Before you make a decision about your unplanned pregnancy, consider all your options…
You only have 9 months to consider all your options and should one of those options be the termination of your pregnancy, you will have to make this decision within the first 4 months of your pregnancy. Even though you may feel overwhelmed, there are many options to be considered…
Marry the father? Keep your child and raise the baby as a single parent? Give your baby up for adoption? Have a legal, medically supervised abortion? Or have your child placed in foster care, until you are in a position to care for the child?
There is no right or wrong answer, only the one that seems like the best option for you and your child. The decision will not be easy and will, in fact, probably be the most difficult and important decision you will have to make in your life.
Who to tell
An unplanned pregnancy is a difficult situation to handle all by yourself. At some point you will want to talk to someone in order to share your feelings and get help with the decision-making process. Most girls will start by telling their boyfriend. Telling your parents is never easy and many girls will require help to do this. Telling sisters and friends can help to share the problem but may not lead to constructive help.
Telling a clinic sister or social worker attached to an antenatal clinic or hospital, a teacher, minister of religion or contacting a helpline, could lead to a referral to a professional who specialises in the counselling and support of mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy. These counselors will help you to explore all the options and help you to reach a realistic decision for both yourself and the baby.
Abandoning the baby
For many women facing an unplanned pregnancy, abandoning their child may seem like the easiest and quickest way to solve their problem – no questions asked and they retain their anonymity. In South Africa, the numbers of babies being abandoned increases every year with hundreds of babies being abandoned all over the country everyday. Unfortunately, by doing this, these mothers deprive their children of the background and personal history that contributes to their sense of identity.
Planning an adoption
Women facing a crisis pregnancy have so many things to consider that sometimes they only choose their course of action late in their pregnancy or even after the baby has been born. Birth mothers are encouraged to seek assistance as early as possible to ensure they are guided in their choices while the whole range is still available to them. If you are experiencing a crisis pregnancy and decide to give up your baby for adoption, your course of action is to get in touch with an adoption social worker. These social workers hold a special accreditation that is recognised by the Department of Social Development and they are qualified to counsel all role-players with knowledge and compassion, but put the needs and desires of the birth mother, and the interests of the child first.
If a new mother decides only after the birth that she cannot care for the child, the adoption option still exists, and is of course preferable to abandonment. Nurses and hospital social workers at the establishment where antenatal classes or the actual birth take place, can refer the birth mother to the appropriate organisation.
Once you have been counseled and still feel that adoption is in your baby’s best interests, you will be assisted by the social worker to sign legal consent to the adoption and you will also be informed of your rights and the window period during which you are entitled to change your mind and withdraw your consent should your circumstances change. .
In terms of the law, birth fathers are also required to sign consent for their child’s adoption and they will be included in the counselling sessions. An adoption cannot be concluded until both birth parents have given consent. If a father has disappeared and his whereabouts are unknown, reasonable attempts will have to be made to trace him.
Adoption is often not promoted in state hospitals or health clinics as an alternative to abortion. As a result, few women facing an unplanned pregnancy are offered the chance to fully consider all the alternatives.