How I Coped With an Unexpected Pregnancy

Credit: MART PRODUCTION | Pexels
Credit: MART PRODUCTION | Pexels

On a warm June morning, I typed at my laptop, sipped my iced latte, and paused. The realization came unbidden: I couldn’t remember the last time I had my period.


I kept working, but on my lunch break I moved as though on autopilot to the drugstore, where I bought a two-pack of pregnancy tests at the speed of light and prayed I wouldn’t run into a co-worker in the checkout line. I came back to the office and peed on the little stick in a stall of the first floor bathroom, the one that was nearly always empty. I waited a few minutes, idly scrolled through Instagram and thought about what to make for dinner that evening.

Then I stared at the faint pink plus sign, and sat down on the toilet.


I didn’t really want a baby right then, nor did I experience undulated waves of joy about being a mother in the near future. But I didn’t not want a baby, either.

I spent the rest of the day feeling slightly numb, like I had just heard life-changing news about somebody else—except, it was me. I couldn’t connect the two dots. Me, pregnant? With a real, live baby?

I played around with the idea of not telling anyone, not even my husband, for a couple of days. Tests could be wrong, I told myself as I drove home. In a daze, I stopped at yet another drugstore, where I bought a Father’s Day card. I didn’t know how to tell my husband the news—the news I couldn’t process, the news that wasn’t real to me—but part of me understood I would have to retell this part, this moment when we found out we would be parents. I wanted us to at least have a good story.

“Come home from work,” I texted. I took another test. Still pink. Still happening.

30 minutes later he walked through the door. I handed him the card and he raised his eyebrows. “Uh, did I forget an anniversary or something?” He asked.

“No,” I replied, and waited. I stood at the kitchen counter with my arms crossed. I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

He opened the card, and his eyes lingered on the handwritten “to be! (not kidding)” on the inside page. “No way…” His voice trailed off in a soft, shocked tone.

I handed him the two pregnancy tests, both positive.

“Yeah,” I said.



Here’s the thing: As an almost-married, heterosexual, middle-class woman at the ripe old age of almost thirty, I was supposed to be stoked to be pregnant.

Except I wasn’t.

I didn’t really want a baby right then, nor did I experience undulated waves of joy about being a mother in the near future. But I didn’t not want a baby, either.

I felt ambivalent, and I quickly learned that showing even the smallest sliver of uncertainty about the baby now on board in my uterus led to a double-edged societal sword—because for women, there’s a strong, set narrative around female attitude and behavior when it comes to pregnancy and parenting.

And ladies, like everything else, we are offered two extremes on a silver platter.

One: The baby is now your main objective, your highest priority, your be-all and end-all, your source of passion and focus and interest. Your entire existence now lives to serve that bustling bundle of joy; you must be on cloud nine 24/7, fully consumed with the idea of a child making your life “complete,” ready to quit your day job and leave your hobbies behind to helicopter parent. You become the type of person who smugly tells non-parents that they don’t yet understand what “real” love truly is.

Two: You feel resentment, frustration, fear, sadness or anxiety—basically, anything less than electrified to grow a baby, you know, inside of you—which means that something must be wrong. With you. Like, maybe you’re not very in touch with your femininity? Maybe you received poor parenting as a kid; maybe your mom was never really around. Maybe your biological makeup is straight up faulty, or your relationship is falling apart behind the scenes. Maybe you’re choosing to be selfish (insert shudder, the horror!)

Take your pick.

I loved to travel and drink whiskey and sip strong espresso and practice hot yoga and run 10ks and curse. Motherhood registered as a foreign event, something that happened to other, more grown-up, women: women who owned houses, who had zero student loan debt, who talked about baby fever. The concept of a child simply wasn’t on my radar.

This black-and-white framework focused on value and identity seems laughable, intense and awfully unfair—but it’s also true. What’s deemed “normal” is the notion that any woman worth her salt should be honored to carry a life; I mean, it is our major duty and purpose in life, right? (Reader, no.) Women who aren’t amped up about the possibility or reality of motherhood aren’t quite worthy enough for the privilege of parenting. And so women are left to wallow in a place where they aren’t allowed to be ambivalent when it comes to motherhood and parenting; society makes little space for mixed feelings during pregnancy.

