Two and a half years after Deacon was born, after praying and hoping and waiting for peace about the future of our family, that’s what I had decided. Though we still hoped for a fourth child, we had grown excited and passionate about our plan to (eventually) adopt an older child.
I had let go, had accepted that I would never again rejoice over the miraculous, horses’ hooves sound of a prenatal heartbeat, never feel a child move within me again, never again feel the high of childbirth, never witness the precious first meeting of new siblings again, never nurse another newborn to sleep, feeling like the only two people awake in the world. Because I had caught glimpses of the next stage for our family, and they excited me.
So, twenty months after giving our swing and baby girl clothes to our new niece, ten months after giving our crib, changing table and practically everything else to our new nephew, five months after deciding we were done with babies, and one day after returning from a weekend trip to a new city as a family of five in which we stayed in a cool, downtown apartment, ate out and visited museums successfully and with joy, I stood in the bathroom staring in disbelief at a positive pregnancy test.
No. This just couldn’t be. This wasn’t in the plan.
I jammed the test in a drawer and continued making dinner, fed my three kids, and waited for Daniel to come home. We tackled bedtime together, and then I sat on the couch staring into the distance.
“Are you okay?” Daniel asked.
“No.” I admitted, starting to cry.
I cried for a shocking sixth pregnancy ten years after my first one, for the feeling that I was too old to do it all again. I cried for the peace I had finally made with my body. I cried for the space and opportunity to find myself that felt like it was slipping through my fingers. I cried for my baby, who surely deserves a mother whose first reaction to his or her impending arrival isn’t despair. I cried for my friends who have struggled for years to conceive, to carry a baby to term or to celebrate their baby’s first steps or birthday; I cried with grief for them and in shame that I would be blessed with a child I hadn’t even wanted. The news of this pregnancy felt like a heavy weight; I mourned for the loss of what I thought was next for our family, for my marriage, for myself.
I felt guilty about all of this, but I fought hard against that feeling. Because, the truth is, I had to mourn those things first. Shaming myself out of those feelings wouldn't make them go away, wouldn't hurry my acceptance. I had to acknowledge and mourn what felt like loss before I could accept and embrace this unexpected addition.
Maybe most importantly, I reached out to three friends who had been in my exact predicament. They were empathetic and gentle, patient and kind. They gave me wise advice, telling me to pour my heart out to my God, to journal, to allow myself to feel all the feelings, and to find safe places to talk about them. One friend advised me to sit—uncomfortably if necessary—with the knowledge that hope may take her time getting to me, but that she would definitely come.
Hope will come, she had said. I wriggled under the discomfort of how intimate those words felt, from what pain they must have been borne.
Daniel and I handled the news differently in those first weeks, both of us grateful for friends who let us process without fear or shame. But still, feeling so disconnected during such a pivotal time for our marriage and family disoriented me.
I needed some time, before people started learning of my pregnancy and giving me the side-eye, asking whether I “knew how that happens,” before strangers in the grocery store started asking about my family planning methods, or whether my kids were “all mine” and “all from the same father.” So, I told a few friends but held the news close to my heart, where I could protect it and try to accept it.
This baby intrigues me. More than even with the other three, I feel fully confident that this baby is meant for our family. Just as he or she is, no matter what. No amount of planning on our part could have brought him or her to us or kept him or her away. It is a disruption of the scariest—but also most exciting—kind. I can’t wait to learn who we needed so badly that our life needed to be upended. I can’t wait to know who we would have missed out on if things had gone according to our blessed plans. This baby is already teaching us so much.
So, now we map out the shuffling of space to make room for one more, thankful to have the space to shuffle. We gratefully source and accept lovingly used and offered baby essentials, knowing— this time more than ever—that babies don’t need that many things; they just need love. And, imperfect as we five are, we’ve got that in spades. Even though I fear how I will manage it all, how I will give everybody what they need, and how I will manage to find what I need in the margins, I watch my growing belly with anticipation, excited to welcome our newest family member. I look around at our loving marriage, our growing children, our mostly happy home. And I feel overwhelmed by the privilege of bringing one more child into the fold this summer. No, we didn’t want another baby. But maybe we needed one.