How we’re handling our surprise pregnancy

Guest post by KS Toros

When I took the pregnancy test on Columbus Day, I was positive that it would come out negative. I stood in the bathroom, faithfully waiting for that one little line. As the unexpected plus sign appeared, I started shouting for my husband. We were totally taken by surprise with this pregnancy. Although we didn’t always use protection, we used it when I was ovulating, and, sometime in September I miscalculated.

We were in what many people would consider a “dream” situation for a first child. My husband and I had been married for over two years, we own the place where we live and we both have reasonably stable jobs. Despite all of this, I was devastated to find myself pregnant. I felt totally unprepared for this major life change — like I had been cheated out of the second half of my twenties, like I hadn’t gotten enough time alone with my husband. I was numb for about 36 hours after we found out.

Then one night, I started crying hysterically. Up until the positive test, I felt like my life had been on a planned, relatively controlled course. Sure, a few things were a surprise, such as the loss of a close family member and buying a house right before the market crashed. But this felt completely out of control! I was overwhelmed by the changes coming for my body, relationship, physical space, and I continued to feel that way for about the next six weeks. And, knowing so many people who had a hard time getting pregnant or went through miscarriage, I felt guilty for being so upset. I didn’t know if I would ever feel happy about the baby, and so I was afraid I would be a bad mom.

The good news is: it got better. My husband was excited about the pregnancy from the start, which helped. As we began to share our news with our families, friends and co-workers, seeing their excitement made me more positive, especially when people said, “You will be a great parent” (I had never considered this as a potential compliment I would receive). When my body started to change and grow and I could feel the baby moving, I started to love him. At 25 weeks pregnant, I am happy about the baby, and I look forward to his arrival.

Of course, things still aren’t perfect. I am terrified of what it will be like to work full-time with a baby, and am dreading the process of looking at daycare options. I periodically have a mini-meltdown about our amount of living space and storage. My husband does his best to deal with my hormone-driven emotions, and I make an effort to stay reasonable about what I am feeling. Mostly, I give myself permission to “feel my feelings” without judging myself too harshly. Remember, pregnancy is a time of enormous change, even if you were planning on it!

I wanted to write about my experience for the Offbeat community because when I was first looking for resources to deal with my feelings, I couldn’t find many. Everyone online seemed so happy and excited about their pregnancy, and seeing that always made me feel guiltier. If you find yourself in a similar situation, know this: it might take a while, and you might not ever feel totally ecstatic — and that is ok. Let yourself feel your feelings, accept them if you can, and try to move forward. You will probably find yourself feeling better before your baby arrives. As for after the baby comes, I will let you know!

Comments on How we’re handling our surprise pregnancy

  1. I just wanted you to know you are totally not alone in some of those feelings. I had wanted to get pregnant and even when I did I felt the waves that you’re describing. I was afraid of how things would change and afraid of working full time and leaving my son with someone else.

    My son is 1 now and it’s been a tough year but I feel like I’ve gotten to know myself better through the process of having a child. I felt in the beginning like I didn’t know myself anymore, didn’t know who I was or rather didn’t know what I used to be. Once I started to get the hang of life with a baby I felt like I learned more about who I am. I’m stronger now, more able to stand up for myself and my child, better equipped to balance things, and far more efficient. I work full time and it’s difficult but I get to pick up a child at the end of the day who is thrilled to see me and there is just nothing in the world like that feeling.

    I hope you win the hormone battle (my poor husband was a saint during my pregnancy) and I know you’re going to be just fine. You’ll be an excellent mother and all of this will feel like a distant memory. I honestly can’t remember not having my son around. Even though things are different (and sometimes much harder) it’s a life I would never trade now that I have it.

  2. So happy to read this! I felt so many of the same things– guilty that I was feeling uncertain about pregnancy when I knew others were trying really hard to have a child, feeling a mix of excited anticipation but anxiety over the life changes. I had been told that, due to some medical issues, it would be very, very difficult for me to get pregnant, so when we were surprised by our first pregnancy I was scared but eventually totally stoked that I was actually going to be able to have my child.

