It feels like just yesterday I frantically made my way to the restroom at a work event to take a pregnancy test I just knew was positive. I couldn’t wait through rush-hour traffic to get home, so I locked the door and tried to mentally prepare to experience a life change. True to my intuition, two pink lines popped up well before the recommended wait time, forever altering the fabric of my life.
It feels like yesterday because it sort of was. And it’s a good thing I have so much recent experience to draw from—because, as of writing this, my daughter is 9 months old, and I am 24 weeks pregnant with baby No. 2!
Yes, we are excited to welcome another unplanned bundle into our family, but that doesn’t mean the transition hasn’t come with its ups and downs. In going from one baby to two—even if it’s still the waiting period—I have adopted a few ideals on embracing an unexpected pregnancy and how to flourish amidst the chaos.
To some degree, an unexpected pregnancy is going to catch you off guard. You can experience a wide range of emotions in response to the news, including shock, disbelief, fear, embarrassment, anxious excitement and possible resentment. We aren’t robots, and mamas need to give themselves time to start processing the change. Despite the happy examples in film or the way you may have pictured your future pregnancy announcements going, remember it’s OK to be feeling whatever you are feeling.
I was able to tell only my husband that I was pregnant with our first baby. He had to share the news with our families and friends because I couldn’t even say the words. I walked into our apartment and handed him the pregnancy test. He didn’t know what it was at first, which only added to my crippling anxiety in that moment. Once he put two and two together, he couldn’t have been happier. Complete joy overtook his body, and he cried. I cried, too, but in the totally opposite way.
I felt sick. I felt completely uneasy and unsure about everything. I was anything but the picture of pregnancy bliss, and I felt ashamed of my feelings of sadness and grief. I was already mourning my former life, thinking of all the things that would change—specifically, my body, my freedom and my relationship with my spouse. I feared our day-to-day wasn’t compatible with a baby, and I started worrying about a lack of time for “just us.”
My husband took that opportunity to create a safe place for me to vent. Whatever I was feeling, he wanted me to say it out loud to him. He didn’t take anything to heart, knowing it was a huge shock to my system, and he repeatedly told me it was OK to feel the way I was feeling—even telling me it was normal. Having someone reassure me that I wasn’t crazy, selfish or terrible really helped. I always had the option to project my feelings when needed, and over time, those needs dwindled.
Should you find yourself in an emotionally similar situation but without someone you can be completely honest with, please hear me when I say your less- than-elated attitude is perfectly all right. Whether it’s your first baby or your fourth, give yourself time to deal without burying or dismissing how you feel. It doesn’t mean you’ll feel that way for long, and it certainly is not indicative of how much you will love your baby once he arrives.
I recently heard an analogy that compared feelings to a bottle of salad dressing. To get to the olive oil, you have to pour out the vinegar. It’s impossible to ignore the acid on top, but there is oil underneath. In other words, you can come around to all the warm and fuzzy feelings when you’re ready, but accepting the negative ones is part of the transition.
If I could sum up the past two years of my life in one word, it would be adjustment. This word has taken on such a positive meaning to me, and it truly defines what I needed to understand with two unexpected pregnancies. People have the ability to grow into any version of themselves necessary to get a job done. We adjust to ridiculous schedules, hectic commutes, long days, late nights and packed weekends. We go through seasons of struggle, seasons of stride and seasons of doubt. We start new careers, move to new cities and look around from time to time and think, Where am I? People are able to adjust to the ebb and flow of life, and this is certainly true of parenting.
Remembering you will once again adapt to the foreign environment is key to helping maintain your sanity and sense of hope. You will find deep reserves of resources within yourself that you didn’t know existed. You didn’t need them before being responsible for another life, so keep in mind the person who you know now is not the exact person you will be as a parent. You have more superpowers than you originally thought, so try not to draw from what you believe you do or do not know about yourself. Trust there’s a lot more to you than meets the eye!
If this isn’t your first baby, you have more insight into how it will affect you and how to better navigate the waters again to avoid certain obstacles. If you’re like me and just went through this process, you know with confidence the really, really hard parts don’t last forever.
You may also have a better sense of what you need this time around. For example, did you receive too much help postpartum after your last birth and find yourself wishing for more alone time with baby? Or maybe you need to schedule more reinforcements to ensure more sleep? Do you want to keep the same schedule of child and home care with your partner, or is this an ideal time to rethink who does what? Whatever the context, you have the awareness to have a different conversation, one that will benefit you more because you are familiar with the role of mom.
Put it into practice
Regardless of what number pregnancy this is for you, you can take steps toward establishing a plan for success by doing a little prep work. Take time to work on your relationship with your partner. There is never a bad time to invest in your bond with the person helping you raise this baby. Even if you are not romantically involved, you can take the opportunity to develop a solid flow of communication. Having the ability to communicate will greatly influence your teamwork capabilities and hopefully equal a more positive environment for both you and baby. If you are romantically connected, understand what your “togetherness” looks like, have an agreement of where it falls on the list priorities and shake hands on how to execute it. This isn’t the time to have mind filled with expectations and no conversation to back it up. Reach out to your partner and make a good thing even better.
Find something (or things) to keep simple. I know the temptation is to do it all, but it will behoove you to find an area or two you can simplify. For me, that applies to cooking and grocery shopping. I like to cook and did a lot of it before having my daughter, but lately it has taken a back seat. My husband works at a restaurant and brings home more than enough to keep the fridge stocked, so we only grocery shop once every two weeks. Aside from making baby food, I cook only when I want to. It’s nice to not have the stress of having a meal on the table at a certain time. This obviously isn’t an option for everyone, but it works well for our schedule and dynamic. Find something you can let go of—or at least loosen the reins on a bit.
Additionally, have a go-to stress reliever. It’s no surprise pregnancy can trigger personal stress, and if you don’t have a way of relieving tension, you’ll want to adopt a channel for aggression sooner rather than later. I go to the gym four times a week to blow off steam, boost endorphins and get better sleep—something I still struggle with, especially with a baby and being pregnant. My husband goes to a studio and plays music every Tuesday. I know couples who dive into a good book or bend into all sorts of yoga poses to wind down. Whatever you decide, develop a habit of releasing stress and anxiety. Even in the womb, babies can feel the effects of whatever vibe mom is giving off, so find a way to keep your Zen in check.
Coping with an unexpected pregnancy can be scary. Remember you are capable of caring for your babe, and you are the mother he needs. Don’t let your apprehensions and perceived inadequacies dictate how well you believe you can handle the amazing challenge to mother a new life. Choose to believe in yourself right now. You will find a new balance and life will go on. Trust me. P&N