#873: “My friend might be pregnant and our friends are not taking it well.”

Dear Captain,

I’m a longtime reader, and love your blog!

I’m an older college student whose school friends are all in the 17-20 range. They’re pretty mature for their ages, though by virtue of more life experience I often fill a mentor/counselor/older sibling role for them. One of them has recently realized she might be pregnant, but at this point it’s a little too early for a test to be conclusive. Naturally she’s pretty freaked out.

I’m opposed to abortion for ethical and philosophical reasons. I also don’t feel I have the right to dictate what others do with their bodies, that life can give people impossible situations, and so I’m not in favor of banning it. Our friends know this because we’ve all amicably discussed it before.

I’ve made it very clear to her that I will support her decision whatever it is no matter how many times she changes her mind. To keep my bias out of it I’ve tried to keep our discussions to problem/solution scenarios (how would she handle losing a big chunk of her me time, what if she has to stop taking her medication, what will her support system be if her family has a freak gasoline fight accident, etc.) As of now she adamantly wants to keep it, and I’ve been helping her set up a pregnancy and postnatal game plan. I’ve also reiterated that if she decides on an abortion I will drive her to and be with her for all her appointments. The father wouldn’t be in the picture, but she has a family support system that would enable her to finish school.

The problem is our friends are less than enthused about her wanting to keep it, and have been continuously pressuring her to have an abortion if it turns out she’s pregnant. They’ve also been insinuating that I’ve talked her into it because of my views. They’re only doing this because they care about her and want her to be as successful as possible in life, but it’s exacerbating her stress levels. How do I convince them to give her some space about this, and that I’m not a crisis pregnancy center staffer in disguise?

(Female pronouns are fine)



You seem to be doing a great job supporting your friend and reassuring her that what to do next is her choice. I think the next step here is to stop discussing her possible pregnancy with anyone but her and to let her take the lead in those discussions.

That means, if your mutual friends want to discuss your friend’s options with you or intimate that you are unduly influencing her decision, you can say “Hey, I love and support Friend and think that she is 100% the boss of what she does next. She knows that, and I feel very uncomfortable discussing her personal stuff with other people.” Keep reminding these friends “Hey, it’s all up to her. It’s not for you and me to decide, so let’s respect that.” “My views are well known, as are yours. It’s not a competition about who is right, it’s our friend’s choice.” 

That also might mean backing off a bit on the offers of support for a while unless Friend asks you about them. It’s great that you’ve promised to support her, and you didn’t do anything wrong by offering, but right now your friend probably needs a) a medically accurate pregnancy test* and b) a little time and space to figure out what to do next, including whether & how to take you up on your kind offers. Seek her company for its own sake – to eat lunch together, or laugh, or study – and let her be the one to bring up the pregnancy (or the pregnancy scare). Resist the urge to start every conversation with a hushed, urgent “How ARE you?” and try to disengage from wanting any particular outcome.

*Like, immediately, before any more friend-group discussions or “post-natal game plans” take place.



129 thoughts on “#873: “My friend might be pregnant and our friends are not taking it well.”

  1. Great advice from the Captain as usual, none more so than “right now your friend probably needs a) a medically accurate pregnancy test and b) a little time and space to figure out what to do next”.

    The LW wrote that the friend “has recently realized she might be pregnant, but at this point it’s a little too early for a test to be conclusive” but that raises a red (or at least orange-yellow) flag for me … how long has the friend thought she was pregnant? I ask because pregnancy tests can be done from the first day of a missed period. (And doctor-administered tests, not the over-the-counter ones, are conclusive from verrrrrry early on.)

    So, yes, LW, your friend needs an actual medically accurate pregnancy test before your friend group implodes over this.

    1. I was just going to say this about doctor-administered pregnancy tests. They’re very reliable from quite early; if she’s missed a period or even part of a period, she can get an answer basically immediately. (I mean, like everything there is some possibility of a false result, but they really are quite reliable from pretty darn early, definitely more so than the drugstore variety.) If y’all have a student health center or something, that is a good place to start. (And there’s really not much point working each other up over this until you do have that answer.)

      1. I think the problem with this might be if the friend has an irregular menstruation cycle or doesn’t really keep track of when she gets them. I could never track how often mine happened, for example. So maybe that’s why the confusion?

        1. Yep. A perpetually irregular cycle led me to looking everywhere but at the cashier in a small mountain-town Safeway pre-self-checkout lanes after I’d mentally backdated my probable last ovulation to coincide with a weekend my pre-asexual self had spent with my pre-ex boyfriend. Both tests in the twofer pack I bought read negative, thank fuck, and I used the shit out of the Listerine I’d purchased at the same time to, I dunno, pretend I’d really gone to the store for mouthwash and just happened to impulse-buy a pack of pregnancy tests on the way out or something.

          1. I was (as many are) pretty irregular during college, and had a couple scares. Every time I had to march my ass to the drugstore in my small southern college town, I pulled out the $10 fake wedding ring I’d bought primarily to deter lecherous drunks and made extremely confident, “hope it’s positive!” faces at the cashiers. It helped ward off my projected shame and judgment. Feels silly, but I might still do it today if I found myself in similar circumstances.

          2. Wow, I salute your clever coolness under pressure! I was incapable of doing much pre-pregnancy-test purchase except try and calm myself down with the knowledge that I had Fridays off, so I would be able to get to the sketchy Planned Parenthood I knew about in East Denver (these were the days before Google Maps…Mapquest existed, but, well, there’s a reason it doesn’t anymore). I don’t think a fake wedding ring would’ve fooled anyone, though. Most of the younger people in that small town were college students working the ski resort’s summer operations, and while there were a few dedicated couples, most relationships were confined to one-night stands. Sometimes they’d go long-term if the ONSes were good enough to merit serialization.

            It is extraordinarily unlikely that I’d find myself in similar circumstances nowadays, but if I did, I’d either take advantage of the growing number of self-checkout lanes (which I tend to do anyway) or pick the busiest-looking cashier who would therefore be the least likely to actually examine anyone’s individual items. Considering that I live in Hippieville and apparently look a good deal younger than my 30 years, I think I’d get more judgment for wearing a wedding ring and feigning excitement about pregnancy. :/

          3. Not relevant for you specifically, but for other readers. =) You can buy 10-packs of cheapie tests online for about 30 cents a test. Wondfo is the brand the pregnancy communities swear by, but ClinicalGuard isn’t bad. They come in plain boxes so nobody sees a big “PREGNANCY TEST BULK PACK” sitting on your doorstep. I’m told the dollar store tests aren’t bad either, but I haven’t tried those.

            (Learning to chart irregular cycles = going through pregnancy tests like water)

          4. Man, kids these days and their online ordering and their discreet deliveries! When I was a young whippersnapper, I had to schlep that Safeway pregnancy test in the snow, uphill both ways!

            (This was mostly because Colorado mountains sneer at other places’ summers with their warm temperatures and their consistency.)

            (And I’m only 30, but when I remembered that story, it really hammered home how much the world has changed since I was in school!)

          5. Can I just say that I love the image you shared here of buying Listerine and then just happening to “impulse-buy” a pack of pregnancy tests? Cuz you can always use a few pregnancy tests around your place.

          6. Jackalope, you can absolutely say that! 🙂 It’s a relief to me that my TOTALLY UNINTENTIONAL HAHA trip down the family planning aisle finally reached the “someday” in the comforting, “we’ll look back on this and laaaaaaaugh.”

            Somewhat tangentially, my best friend once went into PetSmart for dog food and impulse-bought a snake. At least I got some use of my true impulse buy from the oral care section!

