Sometimes, an unplanned pregnancy is the most anticipated one of all.

pink pregnancy test and heart
Credit: ramonahaim/

Unplanned Joy

I don't know about you, but every so often when my period is a day or two late, I will take a pregnancy test. The test is negative, and then, like magic, my period arrives soon after. I think it's my head (and heart) hoping for the two pink lines that signal a baby is coming. My husband and I have been on the fence about taking such a step again. It was on one of these days that I was visiting my therapist. (That sounds so big-city, but I see her in the remodeled smokehouse of a farm outside Nashville that is owned by Garth Brooks' former manager. If that isn't living in Nashville, I don't know what is!)

We were discussing my thoughts about another baby and all the scary stuff associated with it: turning 40, money, work, and all the other usual concerns. Later, I drove to the grocery store to pick up some Benedryl for my very itchy dog, but also to pick up a pregnancy test.

My husband and I work from home, so as I passed him in the kitchen, I said a casual hello before heading up the stairs and into our bathroom. I fully expected to have a big negative and get on with the day and my menstrual cycle. Instead -- almost immediately -- there they were! TWO PINK LINES! To say the shaking and tears signaled shock on my part underestimates how my body felt -- still poised on the toilet and staring at the test in disbelief.

I had thought that if I did get pregnant again, I would tell my husband in some cutesy way -- send him a letter, do a treasure hunt. But it was all I could do to pull my pants up and stumble down the stairs clutching the test, screeching "Oh my God! Oh my God!"

There he was, wide-eyed behind the kitchen island, probably thinking I was overreacting to some nominal piece of information. Then I did it. I held up the stick. You could have knocked him over with, well, a pregnancy test!

An Elated Family

Now I can hear you saying to me, if you have sex and don't use protection, these things can happen. This is how babies are made. My response to that is yes, of course, but with the first two we had to use fertility medication, and with my AMA (advanced maternal age -- anyone over 35 having a baby will recognize this) along with my husband's APA (don't know if that is a real abbreviation or not), we didn't think it could happen. No, we weren't trying to prevent it, but in our many years of not using birth get the picture.

We hugged, cried, and talked about how having another child must not have been our decision to make after all. My husband was relieved for that reason alone, as was I -- we had received a great gift. Yes, there was fear and worry for all the reasons listed above, but oh my God -- a baby!

I had always marveled at people who just "turned up" pregnant after we had to work at it. Yet statistics show that half of all pregnancies are unplanned. In our moment of baby truth, it was thrilling to face the same surprise as so many others. And I'm thankful that our family can welcome this baby, when so many surprise pregnancies do not result in such immediate happiness.

I tried to return to my daily chores, but an hour later I took a tape measure to our guest room to see if both the crib and queen-size bed could fit. If we could just tuck the crib against the wall and use the bed as a changing station, we could keep the best of both rooms. Well, maybe we'd give the walls a new coat of paint. And find a different duvet cover. And a lamp.

We did tell my mother and aunt in a cutesy way. We had them over and presented them with a cake that read "Happy Birthday March 2004." They stared at it, and then finally my aunt yelled "I GET IT!" Then we explained it to Mom.

And so our third pregnancy began. Not quite the same as the others when our heads were prepared, but almost sweeter, somehow, because it dropped out of the blue just when we probably needed it to. With all the unhappiness in the world, what a wonderful reason to smile! Our heads might not be prepared, but our hearts are already there.

Baby Annabelle was born last February.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, September 2004.

American Baby