An unexpected or crisis pregnancy can be a frightening reality but there are resources available for expectant parents.

Crisis Pregnancy

When you hear an ambulance or police or a fire truck in America, you know there is an emergency or crisis in the area. Someone is hurt. Someone is sick. Someone has had an accident. Someone is the victim of a crime in the area. Bottom line is that when you hear a siren, someone is in the middle of a crisis. Sometimes, a pregnancy can be a crisis! The majority of pregnancies are joyous, happy long-anticipated events. But some pregnancies can be downright emergencies. Whether the pregnancy occurs at the wrong time or with the wrong person or whether the fact that the pregnancy simply is, a crisis pregnancy can be downright frightening as well as life-changing! 

Fear of the unknown, fear of the wrong person finding out, fear of the responsibility of caring for a brand-new human being can cause many women to have different reactions. Some women freeze and enter a state of denial, not believing that they are pregnant until they start to show. Other women may panic and make rash decisions that put themselves and their babies in danger. Here’s a good piece of advice regardless of what the crisis is: don’t make a permanent decision for a temporary problem. Yes, pregnancy is temporary. The morning sickness, discomfort, and pain of labor and delivery are nothing compared to the joy of a newborn baby.

What is considered a crisis pregnancy?

But let’s back up a bit. What exactly is considered a “crisis pregnancy”? Broadly speaking, it is a pregnancy that will cause a great deal of distress and life changes than normal. It is a pregnancy that will cause extraordinary decisions, including abortion, to be made in order to ensure normalcy in the life of the mother and the child. Here are some examples.

Abandonment. The fear of raising a child alone is extraordinary. The threat of a man leaving his significant other if she becomes pregnant is real and is the cause for many abortions. 

Finances. Another circumstance that may cause a pregnancy to be an emergency is a lack of financial stability. If a young lady is unemployed or struggling to make ends meet or has a number of other children, the thought of having another child can be simply unbearable. 

Teen pregnancy. The thought of raising a child when you yourself are a child is daunting. Many girls find themselves pregnant during adolescence with very little support. 

Homelessness. Homelessness is a crisis in and of itself but getting pregnant while homeless adds quite a twist. Not being able to prepare a room or not being able to imagine a house with a baby constitutes an emergency. 

Addictions. Having an addiction to drugs or alcohol while pregnant could land you into trouble with Child Protective Services, not to mention the developmental issue your child could have including FAS and FDS.

Wrong time. Perhaps you got pregnant precisely at the time you are entering college. Or perhaps you just got that big promotion at work and are moving up in the company. Another child would slow down that progress.

Wrong person. Perhaps you have been involved in an affair and found yourself pregnant. If this were to be exposed, you could lose your relationship or marriage.

Medical. Perhaps you have a medical concern that would be exacerbated by pregnancy. Whether it is cancer or a sexually transmitted infection, getting pregnant adds another level of concern that did not exist before. 

Sex trafficking. This crime is becoming more and more attention in the media and social media. Many women in the sex work business are not there of their own will, especially not underage children. 

Rape and Incest. These two circumstances are horrible. My heart goes out to women who have experienced these things. They are crimes. Some women choose abortion in these cases because they want to get out of the pain. Others choose abortion because of the shame. Keeping this horror a secret is sought out above all else. 

All these things are reasons why women consider themselves in a crisis pregnancy. Usually, the result of crisis pregnancies like these is abortion. Other women will choose to abandon their child. And every once in a while, there will be news reports of newborn babies found in a dumpster or toilet. There is never a crisis pregnancy so bad that there is not a solution. 

What are your options in a crisis pregnancy?

Keep the baby. Raise the baby with help. The first thing you should do if you are facing a crisis pregnancy is to get an ultrasound. An ultrasound is a picture of the baby while inside your womb. The ultrasound will show your baby’s gender, hands, feet, fingers, and toes. When you see this picture, you instantly create a bond between you and your baby! Most women who see their ultrasound decide to keep their baby. Consult your local Pregnancy Resource Center for a free ultrasound.

Secondly, contact trusted friends or family to disclose your crisis pregnancy to. If you choose to raise your baby, you will need help; help with childcare, help with advice, help with doctor appointments, etc. Many single moms have been successful but they have not been successful alone. Develop a support circle. You will need help. 

Adoption. Your crisis can be someone else’s blessing. Change your way of thinking. Your pregnancy may be unwanted, but your child is not. There are thousands of parents out there who would love to adopt a baby just like yours.

Private Adoption. For an expectant mom in a crisis pregnancy, private adoption is a beautiful option! An adoption helps three groups of people: birth parents, children, and adoptive parents. This type of adoption takes careful planning by the birth mother once she finds out she is pregnant. An adoption agency is recommended to help choose an appropriate family for the child, though it’s not necessary. An attorney helps to file all legal documents and to facilitate the adoption finalization. 