          7. Hah. Everyone in this thread has such canny strategies. I slammed the test down on the counter, made eye contact with the teenage boy on checkout, and when he asked me how my day was going I snapped COULD BE BETTER.

            I am just saying it is possible to project more chill than I did. But also: much like buying condoms, EPTs are something that drugstores sell a LOT of. Plus: Amazon Prime. It is never ever a bad idea to have a couple boxes of pregnancy tests around. Especially if you have an irregular period: cheaper and better to just pee on a stick than to stress.

        2. Agreed. While I’ve never had a pregnancy scare/issue, I can personally attest that nothing more than high stress levels can drastically alter your period. The only way my cycle was even remotely regular and predictable in college was that, without fail, through both undergrad and grad school, I always missed/skipped a period over finals.

          Every. Single. Time.

    2. The OTC ones are very accurate. For my last pregnancy, I was never given a blood test or an early ultrasound. I just told the midwife/Ob that I’d taken three tests and that they were all positive.

      BTW, Walmart does have tests for less than a dollar (assuming there is one nearby and they aren’t sold out). As far as I can tell, they are as accurate as the name brand if you test *after* your period was supposed to start. But, it doesn’t sound like that is an issue here.

      1. Yes – when I got pregnant with my daughter, my doctor did do a blood test, but he also said it was just a formality because the OTC tests are quite accurate, especially for positive results (i.e. you might get a false or unclear negative, but not a false positive). This was 18 years ago, so I imagine they’ve only gotten better since then.

        1. Yeah my GP told me that since I’d had a positive on a drug store test he wasn’t going to bother doing one himself, and my OB only did a urine test.

        2. There are almost no false positives because the hCG hormone they test for is only produced by the fetus and some rare forms of cancer. So the presence of a line is quite conclusive of the presence of an embryo. However, a large portion of fertilized eggs (IIRC somewhere in the neighborhood of 30%?) does not implant or thrive enough to stave off the next period, and gets flushed out. The test is sometimes sensitive enough to detect even those. Especially for people who want to become pregnant but have trouble doing so, it’s often recommended to wait for the period to be late just to avoid repeat crushing of hopes.

          False negatives are possible if you test too early, before the embryo ratchets up production of the stuff (this is different for each person/pregnancy, sometimes it only takes a few days, sometimes two weeks). You can increase chance of detection by taking the test first thing in the morning, when urine is most concentrated because you haven’t been on the toilet for a while.

          LW, just have your friend pee on a stick, and go from there.

    3. Hell, some of the First Response tests can detect a pregnancy before you missed your period. When I was trying to convince, and impatient, I took one the day my period should have started and got an unambiguous positive. So I looked at bit askance at that too.

      The window of ambiguously pregnant is very short, really 2-3 weeks max. That is not a lot of time to go from, “OMG, I might be pregnant,” to post-natal game plan. Everyone in this situation may do well to slow way, way down. Pregnancy is 9 months and parenthood is forever. No need to decide it all in 2 weeks.

      1. I don’t know where the LW lives, and given the friend’s opinions as described it’s probably not relevant, but in case she does opt for an abortion a quick decision might make things less painful. When I got pregnant, in France, it took me about two weeks to finally make my way to the doctor’s office, and there I discovered that it was already too late for me to still be eligible for medical abortion. Had to have my uterus vacuumed under partial anesthesia in the hospital, which was much more unpleasant. This was mostly the fault of all the legal hoops they make you jump through (2 counseling sessions with a mandatory 1-week waiting period inbetween, vaginal ultrasound, blood test, the works – and then getting a timeslot at the hospital), but might be a factor to consider.

        1. This is just so… strange! Cause in Sweden, where I live and work, you only have a very slim window for surgical abortions, and you can do a medical abortions from positive test until the abortion limit. How can it differ so much between diffrent countries?

          1. That’s really interesting. In the US, the gestational age limit for medication abortion is much lower than it is for surgical. What’s the abortion limit in Sweden.

          2. This is really a reply to Cactus but there was no reply-button.
            In Sweden the limit is 18 weeks, or if you have special reasons 22 weeks but then you have to get the abortion approved.
            Ok, this is for Dr Sarah: can you get medical abortions all the way to week 22 or just 18?

          3. As Huh said: 18 weeks, or 22 weeks (21 w + 6 d), but after 18 weeks you require an OK from a state department.

            Yes, medical abortion are the only option available for late abortion, at least as far as I know. It’s because you chemically mimic a miscarriage, and there is no limit for when a miscarriage can happen. You actually use almost the same method to induce childbirth, the difference being that the child can live outside the body and isn’t 100 percent dependent of the placental circulation.

  2. Completely agree with the Captain’s advice. It’s very nice that you are so fast out of the gate with your support, but your friend currently doesn’t even know for sure if she’s pregnant, so it’s more than a bit early to be setting up a “post-natal game plan”. (And to be honest, if it were me, having that kind of discussion about a not-even-confirmed pregnancy would be sending my stress levels THROUGH THE ROOF.)

    Rather than taking on the mantle of Helper-Protector and convincing her other friends to give her space, you should also back off and give her some space. You can demonstrate beyond all shadow of a doubt that you are not a secret crisis pregnancy center staffer by trusting your friend to make the decision that’s right for her, in her own time and without your input.

    1. And in a way, space is what the possibly-pregnant person needs too. Like, the LW won’t always be there to help her friend with the pregnancy or raising the child. Part of the question of keeping/not keeping a child is a meta-question: can I handle being in charge of all of these decisions by myself? Can I be my own person and figure out what I don’t know I don’t know? Can I take responsibility to be the one with the final say as to my child’s health/wellbeing? Can I function once the initial bounty of help wears off? Can I handle the stress of having a child?

    2. OH, also, please bear in mind that your friend may not want someone who is “ethically opposed to abortion” driving her to and from the procedure, should that be decision she chooses to make about this maybe-pregnancy. Don’t insist on being the person who plays this role.

      1. This is a great point, and exactly what I was thinking. I would be hella uncomfortable with that, myself. It’s great that the LW is able to be so supportive, but at the same time I feel like they are getting a little too involved in this issue when it doesn’t actually concern them, which might be why the other friends are reacting with dubiousness.

        1. Was thinking this, too. If I were in your friend’s situation, I would not want someone ethically opposed to abortion accompanying me to my abortion — it would add a difficult layer of emotional work for me at a time (I’d feel like I had to manage my friend’s feelings) at a time when I’d need my emotional energy for myself.

        2. This. Stepping back from trying to manage this might relieve some of the stress from the other friends, who might well be worried that you are pressuring her.

    3. And if she’s not pregnant, stressing out about it might make her period late. Happened to me.

      1. Yeah, this. Once I was late. I was stressing about it like crazy. There really wasn’t any way I could be pregnant, but your brain goes there. I peed on a stick and got my period the next day. I swear if you wear white and buy the most expensive test you can afford, you’ll get your period in no time flat. It’s like magic. 🙂

        1. It’s funny, almost every woman I’ve ever talked to has had a story about freaking out about maybe being pregnant even if there is zero way (short of being the Blessed Virgin Mark Two) that they could have been pregnant. I had occasional freakouts about it in high school, even though I had never had any kind of sex with anyone and thus it was fundamentally impossible. And stressing about it made the delayed period even more delayed. (It’s funny: when I’m stressed and getting my period would make things worse–travel, say–the stress seems to make it come early; but when getting my period would have relieved the stress it seemed to come late. I’m sure that’s just confirmation bias, but….)

