Would You Tell Your Child If They Were An “Oops Baby”?
If for some reason you’re unfamiliar with the term “oops baby” it’s an ill-mannered way of referring to an unplanned pregnancy…and I’ve always hated the term. Creating a life isn’t like dropping your phone on the floor or bumping into a stranger on the train. Just because a pregnancy is unplanned doesn’t mean it isn’t a big deal, but whether you like referring to your child as a Britney Spears’ lyric or just being honest about the fact that motherhood wasn’t the goal that night, does it really matter in the grand scheme of parenting whether you were planning a pregnancy or not? Furthermore, when your child inevitably comes to you with the, “How did I get here question?” What will you say?
I remember feeling a small sense of pride when my mother told me that she and my father specifically wanted to give my older sister a sibling so she didn’t have to face the world alone. “We felt like if anything ever happened to us, at least you both had each other,” my mom explained to me sometime around adolescence. I must admit having a sibling has come in handy when it comes to Christmas, birthdays and sending our parents away on vacation. If one sibling forgets the other just signs their name to the gift or card. But as much as I liked having a sibling, on some level it just felt reassuring to know that my parents were more, “Yayy!” then “WTF?” when they saw that pink plus sign and that the most they argued about was paint colors for the nursery and what topping to get on their pizza and not how the hell did this happen. But are all pregnancies that are unplanned unwanted and furthermore should you tell your child when they get older that they weren’t necessarily part of the plan?
It is estimated that approximately fifty percent of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned and my own pregnancy was a part of that fifty percent. I was planning a wedding, not a pregnancy but I know that if I had waited until things were planned and perfectly scheduled, I’d mess around and be 52 and trying to get pregnant. When my mom was a thirty-something in the 80’s she had a stable career, a mortgage and a husband. She was nailing adulthood by today’s standards. For my generation of older millennials, is taking a little longer to get started. Two years ago I wasn’t exactly failing at adulthood. I had a job that I had grown in for about five years, was newly engaged and had managed to get a lot of living under my belt thus far. I had traveled, partied and accomplished many of the things a textbook twenty something should do, but that didn’t mean I felt ready to be someone’s mom. What I’ve learned since then is whether you find yourself casually getting it in with your ex one night and the condom breaks or you have been picking out nursery themes since you first started ovulating I don’t think many woman are ever really “ready for motherhood”. It’s one of those things you get better at once you’re on the job. Was my daughter unplanned? Sho nuff’. Was she unwanted? Honestly that was something I spent a good part of my pregnancy processing. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty about that. Motherhood is not something that necessarily looks or feels great at first; the role can be something you have to “break in” gradually.
But sometimes unplanned pregnancy is more than an oops and more like resentment. In a SheKnows article last year, author Stephanie Land shared her story of what growing up as an “oops baby” felt like. She revealed a story of her mother sitting in an abortion clinic’s parking lot early in the pregnancy weighing her decision and the resentment that grew between her mother and father during her childhood:
“My parents did their best. I grew up oblivious to their dislike for each other.”
“She talked a lot about how she’d wanted to be a flight attendant, and travel the world. Though I never singled myself out as the cause, I knew ‘we’ collectively — my brother, Dad and I — made her unhappy. We were not the life she wanted.”
What Land says hurts so much about the story is not much that her mother didn’t embrace motherhood with open arms, but more so that she revealed the truth to her in the first place.
As transparent and real as I’d like to be with my daughter I also feel like one of my first priorities as a parent is to preserve our childhood. Our children have enough stress, pain and awkward encounters to look forward from adolescence throughout adulthood. They’re not our therapists. They’re not our sound boards. When we choose to have them we choose to sacrifice the right to broadcast our struggles and sometimes that means suffering silently if it means preserving our children’s peace of mind. The honest truth is that not every mother clocks in for the job with energy and enthusiasm. Even the Claire Huxtables of the world have a bit of resentment sometimes. I believe mourning what could have been is a normal part of motherhood but so is embracing what you and your children will become. And honestly sometimes that’s better than what you could have ever imagined.
I think the hardest transition when it comes to new motherhood is making peace with the idea that your life will never quite be the same as it was. That doesn’t mean you don’t want a child but it may mean you don’t want your life to change and that’s OK. Those feelings don’t automatically make you Mommie Dearest. It’s important to me for my daughter to know that before I was her mother I was a woman with flaws, thoughts and feelings, so that when she grows up she has a realistic view of how life, love and relationships work. I don’t want her to be held prisoner by traditional timelines of first come love, then comes marriage. I want her to know you can have a good life and enjoy being a mom even if things don’t go according to plan. And most importantly, I want her to know that empire waist wedding dresses can look amazing even if a small person is sitting on your spleen while you say your vows.
Images via Bigstock
Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.