I viewed parenthood as something that would happen eventually, but not anytime soon. I loved to travel and drink whiskey and sip strong espresso and practice hot yoga and run 10ks and curse (I still do!). Motherhood registered as a foreign event, something that happened to other, more grown-up, women: women who owned houses, who had zero student loan debt, who talked about baby fever. The concept of a child simply wasn’t on my radar.

Part of me wanted to play the role of the dutiful pregnant woman. (What can I say? I’m a people pleaser at heart). I tried to remain open to unsolicited advice, eager to trade opinions about epidurals versus natural births, thrilled to discuss diaper brands. I understood that the topic of pregnancy was considered low-hanging conversational fruit for women, just as the subjects of wedding planning and engagement tend to be, and I realized that most people meant well and brought it up as a show of interest and support.

Truthfully, I just didn’t give a shit about any of that stuff. I wasn’t trying to be an asshole, either. I wanted the baby to be healthy, I tried to practice self-care whenever possible, and I hoped for the best. But my lack of interest in dissecting the details led to growing shame and guilt. Was I going to be a bad mom? Would something happen to my kid as punishment from the universe for not being grateful enough for this experience? Why did I get pregnant, when so many other women I knew desperately wanted to be in my shoes right now? Shouldn’t I feel more, well, lucky? Shouldn’t I be happier?



I mostly felt like I had borrowed Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility, minus the eternal protection, and kept bumping into the hard edges and corners of conversations solely tied to the baby and the experience of being pregnant.

“How’s the baby?” My parents crooned as they patted my stomach.

“Mommy brain, huh,” my male colleague joked after I forgot a set of papers on my desk for a meeting.

“But what about the baby?” asked my husband’s grandfather’s when I mentioned returning to work after maternity leave.

“Isn’t that a little soon?” questioned my best friend upon learning of my plans to participate in a half-marathon six months after my due date.

“How are you feeeeeeling?” quizzed acquaintances on a regular basis with a sympathetic head tilt at the yoga studio where I taught.

“Did you mean Pellegrino?” suggested the waiter when I ordered a half glass of pinot noir to sip on at dinner.

The pattern went like this, on and on—eyes straight to the belly for a quick evaluation (“How is she putting on the pounds?”), followed by some sort of comment or question involving my choices or feelings surrounding a child that didn’t exist yet. It didn’t help that for the most part, my husband got off scot-free; he typically heard a quick “Congrats!” rather than a flood of: Are you house hunting? How long will you stay home after the baby comes? Do you think you’ll get an epidural? Have you had any cravings? You’re not working out these days, right? Should you be drinking coffee? How much weight have you gained? How’s your morning sickness? Did you pick a daycare yet?

Basically, the pendulum swung from YOUR LIFE IS NOW OVER to YOUR LIFE IS NOW BEGINNING. Gain weight, but not too much. Blame it on the hormones, but don’t be crazy. Get some rest, but put in 150% at the office. Take time off to bond with your baby, but do it unpaid. Focus on your new kid, but remember to stay sexy for your partner. Save money for college, but register for all-organic everything. Pick a unique name, but not a strange name. Eat healthy, but here, have a donut—wink, wink, you’re eating for two now! Show off that pregnant belly, but for heaven’s sake, put those breastfeeding boobies away. And most of all, remember that it’s all about the THE BABY. Not you.

It was exhausting, and overwhelming. Other pregnant women I knew didn’t seem to mind the constant flood of commentary, but I did. I experienced a deep hole widening within me, next to the space where the baby kicked and hiccupped, and I grieved the impending loss of my life being my life, my self being my whole self, alone. I wasn’t naive, I knew that when the baby arrived things would be different on all sorts of levels, that of course there would be pros and cons, that such a life-altering change would be both wonderful and challenging but I wasn’t prepared to experience such a strong sense of isolation, fear, and detachment before the baby got here.



Near the end of my second trimester, I visited a midwife who asked how things were going. I responded with the liar’s club answer all women are taught to use as an emotional barrier from a young age: “Fine,” I said. I feared that if I opened up, she would judge me petty. Or ridiculous. Or unappreciative. Or overly hormonal. Worn down by anxiety and panic, I teared up as soon as I reached the parking lot and fumbled for my phone to call my mother.

