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An Unexpected Pregnancy

By Jocelyn Smith

I admit it freely. My pregnancy came as a total shock. Of course, it shouldn’t have been such a shock, since I was more than careless on several occasions during the first nine months of my marriage. Probably the only surprising aspect of it, looking back, is that it actually took nine months to get pregnant!

It could have come at a worse time--but not very much worse. My husband and I had only been married nine months, as I said. I was almost 21, he was 23. We had just moved from Tennessee to Seattle one week previously. Neither of us had a job yet. We were staying in some friends’ spare bedroom that also doubled as an office, until we could move into our own apartment in a few weeks. Needless to say, the news that I was pregnant was greeted less than ecstatically for reasons that varied from lack of income to not wanting to regain the twenty pounds I had recently lost.

In my prenatal reading, I was surprised and disappointed that so little was said about dealing positively with an unexpected pregnancy. Some books touched on the “surprise pregnancy” lightly, but didn’t begin to empathize with the disappointment, anger, fear, and uncertainty I was dealing with. I was plagued with guilt because, for one thing, a Christian like me is taught that “Children are a heritage from the Lord and…his reward,” (Psalm 127:3) and for another, I am a strong believer in the idea that a baby is affected by his mother’s mood while in utero. Nothing I read helped me get over these feelings and concerns.

Eventually, I came around, but it took longer than I would have liked—about four months. Looking back on the experience, hindsight shows that there are a few things I could have done, and didn’t, that would have helped. There were also some things that I did actually think to do, that helped. So, in the hope that this article will help other moms-to-be facing the same situation, here are some actions to take.

Find new friends. If you are like most childless people, you do not have very many friends with children. It is important to start finding people with whom you can relate who also have kids. I’m not saying that keeping your other friends is undesirable by any means. A lot of times, though, when you are the first in your circle of acquaintances to get pregnant (like me), they will begin viewing you with a mixture of wonder, anxiety, and annoyance. Wonder because, obviously, you’re the first peer of theirs to be initiated into the mysteries of morning sickness, insatiable cravings, and bouts of crying over a dog food commercial. Anxiety because, hey, if it happened to you, it could happen to them, and while I’m not sure about your friends, I know that most of mine were doing everything they could to avoid becoming pregnant. And annoyance because they just don’t understand why you would rather sleep than go to the midnight showing of The Matrix, or why you suddenly can’t handle the way your husband drives without screaming in panic (I had severe anxiety attacks while pregnant), or why you are convinced that the new parenting program at your church is so important.

It’s important to find new friends at this point, friends who not only remember what pregnancy was like, but have also already held the adorable results in their arms. These friends will fondly reminisce about how they didn’t want to leave their first baby with a babysitter for over a year but left number three with Grandma during the eighth week. They will encourage you with certainty that morning sickness does eventually end, and your baby will not be born deformed because all you’ve been able to choke down is graham crackers and ice cream for two weeks. They will make no plans that involve activities that extend past nine o’clock, and have an entertaining selection of “Veggie Tales” videos and “Wee Sing” tapes for your edification. You will begin to become that creature you might have dreaded becoming—a parental unit—and discover that it is not so much to be feared as to be welcomed.

Go shopping for baby clothes. This does not mean you have to go blow your paycheck at Baby Gap and Gymboree, although you sure would have an adorable layette if you chose to do so. Joel (my husband) and I took to haunting garage sales, which are amazingly abundant in Seattle. The cool thing about garage sales is that you can usually view the former wearers of the clothes you are about to spend pennies for. These beautiful children will encourage you about the possibility of dressing your own baby in their old clothes. If you find some onesies with spit-up stains on them, you might as well get them because your baby’s spit-up will, shockingly, be just as potent as those other children’s and stain whatever s/he happens to be wearing at the time of the eruption. It might as well be something that you paid five cents for instead of fifteen dollars.

The reason I advocate going shopping for baby clothes is that there is nothing so adorable as a newborn-scale article of clothing, unless it’s the newborn herself. When I found some little green shorts on the sale circular at Baby Gap for $4.00 three months into my pregnancy, I took them home and smoothed them on my lap for a good half-hour. Suddenly, my baby had become real to me. And, speaking of getting real…

Consider an ultrasound. I did not get an ultrasound because I was concerned about the possible medical consequences. It was only after my pregnancy that I discovered that the Doppler that my midwife had used at every appointment to listen to Abishai’s heartbeat was a more concentrated form of the same rays. Oh, well, at least I tried. Next time I’ll ask her to use a fetoscope. Anyway, I am told that seeing your little baby on the screen for the first time can really make you realize that all that morning sickness and other stuff is actually for a tangible result. If you are having a tough time believing that it is anything living that’s making your belly bloat, you might want to consider this as an option.

Read, read, read. Those of you who have read my other articles know that I am in favor of parenting books only when used as an adjunct to the parent’s own instincts. That being said, I was purely terrified of scarring my child for life and only reading other people’s advice helped me avoid fits of screaming terror while pregnant. My favorite reading was all by Dr. Sears and his wife Martha (a registered nurse) but I also loved reading birth books of all kinds. It’s odd how your perspective alters over the forty weeks. During the first month when I read Gentle Birth Choices, I was thinking “Ugh! Why did she take off her shirt? I can see her boobs!” By month eight, I was turning the book sideways for a better view, pondering the strain on the mother’s perineum as the baby’s head crowned. Preparation was the key to avoiding fear in my case, although of course nothing could really prepare me for the reality.

I hope these tips are somewhat helpful to those of you surprised by an unexpected pregnancy. I would like to reiterate that I do think children are a blessing, especially my own son, and I plan on having more. It’s just that sometimes, some mothers need a little more help than others to welcome those blessings.

copyright 2002 by Jocelyn Smith
Used by permission


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