          But yes: once I was in college and could privately buy pregnancy tests easily for a bit of reassurance, the occurrence of the delayed-period-due-to-stress thing went way down.

          1. Yes! In my last year of high school I didn’t get my period for 3 months straight (probably just due to the stress of end of year exams). I got freaked out that I was pregnant even though I hadn’t even had sex with my boyfriend yet.

          2. I didn’t have sex until I was nineteen, but when I was fifteen I was six weeks late. I freaked out – and then the next period was three weeks long, had a one week interval, and was followed by ANOTHER three week period. After that it mostly settled down. More reasons I would not want to go back to junior high for a million dollars…

          3. Heh. First time I ever met my in-laws, I was like 5 days late. Granted, I was worried about meeting them, stressed from the holidays, stressed from end-of-semester blowout paper-o-rama, and stressed from flying two different places in the same week. The day after I met them? Reboot of the ovarian operating system, and how. Seems like now (when I’m so not stressed by them) I always tend to get my period whenever we go over to their place.

        2. I called a hotline when I was in college, terrified that I might be pregnant because my period was late. The person who answered (nurse? technician? I have no idea) said in a strong Chicago accent, “I’m not a doctor, but speaking to you as a girl, sometimes it’s sorta hangin’ on in there, you know?”

        3. Yeeeep. Last late period I had, I waited til it was a week late like a good health profession student and then bought a pregnancy test. I really didn’t think I was actually pregnant, but there was some definite relief when it turned up negative. And then extreme annoyance when about two hours later my period showed up. >_<

      2. I’m going to step in here and “Um, actually…” at everyone, but the stress=late period thing is a half truth. AFAIK, stress will only make your cycle late if it hits BEFORE you ovulate. So having your final exam a week after your period will totally screw up the next one, but being 29 and a half days into your cycle and wondering WHY HAVEN’T I STARTED YET? will not. Unless you didn’t ovulate. Which is possible! But then it’s not stress making you late, it’s this hormonal balancing act that is a separate thing.

        I’ve been using the Fertility Awareness Method of birth control for years and I’m a geek for this stuff. If this comment is a derail, I’m beyond cool with the Captain deleting it, but I just wanted to disseminate some knowledge and crap, in case anyone else finds this interesting!

        Source=Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler

          1. Yes! I love that using my body and my brain (and a spreadsheet) for birth control still feels like a magic trick!

  3. I also started out college being very pro life. In fact, i was president of my high school’s pro life organization. But that all changed when I was there to support a good friend of mine through a very difficult time, as well as going through several terrifying and yet completely irrational pregnancy scares of my own.

    She may or may not have to make a very big decision, but ultimately it is one only she should make. Whatever choice she makes she is the one who has to live through and with it. So I think that would be something that everyone involved, her, your mutual friends, and you, should keep in mind. I haven’t seen my friends from college in 10 years. What your college friends think you should do, how it affects them, this is not something worth considering. I think it is great she has so many people to support her, but ultimately, there is a good chance that you will all end up going your separate ways in a few years anyway. She has to make this decision on her own, or with people who would be helping raise it, like the baby’s biological father, and her family.

    I think in addition to your friends not discussing each others major life choices behind their back, you should stop engaging your friend on the “you could be pregnant” subject. Without a reliable test, it’s very possible that she isn’t. So you’re only helping her borrow trouble by engaging in discussions of how she would cope with losing her free time and setting up game plans.

    I know you think you are being a good friend by doing this, but you’re likely just helping her go down this rabbit hole of anxiety. (Seriously, this is a level of pre planning and anxiety that I have gone through several times in situations where being pregnant was actually impossible, but my brain is a dick.)

    I think you should focus on helping her manage her anxiety around the uncertainty. Things like “You know, we’re just borrowing trouble. No matter what happens your life will go on and you make whatever decisions you need to make. So lets focus on getting through the next few days until you can see a doctor to get a real test.” Focus on school, enjoying your time in college and your time with your friend.

  4. Please also stop suggesting that her entire family may die. Any freak accident is *technically* possible, I suppose, in an infinite universe?? But. I think if your concern is her stress levels, then please stop suggesting the extraordinarily unlikely and VERY distressing family-pocalypse.

    1. I was reading that, in my head, as the following:

      Possibly Pregnant: “My family will support me!”

      LW: “What would happen if you didn’t have that support?”

      A lot of people promise to help/support/pitch-in when you’re in the early stages of pregnancy — and sometimes that help/support evaporates when you need it most.

      I think that the LW should step back, at least until the pregnancy is confirmed — but it’s not such an unreasonable question to ask (as long as the “gasoline fight” thing is taken as a tongue-in-cheek Zoolander reference, and not an actual “but what if your family DIIIIEEEDDD” line of discussion.)


      Was Once Sixteen And Pregnant, Kept The Baby

      1. Exactly. That was my impression of the OP’S statement, not that OP was being needlessly alarmist. I immediately thought of Zoolander and now Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go is stuck in my head.

    2. Everybody should consider what would happen if their family members died, actually, especially if they’re relying on them for financial, emotional, or childcare support. Everybody should make plans for their own death, too. Because if you stick your head in the sand and say NO IT COULDN’T HAPPEN, and then it does, you can really get fucked over.

      Plus, what the other person said about Zoolander. This isn’t OMG YOUR FAMILY COULD DIE, it’s What would you do if your family wasn’t there? Do you have a plan for that? And that’s a good thing to think about.

      1. Sort of OT but totally related: I have friends with minor children who do not have a will. If you have children, make a will, designate a guardian (with whom you have discussed this beforehand – I swear I do not know what kind of morons the people who write the movies about someone suddenly – surprise! – becoming a guardian to a friend’s/sister’s children), and buy life insurance. (Also wondering about the movie writers who make Kate Hudson the surprise! guardian of her sister’s children but don’t give the sister and her husband the sense to buy life insurance so that the kids can stay in their house.)

        1. Those movies might have a horrifying basis in real life. I seem to recall a recent Dear Prudence letter where a woman’s parents expected that she would be the one to care for her developmentally disabled brother after they passed and treated it as a joke when she said she wasn’t going to be able to do that. Prudie told her to get it through her parents’ thick skulls any way she could that they’d need to make other arrangements. Sadly, though, I think the CA archives are evidence that those parents aren’t unique in assuming that dulce et decorum est for their (mainly female) children to cheerfully assume caregiving duties because faaaaaaaaamily.

        2. Speaking from both personal experience and a legal background, if you have *anything* you greatly treasure, get a will. I’m no kids and fully intend on staying that way, but I’ve always had multiple pets, plus I now own a family heirloom in the form of a vintage car. After a 3 year legal battle with my *charming* sister over my Mom’s estate, I made sure I had a will not only completely disinheriting her, but also with specific provisions about the pets & the car. (I’m single w/ no kids & liable to stay that way, so Sister, being my closest living relative, would automatically inherit everything if I died intestate.) Sounds stupid, but true.

          At the very least, everyone needs a living will & power of attorney for medical decisions. A massive portion of the battle with my sister over how to care for Mom could have easily been prevented if she’d had then drawn up beforehand.

    3. Having recently helped a friend with terrible anxiety walk through their own panicky scenarios, I could also read this as possibly-pregnant friend having little panic scenarios (“Yeah my family will support me probably I guess BUT WHAT IF THEY DON’T”) and LW helping them calm down and logically work through options.

