What do you do when you see the unexpected positive pregnancy test? Read more from Amelia Peck, LMFT.
If you met my husband, myself, and our two boys two years ago and asked us about having more kids, we would have laughed. We love our kids; I love being a parent. However, we had just moved from California to Western New York and were renting a two-bedroom apartment. Finances, job situations, and other life stress were on the other end of the “Let’s Have Another Baby” continuum.
Despite all those factors, one afternoon in January of 2018, while we were playing with our kids in that small apartment, something felt off. Nothing crazy, but I had been exhausted that week, and I suddenly got that question that can pop into your head out of nowhere, “Could I be pregnant?”
Certain the answer was ‘no’ because we had been intentional to make that strong “no way” statement I mentioned our reality, I went into my bathroom and grabbed an old pregnancy test from the back of my drawer. I have never seen a second blue line come up so quickly. I sat in our bathroom, just staring at it for a while in silence until my husband asked, “Everything ok?”
Quietly, I opened the door and let him look at the test I took. While the percentages of false positives are low (most tests claim 99% accuracy), we felt there was a fair chance we were the other 1%. It was old. That was really our only reason. So I ran out and bought a pack of digital tests that claimed even more accuracy than 99%. Seeing that I am in relatively good health and didn't take any medications that could trigger that false positive, our results were confirmed.
Once we took a drive and realized a new baby was our new reality, I began to take the motions (and emotions) you do when you realize you are pregnant. However, since we moved so recently, I didn't have any doctors in the area. So I took the recommendation of a close friend and set up my first appointment.
Many women have experienced what I was going through. According to the CDC, almost half of all pregnancies in America are unplanned. I did not feel the emotions of joy and excitement I usually did when announcing a pregnancy. I felt guilty. Embarrassed even. It was complicated. On some levels, I felt this way because our current situation was not optimal for bringing a third baby into the fold. This new baby and my youngest at the time would only be 15 months apart. On other levels, I had friends experiencing miscarriages and going through infertility treatments. I felt awkward telling them I was going to have another baby.
My first doctor’s appointment helped get me to get a little more into the reality of what was happening. I wasn’t in denial as much as I was in a fog about the whole thing. As I began my prenatal care, my doctor helped me accept and be at peace with the shock I felt about the whole situation. The more I was able to lean in and accept what lay in front of us, the more mindful and intentional I became in the process.
The health of the baby moved to the focus rather than the shock of being pregnant again. Slowly, I began to respond with a more convincing, "yes, it is exciting," instead of the hesitation I probably had shown earlier. This eventually moved into more excitement around the birth and the fact we were adding a baby girl into the mix of very energetic boys.
Among the various feelings I had about an unplanned pregnancy general, I felt very isolated. Where my family had relocated to was nowhere near my hometown. I was grateful for my job, but I was in a very small department at my agency. I also had only two real friends in my new city. That might not seem like much, and it was starkly different than our circle of friends we had in California, but who we had in our lives and who we found in unexpected places continued to yield comfort and peace as we continued to move forward into our next chapter of parenting.
Due to the rate of unplanned pregnancies globally, it isn’t uncommon for people to seek counseling for unplanned pregnancies. Parenting is a major transition on its own, and when it isn’t something you had in your plans, you and your partner may benefit from the support of a therapist. While family support is always something wonderful to have, another unbiased support helps you understand your feelings from a different perspective and make the most well-informed decisions moving forward.
I don’t know if I could say that my husband and I are the models for handling the news of an unexpected pregnancy. There are times I felt we handled it like champs, and there are moments I don’t share with anyone. They are not the best. But ups and downs, we have made it thus far. Our unexpected bundle of joy is almost 18 months now. She is amazing, and I can’t picture our lives without her. When I look at our child, the feelings I have are very different from the ones when I saw that second blue line on that pregnancy test. I also know that not every story has an ending is like ours.
Depending on your situation, you may have different paths to consider. Some individuals consider adoption. I had a coworker with whom I confided some of my stress and initial shock compassionately ask me if I would consider abortion. That wasn’t the right decision for me. If you find yourself in this situation, there are so many options to ask your doctor about.
There is also financial support for families who worry about the financial challenges a baby can present. WIC (Woman Infant Child) and other forms of government assistance are available. Various religious groups also offer assistance and can be a support system for mothers and children. Even if not in the form of financials, it can be in a support group or just help to know you are not alone in your decisions and parenting as you embark on what can be a very emotional journey.
Sometimes the unexpected can be unexpectedly wonderful. It doesn’t mean it is smooth sailing all the time. But it can open you up to the strength and resilience you didn’t realize you have.