If anyone is going to lay out an "oops" pregnancy in a funny way, it's Tina Fey. In the opening pages of her book Bossypants, Fey launches right in about how she was born, writing, "My brother is eight years older than I am. I was a big surprise. A wonderful surprise, my mom would be quick to tell you."
Although she was "fussed over and doted on," how she came to be was not planned. And I can relate to this. My parents never directly referred to me as a happy accident but they weren't secretive about the fact that conception wasn't exactly on the calendar. It never bothered me because many of my friends growing up were born under the same unplanned circumstances. That information was shared, not out of judgment or with eyes rolled as our mothers placed one more plate on the crowded dining room table, but because was what it was.
Times, of course, have changed. My mother also counts herself among the women with conception issues because it took her three months to get pregnant with my brother. Now, lots of women I know have all kinds of ovulation and pregnancy projections plugged into Outlook, and each child is timed (or attempted to be timed) according to precise maternity leave, insurance, income, nanny vacations, daycare openings, and other external measurements. Of course, there are still unplanned pregnancies and some of those become children who would have once been told they too were a "wonderful surprise." It has just been a long, long time (or maybe ever) since I've heard a peer explain to her child nonchalantly, without some kind of unnecessary shame or awkwardness, that he or she was not calculated.
Clearly, children come into our lives in all kinds of ways -- through birth, through adoption, through foster care, through meticulous planning, through accidents, through agonizing decisions about parenthood, through one-night stands, through long-term commitments, through surrogacy, through crisis, through multiples and singles, through fertility treatments and donated sperm, through old-fashioned doing it just at the right time, through heartache and through bliss. But if we decide to be parents, to raise the child with love, to fold them into our family, does it really matter how they got there?
The story of how we came to be is an important one. No matter how accidentally, I made my way into this world, I won't tire of hearing about the sunny day my parents hopped in their Fiat and drove to the hospital to have me. But did I need to know the detail about it being unplanned? Probably not. Hearing it, particularly with calmness and a "no worries" sentiment, however, did serve me well. It taught me that my brother's stubborn conception and my surprise arrival were both valid and happy and important events.
Maybe it is our own emotion -- shame or guilt or failure or worry or miscalculation or whatever -- that we place on accidental pregnancies that translates into how we share them with the child as part of their story. If we're all worked up about it, then I'm guessing we're more likely to want to keep it a secret or explain it to death. But if it is what it is and it all turned out OK, can't we also trust ourselves to convey that in the way our mothers did?
Or is it all a ridiculous detail that no child really needs? Is it too much information for everyone to know whether that sperm was met to collide with that egg and start the journey that eventually became a kid in the family? Again, probably not.
How have you handled it -- either as a child who was a wonderful surprise or as a parent who gave birth to one or both?
Should we be sharing with our children if they began as a planned or accidental pregnancy?
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