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Author Topic: Unplanned pregnancy during my study abroad year...
isabet
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I am almost exactly in the middle of a year abroad. I am from North America and my boyfriend is from Asia. He has to go home in less than a month and I will be here until mid-July. I'm 24 and he is 23.

I just found out two days ago that I'm about 1 month pregnant... and I am so conflicted about what to do.

My boyfriend is an amazing guy and wants what is best for us. Before we found out, we had already talked about me moving with him when I finish college. He is totally prepared for a long distance relationship, but a long-distance pregnancy just wasn't in our plans.

He has a job waiting for him when he goes back home, but he lives in an extremely expensive city and doesn't think it is realistic to pay for a baby and me because his salary won't be enough. Admittedly, he isn't making much money and rent will take almost all of it. Neither of us have any real savings to speak of. I don't speak the local language, and won't be able to work if I go with him. In his opinion, we should terminate the pregnancy. He isn't emotionally ready to be a dad, and we aren't financially stable.

I'm not so sure I agree. I mean, I know that logically speaking, he is right. But I just don't think that I can go through with an abortion or adoption. I know I'm basing this totally on emotions and not on reason, but that is really all I can think about now. I know if I decide to have an abortion and I'm not 100% sure of it, I may come to regret it and feel guilty for years. I might blame him and say he is the one who told me to do it. I don't want that to happen.

On the other hand, he might feel the same way: that if times get really hard, he might say I ruined his life by keeping a baby he wasn't sure about. (He's never suggested anything like that, it is just a fear of mine) If I keep it, he has already said he'd try and find a way to support me in his country. That means I'd have to move around the world, away from my family and friends when I need them the most.

I don't see adoption being a realistic option at all because I know that as hard as it would be to have an abortion, carrying a baby for 9 months and then handing it over to a stranger is just something I could never feel right about doing -- I keep going back and forth on this too, but honestly, I think this is pretty unlikely for me.

No option looks good here. I could really use some non-judgmental advice.

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Heather
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Unfortunately, something when making choices with pregnancy, none of the options is ideal. That happens a lot for a lot of people.

And when that's the case, what anyone has to do is just try and figure which of those options, even if not ideal, would likely be best for them and their lives (and, if a kid is involved, or previous kids from other pregnancies, what's likely to be best for them, too).

I'm happy to help talk you through this.

I think it's most important to first try and identify what you want and think is best, and then we can look at/talk about and consider what your boyfriend does. because ultimately, a pregnancy and what you choose to do with it is going to impact your life the most, now and later, and the ultimate burden of it -- and responsibility for it -- will lie with you. So, you making a choice you can live with and feel as good about as possible is much more important than what he wants, okay?

I hear you, right now, saying that you feel like adoption or abortion are the less appealing options for you, and sustaining a pregnancy and parenting feels best. Do I have that right? If so, do you want to start by talking through what pregnancy and parenting might look like for you, and if that's a realistically doable option for you and a kid, now and far down the line?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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isabet
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Thank you for being so understanding. I've just been crying and stressed out (when I'm not sleeping and totally exhausted) ever since I found out. I know this isn't good, but I just don't know what to do.

I feel like at 24, I should be old enough to take care of a baby, but now that I'm in that situation nothing seems clear. I think overall, you are right. Staying pregnant seems like the least bad option, if that even makes sense. I am concerned because I haven't finished college, and I have to consider the possibility that if I keep the baby and my boyfriend doesn't stay with me, I could be a single mother. I don't want to give any child of mine a bad life.

I haven't really had time to seriously think about what parenting would look like, either back home, or in Asia if I go with him.

I am really reluctant to move far away from my family and friends when I'll need them. It is hard enough going through this, and potentially 6-7 months of pregnancy, here alone. Like I said, my boyfriend is going home in just a few weeks and he can't stay to help me.

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Heather
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It's totally okay, and I am more tha happy to talk you through all of this as much as you'd like. It's also okay to be feeling and reacting the way you are: unplanned pregnancy is stressful as hell, it involves potentially making some huge decisions about our lives in the short and long-term, it puts strain on your relationships, the works. And all while our bodies are often on a full-fledged hormonal assault. It's often very hard, so being upset and scared? Of course.

I don't think how old we are usually tells us much about if we are ready to parent or want to.

How about, instead, we kind of look at you as a unique individual.

I hear you saying that if you remained pregnant with the aim of delivery and parenting, that a) being a single mother is a possibility (as it always is for any mother, even a married mother) b) not finishing school now or being challenged more to do that is possible, and that c) you're having a hard time visualizing what being a parent would even look like for you.

