I want to begin this post with both an announcement and a content warning of sorts. If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been for the past few months, this might explain some things. At the beginning of March, my husband and I found out that we are expecting our first child. The baby is due at the beginning of November and will be born here in Hong Kong. The content warning is this: This was an unplanned pregnancy and I have complicated feelings about it that I am going to share in this post. I am incredibly mindful of how emotionally sensitive so many issues surrounding conceiving, pregnancy, the decision to have children, and parenting are. With all of my heart, I do not want anything I say about my own thoughts and experiences to cause pain. Please don’t feel you need to read this if you are someone who is walking through infertility, miscarriage, waiting for an adoption, or any other situation that makes hearing about my pregnancy painful for you. Wherever you are with these issues, and whatever your feelings are, they are valid. I wish I had the words to heal those wounds. You are seen, you are loved, and you are enough.
When I hear the phrase “unplanned pregnancy,” I tend to think of teenagers who didn’t practice safe sex, or a woman who became pregnant but does not have a relationship with the baby’s father, or a couple who are in that young, wild, and free stage of life and weren’t ready to settle down. Part of what makes these situations so difficult is that the parents (or mother) often do not have the financial or emotional stability necessary to raise a child. But what about when an unplanned pregnancy happens to a happily married couple in their 30’s who both have stable jobs?
Believe it or not, I had thought about this scenario many times and had always assumed that if it ever happened, I would be shocked, but would quickly become excited. Frankly, this has not exactly been the case. Not only have I been trying to process everything I’m feeling, but I’ve also been hit hard with guilt over feeling anything other than joy, excitement, and gratitude.
If you know me at all, you know that I’ve thought about having kids A LOT. I’ve had several people tell me that they’ve never known anyone who has thought about it as much and as in-depth as I have. Over the last (almost) 9 years of marriage, I have wrestled with so many questions. Should we or shouldn’t we have kids? What would be our reasons for having kids? Are those good enough reasons? What would our life look like if we don’t? Is it selfish to have them? Is it selfish not to have them? I could never seem to reach a resolution. My husband and I have actually said to each other before that if we ever got pregnant accidentally, it would be a relief in some ways because it takes so many of these questions off the table. Little did we know…
Early one Saturday morning at the beginning of March, I woke up and took a test. That plus sign popped up immediately and everything in my life changed in that instant. I confess, the first words out of my mouth were, “Oh shit.” Then I paced around the apartment, alternately laughing and crying and staring at that little white stick. When I told my husband, another round of crying and laughing and more crying ensued. And that’s pretty much how it’s been ever since.
When I say this pregnancy was unplanned, I don’t mean, “We were thinking about it, but we weren’t expecting it to happen so soon! What a surprise!” I mean, without going into the gory details, we were planning on not getting pregnant, and it was statistically unlikely to happen.
Beneath all of the other feelings, there is a kernel of awe and wonder that this has happened at all. There were several factors that had led me to believe it would not necessarily be easy for us to get pregnant if we ever decided to try. And yet, here it’s happened and in a fairly improbable way. For the first month or so, I couldn’t fully accept this as reality. In spite of being quite sick, I continued to think of it only as a “potential baby” until we’d heard the heartbeat and seen the little bean wiggling on the sonogram screen at 8 ½ weeks. Only then did I start trying to wrap my mind around what this all means.
There are moments when I feel truly excited and curious about who this new person will be. But I have also felt a lot of frustration, anxiety, and even anger. The best way that I can describe it is that, even though this is a direct result of my and my husband’s actions, this feels like something being forced on me. In a weird way, I feel betrayed by my own body. On the one hand, it is amazing that my body knows what it is doing without me having to tell it. On the other hand, it is extremely unsettling. It feels like something is being done to me, to my body and to my life, without my consent.
One of my greatest fears in life is being stuck. Being denied choice. I have always been terrified of being in a situation I feel I cannot get out of. Ironic, right? The hardest thing about pregnancy so far (besides all of the puking) is that I feel like I have lost agency over my own life: what my career will look like, what we will spend our money on, what kind of travel we will do, and what is going on with my body. Of course, we will still make decisions about those things, but in many cases it feels like the baby is dictating those decisions. I’m a firm believer in fitting the baby into your life, not shaping your life around the baby, but the truth is that what happens next in my career and in my husband’s career will be whatever best allows us to provide for the baby. Travel will depend on how much money we can put towards it with the additional costs of having the baby as well as balancing the desire to go home more often to see our families and friends against our desire to travel. Because I will be having the baby in a public hospital in Hong Kong (something I can explain more about some other time), I will not have the luxury of choosing the kind of birth I would like to have. I will have a safe birth with excellent care, but I will likely not be able to choose how I want to labor or whether I can have an epidural. After the birth I will stay in a ward with at least 8 other women and their babies and my husband will only be able to visit for 2 hours/day. No agency. No choice.
