place to recommend/decry hot topics like abortion and single parenting, let's say that, with the help of whomever or whatever agency, you have decided to go ahead with your pregnancy. Furthermore, let's also say that you have tentatively chosen adoption. Therefore, let's look at some of the most important new aspects of your life, now that pregnancy has permanently and significantly changed it.

As for which type of adoption to choose, I encourage you to take a long, careful look at open adoption. Open adoptions are becoming the norm for many reasons. Since you have made a responsible and thoughtful choice such as adoption, I'm sure you'll agree it is well worth a deep investigation into all options before deciding on what is best for your child. You can refer to my other articles in this column or search "open adoption" on Suite101.com. Other articles can be found (www.about.com/adoption, www.openadopt.com) statistics (bastardnation.com) or case studies (adoption.com) on the Internet.

In the most basic terms, open adoption keeps an important connection between the birth mother or family and the child. The adoption may be minimally open (an annual picture or letter sent between birth mother and adoptive family), very open (weekly visits, an occassional sleepover, shared vacations), or encompass one of the myriad levels of openness in between (the average open adoption).

About your pregnancy: as soon as you find out about it, you probably know you should be in the regular care of a midwife or doctor. I had the fortune of living in a city with two midwifery centers, one of which I chose for the compassionate, empathic care of other women, all certified nurse-midwives, as well as the homey, nonhospital-style atmosphere. The center was in a converted house and served as check-up clinic as well as an alternate place to give birth.

I loved the colorful, comfortable waiting room of the midwifery clinic. It looked more like a well-kept living room than anything, with deep couches, fat armchairs, books, toys, art, and lots of windows and light. Each of the six midwives on staff took turns seeing me for my monthly appointments to listen to the baby's heartbeat, take my weight and blood, monitor my apparent health and the baby's growth, and to answer any questions I might have. They wanted me to be familiar with all of them, since any one of them could be on-call when I went into labor.

The main difference between a (potential) birth mother's pregnancy and that of a woman who will definitely parent is that, as a birth mother, you must often deal with others' ignorance of your situation. Let's face it: people take notice of a pregnant woman, especially when the woman is huge with child. Strangers will approach you to touch your belly, guess the baby's gender, and ask all sorts of personal questions. "Do you have any names in mind for the baby? Would you like the name of my pediatrician? Is your husband so happy he could just die?"

I'm sure such attention can be annoying for any pregnant woman, but you can see the extra dilemma that almost any personal question will raise for a potential birth mother. You may lie and feel guilty, depressed, or angry at others for not minding their own business. If you can't lie, you may be faced with telling the truth and perhaps alarming or confusing people with replies like, "As a matter of fact, I don't have a husband," "I won't be needing a pediatrician," or "I'm not naming the baby."

One particularly memorable time for me happened when I was nine months pregnant and went out shopping with Darcy, my soon-to-be daughter's soon-to-be mother. She saw a group of friends, and I stayed back to look at some jewelry cases in front of the cashier, who began to talk to me. "My roommate is as pregnant as you," she divulged immediately. "It's so exciting to see her preparing for the baby at this stage. I'm sure you know what I mean." I didn't. Just then I noticed Darcy's friends gathering around her secret-agent style, glancing surreptitiously over at me and whispering, "So, how long will it be now?"

Rest assured, as a birthmother you will learn to stretch and grow in ways that only someone who has gone through the experience can fully understand. In the beginning I used to say that, whenever I'd prepare to go out, I'd put my invisible "crap filter" on over my ears. That was supposedly how I kept my sanity while dealing with all the insensitive, confused, alarmed, or generally judgmental comments that people, knowingly or unknowingly, tended to make. And I mean both during and after my pregnancy.

Nevertheless, you will make it through the pregnancy and be a stronger and more wonderful person for it. The better part of the pregnancy will seem fairly ordinary and the baby will seem little more than a roundish kicking machine that somehow lives inside of you. My general advice is the pretty much the usual: eat well, take your prenatal vitamins, and don't smoke or drink.

My other, more unusual advice goes as follows: First, think carefully about how you want the childbirth to go. Childbirth is something many pregnant women hardly want to dwell on, but birth mothers especially have to plan it out. Do you want the adoptive parents there? Why or why not? Who else do you want present? When will you sign the papers? Do you want to do a special adoption placement ceremony, and when? Do you want to spend a few days with your baby or go home right away?

Second, make a post pregnancy plan. This is a set of plans that you will embark upon right after you entrust your baby into the care of her new parents. You should be specific, and include both long-term and short-term plans. Long-term plans may include getting a degree and/or job, or learning to play an instrument. Short-term plans could include daily exercise (when, where, how long and with whom) or redecorating your bedroom.

A birth mother's pregnancy, while different from other women's pregnancies, can be an endurable, even enjoyable process. Let others take care of you according to their expertise, but remember that only you experience the entirety of your situation. You alone are aware of all of your unique needs. Don't forget to communicate them, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

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