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Unexpected Gifts :: Learning to Cope During the First Trimester of an Unplanned Pregnancy

She Was Right

Lord help us, was I moody that day. As expected I felt in full flow and even gave my tracking app the finger when it notified me that my period would be starting soon. The cramping came full force, so I took my place on the couch with my 20-year-old friend, the heating pad. My first born snuggled with me and gave me some extra love. And then she pointed to my stomach and said something that changed everything, “you have a baby in your belly.”

In the moment I dismissed her. I said, “oh, no, sweetheart. Mommy is just gaining weight,” as I often blot out during this time of my cycle. But then I never bled. I opened my tracking calendar over and over again expecting the dates to somehow change. It seemed impossible, but my heart knew that life finds a way. I told my husband what our first born had said and that I was now a week late and his response was, “do we even need to take a pregnancy test?” Our hearts said no, but our heads needed to see it.

I peed on the stick, set a timer, anxiously waited and then there it was. After already going through this twice, I saw the clearest plus sign I had ever seen before. And I burst into tears. My husband held me as I cried out the words, “I can’t do this. I’m so scared.”

We Had a Plan

I remember a time when our second born was still new. I held her tiny body close to mine as I one-handed cleaned the kitchen and I remember warning my husband that there may still be a twinkle in my eye. He smiled. But then that twinkle was fully extinguished months later by floods of expenses, stress, anxiety, reality, isolation and poor health.

We had come to the conclusion that just replacing ourselves in the world was enough. That there was no way we could bring another life into this crazy, beautiful mess without sacrificing the quality of life of our two daughters and ourselves. I felt like even after two years, my body was still recovering from breastfeeding and sleep deprivation from the hard baby our second born challenged us with. I only had two hands; I was at my max for safety reasons. I felt lost as a stay at home mom and was desperately missing my career. With only a few years in the future we’d have both girls in school, we started to make a plan for a different life: A very sustainable, secure, fulfilling, loving and kind life.

I started to slowly give away all our baby gear as I saw need in our community. I had an amazingly fulfilling experience giving away my maternity and nursing clothes and volunteering at a Maternity Resource Fair organized by Stork Support of Northern Colorado and Homeward Alliance. I felt like we were on the right path. I even let myself boundlessly dream about what my next career could be. Maybe I could go back to school? Could I be a cop? What about an esthetician? A teacher? Do I want to get back into journalism? I am going to finally finish my novel!

I was fueled by the possibilities of this life! I started to feel like myself again and made self-care and improvement practices a priority. Certain things that seemed impossible as a mother of young children all of a sudden became easier. But then the gas tank was drained and all that was left was fear and doubt.

Learning to Cope

I haven’t just been learning to cope with an unplanned pregnancy; I was also poorly prepared for this first trimester. For a full two months I’ve been chronically ill, unable to fully function as a mom, partner, friend or even take care of myself. At times I’ve fallen into the depths of despair, disbelief, anger, shame, judgment.

But if these 36 years have taught me anything, it’s that everything works out when you trust.

So, every time I found myself at the bottom, I didn’t push myself to climb rather I took it as a reminder to be still and listen. Physically that was all I could do, but mentally I had to quiet the racing emotions and endless thoughts. What I heard, what I felt, what I was given was these many unexpected gifts that I share with you in hopes that they may become as useful to you in times of unplanned life events as they have for me.

Always Assume Positive Intent

This is almost decade-old advice I received from a sage of a boss during my career in NY on how to deal with work conflicts, but it has proven to be one of those life lessons that I’ve applied to all relationships.

I had to and wanted to let certain people in my life know that I was pregnant, even though I hadn’t fully processed it myself and am still waiting anxiously to hear that heartbeat. Some in my circle just figured it out because moms know, you know. Everyone had their own reactions, naturally, some were not always helpful and left me feeling ashamed, misunderstood and even more alone. But I could quiet these feelings with the truth that everyone’s intentions were positive. No one meant me harm, only to encourage and congratulate. This is one assumption that I learned was more than worth making, especially in times of needing support.

More Time Surrendering, Less Time Fixing

I don’t think that I’m alone in wanting to fix things right away that look and feel broken. I wanted to fix my body. I wanted to fix my marriage. I wanted to fix my friendships. I wanted fix our finances. I even tried to launch a new career, dry heaving while I applied for a dream job. But the truth is none of this in my life needed fixing, they weren’t broke. Different, changed, challenged? Yes. The feeling of them being broken was really just the reality that they needed attention, which can be scary to face. So, I surrendered to the unknown and gave my attention where my energy led me. I wasn’t a match for the dream job I applied to, but I now have an updated resume and a pretty clever cover letter that will surely come in handy in the future. My husband and I may have had more arguments than we’ve had in the past, but we’ve uncovered some pretty meaningful parts of ourselves that has strengthened our marriage. The more time I’ve spent surrendering to the moment, the more small wins I’ve gotten to celebrate that have added to my strength.

Let It Go and Find Gratitude

Yes, this inspired by the movie Frozen, which has been playing on repeat these days with sisters and unlimited movie days. I had to let go of the housework. I had to let go of a lot of guilt. I had to let go of the expectations that what I wanted for my life was going to happen in a matter of two years. More comes from what you let go than what you hold onto. You get what you give. Simple, small acts became huge game-changers in my day. When I felt overwhelmed by all that was outside of my control, I’d do one small thing that had nothing to do with my concerns, such as messaging a friend I hadn’t talked to in a while that I was thinking of them. All of a sudden what I was trying to hold onto became less important compared to the amount of gratitude I had.

Love Courageously and Accept

I had an experience while listening to a Tara Brach meditation on “Everything Belongs.” When she asked me to set the intention for the practice, I said out loud, “Acceptance.” Within the 20 minutes of this guided meditation I found great peace in the truth that this baby in my belly belonged. That no matter what happened or how our life would change, the most important thing would always be love. There is no courage without fear and I had so many fears, but love and acceptance made me more than brave.

I don’t know how the rest of this pregnancy will go. Another gift I feel I was given was to just be happy for each day. Future goals and plans are important, but they are nothing if you are not open to what life has to give you.

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