  5. If friend had unprotected sex there’s at most a 3 week window of uncertainty. At home pregnancy tests can be taken day of or even before expected period & are as accurate as Doctor tests. Putting childbirth & childcare plans in place now (including “what if your entire family dies” wtffff) sounds incredibly stressful & not helpful. The fact that your entire group is concerned about your interactions with her is telling. I wonder if she’s overwhelmed/pressured/stressed by you & venting to those friends. Backing off is a good idea. Birth control for friend if medically possible if she isn’t pregnant is a good idea too.

    1. Yes. With both my kids I took that test you could take 3 days BEFORE the expected period and got accurate results. Like, if it’s too early for a test, it’s wayyyyy to early for ANYTHING.

    2. Yep. Drop a dollar/quid/euro/whatevs and find out if there is a pregnancy before planning the next twenty years.

    3. It’s entirely possible the friend is on BC or took other precautions that failed. Your last line reads as if unplanned pregnancies only happen to those who are careless about contraception, which is a very common speaking point in anti-choice rhethoric and not cool.

      1. I think the point was that if she thought she might be pregnant because she missed a period, she could take a test *immediately*. If she thought she might be pregnant because she had unprotected sex, she might have to wait three weeks before she can take a test. The writer was trying to figure out why it was “too early” to take a test, and talking about the circumstances which would result int he longest possible window of uncertainty. Not saying that was the only thing that could result in an unexpected pregnancy.

      2. It’s also possible that brigidkeely was referring to the sort of birth control that requires a doctor’s prescription, like the Pill or an IUD, rather that the over-the-counter variety (condoms). My scare took place even though my then-boyfriend and I were meticulous about using condoms, and you better believe I got a script for pills as soon as my test came back negative.

        1. Yes, I meant the prescription sort which has a generally lower rate of failure but also isn’t always possible due to health issues (frex hormonal bc triggers migraines & worsens depression for me), religious/moral reasons, or financial reasons. Pills, shots, & implants can also be harder to tamper with or be rejected by the partner if that’s a possible issue, too. Pregnancy absolutely can still happen when using birth control but it’s less likely with some forms than others.

          1. Gotcha! Sorry for jumping on you. Too many anti-choicers and general dbags out in the wild when I commented.

  6. Very much yes to the pregnancy test performed by a physician or someone at the student health center. They have loads of accurate ones on hand. It seems very early, so before everything starts to spiral I think it is wise to push for a reasonable step-by-step.

    Keep in mind that while college students may not be super at very long-term planning, they’re usually realllllly great at spiraling anxiety about worst-case scenarios precisely in the six-to-nine month window. Sounds like your friend group is on the verge of panic and what you really, really need is what the captain said: immediate steps, immediate perspective, immediate modeling of how to deal with a friend’s crisis in a healthy way.

    So: encouraging your friend to get tested and know for sure before anything else happens (post-natal planning is great, once you know the fetus is there!). Be helpful and not helpy, like we talk about on CA: give her space and help her with stuff, but don’t get enthused about your role as The Helpful And Protective Friend. Be her friend and ask that your other friends do the same.

    And remind yourself and your friends to keep this in perspective. You don’t know that she’s pregnant yet. It’s her body and her choice if she is pregnant. Pregnancy happens all the time, and you’re past the time when it should be a Big Scandal. You all can help her out, help be the village she might need IF she is pregnant, but the time to figure that out is later. And finally: the least helpful thing to do is get every single person in a huge swirl around this extraordinarily personal crisis situation.

    1. So much this? We went through this last year, exactly a year this week with our niece. Ten days after the positive blood test – BABY. As in, actual born, overdue, huuuge baby who turns one this weekend.

      That scenario warranted all hands on deck and the village banding together. Someone who hasn’t taken a test yet does not, and to be honest the situation is raising more questions than answers.

        1. I know, right? She went to get a scan, came home with a baby. Fortunately she’s in her twenties, still lives with her parents, and has a literal village behind her. She didn’t, as I would, have a complete nervous breakdown upon realising she was an instamummy, and is a natural at the whole parenting thing.

          OTOH, however, the Big Pink Aunties are still occasionally waking in the night, and gasping “OMG!There’s a baby!”. it’s such a good job we can’t breed, because I guarantee that any potential kids would end up turning feral, while we tried to figure out what to do with them. “Does it come with a PDF Users Guide? A quick start leaflet? Hmm… There’s probably an app, right?”

          1. There is a greater than 99% chance that I cannot breed, either, thanks to Essure and general lack of sexual desire. If I were in a hopefully impossible I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant scenario, there would be a complete mental breakdown with compound interest due to my body’s complete and utter betrayal of me plus, after the screaming finally stopped (due to me blowing out my vocal folds, almost certainly), there’d be the moment of, oh, great, now what do I do with this…organism? Raising it myself would absolutely not be an option, nor would pawning it off on relatives, but damn would I feel awful about leaving it to an uncertain fate in the foster care system. Methinks I need to start pushing my insurance company to approve that hysterectomy just in case, even if it does mean publicly outing myself as nonbinary!

          2. “Does it come with a PDF Users Guide? A quick start leaflet? Hmm… There’s probably an app, right?”

            Ahaha, that is exactly how I handle unfamiliar situations 🙂

          3. nottakennotavailable,

            There is a long LONG waiting list for infant adoptions. In the extremely unlikely sounding event this did happen you would have little trouble finding your baby a loving permanent home and depending on the type of adoption you could choose how much contact if any you had with it. Not sure how much comfort that adds.

            (Foster kids are usually kids whose parents lose custody when they are older. People are sadly much more reluctant to take on older kids.)

          4. S,

            I’m a Type I diabetic with mild autism, and I’d feel compelled to disclose both to give the prospective parents a heads-up. I’m sure there’s still a good chance of placement anyway, but considering I have reason to believe it would be with a family on the restrictive side of my own ancestral religion, I don’t think I’d feel too great about signing the kid over. I mean, given that my reaction to babies, even the supposedly cute ones, is to rue the fact that Brave New World’s Hatchery and Conditioning Centres are merely fictional, almost anybody else would make a better caregiver than I would…but I’d still feel queasy about subjecting a kid to an insular worldview that looks down on everyone but its male leaders.

          5. You’re probably joking about the app but honestly? Newborns need like three things: food, diaper changes, and sleep, and the Baby Tracker app that we used helped keep track of all of those.

          6. Yeah… I’m in my late thirties, I know what babies need. I do, however, have virtually nonexistent executive function, to the point that I literally cannot remember to feed myself. I’m so bad at fooding/drinksing/taking my meds that it’s one of the reasons I receive disability benefit payments.

            I hear you thinking “BPB, why not set reminders on your phone?”. I do that for everything, my google calendar is a veritavle riot of colour. Unfortunately, I glance at the screen when the alerts pop up, then forget to act on them! Neuroatypicality and me are sworn enemies, so I shall stick to Auntying, and let others deal with the whole “successfully caring for tiny humans” thing.

            Don’t worry though, i have never engaged in any activities that could lead to procreation. Just as well, really!

    2. I think the point was that if she thought she might be pregnant because she missed a period, she could take a test *immediately*. If she thought she might be pregnant because she had unprotected sex, she might have to wait three weeks before she can take a test. The writer was trying to figure out why it was “too early” to take a test, and talking about the circumstances which would result int he longest possible window of uncertainty. Not saying that was the only thing that could result in an unexpected pregnancy.

