Get Real! She’s Pregnant, and I Just Can’t Deal

Heather Corinna

Unplanned pregnancy is a big deal, is difficult to manage, and the less prepared for that possibility you are, the tougher it is to cope. But you are capable of turning it around.

Ryan asks:

My
girlfriend has been acting all shifty around me. I thought she’d gone
off me and I started ignoring but then I started to hear rumors that
she was pregnant and it was my kid which shocked me cause we’re always
so careful. I kinda confronted her when she told me it was true I
freaked and completely flipped out at her. It was like world war 3, I
felt so bad after but I feel like I can’t talk to her and shes wants me
to be involved but again I don’t think I can. I’m finding it really
hard to get used to all this stuff and every one around me is treating
me like it’s all my fault, which I know it is but I don’t get why
everyone’s treating me like this. I guess if I was looking in on all
this shit I’d probably judge but I’ve got so much shit going on after
my dad walking out, coping with this is like hell on earth. What can I
do? People are saying I’ll get used to it but I really don’t wanna.

Heather replies:

Hey
there, Ryan. Let’s do what we can to work this out, okay? I know it’s
tough — especially if you’re also dealing with trauma in your family
— and it’s scary, but it really is workable.

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I don’t know what you mean when you say you’re always careful, but
there are currently — sparing men or women who get sterilization
surgery — NO methods of birth control which are 100% effective. Even
reliable birth control methods do fail. When heterosexual intercourse
is on the table, pregnancy is always a possibility, so it’s always
wisest for anyone who suspects or knows they simple CANNOT deal with a
pregnancy simply not to engage in any kind of sex in which it is a
possible consequence. In other words, if a person just doesn’t want to
deal with a pregnancy, it’s important that they do all they can to not
involve themselves in one by CREATING one. For you, that’s pretty darn
easy and incredibly cheap: all it usually means is bypassing
intercourse OR just slapping a condom on and using it properly, every
time. Would that most birth control methods were so easy for women!

Now, when using reliable birth control — especially when you
combine methods, always use them and use them properly — the risk of
pregnancy can be greatly reduced, to the point that it can be a very
small risk. You haven’t told me what method you and your girlfriend
were using, but if both of you were cooperating with your methods and
being sure to use them properly, always, then if a pregnancy happened,
it’s no one person’s fault or responsibility more than another. You’re
both equally responsible for managing the consequences of an act which
sometimes has these known consequences. Obviously, if either one of you
sabotaged the other’s birth control method or coerced or pressured the
other to have sex either didn’t want, or if you refused to use reliable
birth control (or she did), then the responsibility might not be so
equal, but if sex really was optional for you both, then you’re both
responsible, not just you, and not just her.

Certainly, you could just opt out of this whole mess — you’re the
guy, after all, you have that option — but you know, you were one half
of making this happen, so I’d encourage you, however hard, to step up
and take your half of the responsibility here. You say you don’t think
you can, but you can, and leaving your girlfriend with the whole bag
would be seriously crappy of you. And flatly, probably crappy FOR you
in the long run: we rarely do ourselves any favors by not taking
personal responsibility, because of and when we don’t, we can wind up
being perpetual children who live in adult bodies. Yuck.

It certainly sounds like neither of you have handled this well. Do
know that that’s hardly all that newsworthy, nor does it make either of
you bad people: unplanned pregnancy is a very big deal, is difficult to
manage, and the less prepared for that possibility any two people were,
the tougher it is to cope. So, she screwed up in not talking to you
right off, you screwed up in flipping out on her, and it sounds like
your friends aren’t being so awesome, either. You’re hardly the first
people in the world to just freak when it comes to a pregnancy.

But you are all capable of turning this around.

First things first? This isn’t about your friends: this is about the
two of you, and I’d suggest you go talk to your girlfriend, kindly, and
suggest that you both present a unified front here by telling any
friends who address it with you that right now, this is you and your
girlfriend’s issue, not theirs, and their behavior is only making it
tougher on both of you. If they really are friends to y’all, then
asking them to back off for both of your well-being, and bear in mind
that this is a real crisis, not a TV drama for them, should not be
asking much of them. If they can’t do that? Time to ditch those
"friends."

You need to open that discussion with your girlfriend with an
apology, which I’d suggest. Her telling others first before you isn’t
so cool, but do also understand that you and she are in a different
spot, here. SHE is the one who is potentially pregnant, and whose
participation in all of this from here on out isn’t optional. She’s the
one who faces the biggest risks and consequences, and thinking or
finding out you’re unexpectedly pregnant can be a really big blow:
however you’re feeling right now in terms of feeling overwhelmed and
freaked is likely only about half as much as she’s going to be. So, do
try and give her some extra room here in terms of how she mishandled
things. SHE isn’t the one who can just walk away.

