“The angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary. You will conceive in your womb and bear a son”. Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the child to be born will be called Son of God”. Luke 1:30-35

Finding yourself pregnant ‘accidentally’ is the just the beginning of a rollercoaster ride of intense emotion and adjustment. Complicating the situation can be external pressures that leave many women feeling overwhelmed and unsupported. What should be a time of joy and anticipation is often tainted by stress and worry.

A surprise baby often provides unexpected joy, but that doesn’t mean you should sweep your turbulent emotions under the rug. We feature the testimony of Louise Elliott who, with her husband Mark, welcomed their fourth child into their family a week before Christmas last year. We hope you’ll find
their story encouraging.

Letting go of control… reluctantly
I remember holding Harry as a newborn and thinking ‘I want one more’. But we were in the tunnel; we had three young kids and were busy. Another child just didn’t seem to be workable.
I kept thinking that even if we decided we did want another one, I felt like I couldn’t give enough to the other three as it was. I had started working at a new job and everything was on track financially and professionally.

Mark and I discussed it a number of times but the answer was always, no… no… no… too late now… I was resolved to the fact that there wasn’t going to be another one and we were so blessed with the kids that we had.
One day my colleague dropped a CD on my desk as ‘something to listen to in the car’. It was a talk by Dr Janet Smith.* So I listened to the CD car and bells were ringing.
A while later when we were driving to the snow fields for a holiday, I realised that I was out of the Pill. It was Sunday, and the pharmacy was closed. Mark said “Don’t worry about it.” And I asked him if he was sure and he still said “Don’t worry about it.” I knew the Pill was making me feel unwell as I was getting pretty bad headaches. So we made this conscious decision then and there that there would be no more Pill.  – Dr Janet Smith, Contraception: Why Not? 

Adjusting to the shock

Discovering that you have an unplanned pregnancy can be traumatic. If you feel shocked, numb, or like the world is falling apart, that’s pretty normal! You have a new reality to adjust to and it is okay not to be excited immediately. It will take a little while for these emotions to subside so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Discovering that you have an unplanned pregnancy can be traumatic. If you feel shocked, numb, or like the world is falling apart, that’s pretty normal! You have a new reality to adjust to and it is okay not to be excited immediately. It will take a little while for these emotions to subside so don’t be too hard on yourself.

When we found out I was pregnant, all I was thinking was “Oh my God! How is this going to work?” I found Mark and said “There’s something I have to tell you.” And he said, “You’re pregnant aren’t you?” I said “Yes.” He was silent for about three seconds and after that three seconds up until today, he has not stopped smiling. He was instantly okay with it. I’m over here going, “But what are we going to DO?” he just said “We’ll just do what we did with the other three. We did well with them. It will be fine.”

I’m fast-fowarding to what about work? How is mum (my back up childcarer) going to fit an extra kid in the car? All these things to worry about! I’m the control-freak and panicker, but Mark is the total opposite. If there had been two of me in the relationship, I would have been an absolute mess. But he was so calm, so okay with it.

Grieving Lost Dreams

After the initial shock has worn off, you may find yourself in the midst of significant grief. This is also perfectly normal.

You had plans, you had things sorted. You felt secure and had it all worked out. You were looking forward to being able to throw yourself into a career, going on holidays, that convertible you’d always wanted… whatever your dreams were they are now not going to be the same.

We have a lot of emotion invested in our dreams and plans, and when something unexpected like a job loss or a surprise baby happens, we have to go through a grieving process to let go of our dreams and form new ones.

Some helpful things to help you move through this process are:

  • One day at a time.
    Jumping too far ahead into the future can leave you feeling overwhelmed. If you have a tendency to do this, make a habit of gently bringing it back to the present. Taking things one day at a time is a good practice for everyday life, but is especially important when the future holds many unknowns.
  • Naming the emotions.
    Whatever it is you are feeling; anger, resentment, sadness… don’t try and bottle it away. Suppressed emotions can return to haunt us and sabotage our relationships when our guard is down. Acknowledging the emotion gives us power over it. Naming unpleasant emotions allows us transform them into positive ones.
  • Focus on what you are gaining.
    A brand new human being is about to arrive! A habit of acknowledging the positives in every situation and being grateful for them is an essential practice for improving your wellbeing in general. It might be hard to develop this habit in difficult times, but it is well worth it.
    For more on the power of gratitude, see CathFamily’s article: Grateful.
  • Don’t be afraid to get help.
    If you find yourself struggling with the grief process or locked in persistent, painful emotions, now is the time to seek some professional help. It will do both you and your baby a huge amount of good to get yourself into a more positive and peaceful space. Select your counsellor or therapist carefully however. See the page on Pregnancy Resources for a starting point.