Most of the time married couples welcome a new baby into their lives. But occasionally it happens at an inconvenient time – they wanted more alone time before starting a family or already had children and didn’t plan on having more.
So what’s a couple to do? Is it possible to accept the pregnancy and make it a happy one? Absolutely!
Surprise! The pregnancy test came back positive. Now what? Two experts offer the same advice: Take a deep breath.
Jennie Joseph, a licensed midwife and clinical director of The Birth Place in Winter Garden, Fla., suggests parents resolve – as of this moment – to focus on going forward. “Looking back, recriminations, blaming and so on, create negativity,” she says. While she admits it’s natural to want to figure out what happened to create this unexpected turn of events, she stresses that the most important approach to any pregnancy is to agree to work as a team and to stay focused on the job at hand – having a healthy baby.
For Jennifer Hans and her husband from Fort Wayne, Ind., her third pregnancy was a huge surprise. “I already had a 2-year-old and 6-month-old twins,” Hans says. “My husband and I both felt that our family was complete. Needless to say, we were caught quite off guard when we discovered there was going to be another addition to our family.”
Hans admits that knowing what to do first wasn’t easy. “To be honest, there were a lot of tears in the beginning,” she says. “We were still rather overwhelmed with the process of caring for newborn twins, and the idea of adding another baby was quite unsettling.”
Surprise pregnancies really aren’t that uncommon. “In circumstances such as these, women will find that the key to coping is to accepting the reality,” Joseph says. “We feel most out of control when we have no plan. Pushing through by planning … allows you to regain some sense of power over your situation.”
Joseph offers these guidelines for first steps in this unexpected situation:
- Make an appointment to see your midwife or doctor ASAP.
- Start today with a complete diet overhaul.
- Begin taking a daily prenatal vitamin.
- Create your support structures right away. Engage a trusted friend or family member to be on standby whenever you or your partner feel unable to cope.
“Now that you are pregnant you want to be able to enjoy the experience,” Joseph says. “It is best, therefore, to accept the fact that it has happened and become proactive in planning ahead.”
What if one half of the couple in this situation isn’t warming up to the idea of having a baby? Is it still possible to have a happy marriage and pregnancy?
“It is common for partners to feel differently about the situation,” says Barbara Dehn, a women’s health nurse practitioner and author of Your Personal Guide to Pregnancy (Blue Orchid Press, 2004) from Los Altos, Calif. “I’ve certainly seen women who did not want to continue [with the pregnancy] – often if they had previous difficult pregnancies or were not ready for their lives to change completely. Men also have concerns about their roles, the change in the relationship and how other plans would likely need to be changed.” Dehn does caution against being judgmental toward a partner who has not made up their mind yet.
Heather Truett found out she was pregnant with her second son just two weeks after returning to work and starting college. “I would say it was probably harder for my husband because he was the one working two jobs to make ends meet,” says Truett, who was in a somewhat difficult financial situation. “That made me more apprehensive than I would have been otherwise.” She admits she had to take it slowly, letting the news sink in before planning what they needed to do.
Couples with whom Dehn has dealt have admitted this can be a difficult and painful process, but they actually grow closer because of all the talking, honesty and working through it together. “It is absolutely possible for a marriage to be happy even after going through a ‘crisis’ like this,” Dehn says.
Hans agrees. “Initially, my husband and I both had a hard time warming up to the idea of another baby,” she says. “I think we kind of had to work things out individually, which made it possible for us to move forward as a couple.”
No matter how you and your spouse grow to feel about this new baby, sometimes people you care about will react negatively. Not everyone realizes how this can affect parents dealing with their own mixed feelings.
“Many people, friends and random strangers, made comments and wisecracks,” Hans says. “They’d glance from my double stroller to the toddler at my side before commenting about my pregnant belly.” She admits that sometimes their comments were hurtful. “Once my husband and I had accepted the pregnancy, it was easier to ignore the comments and move on.”
While you can’t really do much about what strangers say, both experts agree that being clear about your purpose – to have a healthy baby – helps you remain strong when family or friends are negative. Dehn says this line may help: “Parenting is such an awesome responsibility and we want to do it right. We need time to figure this out and hope you can be understanding right now.”
“Become an advocate for yourself, your marriage and your family,” Joseph says. “You don’t have to defend or explain your pregnancy unless you want to. Standing up for yourself may be a new way of being – try it on.”
Don’t Play the Blame Game
As difficult as this time may be, in the end what is important is the new baby you will soon love and care for.
“Forget blame, guilt, shame and recriminations,” Joseph says. “Your baby is on the way. Enjoy! Look for the hidden blessings! They are always there and will reveal themselves in due time.”
“Although this experience is unexpected, this is an amazing opportunity to work together as a couple,” Dehn says. “How you support your partner now will have long-lasting effects, so being loving, supportive and listening is good practice for being a good parent.”
“It’s OK to have conflicting emotions – having a new baby is a life-changing experience, and it takes time to come to terms with the feelings associated with that news,” says Hans, now a very happy mother of four little girls. “I was surprised to discover how many other families had also faced a surprise pregnancy at one time or another. For me, it was reassuring to see how they ultimately embraced the idea of another child, and of course, how much they loved the child once it arrived.”
Perhaps Truett’s advice says it most simply: “You are already pregnant,” she says. “This baby is coming. Give yourself permission to love it already.”