The very next thing you need to both do is to determine if, in fact,
she is pregnant. In other words, it’s time for a pregnancy test,
pronto. So long as your last risk was at least more than 10 days ago —
or your partner’s period is already late — she can either take a home
pregnancy test or go to her doctor, gynecologist or any sexual or
general health clinic for a test. Until you have a positive test in
your hand, there’s not any sense in talking more about this.

If, after that test, you do have a positive result and a pregnancy,
then the next step is to ask your girlfriend how SHE is thinking she
would like to manage this pregnancy, if she wants to remain pregnant
and parent, remain pregnant and do an adoption, or terminate her
pregnancy with an abortion. Because, again, she’s the one who is
pregnant, what she wants to do is the rule, here. By all means, you can
let her know what you would feel best about doing, but if you do that,
I’d make clear that you understand and respect that her choice still
takes all: you’re just speaking for yourself, and will respect whatever
choice she ultimately decides is best for her.

  • If she decides that’s abortion, then the stand-up thing to do
    would be to help her as you can, splitting the cost, helping her with
    transportation, and so forth. If she’d like you to go with her for
    that, I’d advise you go, and if she would like to go without you, that
    you respect that.
  • If she decides she’d like to remain pregnant and go for an
    adoption, then you can help her by researching the different ways to do
    that, and help her through the process of being pregnant as she’d like
    you to. If she chooses adoption, she may also need and want some extra
    emotional support throughout, as it can be a tough choice to make.
  • If she decides she’d like to remain pregnant and parent, you are
    only legally required to provide financial support, but you know,
    single parenting is very tough, especially for a younger person, and
    even just getting through that pregnancy BEFORE delivery is often very
    hard. I’d encourage you, if she chooses this, to do more than just
    providing child support, and to strongly consider co-parenting as she
    seems to be suggesting she’d like. Even if you two don’t stay together
    as a couple, that doesn’t mean you can’t co-parent: an awful lot of
    parents parent together without being together romantically, or after
    their relationships change in some way. Too, you’d hardly be the first
    younger person who became a parent when that wasn’t what they had
    planned, and wasn’t something you thought you could handle: my own
    parents found themselves in the same position (and in their case, it
    was far more complicated than it often is now, even just because it was
    1969, not 2007), and when they didn’t want a romantic relationships,
    and they did work it out in their way. My father really wasn’t
    interested in or ready to be anyone’s father, and he ended up being a
    great Dad to me, and our relationship ended up being the most enriching
    of his life. You just can never predict how these things go: sometimes,
    even an accident that seems like a nightmare can turn into a positive.

Know too, that either or both of you can get some extra help with
all of this. Clinics which provide abortion always have counselors on
hand to help people consider ALL their choices, to figure out which is
best for them, and can provide support WITH whatever choice you make.
In the UK where you are, you can find these services at Brook or Marie
Stopes centers, for instance. You sound particularly isolated in this,
so I’d also encourage you to find even just one friend or trusted adult
you can talk to about this — once you determine she IS pregnant — who
you know will really be a good support for you; who won’t judge, but
will just listen and be your ally.

And do what you can to keep communication between you and your
girlfriend open right now: open, considerate and kind. You’re both
overwhelmed and freaked, but you both can still treat each other kindly
and with care, okay? Even if you aren’t sure your relationship will be
the same from here on out, you can still be friends to each other,
still be in this together. I know all of this sounds like a lot to
handle, and it IS a lot to handle, but people DO manage and get through
this every day. I know it also may feel like there is no way things
will be okay, but they really, really will: it’s going to be okay.

Just be sure and give yourself what you need through this —
including a little space and time to yourself when you need it — try
and keep seeing this as best you can through both of your perspectives,
and realize that challenging as this is, it is often a very normal part
of life for heterosexual people. Often enough, even people who others
think won’t be able to deal wind up stepping up to the plate and doing
brilliantly: you can be one of those people, too.

Lastly, while I recognize that this is likely a non-issue at the
moment, from here on out, if you just really cannot deal with a partner
becoming pregnant, I’d strongly advise you to put sex on hold until
that IS a risk you can handle, and one you know you CAN handle like a
bonafide grownup. If you want to stay sexually active and can handle
SOME risk, then you’ll just want to make sure that you really both are
using reliable methods of birth control properly and consistently every
time: that still leaves a risk, but it reduces it a lot.

Hang in there, Ryan, and before you do any of this? I’d suggest
doing something good for yourself to just blow off some steam and
regroup: it’s really important that you care for yourself, too, and do
what you can to be in as good a space as you can to manage this
challenge as best you can, for all of you.

News Sexual Health

State with Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.