When I asked my friend how she felt when she discovered she was pregnant, she said, "I sat down on my stairs and cried." It certainly wasn't the answer I thought I would hear. But I suppose I really couldn't blame her: She was expecting for the third time, less than a year after giving birth to her second son. Who wouldn't feel completely overwhelmed in that situation? Still, it was a pretty shocking admission. Pregnant women are supposed to be thrilled 24/7. They're supposed to glow with happiness. They're not supposed to cry, unless they're crying tears of joy.
Cut to a couple of years later. I'm standing in the bathroom, knowing very well what the pregnancy test will reveal, yet I'm still stunned when the two pink lines appear. Granted, my third child wasn't truly unplanned; my husband and I had tried unsuccessfully to conceive not that long ago. But now I was pregnant: now, when I'd pretty much accepted that I'd only have two children, when I'd found my exercise groove and felt great about my body, when I could finally devote myself to my career. Now?
Like my friend, I felt anxious, happy, and scared at the same time -- and guilty, of course, for being anything but a blissful mom-to-be. Back then, I had no idea that many women deal with the same mixed emotions. "Our culture leads women to believe that pregnancy should be a time of complete joy," says Jennifer Louden, author of The Pregnant Woman's Comfort Book. "But the reality is that it's a very emotional experience, and the emotions aren't always pretty."
This is particularly true for women whose pregnancy wasn't exactly planned, a scenario that's much more common than anyone realizes -- or wants to admit. The mothers on the following pages talk candidly about the not-so-unusual reasons behind their surprise pregnancies and how they ultimately made peace with their conflicting feelings.