Planned or Unplanned, Children Ended Up Delighting These Parents

Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

When Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the line about the plans of mice and men, he was not talking specifically about parents. But their best-laid plans have a way of going astray too. Sometimes that's how they become parents in the first place.

We asked Family Life readers to tell us whether their children arrived according to plan or on a schedule all their own, and how they feel about it now.

For Margie Fites and Joel Seigle of Tustin, everything happened exactly as expected.

"Do we believe in planned parenthood? Absolutely!" they wrote. "We intend to have only one child, and we figured we had only one chance to do it right.

"During the course of our seven-year marriage, we had often discussed parenthood: Were we ready for this commitment? Were we ready to share this responsibility? Were we ready for the change in our life style that a baby would bring?

"We had relocated to Orange County from eastern Pennsylvania. We adjusted; Louis, our aging spaniel, adjusted. Though the big decision was yet to be made, before we bought a house we investigated the public schools. By late 1981, we decided that now was the time: We were ready for the commitment, the responsibility, the changes.

"Did we plan? Absolutely! Margie threw out the pill; we used condoms for four months so that the effects of artificial hormones would be out of her system. She skipped alcoholic beverages. She joined a health club. She conceived in May, and in August we took what we anticipated would be our last trip alone for a few years.

"Together, we attended prepared childbirth classes, read books about childbirth and parenting, interviewed and chose a pediatrician, furnished the baby's room and discussed names."

They even anticipated the exact day their child would be born. "Margie had planned to work through Friday, Feb. 11. On Monday morning, Valentine's Day, our planned child was born, right on schedule. We spent the first week as a new family by ourselves, sharing our daughter and helping Louis adjust to his new role. Then Joel's mother came to help out."

Of course, the couple had already arranged for child care; when their daughter, Shira, was 7 weeks old, Margie returned to her job.

By the way, she is executive director of Planned Parenthood of Orange County, which is probably no accident either.

Karen, 26, of Huntington Beach was not exactly ready to become a parent, but now she is the single mother of a 4-month-old son.

"I am sure many people feel I should be ashamed or embarrassed by this," she wrote, "but I am not and will never be. I am not unaware of birth control, and I am not a stupid young person who went crazy one night. Birth control was used, double in fact, but I became pregnant.

"There are people, my mother being one, who thought I should have, or wished I would have, had an abortion. A nice quiet abortion they wouldn't want to know about, of course. What they don't know won't hurt them, right?

"Well, it would have killed me. I have always wanted children, and although this was not my ideal way of having them, there was no way I wasn't going to have this baby. I am not a religious person, but I really feel there was a reason for my child."

When her son, Brandon, was born, Karen held him in her arms and told her father, "This is the baby who might not have been."

Now, she wrote, "He is my light. There is not a day that goes by when I don't thank myself for having him. I am a strong person, but even my strength was tested during my pregnancy and every day after. This may be the '80s, but the disapproving remarks are still there. It's amazing to me the number of people concerned with my life and my decisions. Some people I hardly even know felt the need to express their disapproval. I have never asked anyone to condemn or condone my actions. Having accepted my son and myself, I do not need to feel accepted by others. There are no regrets."

"Our son was planned, although it took a year for me to become pregnant," wrote Gail, who lives in Tustin. "When he was 2, we decided another child would be wonderful. However, Mother Nature was against us. We used no birth control for over two years, and we were actively pursuing the issue. Eventually, we changed our minds and were happy to have one child.

"So we decided to have a garage sale and sell everything related to babies: crib, clothes, swing, etc.

"To make a long story short, two days after the garage sale I took a pregnancy test and, lo and behold, I was pregnant! To say that we were shocked would be an understatement. We were saving money for a down payment on a house, which went instead for the cost of a baby girl, as our health insurance doesn't cover pregnancy.

"I felt resentful for a while, but now I wouldn't trade her in for anything in the world. It was hard starting over again with diapers, no sleep, etc. But things are wonderful now."

Gail said her daughter, now 7 months old, will "never know that she wasn't exactly planned, but that she really lightened up our lives in so many ways. So what if I'll be 41 when she goes to kindergarten?"

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