Pregnancy … Unplanned
by June Hunt
The story has been repeated a hundred different times in a hundred different ways: an unwed teenager learns she is pregnant. But, on this occasion, the stigma of being unmarried and with child looms especially heavy. The fact that she is engaged hardly deflects the eyes of accusation glaring at her … for her fiancé knows that he is not the father.
Rather than eagerly anticipating his wedding day, his heart is heavy—his dreams are dashed. Thoughts whirl through his mind as he tries to consider his options: What is he to do with the one who was once the “love of his life”? And what will happen to the child she is carrying?
Neither parent could have fathomed God’s plan regarding this pregnancy. Never could they have known the path their lives would take, nor the supernatural work God would accomplish through the child of His making. This baby would be named Jesus … Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the world!
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
An unplanned or unwanted pregnancy is a crisis for some and a “mere inconvenience” for others. But regardless of the circumstance, the joy of pregnancy and the pride of parenthood are painfully missing. Feelings of guilt … hurt … anger … fear … all bond together like a ton of bricks and press down heavily on the heart. Like Mary and Joseph (Jesus’ parents), you may not understand all that God has planned for you or your baby, but you can know that it is God who formed your baby in the womb, and He did so with a good purpose.
“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”
A. What Is an Unplanned, Unwanted Pregnancy?
An unwanted pregnancy is the predicament of an expectant mother who, due to the circumstances of her life or the health of the baby, does not want to have her child.
• The predicament and pressure of an unwanted pregnancy can extend to the father of the child as well. Sometimes the mother wants the baby, but the father does not. And sometimes the father wants the child, but the mother does not.
• An unplanned, unwanted pregnancy could be the turning point in your life, God’s invitation for you to walk a higher road … to rise above the wrong ways of this world and to walk in God’s way so that you can be in His perfect will.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Two Categories of Unplanned, Unwanted Pregnancies
• A Crisis Pregnancy is the conception of a child that causes severe anxiety within the expectant mother because of various factors such as …
— the conception of a child before marriage (premarital pregnancy)
— the conception of a child outside of marriage (extramarital pregnancy)
— the extremely young age of the mother
— the questionable health of the mother and/or the child
— the lack of emotional support from the baby’s father or from her own parents
— the trauma of rape or incest
• An Inconvenient Pregnancy is the conception of a child that is untimely and/or bothersome because of various factors such as …
— the failure of contraceptives to work
— the interruption of school, career, or future plans
— the real or perceived lack of finances
— the pregnancy late in life
— the separation of the couple due to military, prison, marital problems, or divorce
— the desire to have no additional children or no children at all
Q “Shouldn’t every child be a wanted child?”
A Although an unborn baby may not be wanted by the mother or the father, no baby is unwanted by God. The Bible says that God knows every child and has plans for every child—even before conception. He says,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
B. What Is the Expectant Mother’s Dilemma?
Story of a True Crisis Pregnancy
“Maria” returned home in the middle of her freshman year at college. She needed to divulge something to her parents that just couldn’t be discussed by phone. But watching her mother’s face would be one of the most difficult experiences she would ever endure. As Maria tried to share her secret, shame and anguish blocked her words.… She couldn’t get them out of her mouth. Then her mother guessed.… Maria was pregnant!
Maria made this statement, “I was a mess. I was living life for me, not worried about the consequences of my actions. Close friends were telling me I was getting wild—walking right into trouble—but I wouldn’t listen. I was all wrapped up in doing my own thing! I thought the boy I was seeing at the time was wonderful. We were having so much fun. I didn’t want anything else except to be with him.” Maria had reasoned, If it feels good, do it. But the problem with this reasoning is found in this proverb …
“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.”
Q “What does God think of me for being sexually active and not married? How can He forgive me for becoming pregnant and bringing so much hurt and embarrassment to my family?”
A Your pregnancy has not taken God by surprise. Although He knew this situation would occur in your life, He never has wavered, nor will He ever waver in His love for you. His feelings for you are those of compassion, not condemnation. And if you allow Him, He will restore your life and give you new meaning and purpose.
“[God] redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” (Psalm 103:4)
Story of a True Inconvenient Pregnancy
“Congratulations,” the doctor said, “You’re pregnant.” Natalie and her husband, Brad, were both thirty-five-years-old with three children at home. This was not good news! The announcement of another pregnancy ignited an explosion. Brad believed that their resources were already strained and the reality of another baby would create a negative impact on the family. This was too much for Brad.
The only alternative Brad could conceive was for Natalie to have an abortion. He told her that aborting the child was the only solution for their dilemma. Natalie was hurt … wounded … dismayed. She couldn’t believe her husband would make such a request. Her conscience told her, Just because abortion is legal, that doesn’t make it right.
Q “I feel horrible because my husband wants me to have an abortion. How can I go against my husband when the Bible tells me I must be a submissive wife to him?”
A The Bible says both husbands and wives are to have a submissive spirit toward one another. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). If you feel horrible at the thought of abortion, then you should not submit to an act that violates your conscience. Ultimately, your highest submission must be to obey God alone.
“We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29)
C. What Are the Developmental Stages of Your Unborn Baby?
Life doesn’t begin at the point of delivery when the baby takes a first breath. Even though you may not feel pregnant or look different, within three weeks of conception, that little life within you has developed a brain, a beating heart, and tiny limbs that begin to “sprout” and move about. During this time, your unborn will grow from a zygote to embryo to fetus … just as a newborn grows from child to adolescent to adult.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
From Zygote to embryo to Fetus
• Stage One—from conception to 10 to 14 Days
The word zygote refers to the unborn baby during the first stage of prenatal development. During this time, the zygote travels down the fallopian tube and attaches to the uterine wall. The fertilized egg or ovum contains the entire genetic code of a unique human being.
• Stage Two—from 3 to 8 Weeks
The term embryo refers to the unborn baby during the second stage of prenatal development. At this stage, the fertilized egg develops the main parts of the body and the structure and organs take shape.
• Stage Three—from 8 to 40 Weeks
The term fetus applies to the unborn baby during the final stage of prenatal development, from the time the features are distinct until actual birth.
Although conception and development of the unborn baby are hidden from our view, God sees and oversees all. In the Psalms we can see God’s direct involvement in our lives through David’s words to God.…
“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”
D. What Are the Three Trimesters?
The full nine months of your pregnancy are divided into three even segments called trimesters. Each trimester lasts three months.
Chronology of a New Human Life
• First Month
— Immediately upon fertilization, cellular development begins. Before implantation, the sex of the new life can be determined.
— At implantation, the new life is composed of hundreds of cells and has developed a protective hormone to prevent the mother’s body from rejecting the unborn as foreign tissue.
— At 17 days, the new life has developed blood cells. The placenta is a part of the new life and not a part of the mother.
— At 18 days, occasional pulsations of a muscle occur—this muscle is the heart.
— At 19 days, eyes begin to develop.
— At 20 days, the foundation of the brain, spinal cord, and entire nervous system has been laid.
— At 21 days, the heart begins beating.
— At 28 days, the backbone and 40 pairs of muscles have developed along the trunk of the new life. Arms and legs are forming.
• Second Month
— At 30 days, regular blood flow is evident within the vascular system; the ears and nasal development have begun.
— At 40 days, the baby’s heart is beating faster than the mother’s heart and produces almost 20 percent of the energy of an adult heart.
• Week 6—The baby is one-half inch long.
— At 42 days, the skeleton is complete and reflexes are present.
— At 43 days, electrical brain wave patterns can be recorded. This is usually ample evidence that “thinking” is taking place in the brain. The new life may be thought of as a thinking person.
• Week 7—the baby is three-fourths of an inch long.
— At 49 days, the fetus has the appearance of a miniature doll, complete with fully-developed fingers, toes, and ears.
• Week 8
— At 56 days, all organs are functioning—including stomach, liver, kidneys, brain—all systems are intact. The new life has all its physical parts and now needs only nourishment. All future development is simply that of refinement and increase in size until maturity at approximately age twenty-three.
This stage is approximately two months before “quickening,” or the mother’s feeling movement. The mother will usually not feel the baby’s movements until four months after conception.
• Third Month
— At 9 weeks, the baby is two inches long. Fingerprints appear.
— At 9 and 10 weeks, the new life squints, swallows, and retracts the tongue. The contour of the face and body look more like a baby’s, and the physical characteristics are obvious.
— At 11 and 12 weeks, arms and legs move, while fingernails and toenails appear. The new life inhales and exhales amniotic fluid.
• Fourth Month
— At 13 weeks, hair appears on the baby’s head.
— At 14 weeks, the baby can bring both hands together and suck on the thumb.
— At 16 weeks, genital organs are clearly differentiated. Hands are able to grasp. (See Hosea 12:3.) The new life swims, kicks, and turns somersaults, although movement is often still not felt by the mother.
• Fifth Month
— At 18 weeks, the baby is 12 inches long, and the mother can definitely feel her baby move. Vocal cords are working.… The new life has the ability to cry.
• Sixth Month
— At 26 weeks, the sensory organs are all working—the baby is able to hear, see, taste, and touch.
• Seventh Month
— At 28 weeks, the baby weighs about two and one-half pounds. Now the baby will begin to gain weight more rapidly.
• Eight Month
— At 31 weeks, the baby weighs about three pounds and is about 16 inches long. The baby’s eyes are open during awake times.
• Ninth Month
— At 37 weeks, the baby’s immune system develops in preparation for life outside the womb. Delivery will come very soon!
Although no one fully understands all the ways and works of God, He will do what is right on behalf of both you and your child. Each precious life in a mother’s womb is being formed by God, the Maker of all things.
“This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things.”
Q “If I decide to keep my baby, will I know how to be a good parent?”
A Someone once said, “Single parenting is the hardest job in the universe”; however, God promises to give you His supernatural strength if you live dependently on Him. If you allow His inner presence to be in control of your life, then you can be His instrument to provide security for your child. A wise parent knows that a child’s need for emotional security is far greater than the need for material things or social advantage. Be assured; the Lord will give you the strength to do whatever He calls you to do.
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” (Isaiah 40:29)
E. What Is God’s Heart for Your Unborn Child?
Even if you made a mistake, your child is not a mistake! God is not surprised by the creation of this new life—He is the Creator. And those whom He creates, He loves. Therefore, nothing will ever separate you or your baby from the love of God.
“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
• God is the author of life.
“I bring to life.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)
• God opens and closes the womb.
“The Lord … opened her womb.” (Genesis 29:31)
“The Lord … closed her womb.” (1 Samuel 1:5)
• God ordains all pregnancies—regardless of the circumstances.
“This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things.” (Isaiah 44:24)
• God creates every life.
“Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?” (Deuteronomy 32:6)
• God never forms a life without having plans for that life.
“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)
From God’s perspective, all pregnancies are of Him and therefore are wanted by Him.
Q “If God is the creator of the baby inside my body, why do I feel like this premarital pregnancy is His punishment for my sin?”
A Your pregnancy is not God’s condemnation for sin, but rather a consequence of sin. Although you made a mistake, your child is not a mistake. Look to God for His wisdom and His insight. He plans to use this perplexing circumstance of your life to draw you into a deeper relationship and dependency on Him. The Bible says,
“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71)
II. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BEWILDERED MOTHER-TO-BE
In Mary and Joseph’s world, pregnancy outside of marriage was viewed with such reproach, that according to the laws of the times, Mary could have been stoned to death. Even if she attempted to hide her pregnancy, Mary knew that keeping it a secret would be impossible. The natural changes in her body would result in heartrending accusations as more and more people discovered her secret. She also knew that neighbors and close friends would struggle just to speak to her. Before she began to show the signs of “being with child,” she left town for three months to stay in the home of distant relatives.
You, too, may be struggling with an unplanned pregnancy. For many expectant mothers, pregnancy can feel like an overwhelming burden … a painful trial you wish to avoid. But remember, all trials come with God’s grace for endurance.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
A. Could You Be Pregnant … and Not Know It?
Considering the power of denial or the possibility of naiveté, it could take months before a younger or older female becomes aware that she is pregnant. Just one sexual encounter opens the possibility of pregnancy. That is why every female needs to be alert to signs and symptoms that seem unusual. When pregnancy is a reality, many physical changes take place that indicate the beginning of a tiny life being formed … directly under your heart.
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.”
• Do you have persistent nausea in the morning or during the day?
• Do you experience frequent mood changes?
• Did you miss your monthly cycle?
• Do you have tender or enlarged breasts?
• Do you urinate frequently?
• Do you feel excessively tired?
• Does intuition cause you to suspect that you are pregnant?
A missed menstrual period is the most likely sign of a pregnancy, but if you experience any of these symptoms, find out for sure. Don’t wait, hoping the symptoms will go away. Seek a pregnancy test as soon as possible.
“The wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.”
Q “I’m pregnant and not married. How can I face the shame of telling my parents?”
A Because you chose to have sexual activity designed for married adults, you will now be facing choices that will require adult decisions. One of your first decisions must be to tell your parents—they deserve to know the truth. The majority of parents will be supportive after dealing with their own mixed feelings. Be honest and be adult in your decision making.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became [an adult], I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
B. What Are the Predictable Reactions to a Problem Pregnancy?
We all face unplanned trials in life, but we can choose to see these trials as opportunities to gain insights about the hidden gifts from God … even those that come in unwanted packages. When your faith clings to the certainty that eventually peace and contentment are possible, no matter your circumstances, healing and personal growth will take place. Although you will experience the normal reactions to an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, cling to the truth that God, in His mercy, will bring good out of your situation.
“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
• “This isn’t true.… It’s a mistake.”
• “This couldn’t happen to me.”
• “This is not my fault.”
• “There are many reasons for missing a period.”
When it’s difficult to face the truth, acknowledge the truth of God.…
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
• “Who should I tell about this?”
• “What will people think of me?”
• “My life is ruined.”
• “How could I have been so stupid?”
When drowning in the sea of distress, cry out to God.…
“Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.”
• “I feel so alone and helpless.”
• “I hate myself.”
• “I can’t face the shame.”
• “I would rather die than face the future.”
When all hope seems gone, place your hope in God.…
“No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.”
• “I can’t bear to tell my parents.”
• “Will my boyfriend leave me?”
• “What will I do about school or a job?”
• “No one will ever want to marry me.”
When overcome with fear of the future, ask of God …
“Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good.”
• “I can’t keep this baby—but I can’t let my baby go.”
• “Should I marry the baby’s father—even if I don’t love him?”
• “Should I consider abortion—even if I know it’s wrong?”
• “Should I raise my baby or consider adoption?”
