Wednesday, November 5, 2014


I am expecting.

I am not a fan of such public announcements. There is a part of me where I would want to see you in person and tell you myself, or let you notice my expanding belly and comment on that. But there is a large group of people whom I would want to notify, but we do not live in the same city, and we have not seen each other in years, so they would not know unless I tell them.

I can wait till I have the baby, till it's obvious. But there is something else that I need to share.

We have four kids. Somehow, when you have four kids, people feel that it is their business to ask, right off the bat: "So how many more are you having?" In this scenario, and in a frum world, it is not a surprise to be having another one. People expect it, almost, same way as they expect their unstable relative to ruin the holidays, or for a toddler to throw another tantrum. It's easy to roll your eyes, and twist your finger at the temple afterward.

With each one of my kids, we had good fortune of deciding: "Honey, let's have a baby", and then get pregnant right away. (I will throw it in here that I did have one miscarriage, and I am familiar with the painful, dark place which brings up all sorts of feelings of inadequacy.) But this time it was different. This time, I felt like I am already drowning. This time, I was in the midst of figuring out what to do with 8 yo, school-wise. This time, we were using birth control, and no human error occurred. This time, it was: "Honey, we are having a baby. AHHH!" This time, my logical self demanded another pregnancy test, because it was just too weird. I was not supposed to be getting pregnant at this point in the game.

Why am I confessing to having an unplanned pregnancy? Because 50 % of all pregnancies are unplanned, including married people, including families, including people who already have kids. And the feelings that come with an unplanned pregnancy are very different.

We love smirking at unwed mothers; we love feeling superior to teenagers who somehow managed to get pregnant, and more than once. We love feeling that we, as stable married people, know better. We also love that we do not have to fess up if there is an "accident".

Before anyone goes on a rampage about how all life is precious, and all babies are meant to be, I want to share a little experience. When my daughter was born, I had boys out of diapers for months. It felt good not lugging a diaper bag and a change of clothes everywhere I went. We planned for my daughter, we were thrilled to have her, and I knew by that point what taking care of a newborn looked like. Still, having to go back to elaborate packing routine just to get out to the park after not having to do it for a while felt painful. It felt like a setback. It felt that we were almost at that threshold, and then we took a step back. On this day, we made it out to the park. At that park, somehow, the conversation among mothers turned to some poor woman who discovered that she was pregnant, again, at her postpartum visit. The lady telling the story regaled how she was sobbing her eyes out, and the whole block knew. She finished by saying how one just needs to spend some time with women struggling with infertility to realize what a wonderful blessing it is to have another baby so easily.

I was about 6 weeks postpartum, and I remember thinking: if I found myself pregnant at that point, I would probably sob my eyes out, too. It would be a wonderful world where women suffering from infertility would put their energy and mothering emotions into helping other overwhelmed mothers who just need an hour of sleep, of sanity, of peace. Yet it does not work that way. Once you have too many kids (and that number varies by culture and by place), people look at you and expect you to solve this puzzle all on your own. And those women struggling to conceive will not help out, they will just look at you with jealousy or anger, since you have it so easy.

So let's quit pretending that only unwed mothers end up with unplanned pregnancies. And let's validate emotions of women who do find themselves accidentally pregnant, no matter what are their circumstances.

As for me, I am still taking time processing how this will affect our life. I know exactly what it's like to have two kids two years apart. I also know that it takes about 18 months postpartum to reach the point of trying to plan anything in life which is not directly tied to the baby. It takes another 18 months till those plans can be achieved. The youngest has to be about 3 for a mommy to get her energy and life back. I am recognizing that after my headstrong and curious 1 yo I will not get that space, I will sail straight into another postpartum. I am just getting a smidgen of those grand ideas going now, and I know that all of those will need to be on hold for another 3 years or so. I am making peace with that.

The story of my life is learning to let go of being in control, and being forced to take the journey wherever it might lead me. I often think that I internalized that lesson. Yet, time and again, I find out that I did not absorb it enough. Having an unplanned baby is the ultimate surrender of control.
Unplanned, yet wanted.
Unplanned, yet the kids are overflowing with joy at the news of another sibling.
Unplanned, yet teaching me already some valuable lessons.

The road less traveled... made all the difference.


  1. Your honesty is wonderful and refreshing. Hashem couldn't have picked a more wonderful mama (or family) for this little neshama. I had 2 more (not by surprise, by remarriage) when my older 2 were 9 and 10. They were out of diapers for YEARS when I took that huge step backwards.
    But I saw it as an opportunity Hashem was handing me to do things differently this time around - to reinvent myself. We breastfed, cloth diapered, homeschooled and eventually moved to Israel. I am so, so grateful for this chance to change my life so completely.
    (But you are so right about the time it takes to get back to normal... 18 months? You're lucky!)

  2. I love your candor. I have always said that no one can decide what is right for another and every woman knows what she can handle in terms of kids. I've seen people where one kid was too much and I've seen people who make 9 look like a breeze. The ultimate challenge of motherhood is the constant sacrifice of your wants and desires, but not your needs, for your children's. You have a healthy balance and I am confident you will regain this balance with your new addition in time. You are already showing what a wonderful mother you are by your understanding of how your wishes will be on hold for a bit longer: that is strength and sensitivity. You are an incredible woman and I am proud to call you my friend.

  3. Oy Go you! I will daven for an easy pregnancy and birth. I know it's challenging, (actually I really don't, I have two boys KAH), but you will be fine with Hashem's help.

  4. Ilana, you are so amazing! I remember you so often as an inspiring example. The most wonderful thing to me is how you learn from your experience and view life challenges in a much deeper perspective then most people do.

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  6. All I can say, is try and get some help....I have seen SSOO often that women put the needs of their families before ALL of their own, to the detriment of everyone!
    Ideas: share errands/babysitting with another neighbor, etc. I once had a neighbor that we made a pact: we could ask the other to watch our child(ren) while we did XYZ (usually short errands, in which the time needed to pack up the kid to go out just was tremendous compared to the time the errand took).... BUT the other would be HONEST if it was not convenient. Since the other was honest, we were not afarid to ask, and it worked beautifully. Or ask a neighbor if you can give them your macolet list each evening, and in the AM they can (when they go to the grocery bright and early) give it to the grocer, who will pack it up and deliver to you. If you will be nursing, use that time to give some nice one-on-one time (stories) with your toddler.
    All that said, being honest that it is an unpleasant surprise is no crime.