To parent, or not to parent: my job as an options counsellor

Guest post by Lauren
Original photo by Josh Parrish, used with Creative Commons license.

We all come about our decision to parent in different ways. For some, it’s an instantaneous lightbulb moment. You simply wouldn’t have it any other way. Perhaps it’s a culmination of years of scheming, backed by an urgent fever to be a mom or a dad. Perhaps you just know — this is the right time for me.

For others, it’s a slower process that meanders crazily, randomly, tumultuously as you explore your options. Perhaps your pregnancy came about with more ease, and less planning, than you might like. Maybe you looked at the pregnancy test with shock, surprise, or delight tinged heavily with fear. You swing back and forth, back and forth, in an emotionally draining pendulum process to the point where you no longer know what your heart wants.

For those people, I am an options counsellor. For years, I have curled up on my chair and listened as hundreds talk through their decision to be a parent. Some women come with their partners. Some come with a parent or friend. Others still with a carer or social worker.

I’m not an abortion counsellor — I’m an options counsellor. That means I help you explore all your options. Every single one. Parenting, abortion, and adoption. None is off-limits unless you want them to be. I can’t make the decision for you. I can only guide you on the path to the right choice for you. You alone have the right to make the decision, and I know this can also be a huge responsibility that weighs heavily on your shoulders.

I never judge you. Ever. I met you an hour ago. I have no right to make decisions about your life. But I can support you every step of the way. I give you a safe space to talk, explore your feelings, ask questions, cry even, and hopefully, help you come to peace with your decision, whatever it may be.

I love reassuring you there is no correct way to feel. That you are normal. That you’re not selfish or crazy. I love bursting the myths you’ve been bombarded with — that single parents are feckless and lazy, that only uncaring people choose adoption or that abortion causes breast cancer.

I hate that I can’t rescue you from the situation you’re in. Some women know instantly what they need to do. For others, there is no easy answer. And sometimes, life feels so very unfair. Women who desperately want to parent but whose partner will leave them if they do, whose parents will kick them out or who know they cannot raise a child with severe disabilities. Women who want to choose abortion but feel they don’t deserve one, fear their partner will become violent if they do, or know we judge so terribly women who chose abortion.

Not once, never, have I thought “I know what you should do.” If your decision was easy, you wouldn’t be sitting in front of me. No woman’s choice is the same. No woman’s life is the same as another’s. But there are themes. After several years, motifs tend to run through the testimony to which I bear witness.

Longing: deep, deep longing. Shame: hot coursing shame that bows the head and curls the limbs. Concern for others: what will people think of me? How will I explain my decision to others? And guilt. The ever-present guilt. It doesn’t matter which option you favour, guilt lingers in the room long after you’ve departed.

I usually don’t know which option each woman will choose when she leaves me. But I hope and trust that her time with me made that decision a little bit easier.

Comments on To parent, or not to parent: my job as an options counsellor

  1. Option. Choice.

    What a delicious and sacred gift you give to people- education and information; illuminating all paths. The power to choose.

    *Hat tip*

  2. I think it might be cool to look at it from a different perspective, because, in my opinion, you can’t parent a fetus.

    The first option is to terminate a pregnancy or carry to full term.

    Then, the option is to parent or relinquish parental rights to adoption/guardianship.

    • Yes but it would’ve made a less snappy title!

      I liked this post, props to those who can do a job like this and not judge anyone, even a little. I know I’d find that hard.

  3. Thank you for your post! I read something similar a few years ago that planted an idea that eventually led to me going back to school for a degree in counseling. If all goes well, I graduate next May 🙂 It must be draining sometimes, but what important work you do!

  4. Thank you for doing the job that you do!

    If it weren’t for counsellors like you, my life would be very different from what it is right now. And I can’t imagine what the other life would look like.

  5. This is a very beautiful and moving piece of writing. The ability to create life is a great honor and responsibility. I haven’t had the opportunity to experience the life-changing event yet, which has been a blessing for the most part. I would wish somebody as caring and understanding as you was there to help every woman has to make such a difficult decision. Your kindness and compassion is apparent. And greatly appreciated!

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