Open adoption. Open adoption is not the end; it is just the beginning! Open adoption gives birth parents the opportunity to stay involved in the life of their child after the adoption is finalized. As your attorney about a Post-Adoptive Communication Agreement. This is a legal document that may be enforceable in your state that outlines how, when, and where contact is to occur.

Foster-To-Adopt. Foster children are placed in care because of the birth parents’ inability or unwillingness to care for their child. The vast majority of children in foster care do get reunified with their parents, but some do get adopted by their foster parents. Some women facing crisis pregnancies would rather abort than face the prospect of their child ending up in foster care. The bottom line is that foster care is better than abortion!

This option can be scary for some birth moms because of the horrific stories we heard in the news about foster care. Nothing could be further from the truth! While there may be anecdotal stories of a few bad apples out there, the overwhelming evidence is that foster parents are some of the most caring, loving, and sacrificial people in the world! Also, birth parents have the opportunity to have supervised or unsupervised visits with their child in foster care. Foster care offers the prospect of working on your issues while your child is in foster care. Foster care offers hope!

Guardianship. Guardianship is a legal act, approved by a judge, in which a parent or primary caregiver turns over physical and sometimes legal custody to another responsible adult who agrees to be the guardian for that child. The caregiver for your child has the power to act on health, educational, behavioral health, and personal matters on behalf of that child. There are two types of guardianship, depending on the state you live in:

Temporary guardianship may be given to a person if parental rights have not been involuntarily severed. In this case, the birth mom keeps her parental rights, still has visitation rights, still can make decisions on behalf of the child, and may petition the courts to end guardianship should she feel that she is in a better position to raise the child herself.

Permanent guardianship may be granted to another person if it is proven that the biological parents abused, neglected, or abandoned their child. The guardianship process does not require attorneys, although depending on your situation, you may need one. As a mother, there is no cost to place your child in the guardianship of another family. If you know a responsible adult who can care for your child, guardianship may be appropriate in a crisis pregnancy.

Where can you turn in the midst of a crisis pregnancy?

Let’s face it, the reason why some pregnancies are a crisis in the first place is because of a lack of support. The people you could normally turn to are no longer there.

Pregnancy Resource centers. A pregnancy resource center, formerly known as a Crisis Pregnancy Center, is a clinic, free of charge, that serves women in crisis pregnancies. They provide things such as clothing, diapers, baby wipes, car seats, cribs, and other things needed to raise a baby. Some centers also provide prenatal care, Sexually Transmitted Infections screenings, and parenting classes. Some centers also offer adoption referrals. Not only do some centers also have counseling for pregnant moms, but they also offer education and counseling for young fathers. These centers are not government-funded but rely on funding from private donors.

Maternity homes. Some pregnancy resource centers can refer you to maternity homes. This is a place where mothers can stay if they face homelessness. These centers are confidential, loving, and non-judgmental. Some centers even have post-abortion counseling. There may be a waiting list for a spot in one of these homes and the stay is temporary, but their services are free of charge.

Social services. Each community has social services for moms in crisis. For example, federal programs such as WIC and Head Start serve moms and their children ages 0-5. WIC (Women, Infants and Children) is a food and health program that supplements a mom’s weekly groceries. They offer healthy food such as meat, cheese, cereal, milk, fruit, and vegetables. Head Start is an education program geared towards providing childcare for children, free of charge. 

The Faith Community. Lastly, seek out a church or para-church organization that ministers to single moms. They will care for you and your baby without judgment and free of charge. They will share their faith with you and pray for you and with you. Yes, walking into an unknown church when you are in the midst of a crisis pregnancy can be a bit awkward. But if you search for Pregnancy Resource Centers or other pro-life ministries, they will be able to give you the support that you need. Take a leap of faith!

My Story

If you are wondering why a man like myself has any credibility giving advice to women, please understand my origins. I am the result of a crisis pregnancy. My mom found out she was pregnant when she was 19 years of age. She and my birth father never married. Eventually, he left without supporting us or keeping any contact, making my mom a single mom for a couple of years. My mother felt alone, confused, and filled with anxiety. Thank God she had a supportive family who took us in and cared for us until she got married to the man I now call Dad. Because I had the support I needed growing up, I was able to become successful. The keyword is: “support.”

If you are a woman with a crisis pregnancy, the world is not ending, but rather just beginning! Get the support that you need. Go to someone in your family that will understand. If you have no one in your family, go to the community. There are others who have been in your position who have given life to their child and made the most of a bad situation. 

Derek Williams

Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journeys. He and his wife started their own adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children, 6 of whom are adopted. His adopted children are all different ethnicities, including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.