“I hate being pregnant but I love the baby but I’m scared I’ll suck at this and then I saw all the moms in the waiting room and everybody seems to know what they’re doing except me and what if I’m terrible at it and I don’t know if I want to breastfeed and I just want my body back and I miss wine and I’m sick of people asking me how I feel every fucking second…” I rambled on.

I wasn’t ready, and then we got pregnant, and then I had to figure out how to accept this new turn, the one for which I wasn’t prepared.

“Whoa, honey,” she replied.

I cried big, heavy sobs that took my breath away.

“You know,” she said carefully. “It’s OK if you weren’t ready for all this.”

And that’s the thing: I wasn’t ready.

I wasn’t ready, and then we got pregnant, and then I had to figure out how to accept this new turn, the one for which I wasn’t prepared. People often say that you’re never really ready to have kids, and I agree to some extent. But I was newly married, working toward a promotion, going about my regular life with goals and dreams and visions of my future me. Then boom: A baby blew up all the carefully constructed plans I had for myself.

No wonder I felt hesitant and scared about this unexpected change of events. And no wonder those emotions became even more pronounced as the pressure and expectations of how to be pregnant came bearing down at every turn.



I’d love to say that some magical moment occurred during my pregnancy where I welcomed the concept of having a child, let go of all my vacillation about motherhood and instead looked forward to my due date with pure confidence and excitement. But that would be a lie. Instead, I had to do what I always do when it comes to change: Try to make peace with the journey.

First, I gave myself a giant permission slip to feel everything. Instead of forcing down unwanted emotions, I let them all rush in on any given day: the sadness, gratitude, frustration, awe, confusion, excitement, grief, happiness, and longing. I invited each feeling to rise up to the surface of myself like a bubble blown from a wand, and then expand for as long as need be until each eventually popped and dissolved.

Second, I released the external expectations: the expensive maternity clothes, the glowing demeanor, the stylish nursery, the chock-full registry, the “how to” books and articles, the right toys, and the heady rules about good and bad, right and wrong. I sought out role models, mamas with children who spoke openly about the difficulty of identity post-baby, who didn’t seem to experience mass guilt and shame and anxiety about not being enraptured by pregnancy or motherhood, who refused to label themselves selfish for having a full sense of self and life in addition to their children.

Finally, when people asked how I felt, I told the truth instead of hiding behind the doors of Should and Must and Always and Never. To my great surprise, many women and mothers responded by sharing their own authentic, vulnerable stories about struggling with these same issues. I wasn’t alone. (I also killed the buzz during a lot of small talk efforts, but hey, connection comes at a cost.)

I cut myself some slack. I gave myself grace. And I felt immensely better almost immediately.



Getting pregnant, having a baby, being a mom—these things weren’t on my to-do list a year ago, and this next chapter of my life looks nothing how I anticipated. But that’s OK. If anything, pregnancy taught me to better value and articulate the challenges of any significant life shift. Too often, we’re quick to dismiss other people’s pain or discomfort during personal transitions; we want to point ahead to the shiny parts where everybody is in control and everyone says the right thing and everything looks good from the outside. I fall prey to that same inclination, but I’ve learned that it’s more important to make space for, and to honor, the pain that can go hand-in-hand with big change.

So here’s what I want to tell women, regardless of where they fall on the “Do I Want a Baby?” spectrum: It’s OK if you don’t know. It’s OK if you are pregnant and you’re not excited about it yet, or ever. It’s OK if you hated being pregnant, but you love the end result—your child. And it’s OK if you loved being pregnant and sometimes you dislike your kid. You’re allowed to experience a wide spectrum of emotions when it comes to the profound prospect of bringing another human being into the world, whatever that may look like for you. And when it comes to motherhood, you have permission to speak freely about your highs and lows, your joys and sorrows, your losses and lessons without fear of judgment that you’re doing it wrong or should be doing it differently.

I can’t wait to meet my baby and, in the same breath, I grieve the life I had before his or her arrival. Both truths will remain close to my heart as I let go of how I think my life should be, and instead embrace how it actually is.