    And on top of all that, I felt like unplanned pregnancies had this tsk-tsk factor, like if you hadn’t planned out your motherhood to its strategic best-option in your life plan, you couldn’t possibly be a proper parent, and your future would wander on aimlessly as you tried to figure out how to live life with a child.

    I felt like those who planned out their families meticulously held some sort of holy ground of superiority. Now, a few years into it, I realize that nearly everyone is overwhelmed by parenthood to some degree, no matter how much planning they put into it, and that it only takes a few days as a mom to level the playing field between someone who planned their family and someone who was somewhat surprised.

    • And on top of all that, I felt like unplanned pregnancies had this tsk-tsk factor, like if you hadn’t planned out your motherhood to its strategic best-option in your life plan, you couldn’t possibly be a proper parent, and your future would wander on aimlessly as you tried to figure out how to live life with a child


      I know what you mean entirely. I felt so ashamed and scared to think that I allowed myself to get pregnant. I was like that till my family reminded me that I was better off then most are and that we both wanted a baby (just not as soon as that). As my grandmother put it “of course we’re excited, its a baby. Everyone loves a baby!”

      Im so glad now that it was a suprise, I was miserable thinking I would have to wait years more before becoming a mother. Its better this way.

  3. Me too! I had an unplanned pregnancy when I was 24 – we weren’t in that “ideal” situation – we had just both begun postgrad studies & had only just started living together. I still can’t quite work out why I was determined to continue the pregnancy in the face of my quite deep depression at the thought of doing so! I felt awful – sure, I hadn’t planned the pregnancy but I had chosen to continue it, yet I didn’t seem to want it. But anyway, we did, & for me, my unhappiness evened out after about 16 weeks or so. My daugther is now 3 & I would say I feel just the same about parenthood as everyone else I know – happy & overwhelmed! I’m pregnant with my second now.

  4. the best thing about an unplanned pregnancy is you have nine months to plan for a baby!

    i found out at 16 weeks that i was pregnant with twins. it was an unplanned pregnancy to begin with. needless to say, i went from hysterical(i bawled like a baby), to numb, to disbelief, to i can’t do this, to how am i going to make it work, and finally excitement… it took a month to get there. i never regretted it and love every minute of it. you do become a different person when you have kids, but you won’t mind it!

    • One of my colleagues gave me that advice. I was so panicked and she said to me “There is a reason it takes almost a year for a baby to come – it gives you time to plan.” When I feel very panicky, I remember those words and feel better – although now that I am further along time is running shorter :).

  5. Change a few numbers and add in a few anxiety attacks and this pretty much describes my pregnancy.

    I wasn’t very open with my feelings and hid my pregnancy for as long as possible (which was until I was 8 months) I didn’t feel guilty about my feelings but I didn’t want to share my feelings with anyone I knew and listen to their advice about how awesome everything was going to be. I knew they were probably right but I needed to feel my feelings instead of having everyone poo poo them.

    It’s a bummer that all of us commenting have felt similarly, but it’s nice to know that there are others out there!

  6. Because you are courageous enough to voice your opinions, THAT is what will make you an outstanding parent! PERIOD.

    Thank you for sharing this as well!! πŸ˜€
    When I found out I was pregnant with my first son, I was 19 and living with my boyfriend’s parents. And you know what? I was FREAKED OUT. For like MONTHS. But my wonderful boyfriend (technically now fiance) was SO excited the ENTIRE TIME. And that’s what helped me TREMENDOUSLY! I mean I was pale and shaking when I bought the prego-test…and HE was BEAMING! Quite literally; he was smiling so big he looked like a clown! πŸ˜‰

    And guess what? When my son turned 1 I celebrated! I’d made it a year! and trust me if I can do it anyone can πŸ™‚
    I now have a second son…some days its still really rough because I don’t get to do whatever I want. BUT they aren’t little forever. And soon I can do ‘my thing’ again. For now, I help my boys do ‘their thing’ until they’re old enough to explore on their own.
    Even then my identity will always be changed, because I will always be mommy, that’s ok.:)

