You're pregnant again and one (or both) of you don't want another child. What happens now?
For couples dealing with infertility or pregnancy loss, the news of an unexpected pregnancy can be thrilling. But when handling an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy, that news can be downright devastating to couples who already have their family established with two, three or more kids if the wife, husband (or both) feel entirely against having any more children.
What happens to couples who simply are not prepared for such a radical change as another new baby coming on the scene? Couples can undergo an intense emotional time as they struggle with important decisions for their family's future. Spouses often come from two different positions when processing their family planning "surprise," and often when handling this complicated time they often need effective communication support and relationship advice.
Here are some of the feelings I see couples in this situation struggle with:
Someone who is already a mommy can be torn between the children she already has (who need endless amounts of her attention) and extreme guilt about not feeling welcoming toward the one yet to arrive on the scene. There may also be a lot of pressure from family members (including her husband), friends and medical advisors to end the pregnancy.
While women might joke about "I'd rather be 40 than pregnant," I find with many clients in this situation, when reality hits and the decision is before them, many women who already have children find it easier to emotionally connect to the prospect of being pregnant "one more time" than choosing the alternative. This woman is typically able to imagine another family member coming on the scene. There is a level of maturity for most women at this point that helps them see beyond the challenges of diapers and car seats to picture and even embrace the idea of an expanding family.
However, men can come from a different place upon hearing the news of a surprise pregnancy when they already have children. A husband will automatically first look at the health of his wife and how the pregnancy might compromise her. He will then look at his "present family" and have a hard time envisioning something different. Men, for the most part, are more concerned with protecting and caring for what they can tangibly see in front of them — the present, existing family.
In many cases, the polar opposite can be true. The thought of midnight feedings, strollers and the incredible emotional and physical investment of "one more family member" added to the mix can be overwhelming for women. Men might celebrate adding to the family fold and be totally onboard with "starting again."
Couples needing to make this decision are surrounded by a tornado of angst and uncertainty. It is in the tension of the practical and the emotional that husbands and wives can accidently turn from allies to advesaries with may hurt feelings resulting from the fire storm of decision making.
Regardless of which position either partner is taking, even when both fully agree, the decision to choose abortion can be difficult and shake the very core of even the best relationships.
Couples caught up in the aftermath of abortion are often surprised at how much pain the solution has heaped upon them. Abortion is a symbolic end and the grieving process can bring such a sense of finality that it can spill over into the couples' personal connection. Most couples must find help navigating these unchartered waters inorder to prevent the damage from becoming unrepairable.
Here are four suggestions for couples trying to find their way after making this difficult decision.
- Know you are both grieving. Everyone handles grief in their own individual and private way. Some need to go away by themselves while others need to process with others so don't feel so alone in it. Understanding that you are both handling this loss in your own unique way will help the two of you extend patience to each other as you walk through the process of grief after abortion. Learning how to honor your own and your partner's needs during grief is essential.
- Talk. Don't let this decision be the elephant that makes a mess in your living room that you both walk around daily and never address. Couples are surprised to see how much pain each party is feeling afterwards. Sometimes just realizing your partner is also feeling pain over the decision can be powerful and healing.
- Don't lie. Don't pretend this event was "no big deal." It is a big deal for each other, individually and as a family. Don't try to push down the tears or the pain. Take some time to feel the sadness of the situation. Comfort each other in the down moments and truthfully feel what you feel — sometimes resolved and okay about your decision, and other moments sad and overwhelmed with the loss. Experiencing the full spectrum of emotions is normal and allowed.
- Time is on your side. Both of you need to know that this whole process will take time. Abortion stops the crisis but the closure doesn't always happen instantly. Walking together through the pain and the grief will help your family reach a place of peace. And for any couple considering this option, I would highly suggest you consider all points together and not just assume you are on the same page with the decision. Most importantly, don't make the decision to appease your partner and don't wait until after the decision to find out where your spouse truly stands.
Listen to a live interview with Trudy M. Johnson, special guest on Hay House Radio as she's interviewed by Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD, author of "Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom", October 22, 2014 at 11:00am EST.
If you're a couple needing to talk, Trudy M Johnson, LMFT offers Skype or Etherapi.com confidential online sessions for help in the area of processing grief after abortion for couples. She is the author of CPR ~ Choice Processing and Resolution, the first professional self-help plan for processing grief after abortion without fear.