As I ponder how often Planned Parenthood is in the news these days, I remembered back to a season in my life when I experienced an unplanned pregnancy. It is amazing how time can delude our memory.
It was 1988, I was 26 years old, married with 3 small children. My youngest child was only 13 months old when I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant. Her twin brothers were 5 years old. I had only recently introduced solid food to my baby daughter as my plan was to solely offer breastmilk for the first 12 months of her life. My menstrual cycle had not even resumed before finding out I was pregnant again for the third time.
My first pregnancy was with fraternal twins. I never planned on starting my family with two babies at once. I nursed them until they were 22 months old. I nursed my daughter until she was 26 months old. Those were beautiful, serene and very purposeful days...though most days didn't go as planned.
Not only was I tasked with caring for 3 young children, but my husband had just transitioned as a Captain in the United States Army to the Ministry, a Children's Pastor of a young upstart congregation in the rural south. To say the least, my volunteer opportunities were cut out for me. My husband held the title of Children's Pastor and Youth Pastor and went off to the church office Tuesday - Sunday while I took on the role of the Nursery Director. Those were challenging, exhausting very exciting days...though most days didn't go as planned.
So, to say that I felt good about my parenting plans when I found out I was pregnant again would not be truthful. I didn't feel good about being newly pregnant, in fact, I felt quite overwhelmed. This parenting gig was all too familiar with excessive exhaustion. Just because I was the second oldest of 8 children didn't mean I had a desire to have a large family as my family of origin. I wonder if my mother planned her parenting of 8 children? I need to ask her. I can testify to her mothering as very nurturing and always present to my needs...and the rest of my siblings,19 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.
I remember distinctly not wanting to be pregnant, not wanting another baby at that time and space in my family. I hadn't planned it that way, we hadn't planned it that way. My plans were to have my next baby 3 years apart from my baby daughter, just as her brothers and she were. Our plans didn't seem to play out as we had hoped. Now it appeared that my 3rd and 4th children would be just under 2 years apart. I didn't feel feelings of excitement. When I shared our presumably good news I felt conficted. Shouldn't the announcement of a new baby always exude good news?
To be fair, I need to mention that I was not experiencing poverty, single parenting, or lack in any way. My young family had it good, very good compared to many young families around me. I remember feeling a bit guilty about experiencing an unplanned, or can I admit a crisis pregnancy? The crisis was that I was caught off guard, I wasn't ready for another child. I didn't feel ready. This wasn't my plan. This wasn't how I planned my parenting. But I can say now, 34 years later, that I wouldn't have it any other way.
Whoever said you could experience planned parenthood either never had children of their own or they had an agenda.
I wish I could say that my pregancy ended just as I imagined or planned from that point forward. I miscarried my baby at 8 weeks gestation. My 3rd pregnancy ended as soon as it began, it seemed. When we shared this with family and friends many cried. I didn't. I actually didn't feel much at all, kinda numb actually. I imagined I would feel grief for the loss of my child, but I didn't. What I felt more than anything was a relief...like a deep breath of relief. Now I could get back to my parenting plans! My husband and I were intentional about planning our next baby and so utilized birth control. Yet, I became pregnant again 5 months later. Whoops! The funny thing about planned parenting is that it rarely turns out as we plan.
Samuel was born 9 months later, 2.5 years apart from his big sister. Looking back, would I change the outcome of my parenting? It is an inappropriate question to ask now. I can only look back over the precious moments, days and years of parenting 4 beautiful children and smile...big. These unplanned pregnancies were the fertile ground for more gifts...6 amazing grandchildren. This was the plan all along...family. We don't get to plan our parenting...we get to plan how we will parent our little family, as messy and unplanned as it is. Enjoy your family! This seems like a good plan to me. #unplannedparenthood
I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
~ Jeremiah 29:11 The Message (MSG)