    PS> *BEST* thing about being a parent is you get to PLAY and act SILLY and MAKE MESSES no one can say anything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. I wanted to add separately: when I was pregnant with my first son, I came across a book that discussed the idea that children CHOOSE their parents. I still wrestle with the idea, but at the same time somehow it makes sense. I know for a fact my son wouldn’t be the same kid without us as his parents…quite honestly no one else can handle his energy and gonzo-esque style! πŸ˜‰

    SO someone obviously WANTS to meet YOU sooner than you planned πŸ˜‰

  8. You are so not alone!! My husband and I were in the same situation… we were happy, stable, and planning to *someday* become parents and that day arrived completely unexpectedly a few years earlier than I would have liked. I balled my eyes out just about every day for the first few weeks, I was so not ready to give up my life, and worried that I’d be a bad Mom because I wasn’t the happy excited “I can’t wait to be a mother” person who I saw on other websites, and that I thought you had to be. But, talking to friends who were totally planned and still felt the same anxieties as I did helped me to feel a lot better, plus having an extremely supportive husband there for all the hormonal ups and downs was so key. Like you said, it got better and at the end, I was really excited to meet this little person.

    My daughter is now 4 months old and I absolutely love her to pieces, more than I ever thought I would. Motherhood… well… sometimes I love it and a lot of times I kind of hate it! The first few weeks after she was born were really hard, especially since she was unplanned and I couldn’t help but feel like “I didn’t want this” when things got overwhelming. But again, talking to friends and my awesome O/B, I learned that I wasn’t the only who had a hard time adjusting those first few weeks. Knowing that makes it so much easier to make it through. So THANK YOU KS for posting and Offbeat Mama for showing these other sides of motherhood! You never hear about unplanned pregnancies, and how being in that situation affects you. Its always such a taboo, so its great to know that we aren’t alone!

    • Me too! a few weeks after we found out I had these horrible “What did I do!?” thoughts. It was really scary, but my mom said she felt the same way the first time she got pregnant. she wanted to change her mind, but, you can’t it’s already been done! I actually started to get more excited once I started telling people.

  9. My pregnancy was a complete surprise, also. I was using the NuvaRing for birth control with my then-Significant-Other (of two+ years). I had funny bloodwork. Then my nipples felt funny. So I took a test. Now here I am with an almost-8-month-old. I took for granted how hard it is for some to get pregnant, especially when they really *really* want it. I didn’t want it for a while. My boyfriend left me at 3 months in. That’s kind of when I accepted it and got excited and it just got better and better from there. There’s a lot to deal with, but once you get past that initial “Oh Shit” moment and start getting excited, it gets so much easier – even with working full-time and find care providers and stressing about it all. It’s so worth it. Good luck in the remainder of your pregnancy! I’m sure you’ll make a wonderful mother : )

  10. My son was definitely unplanned and when I found out I was both excited and terrified. My fiance was just freaked out. I told him while he was mowing the lawn. I just flashed him a thumbs up and he stared at me for a few minutes and then stayed outside for about two hours. :]

    I felt the same way, guilty for not being sure that I even wanted to have a baby, terrified for the immense change that was happening, and honestly pissed off that someone else had taken over my body. I also lived 600 miles away from any immediate family so I feel like that definitely didn’t help me cope. I went through a really rough time for about the first three months. I was a smoker and I cut way back once I found out I was pregnant but I couldn’t bring myself to quit. It was like quitting would make everything real, because it was the first of many difficult things I had to do for the sake of my son. I couldn’t explain this to my fiance who was FURIOUS with me for not quitting. I don’t think he could understand how I felt and I ended up crying away an entire night locked in our bathroom being pissed off at myself and my son. Bad times.

    But then I got over it and let go and quit smoking. Then I was content, not exactly over-joyed, but not depressed either. I was nineteen when I got pregnant and I felt like I had just cheated myself out of my young adult life. My fiance also couldn’t understand that because he was 26 and had gone through his “party/crazy” phase.

