An unexpected pregnancy can happen to anyone. Even a happily married couple with three kids can be thrown way off guard by the news that another one is on the way. No matter whom it happens to, there is no real way to prepare yourself or guard your feelings against the looming feeling that a new life is on the way. Lots of people in this world did not start out being happy by their pregnancy. I know first hand how unexpected pregnancies can disrupt the best laid plans.
The first time I became pregnant was a total surprise. I had just been hired to the job of my dreams and was beginning to pull my life together like a responsible adult. I was 25 years old, very much in love with my partner and felt like the world was my oyster. When I missed my period I knew immediately. I can still remember looking at the Fact Plus pregnancy test hoping, praying, begging really that I was reading it wrong. Maybe the plus sign meant I had some more time to wait before becoming a mother. A trip to the OBGYN confirmed what I was afraid of; pregnant and even more frightening – twins.
Initially it felt like I was giving up so much just to be pregnant. Instead of feeling happy or excited I was nervous and admittedly resentful. I didn’t really understand all the things that were happening with my body, but knew that life was in the midst of transforming. Everyone around me was ecstatic and almost suddenly everything about me except for my pregnancy became non-existent and unimportant. People only talked to me about how I was feeling, how I was growing, and what my plans were for the babies. My plans were still stuck in the days before I found out I was pregnant. I felt as if I had to hide my true feelings from everyone and remember crying alone. That simply caused guilt about what kind of person I must be to be full of such selfish and ungrateful thoughts. After all there were tons of women in this world who have been trying for years with no luck, and like magic I got pregnant without trying and with twins. shouldn’t I be grateful?
Around the 20 week mark when I could feel the babies move I began to have an immense shift of consciousness. Unexpected, yes – but end of the world, No! My plans began to change too and instead of developing a life plan for myself I was now making a plan for life with husband and babies. Although it did seem undeniable that I was being forced to put everything I wanted or dreamed about on hold for a while, I think this was probably just life teaching me the first lesson of being a parent. On hold, yes; but give up, No! As often happens in life the best made plans are not always meant to be and I have to say that God probably knows what we need more than we do. Once the babies came my whole life changed and I couldn’t imagine going back to my previous existence. Probably as unexpected as the pregnancy itself, was how well I grew into a mother and how perfectly motherhood suited me.
I went on to have another child that was perfectly planned. This pregnancy was joyful to say the least and I was glowing with adoration for my burgeoning belly from the very first day the line turned pink. There was no time frame of growing to love or growing to understand what was happening because it was included in my very own greater plan. I was full of nothing but gratitude. The fourth child however, was the most unexpected pregnancy of them all and quite possibly gave me one of the biggest tests of stamina and faith in my life.
My husband had had a vasectomy and we were very pleased with the size of our family. We had reached the point where the kids were all in school, we could go out to dinner without needing a high chair and a diaper bag armed with everything under the kitchen sink. We were enjoying finally being able to sleep in on the weekends. All the kids were involved in sport activities and it was no big deal to stay on the road all day or out of the house until midnight. Vacations to the beach, the amusement park, or the movies were fun again. I could walk through a parking lot not worrying about a toddler running off into traffic and could grocery shop in peace without having to open 5 products just to make it through the store. We actually had conversations at dinner and I was passed the point of cutting other peoples food or wiping any one else’s bottom. It was like we had reached the top of the hill and were enjoying the ride without any stress. Sure, there were no more cute babies running around the house in diapers but there was freedom of sorts.
Then, one day I was pregnant again. Again, I had just started working outside of the home. I was just about to have my days to myself for the first time in 10 years. I was working out again, looking great and finally owned my own body. No breast feeding or pregnancy. Even the stretch marks were starting to fade. This was the most unexpected of all. Just a year after we opened up savings accounts for college I realized that I would not only have children in college but one that would just be starting elementary school. I felt like I was being sentenced to another 5 years. Even worse, my children were old enough to understand and they were the most caught off guard. They were angry and they didn’t talk to me for a couple of weeks. One told me everyday that she hated this baby and until the day her sister was born – held tightly to that sentiment. I again had to put all that I wanted on the back burner and try to figure out how I could fit this little new person into a life that I felt was already full.
This unexpected pregnancy made me angry and for some reason I walked around with the feeling that I was being punished. When I first told my husband he looked at me with that look that just says, ‘have you cheated on me?’ (Remember he was fixed) and even though I didn’t – it felt like we were both deviously tricked. We didn’t share this news with anyone else until we absolutely had to. And people reacted just as we expected, thinking we were crazy to have a 4th child. All I could think about was gaining the weight, and having to redesign a life in order to accommodate yet another child. I resented everything about being pregnant. I was very hurt by the way my children reacted and was even more put off by the way people would treat me in public. They would see me with three children and pregnant and immediately think I was a Jerry Springer Show guest. Finally someone told me that what I was feeling was okay, and that all would be well. In the end it was!
Unexpected pregnancies are not always met with joy and glee. It really is okay to not want to be pregnant when you find out that you are. It doesn’t make you or predispose you to being a horrible mother. It can be difficult at first and can cause deep resentment that if we don’t allow to process will eventually affect the child that is on the way. In my case, I am as in love with my fourth and unexpected child as I was with all the rest. But it did take some time. For much of the pregnancy I was in a woe is me mode that made me difficult to be around. By the time I was 8 months along, I gave in and began to wonder what it was about this little life inside me that was so determined to get here. She must be special.
This unexpected pregnancy has given me the opportunity to parent in a much more relaxed and happy manner. I was able to gain a lot of strength and a lot of appreciation for life in general. Probably the most important thing I learned is that unexpected or not; a pregnancy changes life as we know it. Change is never easy but is always necessary. I rarely make ‘plans’ nowadays and have learned to live with the ebb and flow of all the lives around me. I realize with certainty that in life we have much less control over things than we might initially think or feel we do. It is more important to be able to rise to meet all the challenges and unexpected circumstances in our lives, than it is to follow a strictly outlined and unforgiving plan. Interestingly enough this child was named Gracie, taken from the feeling I found in my heart to be thankful and gracious for the beautiful gift that she taught me. Unexpected or not, my life would not be the same without her.