What’s more stressful than getting a divorce?… Getting a divorce when you’re pregnant. When you’re pregnant and trying to figure out and settle on what you will do with your home, how assets will be divided, and who will keep the dog, things only become more stressful, exhausting, and emotional. If you have firmly decided that you are moving forward with the divorce because it’s what’s best for you and your child (or children), you’ll need some help. Yes, it will be challenging, and you’ll have added stress when your hormones are already all over the place, but you can and will make it.
Navigating a Divorce While Pregnant: Essential Tips
If you’re divorcing while pregnant, here are some tips to help you get through.
1. Feel Your Feelings
It’s important to let women know that it’s okay and that you should allow yourself to feel sad, disappointed, upset, and hurt when going through such a devastating life change. The only way to grow from it all is to feel your feelings. Let yourself experience those emotions and have them move through you instead of bottling them up and having them hold on to you. Many women hold on to the bitterness and pain of divorce. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help them eventually become happy, find peace, and recognize the beauty of this new chapter in their lives.
2. Don’t Rush Into Another Relationship
You may feel that being in a new relationship is best because you will have constant support. I understand how being single while pregnant is scary. However, I have been told by one mom that she regrets rushing into a relationship while she and her husband were getting a divorce (while she was pregnant). She told me that she never gave herself the time to grieve her marriage and mentally process the divorce before her baby came. It affected her new relationship as time passed, and it only brought more drama and turmoil at the end of her pregnancy, birth, and the first months of parenting. Before getting into another relationship, she recommends focusing on you and the baby. Also, reflect on what happened in your marriage so you don’t repeat the pattern in your next relationship.
3. Try to Communicate
I know… the last thing you want to do is communicate with your soon-to-be ex-husband. That’s a reason why you’re getting a divorce. But you have to keep trying to communicate because you will soon have a little reason that will forever connect the two of you: your child. If communicating with your ex is close to impossible, I recommend seeking a good therapist or counselor specializing in helping couples during divorce and helping parents co-parent. A counselor can help both of you learn better communication skills. Also, they can help you work through the emotions of a divorce while pregnant. This can help build a stable co-parenting relationship for your child.
4. Plan Ahead
Once you have worked on your communication, discuss child support and visitation. It’s better to figure that out sooner rather than later. If you don’t incorporate these terms into your divorce decree, you’ll have to go back to court later to have these settled. It’s painful to go through it, but save yourself from further emotional and financial pain by establishing these beforehand. Which brings me to my next point…
5. Get Legal Advice and Understand the Laws in Your State
Find an attorney that you can trust (one that specializes in divorce) so that you can turn to them for advice. They can help you better understand what you should prepare for and what you can expect. You need to look into the laws in your state regarding pregnancy during a divorce. Your attorney can help with this. Some states will not allow you to file for divorce if you’re pregnant; you must wait until your baby is born to file. Other states won’t finalize your divorce until after you deliver your baby. Whatever the case, the timing of your divorce could have long-term ramifications on your ex’s parental rights and responsibilities, so be sure to discuss this with your attorney.
6. Build Your “Village”
I know I’ve said this before, but you must start building your “village.” These are the people that you can turn to when days get tough. Pregnancy can be hard on its own, so think of the people in your life who can lift you and help you when you need a hand and are feeling down. This could be family, friends, neighbors, church members, doulas, support groups, etc. Just remember that you do not have to do this alone. And if you don’t have a tribe, you can hire one.
7. Take Care of YOU
During tough times and major life-changing events (like divorce), it can be not easy to be kind to yourself and take care of you. So many people find themselves not eating enough or overeating, not exercising, not getting enough sleep, not finding ways to heal, etc., when they are experiencing a breakup. But you are pregnant. You must remember that there is life growing inside of you. Not only is self-care helping you during this transition, but it is also helping your child start a happy and healthy life. Make an effort to continue to take care of yourself and do the things that bring you joy. Learn more about how stress affects pregnancy and three tips to help you feel calmer.
Hopefully, your ex will want to be (because he should be) involved in your child’s life. It can be challenging to continue a relationship with your ex (even when it’s only a co-parenting relationship). Still, if it’s in your child’s best interest, you must find a way to make it work. Prepare for these growing pains by seeing a family therapist, sign up for a co-parenting class, and read some books on co-parenting.
9. Know That You’re Not Alone
Because you are going through an incredibly difficult life-changing event while pregnant, this puts you at risk for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. It is entirely normal to feel sad and upset at this time. However, if you recognize that these feelings are continuing or worsening and you have a more challenging time finding things that bring you joy, or you begin to have thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby, you must say something. Many women feel that they will be judged and labeled as a bad mother, but you are not. This is treatable, and you can be helped. Speaking up is taking care of you and your baby. I recommend speaking with your OB or midwife. They can help you find a therapist to get help and not feel alone.
10. Learn to Ask for and Accept Help
I don’t know what it is about women, but we feel that we need to do everything on our own. (Myself included.) We know that we are capable of doing it all (because we can), and we don’t want to burden anybody else. I recognize that this is silly, but this is especially silly if you are going through a divorce while pregnant. We must learn that asking for help and accepting help when offered is okay. Let people assist you when preparing for baby; let them bring you freezer meals or help you clean your house. Whatever it may be, you will be incredibly happy later on that you asked or accepted their help.
Getting a divorce during pregnancy is tough enough, but always know you are not alone and will get through this. Give yourself grace, give yourself time to grieve, and focus on yourself and the new life you will soon bring into the world.