When dealing with a difficult dilemma, seek godly wisdom.…
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Q “I feel scared! What will people say—my boyfriend, my family, my friends? What will happen to my future? How do I handle my fear?”
A Being scared is understandable. You are challenged with major changes that are physical and emotional—even social. When you are afraid, focus on the compassion of Christ. In John chapter 8, the judgmental leaders of Israel asked Jesus if, according to the law, they should stone a woman who had been caught in adultery. Jesus did not condemn her—but, at the same time, He told her to leave her life of sin. His primary concern was actually not her sin, but her soul—she needed a changed life, and she got it! Christ is handing you this same cup of compassion. You can be at peace by giving Him your life. He will give you a new life that has enough love for two.
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
C. What Are Common Characteristics in Premarital Pregnancies?
Most young girls dream of the day of their wedding … a handsome groom, a captivating dress, abundant flowers, beautiful bridesmaids, family and friends … and of course, a four-tiered cake at a large reception. No young woman sees herself walking into an adoption agency alone … or clutching the release papers signed by her ex-boyfriend … or praying for a good home for her unborn baby. How did her dreams become such a dilemma? What characteristics are common in premarital sexual activity?
• Curiosity about sex
• Desire for popularity
• Desire to escape family conflicts
• Emotional immaturity
• Fear of losing a boyfriend
• Fear of missing out on life
• Fear of never getting married
• Inability to make decisions
• Inability to set boundaries
• Involvement in satanic practices
• Lack of affectionate parents (especially fathers)
• Lack of goals for the future
• Lack of parental guidance
• Low self-esteem
• Need for intimacy
• Need to feel loved
• Poor communication skills
• Pressure from peers
God gives us guidance so that we will go in the right direction and not end up in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. He doesn’t say to walk away from sexual temptation, God says, “RUN AWAY … for your own good!”
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”
(1 Corinthians 6:18)
Q “Will my baby always be an illegitimate child?”
A Not at all! Your baby is in no way illegitimate. In reality, there are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents. Your baby is innocent of any wrongdoing.
“Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—the Lord detests them both.” (Proverbs 17:15)
D. What Has Happened to Family Values?
Too many parents are abdicating their responsibility to train their children with moral values. Too many leaders have adopted the immoral values of an unprincipled culture. The sexual relationship was created by God for procreation and for pleasure, but only within the protective confines of marriage. Sex apart from marriage demonstrates a lack of respect for the heart of God regarding immoral sexual behavior and will always result in consequences.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Since you have forgotten me and thrust me behind your back, you must bear the consequences of your lewdness and prostitution.”
Characteristics of Poor Parenting
• Mothers who fail to be positive role models for their daughters
• Mothers who provide birth control pills for their daughters
• Fathers who are not affectionate, leaving their daughters desperate for male affection
• Fathers who are absent from the home
• Parents who allow children to date when they are too young
• Parents who allow teenagers to be home alone over long periods of time without supervision
• Parents who fail to train their children to be responsible for their own lives
• Parents who allow their children to watch sexually oriented tv
• Parents who don’t model love between each other
• Parents who fail to communicate love to their children
• Parents who fail to train their children to stand alone against peer pressure
A strong picture of parental involvement is found in one of the most important passages of the Old Testament.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Q“Are the parents responsible when their teenager gets involved in premarital sex?”
A No. Everyone has a God-given conscience that enables them to determine right from wrong. While many teens have been allowed to be self-indulgent instead of receiving training to be self-controlled, a teenager is still responsible for his or her own actions.
“Each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)
III. Causes For Fears Regarding Unplanned Pregnancies
A close look at Mary’s pregnancy reveals that her experience was far from easy … and the same was true for Joseph. Imagine the burden. Imagine the dismay he must have felt when he learned that his bride-to-be was expecting a child. Being a righteous man, Joseph knew that he wasn’t the father, yet he sought to handle the situation in the kindest way possible. He would end their engagement discreetly, so as to spare her public disgrace. (See Matthew 1:19.)
But after an angel addressed his fears and revealed that Mary’s child was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20), Joseph took her as his bride and helped her with the parenting of the child, Jesus. Looking back through the pages of history, Mary’s pregnancy proved to be a blessing … not a burden. And just as Joseph and Mary yielded themselves and the pregnancy to God’s plan, Jesus calls you to yield yourself and your pregnancy to Him.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
A. Why Do Many Consider Children a Burden Rather Than a Blessing?
Having children has become undesirable to an increasing number of people. Over time, changes have occurred in the way children are valued. While the value of raising children has decreased, the fear of raising children has increased.
• The value placed on raising children has decreased because …
— Some desire to have children only under “ideal” financial conditions.
— Sometimes both parents desire to have a career.
— Some desire to not contribute to overpopulation.
— Some desire to live an unburdened lifestyle without children.
— Some desire to raise no more children than they already possess.
— Some desire to not have children beyond a certain age in life.
Q “What’s wrong with having personal preferences when it comes to having and raising children?”
A Nothing is wrong with having and acting on your own desires regarding children … until it comes to making a decision once a pregnancy occurs. Jesus said,
“Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Luke 9:48)
• The fear of raising children has increased because …
— Those raised in dysfunctional families sometimes feel inadequate to raise emotionally healthy children.
— The increase of sexual promiscuity or alcohol and drug use among youth can cause couples to be afraid to bring children into the world.
— The disrespect and rebellion of youth have intimidated many potential parents.
Q “Things seem to be getting worse with each generation. Why should I bring a child into such a troubled world?”
A Even though you may not want to bring a child into a world that seems immoral and chaotic, God’s heart is clear about childbearing, regardless of the circumstances.
“Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3–5)
B. Why Is Sex outside of Marriage Increasing?
The pleasures of sex have always presented both a temptation to sin and a test to withstand temptation. Discipline and self-denial require a person to value principle over pleasure. Becoming a person of principle comes from conviction and a belief in moral absolutes. Many who are lured by the pleasures of illicit sexual activity never realize there is a deadly hook hidden within these pleasures. When we find ourselves enticed by sex, God says,
“If sinners entice you, do not give in to them.”
• What are the three major contributors that lure people into illicit sex?
— Marketing of sex through the media (magazines, television, movies, Internet)
— Proliferation of pornography (erotic sex on the Internet, sex chat rooms, movies, videos, TV, print)
— Easy access to becoming involved in sexual activity (lack of sexual boundaries set by parents, promotion of “safe sex” with the use of condoms, increased acceptance of oral sex and other pre-intercourse activities)
“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.”
Q “How can I have the courage to stand against the world and its acceptance of seemingly free sexual pleasure?”
A It’s never too late to become sexually pure. Sexual purity involves controlling your eyes, which leads to controlling your body. God always honors the heart that truly seeks Him for strength to control the lure of illicit sexual desire.
“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” (Exodus 23:2)
• Why have the three major consequences of illicit sex lessened?
— Fear of pregnancy has decreased because of birth control and legal abortion.
— Fear of sexually transmitted diseases has declined as the result of advances in medical science and the false message of “safe sex.”
— Fear of moral shame has diminished because of the media and cultural acceptance of premarital sex.
Q “How could I have been so blind to the truth before I got pregnant?”
A When we are tempted, we usually know what we should do, but often our hearts don’t want to live in the light of truth. Typically, we aren’t “blind to the truth”; we simply look away from the truth because it would convict us of our immoral behavior. We want to follow our feelings instead of fearing the consequences of our sin. This is why the Lord wants to shed light on our darkness.…
“You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” (2 Samuel 22:29)
Regardless of how much the consequences of illicit sex have lessened, God says,
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth.… Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:23–27)
C. How Does Ethics Determine Choices Regarding Unplanned Pregnancies?
The definition of ethics is “a set of moral values or principles by which we make decisions involving our choices and conduct.” People make choices based on the system of ethics they decide to trust. Christians put their trust in Christ to enable them to live life according to God’s moral absolutes as revealed in His Word.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
• Cultural Relativism says:
“Nothing’s wrong with abortion. It’s certainly legal, and everyone is doing it.” Moral standards are based on the culture and one’s own conscience. There are no moral absolutes.
Biblical Moral Absolutes:
“I have set before you life and death.… Choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20)
• Behaviorism says:
“Don’t rob yourself of natural desires.” We’re simply a product of our genes, and there’s no such thing as morality.
Biblical Moral Absolutes:
“Say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.” (Titus 2:12)
• Situation Ethics says:
“You shouldn’t impose your values on others. Everyone’s situation is different.” Whatever is the most loving is the determining factor when choosing right from wrong.
Biblical Moral Absolutes:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
• Emotive Ethics says:
“If it feels right, do it.” Nothing is literally right or wrong; these words are only expressions of emotion.
Biblical Moral Absolutes:
“There is a way that seems right … but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25)
Q “Can a Christian lapse into immorality and still receive God’s forgiveness?”
A Yes. King David committed adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers, and he experienced the consequence of his sin. Yet, David later was referred to as “a man after God’s own heart,” and he said that through repentance and pain he became even closer to God. This was the prayer of David’s heart …
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
D. What Is the Cause of Fears Surrounding Unwanted Pregnancies?
Anyone who experiences an unwanted pregnancy faces many fears, especially, What am I going to do now? Our idealistic thinking causes us to believe, This can’t be happening to me. But how can we be so mired in disbelief? Many situations occur that we don’t plan. Because we often escape the consequences of our own negative behavior, we become lulled into believing It won’t happen to me. But repercussions do occur and, without strong support, fear and anxiety cause difficulty in deciding how to respond. You may feel that you are all alone, but you are not! The God who loves you is with you and can calm all your fears.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Face Your Paralyzing Fears
Freedom seems destroyed forever.
But … “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Enjoyment of life, as it was, seems to be gone forever.
But … “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Anger at God exists over your pregnancy.
But … “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent” (Psalm 4:4).
Rejection by people is painful.
But … “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Psalm 27:10)
Security is threatened.
But … “You will be secure, because there is hope” (Job 11:18)
Q “In the midst of this fearful, unplanned pregnancy, will I ever have inner peace?”
A With God, inner peace is possible, even in the midst of your problems and fears. Just remember, no problem is too big for God to solve! As the Prince of Peace, Jesus wants to be peace for you. Regardless of your fears and problems, you can have His inner peace when you have His inner presence. Jesus said,
“In me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
E. Root Cause of Unplanned Pregnancies
God created every person with three inner needs for love, for significance, and for security. Our tendency is to seek to meet these needs in our own way, not realizing that God gives them to us for a purpose. He wants us to learn that He knows us intimately and that our deepest inner needs will only be completely met through Him. When our reasoning is incorrect, we will live by our own wrong beliefs. A wise person, however, knows that we accomplish nothing of lasting value apart from God’s plan. The Lord says,
“I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“I have the right to decide what to do with my own body. I’m afraid that having this baby will destroy my future happiness.”
|• Love:||“I only wanted to feel loved, but now I will be rejected and never have an opportunity to develop a loving marital relationship.” (crisis pregnancy)“It’s better not to bring an unwanted child into this world.” (inconvenient pregnancy)|
|• Significance:||“My boyfriend has left me, and now he brags to his friends about his sexual conquests.” (crisis pregnancy)“I will have to give up my goals and plans.” (inconvenient pregnancy)|
|• Security:||“I have absolutely no security now. I could lose my family and friends and even the father of my baby.” (crisis pregnancy)“This would throw our family into a crisis. A baby now would bring too much stress into our family, affecting our lifestyle and family finances.” (inconvenient pregnancy)|
God has a plan for the child in my womb. My unborn baby is both loved by God and is an expression of God’s love for me. I’m choosing to trust the Lord to meet my deepest inner needs.
|• Love:||God loves me, and He will provide healthy, loving relationships for me and for my baby.|
|• Significance:||The Lord will accomplish His goals and His plans for my life and for my child’s life.|
|• Security:||Because the Lord is in control of my life, I can count on Him to walk with me and my baby each step of the way.|
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.… Everyone who is called by my name … I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
(Isaiah 43:2, 7)
What Is the Most Important Relationship You Need?
Many physical things that happen in life are unwanted or unplanned—such as a bee sting, a car crash, even a pregnancy. And some of our feelings are also unwanted—such as guilt, grief, sorrow, and shame. Many of these unwanted feelings are the result of our unwise choices … our self-willed living, which God calls sin. If you have never placed your trust in Jesus, your sin keeps you from having a relationship with God. He alone can give you the strength and support to handle an unplanned pregnancy.
How to Have a Relationship with God That Lasts Forever
#1 God’s Purpose for You … is Salvation.
— What was God’s motive in sending Christ to earth? To condemn you? No … to express His love for you by saving you!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)
— What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? To make everything perfect and to remove all sin? No … to forgive your sins, empower you to have victory over sin, and enable you to live a fulfilled life!
“I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
#2 Your Problem … is Sin.
— What exactly is sin? Sin is living independently of God’s standard—knowing what is right, but choosing wrong.
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
— What is the major consequence of sin? Spiritual death, spiritual separation from God.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
#3 God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.
— Can anything remove the penalty for sin? Yes. Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for your sins.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
— What is the solution to being separated from God? Belief in Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6)
#4 Your Part … is Surrender.
— Place your faith in (rely on) Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and reject your “good works” as a means of gaining God’s approval.
“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
— Give Christ control of your life, entrusting yourself to Him.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:24–26)
The moment you choose to believe in Him—entrusting your life to Christ—He gives you His Spirit to live inside you. Then the Spirit of Christ gives you His power to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you. If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person God created you to be, you can tell Him in a simple, heartfelt prayer like this:
|Prayer of Salvation“God, I want a real relationship with You. I admit that many times I’ve chosen to go my own way instead of Your way. Please forgive me for my sins. Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Come into my life to be my Lord and my Savior. Through Your power, begin healing the hurts in my heart. Teach me to trust in You alone to take care of me and my baby, Make me the person You created me to be. In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”|
What Can You Expect Now?
If you sincerely prayed this prayer, look at what God’s Word says that He does for you!
“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
IV. Steps to Solution
You may feel overwhelmed, wishing you could turn back the clock or change the unexpected. Realize that Mary’s pregnancy was also unexpected and, of course, “inconvenient” in light of the fact that Mary was not married. In spite of the critical eyes of others, what gave her the grace to go through her pregnancy with peace? It was the knowledge that her baby was actually a blessing.… Her baby was a gift from God. And she saw that her pregnancy was a part of God’s plan.
You may be wondering, How can my baby be a blessing rather than a burden? Although your baby is not the Messiah, your little one has been created by God and is being formed by God according to His plan!
