When a woman discovers that she is pregnant, there is often a moment of complete shock and awe. Life, from this moment forward, is going to be dramatically different.
But what happens if a woman finds out she is pregnant before she ties the knot? This once-taboo circumstance is actually becoming increasingly common, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research. In fact, the Center actually coined a term for this new phenomenon: "The Great Crossover."
The Great Crossover refers to the changing norms of unwed pregnancy. New data collected shows that the median age for women to have their first child (25.7 years old) is lower than the median age for women to have their first marriage (26.5 years old). Even though this data clearly indicates a shift in cultural norms, there is still societal pressure for unmarried, pregnant women to get hitched before their little one arrives.
Sure, there are some practical reasons why a woman might want to be married before the arrival of her child: there are tax benefits, parental and medical rights, and emotional support which usually comes along with the wedding package. On the other hand, getting married for the sake of getting married has a track record of not ending well in modern society.
So how should an unmarried woman handle this pressure? The following women dealt with their situations in a variety of ways, for a number of different reasons. The one thing they all have in common? They knew that becoming a mother would completely change their world.
20 A Baby Is Enough For Us
"As soon as we announced we were pregnant, the next few questions that followed were, 'Wait, how old are you?' and 'When's the wedding?' It was super annoying considering we had both graduated from college and have jobs. I for one am not adding on the stress of a wedding on top of our unexpected blessing.
We are not religious, and his family isn't either, but they're with the old times. My immediate family agrees with us and thinks we should wait, but it's an outrage to some people. I just laugh and move on to something else, or explain to them that we just want to wait a little while. We are 100% committed and have no doubts, that should be enough." -User Awehrum, WhatToExpect.com
19 We Wanted To Make Sure Dad Had All His Rights
"We moved our wedding up so we'd be married prior to the baby coming. We were worried about the custody and medical rights and directives. I wanted him to be on the birth certificate without the extra paperwork/hoops to jump through as well as having the right to make medical choices for me if I am unable. Power of attorney is great, but I have had friends who were unmarried but long-term partners with all the paperwork still be denied rights to their partner in medical situations.
My husband was very adamant that the baby has his last name, even on the crib when she was first born, and they only used the mother's last name at our hospital, so my name and his needed to match." - User breezyBea, Reddit.com
18 It Was Our Decision And No One Else's
"My boyfriend and I have been together for 10 years, have an 8-year-old son together, and I am 11 weeks pregnant with our second. We planned our first son together (as well as this one) and to this day we still aren't married. We are actually thinking about doing it next year... finally. We have jobs, a house, and are financially stable. But we are ready now and weren't ready then.
I have never really cared about what others thought or how bad it sounded to call him my boyfriend. Those people weren't taking care of me or my son or paying my bills. If they didn't like it ... tough. It's our life and no one else's." - User Tonilee80, The Bump Forums
17 We Used The Tax Savings For Baby's Arrival
"When we found out we were pregnant, we got legally married at the end of December. It was a great tax savings for us, so we figured - why wait? It saved us about ten times what the wedding will cost.
Our baby is due in April, and if we had waited, I'd have had to ask my boss for technical wordy stuff - for instance, if I'm claiming 'married filing 2' on my w-4 at work, the taxes taken out (and owed to the IRS) would be much lower than if I had filed 'single claiming a child.'" - Wedding Bee Boards
16 This Is The 21st Century, People
"When I was pregnant the first time around, my (now) husband and I were not married, just engaged. His mom insisted we get married that June (I was due in September) because her parents would be in town. I refused, and he respected my wishes. We lived together for 2 years before we got married.
His mom eventually got over it and now we've been married for over a year. If you're together and his name is on the birth certificate and he's there for the whole thing, who cares if it's technically 'illegitimate'? This is the 21st century, people." - User crystal949, The Bump Forums
15 We Got Married, Then Had Our Wedding
"We got pregnant before we had a chance to get married. So, we booked our wedding for family and friends for Fall 2012 and then got married legally a year to the day prior to the wedding. That way, the baby had all legal protection, I had financial protection if something happened to my husband, and my husband had legal and custodial protections.
