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Heather Corinna replies:
I used to be on BC, but when I found out I was taking it wrong I had to stop. I'm supposed to start it again the Thursday after I get my period... that is if my period comes. This is why I'm here. My boyfriend and I had unprotected sex, and I asked my mom if my period could be late because I'm no longer on BC. She became suspicious and a few days later we talked. I'm 17, by the way. She told me if I am pregnant that I'd have to abort it because I don't have the money or time to support a newborn, not to mention I'm starting college in August. She told me if I want to keep it then I can't live in her house. If I want to keep it, I have to PROVE to her that I am old enough to deal with it. So my question is directed towards abortion. How is an abortion performed, and does it hurt? I'm starting to get a little worried now because my period is late... and I can not (emotionally) handle a Pregnancy Test. I just can't. I told my boyfriend, who is 20, the situation. He's Mexican, and I am white. He freaked out because they're Catholic, and don't believe in abortion and they're all family oriented. He kinda got mad and was like, "you're going to kill my f------ baby." My mom told me he doesn't have a say in this whole situation, so I guess I have another question... how can I help him cope with this? Or is this something he just has to cope with himself? Thanks for reading, hope you can help! (I'm sure you can!!! :])
Hey there, Gabi. Have a deep breath, and let it out good and slow: it is going to be okay.
I want to make something clear from the get-go. YOU are the one who gets the final say here. Not your boyfriend, but also not your Mom, either. Making a choice about a pregnancy is a big deal, it's something you -- far more than they -- need to live with for the whole of your life, and you are the one any choice you make impacts the most. So, should you be pregnant, it's really important that the person your choice is most okay with is you. Your boyfriend needs to understand that, but so does your mother.
She's not obligated to pay for a child you have or help you out, but she also doesn't get to dictate what choice you make. That choice belongs to you, okay? There are several ways to manage any of your three options -- pregnancy and parenting, pregnancy and adoption, or abortion -- so that they are workable, but what makes any of them the most workable is that they're the choice you want to make, for yourself. No one -- no one at all -- should be TELLING you what you are going to do here: everyone should be ASKING you.
First things first? You need to get that pregnancy test once it's been around two weeks since your risk, or when your period is late, whichever comes first. If your period is already late, then now is the time to take that test. This is one of those things you just can't waste time with, because the window for making reproductive choices is so small, and the longer you wait to verify a pregnancy, the more limited your choices can become.
I know it's hard and nervewracking, most of us have been there before, and hardly look back on those heart-stopping three-minute waits on pregnancy test results fondly. But it really is a lot harder NOT to know than it is TO know, and it's something you've just got to do. You CAN handle this. You can. If you need some extra support, call your best friend and ask for some company while you take the test. But you've just got to step it up and do this, gal, and there's really no sound way around it. It also just doesn't make much sense to get in tangles with your family and boyfriend about what you'll do with a pregnancy that may not even exist. For all you know right now, there's just no need for any of this strife or worry.
Once you take that test, if it's negative, I want you to ask everyone to leave you alone for a little while so that you can just sink into that feeling of relief for a little bit and let go of all of this stress. You can deal with talking more to all of them later, and I'll touch on that in a minute. But this stuff is crazy-stressful, so you taking care of yourself takes priority.
If it's positive, then before you tell anyone else (sparing your friend, if you had one with you), again, I'd suggest you take a little time alone to just breathe, let it sink in, and think about what YOU want most, considering nobody else BUT you and any potential child. If by any chance you can stop by a bookstore when you get that pregnancy test, I have a pretty substantial chapter of my book that deals expressly with helping women make choices about a pregnancy you might find helpful. But I'll give you some links and Cliff's Notes here, in case that's not possible.
You asked about abortion procedures, so here is an in-depth rundown on how those go: All About Abortion. You ask if it hurts, and the straight answer to that is that for most women, early abortion is not greatly physically painful. Early surgical abortion is a very short procedure. In general, getting the anesthetic causes a short, sharp pain, and for the rest of the procedure -- where you will at least have a local anesthetic, and at some clinics, you can also have conscious sedation or be put to sleep -- a woman may feel some things that feel uncomfortable or weird (just because you may not be used to feeling something within your cervix, for instance), but nothing horrendously painful. Right at the very end of an abortion, you may feel a bit of cramping, but at that point, it's pretty much over. In terms of emotional pain, that primarily depends on the woman and if abortion is truly what she wanted: for obvious reasons, women who abort when they don't really want to, or don't want to at all, tend to find abortion far more emotionally painful than those who terminated because it's what they wanted to do. This is another reason why it's so important that if you choose abortion, it's really your choice, not anyone else's. Some women feel very sad and depressed, others feel very relieved and elated, and it's safe to say that the majority feel somewhere in between.
Your other option is to remain pregnant and either parent or arrange an adoption. If you want some sound counseling on all of these options, the counselor at any abortion clinic will provide this for you, making sure you have all the information you need to consider your choices to do their best to help you be sure you're making the one that is right for you.
If you'd like some general information on those other two options, your best bet is to get in touch with a reproductive options counselor, either via an abortion clinic, and Planned Parenthood branches (1-800-230-PLAN) offer this as well. Because laws, resources and policies tend to differ from state to state and country to country when it comes to teen pregnancy, it's best to get in touch with someone who can connect you to local resources so that you know what may be available for you per parenting or adoption. For instance, if you want to parent, your city or state may have good programs to give you financial assistance... or they may not, and either of these things may obviously influence your choice.