Now God has entrusted you with the ability and responsibility to bring this little life into the world. And just as the star in Bethlehem guided the wise men many centuries ago, God’s Word will shed light, guiding you to find the best response to your pregnancy.
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple”.
A. Key Verse to Memorize
“He will bless the fruit of your womb.”
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
God’s Presence in My Pregnancy
I am not alone in this unplanned pregnancy. My God …
|• Knows me intimately||v. 1|
|• Knows what I am thinking||v. 2|
|• Knows what is happening to me||v. 3|
|• Knows what I will say before I speak||v. 4|
|• Will surround me with protection||v. 5|
|• Has knowledge beyond my understanding||v. 6|
|• Is available wherever I need Him||v. 7|
|• Is always with me||v. 8|
|• Will guide me wherever I go||v. 10|
|• Will keep me secure||v. 10|
|• Will shed light on my darkness||v. 11–12|
|• Knows and planned my baby||v. 13|
|• Is shaping my baby’s body and soul||v. 13|
|• Is making my baby into something wonderful||v. 14|
|• Can see what I can’t see—the baby in my womb||v. 15|
|• Can see my baby’s unformed body||v. 16|
|• Knew of this pregnancy even before I was born||v. 16|
|• Thinks precious thoughts about me||v. 17|
|• Thinks about me beyond what I can imagine||v. 18|
|• Will never leave me||v. 18|
|• Knows my anxious thoughts||v. 23|
|• Will lead me from the wrong way to the way that is right||v. 24|
C. What Are All Your Options?
Your pregnancy may leave you feeling trapped, as though you have no good options. Actually, there is an option that will provide the best solution for you in the midst of your crisis. An informed decision now can save you much sorrow later. Ultimately, three options are available—abortion, parenting, and adoption. Carefully and prayerfully consider each option before you decide so that your decision won’t leave you with a lifetime of regret.
“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple [the foolish] keep going and suffer for it.”
#1 The Option of Abortion
Lana and her boyfriend were both high school seniors and neither had learned to curb their sexual appetites. All their friends who were “going steady” were sexually active, and since none of their friends became pregnant, they thought, Why should we worry? Then one day, when the moment of truth came crashing down, panic flooded her emotions. Even though Lana knew it was wrong, she still aborted her baby. She violated her conscience by assuming that abortion was actually her only option. The counselor at the clinic reassured her, “It’s not a baby; it’s just a mass of tissue.” Yet, deep in her heart, Lana knew differently.
Although 15 years later, Lana says, “I’m fine,” she lives with flashbacks of guilt and grief. Every year as the anniversary of the abortion approaches, Lana goes into a dark depression. Until all the emotional residue is resolved, Lana will remain an emotional cripple. And until the guilt and the grief are healed, she won’t be all God wants her to be. Lana says today that, although abortion may be legal, that does not make it right, because she realizes her baby is God’s baby first.
“Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.”
Before considering an abortion, honestly answer the following questions and carefully consider the accompanying truths.
• Are you afraid that the response of others will be ridicule or rejection?
Realize … it is wiser to fear the response of God than the response of people.
• Are you being pressured, especially by parents, the baby’s father, or abortion counselors?
Realize … there is no easy way out, and doing what God says is more important than doing what people say.
• Are you concerned about problems in your relationship with the baby’s father?
Realize … if the father truly loves you, he will support you emotionally.
• Are you wanting to escape the reminder that you made a major mistake?
Realize … God wants your child to be a reminder of His sovereignty and His purposes, not of your mistake.
• Are you afraid of the financial responsibility and care of your baby?
Realize … God will provide for you and your baby.
• Are you reluctant to bring an unwanted child into the world?
Realize … every child is wanted by God, and you can choose to want to have your child.
• Are you concerned about possible health problems of the baby?
Realize … the value of life is not related to the health of the baby but to the God-given value placed on this baby by the Creator of life.
• Are you unaware that life begins at conception?
Realize … a separate life begins when a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm are joined.
• Are you viewing abortion as a form of birth control?
Realize … abortion kills a life, which is different from preventing the conception of a life.
• Are you wanting to get rid of a baby who is a result of a wrongful act such as rape or incest?
Realize … your baby is innocent of any wrongful act and is undeserving of the death penalty.
Terminating an innocent life will not end your grief but will rather compound your grief with guilt.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
Q “Since it’s legal, isn’t abortion the best way to solve all of my problems?”
A Terminating a pregnancy through killing an innocent life may seem to solve the problem, but it only creates more problems. Those who choose abortion often have multiplied sadness and sorrow, guilt and regret. The Bible says,
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
#2 The Option of Parenting (single parenting a child, marrying for the sake of the child, or raising a child within a marriage)
Lisa attracted many young men seeking her favor. After beginning a great summer job, she became involved with an older man. She knew she was playing with fire, but he kept reassuring her, “Everything will be okay.”
But at the end of the summer, he deserted his “summer fling,” and she had to face her parents and her pregnancy—alone. Since neither she nor her parents approved of abortion, she worked and saved in order to take on the “single parenting” role. After having her baby, she learned that single parenting was a hard challenge: working, paying for childcare, and facing childrearing alone.
Even if she had married the father of the child, marriages based strictly on a pregnancy are rarely successful. But because Lisa had parental support and because she chose to live her life in a way that was pleasing to God, the Lord blessed her commitment.
While the majority of birth mothers choose to keep their babies, you need to answer a number of significant questions before you can determine whether this option is best for you.
“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways.”
• Single Parenting a Child
Parenting requires emotional maturity. A parent is a mother or a father with the responsibility to be a provider and a protector of a child. Parenting a child means obligating yourself to physically raise, emotionally nurture, and spiritually train a son or daughter—often at great sacrifice to your own independence. Even the “virtuous woman” is described in this way …
“She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family.”
— Do I have a network of family or friends who can support me in my decision?
— Can I raise my child while living with my parents?
— How do my parents feel about helping me with my child?
— What financial resources or assistance do I have available to help take care of my baby?
— Can I handle caring for a child plus my work/school responsibilities?
— Am I able to give the time and attention that my child needs?
— Can I provide an adequate and safe home for my baby where I am now living?
— What goals would I have to delay or give up to raise my child?
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
• Marrying for the Sake of the Child
If you are considering marrying the father—or someone else—pregnancy must not be the primary reason to marry. You need to have similar commitments, goals, and values. The Bible says,
“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”
— Would an immediate marriage now be wise in the long-term?
— Am I in a good place to consider marriage?
— Would my husband love my child and be a good role model?
— Can he financially support the baby and me?
— Does he like and want children?
— Is he someone with whom I would like to spend the rest of my life?
— Do I feel led by the Lord to marry him?
— Do we share core spiritual values?
If you are considering marriage, first obtain premarital counseling. And be aware that 75 % of teenage marriages end in divorce. In order to consider marrying, you both need to have the same spiritual foundation or your marriage may fall apart.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.… What fellowship can light have with darkness?… What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”
(2 Corinthians 6:14–15)
• Raising a Child within a Marriage
If you are married and contemplating keeping your child, realize that God’s best is that both mother and father be actively involved in the parenting of children.
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”
To determine your biblical accountability as parents, ask yourselves the following questions:
— Will we unconditionally accept, love, and nurture our child regardless of any physical problems?
— Will we approach parenting with common goals and purposes?
— Will we take every opportunity to teach our child spiritual truth?
— Will we clearly instruct our child by doing what is ethically right and just?
— Will we plan ahead to protect our child from danger?
— Will we provide for our child’s material needs?
— Will we lovingly and effectively discipline our child?
— Will we regard our child as a blessing?
Although you may not see it now, the baby in your womb is a gift from God and will be a blessing in your life.
“Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.”
Q “Why have I been desperate?”
A Your desperate need for love and intimacy caused you to ignore the truth and to believe you could get your need met through immoral love without any consequences. The seduction of sin convinces us that we can satisfy our needs without God. Indeed, God created us all with this need for love, but His plan was and is to meet our love needs through an intimate relationship with Himself. He says,
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
#3 The Option of Adoption
Linda was lonely and desperate for love. The physical closeness with a young man seemed to fill the empty place in her heart. Her craving for affection resulted in a premature sexual relationship … and an unplanned pregnancy.
What now? Abortion was never an option, and with marriage or single parenting out of the picture, her choices had narrowed to one … adoption. Linda knew that adoption was by far the best choice, especially for the baby. She learned about the new freedoms within “open adoption,” the many rights of the birth mother, and the blessing for her child to be raised in a healthy, two-parent home. Many infertile couples desperately want a child, and Linda’s choice was an answer to the prayers of one of those couples.
While the advantages of adoption are considerable, fewer than 2 % of women with an unwanted pregnancy choose adoption as their best option. The emotional attachment to the baby growing inside a pregnant woman creates a longing for motherhood that can overshadow all other considerations. However, adoption opens the door for your child to be loved and cared for by a loving, caring family.
“God sets the lonely in families.”
Q What Are the Advantages of Adoption?
A • Are you aware that while birth mothers experience the grief of loss, they can have more peace by knowing that their child will be raised in a loving and stable environment?
• Are you aware that adoption often provides the best and most stable environment for the baby?
• Are you aware that adoption can be an answer to prayer for the many childless couples who are eagerly seeking to love and care for a child?
• Are you aware that there are more couples wanting to adopt a baby than there are babies available for adoption?
• Are you aware that birth mothers who prepare an adoption plan are more likely to get an education, get a job, and get married?
• Are you aware that when a baby is placed for adoption, all birth expenses are paid?
• Are you aware that you can choose your child’s family and get to know them personally?
• Are you aware that you can stay in contact with the couple who adopts your child through letters and pictures?
• Are you aware that you can visit with your child at specific, agreed upon times?
• Are you aware that adoption can be the highest expression of spiritual love? Adoption reflects the loving relationship of God with all who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Those who accept Christ are “adopted” into the family of God. The Bible says, “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:5).
Note: Your adoption facilitator can help you decide what is best for you.
Q “How can a mother who loves her unborn baby give the baby up when the child is born?”
A God the Father gave up His Son, Jesus, based on His sacrificial love. In a similar way, a birth mother allows her baby to be placed in another home based on her sacrificial love. She desires the child’s very best, and she has come to understand that she cannot provide what is best. Just as God’s actions were based on love, her actions are also based on love.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16)
D. Is the Baby’s Father Part of the Equation?
Fathers can be forgotten, ignored, or simply left out when an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy appears on the horizon. After all, his appearance won’t change.… His health won’t be risked.… His career won’t be curtailed. The sad truth is that many unmarried fathers abandon the relationship, leaving the pregnant mother to handle everything alone. Even within a marriage, some husbands demand that their wives get abortions. Although fathers respond differently, they play a significant role in regard to their babies—with legal rights, emotional needs, and highest accountability to God.
“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
(1 Timothy 5:8)
Types of Situations That Involve an Unmarried, Biological Father
• When the relationship has open communication:
— Do each of you accept responsibility for the pregnancy?
— Have you each asked for the other’s forgiveness?
— Do you accept your financial responsibility?
— Are one or both of you considering an abortion?
— Is adoption open for consideration?
— Are you considering marriage? (If so, counseling is recommended.)
— Do you both understand that pregnancy should never be the primary reason to marry?
• When marriage is considered:
— Do you both truly want to get married?
— How does she feel about being a wife and mother?
— How does he feel about being a husband and father?
— Do you love each other enough to remain committed and faithful for life?
— Are you both committed to the child’s future?
— Are both sets of grandparents supportive?
— Will one or both of you continue schooling?
— Where will you live?
— Who will provide living expenses?
— Who will pay the prenatal care and delivery expenses?
• When adoption is considered:
— Sometimes the biological father is required to sign a release if there is an adoption.
— Some fathers disagree with the mother’s decision to make an adoption plan.
— In some situations, the father may refuse to surrender his rights, declaring that if the mother does not keep the baby, he will.
— If the choice is made to not name the father, the adoption process is at risk if the unnamed father later appears.
• When single parenting is considered:
— If the father desires to keep the child, he must sign a notarized form claiming paternity and his desire for paternal rights.
— He must then appear in court, with an attorney, in order to initiate action to establish paternity.
— He must also present his child-care plan to the court.
— This procedure will make him financially responsible for the child and for all the medical bills of the mother.
• When paternity is denied:
— The father of the baby could be named without any proof, but legally he has the right to deny paternity and sign that he is not the baby’s father. A specific medical test, however, can conclusively prove or disprove the issue of paternity.
— An “alleged father” also has the option to sign “a surrender for the born child” or “a surrender for the unborn child.”
— Another option for an uncooperative father is to sign a form that surrenders all his parental rights.
— When an alleged father refuses to sign a “surrender,” he can be given written notice by an attorney of his presumed rights. If he does not respond, his rights will be legally terminated by default. Knowing this is important because some birth mothers won’t consider adoption, thinking that the birth father has to sign certain papers and knowing that she can’t get him to sign anything.
• When abortion is considered:
— The father is expected to be financially responsible for an unplanned child, yet he has no rights or responsibilities in regard to abortion.
— Many fathers deeply grieve when their children are aborted, especially when they were never told of the pregnancies.
— Men are programmed with God-given instincts to procreate, provide, and protect; therefore, an abortion leaves many fathers angry and unfulfilled.
— Even if they never acknowledge it, men often experience depression, anger, sorrow, remorse, and guilt after an abortion.
Q “The father of my unborn baby has no conscience or emotional involvement regarding this new life for which he is partially responsible. Is he able to simply walk away with no feelings of remorse or a guilty conscience?”
A If a biological father ignores his responsibilities during a crisis pregnancy, emotional roadblocks are set up that can sabotage his own future, healthy relationships with women. Running from responsibility will later show up as anger at God, frustration with life, weak decision making, poor coping skills, and low self-worth. Regardless of how he appears, his irresponsibility will have a dramatic effect on his life. The Bible says,
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
E. Wisdom for the Expectant Mother
The pressure surrounding an unplanned pregnancy can seem overwhelming. You may feel you must make a quick decision in order to resolve a difficult dilemma, but a bad, quick decision will produce long-term grief. Making the best decision for both you and your unborn baby requires wisdom and foresight.
“The advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.”
Write down your thoughts and feelings, admitting your anxiety, confessing any guilt, and casting your cares on the Lord.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7)
Imagine what life would be like for you and your baby in the short-term (next year) and in the long-term (ten years from now) if you followed each option (abortion, parenting, adoption).
“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.” (Proverbs 14:8)
Sort through your options in terms of what God has revealed about your baby’s life and what is best for your child.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)
Develop a support structure of family and friends.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
Obtain godly counsel that lines up with what God says in His Word.