    In the end it was all so totally worth it! I love my son to death and I know I am a stronger person for having him. He inspires me to be a better person everyday and I appreciate all the little things I never paid attention to. (Like sleeping in, haha!) Kudos to you for sharing. People rarely admit those feelings because you are supposed to be so excited, joyful, etc. Reality doesn’t always work out that way, especially when it’s unplanned.

    • My parents had me when they were both 22, and I can tell you that they’ve just transfered those crazy early-20s partying years to later in life. How many 50-year-olds do you know who play drinking games with their 20-something neighbors? XD

  11. “I give myself permission to β€œfeel my feelings” without judging myself too harshly.” This is so true for more than just pregnancy!

  12. I really appreciate this post.

    I was engaged to my partner for about a month and a half when I discovered I was pregnant. I was in the last semester of my second masters and I was living three hours away from him.

    Needless to say, not exactly ideal. But he was ecstatic and I was kind of along for the ride. We moved the wedding up and saw each other for doctors appointments and on the weekends.

    I sort of felt like I hardly had time to get used to the idea of being pregnant let alone a mother. I mostly thought about our friends responses-some thought we were crazy to keep it and others were excited.

    At 23 weeks my water broke and after 2 weeks in antepartum I had our son at 25 weeks. It was a lot to handle for “newlyweds”. The baby came so fast I really never even wrapped my head around carrying him.

    While the NICU was the hardest thing I have ever experienced, I bonded with my husband and our 1.5 pound bundle and negotiated being a mother on my own terms. I was distanced from friends and family, we didnt have a happy shower or a hospital room full of flowers but we had a little fighter on our hands.

    After visiting the NICU everyday for 135 days we developed a fierce sense of ourselves as parents- even if we couldnt take our baby home or cuddle him all the time.

    14 months later I have a 17 pound crawling trouble-maker who is completely fearless. While I sometimes feel intense envy towards my pregnant friends who seem to (but probably reality is different) have blissful experiences of pickles and ice cream- most of the time I am really proud of making it through this and when I say I am a Mother it always surprises but moves me.

    I also love that it has opened me up to the experiences of all the women around me whose journey isnt the cookie-cutter image of pregnancy/motherhood that is often thrown at us in the media. I love the stories from moms who are really cutting their own path.

  13. I have a 7 week old daughter who is perfect in every way. I’ve been waiting for her my whole life.

    confession: i regret my accidental pregnancy at such a young age (21) with a man I hardley knew (only a month!)

    I WISH i had the sense of security you have with your husband. He is with you 100%. You’re NOT alone, you have him.

    Yes I’m marrying my baby’s father, but i’m just not 100% yet. And thats a scary emotion to throw into the mix.

    • Don’t marry the baby’s father until you *are* 100%. And if that never comes, don’t marry him! I speak from experience (I was also an unwed mother at 21 with everyone telling me I should marry my son’s father) and know that you may feel pressure that marriage is what you “should” do, but if it’s not something you actively want, it’s better to hold off. Otherwise you run the risk of realizing you’re not in it for the long haul partway through the marriage, which is far messier than not getting married in the first place.

      • I think it’s hypocritical to say don’t marry the baby’s father and also don’t let people tell you what to do. Sometimes, being married is best for the child. Sometimes, it’s not. But being married isn’t just about love. It’s mostly about commitment. I’ve personally never understood why people can so easily commit to their children for life, but not the person they created them with. You’re all family.

  14. De-lurking to say: Wow. Where was this post five years ago when I was 8 and 1/2 months pregnant and totally overwhelmed not just by the looming prospect of unexpected parenthood, but also the utter crash and clash of conflicting emotions about it? I only ever saw happy glowey mom posts, too. Thanks for putting this out there!

  15. I wish you the best and hope that when you have your kid and work out what to do with working full time that you find a scrap of time and tell us how you worked through those difficulties!

  16. Yes. Thisthisthis.

    We were in an unideal situation — we were not married (we had gotten engaged days before the positive pregnancy test, after almost three years together), my husband wasn’t working, and we were college dropouts. We didn’t have insurance. We — ha! — couldn’t afford birth control, but I had a cycle like clockwork. Except when, apparently, I didn’t.