Do you want some help with that last bit? I could ask some questions, put some things out there, which might help you be able to better imagine that to help you with this decision.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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isabet
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This is true. I am having a very hard time thinking about what parenthood would be like without a good job and health insurance. Those factors are really what is making me even consider adoption or abortion. If I had a good job with insurance, there would be no question, even if I didn't feel ready.
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Heather
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Okay. I can help a little with those issues specifically (so long as you stay in the states: if we're talking outside the US or UK, I'd need to look a bit more into the systems in other areas first), and can also give you some other things to think about.

Ultimately, what you're looking at with parenting without those things is the welfare system here: public health for you and a child (once they're born), and then state and federal assistance for other living expenses if you need it. Those are not easy ways to support oneself and a child, and they tend to involve living very lean. It's doable, plenty of people do it, but it is tough, and can also be tough on kids, too.

That said, there's also the option of getting employment that isn't a "great job," but which does have things like some kind of health insurance and other benefits, even if the job is lousy and the wage is low. That can be more doable for some, while for others (my best friend is often in that spot), when all the math gets done, it's about the same, budget-wise, as living on assistance, because of daycare costs. There's also having to manage a crummy job AND parenting asking a lot of you, physically and emotionally.

But again, these are choices others have made and gotten through, some even feel good about them. Like any set of choices, no one choice or situation is going to feel best for everyone: we're all different people with different lives.

I think it's also important to think about who your support circle could potentially be: if you did decide to stay pregnant and parent, who are the people that seem most likely to help you out, not just now, but years from now? How about making a list of at least five people like that?

One more thing that can help is to try and visualize things at different times in your life. Since we're starting by talking about pregnancy and parenting, let's stick with that for now.

So, with the idea you would choose to stay pregnant, and the aim of delivering and parenting, what do you imagine your life will look like:

One year from now (when you have an infant)
Two years from now (when a kid's around one)
Five years from now (with a four-year-old)
Ten years from now (with a nine-year-old)
Fifteen years from now (with a young teenager)
Twenty years from now (probably when a kid would be out of the house, and you'd perhaps be on your own if you only had that one child)
Thirty years from now (when you're solidly on your own)

See if you can't just imagine those times, good stuff, bad stuff, fun stuff, easy stuff, and then see how you feel about all of that.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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isabet
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I will need some time to think everything through, definitely. Can you give me some good questions to ask myself, and things to think about, pertaining to abortion and adoption as well?

If I stay pregnant and parent, it would either be in the US or Japan. For now, the first seven months of pregnancy will be in Germany where I do have good health insurance provided by the governmental scholarship I received to come here. I'm just thankful that now I do have the option to see a doctor (I have an appointment with an ob-gyn tomorrow) as often as I need to, with almost no cost to me.

I can't stay in Germany after July because my visa will expire, and I will likely go home (where I will have no insurance) to finish my pregnancy and deliver if I choose that option. We haven't really thought that far ahead, but that is just how I'm feeling now.

My boyfriend is trying to think positively, but he is just so scared about money and possibly his family's reaction. Overall, he has said he'd support any decision I made, but made it clear that his preference is for abortion.

In my thoughts, as I've said, staying pregnant is best for my emotional health for now because I don't want to regret anything or feel coerced to abort if I'm not sure...

I do need to think about all of my options though.

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Heather
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Well, one thing to think about -- and I know it's not easy -- is that there is NO option people won't regret or don't regret. Just like there is no option no one will feel good about, short and long-term.

In other words, there are women who regret abortion and women who feel good about it for always. There are women who regret choosing to remain pregnant and parent, and women who feel good about it for always. Same goes with adoption, and same goes with the huge range of feeling bad or feeling good , for all choices, that lives between those two poles.

So, ultimately, the best any of us can do is to try and figure out what we, uniquely, think we will feel best about, now and later, with these choices. No one choice is right or best for every person or every pregnancy. And no choice ever comes with a no-regrets guarantee or promise.

Like I said, I think it is REALLY important to put aside how your boyfriend feels for right now. I'd even suggest not talking about it with him at all for at least a few days so you can try and first identify how YOU feel and what you think you really want. For sure, if we're trying to make a choice and avoid regret, one of the most important factors there, if not THE most important, is getting away from any pressures from anyone else so we can identify, and ideally, ultimately choose, what WE want. Again, your boyfriend isn't pregnant. You are. The ultimate responsibility here with this pregnancy will also always be yours, not his.

We can certainly talk about your other options, but since you started by saying pregnancy and parenting is what you'd prefer, I want to make sure we don't shortcut that. We obviously do NOT have to do all of this in one day, but I don't want to move on to those other two options until you want to do that ad feel ready to.

