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Unexpected Babies

I think of all of my children as surprise babies. Sam was a surprise because he arrived after a single, spontaneous, "oh, who cares about birth control" afternoon. Henry was a surprise because we thought he'd show up just as easily as his brother had, but instead it took more than two years of concerted effort and medical intervention to coax him here. And Joe was a surprise because I conceived him right away, when we'd been expecting a long, Henry-like wait.

Still, there's a difference between the routine surprise that's inherent in attempts to plan a family and the shock that comes when a pregnancy is truly unexpected. And it's a shock that happens to many couples. According to a report by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that studies reproductive-health issues, at least 1 million married women in the U.S. become pregnant by accident every year.

But when you're in a happy and committed relationship, finding out you're pregnant by surprise doesn't have to be as difficult a situation as it can be under other circumstances. What veteran parents already know -- and new parents find out quickly -- is that each and every baby is a tiny miracle of individuality, and his unplanned conception is just the first of many surprises. Children spend their whole lives astonishing us with their talents, with their likes and dislikes, with their choices, with their very being. Which may be why so many parents refer to their surprise babies as "happy accidents."

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