Updated: May 17
If you think about it, the first question you must answer before all others is whether to keep the pregnancy or pursue an abortion. For some mothers like Jess and my daughter’s mother, Mary, this was not even a question. They knew from day one that they were going to keep their babies, no matter how difficult it would be or what the children’s fathers had to say about it.
Abortion was not an option for them, partly for religious reasons, but also because they were entering their thirties and knew they might not have another chance at motherhood. I am pro-life in principle, so I agreed with Mary’s decision, but it is a deeply personal decision that each mother has to make for herself.
I wrote “each mother” and not “each parent,” because abortion is the mother’s decision to make. If the mother wants to keep the baby and the father wants an abortion, mom wins. If the father wants to keep the baby and the mother doesn’t, well, mom wins again.
It’s her body, and although you occasionally hear of a father asking the courts to force a woman to carry his baby to term, in practice, it’s pretty much impossible to stop a woman who is determined to end her pregnancy.
The decision to abort will affect you for the rest of your life. You should get counseling before you decide, not just from a professional counselor but also from family and friends you respect. We believe the wisdom that comes with age is best for this sort of decision, so give more weight to advice from older folks who have the benefit of hindsight.
Hindsight is an amazing thing. I was scared to death when I found out Mary was pregnant. I’m sure Jess’s co-parent was too when he learned about Jessica’s pregnancy. If Mary had said to me, “I’m going to get an abortion,” I would have been upset but probably felt some relief too if I’m honest about it.
However, with the benefit of just a little hindsight, I can definitively say that my daughter was the best thing that ever happened to me. I am grateful that Mary had the courage to choose life.
Jess and I think it’s helpful for parents to think about the abortion question by transplanting themselves into old age many decades from now. Ask yourself which is more likely: you will someday look back and regret raising a child, or will you eventually look back and regret having an abortion?
The point of this section is to make sure the father understands that abortion is ultimately the mother’s decision, and the best thing he can do is be honest with her so she can make the best decision possible.
If either parent plans to disappear and not be in the child’s life, then at least have the decency to say so now rather than later. Just understand that you will likely be on the hook for child support if the other parent asks the courts for it, even if you don’t want to be involved in raising the child.
Abortion laws vary from state to state, and the federal laws (Roe vs. Wade) could change someday, too, so we cannot advise you on how or where to get an abortion if that is what you choose to do. If you’ve decided abortion is what you must do, then you’ll have to ask your doctor or perhaps lawyer what next steps to take.
But, we recommend reading our entire book before choosing abortion because you might change your mind when you realize being an unmarried co-parent is not as terrible as you may think.
If you decide to keep the pregnancy, the next step in the decision tree is to raise the child yourself or give him up for adoption. The adoption decision can be even more difficult if you are especially young parents or if the pregnancy resulted from rape, for example. We cannot address every situation or age bracket, but we certainly acknowledge that having our children at age thirty was less challenging than if we were only twenty.
We think the same analysis applies to adoption as it does to abortion. Try to think about what you might regret more when you are old and gray, raising your child or giving him up for adoption?
If you are a pregnant teenager, you have additional challenges that older, more established individuals would have. Raising the child will require extra help from loved ones besides the father, who is probably also very young. Most of the advice in this book still applies to you.
And remember, while you will be giving up some freedom in your twenties, you will gain freedom in your forties. Think long term and realize you are not the first person to do this. Everything can work out fine if you think things through.
Adoption, like abortion, is one of the most difficult decisions a person can make. It may be tempting to look for some sort of middle ground, like an arrangement where someone adopts your child, but you visit occasionally. Our instinct is to avoid this path. It seems to us there is no simple middle ground when it comes to parenthood, and you may be doing the child a disservice if he spends his life comparing you to his legal guardian.
However, there is something called an "open adoption" that has gained popularity in recent years. This is a legal arrangement that might be right for some of you. Someone adopts your child but you get occasional photos, reports, and perhaps visits with the child as he grows up. Everything is spelled out with legal boundaries. If you know you cannot provide for your child, this might be a courageous option.
Both parents should know, if the mother wants to give the child up for adoption, the biological father will probably have the right of first refusal. And it might be obvious, but a father cannot force a mother to give her child up for adoption.
For some more reading on this subject, check out this article we found:
- Jessica & Jim
Jim and Jessica Braz are not lawyers. While they have real-life experience in the issues discussed here, they do not give legal advice on this website. Furthermore, child custody laws, child support calculations, and family law, in general, vary from state to state. Be sure to consult an attorney in the appropriate state for your custody litigation.
Jim and Jessica Braz are not doctors. While they have real-life experience in the issues discussed here, they do not give medical advice on this website. Be sure to consult your doctor on your specific medical situation.
Jim and Jessica Braz are not licensed therapists, mediators, or counselors. While they have real-life experience in the issues discussed here, you should consult licensed professionals as needed.
The advice given on this website does not hold Jim and Jessica Braz legally liable for any adverse outcomes you may have from following their advice.
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