  7. The thought that occurred to me while reading the letter was that just because you have been assuming the mentor/older sibling role doesn’t mean you’re required to fulfill that role for now and forever more. It’s okay now to back off and let your friend navigate her choices for herself without showing your support with offers of a drive to the clinic or a post-natal game plan. You can let her tell her other friends that she’s making this decision on her own and while she appreciates hearing their views, she’s capable of handling this herself or with asking for the sort of help she needs from the people she chooses to ask. It’s up to you to navigate your own relationship with your group of friends, not to run in to help this one in-crisis friend do it. If your friends have been unfairly insinuating that you’ve talked your possibly pregnant buddy into a choice, i.e. if they’re spreading rumors and lies, then you confront them directly about what they’re saying about you. You don’t try to convince them to give her space because that’s dodging the problem. Surely you come to the defense of someone who needs and asks for defense, but this particular young woman hasn’t done that.

  8. I think sometimes when you’re the older one in a group and fall into the “mentor” role, it can be easy to slip into overkill mode out of a desire to help. It’s true there are a million things to consider if you’re friend wants to have a kid. It’s also true that this is VERY early on, and she is freaking out. Presenting her with a list of all the things she has to consider, while well intentioned, may just freak her out more.

    I agree with Captain. Now that you’ve expressed your support, it’s time to back off. Let her come to you if she wants help. And recognize with things like this, at the end of the day, it’s up to her to make her own mistakes. There’s a point where helping is helping, and there’s a point where you just have to stay quiet. You might be able to see all the things she should be considering, but pointing out every little thing she’s missed will just add stress. It doesn’t sound like you’re doing that yet, but I know how easy it is to overload friends with advice when things with so much at stake come up. You’re a friend and a support, not a “manager”.

    It sounds like you care a lot and are trying to be a good friend. Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is listen.

    1. YES THIS! Especially right now, part of college is learning to make decisions and manage your life without your parents there to help. You don’t learn that if you have someone serving In Loco Parentis.

  9. It’s awesome that LW is protective of Friend and respects that it’s her choice – and that LW wants the rest of the circle to respect that to. But, LW, you are not the GUARDIAN of your friend’s choice. You’ve offered and shown your support, sounds like multiple times. I agree with others that you, too, need to back off, let her bring up the subject, ask for help, etc. Just be her friend -not one more person bringing up a worrisome topic and pressuring for a decision.

    And BTW, it’s wonderful that you are making a conscious effort to keep your own biases out! That you can still be a good friend despite possibly disagreeing with the final choice is so awesome!

  10. As everyone else has said, resolving the uncertainty about whether she’s pregnant is step 1, and if she’s missed a period, a pregnancy test should be very, very accurate right now. She can double-check at the doctor’s office, but it she’s getting a positive pregnancy test result, she is almost certainly pregnant. If she’s getting a negative one, she’s almost certainly not pregnant. If she hasn’t yet missed her period, and she’s afraid she may be pregnant because of a broken condom or unprotected sex, then all of this planning and worry is really premature. She needs to find out for sure if she’s pregnant first.

    After that, I think it’s important to give her some space to think this through. She doesn’t have to decide in a few days. You’ve made it clear that you’re there to help if she needs you; now it’s up to her to figure out how to proceed.

    1. Yeah, over the counter pregnancy tests are not 100% accurate, but they’re pretty close…especially if you get the same result on several tests, which anxious teenagers are liable to take (I was an anxious teenager who had a couple of pregnancy scares).

    2. “She doesn’t have to decide in a few days.”

      Totally agree with this! If it’s so early on that she hasn’t even missed her first period yet, she’s got a couple months before she’s even out of her first trimester. She can afford to take a break from thinking/talking about this until she at least knows what’s actually going on.

      1. Well…not necessarily on the missed period timing. My cycle ranges anywhere from five weeks to five months, and I have never been, nor will I ever be, pregnant. Either way, Team Pregnancy Test Before Making Life-Altering Plans.

  11. Reading this, the first thing I thought was that LW’s friend was further along; like a full missed period and coming up on the first trimester limit/ Otherwise, if she’s missed her period, a over-the-counter pregnancy test should be medically accurate. Let me repeat that: If she’s missed her period, a pregnancy test should be medically accurate.

    If she hasn’t missed a period or had a positive, I’d say it’s OK to offer to drive/walk/metro with her to her doctor/planned parenthood/the college medical center to get a blood test. It’s not OK to speculate (even with her) in advance of data.

    Sooooo – My advice is back off. Just, back off. Until a period is missed and there’s a positive pregnancy test, this is a pregnancy scare. Not a pregnancy.

    If someone is freaking out after birth control gone wrong, and it’s within 72 hours, there’s Plan B/the morning after pill. If you’re the sort of person your friends touch base with, and you can afford it, think about keeping a dose on hand. You can find out more elsewhere, but regardless of your feelings on abortion, this prevents pregnancies before they start.

    For everything outside of that window, and before a missed period and/or positive pregnancy test, there’s sympathy. Do not speculate on a “post-natal plan.” Don’t discuss it to death. What is the point in spending all of this mental energy, incurring all of this stress, strife, gossip and accusations if it turns out to be a scare? Just let it be, and (this is easier with decades of distance) realize that there’s nothing _any of you can do_, until you know if there’s a pregnancy. I’m think, and maybe other’s will help clarify, that you can’t even get the “abortion pill” until you have a confirmed pregnancy.

    I agree with the Captian: “I support friend 100%, and you should discuss it with her,” is the best response. But I’d also add – because you seemed to have skipped over the whole ‘is she or isn’t she pregnant question’ – “We won’t know anything until [date]. It’s premature to discuss it before then, and after we know one way or the other, I will support friend 100%, and you should discuss it with [friend], not me.” You get them to give her some space, by giving her the space yourself.

    I think that continuing to engage on this with you friend and her/your other friends is making a mountain out of a [likely] molehill. I saw a lot more pregnancy scares in high school and college than pregnancies, and two decades out I’ve seen a lot more heartbreak and IVF than you’d expect if pregnancy happened all the time. Yes, she may be pregnant, but by helping plan for it you are rhetorically making a “maybe” into an “is” and that, combined with your personal feelings on abortion, is what mutual friends are seeing as “pressure.” Don’t do that. Give it some time.

    1. Agreed on keeping Plan B and EPTs on hand. In my opinion along with condoms those are a meaningful and important part of a first-aid kit, especially for college students. If that is a thing you decide to have around or use, be sure that you are familiar with the side effects, as Plan B can cause HELLA mood swings for three days and it’s good to know what’s happening while you’re busy freaking out.

      1. Plan B gave me a second period for the month. Like, no joke, I had a period (a full five day period) a few days after taking it, and then I had a second one at the regularly scheduled time in the month, and then went back to my regular schedule. It was the weirdest thing. It’s unlikely you’ll get a SERIOUS side effect from Plan B, but as with all things hormonal, you can get any of a wide variety of weird ones. Definitely good to be aware.

  12. Holy cow. So, LW, you are really trying to be a good friend, but this has probably crossed into halping territory. Your friend is in college with you, yes? Your friend needs to go to the health centre and have a pregnancy test before you bombard her with any more horrifying scenarios of her family dying and leaving her to cope with a child on her own.

  13. I agree with everyone who said to wait to plan until there’s an actual confirmed pregnancy, and to back off a bit with the offers of help. That said, it’s not clear to me how much of these conversations are things that you’re initiating vs. how many of them are things that she’s initiating. If it’s the former, back wayyyy off. If it’s the latter… I think it’s possible to be a sounding board for her anxieties without helping her tip down the rabbit hole. Try not to speculate until there’s a positive pregnancy test, first of all. Listen to her anxieties, but if they start cycling into wildly unlikely apocalyptic scenarios, try to head those off. Reiterate your support for her decision (whatever it turns out to be) without trying to force help on her. Find things to talk about that aren’t pregnancy.

