accidental happiness

9 Women on their Unplanned Pregnancies

Congratulations! Photo: Steven Puetzer/Getty Images

We tend to imagine our future families coming on the heels of a well-laid plan, but the reality is that plenty of us become parents entirely by accident. In fact, in the United States, an estimated 49 percent of pregnancies are unintended. And while some women inevitably decide not to keep their unplanned pregnancies, many decide to go with the flow — or the lack of flow, as it were. Below, nine women tell us the stories of their unplanned bundles of joy.

1. The Family With a Daughter With Special Needs
“We had two daughters who were 3 and 5. The eldest has Down syndrome, and we do a lot to support her, so though we had toyed with the idea of having a third child, we didn’t think we had the time or energy. We had a huge garage sale to get rid of all of our baby stuff, and two months later … surprise! Pregnant again! We didn’t know how we were going to handle another child, but when she finally arrived, we realized that she was the missing piece to our family puzzle. We were in such a state of shock when our first was born that the entire first year is a blur. When our second was born, her sister was 22 months old but more like a 9-month-old, so that was a big challenge. But when our third daughter came along we were finally able to enjoy all the phases of babyhood and feel a sense of completion to our experience as parents of babies.”

2. The Artist Whose Gin Tasted Wrong
“I discovered I was pregnant one winter evening at a hipster restaurant in downtown L.A. I ordered a gin martini (rocks, olives), then as now my favorite cocktail. That dewy, icy glass arrived looking like the elixir of life itself, but when I took my first grateful sip, I found to my horror that it tasted like Drano on ice. Inexplicably, everyone else thought it was fine. The next morning I realized why: “Slim, I’m pregnant!” I howled. “Ah, you always think that,” he said. We weren’t ready at all, two artists just past 30 running a little business which my husband accurately characterized as ‘a lean-to industry.’ No real money saved. Not the slightest inkling of how to care for a child. When the time came a few months later, I couldn’t believe they’d let someone as ignorant and unprepared as me out of the hospital with an infant. But the funny thing is that it all worked out, somehow or other, resulting in a beautiful 23-year-old woman who is basically my heart on a 3,000-mile-long tether.”

3. The Single Mom Who Couldn’t Bring Herself to Have an Abortion
“I was 31 years old when I found myself accidentally pregnant and panicked. At that time I had a very nice job, traveled three or four times a year, and lived by myself. It was not in my plans to become a mom — ever! After three hours of nonstop crying, I called my doctor to schedule an appointment the very next day. Even though I’m pro-choice, when I heard her heart beating for the first time I fell in love. I didn’t want to get married, so I decided to become a single mom. Her father has been present in my daughter’s life since the beginning. I now consider myself a happy, hardworking independent mom, and I’m still traveling two or three times a year with my daughter and once a year by myself.”

4. The Woman Who Was Using the Rhythm Method
“I know the exact day that I got pregnant because we were doing the rhythm method, and one day I woke up, looked at the app where I was tracking ovulation, and said, ‘Oh, fuck.’ My husband and I had just gotten married, though we’d been together for several years. We debated an abortion but decided against it since we were pretty sure we wanted a baby sometime anyway. We bought a pregnancy test in costume on the way home from a Halloween party and were both floored when it was positive. I hated being thrown into pregnancy: All of these things were suddenly off-limits, my body was the object of much scrutiny, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that there was a baby coming. The first month after she was born was a haze of exhaustion, but eventually I emerged and realized I had this little creature in my life. Parenting is a weird mix of drudgery and magic. It’s changed me, and it hasn’t — my body is certainly different, and I stress less about work and professional things. But I still get glimpses of my former self sometimes, when I go somewhere alone or sit with my husband at the end of the day watching Star Trek and drinking beer.

