Facing Pregnancy? Again
About the Guest
An unplanned pregnancy can come as a shock. Dennis Rainey talks with Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Surprise Child, about the feelings and concerns women have when they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. Hear Leslie, a mother of six, share how the shock of becoming pregnant herself at 43, and again at 45, eventually gave way to joy.
Leslie Leyland FieldsLeslie Fields writes for Christianity Today as a feature writer and columnist and writes freelance for a number of other magazines and journals. She is also a speaker, and between speaking and writing, she also runs a professional writing business, The Northern Pen, performing manuscript critique. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from Cedarville University, a Master’s in English and Journalism from University of Oregon. Leslie lives on Kodiak Island, Alaska, in a house on a cliff over the...more
Leslie Leyland Fields talks about the feelings and concerns women have when they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. Leslie shares how the shock of becoming pregnant at 43, eventually became joy
Facing Pregnancy? Again
Bob: When Leslie Fields found out that she was pregnant with her sixth child, she did the math real quick.
Leslie: I will be 64 when my last one graduates from high school—this is how I announce my pregnancy to friends. I would say: "I'm pregnant!” and “I'll be 64 when this baby graduates"; you know? I knew everybody would understand all that I was communicating in that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, May 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There are a lot of emotions that can come with the unexpected news from the doctor that you're going to have a baby. We'll talk about those emotions today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Did they have those pregnancy-test things, back in the old days, when you and Barbara were—
—“back in the old days,”—[Laughing]—listen to me—I'm just digging at you a little bit.
Dennis: Back in the days, where you were too.
Bob: I remember—I guess I can tell this—I remember when we suspected that we might be pregnant with our last child—with David. Mary Ann and I had gone to do some shopping; and we decided: “Well, we'll just buy one of those pregnancy tests.” I think we were at Sam's—you know, a wholesale club—so we bought like six of them, you know, because you've got to buy them in the multi-pack. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, yes, it was cheaper to buy six.
Dennis: Like the straws, remember?
Bob: We figured we'd share them with some friends or something—you know, sell them on the side.
Dennis: You could put them right next to the straws in your garage, where there are four billion straws. [Laughter]
Bob: Thank you for bringing that up. I remember—we bought it—and then we thought, "Well, why wait until we get home?" So Mary Ann just disappeared into the ladies' room, there at Sam's, and I'm waiting outside at Sam's.
Dennis: What a romantic spot to find out.
Bob: You know, when it's time for number five, romance is kind of over with on the whole deal. You just want to know what we've got going on here.
Dennis: So was number five planned?
Bob: You know, I'd really have to go back and say—
Dennis: Were any of your five unplanned?
Bob: I would say all five of ours—we were at different places in terms of whether we were trying to get pregnant or not trying to get pregnant—but all of them just kind of came. We decided, back at the beginning, that we were just going to kind of go with whatever. So we weren't doing a whole lot of planning, one way or another.
Dennis: Well, number six, for us—
Dennis: —Laura—and bless Laura's heart, she knows this—she was not planned.
Bob: She was a surprise baby.
Dennis: And we know, from statistical research, that about six out of ten pregnancies are unplanned. Well, we got one of those six-out-of-ten with Laura. When I came home from work that day, although I don't remember the exact circumstances, I just remember that Barbara was not a happy camper. She was not as elated as she had been with the previous five.
Bob: This was not on her radar screen.
Dennis: You know, her—she had kind of, emotionally and spiritually, kind of resolutely set her face toward being a mom and raising these kids to maturity. She had some other dreams and other plans for her life, and this was one of those—
Bob: Five sounded like a good number to her, and she wasn't so sure that six did.
Dennis: She had to process it. Frankly, if this book, that is entitled Surprise Child by Leslie Fields, had been available, this would have been a purchase that I would have made for my wife because Barbara needed to read this.
I want to welcome Leslie to the broadcast—welcome back.
Leslie: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Dennis: Leslie is an author / she is a commercial fisherwoman—actually runs the nets off of Kodiak Island, Alaska, for king salmon, red salmon, and silver salmon.
Leslie: Yes; but I wanted—you know, my husband and my children do that mostly—I'm pretty much retired. If they catch lots of fish and they need me, yes.
Dennis: She has also been a teacher at Seattle Pacific University and has authored this book.
And recapping your story, Leslie—at the age of 43, at that point, you already had four children, 12 and under. As far as you were concerned, you were a little bit like Barbara, my wife—you already had your plans—you weren't expecting to get pregnant. Yet, you found yourself pregnant at 43; and then two years later, again at 45, with two unplanned pregnancies.
And I had to tell you—when I was reading your book, there was a story that—well, it's not a story. It's as much of how you felt, at that moment when you found out you were pregnant, and you were no longer going to be able to fit in your jeans that you'd worked so hard to be able to fit into.
Bob: You wrote an entry in your journal about it; didn't you?
Leslie: Oh, I sure did! [Laughter]
Dennis: Share that with our listeners, if you would.