    And yeah, don’t discuss this with her other friends. Tell them that you’re not interested in pressuring her one way or another, and that they might want to lay off it as well, and then just don’t discuss it.

  14. LW here. First I want to thank everyone for all their feedback on this!

    A little bit of clarification: I’m super involved with this because she originally came to me about it. When the Mentor/Sibling switch gets flipped I have a hard time turning it off, but I am definitely going to back off a bit and see where she takes it from there. I haven’t actually discussed this with anyone, the conversations with our friends are being relayed to me by her (so it’s possible one or both of us are wrongly reading into it.) The planning is because she deals with stress better when she can feel as if she’s working on it in some way.

    She’s got her appointment soon, so fingers crossed that this all stays theoretical.

    1. One additional thought – consider the possibility that your friend came to you because of your opposition to abortion. It’s been my experience as the only pro-life woman wherever I seem to go, that women with unplanned pregnancies come to me for advice simply because they want “permission” to tell off the people trying to pressure them into abortion.

      If your friend changes her mind and wants “permission” to have an abortion, she already knows where to go. But she’s not. Yet.

      1. I was thinking that, too. LW, instead of telling off the friends directly, it might be more helpful if you’re supportive of her telling them off (both because it is her business and because it’ll be a lot more effective coming from her). Like, ‘yeah, it is obnoxious that they’re trying to pressure you into a decision, that sucks and you are totally allowed to tell them to go to hell’.

        Sometimes the best thing you can do is validate what she’s feeling. I’m sure the pressure-y friends think they’re being helpful (particularly if they’re young and have a… less than nuanced understanding of what pro-choice is supposed to mean), but they need to knock it off and that message needs to come from her.

        1. Seconding this! Since the conversations are relayed to you by her, it seems the ideal way of dealing with it, and possibly even what she’s asking for by relaying them. Since it IS her decision and the very best thing to hope for is for her to make it for herself & feel confident about it and (if feeling confident enough) stick up for it herself to other people, offering her encouragement in doing just that when she wants it seems like a very good thing. Not that backing off a bit (or at least paying attention to whether she might need/want backing off) isn’t good too.

      2. Just as a reminder, plenty of pro-choice people will support someone with an unplanned pregnancy who wants to keep it, too. I’m pro-choice because I believe people should be able to do was they wish with their bodies, and pressuring someone to abort when they don’t want to is just as bad as pressuring them to carry it to term.

        1. Seconded! Telling other people what to do with their own bodies is just obnoxious. As a pro-choice and child-free person, I would support a friend who wanted to keep an unplanned pregnancy pretty much the same way I would support a friend who wanted to do a risky extreme sport (me + risk of maiming myself = NOPE NOPE NOPE) – I’d probably never really understand their desire to do it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy for them or help them research or whatever.

        2. Just as a reminder, plenty of pro-choice people will support someone with an unplanned pregnancy who wants to keep it, too.

          If one doesn’t support someone opting to become pregnant or continue a pregnancy, one is not actually in favor of their choice i.e. “pro-choice”, one is pro-people-only-procreating-under-the-exact-conditions-I-find-acceptable. There are indeed plenty of people who forget this – I’m not at all disputing the value of your reminder. 🙂

          1. Eh, that’s falling into no-true-Scotsman territory, though. There are plenty of self-identified pro-choice people who are obnoxious and judgmental about the procreative activities of others despite being pro-choice. I think those of us who identify strongly as pro-choice should recognize the problems within our own community, rather than writing them off as not “really” pro-choice.

        3. Yep — I’m vehemently pro-choice (in part because I’ve *been* an unplanned teenage parent), but what that means is that I support everyone’s right to *choose*, including making sure that they have the same choices that I had. I chose to devote my life to becoming a parent, but I had the options of abortion or adoption available.

          Pressuring pregnant women in *any* way is unethical, period.

        4. Agreed. Choice is choice. I advocate for the freedom to make that choice and making the options accessible (which includes access to abortion services as well as access to pre and post-natal healthcare and social support!). It’s not cool to pressure someone into making a choice about their own bodies that could potentially affect the rest of their lives, and unfortunately the only kind of pressure I’ve ever witnessed or experienced is pressure to carry pregnancies to term, not the other way around. I’m not saying that the above commenters have not observed this, but…I wish I had the experience of living in an area where the default was not automatically “YOU MUST BECOME A PARENT OR YOU ARE A MONSTER”, with a whole heap of sexism and slut-shaming on the side.

          1. It happens. Especially with teenagers from upper-middle class, educated households.
            People get primal when their kids get pregnant. Sometimes they run over their children’s autonomy and ownership of their body in a way they wouldn’t do in any other circumstance to protect their kids from the consequences of making the ‘wrong’ decision.

            Like pressuring them into a marriage, or pressuring them into carrying and placing it for adoption, or rushing them to the clinic and pressuring them to take a pill.

      3. Yes, pregnant teens are often seen as too emotional to make the ‘right’ decision.
        What kind of family/culture they come from determines what the ‘right’ choice is, but there is usually a consensus, and it can be difficult to find someone objective enough to listen as they sort through what their own feelings and desires are

      4. I very much wondered this too. She chooses to approach the one friend whose pro-life views are known in the friendgroup, and she is complaining about pressure to abort.

        I mean, chances are it’ll turn out she’s not even pregnant…

        But depending on where you live and your social group there can indeed be a ton of pressure to abort in certain situations (young or single mom or fetal disabilities or dad who doesn’t want to be a dad, etc) – in many social circles that would be seen as the ‘responsible’, ‘sensible’, ‘smart’, etc thing…

        I feel like if she does find out she’s pregnant (which is pretty hypothetical right now) it might be helpful for her to look for some kind of additional counselling or support outside her friend group.

    2. Make sure she goes to one a real clinic, not one of those crisis pregnancy centers who try to strong-arm girls and women into carrying the pregnancy to term

    3. Thank you for posting — this cleared up a lot of the questions that the initial commenters were addressing.

      Wishing your friend luck, however this turns out!

    4. “The conversations with our friends are being relayed to me by her”

      Then you treat this as you would any other situation where 3rd party information is paramount. In other words, you treat the gossip like you didn’t hear it to start. If it continues, you ask your friend to stop repeating it to you. You tell her that you’re glad she’s getting varying views if that’s what she wants. You do not get involved with treating your friend and her decision like the rope in a tug-of-war.

    5. The planning is because she deals with stress better when she can feel as if she’s working on it in some way.

      I would avoid indulging this impulse. In general, obsessively planning for hypothetical worst case scenarios is counter-productive and emotionally draining. In this specific case, setting up a post-natal gameplan is getting her invested in the idea of having a baby, which may result in a massive disappointment if it turns out she’s not pregnant.

      Instead, try something like: “Friend, I know this is scary and you want to feel in control, but right now, you don’t even know if you’re pregnant. If it turns that you are and you decide to keep the baby, you will have plenty of time for planning and I will be here to be your sounding board if you need me. In the meantime, .”

      1. Yeah, this. At least wait until there’s a confirmed pregnancy in the works, but also… even so, there’s a limit to how much you can really plan a pregnancy. It’s a lot of waiting around for shit to happen, there’s no way to accelerate the timetable, and once you have a general plan in place it’s really easy to obsess over it to the point of unnecessary stress (speaking from experience). Give your friend an out from thinking about it; indulge her for a little bit, but try to focus on other things as well.

      2. Speaking as someone with a very similar coping strategy: OH NO WHERE WILL I SEND THIS FETUS TO COLLEGE is actually a way of escaping dealing with the immediate feeling (!!distress!!) by spiraling into a broader panic. It feels helpful but for me it is not helpful.