There are so many little things that we felt we didn't know about. We just wanted the best case scenario in case something awful or tragic happened. It ended up perfectly and we had the added bonus of keeping the same anniversary." - User bcgirl99, Reddit.com
14 The Pressure Didn't Change My Mind
"I come from a single parent household. It's a traditional home — loving, but very traditional. I was very nervous to tell my mother that I was pregnant because I knew her first response would be something about 'marriage.' Despite that, we are not planning on getting married anytime soon. We talked about getting married down the line after I finished grad school and he finished grad school as well. We both want our first marriage to be our last marriage.
Marriage does not make people better parents. Moreover, marriage does not mean you are more of a responsible adult. It is something that people can choose to do. It should not be forced." - Kwynn Riley, The Insider
13 There Was Too Much Going On
"My husband and I were together 5 years before I had my son; yet some family and friends wanted us to get married when I was pregnant. We didn’t. We wanted to wait because we were also buying a house at the time. There was too much going on! Can you imagine buying a house, having a baby, and planning a wedding all at the same time? No, thank you!
Plus, I didn’t want people to think we were getting married because I was pregnant. I wanted more time to we plan my wedding rather than an arbitrary deadline." - Future Mrs. Kirsch, Wedding Bee Boards
12 We Talked To Our Priest And He Helped Us
"I will say, it helps to have a mediator if you feel the need for one. We're Catholic, and when we were pregnant while dating we talked to our priest, and he was very helpful. He asked us individually if we were being pressured by anyone because he wanted us both to feel comfortable getting married.
I'm not trying to push Catholicism on you if you're not - but even going to your local church and asking the priest to talk to you about it can't hurt. It won't cost you anything, and you may both walk out feeling good about whatever decision you make." - User Emilicious88, The Bump Forums
11 We Are Already Married In Spirit
"I have two children, one from a previous relationship and an 18-month-old with my fiancé. We are getting married on our 6-year anniversary, and we planned our son's birth before the wedding. Yes, that's right, we planned the birth of our son before we decided to get married. The time was right in my career to have a child, but we didn't want to go through the whole wedding process yet.
I really don’t care what people think; to us, the wedding is the formal celebration with family and friends. We are already married mentally and in spirit, and that's really the part that matters." - User yJRN, Wedding Bee Boards
10 We Are Financially Stable Now
"My 'dear mother' decided to tell me today she was upset when I told her I was pregnant and was not happy until my son was born. I said, 'We own a home, are in our late 20’s, are financially and otherwise able to provide for a child, getting married; so what does it matter?'
She said she did not think it was right. This is coming from a woman who got married at 18, had kids younger than when I had my son, and was divorced two years later. She still thinks her way is better!" - Shelbi07, Wedding Bee Board
9 Having A Child Together Doesn't Mean Two People Should Be Together
"There were definitely more than a few relatives looking for a shotgun wedding. We decided to NOT to get married until we are a) financially stable b) have bought a house and are not drowning in debt and c) are absolutely positively sure that we can do the whole parenting AND life thing without killing each other.
Just because people have a child together doesn’t mean they should be together. I would much rather take the time to make an informed, mature decision about marriage. If I weren't pregnant, the first thing people would say is ‘don’t rush it,’ so why should we be encouraged into such impetuous behavior now, when there is more than just two people's relationship at risk?" - User Missmouse29, Wedding Bee Boards
8 We Decided To Get Our Ducks In A Row First
"I am really glad that my fiancé and I took our time before getting married to get our ducks in a row, both financially and emotionally. I feel like if we had buckled to our family pressure to get married when we found out we were pregnant, things would have gone a very different way, and perhaps not as well. It took a long time for us to come to terms with the fact that not everyone would understand our unique relationship dynamic, and while it wasn’t the most ideal it did work for us - which is what counts." - JJElla, The Wedding Bee Forum
7 We Had A Mini-Vacation Marriage
"We wanted to get married [regardless of the pregnancy], so we eloped and got married on a fun mini-vacation. A lot of couples take their one last fun vacation before the baby is born, anyway. Since we were going to take a little vacation, we figured 'Why not get hitched without the pressure of a big wedding or the stigma of the courthouse?'
