Supporting a Loved One: Partners & Parents
It is Normal for Partners to Have Feelings About the Abortion
Northland Family Planning Centers are different. Not only do we provide the best medical care possible, but we also create an environment where everyone is treated with compassion, dignity, and respect.
We know that most people want to talk to someone about their feelings and fears. Even though you are working to be strong for your partner or friend, you may also be scared for them. You might feel guilty or shut out of things. You might be upset at the idea of losing, or continuing, this pregnancy. Please know that most people do want to know how you feel. Even though the patient must ultimately follow their own judgment, they want to hear your thoughts and know that you are concerned and that you care.
How are you feeling?
Everyone can certainly be impacted by pregnancy, the decision making process, and the choice made. Many partners experience the same emotional tug of war the pregnant person feels…in their heart, they may feel they want to have a child, but their head tells them this is not the right time to become a parent.
It is natural for men to have emotional feelings about the abortion experience.
Did you know that about half of all patients who are seeking an abortion generally have a partner waiting for them either in the clinic or the doctor’s waiting room? You are not alone.
Putting feelings into words
“I feel bad. I feel guilty.”
Some may feel guilty that they caused the pregnancy, especially if a condom was not used. Unless you pressured them into sex, then both of you share the responsibility for the pregnancy.
Focus on what you can do now and in the future. Tell them you are sorry, follow some of the support suggestions below, and become involved in preventing, or planning future pregnancies.
“I feel bad because I’m not a good provider.”
Some feel like a failure because they can’t afford a child – or another child. More and more families are relying on two paychecks to get by. You may feel that even if you take on extra work, working all the time means you can’t be with your partner or with your children. Or, you may feel that even though it will be hard, it’s worth having another child.
Share your thoughts with them and let them talk it through with you. It may be you both set a goal to become more financially stable so that you can provide for a child in the future.
“I feel sad, I wanted this baby.”
It may be hard on you if you wanted to have this baby and they don't. You may feel the loss more than you think they do.
People who suffer a loss need to grieve. It’s important to find someone who can listen to what you are going through. That may be a counselor or a friend. Please let us know…we can help.
“I feel insecure. Will we break up?”
If you both agree and support each other and talk to each other, the relationship can get even better. Even if you don’t agree, if you show that you care about each other, the relationship can grow. And, if you have already agreed to break up, caring for each other now will help you both cope better with this unexpected situation. You will feel better knowing that you did your best in a difficult time.
This can be a challenging time, however, so remember to be patient and take time to talk to each other. Remember, we are here for you both.
Talking to someone
It may help for you to talk to someone too. Your partner may not be the only one having a hard time. Talk to us. Or, seek out counseling from a mental health clinic, or a private therapist. We can offer referrals to some great people who truly understand. If you continue to have a hard time with your partner’s decision, get help.
Support suggestions: Show them you care.
Let them know you’re sorry that they are the one who has to go through this physically.
- Check-in with them often to see how they're feeling
- Do something special for them…flowers, dinners, a gift, a love letter
- Be affectionate, but be prepared for them to not want to be sexual
- You may feel rejected, but remember that they may connect sexual intercourse with this situation
- You can be affectionate without having sex
- Be understanding about the symptoms of pregnancy: nausea, tiredness, irritability, and moodiness are all pregnancy symptoms
- Read through the Recovery At Home packet
- Have pain medication available and maybe a heating pad
- To avoid infection, they should not have intercourse for two weeks
You can be a part of this experience, too.
Northland Family Planning Centers offers partners the chance to be a part of the abortion experience. If your partner agrees, for an additional fee, you are welcome to be with them during much of the pre-abortion care, including a pre-abortion visit to the clinic and medical history. If you and your partner choose this extra option, we are pleased to let you know that the time required for preparation on the day of your procedure will be reduced and you will be seen prior to other patients.
Portions of this adapted from Pregnant? Need Help? Pregnancy Options Workbook by Peg Johnston, Southern Tier Women’s Services; After Her Abortion by Anne Baker, The Hope Clinic for Women.
We Encourage Young People to Involve Their Parents
Whenever possible, we encourage young people to involve their mother, father or a parental figure in their abortion decision. Even though you may be dealing with your own feelings of shock, anger, disappointment, sadness or fear, your daughter needs and values your support.
Remember that your child came to you for help with this crisis. It took courage for them to find the words to share their feelings, and how you respond to their display of trust will impact your relationship. We also know that you may need support. While your first reactions may be shock, anger, disappointment, sadness and/or fear (hers, too, we have found), finding healthy ways to deal with your feelings are equally important.
Listen to your child
The single most important thing you can do is to listen to what your child says about how they feel. There is no right choice to be imposed since each pregnancy situation is different. It is crucial for your child to be the primary decision-maker about this pregnancy. Sometimes this may seem impractical, but this is a vital part of respecting their rights as an individual and, more importantly, of asking them to begin to be responsible for decisions. This may mean that you need to take a step back and let them think this through. Share what you think and how their decision will affect you, but please understand that this must truly be their decision.