“The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.” (Psalm 37:30)
Make a decision to entrust your future and your baby’s future into the hands of the Lord.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)
F. Common Concerns and Solid Solutions
Even after prayerfully considering your options and spending the needed time to make a wise decision, you will certainly be faced with a myriad of concerns regarding how your decision will impact your child, the birth father, your family, and your future. While many voices will try to direct your steps, only God’s solutions will provide trustworthy light in the midst of your darkness. King David attested to the trustworthiness of this truth about God’s Word.…
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
Unfairness to the Child
Q “Based on my situation, isn’t it unfair to bring a child into the world at this time?”
A Adjustments must be made for a child born into a less-than-ideal situation, but there are good options that will make the situation better for you and your child. Fairness is not the basis for deciding whether or not to bring an unborn child into the world. If God has allowed you to become pregnant and if He is a caring God, then He has already ordained that it is fair, no matter how it may appear to you now.
“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.” (Psalm 145:17)
Q “How can I face the reaction of people in my life?”
A No matter what we do, there will always be people who will be unkind to us. Determine that you will show respect, even to those who are disrespectful. Live in dependence on Jesus and the love He has for you. With Christ in you, you have the power to respond in a right way to those who are wrong.
• Speak well of those who hurt you.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
• Forgive those who grieve you.
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)
• Love those who are against you.
“Love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:44)
• Pray for those who persecute you.
“Pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Q “How do I fill the void of a father figure for my baby?”
A Don’t try to be both mother and father. God did not design you to be a father, either physically or emotionally. Just be the best mom you can be, and let your heavenly Father play His unique role in your child’s life. David specifically calls the Lord “a father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5). This is the compassionate part He promises to play … and there could be no better Father!
“You, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.” (Psalm 10:14)
When raising your child, reinforce the Father image of God with …
• Scriptures of His guidance (See Psalm 25:4–5.)
• Songs of His sovereignty (See Psalm 59:17.)
• Words of His watch care (See Psalm 121.)
• Prayers for His provision (See Philippians 4:19.)
Father of the Child
Q “As the baby’s father, what is my responsibility to the mother and child?”
A A substantial number of fathers are unresponsive to unplanned, unwanted pregnancies. By refusing to accept paternity, by deserting or becoming abusive, a father shirks his God-given responsibility. Every father should share both the burden of decision making and the weight of financial responsibility of bearing and birthing a child.
“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
G. Encouragement for Parents in Pain
An unplanned, unwanted pregnancy can have a rippling effect throughout the entire family. Certain family members can be stunned and not know how to react. Consider the following steps to walk through, one step at a time, and the following words to say in an effort to support your child.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)
• Call the entire family together.
Include grandparents and other close family members and talk through the situation. Invite them to participate by sharing their feelings and praying for the family.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
• Concentrate on the positive.
Make and keep an ongoing list of every good and valuable aspect of the situation, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
• Consider the worst thing that could happen.
Carefully consider the options. Decide on a course of action for the worst possible problem you might face. Then leave the results to the Lord.
“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:2–3)
• Count on various forms of rejection.
Do not expect others to accept the circumstances or to support your decisions during this difficult time.
“Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.” (Psalm 27:10–11)
• Cherish God’s Word in your heart.
Memorize and meditate on Scripture for your source of strength and security.
“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” (Psalm 119:50)
• Cast every care upon God in prayer.
Begin a prayer journal. Be honest and specific in communicating your concerns to God. Thank God for what He will do in your situation.
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22)
• Cultivate consistency through a normal family routine.
Do not stop functioning as a family unit, but continue to live each day as you did before.
“God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)
• Choose to practice forgiveness.
Learn to let go of the past and pursue peace through the process of forgiveness.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
• Claim this as an opportunity to be used for God’s glory and for the good of your own family.
Turn this trauma into a special time of closeness with your loved one and use it as a ministry of great eternal value.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17–18)
• Come to accept that these changes in your life are permanent.
Embrace the challenge and allow God to conform you to His image through these circumstances.
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever.” (Psalm 138:8)
Q “How important is my response to the news that my child has an unplanned pregnancy?”
A How you respond to an unplanned pregnancy is crucial to your personal growth and maturity.… Your humble response can ultimately move you closer to the heart of God. He says,
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18–19)
H. Do’s and Don’ts for Family and Friends
We all want to know how to appropriately encourage someone struggling with the weight of an unwanted pregnancy. Often the burden of guilt, fear, or anxiety makes the mother particularly sensitive to misguided words. Therefore, we need to be especially careful to build bridges that will strengthen our relationship with her and be used by God to meet her needs.
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Don’t use shame.
Do … Give emotional support.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Don’t be judgmental or condemning.
Do … See the immense need for a real friend.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)
Don’t be surprised by the anger you feel.
Do … Expect to feel anger as a natural response to …
But then resolve your anger by giving it to God.
“ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26)
Don’t hold on to hopes and dreams that are no longer possible.
Do … Let go of the past and trust God for the future.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18–19)
Don’t accept responsibility for the final decision.
Do … Listen and discuss available options and their consequences.
“So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)
Don’t pressure yourself or be pressured by others to make unwise decisions.
Do … Trust in the Lord to lead you.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)
|ConclusionIs your pregnancy unplanned? By understanding God’s hand in your life and in forming your unborn baby, like Mary, you can be at peace with bringing life into the world. Consider what would have happened if Mary had chosen to terminate the life of her baby. God forbid! But that thought was never in the mind of Mary. You have been entrusted with a special gift. Even if your little one was unplanned, in time you will see that God has a precious plan for your child—a plan beyond what your mind can conceive.—June Hunt|
A.L.L. (American Life Lobby) Issues, March 1984, 19.
American Pregnancy Association. “My Three Choices.” http://www.americanpregnancy.org/unplannedpregnancy/my3choices.html.
Booth, Sylvia. No Easy Choices: The Dilemma of Crisis Pregnancy. Birmingham, AL: New Hope, 1990.
Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.
Evans, Anthony T. Tony Evans Speaks Out on Sexual Purity. Chicago: Moody, 1995.
Focus on the Family, The First Nine Months, LF177. n.p.: n.p., 1989.
Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008
“The Inside Story: 40 Weeks of Fetal Development.” 2001. Parents.com, http://www.parents.com/articles/pregnancy/1182.jsp.
Lutzer, Erwin W. Measuring Morality: A Comparison of Ethical Systems. Dallas: Probe, 1989.
Maryland General Hospital. “Fetal Development.” http://www.marylandgeneralhospital.com/ency/article/002398.htm (accessed January 5, 2004).
Mathewes-Green, Frederica. Real Choices: Offering Practical Life-Affirming Alternatives to Abortion. Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1994.
McDowell, Josh, and Dick Day. Why Wait? What You Need to Know About the Teen Sexuality Crisis. San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life, 1987.
McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.
Owens, Carolyn, and Linda Roggow. Pregnant and Single: Help for the Tough Choices. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Pyranee, 1990.
Stolley, Kathy S. “Statistics on Adoption in the United States.” The Future of Children 3, no. 1 (1993): 26–42. http://www.futureofchildren.org/usr_doc/vol3no1ART2.PDF
VanDerMolen, Henrietta. Pregnant & Alone: How You Can Help an Unwed Friend. Heart and Hand. Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1989.
Zimmerman, Martha. Should I Keep My Baby? Rev. ed. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1997.
 Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Pregnancy … Unplanned: I’m Pregnant? (1–37). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.
PREGNANCY, by its very nature, creates a certain amount of anxiety, even when planned and desired. Two psychologists compiled life changes that cause stress in an individual’s life, and ranked them high to low. Pregnancy ranked very high as a stressor, along with serious health problems, loss of job, and death of a family member. The development of a human being brings many emotions to the surface. There is the parents’ anxiety that the child will be born healthy. There is the stress of added expenses; the couple may have to live on one income for a time. It may be a “back-to-back” pregnancy, where the couple had just had a baby the previous year and is still adjusting to that life change.
In this chapter, the term “crisis pregnancy” describes those pregnancies that create stresses beyond those of a normal pregnancy. A crisis pregnancy is a pregnancy that psychologically convulses those involved. The pregnancies described in this chapter are teenage pregnancies, aborted pregnancies, back-to-back pregnancies, and adult unwed, unwanted pregnancies. While each creates an enormous amount of stress on those involved, each has its unique features. The ensuing discussion will center on Paula, an unwed woman who did not plan on becoming pregnant.
Wilma is a black sixteen-year-old high-school student who is one of the top ten students in her class. She has maintained a straight “A” average for four semesters. In addition, she is a member of the girl’s basketball team and has won honors for the most points scored by a girl in the history of her school. She is attractive and highly articulate. Wilma lives with her mother and stepfather in a comfortable, middle class section of the city. Her mother is an executive with the local telephone company and her stepfather is an electrical engineer. Wilma was born out of wedlock when her mother was fifteen.
Wilma’s mother took her to the counselor after she overheard a telephone conversation between Wilma and her boyfriend that made it clear that Wilma was pregnant. Mrs. P. (Wilma’s mother) was irate. She berated Wilma in front of the counselor for being so “stupid” as to allow herself to get pregnant. “She’s making the same stupid mistake that I made,” she stormed. “I told her even before this happened what a horrible life I’ve had being a single mother and this is what she’s done. Tell me, Doctor, what’s wrong with her?”
When Mrs. P. stopped to take a breath, the counselor was able to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy and the plans which they, as a family, had made. Mr. P. was not involved at all. When the counselor asked that he come for a session with Mrs. P. and Wilma, Mrs. P. made it clear that under no circumstances would he come. He felt that the unplanned pregnancy was an issue between Mrs. P. and Wilma.
Although both were Christians, Wilma and her mother decided that Wilma should get an abortion. The counselor presented the moral and psychological issues involved, but their minds were made up. After the abortion Wilma came back for one session. She had no regrets. “The idea of walking around with a big belly did not appeal to me,” she stated.
Wilma’s case is somewhat out of the ordinary because it is unusual for there to be unanimity in decisions involving a teen pregnancy. This is true even when the family is Christian. Usually, there are five possible scenarios:
- The girl wants to carry the pregnancy to term, both parents agree, and they want the girl to keep the baby.
- The family and the girl agree that she should carry the baby to term, but give it up for adoption.
- The girl wants an abortion and both parents disagree.
- The girl wants an abortion, one parent agrees, but the other disagrees.
- Both parents want her to have an abortion and she disagrees.
Seldom do both the girl and her parents agree to an abortion, as in Wilma’s case.
Families facing teenage pregnancies must make decisions regarding three areas: the initial shock, anger, and disappointment of the parents; the guilt and shame of the girl; and the plans for the future. The input of the counselor is crucial in all three areas and must, therefore, be active in the counseling. That does not mean that she does not allow the family to participate, but they have come for information and she should give it, understanding all the while that counselees will ultimately do what they wish to do. The counselor’s hope is that they will make well-informed decisions based on the issues and the consequences.
It is very important to allow the parents to express their feelings about the teen’s pregnancy. They have had plans, hopes, and dreams for their daughter and now they see them dashed to pieces in one fell swoop. Counseling will help them see that this is an opportunity to open the lines of communication. The girl also needs to express her needs at this time. Often girls who engage in premarital sex are looking for affection and confuse affection with sex.
However, let us return to the five possible scenarios and see how they could possibly be handled.
In the first scenario, both parents and girl want the pregnancy carried to term with the girl keeping the baby. This is the option that is frequently chosen in the inner city. The counselor’s function in this situation is to help the family consider some practical issues, such as working out space for mother and child, dealing with the need for public assistance if needed, and discussing the role the grandparents will play. Often because of family dynamics, the children of teenage mothers do not see the teen as a mother but as a sister, which can raise problems of authority. The teen girl must be counseled about sexuality, because she is likely to get pregnant again. All this counseling must be done within a moral context that includes love, warmth, and understanding.4
When the family agrees that the daughter should carry the baby to term and give it up for adoption, the counselor needs to help the girl understand that she may feel differently once the baby is born. The parents, too, may decide to change their minds. The counselor needs to be forthright about this. If the baby is to be given up, it is best done immediately after birth, before the inevitable emotional attachment takes place.
In the case where the girl wants an abortion and the parents disagree, the counselor must be sensitive to everyone’s needs. Without being judgmental, she needs to ask the girl her reasons for wanting an abortion, but need not be neutral with regard to abortion. She can state very clearly her position while she respects the girl’s. The counselor can point out to the girl that she may bear emotional scars for the rest of her life. Sometimes women are damaged physically through abortion, and will have those scars as well. Finally, the girl must understand that she is terminating a human life. We cannot emphasize enough that abortion counseling must be done in love and understanding. Nothing will be gained by “preaching” at her.
When one parent disagrees with the abortion decision, you have a “two against one” scenario. Very often this conflict between the parents is only an outgrowth of a deeper, long-term conflict that may also have influenced their daughter’s behavior. Again, let each parent and the girl have their say. Listen sympathetically. Point out the parents’ differences and help them resolve them. Let them all know that you understand their feelings. “You both have Mary’s interest at heart. It’s just how best to help her at this time that’s an issue.” A statement like that will set the agenda positively. As in the previous situation, let them know your feelings regarding abortion.
The last scenario is very difficult because the two adults are against a child. She is already feeling vulnerable and will find it difficult to oppose them. Often the parents’ reasons for wanting the abortion have to do with their needs and not those of their daughter. They may be embarrassed to have an illegitimate grandchild. They may not want the burden of raising another child. The counselor must point out that they are not looking at God’s plan for their daughter’s life, or that of her unborn child. Let them know that you respect their position as parents and that it is difficult for their child to oppose them. It is vital that they do not see you encouraging their daughter to show them disrespect. You might say, “Mary is beginning to think like a parent; she must have learned a great deal from you both.” This is not mere flattery. The fact that she wants to keep and care for the child says a great deal about how she herself may have been reared. Once you “break the ice” by letting the parents know that you hold them in high esteem, you can begin to help the family resolve their differences.
Teenage pregnancy is a very difficult matter to handle, but if you remember that the girl belongs to a family and that the family has a stake in what happens, you will be in a better position to deal with this thorny issue.
Raquel is a thirty-one-year-old Puerto Rican woman, who looks older than her years. She entered the counseling room with shoulders stooped and head hanging, as if apologizing for being in the world. She complained of feeling depressed, sleeping too much, and overeating. The counselor doing the intake interview and trying to identify some events that might have led up to this point, had the distinct impression that there was something Raquel was not telling him. She told him that she was an officer in a bank that catered to Hispanic people, had an M.B.A. in finance, and made a good salary. She lived at home with her mother and sister. They owned the house, and she owned a late model car and travelled extensively.
