I Didn’t Plan On Being Pregnant And Unmarried, But Here We Are

by Nancy Patterson
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Nancy Patterson

There are two things that take exactly three and a half minutes to cook: Kraft Easy Mac and a pregnancy test.

Being a fairly efficient lady, I figured I could execute both at once; I’d enjoy my tasty cheesy noodles following the assurance that my period was on her way. I don’t want to give away the ending but the test was positive and I found the fully-cooked Easy Mac cup in a tupperware drawer three days later.

Shame. Insecurity. Guilt. Embarrassment. These are some emotions that many of us mamas feel when we divulge this social taboo: my child wasn’t planned.

Courtesy of Nancy Patterson

Being a first-time mom-to-be, I wasn’t prepared for the intrusive line of questioning I would be subjected to after announcing our impending bundle of joy. I couldn’t even tally the number of people who asked me such nosy questions:

“Was this on purpose?”

“Weren’t you on birth control?”

“What are you going to do?”

After answering these questions, I thought — does it create validation for my child’s existence? Is my pregnancy somehow ratified? Or are they curious if he slipped one past the goalie? As far as I was concerned, the intentions behind my recent fertilization were none of anyone’s bleeping business.

Courtesy of Nancy Patterson

For those of you who don’t know, we are not married. We didn’t have plans to get married prior to learning that we were going to be parents and we didn’t make plans to do so after. James and I had reconnected one year prior, after a two-year split, which was preceded by a three-year relationship. Yet, I felt the need to defend my pregnancy by reiterating things like:

“We probably would have done it sooner or later” and “When it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be”

I’m screaming at my then-pregnant self to stop. Why was I feeling the need for everyone’s approval on my decision to have a baby? To become a mom? It was unfair to my unborn baby girl to have to legitimize her existence.

She’s knocked-up

I’ll admit, I felt a little silly referring to the father of my unborn child as my “boyfriend.” I hated the reflex glances at my naked left ring finger from acquaintances and strangers after they noticed my bump. At times, I felt sad that I wouldn’t share the same last name that would link my daughter and her father. There was a part of me that felt like another statistic; I was conceived in an out-of-wedlock relationship (although my mom will reiterate that they were “planning to get married”) and am the product of divorced parents. I had to get past the shameful feeling of bringing my daughter into a relationship that lacked the foundation of marriage.

While most of our family members and several friends were supportive of and elated over my pregnancy, I was still subjected to comments about out-of-wedlock-born babies — marriage and babies are not mutually exclusive. People around me made comments about women who “got knocked up” or men who “got” their partners pregnant in reference to unwed couples. I’d like to take a moment of silence to acknowledge all of the wives out there who were able to bear their husbands’ children without him “getting her pregnant.”

{Inserts awkward, but short, silence}

We assume that married couples plan out ovulation dates and projected due dates, start college funds, fill out private school applications, budget for the nursery (trust me, you’ll need one) and childcare arrangements before having their own children. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. I have several unmarried friends who’ve chosen to have a baby before marriage for reasons varying from the rising (and criminal) costs of hosting a wedding to aging ovaries.

Courtesy of Nancy Patterson

Statistically, nearly 45% of all pregnancies are “unintended.” Demographics do play a role in this number, but it exemplifies that so many of us were not a exactly scheduled to arrive when we did. But the point is that… it doesn’t fucking matter.

Can you say –– defense mechanism?

Over the past decade, I went through a wide range of emotion about having children. At times, I wanted nothing more than to quit my job and raise 10 babies; I dreamt of early mornings, making lunches and after-school crafting. My 20-minute commute became dreadful as I obsessed over the baby that wasn’t growing in my belly. On the other hand, there were times I couldn’t fathom sacrificing a disposable income, leisurely weekends and spontaneous travel; sending my dog to doggy daycare for the week was about as much “daycare” as I was capable of handling.

When life hands you… a pee stick

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Some of the best parents I know never planned to become one. I’m not saying that anyone should rely on a baby to change them, but I do know several people who found purpose in parenthood and discovered the better parts of themselves in the process. It doesn’t matter how, when or why our babies got here — what matters is how we show up as mothers and fathers.

At the time we found out that we were going to be parents, I was living in Oregon, flying to California twice a month for clients and living my dream life of work/leisure balance. James was recovering from an extensive knee surgery that would require six months of rehabilitation and recovery. I was ecstatic at the idea of becoming a mom, but had no clue how I could make this work out in “real life.”

James was in shock for months; I threw a wrench into the equation when I surprised him one night with a gender reveal cupcake that would confirm we were not only having a ‘baby,’ but a daughter. He walked around aimlessly and zombie-like repeating things like “oh God, periods,” “PMS,” and “oh no, a mini-you,” thanks. I’d touch more on how he would later fall in love with this 6-pound baby girl the moment she emerged from my body, but I think the photo takes care of that.

Courtesy of Nancy Patterson

A part of me felt it was unnecessary to touch on this subject; I haven’t heard a lot of women discuss their feelings surrounding assumptions about their pregnancies. But anyone who is a mom, particularly, has assuredly experienced some form of this judgment. Whether you’re a young mom, single mom, older mom, not in a relationship with the dad or even unsure of the paternity of your child, that baby is a miracle. We made, grew, sacrificed our bodies for, and birthed these little humans who have made us all mothers.

To the mamas and the papas who continue to show up to their best ability, this one’s for you.

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