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On Getting What You Didn’t Expect

Expectations are tricky, aren’t they? Many are unspoken, or perhaps we’re even unaware of them until something changes, and we find ourselves getting something we didn’t expect or not getting something we did expect. 

Either of these situations can hold disappointment and hurt. I tend to keep my expectations low because of this. High hopes are hard to live up to. I have to force myself to dream big–I’m more likely to set the bar low enough to easily vault over it. It feels softer on my ego and heart to simply plan for, if not the worst, certainly not the best scenario. Always be prepared. 

photo of a newborn romper, yellow with white daisies, a giraffe teether and sonogram image on a baby blanket. Text reads "on getting what you didn't expect."

But then, there is always the unpredictability of getting something we didn’t expect. We can’t plan for it because it’s, well, unexpected. When I was 18, a semi-truck slammed into the side of the car I was driving. I wasn’t expecting it, neither was my sister, who was sitting in the passenger seat and had to be airlifted to the hospital. 

A month later, during my first week of college I found myself sitting in English 101 and picking a shard of window glass out of my head– it had taken weeks to finally work its way free. “How odd to have just done that” I thought as I carefully placed it on my desk where it waited till the end of class to be dropped unceremoniously in a trash can. My sister was fine (miraculously so), and so was I (save for a few random glass appearances*). 

Getting something we didn’t expect can be traumatic–like the accident or diagnosis or affair or job loss or hitting every red light on the way to work. But sometimes we can get something we didn’t expect–and it’s good–like a hand written card in the mail or winning the lottery or getting a bonus or a bouquet of tulips after a long day of momming. 

This November, I got something I didn’t expect. And I’ve held that little something close because some days I would wake up convinced it was good–and a lot more days I wasn’t so sure. 

It’s a baby.

Mom in pink tank top holds up an ultrasound image strip while dad and three excited kids look surprised and joyful

I was semi-certain I was in perimenopause (perhaps from my 2 year ordeal with an autoimmune disease and the intense drugs I was on that led to it’s remission). The two lines staring back at me from a pregnancy test said differently. I felt shocked. Spun ajar like I did the day the semi crashed into me. I felt like I didn’t want a baby. I had my babies; they were great. Now they were great kids who dressed themselves, brushed their own teeth (mostly), slept through the night, and even got most of the throw up in the toilet. 

I felt guilty. For not wanting something good. For the friends I knew who would love to be pregnant. For the ones who have miscarried. For the ones waiting to get married and are seeing the possibility of future children growing dimmer. 

For me, getting pregnant is easy. Being pregnant is difficult.  

I won’t bore you with a list of the hardships of pregnancy for me in particular, nor with a general list of the overwhelming ways labor and delivery can go wrong, nor the mental/emotional/physical havoc of the postpartum period. It’s arduous on a good day. 

“But well worth it,” I know you want to jump to supply. Well sure. In hindsight–but this experience isn’t hindsight yet. It’s like getting a free doughnut, but you didn’t want a doughnut; you wanted a cup of coffee (and to sleep through the night). Or you just didn’t feel like a doughnut. You’ve had enough doughnuts, and you’re not sure where to put another one.**

So I’ve sat with this for a while. Feeling all the feelings with myself, my husband, and those closest to me. It feels enormously fragile to say, “here we are–and we aren’t overjoyed yet.” We know we will be, but we aren’t rushing our feelings anywhere.

Like a slow sunrise waking up the horizon, our eyes are growing more accustomed to a future different from what we envisioned.***

We’re willing to see our plans exceeded by God’s unexpected ones. And we’re holding much grace for ourselves and for all who find themselves in the plot twists of the unexpected. 

A pregnant woman (that's me!) in a pink tank top and black sweater and a man in a floral patterned shirt lean together on a beach in michigan with smiling faces.

*Years later, I read the book The Body Keeps Score and realized past me was indeed not-fine post accident. But instead of recognizing it, 18 year old me tucked that uncontrolled trauma down deep inside where it went to live with all the other uncontrollable things in my life until I got to slowly unpack them in therapy. Fun!

** This is a metaphor. I’m pregnant. I definitely want a doughnut. Preferably a Rise ’n’ Roll bakery classic. 🙌🏼

*** Coincidentally (insert God winking here), I’ve been preparing a Bible study the last few months on God’s faithfulness. Soaking in that truth through verses, songs, and Bible stories has undergirded my angst and emotions with reminder after reminder that God holds, cares, and is trustworthy with every piece of my life and family

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  1. The plot twists of the unexpected. Familiar territory indeed. Thanks for your transparency in sharing your “growing into” journey. May joy grow your faith and strengthen your resolve to trust deeper, hope stronger, love beyond love.

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