Do you feel like you've kind of already thought pregnancy and parenting through a lot? How did those visualizations go?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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isabet
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I tried to write down some thoughts about what I think the future will look like, per your suggestions...

One year from now
One year from now, I'd have an infant that is around four months old. If I'm in the US, it is unlikely that I would be continuing school without significant help form family or friends who would be able to watch the baby while I was there or when I was working. I'd have to pay for child care at least part of the time if not all or most of the time.
I may have the option to live with my grandparents (who I lived with before I came to Germany) since I have a private room and bathroom there, separate from their rooms. If not, I would have to find an apartment on my own, and in my city the cheapest apartments are around $500 per month, plus bills. I would have access to my support network I'm used to.
If I went to Japan, I would live with my boyfriend and he would be the only one working. I'd stay at home with the baby at least for the first several months since I don't know the language at all and couldn't find a job without that. I might feel isolated without family and friends there, but I would have the opportunity to make new friends, too.
If I somehow found a job, I'd have to find people I could trust to watch the baby. This could be difficult since I wouldn't have friends to give references. I know I couldn't go to school there, so if I move to Japan, I wouldn't finish college. While I do want to finish college someday, this isn't a deciding factor for me, as it isn't a serious goal of mine outside of being able to provide for my family.

Two years from now
By the time I had a one-year old, I imagine things would have calmed down. Our families would be used to the idea that we had a kid and may be willing to offer more support.
If I'm in Japan, we would have settled into some kind of routine and be used to the budget we had. I would have a better grasp of the language, and be able to get a job if I didn't have one already. I would still have to find child care. Since I do want to stay home with my child, I may still do that if circumstances allow. I have no problems with living abroad (as I've found out this year), and I think I would have really adjusted to life there at this point. I may still struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness, but I should have made some friends by this point, making it much easier.
If I am in the US, I will be close to finishing my degree if I am still in school. I will probably be very tired from being a parent, working, and trying to go to school. I will want to start looking for my own place to live if I don't have one already.

Five years from now
With a toddler, things would be hectic. No matter where I live, I'll be doing intercontinental travel at least semi-regularly. If my boyfriend and I are still together in Japan, I'll have to take the child to see my family in the US at least once or twice per year. If I am in the US and my boyfriend is in Japan, he will have to see his child regularly, too.
However, if circumstances allow, I would like to still be at home with the child. This is unlikely, but it is something I would like. I would go back to work once he or she is in school.

Ten years from now
I would almost certainly be working by this point. Child care would have already been figured out, no matter where I am. He or she would be in school, so I would need to make time to take them to activities and see their school plays, etc. I would like to be married before this point. I would also like to be out of debt in 10 years. If I hadn't started it already, I would begin a college fund. I would still need to arrange regular travel with my child to see her/his family.

Fifteen years from now
With a teenager, if my boyfriend and I are no longer together, the child could travel by his/herself to Japan. If I am still in Japan, traveling home regularly would be a necessity as my parents would be getting older. I would have a good job, if I am needed to work. At this point, I may be able to get a higher degree if I was able to finish college before.

Twenty years from now
At this point, I could resume my goal of traveling to many different countries that I couldn't pursue while raising a child. I've made that dream come true in many ways this year, but after a child is raised, I could continue on with it. He or she would hopefully be in college. It is harder to imagine my life at this point.

Thirty years from now
I'll be 54... I can't even imagine what my life will be like then!

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Heather
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This looks good. I see some things in it that seem realistic to me, and some things that don't, which you may want to think more about. If you want, I can point those things out for you.

But first, I think it's most important to talk about how you feel about these future scenarios. When you were visualizing all of this, how did you feel?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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isabet
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I like what you said about there being no 'right choice' for everyone all the time. It's true. Thinking about what the future will be like if I stay pregnant has been really helpful to clarify things. I know that hard times will come and go, but they won't stay forever.

I don't really have the option of not talking to my boyfriend for a few days, though. We live in the same apartment with two other people. Plus, he is going with me to the ob-gyn appointment tomorrow.

Being pregnant here alone will be super hard, but I think I could do that. I'm just not sure about if I could be a single parent or not. I know it could happen any time, no matter what my current marital status is. It's still difficult.

I've already told my boyfriend that in the end, it is my decision, and I'll take the consequences of it. Meaning, if I keep it and he doesn't want anything to do with it, I am mentally preparing myself for that. Or if I have an abortion and regret it later, I need to be prepared for that. In the end, I know I have to decide on my own, even if I consider his feelings.

As for adoption... Well, like I said, I'd appreciate points for thought about my other two options as well :-)

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isabet
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Yes, I'd like to hear about the things you think are realistic, and may be unrealistic. It would give me more to think about.