During the interview Raquel blurted out, “I shouldn’t have any problems, but I feel lousy! Last Saturday I went to a baby shower for one of the girls at church and had to leave in the middle of it, pretending to feel sick. I couldn’t even drive, I was crying so much.” The counselor asked, “What could there have been about a baby shower that would upset you so? What comes to mind when you think about a baby?” There was a silence that seemed to last forever. Raquel’s shoulders began to shake; then her whole body was heaving. A sob seeming to come from her innermost being escaped her and she whispered, “The baby that I let them kill!”
Raquel had been enrolled in a demanding MBA program at a prestigious graduate school of business when she had become pregnant. She had not dared tell her family and she felt that it was impossible to leave the program. After all, she had been the first person in her family to go to college, let alone to graduate school. Her older sister who had become pregnant in her last year of high school had ended up working as a nurse’s aide for low wages, and had struggled for years to raise her son alone. With this pregnancy, Raquel could only see herself taking the same road. The father, a fellow student, blamed the unplanned pregnancy entirely on her: she should have known “how to protect herself.” He had offered to pay half the expenses of an abortion, but had not accompanied her to the clinic and had had nothing more to do with her. After several years, Raquel was still consumed with guilt and shame. She was still in mourning for her dead child.
A female psychologist, who went through an abortion herself, delineates nine steps for the healing of past abortion trauma (PAT):
- Awareness of the unfinished business. The counselee, like Raquel, is aware of sadness and depression but does not link it to the abortion.
- Link to abortion identified. The counselor gently suggests to the counselee that her sadness may be related to her abortion. Allow her to respond. Do not tell her what her experience has been.
- General catharsis of details. This is the purging process. Allow the counselee to describe the details of the abortion: the doctor’s office or clinic, what it looked like, what it smelled like, what the various clinicians said to her, the feeling of lying on the table with her feet strapped in the stirrups—everything she remembers. This will help the counselor know what to focus on in the healing prayer that comes later.
- Spiritual frame of reference. At this point the counselor makes an assessment of the counselee’s conception of God. Is he a loving father or a punitive judge? Lead the counselee through God’s Word to see that God stands ready to forgive the worst sin (1 John 1:9). It may take time for her to take this in; be patient.
- Blending of psychology with Christianity. Psychology offers adjustment of emotional difficulties; Jesus offers healing. Use guided imagery to lead the client to see Jesus as the healer of her broken heart.
- Client chooses to forgive or not. The client must choose whether or not to forgive all those connected to the abortion. Raquel did not get real freedom until she was able to forgive Carlos for his callousness toward her after fathering her unborn child.
- Prayer of healing. Beginning with prayer to Jesus as Healer, pray with the counselee, asking the Holy Spirit to give her a real sense of having been healed. Bind Satan and his emissaries in the name of Jesus. Thank him in advance for healing the counselee, and give God the glory.
- Healing of the abortion memory. In step 3, the client purged herself of the abortion experience. In this step, through guided imagery and the power of the Holy Spirit, she relives the experience for the healing of her emotional scars. You can say something like this: “Raquel, I want you to allow the Holy Spirit to take you back to that abortion experience. Allow him to be with you as you remember whatever you wish about it.” Tell her that you will be with her as she closes her eyes and lets the Spirit of God minister to her. The counselor is also in prayer as she goes through the experience. Invariably, she will weep at this point—Raquel sobbed audibly as she went through the experience, and saw her baby in Jesus’ loving arms. Finally, the counselee is led in prayer to receive God’s unconditional forgiveness. She places all the emotions of hurt and shame at his feet and hears his words of forgiveness. Guide her through this in soft, gentle tones, remaining quiet at strategic points to allow her to commune with the Lord. Pray silently that the Holy Spirit will guide her into the presence of the Lord.
- Committal service for the baby. Ask the counselee to share what she has said to the Lord and what he has shared with her. Write down the counselee’s words verbatim and give it to her to read at home as often as she needs to. Pray and commit the aborted baby to the Lord for eternity. In doing this, ask the woman if she had ever thought of a name for the baby; often, she has. Use the name in committing the baby to the Lord.
This last step puts closure on the experience.
Belle was overjoyed when the doctor confirmed that she was pregnant. She and Sam had been trying for three years without success to have a child. Little Sue Ann was born and they began feeding, diapering, and “walking the floor” at night with her.
When Sue Ann was about three months old, Belle began to feel tired. She attributed it to the arduous schedule of mothering, but when she felt sick in the morning, she knew better. A doctor’s visit confirmed it: she was pregnant again! Sam was upset. He loved his little daughter, but realized that her birth had put a strain on their already meager budget. Belle had planned to return to work when Sue Ann was six months old, but this was now impossible. Throughout the pregnancy, Sam became increasingly irritable and one day did something he had never done—in a fit of anger over the lack of money, he slapped Belle. Belle was shocked and angry. She called her best girlfriend who suggested that they see a counselor.
The counselor first showed them that they had a strong marriage and had had, up to this point, a loving relationship. Subsequent counseling sessions uncovered the fact that Sam’s model had been his dad who had worked twelve hours a day, six days a week all of Sam’s life. Sam had been raised to believe that a “real man” provides for his household. The counselor pointed out that he was not “Superman,” and Belle confirmed that she did not expect him to be.
The counselor then showed them how to take some practical steps to handle their situation. They converted their basement into a studio apartment that they rented out. The rent helped their budget considerably. Sam, who was a teacher, found a job tutoring on evenings and Saturdays, which further beefed up their income. Sam also took a more active part in helping with the household chores, which greatly helped Belle. They still had some rough times ahead, but were fortified to face them.
In counseling parents with back-to-back children, the following are important considerations:
- Assess the strength of the marriage.
- Carefully investigate their respective role expectations. How does he see his role? How does she see hers?
- Have the couple carefully assess their monetary resources.
- Allow them to express anger or dismay at the prospect of another baby so soon. They need to know that they do not need to feel guilty for these feelings. If they do not go through this step, they may harbor resentment toward the unexpected baby, which may result in his or her mistreatment.
- Help them learn to distribute the household chores as evenly as possible so that neither is saddled with too much.
Paula is a charming black woman of twenty-three who was born in Trinidad, West Indies. Because of strict class distinctions, Paula’s mother had not married her children’s father—he was upper-middle class and Paula’s mother was from a poor working-class family. At the age of fourteen, Paula came, with her mother and her younger brother, to the United States. They had high hopes of escaping the grinding poverty of Trinidad and making a new more prosperous life. As Paula says, “In this country, a nobody can become somebody, but in Trinidad you remain a nobody.”
Paula entered high school, had some initial adjustment problems, but soon acclimated to her new country. She graduated and went on to a state college to become a teacher. In her sophomore year of college she met Tory, a handsome, athletic soccer star. Like Paula, he had migrated from the Caribbean. His home had been Grenada. Paula recalls that the relationship was “one-sided”—she was madly in love with him, but he was rather distant with her. She attributed his behavior to his Caribbean upbringing; men are not supposed to show their emotions. After several months of dating, they began having sex. Two months later Paula was pregnant, and terrified. She knew that if her mother found out, she would be devastated. Myra, Paula’s mother, was working at a backbreaking job to support herself and her children, but Paula knew that her mother had loftier aspirations for them. To add to the pressure, Paula dared not let her grades drop or her mother would suspect something.
Paula went to the campus health services office, which referred her to a clinic. There she had an abortion. She recalls that she had gone through the whole ordeal like a robot, not allowing herself to feel anything. Finally, the school year was over and she went home. She lapsed into depression, but could not share her secret with anyone. She stayed in her room and cried for a week. Fortunately, a neighbor girl helped Paula obtain a job, which took her mind off her predicament during the day. However, her gloom returned as soon as her mind was unoccupied—even commercials about diapers upset her.
The neighbor girl, who was a believer, told her about a loving Savior. Paula had gone to church in the past, but had only thought of God as someone who is far away and uninterested. Nevertheless, she knew that she needed forgiveness, and, after listening to her friend, accepted Christ as her personal Savior. She began to feel her emotional hurt healing, but still had some “flashbacks.”
For his part, Tory remained distant, but still wanted to have sex with her. She wanted to have sex with him, too, but felt that she should not because of her conversion. She was not strong in her new-found faith and, little by little, she drifted back to Tory, and began to sleep with him. Then instead of treating her better because he had gotten what he wanted, Tory now treated her worse. He would “forget” to call her, and refused to return her telephone calls except when he wanted sex. Paula knew she was being used but could not resist her need for Tory. She went to see one of the elders of her church and confessed her sins. He prayed with her and she felt forgiven. The elder had told her to call on the Holy Spirit for the power to resist sin, and she was able to do so. For two years after that she was able to refuse Tory’s advances. As time went on, however, she began to feel lonely. She stopped praying and reading the Bible. Against her better judgment, she called Tory and resumed a physical relationship with him, which resulted in her getting pregnant again.
Paula was raised in a culture that was highly stratified according to social class. Because she was female and poor, she had a low self-image, which moving to the U.S. did not change. Her mother, though ambitious, was not a warm, loving person. Paula had not seen positive male-female relationships growing up and she somehow felt that a sexual relationship was the only relationship that men and women had. The fact that Tory’s family was upper-middle class made any attention he paid to her a compliment. She had come for counseling because she felt depressed, worthless, and had some suicidal thoughts.
A multimodal analysis of Paula’s case might be as follows:
The primary goals for counseling single women with unplanned pregnancies are to:
- Restore their broken relationship with the Lord.
- Identify the psychological needs that got them into this situation.
- Help them deal with shame.
- Lead them to see that God can bring good out of their situation.
There are many issues that must be addressed in regard to unplanned pregnancies. Women who are believers and who become pregnant outside of wedlock often feel ashamed. They feel they have failed the Lord. Many evangelical churches reinforce this feeling of shame by forcing the woman to make a public confession. This is not to say that fornication is to be condoned, but the church needs to correct in love not judgment. These women also feel abandoned. Often the fathers, especially if the couple is from the inner city, do not want to accept responsibility for their children. Another issue is the feeling they have that the future is very bleak and that their lives are ruined. Some of these women have not had fathers in the home while growing up and long for a warm, loving relationship with a man. The counselor was able to help Paula see that, because she did not have a father, her involvement with Tory was an expression of her need for the love she had missed. The counselor was eventually able to steer her into a healthy relationship with a man for the first time in her life.
Restoring a Broken Relationship with the Lord
Tory had shown his disrespect for Paula on many occasions. For example, one stormy night after being with him, he refused to get out of bed and drive her home. She had to go out in the rain and wait fifteen minutes for a bus to take her home. Still she went back. During counseling, she saw, in retrospect, that the Lord was using Tory’s disrespect for her as a way of showing her just how bad her situation was. It was then that Paula began to feel that, by carrying on a sexual liaison with Tory, she had failed the Lord and could not be forgiven.
The counselor asking why she felt that she could not be forgiven, received the reply, “I just see it that way.” After all, she had prayed and wept over her failure, and had asked the Lord to forgive her—why did she not feel forgiven? The counselor pointed out, from God’s Word, that forgiveness is not a feeling, but a fact based on God’s Word. He also pointed out that Satan was at work in making her feel that she had not been forgiven. The counselor assigned Scripture passages dealing with forgiveness, which Paula was to read and memorize. Because of 1 John 1:9, she now has a real sense of the forgiveness of God.
Identifying Psychological Needs
Paula began counseling with the idea that it was her physical need that precipitated her sexual relationship with Tory. The counselor agreed that she was probably right, but probed further, asking her to think about what else there was that made her return to Tory after he treated her with such disrespect. One day she came into a session and, without even taking off her coat, began, “I know. I wanted someone to love me and care about me. I thought that by giving him what he wanted, he might love me in return.” Paula had to see that by giving in to him, she had lost his respect. She also saw that he had not ever loved her. This revelation came to her like an uppercut to the jaw, jarring her to the realization of how faulty her thinking had been. Paula began to see that God loved her more than any man ever could. As she believed this and experienced his love, she began to learn to love herself. With her self-esteem on the rise, Paula began to see that she did not need Tory’s affirmation—God had affirmed his love in giving Jesus to die for her.
Dealing with Shame
In the church Paula attended there were some legalistic individuals who felt that unmarried pregnant women should be required to make public confessions. Paula felt humiliated as it was, and a public confession certainly was not going the make the situation any better. She was prepared, however, to make a public confession, if need be, but a wise pastor and sensitive elders were able to handle the matter in the privacy of the pastor’s study. (The counselor had spoken to the pastor previously and had his word that she would not be publicly exposed.) From the Word they showed her that, like the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11), God did not condemn her either, and that she should go and sin no more.
Seeing the Good That God Can Bring
Often these young women believe that God is going to punish them for the rest of their lives. But God’s Word clearly teaches otherwise. David, after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband, experienced God’s forgiveness. More than that, he was blessed with Solomon, whom God named Jedidiah (“beloved of the Lord,” 2 Sam. 12:25) to confirm to David that he was more than forgiven—he was blessed.
All we have said here presupposes that the counselor’s attitude will itself be an instrument of healing. There are still many problems a woman will face as a single mother, but she can now face them with the peace of God. Susan Stanford, a Christian psychologist, arrived at that peace when she wrote, “Jesus’ healing brings with it an inner peace and happiness that far surpass any human understanding. No money or riches or fame of this world can ever bring the kind of peace and tranquility that a personal relationship with Jesus can bring to our hearts.”
Jesus Rewrites Our Stories: Counseling in a Crisis Pregnancy Center
by JANE K. WINN*
“Mom. Dad. I’m pregnant.”
Christian parents never expect to hear these dreaded words, but when they do, their lives change instantly and dramatically. Unplanned pregnancies cause significant emotional pain and disruption for every member of the family—parents, siblings, extended family members, and even church members. Crisis counseling intervenes and assists these families in rebuilding their relationships with each other and with God.
The four vignettes in this article reflect God’s redemptive work in the lives of Christian families who hear the devastating news of teenage unplanned pregnancies. One teen slowly restores relationships with her parents after seeking God’s forgiveness. A mother struggles with anger and bitterness towards her pregnant daughter, then reaches a point where she can offer forgiveness. The daughter of a pastor writes a letter to church members, bringing the role of the church into focus. Finally, I share my own experience as one who found the Lord’s love and forgiveness as He prepared me for this special ministry.
