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Unexpected Babies

Counting Blessings

Falling in love with your baby, it turns out, is just one of the unexpected pleasures of an unplanned pregnancy. Among the others:

A larger role for Dad

The surprise of an unexpected baby can inspire a father or father-to-be to rise to the occasion in a way he never expected. Especially when this baby arrives on the heels of a firstborn or after a difficult pregnancy, a dad may have no choice but to roll up his sleeves and pitch in -- and find himself loving it. "Really, there's not as much stress as I expected," says Matthew of having two kids 12 months apart. "As we did with Jake, my wife and I have come to make a great team."

Linda, too, says Joel surprised himself by falling in love with Anna from the first minute. Today, he works nights and takes care of Anna while Linda works during the day.

A closer bond

Although an unexpected pregnancy can strain a struggling relationship, strong partnerships may thrive on the extra love a baby -- even an unplanned one -- brings. Lisa and Michael believe their unborn son has already brought them closer. "We've always been a strong couple, able to face many challenges," she says. "Our baby is our most amazing challenge yet, and we know we'll provide a loving home for him."

She now feels like a different person from the one who burst into tears at the sight of a positive pregnancy test. "Although a few fun trips have been postponed and money's tighter, we couldn't be happier. We have our health, a beautiful baby on the way, a great support network, and each other. How much better can life get?"

Bigger family, greater joy

"It's like my daughter wasn't intended to be, but she came anyway to make our lives richer," says Linda. "So I try that much harder not to take her for granted."

Anna of Homewood, Alabama, already had two young kids when she and her husband made plans to go away for their third anniversary. "In our rush to leave, we forgot the birth control," she says. The consequence -- having a third child before their fourth anniversary -- might have derailed others, but the couple came to realize they actually thrive in the chaos of closely spaced kids.

This sense that everything happens for a reason is a sentiment echoed by many parents of accidental babies. Ginna of Nashville was surprised by a fourth pregnancy. Now, with three grown kids and an 11-year-old, she looks back on her uncertainty about having another child and smiles: "My husband and I spent one night drinking too much wine, but we've spent the rest of our lives giving thanks for it."

Contributing editor Margaret Renkl was a surprise baby to her parents in 1961.