When I was writing it, I felt better because at least I could think about a direction, even if it isn't what ends up happening.

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Heather
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Oh, by all means, none of us can plan a whole life. The aim was pretty much just what you did: just feeling out the possibilities to see what they might look like, and how you feel about them.

Realistically, I think things like people getting with the program and being more supportive after or around year one sounds sound to me, as does the idea that once a kid is past their toddler years, things do tend to settle down some (until the teen years, which is when they often get intense again, rather than more mellow). I also think the idea that in those teen years, you starting to go back to school if you weren't able to finish before sounds realistic to me, too. I also think seeing ways you could pursue dreams later in life you might not have been able to with a kid is realistic: a lot of people do that.

Less realistically, one thing to bear in mind, I'd say, is how hard it is economically for many parents. Having one stay-at-home parent is a luxury many families just can't afford. At the same time, having two parents working is tricky, too, especially before a kid starts school, because that second job's income often gets totally eaten up by daycare costs.

The idea of a lot of international travel with a kid, or even on your own, is another one I'd say is pretty iffy when people aren't wealthy. Even domestic travel costs a lot, and what it costs adults is what it costs kids. So, if you're imagining a lot of trips together, or with the kid themselves, know that would tend to require quite a lot of extra income, which is tough when raising kids costs so much already. Even just making ends meet without something like travel is hard for most people.

The other iffy thing I see is the idea you'd be out of any debt (from school or the costs of raising a kid, I assume?) in ten years time. Most people without kids can't be at that goal from student loans alone anymore. Many childless people my age (I'm in my 40s) are STILL in debt from that. having kids most often means carrying extra debt, not getting rid of it anything close to that fast.

And, like I already said, the notion some folks have that kinds in their teens mean MORE freedom for parents and less work isn't realistic. Adolescents actually need quite a lot, and there's often a good deal of conflict to deal with, so that tends to be one of the more demanding times for a parent, rather than one of the least demanding.

Obviously, I can't know which of those things are really important to your decision-making process here and which aren't, but those are the things that leapt out at me most,

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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isabet
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Well, it is important to me to stay home for at least the first few months. This would be necessary, in my opinion, until the baby was 4 or 5 months old. As for how important international travel is, I think it's something we can work out if it's a priority. Obviously, if I'm in the US and he doesn't want to see the child, I am not going to pay to do it.
If I'm in Japan and I need to see my family, that might be more difficult and merits more thought. And, as for being out of debt, I just hope to be in 10 years. If it doesn't happen, I hope to at least be making progress.

I am still so worried, though. I've been thinking most of today about different adoption options, and maybe an open adoption would be possible for my situation. Still not sure...

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Heather
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Open adoption is possible for anyone. So, if you want to talk about that next and want some resources to look at, we can certainly do that.

If you still want to consider parenting, it sounds like you have a couple important factors to consider for yourself. Needing to stay at home for the first few months (and considering that for the last few, you might need to be able to take it easy, too), who would you rely on to help make that possible? Whoever it is, are they people you could talk to to find out if they'd be able and willing to do that while you're making this decision?

The debt issue sounds less important to you: do I have that right? (Mind, it doesn't strike me as realistic unless the world economy RADICALLY changes for any young person with school debt, even without a kid, to be out of it in only a decade, so that one may be a reality issue no matter what you decide here.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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isabet
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It all depends on if I go to Japan or not. If I do, then staying home won't be as big of an issue. He will work, and even if I wanted or needed to, I couldn't. The lack of language will make that decision for me until I can learn.

Staying in the US is a different matter. If I can live with family members, then I think it will be possible to take it easy for awhile. It isn't permanent, and within a few months, I'll need to start working. But it would give me the time I think I'd need to recover.

I need to think about this much more before I tell my family. They aren't thrilled about my being with someone of another race, but so far my mom has been supportive (she and a few friends are the only ones that really know).

I would like to talk more about other options. I want to consider everything.

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Heather
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Okay.

Which option do you want to talk about next? Whichever it is, can you start me out with a lost of questions you have, or your general thoughts about that choice for you in this, pro and con?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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isabet
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Okay, so far the decisions we've talked most about are keeping it (which he says he just isn't ready for), and having an abortion (something I'm not sure I am able to do). Since we haven't talked about adoption, that's the one I haven't thought the most about.

I guess I just don't know how to tell if either of them might be right for me. I guess as far as adoption goes, in some situations I can pick the parents and possibly have some contact with the baby. I don't have to go through an abortion. After the pregnancy is over, I could go back to school quickly. On the other hand, I'll feel guilty if the family ends up having lots of problems and I picked them. I might feel a big loss, emotionally. They could also not allow me to have updates on the child. Or he/she could end up in foster care if not placed immediately.