        I am not saying that this is what your friend is doing, but something that helps me: open up a dayplanner or Google Calendar and start marking down dates when the next step will happen. The specific day/time you will call the doctor, even if it’s “fifteen minutes from now as soon as I have had some water”. Then the date/time you will go. Then after that if there’s a next step (talking to a counselor?) ONCE you’ve been to the doctor, put calling the counselor on the calendar, then going to the counselor.

        Mark out discrete, concrete, nearby windows of time where the present state of uncertainty will be over. After that window is over, everything will be different, and you will do the next thing. If someone IS pregnant and either wants or wants to rule out an abortion, that window of time is also concrete, and there are measurable steps. There will be a point where it’s too late for most abortions and that question will no longer be on the table. Then everything will be different again. Next step, then step after that, then step after that. Don’t lose track of the next step, for sure. I do know someone who has a baby because she panicked and missed all the deadlines, which is the kind of thing I don’t want to see happen to people. But do the very next thing and THEN address the thing after it. Keep in mind that the present state of uncertainty is bounded and will be over, and you won’t really know what that looks like until you get there.

    6. Beside the point of this discussion but, just want to say, I’m so glad you’re being a friend about this.
      I got pregnant at university (I was 19 and married) it was like I suddenly developed super-contagious-leprosy or something. EVERYBODY stopped talking to me, no-one would sit near me in lectures. I got pregnant in July, delivered in April, so it was the whole fricking year of being some kind of fertility pariah.

      1. Oh no! I’m so sorry that happened to you. Sheesh, I’d like to go back in time & tell those people off. WTF?

  15. One bit of the Captain’s advice that I really liked was “Seek her company for its own sake – to eat lunch together, or laugh, or study – and let her be the one to bring up the pregnancy (or the pregnancy scare).”

    Just hang out and be a friend. It sounds like maybe your anxieties are coming out a bit as well, LW, with the possible pregnancy as a plausible cover, and while that’s understandable, this is not the best way to manage them, for either of you. It’s not your job to manage her anxieties, and vice versa. Let the pregnancy thing be for a while and just enjoy your friend’s company; I know if it was me, not talking about it for a while would be immensely helpful as a break from thinking about it. Plus it shows that you trust her to know what’s right for her and her life. You said they’re pretty mature for their age, so treat her that way. 🙂

  16. Definitely, definitely, everyone needs to cool it on the pre-natal or post-natal planning until this friend knows FOR SURE that she is pregnant. I had a few pregnancy “scares” before I became actually pregnant (which I have now experienced 5 times!) and honestly, OTC/drugstore tests are very accurate. I see the LW has commented that the friend has some sort of appointment soon to confirm the pregnancy, so that’s good, but if she doesn’t want to wait, the OTC tests could give some peace of mind. If the OTC test is negative, the best thing to do is wait a few days for the period to show up, and if doesn’t, test again. If the OTC test is positive, well… it’s positive. I’ve always gotten accurate results from the tests, and I was never super good about tracking my period, so I trust the OTC tests 100%. I hope everything works out well for your friend, and LW, I believe you are a good person and wonderful friend who will follow the Captain’s excellent advice. Good luck!

  17. LW, I do think you should back off, because with all your good and kind intentions, I notice that in your hypothetical discussion scenarios, the presumed condition is keeping the baby. It is very difficult to keep one’s own subconscious biases out of such situations. Hypotheticals, fun as they are in a way (and they are fun, exploring a situation in fantasy without committing to it), aren’t dealing with the actual problem, which in the end is hers and only hers to confront, if “the father [won’t] be in the picture.”

    The only thing this person needs to do just now is to seek out actual, real, non-hypothetical information about whether she is pregnant. There is no “maybe,” there is only “is/is not” in her situation, and she needs to open the box and find out which, not keep waving Schrodinger’s Pregnancy in front of herself and those around her who care about her. Back off and tell her you can’t talk about this any more until she goes to the drugstore and picks up the test and takes it. She needs to figure this out herself, for herself.

    It sounds as though there is an information gap around pregnancy and pregnancy testing in your group of friends, so one of the things you could do, as an older, good friend, would be to inform yourself about pregnancy testing and counter any myths or misinformation floating around. The rabbit no longer has to die, and the tests are accurate and readily available.

  18. LW, you are trying to be a good friend!

    All this gossip at such an early stage is creating more heat than light. I concur with the advice above that encourages you to not react to gossip and in a low-key way state your support for her decision, whatever it is. I also love the idea of just hanging out and not adding to all the drama all the time. Give her a break when you can.

    She may be the kind of person who talks situations through with four or five people, just to get a bunch of perspectives and think out loud, but that can get overwhelming in a hurry.

    Less is more until she really has an answer about her condition, and even after she knows for sure if she’s pregnant, she has some time to make a decision.

  19. Wayyyyyy over involved with something that *may or may not* even be an issue. A simple blood test at ANY point in her cycle will determine if there is a pregnancy or not (I had one done even before my period was due). TOTALLY putting the cart 100 miles in front of the horse IMO. And not to be harsh but I also feel LW has over stepped boundaries here on many fronts. There’s being a *supportive friend*, & then there is reeeeeally getting over involved with things that are NOYB.

  20. Keep in mind, LW, that mentors and friends have different functions. An age-gap of three or five or seven years does not automatically transfer onto anyone “mentor” / “mentee” status. Mentors may have more life experience, but they also serve to initiate and train towards a particular and explicit goal. It’s lovely, on occasion, for a friend to bear another friend’s burden, act as sounding board, dole out informed advice, assist in planning out responses or solutions to another’s personal crisis. But friendship is also about temporary shelter and distractions from those crises, mutually enjoyable and engaging companionship punctuated by fun and pleasure for the sake of it, helping out with the drudgery when the drudgery is overwhelming, listening with compassion but without the expectation to answer or solve every question, “optimize” and tease out every theoretical.

    Mentors often have a sell-by date for good reason and a request for advice is not necessarily a request for you to pop on Big Sibling hat and sort everything out. Help your friend help yourself and allow her to dictate and direct the terms of that help. When you’re all middle-aged, the small difference in years between you won’t seem so vast or even notable. In order for you and the group to get there together and all in one piece, though, you need to abide by the boundaries of friendship and ignore what lapses you see in their “maturity” and recognize your own lapses, in turn, for what they are. These are not your apprentices in life. Generally (although this is not always so), the slightly older and wiser friend is expected and has the ability to slow others down, to de-escalate, ward off potential melodrama. It’s exciting for a group when a crisis looms, sometimes exhilarating even if there is the possibility of real danger, but being the resident buzzkill and cold-eyed realist has its pleasures, too. If you fancy Looking Out for them, that’s the best, least self-aggrandizing way to go about it. Not contributing to the nervous energy and piling possibility upon possibility, but encouraging everyone to sort out facts from fears and being ruthlessly dependable about it. Not very sexy or cool, but good, life-long friends rarely are in that way.

    1. I was thinking along these lines too. A mentor isn’t just someone who’s older, but has experience in a certain area and can lead someone because of it. Even “lead” is probably too strong–more like someone who can help you develop your own roadmap, or give you a heads up if you seem to be unknowingly wandering off into the weeds.

      LW might have more general life experience, but it sounds like her experience with potential pregnancies is exactly the same as Potentially Pregnant Friend. So the general life experience should be helping by saying, “I’m happy to help in lots of emotional and practical ways, but I can’t participate in handwringing about whether a not-yet-confirmed baby will be watched by a family member or daycare in a year, because it’s not helpful” and “I know there’s really no way you’re going to be Zen about this situation, but maybe running around between different friends and reporting what each of them says about the other isn’t doing good things for your stress level.”