I'd also like to direct you to a really fantastic resource for pregnant teens: http://www.momdadimpregnant.com/ Another very good one, which offers an interactive workbook for making sound reproductive choices is: http://www.pregnancyoptions.info/
I can also direct you to an excellent hotline which can provide pro-choice, all-option pregnancy counseling: Backline - 1-888-493-0092. That hotline is toll-free, and their lines are open evenings Monday - Thursday from 5 - 10 PM PST, and Friday - Sunday from 10 AM - 3 PM PST. If you need someone, even right now, to talk you through any of this, that's a great place to call.
I know this is a lot of information to digest right now, but let's be sure all your questions are answered.
Once you feel certain about what choice you're going to make, that's the time to tell the people close to you. I use the word tell, because it is tell, NOT ask. This isn't about them: it's about you. They may or may not support whatever choice you make, and may or may not be in agreement, but they need to accept it, and that's on them, not you. You're not responsible for their processing, just like they're not responsible for yours. If you suspect that in telling either your parent or your boyfriend that they're not going to deal with it well, I'd suggest that again, you have a friend you can trust to support you be with you when you tell them. (And if you don't have any close friends, think a bit, and pick someone who isn't close yet, but could be. You'd be amazed at how incredibly people who aren't that close can be when it comes to stepping up with a pregnant friend in need.)
In terms of your boyfriend, you know, he made his reproductive choice already: he chose to have sex, and unprotected sex, at that. I don't feel it is fair or sound for men to presume that they can have the choices they want when it's about someone else's body and a pregnancy which they are not carrying themselves. If he wanted a say in a pregnancy, or wanted to arrange to be a parent, that's a discussion he and you would have needed to have together, in advance of any sex. Really, for future reference, that's something you will generally always want to do with a male partner. Even when you're using reliable birth control, it does still sometimes fail, so when it comes to heterocourse, pregnancy is always a risk. It's ideal to be able to talk about what you'd each want to do in advance, so that you can make the best choices when it comes to having sex with someone. For instance, if you find out before sex that you and a potential partner are in great disagreement about how you think you'd want to manage a pregnancy, that probably isn't a great person to have sex with. If you were to find out a partner would not understand and respect that this is YOUR choice if it happens, again, that's someone likely better to stay out of the sheets with.
But for right now, this is largely something he needs to cope with himself, and to understand that he had a choice, and one without any real risk: choosing simply not to have sex was an option for him, and one with no heavy consequences at all. That's not what he chose, and now, the choices are yours, not his.
When you tell him what choice you want to make, I'd be clear that while you understand he has his own feelings about this, he is not the one pregnant, nor is he the one who will be ultimately responsible, no matter your choice. If he is upset with a choice you are going to make, I'd acknowledge his upset, and acknowledge your difference of opinion, but make clear that however hard that is, it's most important that the choice made feels best to the person who is actually pregnant, and I'd ask for his support.
If you want to help him out, you could pass on that same hotline I gave to you: he could call them to talk and get support, too. You might also find that reading or passing on this article is helpful: Hey, Boyfriend! Male Reproductive Choices. (I also have a section in my book for the "Dads" when it comes to dealing with and accepting women's reproductive choices.)
Too, I'd have a think about if continuing a sexual relationship with your boyfriend is really the best thing for you from here on out, particularly if he can't be supportive of your choices and you two have a major difference of opinion when it comes to what to do with an unplanned pregnancy. I don't know what the situation was with the unprotected sex you had, but in the event that he exerted any pressure on you to have sex when you didn't want to, or have unprotected sex when you didn't want to, that'd be one more reason to step away from a sexual relationship with him from here on out. lastly, once you're through this crisis, you should arrange for a full STI screening, as unprotected sex put you at those risks, too.
And really, similar stuff goes for your Mom. Again, she certainly gets a say when it comes to paying for a child if you decide on pregnancy, but she can't lawfully kick you out of the house as a minor if that's what you choose. She also cannot arrange an abortion for you if that isn't what you want. If you decide to remain pregnant, having talked to someone at one of those hotlines, you can let her in on what resources are available to you and how you are thinking you're going to manage it. I'd also advise that if you choose abortion, even given it's what SHE wants, that if you feel any tension with her, that you find someone else to go with you for your abortion. You will need the most therapeutic environment you can have, and feeling like you've been marched to the clinic by someone angry isn't going to provide that. If you need help in working it out with her, this is another arena where you can ask the support staff at the clinic -- on the phone, in advance -- for help.
That's about the whole of it at this point. Start with that test. I know it's tough, but you've just got to do it, and you CAN handle it. Take it from there, and know that ANY choice that feels like the rightest choice for you is a right choice. If you need extra support, call on friends, call those hotlines, or you can come to the message boards here, anytime, and we can talk you through this, too. Beyond just making your choice, or dealing with the choice you've made, you might also need some support if (as things often do) this whole situation alters your relationship with your boyfriend or with your Mom, changes how you think about your life, the works. We're here if you need more help.
Hang in there,
~ Heather Corinna, Founder, Editor & Advice-Slingin' Sister @ Scarleteen.com
Author, S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College