Who’s to blame?
It is natural to want to blame someone – your child, their partner, or even yourself, but there is no point in approaching pregnancy in a punishing way. Chances are they feel pretty bad about themselves right now and is looking for your encouragement and support. Be careful not to set up a hostile situation. This is a time for support and guidance. In some cases, talking with the other family can be helpful.
If your child’s pregnancy is the result of an unwilling encounter, such as rape or incest, please tell us and we will work with you and your child in dealing with law enforcement and other agencies.
Caring for your child after their abortion
If your child chooses abortion, your care and support will contribute greatly to their physical and emotional health. In our long experience, we have found the following to be most helpful:
- Be available throughout the abortion experience
- Drive them to and from our Center, fill their prescriptions, check in on them frequently
- Take some time to sit quietly with them
- Listen to their feelings and watch their body language
- Reassure them that you love them, will always love them, no matter what
Northland Family Planning Clinic’s patient advocates are available to help talk to your child about their reproductive health, prevention, and protection through responsible reproductive health care.
Post-abortion emotional health
Most people feel a sense of relief after making their decision, but many continue to experience other emotions after an abortion like sadness, grief, loss, anger, or guilt. There are many reasons your child may have a difficult time coping. Some include:
- A partner that has left them
- A parent who won’t let them see their partner
- Emotional or physical abuse
- A recent death
- If they have chosen abortion and their religion says abortion is morally wrong
- If they blame someone else
- If the pregnancy was wanted
Know the warning signs of not coping
Watch carefully to make sure your child has not lost their appetite or is eating more than usual; if they are not able to sleep or is sleeping all the time. If you notice that they are unable to concentrate, is suddenly doing poorly in school, crying a lot, staying in their room constantly or have cut themselves off from friends, you should talk to them about the changes you are seeing. More warning signs of a young person who is not handling their experience include not caring about their looks or what they wear, is excessively angry or irritable. If they hint about suicide or talks about death, talk to them and then CONSULT A MENTAL HEALTH AGENCY OR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.
How are YOU doing?
As a parent your feelings are very important, too. They will show up in your relationship with your child. You may recognize yourself in the feelings parents have expressed to us:
“I am mad and sad. I am so disappointed.”
You thought they knew better. Your child may have made a different choice than you. They are making a choice that is best for themselves at this time in their life. Try to remember a time when you disappointed your parents and what you needed from them then. Tell them they are still your child and you love them.
“I am so angry.”
You have the right to feel anger and it may be helpful for you to find another adult to talk to. Name-calling and criticism don’t prevent future mistakes. Make time to talk when tempers are calm – and listen. Don’t give up on them.
“I feel ashamed. I should have protected them.”
No parent can know what their kids are doing 24 hours a day. No parent can be totally responsible for their children’s behavior. You can only teach and guide. Sometimes, experience is the best teacher. If you shelter them, you will only cripple their ability to make good choices for their life.
“I feel ashamed. I don’t believe abortion is right.”
You may find that you are re-evaluating your beliefs about abortion. If you feel abortion is wrong and your child is making this choice, you need to find peace for yourself and forgiveness for your child.
Speaking with a trusted friend or your spiritual advisor may help you. See Northland’s list of resources for more information.
“I feel so bad, like I have failed them.”
You did your best. Now you can try and help them. They may be feeling foolish and sorry that they did not follow your advice earlier.
This is a challenging time – it can be a growing time and your new relationship really can be deeper and better.
“I’m worried. I feel like I’m looking at them differently now.”
That is normal. After all, they have become sexual and have been pregnant. This may bring back memories of your own youth – for better or worse. And you are facing new questions about your role with your child.
Remember to assure your child you love them. Be honest and tell them that the conversations you will have now may be broader, may be more intimate, and may be less comfortable at first. But trust – keep talking. Don’t pretend this never happened. Let this be a growing point for your relationship.
The final decision on whether or not to continue this pregnancy must make sense not only in your child’s head, but in their heart as well. Northland Family Planning Clinic’s unique Head and Heart Program helps pregnant people explore their feelings – both rational and emotional – about pregnancy. Then, patients work with our advocates to come to a decision. We invite you to join your child for this specialized consultation session. We offer this as a free community service.
This pregnancy can change your relationship – choose from your heart.
This section adapted from: “Your Daughter Wants to Talk” by Charlotte Taft, Imagine Counseling, “Pregnant? Need Help? Pregnancy Options Workbook” , developed by Margaret Johnston, Southern Tier Women’s Services, and “After Her Abortion – for parents, male partners and friends” by Anne Baker, The Hope Clinic for Women