  21. Your friend seems to be already getting a lesson in what it will be like to be a mother. Endless unwanted advice! People knowing far better than her what’s good for both her and her child!
    If it’s too early in the pregnancy for any test to be conclusive then it’s also too early to even be announcing it. Many pregnancies that aren’t viable end in those first three months.

    1. Idk about that last bit– I understand why many pregnant people choose not to announce until they’re out of the first trimester (so they don’t have to painfully un-announce if the pregnancy doesn’t carry to term, to delay unwanted input about names and nurseries, if they’re contemplating a choice other than raising the child), but it’s a big heavy secret to keep to yourself if you’re someone who processes things by sharing them with others. Especially if, as seems to be the case in the LW’s friend’s case, you don’t have a committed supportive partner to be the entirety of Team You.

      1. Also, one of the things I’ve heard from people who have miscarriages is that while it’s good not to tell EVERYONE beforehand so that you’re not having to make the announcement to all of those people that there will be no baby, it’s good to talk it over with SOMEONE. In particular, those who had the hardest time recovering are those who didn’t tell anyone and so had to pretend life was fine while they were dealing with this huge event in their lives. And interestingly enough, this was the case even for those who didn’t WANT the baby; no matter how you feel about becoming a mom, apparently there are Emotions surrounding losing a baby (even if a lot of those emotions are relief). So if she’s talking just to her close friends about it, that seems like potentially a good idea.

        1. Yes: the best advice I’ve heard is not to tell anyone who you wouldn’t want to talk to about your miscarriage. But if you know you’d want to be able to talk about your feelings about miscarrying with your best friend or your mom or whoever anyway, there’s no harm in telling them about the pregnancy (so long as they’re discreet people who won’t slip the news to someone else). It’s just people who you wouldn’t want to have to tell about a miscarriage that it’s probably wisest to not tell in the early stages of pregnancy.

    2. I don’t think she’s “announcing it” FB style with little baby shoes and a due date. Sounds like she is processing this big, scary thing with her support system. And even if the fetus isn’t viable and the pregnancy ends, chances are she would need a support system to help her through that.

      But agreed with the notion that this much agonizing, amongst so many people, when a test can’t even be performed yet, seems unnecessary.

  22. LW, why does your friend think she might be pregnant? This is a sincere question, not a rhetorical one. As other commenters have pointed out, if she’s missed her period then it’s not too early for a pregnancy test. If she’s started showing symptoms typically associated with pregnancy (morning sickness, etc) then again, pregnancy test.

    This could quite easily be a Broken Condom Anxiety Spiral. College students are really good at those. If it’s really, truly too soon for a pregnancy test to be accurate, your friend has plenty of time to make her decision.

    1. I was actually pissed when I found out that the odds of getting pregnant are not not even really that great. Like, I had always just assumed that I WAS GOING TO GET PREGNANT (thanks catholic school.) But I think on like the MOST fertile day of your cycle it is like a 30% chance? And the rest of the time much lower. (Which still, isn’t 0, but, it is no where near what I thought it was.)

      SOOOO many anxiety spirals. So many.

      1. Sex ed in this country is pretty abysmal even if you didn’t go to a religious school, but going to a religious school will definitely compound the problem!

        1. Religious school victim here, can concur. I mentioned above my college-years pregnancy scares… most of them took place before I’d even actually started having intercourse (although one could argue that “just the tip” counts and could technically result in pregnancy).

      2. You actually only have a 12-24 hour window to get pregnant each cycle and the human vagina is actually a pretty harsh place (which is why guys need to send in so many sperm, most of them get destroyed in the vagina). I will say that the younger you are the easier it is to get pregnant. A woman in her 20s will have a MUCH easier time getting pregnant than a woman in her 30s or 40s. My mom was an OB nurse at Stanford for 40+ years so I know wayyyyyy more about how babies are made than I ever wanted to…

      3. What I was astonished to learn, at the age of about 25, is what “typical use vs perfect use” actually means, and it’s a much looser definition than you’d think. “Perfect use” actually isn’t that hard to obtain, despite its name. For example, perfect condom use means that you don’t use an inappropriate lubricant, only use one at a time, don’t put it on backward, and, most critically of all, use one every single time you have sex. Typical use is measured by including couples who, every so often, forget or decide to forgo the method. So the more active human decision-making is involved, the higher the discrepancy between perfect and typical use.

  23. LW, I’m in a bit of a similar situation. A couple of older teenagers I know just found out they have an accidental pregnancy on their hands. I, too, am falling into the “mentor” position, because the age gap is much bigger. (I’m just shy of 41.) I’m also incredibly strongly pro-choice.


    I let *them* ask *me* for advice/help/etc. Because these kids are both low on money, the only thing I did offer was (because we live in a bass-ackwards state) is to provide transportation assistance if she chooses to get an abortion, or even for medical appointments and the like.

    Much as I personally think they’d be better off otherwise, they’ve decided to keep the baby, and that’s that. To me, pro-choice is exactly that–having the opportunity & the ability to choose. It’s not my body and it’s not my kid, so it’s really none of my business. The only thing I do once in a while remind them of is that if they need help with *anything*, please ask me.

    If you’re in the “mentor” role (which I’m not certain is the best idea), a big part of that is to be the voice of reason–which means keeping things realistic, logical, and practical when the gut feeling is to do anything but. Sometimes the best thing you can do is keep someone from spiraling into panic and obsessing over things. If you really want to help, you need to be the one thinking straight, as in “let’s find out if you’re actually pregnant before we start making plans for catastrophes” logic.
    And please, please, *please*, if you are not certain about critical information (e.g. accuracy of pregnancy tests), you need to learn everything you can about it from *reliable* *accurate* sources before even thinking of commenting on it. Misinformation and bad information are often exponentially more hazardous to a situation that simply admitting you don’t know. *If you want to help, you need to know what you’re talking about.”

    Your heart’s in the right place, LW, and I’m glad you’ve reached out to help your friend. But it honestly sounds like you’re snowballing matters almost as bad as your friend is. Step back, both from the extensive planning and general pregnancy planning and from getting sucked in to the emotional side of things (which is *not* easy to do), and if she asks, start putting practical, common-sense logic to work, and try to take any future planning chronologically–deal with the most immediate concerns first. But most of all, take a break and just do some things with her that have no other agenda than having fun. Far too often, the best things my friends can do for me is distract the living daylights out of me when I’m obsessing over something.

  24. LW – I may be overreaching and if I am, feel free to ignore this. Based on the amount of worrying you are doing and the large amounts of time and emotional commitment you offered up without her even asking (or getting confirmation of a pregnancy), I feel like you are taking on a big (maybe inappropriate) level of burden for this other adult person. Maybe this is a pattern. Maybe being surrounded by such young’ins has made you more sensitive to others’ problems and wanting to help or guide them. I am not saying this is a bad thing, but becoming a caretaker is an easy role to slide into for some of us, and it allows us to escape our own problems and lives. Again, if this if off the mark or I’m projecting feel free to discount my comment.

  25. I don’t have much useful to add so I’m just saying “Me too!” about the Literally Impossible Pregnancy Scare thing. I’ve had to buy and use pregnancy tests even when I knew logically that I could not be pregnant because I hadn’t been having that kind of sex and am likely infertile from testosterone therapy… but I couldn’t stop thinking “But what if I AM pregnant??” until I had definitive proff that I was not.

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