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by Aja Dorsey Jackson

Last summer my husband and I had the rest of our lives mapped out. Our kids are ages five and 14, an age range that means it will be quite some time before we are footloose and kid-free. But while we continue to relish their childhood, we are also happy to be well past the point of baby bottles and potty training. We have entered the blissful stage with our youngest where he still has all of his preschool adorableness, but can do the things that make our lives easier, like put on his own clothes and turn on the TV alone. We can enjoy nights out as a couple and go to restaurants as a family without having to worry about diaper changes and tears. We’re done with daycare. Last summer, I started to focus more on my freelance writing career. I began making plans to start graduate school.

We knew our family was complete, and started saving and planning to enjoy that completion.

And then came the test. Two lines on a dollar store pregnancy test that completely shook up the future we dreamed of.

When I found out I was pregnant, and told friends and family, it wasn’t with the giddy excitement that I had experienced five years earlier. It was with the same fear that I had as a college student almost 15 years ago.

 “What the hell am I going to do with another baby?”

“Well, you’re married!” was the common response to my trepidation. A select few understood the source of my worry, but for the most part, people assumed that having a husband should make all of my fears about the future go away.  But an unplanned pregnancy doesn’t become something different just because we’ll all share the same last name.

Being married doesn’t change the fact that I still have to make decisions regarding my career. I work a full-time, fast-paced job that I enjoy. I am an author and freelance writer outside of that. I had plans to go back to school in the near future. Being married hasn’t shut down that little nagging voice in my head. As a working mother of three, can I do it all?

Being married doesn’t change the fact that we have real financial concerns about the future. Right now, with kids’ tuitions and sending one child to college in a few years, our budget is snug, but manageable. Throw in a daycare bill and a manageable budget turns into an impossible one.  We have to make decisions about our lifestyle, and they won’t all be easy.

Being married doesn’t change the fact that we are still grappling with a drastic change in life plan. Maybe for some married couples, like the Duggars, marriage means you have sex and the babies come when they do. That isn’t the life we planned. I know that our new baby is an unexpected blessing. I am grateful for the opportunity to bring life into the world and fall madly in love with another human being again. But beside the joy is also the sense of loss that comes with knowing that the vision that we had for our future has been forever changed.

As a married woman, my unplanned pregnancy doesn’t carry the same weight or stigma as it did when I was a scared college freshman with no marriage, no money, just a lot of love in my heart. I don’t have the struggle of being faced with having to do this all alone. What being married does is give me the support of someone else, in my home, going through the same things with me at the same time, while working toward our shared vision for the future. Being married might make an unplanned pregnancy more manageable. But it certainly doesn’t make it easy.

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