5. The Woman Who Got Pregnant on the First Date
“I had sex with my husband the day we met. We hadn’t used protection, and I wasn’t on birth control, so the following morning I rushed to take the morning-after pill. I guess I didn’t take it in a timely manner because a couple of months later I took two pregnancy tests and both were positive. Then we went to Planned Parenthood to confirm. I knew immediately that I was not going to terminate the pregnancy, and I made Matt aware of the fact that if he wanted to leave the relationship, now was the time. He stayed, and we moved in together, though the thought of marriage didn’t cross our minds — we were more focused on us getting to know each other. Our parents were worried and skeptical, but they eventually became supportive. A few months after our son was born, I found out that I was pregnant again — this time with twins! Another unplanned pregnancy. We didn’t necessarily want another child so quickly, but we were okay with it. Two more healthy sons, and then in September of 2015, we got married. My tubes are tied, so no more kids for us — though there’s always adoption!”

6. The Couple Who Already Had Three Kids
“We had three beautiful, healthy, potty-trained kids who attended all-day school and were basically self-sufficient. My husband and I had made it through the sleep-deprived survival mode, we still liked each other, and life was looking up. The summer that our youngest daughter was 6, our parents took the kids for a week each — which meant two weeks alone for us. We were able to reconnect, sleep in, and make love. I had had my IUD removed about a week prior, but since I’d had it for five years, the doctor told me it would be almost impossible to get pregnant but, if we did slip, to use the morning-after pill immediately. Of course we slipped, and I followed the doctor’s orders. About three weeks after the kids came home, I felt exhausted, moody, and just not right. I took a pregnancy test just to make sure, and when it was positive, I took another. When I told my husband, his response was, “Call me in 18 years.” We were in shock. I cried for a month. The last thing I wanted at that point in my life was a fourth kid. But we figured we loved each other and our kids and one more wouldn’t make much of a difference. Except it did. He has not only brought me closer to my husband, but he’s taught our other children patience, sacrifice, and tenderness. He is the sweetest, happiest baby, and I honestly don’t know what we would do without him.”

7. The Woman Who Moved to Seattle to Co-parent
“I was living in San Francisco and had some friends visiting who wanted to go out dancing. We went to a club and then to an after-party where I met a very handsome man from Seattle. A few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. I had always planned on having kids, and, as I was already 38, there was no question for me about whether to have the baby. The dad was adamant about being a part of kiddo’s life, so I moved to Seattle shortly thereafter. Our son is turning 1 tomorrow, and he is the most beautiful creature. His dad and I are not together, but we’re life partners. We’ve cultivated a lot of trust and friendship over the past year, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished under very intense circumstances. My son reminds me over and over again to stay present to all the wonders of the world.”

8. The Teenage Stripper Who Eventually Married a Woman
“We were partying with strippers in Miami Beach, but instead of Champagne and stone crabs, the only thing I wanted to put in my body was Tums. When we returned home, I bought a pregnancy test at Rite Aid and used it in a women’s handicapped stall at the mall. I was 19 and dating my boss. I was a stripper; he ran the club. Luckily, I believed waiting for the perfect time is fruitless. As a white, privileged, middle-class stripper, I committed to using my resources to become the best mother and ultimately the best role model I could be. Thank God we moved to a place like San Francisco, where he (strip-club overlord) and I (insecure, young, idealistic, feminist homo) could find our own versions of happiness in a culture that embraces weirdos. It wasn’t easy. Gary had the upper hand and made it really hard for me, and I had to make some hard decisions, like breaking up with him, getting an education while bartending at the strip clubs, and finding a career in fits and starts. But now I’m a happy wife to a happy wife. I had to become the best version of myself, for my daughter and for me, too.”

9. The Woman Who Got Pregnant After a One-Night Stand
“I was 32 years old, living in New York City, with a job I loved. I was generally happy with my life. Over Thanksgiving, I went home and met up with some old friends at a bar. An ex was there, and I guess this was depressing or irritating to me, so that night I ended up sleeping with a guy who was, while not a total stranger, close enough. I won’t say I’ve never done this before, but it was rare for me. It did not occur to me that I might be pregnant until a full two months later. I tracked down the one-night-stand, and we agreed that, for now, it didn’t make sense for him to be in the baby’s life. We’re happy for now, just the two of us. My daughter has brought me so much closer to my parents and siblings, and she is amazing. I feel lucky to have her all to myself, honestly.”