    I love my now two-year-old more than life itself, but those first weeks were a mixture of terror and anger. We were partiers. My husband didn’t even know that he wanted kids. I had just gotta over this huge case of the baby-rabies and decided I was excited to be childless just a bit longer.

    So, you know, I feel you.

  17. A great post! I especially liked the part about “‘feel my feelings’ without judging myself”.

    Good advice for anybody in any kind of transition!

  18. First off, congratulations! You are going to be a mommy! The fact that you are facing your fears and allowing yourself to mourn and fear is a fantastic first step. Believe me, even folks that plan their pregnancies go through the same feelings and thoughts before and after the big day.

    Plus, it sounds like you have an amazing and supportive partner in the whole mess, which will make the whole situation way easier. You both have jobs, and a home, and what sounds like a wonderful, active personal life. None of this has to change because you have a baby! One of my greatest joys in life after the birth of my son is involving him in the things that I enjoyed doing before he came along, like shopping at the Farmers Market, gardening, and going to coffee shops.

    • This is good to hear because one of my biggest fears is losing myself. But then I realized I can brign Baby along with me, and give him great experiences while I continue to do things I enjoy. A win-win!

  19. Very interesting read! I am sure you’ll be an awsome mother πŸ™‚
    I have a question, I hope that I can express it in the right way. Is there somebody who actually regret getting pregnant and giving birth to a child? I imagine it’s a very difficult topic to discuss, but I wonder because I have been a reader for some time and I don’t remember articles on this. Maybe it doesn’t exist at all and every mother is happy with having children, even though not all people are happy since the beginning. I am asking because I have a lot of issues with pregnancy and children and until I solve them I know being pregnant is the scariest thing I can imagine and I would do anything in order to ensure I do not get pregnant. On the other side, of course, I would like to solve my issues, and I wonder what would happen if somebody with a similar mindset to mine get pregnant. I know there are women who do not love their children after all, but I am talking about people I may refer to, normal people who were terrified by pregnancy and got pregnant. What happened in your case? Another thing, I would like to read something on mothers with vaginismus, I am convinced that pregnancy nand birht would make it even worse for me, and I wonder how it has been for other women suffering from vagiismus or Vulvodynia. I hope I don’t offend anyone with this question, I just hope to get some feedback. Thanks in advance!

    • I wouldn’t say that I regret my son; despite my fears and every choice and difficulty in his life so far, I love him dearly and sometimes so hard that it’s a little scary. But I think it’s true to say that I sometimes regret parenthood — I really like being quiet, and being alone, and having times to do all the things I want without having to tend to another creature. Parenthood offers very little opportunity for these things, though now that he’s two, between having a fantastic partner and him being more independent I’ve actually managed to carve out a system that keeps us all happy and sane.

      That said, I really wanted to have another child when he was about 12-18 months, and the past couple weeks I’ve actually wondered how true that is — if I really want to give up the little bit of freedom I’ve allowed myself again. (Which I think appalls my MIL; I know she wants us to reproduce several more beautiful grandkids, but it’s not her day that has to go into raising ’em, so…)

      Also: Offbeat Mama totally had a post on vaginismus already! πŸ˜€

      (Edit: lame train: it’s apparently a different condition and I misremembered, but there are some comments about vaginismus.)

      • thanks for your answer! As for my question about vaginismus it was more “do people who suffer from it end up being forever scarred by having a baby passing through their vaginas?” rather than having post-partum sex. Since I cannot imagine how things can go in my vagina I wonder how it would be after something so big went out. Hope it’s clearer.

    • Thank you for asking this! I’ve had an abortion and, reading this post, I had the same question as you. I feel confident that I made the right decision, but at the same time, I’m sure if I had a child I wouldn’t regret my child, which kind of makes me doubt my decision. (For anyone who reads this and has similar feelings, this is how I approach it: it doesn’t really matter how I feel about the decision now and what decision I would make if I were again faced with an unwanted pregnancy. I made the decision I felt I needed to make a year ago. If I made it, then it was the right one for me then, and how I feel today doesn’t change that.)

      I also have vulvodynia so I’d be happy to see more posts about this as well!

