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The Pregnant Soldier

By Dr. Molly Barrow

The news that you are expecting a baby can be glorious or worrisome depending on the parent’s age, financial situation or disposition to be a parent. Pregnancy can bring opportunity for great happiness and/or serious problems like birth defects, stress on relationships and strain on budgets. Here is how one young soldier found a solution through counseling. Confidentiality requires identifiers to be changed.

Becky was in the Army. She was a dedicated young career officer in training and looking forward to her opportunity to serve in Iraq. She was considering moving in with her boyfriend who served in the National Guard. However, her boyfriend had begun to micro manage her recently and she was getting tired of it. They had a terrible fight and she discovered she was glad to be out of the relationship. After her break-up with her boyfriend, Becky moved in with her mother who was divorced and supporting a teen-age son. Becky promised her mother that the living situation would be temporary as she expected the call to go to Iraq in the next few months.

A few weeks later, she went to her doctor because she was so fatigued she was having trouble with her duties. The smiling nurse told Becky that she was pregnant. The reality of what a pregnancy would do to her military career was devastating. She left the office in a daze. She regretted the nights she had a few drinks and blew off birth control.

Becky’s doctor had suggested she seek counseling because she was so upset. At home, she was drinking too much and her mother thought Becky was worried about the risk of deployment. It was just the opposite. Becky was afraid she would not be deployed. Her mother insisted that she get some counseling, too.

Becky decided she would get some help with her options, but she was almost sure what she was going to do. Becky believed she could not have a military opportunity and raise a baby. Although the military has counselors, she was trying to hide her pregnancy from her superiors. She said she had trained to kill an enemy, but she did not know how to handle terminating her pregnancy. Therefore, she was stuck, unable to make a decision and had no one to talk to that she could trust. Becky said that she had not told anyone that she was pregnant and was trying to make this life decision alone. She did not want to marry the father. His behavior had become more outlandish and threatening since they broke up and she no longer could imagine a future with him. She was certain the Army would not send a pregnant officer to serve overseas. Tearfully, she explained that she had made up her mind to abort the fetus.

During her first counseling session, Becky revealed that her mother had been a terrific mom and that she had aspired to be the same to her future children. She hated herself for drinking so much knowing that she was pregnant. After several sessions, because Becky was so young and very close to her mother, Becky agreed that the right approach was to confide in her family.

Becky decided on her own that if she were going to tell her family that she should also tell the father of the baby. However, her boyfriend was unwilling to change his career path to be a full time father, but he said he wanted Becky to have the baby, anyway. Becky expected his response and his lack of sacrifice. Somehow, she thought he would help her and now she felt even worse. She was reluctant to tell her mother who might hurt her feelings or criticize her more. Nevertheless, she bravely sat down with her mother.

Surprisingly, rather than scolding Becky for being careless, her mother did not hesitate to present a third workable option. Her mother was dreading the empty nest loneliness she expected when her son left for college in a few years. She saw the baby as a gift and offered to adopt the baby while Becky continued her military career. Becky was relieved beyond words. She began to eat right and stopped drinking alcohol completely. She took a leave and delivered a beautiful, healthy child. For several years, Becky and her mother have shared a happy toddler, who even has regular visits from his father and paternal grandparents.

Becky was extremely fortunate that her mother was capable of raising another child. An overwhelming problem in one person’s life became the solution to loneliness in another’s. If a difficult decision worries you, seek help from a trained therapist and the people who love you. Together, you just may find a creative solution to your impossible problem.

Read other articles and learn more about Dr. Molly Barrow.

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