We did a little ceremony, something beautiful and easy on a beach. We plan on having a big wedding later when our little one is a bit older. This way it wasn't in a courthouse, it's special, but it was also easy and quick." - MrNMsBear, The Bump Forum
6 It's A Good Thing We Didn't Get Married
"My fiancé and I were together for 3 years then [we] broke up. I met someone a month later (rebound) and got pregnant after only knowing him for 3 months. Big mistake, although I got an amazing daughter out of it. He seemed like a great guy and I eventually thought MAYBE he could be the one (mainly [because] his parents were forcing the subject and we felt like it was the “right” thing to do).
But as you know, everything is always great in the beginning! After only a couple months of being pregnant, he turned into a horrible person. I broke it off. A month before my daughter was born, my fiancé contacted me and we began communicating again. After 4 months of dating again, we got engaged and he is an amazing father to my daughter." - User JessicaL, Wedding Bee Forum
5 We Had A Courthouse Marriage
"As an attorney, I know there are legal implications/consequences to having unwed parents. And I have seen legal documents that ask, 'Were your parents married at the time of your birth?' Knowing the social stigma that exists, I wouldn't want my child to have to answer no—and feel whatever emotions he/she might experience doing that—unless I had a good reason.
So, since I intended to marry that person in another year anyway, we decided to get the piece of paper ASAP for the child's benefit. It was worth the legal protection for our little one and was something we could get done with quickly so we could start our lives." - Anonymous, Reddit.com
4 Having Our Baby First Brought Us Closer Together
"My guy and I had known each other for about 5 years but had only been together for about a year when I found out I was pregnant. Neither of us wanted to get married just because of the baby. My fiancé and I are both Catholic, so there was a lot of whispering and gossip. One of my aunts became decidedly frigid towards me and has constantly given us attitude and 'looks' after finding out about the pregnancy.
That really hurt me, I won’t lie, but it’s two years later and I have the sweetest baby boy anyone could ask for. Having our son brought my fiancé and I closer. I have no regrets at all and I can’t wait for our wedding!" - The Wedding Bee Forum
3 We Had The Wedding First
"Honestly, I knew that the last thing I would be thinking about when the baby is born was planning my dream wedding. We had the wedding before my little one came because as busy as it is, having a newborn is even more hectic." - The Bump Forum
This user has a point. According to Medical News Today, "A survey reveals that parents lose an average of six months' sleep during the first 24 months of their child's life. Approximately 10% of parents manage to get just two-and-a-half hours continuous sleep each night, and over 60% of parents with babies aged less than 24 months get no more than three-and-a-quarter hours sleep each night."
2 It Didn't Work Out For My Parents
"I personally have not been in your shoes but my mother and father got married when she was about 7 months pregnant with me. There was definitely pressure there and my father ended up leaving a few months after I was born. I'm not saying this will happen to you, I'm just saying that I think it would be better to wait and get married when you feel it's the right time, not because other people think you should or it's the right thing to do. Ultimately, you're the one who has to be in the marriage long-term." - User LegalLadyBug, The Bump Forum
1 It's Important To Have Your Mind 100% Set
"I knew that if we got married just because I got pregnant, then I'd regret not having the traditions, the ceremony, the wedding, and the romance of a proposal. It would also look like I was ashamed [of my pregnancy] if we ran and got married just to say we were married before we had the baby.
I just think people should get married when they are ready, not because they are expecting a baby. Making a marriage work is hard enough as it is, so I would go into it with my mind 100% set. If you weren't pregnant, when do you think I had to ask myself, honestly if we would have gotten engaged/married without the baby? And my answer is, 'I'm not sure.'" - Reddit.com