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Anonymous 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 rumours 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 Corinna replies:

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.

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 behaviour 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.

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