      • thanks mel for your answer πŸ™‚ Yes, I am trying to understand what happens if you are terrified by pregnancy, end up being pregnant and decide to carry on. It will solve everything? Will you be so happy about your child that you will be able to overcome the fright? Of course I know everybody has different reactions, but I would like to read some experiences. I am scared by abortion as well, so it would be interesting to read how abortion affected people suffering from similar problems to ours.

        • “I am trying to understand what happens if you are terrified by pregnancy, end up being pregnant and decide to carry on.”

          This is pretty much what happened to me. I got pregnant by a boyfriend at 21 (while I was on birth control, no less) and I had to seriously question whether I wanted to keep the baby. In the end, I decided the right choice for me was to carry my son to term, even though I didn’t really want to be a parent and I hated being pregnant. But, I felt like I should at least give my son a chance at life.

          I have the advantage in that my ex and I (I married the baby’s father, then divorced him less than two years later) have joint custody of my son, so I still have the freedom of a single person at times. I love my son, but even now I’m not sure I could handle being a full-time parent with no breaks. It’s something I’d have to think long and hard about.

          It’s weird because I sometimes wonder if I’m deficient in being a woman, because motherhood is not something I really desired. That doesn’t make my son any less wonderful, however, and I’m glad I gave him the chance to be born.

  20. Thanks for writing this post, KS. I feel a lot of the same emotions as you and we TRIED to get pregnant. There are some days when I feel ambivalent about the whole experience and wonder if this is going to make me a bad mother. Can he feel my doubt in the womb?

    Right now (29 weeks) I’m struggling with the feeling of resentment that my body is no longer my own and isn’t likely to be for some time to come. People keep asking me if I’m excited and I can’t honestly say yes. There are things about pregnancy that are really cool, but right now the stresses of preparing my body, mind, home, work, wallet, and relationship for a baby are really overwhelming me. I wish you the best of luck on the rest of your pregnancy and journey in to parenthood!

  21. This has been very very helpful. My husband and I are trying to conceive. In some ways, it’s the ideal time. I have great maternity benefits, we have been together for years, we live near family, we both have steady incomes, etc etc. On the other hand, we could be better positioned; we are renters, have some debt and only one friend who has a child, and I still need to go to graduate school to get into my field of choice.

    Here’s what tips the scales: I’m ready now and he’s been ready for a long time. I can’t/won’t talk to anyone about the fact that I’m scared but very ready, because I feel like they wouldn’t be very understanding and we haven’t told many people that we’re trying to conceive.

    All of this is to say, thanks for writing this and thanks to the commenters who told their own stories. Knowing that we all have our anxieties about having a child, whether or not they’re ready, helps to assure me that just because I’m nervous, doesn’t mean that I am making the wrong choice.

  22. I totally understand. Our pregnancy was a “planned surprised”. We had stopped using birth control, but I thought it would take me a long time to get pregnant. Not so much. I cried so hard when I saw that positive pregnancy test, and made my husband throw it away in the garbage can in the garage so I wouldn’t have to look at it. Eventually I relaxed and came around to the idea, and now that Vivian is here, it really is hard to imagine life without her.

  23. Thank you for writing this. We weren’t in an ideal situation when we found out we were going to be parents. Yes, we were married, but we had just moved to a whole new state 5 days before when we received the shock of a lifetime!

    I was never the one who wanted children. I routinely went back and forth on the subject. I think had fate not intervened I’d probably still be that way. However, once I found out I was pregnant an abortion wasn’t an option for me. Not because I’m against it, because I’m very pro-choice, but all these thoughts in my head of “what-ifs”. What if I couldn’t get pregnant later on, etc.

    It took me at least the first trimester to get excited about the pregnancy. Truthfully, more like five months. I went back and forth on if I did the right thing so many times through my whole pregnancy. Once I saw my baby daughter come out of me though I knew I had. It’s so true that once you see them you just fall in love. Of course there are days where I’ve had it up to here and want to run away, but don’t we all have those days with or without kids in the mix?

    I’m really glad I’m not the only one who had thoughts like these when I found out as well.

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