According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 49% of pregnancies are unplanned, half of them involving women in their 20s and 30s. Jezebel blogger Tracy Moore was one of these women who was unexpectedly pregnant and without any clue as to what she should be doing.
At 33, Tracy was thrown for a loop when she found she had to give up cigarettes and deli meat in order to ensure the health of her bundle of joy, her bun in the oven. Having found no honest account of what it was like to face an unplanned pregnancy, Tracy decided to pen her own experiences about diving headfirst into motherhood in a collection of humorous essays called, Oops! How to Rock the Mother of All Surprises: A Positive Guide to Your Unexpected Pregnancy.
We asked the writer some questions about her unexpected pregnancy and new book, which she was kind enough to answer.
JBF: When a Pregnancy is unplanned, do you think a woman is more likely to view it negatively?
Tracy: Certainly. If you’re not expecting a pregnancy, it seems more likely that you could be blindsided by the experience in ways that are more emotional all around. However, I’ve read enough about women who plan pregnancies and are delighted by the positive test, only to experience a tumultuous nine months due to hormones or unexpected emotions, to know that, if anything, pregnancy is a highly individual (and unpredictable) experience, regardless of how much planning goes into it.
JBF: Do you think any woman feels pregnancy is the best time of her life?
Tracy: I think some women really do love being pregnant, and those women are probably aliens. No really, there is a kind of serene self-containment that can come with the experience, and women who have lots of babies often remark that they really enjoy the pampering and physical experience of growing a child. Unfortunately, that becomes the prevailing image. Sometimes, you see the miserable pregnant woman, but it’s typically more physical depictions of gas or hormones. Rarely do you see a combination of the two: Being happy and excited but blindsided and scared, and I felt all those things all the time. And I know a lot of women do.
JBF: Why did you decide to write this book?
Tracy: Mostly, because I couldn’t find a book that examined my feelings. Unplanned pregnancy books are typically religious — which is fine, just not for me — and as such, focus on the miracle of the pregnancy or the spiritual aspects of why you chose to procreate. I’m adamantly pro-choice, but I wanted to continue this pregnancy. I wasn’t emotionally ready for it, but I wanted to be. So I really longed for a book or resources that addressed those intersections, which I think are far more common than we realize. Mostly I just wanted a book that understood how much pregnancy shakes your life up in good ways and bad, and that you can make an intellectual decision to have a baby, but that it doesn’t guarantee you’ll sail right through it without some big bumps. That’s OK, and it doesn’t mean you won’t be a great parent. In fact, I think the more you’re aware of these contradictions, the better parent you’ll be.
JBF: In one sentence, how would you describe your book?
Tracy: A very frank and funny look at rocking an unplanned pregnancy — no holds barred.
JBF: Can you, as accurately as possible, describe all the confusing feelings and emotions you went through while pregnant? How does one get anything done while experiencing such a strange range of emotions?
Tracy: I hadn’t planned on being pregnant, and my husband and I had seen mostly positives in his inability to not have a kid. We’d focus on careers, travel, live it up. When I discovered I was pregnant, I was thrilled — we can have a baby if we want — and terrified — Oh man, I have never done the slightest thing to be ready for a baby. I was happy but really intellectually and emotionally thrown. I think when you “just know” your whole life that being a mother is in the cards, that may frame your life differently. I felt sort of beyond this question. So I suddenly had to reconcile who I was — not a breeder — with who I was about to become — someone totally responsible for another life.
And as the pregnancy continued, I was terrified that I was giving up my autonomy. I was afraid that because I hadn’t planned the pregnancy, that it somehow meant I couldn’t be a good mother, or wasn’t naturally maternal enough, or that I would hate it. I was afraid I didn’t have enough money to raise a baby and that I was jeopardizing her life by bringing her into such a previously careless existence. I was afraid I wouldn’t get it all planned out in time. And, mind you, I was also super excited! I was truly amazed at what my body was doing. And yet, I often felt like a large sea creature of some kind on most days. I felt lucky to be pregnant when I understood how tenuous and difficult becoming pregnant had been for many women my age. But I also felt like I should be on a show called “33 and Pregnant,” replete with journal entries about how bummed I was to miss a really good rock show all my friends were at. The emotions that flooded me were unpredictable, and I felt hijacked (and also extremely turned on in inconvenient situations). I would be marveling at the experience of pregnancy — feeling a kick or seeing an ultrasound, and then also sobbing at how vulnerable I felt for the first time in my life. Then I would be laughing at how ridiculous all that was. It was a roller coaster. No point in sugarcoating. The single weirdest mix of emotions for me, was feeling both utterly vulnerable and incredibly empowered at the same time. It was as if my body knew what I was capable of, but my brain didn’t yet. (And again, women who plan pregnancies also describe a lot of these feelings.) In short, it was really exhausting to be me those nine months.
As for how I was able to get anything done, it was enormously clear in spite of all this blubbering that the most important thing was having a healthy pregnancy and a stable scenario to bring this baby into, no question. In the book, I’m able to really indulge the emotional process of how it felt to be so mixed up. But in my actual life, there was a laser-like focus on the new finish line. Being pregnant made strikingly clear that this time, like no other, was the time one simply rises to the occasion. Anything short of that would just be unfair to everyone involved and ultimately pointless. That incubation period was my nine months to grow up and lean into those feelings and sort myself out in one long wallow. But once I had my daughter, it would be completely about her, as it should be.
JBF: What was it like having to give up cigarettes and deli meat for 9 months?
Tracy: Since having a kid, I have often joked that the easiest way to get your life in order is to just get knocked up on accident. I’m kidding — plan as much as you can! — but even when you do plan, you’ll still be amazed at how clear pregnancy makes the priorities. I honestly cannot foresee when I was going to quit smoking had it not been for this pregnancy, and I’m so grateful. I’m more grateful that I just didn’t want to smoke anymore anyway while pregnant — thank you, morning sickness.
It was much harder to not drink a frosty cold beer or three on a Friday night. Giving up deli meat was even more difficult, because smokes and booze are so clearly bad for a growing baby, but deli meat, that sly vixen, totally looks like an ally. Oddly, even though I gained 60 pounds while pregnant, largely due to my other newfound ally, emotional eating, I was healthier than ever on account of having to cut out all the vices and unhealthy foods. It’s a roundabout way to the cross the finish line proud, but hey, for some of us, that’s exactly the kind of kick in the pants we need.
Thank you, Tracy!