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She May Not Have Been Planned, But She’s NOT An Accident

For weeks I had convinced myself I wasn’t pregnant, even though all the symptoms were there. I was nauseous, tired, and extremely emotional. I also didn’t get my period (but that wasn’t alarming because I have never been on a regular cycle).

Two months prior, I had had the same symptoms and was convinced I was pregnant. But the multiple pregnancy tests bought at the pharmacy and the blood work done at the doctors said I was wrong. Days after the blood test came back negative, my period came. It was my first real postpartum period after my son was born and it was horrible. So I chalked up the symptoms up to a really bad postpartum menstrual cycle.

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It was the day after Christmas. We had just celebrated Christmas in our townhouse apartment that we had relocated to while we were building our house. We had closed on our home just a week prior to Christmas and chose to spend Christmas where we were instead of trying to rush into moving in before the holiday.

I had thrown up on Christmas Day, which had been odd, but I thought my body was just upping the ante. I hadn’t thrown up months prior but also thought because I had been nauseous before maybe throwing up could be contributed to another bad period. After weeks of checking for my overdue period, as I ran to the bathroom to throw up, I began to wonder, 'Could I actually be pregnant?’

With my son, I had morning sickness and threw up a handful of times with that pregnancy, so this was definitely a new factor to consider. My husband and I weren’t exactly trying, but we weren’t actively not trying. Since having my son, I had been horrible about taking my birth control pills. It started that I missed a few, then forgot to pick it up from the pharmacy, until I was straight up not taking it. I decided to test when I got back from dinner with some girlfriends, picking up a test on my way home.

When the test flashed the word “pregnant,” I called out for my husband as I burst into tears. All I could think was, “This wasn’t supposed to happen; this isn’t part of the plan.” I’m a planner by nature. I had carefully planned out my first pregnancy, using ovulation sticks and waking up to take my temperature every morning. 

Even when I lost my job a few weeks before officially “trying,” I wouldn’t allow myself to stray from the plan. Figuring I would find a job while we tried for a baby, we became pregnant right away (and it took me another four months to find employment). While planning my second, we knew we wanted to start trying that spring or summer following the closing on our new house. We knew we wanted another; I just didn’t think that she would surprise us that winter instead.

I would never call her an accident. We like to think of her arrival as a “happy accident.” Since I wasn’t taking my birth control at all at this point, I convinced myself because of my long cycles, the fact that I was breastfeeding, and our inability to find alone time, that it probably wouldn’t happen. We were playing with fire, as we often joked. When the test turned positive, we realized that we had been silly thinking we were immune from getting pregnant.

It’s not like I didn’t want another baby ( because I absolutely did); I just didn’t think that I was ready. My son was only a young 18 months. We were moving into a new house, hoping for an uneventful spring after a whirlwind past year, and now I was pregnant and terrified. I was deeply afraid of my ability to handle what would be two kids under two. I also worried that I would be sacrificing quality time with my son and wondered how I could possibly love another. 

I often wonder about the night I found out I was pregnant and how much of an effect it had on my mental health before and after she was born. I suffered from prenatal and postpartum mood disorders- mostly anxiety and rage. Having not been quite ready for her and the pregnancy being a surprise, it is interesting to see how anxious I was during both my pregnancy and postpartum periods.

Women who have had an unplanned pregnancy have been studied often in correlation to how often they develop some form of postpartum depression or anxiety. Studies from various sources have all discovered the increased prevalence of women developing postpartum mood disturbances when their pregnancies were unintended. Having an unintended pregnancy can also have long term effects on a woman and all women would benefit from increased screenings in both pregnancy and postpartum.

Nearly half of pregnancies in the US are unplanned according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC). Unplanned can be defined as becoming accidentally pregnant or it could be that a woman wanted to become pregnant one day but was not actively trying. Perhaps they were using a form of birth control and it failed; perhaps they were told they could never become pregnant. Whatever the reason for the unplanned pregnancy, studies show that there is a decline in happiness when compared to how planned the pregnancy was.

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It’s interesting to discover that about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. The old saying goes that the only safe birth control is to remain abstinent. Errors occur and methods fail, and I strongly believe if there was a greater emphasis on sex education, the number of unplanned pregnancies would drop. I’ll be the first to admit when it came to getting pregnant, I thought I knew what was going on in my body. I was very much mistaken. I read the book “Taking Control of Your Fertility,” written by Toni Weschler and discovered I practically knew nothing about my body.

The sex education I received in school gave me the Cliff Notes version of getting pregnant and instilled the fear that I could get pregnant at any time. Finding out how short the window was to actually get pregnant, I was floored how many accidental pregnancies there were (and yes, I know that it could possibly happen at any time during a woman’s cycle, but for most, it’s a very short window where you can actually get pregnant).

While she may not have been 100% planned, she was the sunshine we needed in our lives that we didn’t know we were missing. She also must have known how much I hate moving because the week after I found out, she got me out of moving heavy boxes. And I will forever be grateful to her for that.

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