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Carolyn Hax: Unexpected pregnancy has her mourning her ‘still-single’ life

(Nick Galifianakis/Illustration for The Washington Post)
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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I am pregnant VERY unexpectedly in my 30s with a man I’ve been with for about seven months. After a lot of difficult talks, we’ve decided to go forward with the pregnancy, and I’m now about 13 weeks along. He’s doing his best to come to terms with it, but I’m pretty unhappy. I feel immature, but I’m mourning all these fun plans we had for our lives with each other and my life as a still-single, childless woman.

I’m really struggling with this. Other than taking a prenatal vitamin and skipping alcohol, I haven’t changed my life much. I feel as if I need to be on board, so I can support my partner getting on board. Is this okay, and how do I fix it?

— Pregnant and Bummed

Pregnant and Bummed: It’s totally okay. Really. Every big change is also a big loss, of whatever you had before.

It’s often a loss we don’t grieve much, because we’re excited about what’s coming next, but I think it’s more typical to feel at least some twinge at the goodbye element of a change, such as moving from a well-loved home, leaving colleagues or knowing you’ll never see some of your classmates again. That doesn’t make you “immature.”

Pregnancy is not exempt from these feelings. Even if you planned this, you could face a hard goodbye to your plans, your autonomy, your life as you’ve always known it. It just feels transgressive, like you’re rejecting your child, but you’re not. It’s a typical hard goodbye.

Let yourself feel it instead of trying to push it away. Yes, you will miss your old life! That doesn’t mean you hate your baby. It means you loved your life.

Try applying that love to your future: You could regard your old life as great and Baby as different, and therefore great life + Baby = something no longer great. Or you can choose to see your great life as something you built using your great-life-building skills. So, great life + Baby = something great with Baby.

These are just mental calisthenics, and they can wait until you’re ready. Facing your big change is the real thing happening now. It’s okay to say, “Yikes, that’s big,” and forgive yourself for your unhappy thoughts.

It’s also very, very okay to believe your partner needs to be on board so he can support your getting on board. This is a great time not to sleepwalk into any gender roles. Besides the role of actually growing a baby.

Re: Bummed: When I got pregnant at 34, I loved drinking coffee, reading quietly and traveling to Europe. For me, at least (YMMV), having a baby meant: someone who perked up at the sound of the espresso machine and giggled every single time, someone who loves books as much as I do, and who went on numerous international trips with me. It was so fun that, five years later, we had another child. Babies are a great reason to do the things in your life that you love. They do it with you, on their own terms, and it’s the best.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Or they hate the activity you love — and you adjust by finding other things to share while you save your special activity for your own time. But, yes, you start by introducing a new generation to your old favorites — then you see how it all unfolds. Fascinating regardless.

Other readers’ thoughts:

· My first child was totally planned, but I grieved HARD for my wonderful single-girl life.

· In case a smile will help: I used to have a job that involved traveling the world at my own pace and discretion. When my daughter came along, I shifted my work to be home with her nearly every day. Years later, when she was learning about places in history class, she said: “Paris. Rome. Tokyo. You gave up all those places to stay with me? What were you THINKING, Dad?”

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