In working with an unmarried pregnant teen and her parents, I use a counseling model summarized by “Love, Know, Speak, and Do” which enables me to function as “God’s instrument of change in another person’s life.” In this model, the goal is to help the teen examine her own life and motives and to help her make changes both in what she lives for and in how she lives. We aim for more than superficial, temporary changes. “Love” and “Know” emphasize the importance of closely connecting with the teen in order to model the kind of relationship that God wants us to have with Him. “Speak” means that I bring God’s truth into the situation, and “Do” requires that the teen apply the insights from these truths in her life and with her family.
Each of the vignettes brings focus to the common themes of embracing the “God of the bigger picture,” recognizing His sovereignty, and receiving His grace and forgiveness while working out practical changes. Rebuilding and restoring relationships helps each family and church member to come to terms with the pregnancy, to forgive the daughter, and to enthusiastically welcome the new little one into their lives. Each of the vignettes also captures how people are always people-in-process. Their stories are not always theologically precise, or follow some ideal script! But in every case, you see the God of the Bible at work.
Vignette #1. An Unmarried Pregnant Teen Returns to God and Family
An unmarried pregnant teen struggles with a number of heart issues. Pride is one of them, but initially it is disguised as shame when she shares the news with her parents that she is pregnant. She wants to know that her parents love her and she worries about their reaction to the bad news. Initially, she can’t imagine how the family will ever forgive her, let alone how God will forgive her. She may struggle with anger towards her parents because of their initial reaction to her pregnancy. She may be angry at God for allowing this to happen. This anger may spread to include the father of the baby because often he decides he doesn’t want to have anything to do with her. Perhaps she’s angry with herself for not taking proper precautions to prevent the pregnancy. She may also be afraid of what others think about her. Later in the counseling process, as she begins to allow God to draw her back to Himself, she becomes remorseful that she so blatantly rebelled in the first place. This change of heart hopefully leads to repentance and restoration of fellowship in her home church. Susan was seventeen when she became pregnant. At the time of this interview she was twenty years old, and her daughter Shelley was two.
Jane (counselor): Susan, what was your first reaction when you learned you were pregnant?
Susan: When I first learned I was pregnant I was scared. I cried and was sick to my stomach. Of course, my mom was really upset when I told her. At the time I was thinking of making an adoption plan rather than parenting, so at least she was glad about that. She told my dad and my brother. They were both so angry that neither of them would speak to me. Things didn’t improve until we came to see the counselor at the pregnancy center.
J: Susan, did you consider yourself to be a Christian at the time you found out that you were pregnant?
S: I considered myself “saved,” but a Christian is somebody who is like Christ. At that time I was not like Christ.
J: When did you find yourself turning away from God, and what were some of the issues that led up to the decision not to follow Christ?
S: I guess it was in high school. I was a teenager and I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be like all my other friends and use drugs and alcohol. I wanted to be cool and have the older guys like me, so I hung around them. I lied to my parents. I made up excuses and tried to manipulate them so that I could do what I wanted to do. I didn’t make a conscious decision to have sex, but I put myself in a vulnerable position where the temptation was great. It wasn’t even because of peer pressure. My first sexual experience was with a sixteen-year-old boy and I was thirteen. None of this was good, but I think ruining my relationship with God was the worst.
J: Did your parents have any idea during that time that you were leading that kind of a lifestyle, and did you continue to attend church?
S: They had some idea, but not the full picture. I stayed away from church as much as I could.
J: Looking back now, how do you feel about having made the decision to have sex before marriage?
S: I didn’t really regret it until I came back to God. I always knew God was forgiving. I’m in a relationship now with a godly guy, and the issue that I have had sex with several other guys has come up. Now I’m upset that I did it, and I wish I could go back and change things. It didn’t have that much of an impact on my life until now, when I think about possibly getting married.
J: Susan, looking back to your crisis pregnancy, what kind of support did you get then and how was it helpful?
S: I received a lot of support from my church, which was a big relief. I thought for sure I would be judged and shunned. My mom was a wonderful support during that time. I contacted the crisis pregnancy center six months into my pregnancy, and when we came in for family counseling, things turned around for us. Eventually my brother and father supported me as well.
J: What was most helpful about the family counseling at the crisis pregnancy center?
S: Well, I still remember our first session. It was very emotional, but you kept us on track. You helped us to see the bigger picture and to focus on how we could prepare for the arrival of the baby.
J: It sounds like that one session had a big impact on you and your family. I remember that much of the discussion was helping your father and brother to focus on the baby, not just on the “problem pregnancy.” I’m wondering if you felt like a “prodigal daughter” when your parents came to forgive you and accept your pregnancy.
S: I think I could relate that more to my relationship with God. When I found out I was pregnant, I fell on my knees and came back to him. I felt embraced by Him. As scared as I was, I knew I was going to be okay. At least I knew I was back with Him. God probably knew that this was the only way I would come back.
J: You’re saying that when you found out you were pregnant and fell on your knees that you came back to Him. At that point, did you experience His forgiveness?
S: Yes, definitely!
J: Would you say it took awhile for your parents to forgive you?
S: Not for my mom, but it was a slower process with my dad and my brother. I still don’t think I’ve earned my father’s trust back. I guess that will take some more time. Thankfully, it’s a process.
J: What was the most difficult issue facing you and your family regarding the pregnancy?
S: I think financial problems. We weren’t certain that we could afford having a baby live with us.
J: Susan, you mentioned that initially you were thinking of making an adoption plan rather than parenting. What led to your decision to parent your baby?
S: It was like a long prayer. I prayed constantly. At first I kept praying for the strength to make the adoption plan, and then I changed my prayer with a focus on God’s will, not my own. I felt the answer came when I was at summer camp. A lady who was bi-racial (like my daughter) spoke, saying that she was adopted into a Christian family and was molested. At that point I ran out of the room crying. I couldn’t hold back my tears. I was so upset that God allowed me to hear that. At the same time, my mother was going through a lot. She prayed that exact same night with one of the ladies from our church who said, “Maybe your daughter is not supposed to make an adoption plan. Maybe this baby will be a constant reminder of God’s love for her.” In fact, today, I can honestly say that the lady was right. My daughter, Shelley, is a constant reminder of how much God loves me. I don’t believe I would have found the right family to adopt her. God just made it very clear that I was supposed to keep the baby.
J: It sounds like your mother was open to your parenting your baby. How about your dad and brother?
S: Well, they both wanted me to make an adoption plan, but later my father told my mom that I could keep the baby and live at home.
J: Susan, I’m wondering how things were for you and your family after the baby was born. Did they come to accept her right away?
S: Mom accepted the baby as soon as she saw the second ultrasound at twenty weeks. She immediately fell in love with my unborn baby. My dad didn’t accept her until she was born. Then it was love at first sight! It took my brother longer because he was away at school. He came home soon after she was born and he too fell in love with her.
J: Now that you are living at home with the baby, how are things going between you and your family?
S: Difficult at times. My parents like to be parents. On the other hand, it’s really good. My parents and my brother love Shelley to no end.
J: That’s great, Susan, and wonderful to hear. We do serve a God of the bigger picture, indeed! Earlier in this interview you spoke about the time when you came back to the Lord after you learned you were pregnant. Obviously, a lot of things required repentance on your part. What would you say led to your actual repentance, and what was that like for you?
S: Other than the time I fell on my knees and cried out to God, there hasn’t been a formal prayer. The Lord reveals to me the various issues, and then I repent. It has been more of an ongoing repentance than a one-time event. I finally realized the things God does have for me, and the blessings He’s given me. I now understand that there is more to life than partying. I started a prayer journal, and this has been especially helpful. It’s a constant communication with God.
J: You shared earlier that there is someone special in your life. How did you meet him?
S: I have known him since the second grade. We went to school and church together. At first
I wasn’t sure about him, but then I got to know him better. He is great with the baby and loves her. I felt like God was in this relationship.
J: What do you and your boyfriend think about sex before marriage?
S: We have decided to wait for marriage.
J: That sounds like a good plan. Susan, we know that God is always working good out of all of our difficulties. In your opinion, as you look at the whole crisis pregnancy, what good came from this experience?
S: My daughter! It brought our family closer together, and it brought me closer to God.
Susan’s story demonstrates how counseling at a crisis pregnancy center can assist the whole family in making appropriate adjustments to an unplanned pregnancy.
After a family contacts the crisis center, I meet with the whole family, then spend several sessions alone with the daughter to establish trust. This is the “Love” stage of the “Love, Know, Speak, Do” counseling model. At first, I try to normalize things for her, as she often feels alone and scared. I encourage her to attend our young mom’s support group so that she doesn’t feel isolated. This gives her the opportunity to meet other girls in similar situations and learn from them. As our relationship grows, I try to learn more about her family, her attitudes towards the Lord, and her hopes and dreams. At this point I often share some of my own struggles, as we are all sinners saved by grace. The right kind of self-disclosure is part of being able to comfort her with the comfort I have received from others in my time of need (2 Cor. 1:4). Even as I “love” and “know” her, I begin to “speak” and bring God’s truth into her life.
I encourage the daughter to think about the tremendous losses in her parents’ lives. They grieve the loss of her innocence, her childhood, and any hopes and dreams they may have had for her. They feel betrayed and deeply wounded. I explain to her that she will need to earn back her parents’ trust. Part of my role as her counselor is to remind her to extend grace to her parents and give them time to heal, as it will take a while before they will be able to joyfully anticipate the arrival of the baby. We schedule monthly family sessions throughout the pregnancy, and even beyond, to chart progress and work on difficult issues.
As I continue to counsel with the daughter, I explore with her what happened in her heart as she began to rebel against God. I encourage her to identify those things that replace God in her life. The list might include: fear and worry about what others think about her, desire for acceptance, pride, need to control, lust, envy, or other desires and lies. Initially, she may try and place the blame on her parents, that they were too strict with her, or they forced her to go to church. In time, however, she needs to take full responsibility for her own sinful heart. Eventually, we talk about what led to her decision to become sexually active and the consequences in her life as a result of that choice. As time goes on, her heart begins to soften, and she eventually admits that she alone made the decision to sin.
At this point, I have the opportunity to “speak” more about God’s truth and how Christ is the means for change. I provide the opportunity for her to repent and encourage her to ask her family members to forgive her, as well as any others whom she may have hurt during her time of rebellion. I may ask a leader in her church to offer her support and accountability so that she can be fully restored in her church family.
As we continue in the “Do” portion of the counseling model, we begin to address these sorts of questions.
- What will change in her life? What will she add that wasn’t there before, and what will she stop doing that led to the sinful behavior?
- What will the good fruit of righteousness look like in her life? Is she having fellowship with Christian friends or hanging out with kids who are not believers instead?
- Is she having consistent quiet time with the Lord? Is she attending church, youth group, and Bible study?
- Is she less angry? How is she communicating with her parents? Is she respectful of their boundaries and obedient to them?
- Is she beginning to take responsibility for her actions or does she blame others?
- How does she describe her relationship with God now?
- How have her goals changed? What does she see as specific responsibilities she will need to address as she gets ready to be a parent to her new baby? Is she following through on working with the various social services available to her in the community?
- How is she relating to the father of the baby if he is still in her life?
- What has she learned from this experience? Is she committed to abstinence from sexual activity until marriage? If so, what does her accountability look like?
These are many of the issues I try and discuss before the birth of the baby.
At our crisis pregnancy center, all of our services are free, and our clients are welcome to pursue counseling for as long as they need to. Many of our clients keep in touch, and even after official counseling has ended, they call to “check in,” sometimes years after the baby is born, or if another crisis arises. Susan, for example, recently called and asked if she could come in to talk. She wanted to tell me, in person, that she is thriving in her church and in her walk with the Lord. She is married, and her husband officially adopted Shelley!
Susan’s journey back to God was slow, but purposeful. Thank God that our ongoing sanctification is a process and not an event! We truly serve a redemptive God who is always at work.
Vignette #2. The Mother of a Pregnant Teen Deals with Anger and Bitterness
Parents also struggle with heart issues related to the crisis pregnancy of their unmarried daughter. Pride is one of the largest. They ask themselves, “What will the extended family members think? What about the church, neighbors, friends, work associates?” They are concerned they might be labeled as “poor parents.” And they worry that their Christian witness could be jeopardized.
Anger and fear loom large in their lives. They question, “How could she do this to us? She’s ruining her life. She’ll never pursue her career or be able to support a child. Where will she live? How will we ever be able to stop hating the father of the baby? Where was God in all of this? We have faithfully served Him all these years and prayed for our daughter to follow Him. How could He have let us down?”
People usually can’t change by themselves. Finding God’s mercy for their own pride, anger, and fear creates the dynamic by which parents are able to forgive. Parents need to ask for prayer and support, and cling to the Bible for refuge in the storm. The goal is to help them accept the pregnancy and trust the Lord for the outcome, while they realize that there will be many ups and downs in the process. The following interview offers a window into the myriad issues parents need to tackle after learning their unmarried daughter is pregnant. This mother came to counsel with me in the hope that she could “put off” the anger and bitterness she was feeling towards her daughter and “put on” forgiveness and mercy. (This is not the mother of the daughter in the previous vignette.)
Jane: Martha, how did you find out your daughter was pregnant?
Martha: The school counselor called and left a telephone message at my home suggesting a time to meet with him. I thought we would be talking about my daughter’s college plans, so when he told me my daughter, Diane, was pregnant, I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought I was actually hearing the wrong thing.
J: It sounds like you were shocked by what he told you.
M: Well, I had been having a problem with Diane at the time because she was rebelling against us. I had already taken her to counseling, and, truthfully, I was worried that she might end up pregnant. She had so much going for her. She was well on her way to a college scholarship. She was always the team captain and really excelled in sports. I backed her financially, giving up my weekends and traveling with her. She was very focused on her sports career, when this guy came along and suddenly her focus shifted to him. He was not a Christian, one thing led to another, and she got pregnant. When I found out she was pregnant, I was enraged because I had put so much effort into helping with her sports career. I thought, “Well, that’s the end of that!” I was so angry I couldn’t even think straight. It took me a long time to work through it all.
J: How would you say your relationship with the Lord was affected in the beginning of the crisis?
M: I have to admit I could not understand why the Lord would allow it to happen, although I didn’t blame Him. Diane made some poor choices that resulted in this unplanned pregnancy. I did respect her, however, for not having an abortion. At least she gave life to the child.
J: Martha, what specific heart issues or sins were you aware of in your own life during this crisis?