I know some of you reading this will be very tempted to point out all the things I have to be grateful for. And you are right. I do. Especially when there are so many people (including several dear friends of mine) who would be overjoyed to be in this position. I have spent a lot of time beating myself up for feeling these things. But at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s helpful to try to force myself to feel the “right” way. I think I can be grateful and amazed and excited and also be frustrated and anxious and tired.
I am sad to be having a baby in a foreign country where I have no family and very few friends.
At the same time I am humbled by and grateful for the love and support my family and friends have shown me, even from so far away.
I HATE that I do not have control over what is happening right now.
But I also need the reminder that I am not God and there are so many things I am not in control of.
I want to drink wine and eat soft cheese.
But sometimes being an adult means doing things you don’t want to do…or not doing things you do want to do…because you know the long term results are more important than the temporary satisfaction.
I hope in some way this encourages you to let yourself feel your feelings. You don’t have to let them rule your life, but it’s ok to acknowledge that you don’t always feel the way you’re “supposed to” feel.
I am having a baby, and that is a miracle, but at least half of the time, I do not feel excited about it. And I have no doubt that I will love this little person with everything in me. Both of these things are true, and for now that will have to be enough.
Although we were not in a foriegn country at the time and we already had kids, my wife and I felt exactly the same way you do when we found out she was expecting our youngest child.
At the time, our youngest was 1O and we were done, done, done having kids, period. I hadn’t changed a diaper in eight years, the house wasn’t baby proof, we had life and career plans that another kid, let alone a baby, didn’t fit in to at all…
Suffice it to say, neither one of us was thrilled with the news. I actually felt like I got kicked in the stomach that day.
I don’t want to say it will all work out because everyone is probably telling you that and because you know it will.
I would like to say that what you are feeling is probably more normal than you think.
Oh wow. I can totally understand how that would feel. My husband’s little sister is 7 years younger than him and I think it was much the same for his parents. I can’t imagine thinking you are at the end of having young children and then starting all over again.
I’ve been really surprised and encouraged by how many people have shared stories about having similar feelings. It helps a lot to realize I’m not alone in this. Thanks so much for sharing this with me!
Have i told you lately that i love you? And I’m proud of you? And you’re an incredibly gifted writer? And that it’s all going to be ok?
Bc if not, there you go.
You can keep telling me. I accept. 😉
It is truly amazing how we can adapt to changing circumstances. There are three pregnancies in my history. The first was unplanned. The second was planned and miscarriaged. The third was unplanned. Obviously my life changed with each one … but isn’t that simply life?
My life also changed when I decided to leave UK and live in Canada.
My life also changed more recently when the beloved Ray adopted me and moved in.
I put less importance on the lifestyle changes now, and more importance on adapting because, by embracing the circumstances, the new road you are on can be just as exciting as you hoped the old one would be!
Welcome to the world of parenthood. Your life will never be the same again, but it can still be so personally rewarding … so fulfilling … so memorable. You just can’t self-indulge as much!!!! All the best! Colin 🙂
Thanks for the well-wishes! Thinking about all of the ways we have adapted to so many big changes in the past (including multiple international moves) is a helpful way to look at life. Adapting always requires giving some things up, but it also means making room for new things!
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I love how you are brave enough to be honest. And if anyone has a problem with you being you than they are the ones that have the issues. David and Ashley just had there first baby at 43 and 35. And many times they talked about there live not ever being what they loved again. Honor Lee is here and they are overjoyed and love her more than their own lives but they still say the miss that time when it was just them. They feel so blessed and know that this is what God had planned for them. Not always sure why, but know that it was His will to bless them and test them.
Also, hormones make you crazy! So keep being you and things will fall into place. God Bless you and Jonathan and keep on keeping on!
I know that we will feel equal measures blessed and tested as you say. And in the end we will look back and think that we couldn’t imagine our lives without this little one. But yes, right now it’s just a one day at a time thing!
I’m so glad you found courage to write this. May you just be held in how you feel.
Because we share the same diagnosis I know there is extra complexity to consider… When you are ready if you want any links to advice specifically for pregnancy & bipolar I can share those – just drop me a comment and we’ll link up by email x
Thank you so much for this response. I really appreciate it. I would love to see some of those resources. You can drop me a line at email@example.com.
I absolutely ADORE you sweet one! I am so blessed by your honesty, humility and grace.
Thank you. It’s so sweet to have this encouragement from someone who has known me for almost my entire life.
I was struck by the bravery in the post. It takes courage to share our deepest feelings.
Keep taking it one day, one step, at a time. And take care of yourself.
And thats a wow