I just found out that I am pregnant, and I’m so upset. I don’t want to have a baby right now. I don’t have family close by; my life is already so stressful. I don’t think I could handle an abortion either; I would probably always feel guilty. But I also can’t imagine raising a child.
Thank you for reaching out. There are so many understandably overwhelming and confusing emotions that you are holding in your heart right now.
Everything you are feeling makes sense. Fear, isolation, and hopelessness are emotions that women in your situation often experience. You had to be brave to ask this question and to reveal such an intimate crisis. You deserve to be able to lean on our community so you don’t have to be alone.
As you surely know, except for certain extreme circumstances, Torah does not allow abortion.
While I obviously cannot provide guidance tailored precisely to your situation, I can share three pieces of wisdom gleaned from helping Jewish women overcome unplanned pregnancy crises for more than a decade.
1. Your first choice is how you define the problem. What is fixed, and what is fluid? What cannot change and what can?
On the surface, it seems simple: The problem is an unwanted baby. My experience suggests that often the core issues are not so clear.
Imagine I showed you a picture of a woman with one of her index fingers pointed upward, and I asked you, “What is she doing?” Well, you might say she is holding up the number one. Someone else might say she is making the letter “D” in sign language. Another person might say she is telling you to wait for a moment.
There are always multiple ways to define or frame what you are seeing with your eyes. How you define the problem can either expand or limit your options.
Suppose the “picture” we are looking at is: “I don’t want to have a baby because I can’t handle another child right now.”
What part of this is fixed? What part is fluid?
One way to look at it is that “I can’t handle another child right now” is fixed. And whether or not she has the baby is fluid. This perspective often leads to a single solution: termination.
Or she could view “I can’t handle another child right now” as fluid and malleable. The situation right now may not be forever. This approach generates many more questions and possibilities.
Could she find more help around the house? What kind of support does she need? How might she increase her self-care so that she has room to give more?
Reframe the problem, looking for what might be able to change, and new possibilities emerge. No one can deny the reality of the situation: She really cannot handle a baby right now. But she also doesn’t have to be trapped in that reality.
Another example: “I can’t have a baby because I can’t afford a baby.” What if “I can’t afford a baby” has the potential to change?
Then different solutions become available, such as training programs to increase income, applying for new job opportunities or finding inexpensive or used baby goods.
One couple I know were both living on graduate school loans when she became pregnant unexpectedly. The husband was so convinced that they could not afford a baby that he scheduled an abortion. And it was true that they couldn’t afford a baby—if they assumed their circumstances could not change. However, once they chose to continue the pregnancy, they received family help and financial and other support from a Jewish unplanned pregnancy organization that they otherwise could not imagine. They found solutions to financial problems that seemed insurmountable.
Even if you can see the circumstance as having the potential to change, you may still feel you’re drowning. Maybe you can glimpse possibilities, but it’s too overwhelming, frightening and hopeless right now.
2. It’s OK to be afraid and ambivalent. Healing and solutions come when we take the next step forward despite our fear.
In this world, whether it is unintended pregnancy or anything else, we are confronted with uncertainty. We don’t have a written guarantee before it’s time to act.
The Torah model for how to act when you’re between a rock and a hard place is Nachshon, the son of Aminadav. When the Jewish people stood before the Red Sea with the Egyptian army chasing them, close at their heels, Nachshon jumped into the Sea before the waters parted.
With most challenges in life, the solution comes after the commitment, not beforehand. Yes, it takes courage to commit and act without certainty. And the truth is that solutions are not readily available until we bravely commit to finding them.
Deep within you, you have a soul. And your soul, your Divine spark, is capable of tapping into an endless source of strength on your journey.
3. Admitting vulnerability invites support from people and miracles from Gâd.
The courage to choose to do something when you don’t know how to handle it—whether it’s continuing an unwanted pregnancy or anything else—requires the willingness to be vulnerable. We must be willing to hold our fear and our uncertainty instead of hiding from it.
Most of us would love to keep up our facade that we have everything together. But my experience is that no honest person does.
In the Borei Nefashot after-blessing, we say, “Blessed are You … Creator of numerous living beings and their needs.” Our Creator didn’t make a single self-sufficient person; we all have needs and deficiencies. We need others, and we need the Almighty.
Admitting our vulnerability can become our doorway to miracles. Because when we are truthful about our limitations and our weaknesses, we can open ourselves to the contribution of others and our Higher Power.
No woman can bring a baby into the world or raise her baby (or place her baby for adoption) without a tremendous amount of support. Pregnancy, even in the best circumstances, makes us tremendously vulnerable, physically and emotionally. All the more so when things are not ideal.
One twenty-something woman called me when she was pregnant and functionally homeless, living on a couch. She was homeless because she didn’t abort, even when all the people closest to her had pressured her to do so.
She felt hopeless but then some organizations and amazing people, including people she barely knew, stepped in, offering to help. Within a year, she found a place to live, a job and even started graduate school part-time, all while showering her newborn with a tremendous amount of love. As she wrote later, “My daughter has brought complete and utter joy and happiness into my life. My situation was tough ... [but] babies are worth every fight, every struggle and every difficulty.”
Given that the people closest to her abandoned her, this woman might easily have viewed, “I can’t handle a baby” as a fixed and foregone circumstance. It was true; when she found out she was pregnant, she really couldn’t handle a baby. She also couldn’t have the answers ahead of time, but she found solutions when she dared to do the next thing. She was willing to be vulnerable, inviting support from others and blessing from Above.
I don’t know what your next action will be, but please know that you have more potential and more possibilities than you likely realize, and that if you ask for support, you can get it.
Originally posted on Chabad.org. Reprinted with permission from the author.