For abortion, I guess the problems with adoption and keeping it don't apply. I would worry most about feeling guilty, the possibility that I couldn't get pregnant again, being alone after such a hard decision, and resenting my boyfriend. The pros are I don't have to raise a child right now and that means I have time to get my degree and a good job before having a baby, I would be able to be in a relationship longer and make sure he is the right person for me (we haven't been together that long), I won't go through pregnancy alone...

That's all I can really think of... Any other suggestions?

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Heather
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Why don't I start with the questions you've already asked, and issues you've already raised, and we can take it from there, okay?

quote:
I guess as far as adoption goes, in some situations I can pick the parents and possibly have some contact with the baby.
Totally closed adoptions are actually pretty unusual anymore, so if an open adoption was something you wanted to do, you could do that. And that could include seting limits like what you wanted in an adoptive family, photos of the child, scheduled visits, etc. Open adoption, for the most part, is in a lot of ways like any negotiated agreement. Adoptive parents still always have more rights than birth parents, so there's that to deal with, but no one doing an open adoption ever has to accept an adoption agreement or adoptive family they aren't okay with.

quote:
I'll feel guilty if the family ends up having lots of problems and I picked them. I might feel a big loss, emotionally. They could also not allow me to have updates on the child. Or he/she could end up in foster care if not placed immediately.
Like I said about what people might not allow you, that mostly depends on your agreement. And no family is ever going to be perfect: all families will usually have problems.

For sure, you might experience feelings of loss. From what we know, those feelings are more common with adoption as a choice than with parenting or abortion. So, that's possible (though it can be with any choice: even with parenting, you might experience feelings of loss about other parts of your life.)

A child not being able to be placed is always possible, but for a healthy child, with an adoption arranged before birth, that is highly unlikely.

quote:
For abortion, I guess the problems with adoption and keeping it don't apply. I would worry most about feeling guilty,
With this one, usually the biggest players in guilt are either a) someone choosing abortion out of pressure from others and b) someone choosing abortion who has strong religious or ethical issues with it. How do you feel about that?

quote:
the possibility that I couldn't get pregnant again
If this is about worries about abortion resulting in infertility, know that with safe, legal abortion, especially in the first trimester, it's not associated with that. Later-term procedures and births are more so. But perhaps you mean something else?

quote:
being alone after such a hard decision, and resenting my boyfriend.
The last bit here sounds like you're taking about if you chose abortion because that's what he wanted. Do I have that right? If so, again, I think we really, really need to try and first focus on YOUR choice here, with his wants set aside.

If that's feeling very hard, can I ask if he's pressuring you a lot with this? You seem to keep bringing him back into the picture when we're trying to have a discussion that isn't about him, which is why I ask.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Heather
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Just checking in to see how you're doing today, isabet. We can pick our conversation back up if you like, or do so later: whatever you want.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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isabet
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Sorry for going MIA for awhile. I just needed to take some time and think through things, plus my boyfriend just had to move home to Japan. It's been a hard time thinking things through, but we both decided that it is best to keep the baby and raise it ourselves.

I've been having a lot of trouble emotionally since he left, though. I just feel so depressed and alone. I just found out that my father is possibly having liver failure and may not be eligible for a transplant. I'm in Germany, and he is in the midwest (in my hometown). Now, I have another host of issues to deal with, along with being alone and pregnant.

I have excellent health care here, and a nice job until July (then I have to go home anyway). I have no health insurance or job back home. I want to stay here and finish my internship, but I also want to go home to be with my father and the rest of my family -- especially now that I'm pregnant.

Do you have any advice at all for me, even though it is really off topic?

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moonlight bouncing off water
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isabet, I don't really have any good advice for you, except to trust your instincts and do what feels right for you, but I wanted to send my support to you. It's really good that you have good health care for now. *lots and lots of support*

Trust your instincts and you will be able to do this, where there is a will there is a way.

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Robin Lee
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isabet,

I was just looking through the threads the other day and wondering how you were doing.

I am sorry to hear about your father.

It's understandable that you feel alone and depressed. You're going through a lot of changes. Remember too that hormonal changes you're going through with the pregnancy will affect how you feel emotionally. (This isn't to say that pregnancy makes one depressed, but that the hormonal changes can have an impact on whatever you're feeling.)

In terms of what to do, would it help you to write a list of the pros and cons of staying in Germany versus going back to the States? Sometimes seeing it all laid out in front of you can make it feel less muddled.

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Robin

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