When you envisioned adding to your family, you most likely did not envision doing it on your own. Read on to find out what you need to know if you are pregnant and facing a divorce.
- try couples counseling
- get some legal advice
- educate yourself on child development
- figure out who is in your “village”
- be aware of healthy coping strategies
- neglect yourself
- hut out your ex
- rush into another relationship
- suffer in silence
- turn away offers of help
I know… maybe you have tried couples counseling. Or maybe your partner doesn’t want to. But consider trying one more time. Why? Because even if you do decide to move forward with divorce, you are forever tied together by your child. A good counselor can help the two of you learn communication skills and help you work through the emotions of a divorce so that you can hopefully work towards a civil coexistence. If you have already tried, perhaps it wasn’t a good fit. Find a different therapist. Ask around. Look online (aamft.org is a great start!). Finding a therapist is like test-driving a car– you need to try a few before you find the right one..
You may be feeling very vulnerable right now. It can be very empowering to be aware of what to expect from a legal perspective. A family attorney, preferably a collaborative one, specializes in divorce, and can help you understand what you need to know. Another option is mediation, a neutral process that helps you and your partner sit down together and make decisions. Not only is mediation generally less expensive, it is also less of a drain emotionally than going through a trial. Inform yourself about the different options available, and interview different professionals to find the best fit for you.
Since you may be doing the majority of the parenting, it will reduce your anxiety to be savvy with child development. Arming yourself with information also helps you make informed decisions when it comes to co-parenting with your ex. There are many great books on the market, as well as classes, websites, moms groups, and childbirth educators. Take some for yourself and your baby to learn what to expect.
You don’t have to do this alone!! It is hard to ask for help- you want people to think you have it all under control, I know. But let go of the idea that asking for support means that you are not handling things. Think of who is in your life that can help: family members, friends, neighbors, postpartum doulas, support groups, babysitters, and yes, even your ex, and allow these people to support you. You won’t regret it.
You may have moments when you feel like you are never going to feel good again, but chances are, you have more coping strategies than you think. Try to recall a time in your past when you went through something difficult that you have come out on the other side. What did you do to get there? Get out a piece of paper, and jot down some ideas. Aside from basic self-care (eating, sleeping, healthy eating), what else helped? Maybe it was journaling or reading books. Maybe it was a support group. And often, people find that time really does heal all.
Even though you will be spending a lot of time parenting and juggling, it is CRUCIAL that you take care of yourself. Self-care is different for everyone, but start with the basics: eating, sleeping (as much as you can) and exercise. Remember the things that you enjoy and keep doing them. You know how on an airplane, the flight attendant says that you should “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting small children”? Self-care is your oxygen mask, and if you’re not breathing, you are not going to be functioning in a healthy way.
There are some exceptions, but for the most part, your ex will want to be, and should be, involved in parenting. It is normal to feel angry with your ex, or worry about what kind of a parent he will be, but if you ask yourself “is it in the best interest of my child to have a relationship with both parents?”, and the answer is “yes”, find a way to co-parent. Take a co-parenting class, read some books, see a family therapist, and find some way to alleviate your anxiety.
Being pregnant and alone is very scary. Many people dive into another relationship to avoid feeling scared and lonely, and to not have to deal with the additional fear of parenting alone. However, divorce requires a grieving process, and that cannot be done if you are involved in another relationship. Take time to reflect and grieve the loss of your marriage. Explore what happened in your marriage, and what you contributed to the demise of it, so that you don’t repeat the pattern in your next relationship.
Having relationship problems puts you at risk for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. It is expected that you feel sad and worried at this time. However, if the feelings persist or worsen, or you start having thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby, now is the time to speak up. Start with your OB or midwife. He/she can help you find a therapist, preferably one that specializes in perinatal mental health, so that you don’t feel so alone. There are also medication options that a healthcare professional can suggest (that is safe while pregnant) so that you don’t have to feel so awful anymore. Don’t keep it hidden- you are putting yourself and your baby at risk by holding it in.
I hope that you have people in your life saying, “What can I do to help?” Don’t be a martyr and say “Nothing”. Let them make you freezer meals, or help clean your house. Let them take your other kids (if you have them) for an outing so you can take a nap. Or just allow them to let you vent, cry, scream, whatever. If you honestly can’t think of anything at that time, make a list for after the baby comes, because then you will want the help. Women seem to feel that they need to do everything on their own, but as I said before, you will be so happy to have a village of support!
Divorce during pregnancy can be fraught with emotion. You are not alone, and you will get through this. Give yourself time to grieve and focus on yourself and the new life you are carrying!