M: Well, mainly anger and bitterness. Thankfully, I was not bitter for too long, but I definitely had to repent of the anger. Pride was another issue. I was very concerned about what others would think, and of course I was concerned that it would reflect back on me. “What’s my family going to think? What are people in church going to say? How will they treat us as a family? Will we be ostracized or judged?” Then, when Diane began to show, I was even concerned about what the neighbors would think. It was very embarrassing for me. The Lord showed me I would have to forgive my daughter. It was a slow process.
J: What about God meant the most to you during this time? Was there a particular part of Scripture that you hung onto?
M: I listened over and over to a song titled “He Is Able.” The lyrics reminded me that God is able to handle any and all concerns that come my way, even an unplanned pregnancy. I held onto the words of that song and prayed, “Lord, You are able to get me through this. There has to be a reason for it, even though I don’t know what it is.” It was very hard for me to stay focused. I couldn’t eat. I lost thirty pounds in three weeks. My friends came over to make sure I was eating. I was very lethargic. I went to work late because I couldn’t get up in the morning. I’d stay at work for a few hours but would get so “antsy” that I would have to leave. Thankfully, my boss was very kind and understanding. At home, I would basically lie on the couch and listen to Christian music, or my friends would come over and read Scripture to me. It was a really tough time.
J: How would you describe some of the specific challenges you and your family had to face throughout your daughter’s pregnancy?
M: The biggest challenge was the baby’s father.
He tried to be extremely controlling with our daughter. Also, just the thought of having a baby in the house was overwhelming. I didn’t want a baby in the house. I had already raised my kids. I knew I didn’t have any other option unless I was going to kick her out and I knew I wasn’t going to do that.
J: You mentioned that you had support from your friends and other family members. Who else did you get support from, and how was it helpful?
M: I was pleasantly surprised by my mother’s reaction. She was very supportive. To some degree my husband was also. My pastor and his wife helped me along the way. I have to say that my friends were there for me, and also the counseling and support we received at the crisis pregnancy center. As we came for counseling, things began to turn around.
J: How were you able eventually to forgive your daughter and welcome the new baby into your family? How would you describe that process?
M: Well, it took a lot of time. I’m embarrassed to say that in the beginning I actually prayed that God would take the baby from Diane’s womb. That’s what I wanted. I couldn’t imagine having to deal with the father of the baby and his family. But I knew I had to forgive her, because if I didn’t, God would not forgive me for my sins. I finally made the choice. We knew ahead of time that Diane was going to have a baby girl and I was happy about that. I was with Diane in the hospital when she had the baby. This was an incredible blessing. When baby Alicia was born, I was excited that we were going to have this precious child live with us. It was quite a turnaround for me.
J: I remember that when you came to the crisis pregnancy center you were very open and attended our support group for parents. It seemed like you were willing to learn from other parents about how they dealt with their anger.
M: Yes, that group was very helpful. It was refreshing to know that I was not alone, and that other parents were going through the same experience. Looking back, I wish I had been able to let go of the anger sooner than I did. I was so devastated and hurt, not to mention feeling betrayed.
J: We know that God works all things out for a greater good (Rom. 8:28). What was the “good” that came from your daughter’s unplanned
M: Of course, our precious Alicia. She is the love of my life. She is now three-and-a-half years old. She came into this world with a bang! She’s a doll baby!
J: How would you describe your relationship with your daughter now?
M: It’s a lot better. I never thought I’d babysit, but now I ask my daughter if she’ll go out just so I can take care of the baby!
J: Sounds like quite a change of heart, Martha.
M: Looking back on our earlier counseling sessions, I can remember your telling me that I wasn’t seeing the whole picture yet, but that God sees it, and eventually it will come into better focus for me. That helped me to feel more hopeful.
J: It’s wonderful to see the work of God’s grace in your family. Martha, if you could offer a word of encouragement to other parents struggling with a crisis pregnancy, what would you say to them?
M: I’d tell them to hang in there, and remember that things always work out. Focus on the eventual birth of the baby, and stand alongside your daughter. She needs your support. I tell you, just having Alicia look up at me and say, “Mom-Mom, I love you,” it’s all worth it. I just melt every time. I love being a grandma!
J: Thank you, Martha. It’s clear you are now enjoying the fruits of trusting God in the midst of the struggle!
In the initial family counseling session, I try to focus on two goals. First, I point parents to a sovereign God who has a bigger picture in mind. This sets the stage for introducing hope and the eternal perspective. I help them to see that although the circumstances surrounding the crisis pregnancy involved sinful choices, eventually a precious life will be the end result. Using humor, stories, frank discussion, and Scripture, I gently encourage and remind them that we have several months to work out all the details so that this little one can be welcomed into the family.
Second, I teach them how to compartmentalize. I ask them, “What is the most important issue right now?” Matthew 6:34 reminds us: “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I help them to prioritize and work on each issue as it emerges instead of tackling everything at once.
At times I use visuals. I ask the parents to imagine several suitcases with their various “issues” taped to each one. For example, one suitcase might say “telling family members about the pregnancy,” another “whether to stay in school or not,” “the response from our church,” and “financial concerns.” I encourage them to choose the suitcase they feel needs to be unpacked first. Then we place the other suitcases out of the way, but still in plain sight so that they can be assured we will eventually address those concerns. Then we begin to unpack a little at a time as the issues are prioritized. Hopefully, by the time the baby is born, all the suitcases are unpacked and put away. I have found that by compartmentalizing, families feel less overwhelmed and anxious. This procedure helps to defuse the crisis and make the situation more manageable.
God’s big picture of redemption and the time frame of the coming months invite everyone to become involved in the process. In the first family session, I make sure that everybody has an opportunity to share his or her feelings and concerns. I let them know that our center is a safe place. The more they can begin to open up and share honestly with me, then this will encourage them to continue on a positive note between sessions. I usually pray for the family at the end of the first session. In subsequent sessions, as the family begins to feel more hopeful, various family members often close in prayer. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear how they are relating to God through their prayers. I remember one session when the father prayed a particularly moving prayer. The pregnant daughter exclaimed, “Wow, Dad, you’re finally accepting me and the baby. That feels good.”
As we get to know each other better, I encourage the parents to make certain that they spend time with their other children and involve them in family counseling so that the family draws closer and hopefully moves in the same direction. If these children are ignored, they might act out in various ways in order to get attention from their parents. For example, they may become rebellious, misbehave in school, lash out at their pregnant sibling, withdraw, create another crisis, refuse to cooperate at home with chores, or neglect their homework.
Siblings often have a lot of anger towards their pregnant sister for upsetting the balance in the family system. At times, I have met with siblings in order to help them talk through their feelings. The goal in the counseling process is to help them forgive their sister, accept the pregnancy, and eventually welcome the new baby into their family. However, this goal is not usually met until after the baby is born. I encourage the parents to be patient with the other children, to pray with them, to offer encouragement, and to take time to listen to their concerns.
As we move along in the counseling process, I challenge the parents to depend totally on a loving God who is always at work, rather than depending on themselves alone. I remind them that God is sovereign and sees everything, and that He can bring good out of any circumstance (Rom. 8:28). He convicts us of sin, He is merciful, and His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:23).
Also, I encourage parents to ask other trusted friends for help and prayer, as we are called to bear one another’s burdens in the body of Christ. With all the ups and downs, parents need to feel they are part of a loving community that will help when they feel weak and weary. I remind the parents that ultimately their daughter belongs to the Lord, and that He has chosen to loan her to them for a time. I find this helps them remember that God is working on the bigger picture. They may experience waves of pain mingled with grace. I gently remind them that He says, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). I encourage them to focus on cultivating their own intimate relationship with their loving, heavenly Father.
- John Miller and Barbara Miller Juliani, in their book Come Back Barbara, capture the concept of entrusting their daughter to the Lord no matter how hopeless the situation appears to be. They suggest that as the parents allow the Lord to love them freely in the midst of the battle, they, with His help, will be better equipped to love their daughter with an enduring love. This means loving when they don’t get anything back. They recommend throwing “punches of love” whenever the opportunity presents itself. It’s important that parents stop trying to control the situation and make certain they do not shove Jesus down their child’s throat. It also means having the same unconditional love that our gracious Lord bestows on us even when we don’t deserve it!
Ruth Bell Graham accurately describes the emotional turmoil of a family in crisis in this poem.
Sunk in this Gray Depression
Sunk in this gray
I cannot pray.
How can I give
This mass of vague
of aching care,
love with its overloading short-circuits prayer.
Then through this fog
this nothingness, I find
only a quiet knowing
that He is kind.
Vignette #3. A Pastor’s Daughter and the Role of the Church in Unplanned Pregnancy
What happens when the pregnant teen is the daughter of a pastor? What is the role of the church in this situation? At the crisis pregnancy center, we strive to work alongside the church. We are a parachurch ministry and seek to encourage our clients to join a church and get involved as soon as possible. We see ourselves as a resource, and many pastors refer clients to us. At times, we are called upon to help a pastor and his family come to grips with a crisis pregnancy. As you can imagine, this is a very difficult road for the pastor to navigate in light of his position of leadership. One of my teen clients wrote the following letter to her church on behalf of her father.
Dear Church Friends, Family, and Loved Ones,
I would like to use this letter to explain what is going on in my life and my family’s life right now. Last Sunday, a woman from the crisis pregnancy center got up to speak in church. What she said could not have been more appropriate in my life at the present time. I sat and listened to everything she said and was almost in tears. I knew that God had placed it on my daddy’s heart to have her come and speak, and only God knew why.
Several months ago, I made some major mistakes in my life. I engaged in pre-marital sex and used drugs. Did I know better? Of course I did. Had my parents set boundaries and taught about pre-marital sex, drugs, and their consequences? Undoubtedly! But there comes a time when children are going to make their own decisions, and there is nothing that can be done about it, no matter how much the parents love them and raise them in godly environments. Not only that, but I was more concerned about what I wanted to do and what “made me feel good,” than about what made God happy.
About three weeks ago, I began to fear that I might be pregnant. I didn’t know what to do, and I was terrified. Not only was pregnancy the last thing I needed in my life, but, worse than that, it made my sin so obvious. I was afraid to tell my parents that I had messed up and to see the disappointment in their eyes. All of the high expectations and dreams Mommy and Daddy had for me were gone in one instant.
What would be the easiest way out of this situation? Well, of course, the easiest way out of an unplanned pregnancy is to get an abortion. But how could I possibly punish a baby for my mistake, simply because I was afraid to own up to my parents and those around me? Not only that, but I would never be able to get over killing my unborn child. That would haunt me for the rest of my life! I had already sinned, so I didn’t need to add murder to the list. How much more upset would my parents be to find out that their child had had an abortion. This is not my baby only. My child is also my parents’ grandchild, my sisters’ niece or nephew, the father’s baby, and, most importantly, God’s child. This was not my decision alone.
I went to a crisis pregnancy center and took a pregnancy test. It was positive. I cried and cried. The counselor told me I was eleven weeks along. Wow, already almost three months along. My baby was beginning to get fingers and toes, its heart was already beating, and the brain and spinal cord were formed. So much was already going on inside of my body. I felt overwhelming anxiety. How was I going to tell my family? What would I say? What would they think of me?
I felt dirty and disgusting. Would my church family hate me, or, worse, would they hate my family? Would they blame my sisters and parents for something they had no control over? This was my mistake, not theirs. What would people say about my daddy? “He can’t control his own daughter, so how can he expect to control a church?” That’s not fair. He did over and beyond what any father would do. So did my mom. They loved me, raised me on the Bible, and taught me everything about Christianity I could ever hope to know; but they couldn’t be with me every second of every day. They couldn’t force me to stay inside locked doors all day, either! So obviously you won’t blame them for things I’ve done. I was terrified. This could cost my dad his job! How would people treat my sisters? Would they look at them like little black sheep because I couldn’t wait to have sex and then got pregnant? These are still some of my concerns. People will treat me how they will, but this is in no way my family’s fault!
Probably the best thing that I can say at the moment is that God has a plan for me and that He still loves me. I have repented and I’m going to give this baby life. My prayer is that I will be able to make an adoption plan and give a family who is unable to have children a beautiful and healthy baby.
I pray that you will be able to love and support me. Thankfully, God has forgiven me for my mistakes, and I pray that you will be able to as well. More importantly, I pray that you will love and support my family, because I did this on my own. They had no control over my life. I know this pregnancy has hit them really hard and that it hurts them deeply, but they love me unconditionally. Healing takes time. Please have patience with them and offer a shoulder to cry on if they need it.
Much love and appreciation,
Hopefully, church members will offer support to this young lady and help her come home to a loving God. At the same time, they can encourage her to enter into a loving accountability relationship with a mature older woman.
Churches struggle with the issue of unplanned pregnancy in a variety of ways. Some churches welcome the pregnant woman into their midst with open arms, ready to help in any way they can. They encourage the woman to get involved in the life of the church and will often appoint an older woman to mentor her. Small groups will sometimes adopt these single moms and provide help in a variety of ways, such as respite care so the mom can have some time off, inviting her to dinner, offering to drive her to doctors’ appointments, or even to our center for counseling.
When dealing with pregnant teenagers in the church, we must heed Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:45: “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” As believers, we are like the hands and feet of Jesus as we offer love and compassion to those in need.
Unfortunately, we see some cases where church members respond in judgmental and unkind ways. Some of my clients have reported feeling shunned and ignored when walking into the church building with their pregnant bellies. Several stated that because of the hypocrisy, they left the church, unable to reconcile a God of love and forgiveness with how people treated them. This is not the norm. However, pastors need to prepare their congregants to receive and pursue with love and grace those who have fallen into sin.
The Lord reminds us in His Word that He came to heal the sick, not the healthy. When the church is willing to embrace these hurting, sinning women, to come alongside them, and to model love and forgiveness to them, then truly that church is acting as a redemptive agent in their lives. “Brothers, if someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10).
Vignette #4. Dealing with Abortion
As I share my own story, it will become evident that God lovingly redeemed me out of a life of sin and misery. As a result of His redemptive love in my life, I believe God has led me to bring that same love into the lives of the young women He directs to our center.
I had my own crisis pregnancy in 1970, before “Roe vs. Wade” had become law. Abortion was illegal in many states then. Unfortunately, I was heavily involved in the philosophy of the time: “free love,” “drugs,” and “do your own thing.” I came from a high-profile family, and when I learned that I was pregnant, I was overwhelmed and afraid to tell my parents. Even though my father was a psychiatrist, I did not feel safe in telling him about my pregnancy because I was afraid that he might reject me. Because I knew that abortion was legal in California, I made arrangements to have an abortion there. I was almost twenty-one, so I didn’t need my parents’ consent. At that time, in order to be granted an abortion, I had to appeal to a three-person panel (of which one of the three was a psychiatrist). I needed to convince them that I was too unstable to go through with the pregnancy. This panel approved my abortion. The legal situation is different today in regard to abortion. Now, if you are emotionally unstable, it’s more difficult to have an abortion because of the possibility of post-abortion syndrome.
