Q&A

  • For those who haven’t been there yet, what makes unplanned pregnancy a crisis? Why does the degree of intentionality matter for a pregnancy?

For those who haven’t been there yet, what makes unplanned pregnancy a crisis? Why does the degree of intentionality matter for a pregnancy?

Unplanned pregnancy is really a big deal. Just ask anyone going through it. The consequences can be serious for both the mother and child. Women who are pregnant and don’t want to be are far less likely to get prenatal care. They’re more likely to expose the fetus to alcohol and drugs. The babies are at greater risk for low birth weight, of dying in the first year of life, of being abused.

And a second part of this, no less serious—half of all women in an unintended pregnancy will have an abortion. The ratio of live births to abortions in this country is two to four times higher than in other Western democracies. (National Institutes of Health)

I know this much more personally. I’ve seen it in the women I’ve interviewed. They’re not as motivated to take care of themselves or the baby they’re growing. They’re in often difficult domestic situations—alone, or in a bad relationship, or married with lots of children and they feel absolutely overwhelmed, their resources exhausted. It’s a very hard time. Many women feel hopeless and desperate during the pregnancy.

  • Your subtitle says, “Finding Hope in Unexpected Pregnancy.” Where is the hope? Where did you find hope?

Your subtitle says, “Finding Hope in Unexpected Pregnancy.” Where is the hope? Where did you find hope?

There are lots of moments of hope along the way. The first was when I went to the doctors and heard the heartbeat. I’ve heard heartbeats of all my children, but this last one was different. I walked into that office so burdened, so reluctant–and then there it was–this chug-chug, such a purposeful strong beat. And in that moment, suddenly what was been an interruption, what was a crisis in my life, a cause of great worry–suddenly became a life, a human being.

In the Starting Over chapter, I talk about the fears and dread we all faced–those of us who had made it through the baby years, the spit-up, dirty-diapers, up all night years…

and then we have to go through it all again!! Starting over at ground zero. You think you can’t sing another lullaby, play another round of patty cake, eensy-weensy spider. But you know what? You do. And you nurse the baby through the night, change his diapers . . . You find out that while the activities are the same, you’ve never done them with this child. It’s all new again, because this is a brand new completely different human being than your other children. And you find too, that you sing not because you have to. You don’t change his diaper because you’re forced to. You do it out of love. And that love comes, if you allow it, if you make room for it.

There are reasons for real hope—not just feel-better hope—all along the way. I say this because I found them myself through my pregnancies, and so did other women. More than this, I’m out of the tunnel now, standing in light, with my two surprise children, ages 3 and 5, in my arms. I’m offering a perspective to other women you don’t have when you’re pregnant.

  • It sounds like you’re talking mostly about a change in attitude. You make it sound easy. It can’t be that easy.

It sounds like you’re talking mostly about a change in attitude. You make it sound easy. It can’t be that easy.

No, it’s not easy. Sometimes changing the world feels easier than changing our hearts. But there’s great motivation to do this. You know when you’re looking at that home pregnancy test and it’s turned bright blue–that you’ve got to make a decision. There’s first the decision of what you’ll do: will you terminate the pregnancy, keep the baby, release the baby for adoption? Those are your three choices. If you choose to keep the baby, then you’ve got another huge choice to make. Will you receive this baby with apathy and resentment and bitterness, or will you receive her with love? Will you make room for this child in your life or will you not? Once you realize that these are your choices, then it becomes real clear that you’ve got to choose love. You’re going to have to change those diapers, spoon feed, nurse through sickness—you’re going to do all those things anyway. Why not do them fueled by love instead of by resentment?

I really saw that at every step through the pregnancy, there was a shift possible. I could stay just where I was–locked in resentment and fear–or I could move forward with anticipation, believe that this change would bring good not harm to my life.

  • Your book acknowledges all that a pregnant woman gives up to have a baby. And it’s a lot. What does she gain? What makes this worth it? What can you tell a woman who is unexpectedly pregnant right now and who’s really struggling?

Your book acknowledges all that a pregnant woman gives up to have a baby. And it’s a lot. What does she gain? What makes this worth it? What can you tell a woman who is unexpectedly pregnant right now and who’s really struggling?

I’m the first to recognize all that you give up to bring a new life into the world. I’ve done this six times, and not one was easy. I’m still in the thick of parenting—I’m close to fifty and an empty nest is fifteen years away! This was not my choice or my plan.

The biggest thing you give up when you go through an unplanned pregnancy is your own plan for your life. You have to give up your own sense of control over your life, and recognize this other plan. We always think we know best. We always want to be in complete control. But that’s not reality. Things happen to us all the time that remind us we’re not in control. And sometimes when those things happen—cancer, a failing marriage, a child who’s going awol—we need to fight back.

But there are other times when it’s not about resistance, but about relinquishment. People often think of this as something passive or something weak. It’s not. Relinquishment is not giving up—it’s giving over one set of things you thought were important to make room for another set. And it’s anything but passive or weak. The women I interviewed were incredibly strong. They chose to keep this baby they initially didn’t want, or weren’t thrilled about. And they kept going. One woman with a teenager in a wheelchair, another daughter, and 8 months pregnant with an unexpected baby. Her husband is called to Iraq for 2 years. She has the baby without him. Another woman is teaching full time, and is doing her masters at the same time. She finds out she’s pregnant—with twins! She has to keep going—teaching, taking grad classes at night.

What they gained, what each one of us in this book gained is not only a child who loves us—who is born loving us! We not only gain all of that love, but we ourselves are stronger. We didn’t give up, we didn’t give in when others would advise us saying, “oh, you don’t have to have this baby. That’s too hard.” Well, we did have our babies, and we end up far more resilient, far more open to change. We didn’t cut ourselves off from this other plan even though it was hard. Sometimes it costs us more to try and avoid pain than walking through it.