Right now the result of our unplanned pregnancy is snoozing in his beloved “big boy bed.” As I check on him and watch his chest rise and fall, it hits me once again: here he is, the best gift of my life. My unplanned son and I spent the morning at the pool and I watched him shriek with joy as he went down the water slide, splashed in the water, and giggled after accidentally ducking his head under the water. “That was CRAZY!” he told me as his head popped up out of the pool. When I think that the joy he brings me, his very existence, would never have been mine to know if I hadn’t stopped taking birth control, I feel slightly ill. What if I had missed out on this? What if our plan to start a family after we achieved “financial stability,” “career goals,” “world travel” and had “figured out all the answers” had really come to pass? I thank God everyday for turning our plans upside down.
After two years of marriage, we were definitely in one of the “lows” rather than the “highs” of our relationship. We were both full-time students (I was graduating, Daniel had a year and a half to go) so we obviously had nothing in the way of financial stability. We were in the midst of some major changes in worldview—particularly in our movement towards Catholicism. Should we convert? Should we wait? What do we think about the big issues? I still had vestiges of pink dye in my hair from when I dyed it tomato red and it quickly faded to Nymphadora Tonks pink. Daniel was wearing moccasins exclusively in those days. My main concerns (other than hearing back from job interviews for work to put Daniel through his last few semesters, yes, I was not COMPLETELY irresponsible) were throwing a really epic graduation party and going to see Radiohead in Dallas the following day. An objective observer would not have tagged us with a “ready for parenthood!” flag anytime soon. And parenthood certainly wasn’t on our radar AT ALL. We went on a 2nd anniversary trip to Disney and discussed having a baby in about…..four to five years. A couple of weeks later, and to our great surprise, we found out that during our future planning anniversary chats, a little soul was already growing in my womb: we were pregnant.
To explain just how NOT ON OUR RADAR this was, I was probably already 7 weeks pregnant before taking a pregnancy test. Pregnancy hadn’t even crossed my mind and my housemate Courtney (girls in the same house notice these things) had to ask me….um…are you really really late this month? Eh, I shrugged. Thesis and Graduation pressure messing with my hormones! Besides, I can feel cramps coming on right now…not pregnant.
I was really, really late. And those cramps? Yeah, a little human embryo implanting itself in my womb. But I was oblivious. Courtney pointed out, “You’ve seemed a little tired lately…and a little hungry?” “What, just because I sleep all the time and ate breakfast twice today? Chill out!” But inside I was thinking…”hmmm, I have been feeling a little emotional…there was that time the other day when Daniel asked if I could run to the grocery store for something and I started crying hysterically and saying accusatorily: you know I HATE going to the grocery store. How can you even ask me to do that?” Courtney finally just put me in the car and drove me to the drugstore to get a pregnancy test.
After taking a pack of pregnancy tests (the two lines if you’re preganant, one line if you’re not kind) I was still unconvinced (even after making a friend be the control group and seeing that her results looked totally different from mine) and went back to the drugstore for a test that would blink “PREGNANT” or “NOT PREGNANT.” Until the moment I was waiting for the results, I did not want to be pregnant. I had just told Daniel a month before that I wasn’t ready to be a mom yet because I was still too selfish and enjoying being so. But as I waited, I suddenly WANTED to be pregnant, in fact, I’d never wanted anything so much in my whole life. My heart started to race and when the result blinked “PREGNANT” at me, I was filled with unexpected joy. I called Daniel who was at the grocery store (the poor man probably remembered the last time he asked me to go and went himself to avoid a similar uproar) and said…”I think I’m pregnant.”
His response was…”OK…I’ll come straight home.”
When he got home he said calmly, “I’m excited. We can grow carrots in the garden and mash them up for baby food. Maybe Reid can help me build a crib.” I’ve never been so glad of my husband’s cool and collected personality.
We had no idea exactly what we were going to do. I had just accepted a full-time position at Baylor University and Daniel had 3 semesters of full-time school to finish his BA. Who was going to watch this baby while I was at work? How were we going to pay for this baby? We don’t know the first thing about raising babies! These things crossed my mind. But mostly I felt an overwhelming peace and gratitude. I felt overcome with the knowledge that I didn’t even know I wanted this greatest of gifts and God had blessed us anyway. I knew I didn’t deserve the precious gift inside me and the grace of this blessing was so generous that I could almost not bear the thought.
How did we get ourselves into this predicament, you might ask? Six months previously, I had gone off The Pill, which I had been on for our first year and a half of marriage. Our reasoning for this change was two-fold. A primary motivation was that The Pill made me feel AWFUL. I was on a very low dose and it still gave me terrible nausea, unbearable headaches, and wretched mood swings. I was constantly emotional and overreacting. And why is it a good idea to put hormones in my body that I don’t need? But apart from the physical misery, as Daniel and I moved towards the Catholic Church we started to realize that artificial birth control didn’t fit into our mindset of marriage, sex, and family at all. So we decided I should stop taking it. It was one of the best decisions of our lives.
It wasn’t until after I stopped taking The Pill that I started to read about how it can have abortive effects. Due to the low levels of hormones in prescriptions such as the one I was on, it is possible for an egg to get fertilized. Due to The Pill, however, the fertilized egg will not be able to implant and the body expels it. Although I asked my doctor when she prescribed the Pill if it could be considered abortive in any way, she did not inform me of this possibility. This may have been because she did not know—it is not highly publicized. Knowing that this might have happened during the 18 months I was on the Pill grieves me. I’m not haunted or wracked with guilt, partly due to the fact that I was ignorant of this while we were using artificial birth control. But, I now look back on those 18 months with regret. I wish someone had told me there was a better way. I wish someone had told me that natural family planning was an option. I wish I had offered the gift of my fertility back to God, leaving him in control. Once we hesitantly moved in that direction, we were blessed with the best gift of our lives.
I have always liked to be in control (don’t we all?). The idea of giving up control of such a monumental thing is scary. Yet, I am learning over and over again that my plans and desires, if fulfilled, would lead to my ruin and that turning control over to God is an opening to God’s grace. God has been very good to us. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college (ok, the day after graduation) that we got pregnant. In some ways, perfect timing. And with baby #2, we were able to space our kids out by 2 and ½ years without me being on birth control. I know that next time the spacing might be smaller and our lives might get increasingly chaotic, but having to trust God has been for us so liberating.
Benjamin’s birth brought so many good things. He transformed Daniel and I and brought us closer together. We have become more like the people we were created to be. I shudder to think of the person I would be without the entrance of our son in our lives. I would not be half the woman I am.
And the joy he brings hasn’t been limited to us. Watching his grandparents enjoy him has been one of the greatest pleasures. When he was four or five months old, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. The existence of her precious grandbaby gave her strength and motivation to complete the grueling journey of chemotherapy.
Unplanned pregnancy was the best thing that ever happened to me. In fact, of my closest 6 friends with babies, 5 were quite unexpected and all are desperately loved. Now you’ll have to excuse me, my unplanned son has just woken up for some snuggles.