After my abortion, I experienced symptoms of post-abortion syndrome: nightmares, promiscuity, weight gain, depression, and guilt. I eventually had to tell my parents because I was unable to concentrate on my studies and I dropped out of college. My father set me up with a top psychiatrist and I spent many years in therapy. Over the years, thoughts about the abortion stayed with me like a quiet haunting. It became clear that no matter how hard I tried, I could not erase the fact that I had chosen to end the life of my baby.
Eventually, I decided to return to college for a degree in recreational therapy, then a master’s degree in social work. It was during this time that God, in His providence, had a friend share Isaiah 53 with me. I immediately recognized Jesus as the suffering servant in these verses and accepted Him as my personal Savior.
Thankfully, God, in His redemptive way, uses every experience in our lives for a greater purpose. Little did I know that many years later, I would be sitting with other women faced with the same decision regarding abortion that I had faced. In 1997, I was working as a therapist in a private counseling practice and I saw a Christian client who had rebelled and walked away from the Lord. She engaged in pre-marital sex and became pregnant. She was petrified to tell her family, because she was the “trophy child.” She sang in a choir and got straight As in college, even while carrying a double major. She decided to get an abortion rather than risk her parents’ reaction to her pregnancy, but while she was sitting in the waiting room of the abortion clinic, she had a miscarriage. God in His sovereignty intervened. In her heart, though, she knew that because her intent had been to abort, she was guilty of that sin. I offered to take her to a crisis pregnancy center for post-abortion counseling and she agreed to go. When we arrived, the director of the center asked me to consider applying for the client services director position. At that time I had a thriving practice, but was willing to meet with the board of directors. During the interview, the board president asked why I would consider the position.
At that moment, I began to weep. Through my tears, I lamented, “Perhaps because I have had to live with the pain of my abortion all these years, God wants to use me in the lives of women who are in the throes of making decisions about whether or not to have abortions themselves.” I remember thinking at the close of the interview that the board members probably thought I was the biggest cry baby, and would never want to hire me. However, God had a bigger plan to bring good from what the enemy meant for evil. That very night, the board unanimously voted to hire me!
God in His mercy has allowed me to counsel many unmarried pregnant women. Many have chosen not to abort their babies. Others have not taken counsel and have gone through with their abortions. Many times, as a counselor, I have been deeply affected when clients have chosen abortion. I grieve when that happens, but I know that, no matter what, God sees the bigger picture. Many of these women have come back to our center for post-abortion counseling, and some have then given their lives to the Lord!
As a biblical counselor, I believe that God is always at work and that He is loving and sovereign. Previously, in working with clients, my focus was on how I, the professional counselor, could help clients work through problems in their lives. But now I know that I am not at the center of the process: God is. It is very humbling for me to watch as God works in the lives of those I counsel, realizing that it is not through my power that changes occur, but through God’s alone. I am not as interested in going way back to dig out all the causes of the client’s problems (although we do talk about these); rather, I try to help clients see how God is working in their lives. God is the power that brings change and He desires that we be obedient to Him. I, too, am always in need of a redeeming God. This God, in His wisdom, has given me experiences that can bring comfort and hope to others.
We, as counselors, need to be faithful and speak the truth with love, but always trust the results to a known and proven God. He is full of mercy and grace. To that end, I have enlisted the prayers of friends and colleagues on a regular basis, because I am all too aware that we are fighting an unseen battle against evil in high places (Eph. 5:12). I know that I need to put on the full armor of God daily, and quiet myself so that I can seek His wisdom in the counseling room. I consider it a privilege and great joy to minister lovingly to all those teens, women, and men that God sends to our center.
In conclusion, there is much to be learned throughout the counseling process. I have been struck by God’s mercy and grace evidenced in the lives of those I counsel at the center. In my experience, unmarried pregnant daughters and their parents eventually grow closer to the Lord as they restore their own relationships. Many have conveyed to me that because of their own crisis, they have found themselves to be less judgmental and more sensitive in the lives of others who are experiencing various trials. My hope is that this article will help the reader to be better equipped to extend love and grace to families who find themselves dealing with unplanned pregnancies.
If a Couple Gets Pregnant before Marriage Do They Have to Get Married?
Sex before marriage has become so commonplace in our society, even to the point of being expected, that many professing Christians don’t even consider it to be a sin. Our culture assumes that people do not possess the amount of self-control necessary for abstaining until marriage, so the idea has become unrealistic. God’s Word does not change, however, and the Bible tells us that sex outside of marriage is immoral (Matthew 15:19; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 6:13, 7:2; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3).
Any person who has become a born-again Christian by putting his or her faith and trust in Christ no longer belongs to himself. First Corinthians 6:18–20 (NLT) says, “Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
Disregarding God’s plan for marriage, sex, and family always results in these kinds of spiritual or physical consequences: grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), guilt, shame, regret, loss of respect for self and others, division in families and between believers, poor role modeling, pain for future spouses, unwanted pregnancies, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases. God intends for sex to be an intimate expression of love and commitment, to be shared only between a husband and wife. Sex just for the physical pleasure of it damages our spirituality and pulls us away from fellowship with God.
Anyone who has made the mistake of having sex outside of marriage can be forgiven, even if the mistake results in an unplanned pregnancy. First John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from every wrong.” This does not mean that He will erase the consequences of our actions, but we can be restored spiritually by confessing and repenting from our sins. This means turning away from our sins and making the commitment to love and serve Christ.
There are some cases in which getting married before the baby is born would be wise. If a committed couple who was already planning to get married commits fornication which results in pregnancy, it would probably make it easier for the family and the child to marry before he or she is born. But if an uncommitted couple commits the same sin, getting married will not make them right in God’s eyes. In such a situation, getting married will only set them up for marital failure. The Bible does not instruct people as to whether or not to marry under these circumstances, although both parents are still obligated to support the child emotionally, spiritually and financially.
None of us are made right with God through works. We are saved by faith alone, trusting in Jesus Christ to save us from our sins, which lead to death. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). God does not want us to try to right our wrongs, but He wants us to give Him our hearts. By laying down our own will and submitting to the sovereignty of God, we can be assured of not only a fulfilling life on earth, but also a place in heaven for eternity.
Unplanned and Unwanted Pregnancies.
It is obvious that the forty-five-year-old married woman who unexpectedly gets pregnant clearly has needs and challenges that differ from those of a seventeen-year-old unmarried teenager. These differences must not be forgotten, but some similarities apply to almost all people with unplanned pregnancies.
First, there may be initial fears and insecurities. It is realistic to assume that the new baby will bring inconvenience, extra costs, life and family disruption, and sometimes the threat of disease, such as the retardation that is more common when mothers are older. It is not helpful to discourage these concerns or expressions of emotion or to dismiss them as being of minimal or temporary importance. It is much more helpful to show unruffled acceptance and understanding. Remember that a loving, wise, forgiving God will guide as we counsel during what, for many, is a life-altering crisis experience.
At times the initial fears are expressed through a strong resistance to counseling and even anger directed toward those who try to help. As an example, the unmarried young woman may resist because she has been brought or sent for counseling against her will, she may never have learned to trust people (especially men—which presents a challenge for male counselors), or she may expect the counselor to be a condemning, unforgiving authority figure. Unwed fathers may have their own kinds of insecurities and resistances.
During the initial session, try to give calm reassurance that you will help, but avoid gushy or pious clichés. Attempt to find out what kind of help is needed and what the counselee(s) and the family members see as their immediate steps for action. Even though you should encourage a physical examination for the mother, try to discourage quick decisions, such as a rush to the abortion clinic or crisis pregnancy center or an immediate decision to get married. It is best to wait even for a day or two until the original emotions have been expressed and there has been time to adjust to the initial shock. For most, however, it can be helpful to discover as quickly as possible whether the woman really is pregnant. In all of this remember that prayer can have a calming, helpful, and reassuring effect.
Second, often you can help with practical decisions. Major questions include “How do I respond to this pregnancy?” “Who needs to know now, and how do I tell these people?” “How do I handle the reactions of others to the news?” “What changes do I need to make and how soon?” Some conclude that abortion is the best and most logical choice. Others decide to keep the baby and begin to make life adjustments. For unmarried couples, this may involve plans to marry, although hasty marriages have a higher likelihood of failing. A marriage immediately after conception can be successful if the couple shows some evidence of maturity and if they have had a good and growing relationship prior to the pregnancy.
Some unmarried mothers decide to remain single and bear the child to the time of birth. Some find maternity homes, while others go to live with distant relatives or foster parents. In an increasing number of cases, the unmarried mothers stay at home, where they continue with work or schooling and openly bear the child. Each of these alternatives should be discussed along with the issue of the baby’s future. As subjects like these are considered, there also can be discussion about whether to keep the baby or make him or her available for adoption.
Regardless of whether the pregnant woman is single or married, practical issues impact a group that is broader than the counselor and counselee. Family members have opinions, but, even more, they may have legal and financial stakes in the pregnancy. Underage mothers are responsible to their parents. Married women and their husbands are equally involved in decision making. If a couple is unmarried, regardless of their age, the father also has a responsibility for the mother’s and baby’s immediate and long-range futures. When Bathsheba discovered her pregnancy, her high-profile husband was actively involved in making decisions, some of which were very unwise and resulted in the whole situation becoming much worse. In modern times it is possible to draw on the advice and expertise of others in the community, including physicians, social agencies, adoption centers, lawyers, and sometimes school officials. Do not make the assumption that the fathers are willing to leave the child’s future in the hands of the mother or her family. Increasingly, unmarried fathers, like those who are married to the mother, want to be actively involved in making decisions about the future of the child.
Third, often there may be need for continued counseling. Among the unmarried, after the initial decisions have been made, either or both of the parents may experience continuing guilt, shame, anger, insecurity, a lowered self-image, or similar emotional struggles. Married couples may have difficulties adjusting to the new child, and there also may be anger or self-criticism for not taking more care to prevent a pregnancy. The issues of concern will differ from situation to situation, but the counselor can help, especially if he or she has been accepting, noncondemning, and helpful from the beginning. Early in counseling you might want to suggest that further sessions could be helpful—if not before the baby’s birth, then shortly thereafter.
The mother may need someone with whom she can share the details of childbearing or the grief that comes if the baby is given up for adoption. Ideally, family members are the best people to give this kind of support, but sometimes this is not forthcoming. When a child is conceived apart from marriage, for example, the young mother’s parents may be unwilling or unable to listen compassionately or discuss anything concerning the new grandchild. The counselor can be available to the entire family to help with discussion of feelings, moral questions, and plans for the future. If the child is stillborn or deformed, this can create additional guilt, grief, and confusion—all of which should be talked through.
Regardless of the parents’ circumstances, unwanted pregnancies can be traumatic experiences, even in this age of sexual laxity and moral decline. The Christian counselor can use this experience to demonstrate and point people toward the love, compassion, and forgiveness that are found in Jesus Christ. He cared for little children even when they were rejected and pushed aside by others. Sometimes, married couples can be helped to rethink their views on raising another child or on contraception in the future. Unmarried parents can be helped to reach new conclusions about responsibility and moral choice. In the church, believers can be encouraged to show compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness, instead of gossip, criticism, and rejection. In these ways, the pain of unwanted pregnancies can be turned into a learning and personal growth experience that can help individuals and couples live more Christ-honoring lives in the future.
Unplanned and Unwanted Pregnancies.
Psychologist Everett L. Worthington, Jr., divides unplanned pregnancies into two broad categories: those that come too early and others that are too late. The too early pregnancies include teenage pregnancy, pregnancies in unmarried couples who sleep together, pregnancies that occur immediately before or after a wedding and thus disrupt plans to start families later, or back-to-back children (pregnancies that occur too closely together). The too late pregnancies include those that come after a planned family is complete, accidental unexpected pregnancies, and pregnancies that occur in midlife. Each affects people somewhat differently.
Consider, for example, the struggles faced by an unwed mother. Sexual intercourse apart from marriage is becoming widely accepted, even among Christian young people, but this does not make it right. As we have seen, the Bible condemns intercourse apart from marriage, and, depending on where one lives, illegitimate pregnancies still are disapproved socially. Of course the male, whose sperm impregnates the woman, is as much a part of the problem as the unwed mother, but the father’s identity sometimes is unknown even to the woman. Males can hide their involvement, and since they do not show physical evidence of the pregnancy, sometimes the father disappears, leaving the unmarried mother (and sometimes her family) to face the problem alone. In contrast, in some communities or parts of the world, men (especially those who are younger) take pride in their ability to cause a pregnancy because this is seen as evidence of their virility. Even so, many of these males still fail to take responsibility for the child that is created, so the mother is left to cope without the father’s help or support.
Especially in places where out-of-marriage pregnancies are disapproved, unmarried mothers often try to keep the pregnancy hidden for as long as possible. Anxiety, fear of parental reaction, concern about social judgment, guilt, self-condemnation, and sometimes anger all serve to keep the unwed mother preoccupied and away from sources of help, support, and prenatal care.
When an unwanted pregnancy is confirmed, often there can be shock, anger, condemnation of others or of oneself, fear, panic, disappointment, or confusion, especially if the pregnancy involves teenagers. When an unwanted pregnancy is confirmed, individuals or couples are not likely to run first to a counselor, not even to a pastoral counselor, but when counselors do get involved, they may see all of the above emotions brought into the office. Despite the counselor’s personal feelings about the pregnancy, the emphasis should not be on moral exhortations, theological discussions, or intellectual debates about why the girl became pregnant. These might be dealt with later, but initially the counselee needs help in coping with the crisis and making decisions about the immediate and long-range future. Very often this leads to discussions about abortion.
 Villareal, L. (2002). Counseling Hispanics. In Healing for the City: Counseling in the Urban Setting (pp. 269–282). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.
 Winn, J. K. (2003). Jesus Rewrites Our Stories: Counseling in a Crisis Pregnancy Center. The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Number 3, Spring 2003, 21, 46–57.
 Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Collins, G. R. (2006). Christian counseling: a comprehensive guide (3rd ed., pp. 579–581). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Collins, G. R. (2006). Christian counseling: a comprehensive guide (3rd ed., pp. 574–575). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.