Leslie: Okay, well, yes, you have to understand that this is—after my fifth pregnancy, it took me a year to get rid of all of that baby weight. I find, just after I get / I'm able to snap up those jeans again; okay?—I can't breathe—[Laughter]—but never mind that; you know?—the jeans are on! Just shortly after that, I find out that I'm pregnant again. This is what I wrote in my journal: "I am going to burn my closet—[Laughter]—all those clothes I just got back into after the last pregnancy. Leggings again?— stretch pants, accordion-pleated tops, billowing sails…”
Dennis: Don't you love those clothing? Barbara looked so cute in it all, but she didn't feel cute at all.
Leslie: "I will strangle myself with anything containing spandex—clothes that affix no boundary upon my body.
“Will I survive it all again or just inflate like a dirigible, never to find my bones again, never to walk light and small upon this earth? No! I won't gain weight this time, not a pound! I'll stop eating—I'll starve myself—I can't do it again!" [Laughter]
Dennis: You know, every man needs to hear that paragraph because it will give him a greater compassion for his wife.
Bob: Because just about every woman could have written that paragraph and feels that, at some point, whether it's at the beginning of the second trimester or even at the end of the delivery, when you're looking down and going: "Okay, how does all this come off? What do I do now?!"
Leslie: Yes; “Where does all this go?” [Laughter]
Dennis: You know, our listeners—and we talked about this a little bit earlier—but many of our listeners struggle to get pregnant—and you all / you and your husband mentioned that you struggled to get pregnant for two years out of the first ten of your married life together. Now, you've written a book about how you struggled with being pregnant, not once, but twice.
You're just being real, at this point; aren't you?
Leslie: Oh, yes. You know, I'm being real because this is what I needed when I went through my pregnancies. I didn't feel a lot of permission to be real, and to be open, and to be honest, even necessarily within my church. I think this is a message for our churches—that, yes, we do celebrate life—but we have to recognize there are a lot of women, who are struggling with being pregnant. There are a lot of women who are not in the circumstances that I was in. There are women who are in much, much more difficult circumstances—maybe their husband has just left them, maybe they are not married—there are just all kinds of difficult circumstances that women find themselves in when they're pregnant.
Bob: And you talk to a lot of those women in those circumstances. I guess what you heard is that this wide range of emotions—that you were feeling—it's very common for women to feel these emotions.
I want to pick up on something you said—where you said you think the church needs to hear this message. Do most of us, do you think, tend to expect that the theologically-precise response is what everyone will quickly get to—that you find out you're pregnant—you know you should be glad; and so, “Be glad!”
Leslie: Exactly, and that's what I experienced. I had people—elders in the church—would just come up and sort of pound me on the back with congratulations that I was pregnant. Here I am, mourning and grieving, and they're cheering. And, you know, that—that's not a good feeling. You want people / you need people to understand where you are and to join you in that.
And, yes, I knew that God is the maker of all life—I knew that, and I knew that there would come a time when I would feel joy—but I was not there then. It took me a while to get there, and I need people to join me where I was—in the sadness / in the anxiety.
I need people to understand that. That's what other women need too.
Bob: Rather than standing outside the circle and saying: "You should be here. Come here," you walk into the circle—put your arm around somebody and say: "This has got to be hard. Let me feel with you." This is what the Bible talks about when it says that we are to suffer when others suffer / we're to grieve when others grieve—we enter into that, and we bear their burden with them.
Dennis: Right. And for those who have found it difficult to get pregnant, they may find it equally difficult to enter into that circle—with someone who is struggling with being pregnant.
I can't recall the exact circumstances that you wrote about in your book, Leslie, but you had three sons and a daughter. You wanted another daughter, it seems, and someone asked you a pair of questions: “If I promise you that you can have a son, would you have one?
“If I promise you that you could have a daughter, would you?” And that really caused some interesting soul-searching on your part.
Leslie: Yes. It was actually my husband who would always tease me after our four children—he would say: "Now, Leslie, if you knew you could have another daughter,"—because we were just crazy in love with our daughter, as well as our sons, of course, but she was the queen. We always hoped that the queen would have a sister.
Bob: A little princess!
Leslie: Yes, a princess. And Duncan would say to me, "Oh, Leslie, wouldn't you just love to have another daughter?" And my response always was, “You know, if we got pregnant and had another child, I guarantee you, it would be a boy." Unfortunately, I was right—but, no, fortunately, because that is God. I can't—I would never want to undo what God has done. My two sons that came to us later in life—I adore them / I love them to death.
Dennis: Leslie, you did something in your fifth month of pregnancy, I believe, you had a test done because of Down syndrome. Share with us why you did that on both of your pregnancies, one when you were 43 and the other at 45.
Leslie: Yes. Most doctors recommend that you have an amniocentesis after age 35 because of the risk for a chromosomal abnormality—it just increases with advancing age. And with my last pregnancy, the risk was 1 in 21. I had never had an amnio done for any of my other pregnancies. I decided to go ahead and have an amnio done—not because I was planning to terminate the pregnancy if there was an abnormality—but mostly because I wanted to know whatever could be known about this child, just to help me prepare for the coming of this child.
Bob: And a lot of people, when faced with the option of an amniocentesis, will say, “No, we’re not going to do that because it wouldn’t change anything.” You’re saying, “It wouldn’t have changed anything, but it would have helped me have a mindset to be ready / to just be prepared,” as you said.
Leslie: Oh, absolutely. It was really key for me because, when I found out that it was another boy, I had the opportunity then to go through the emotional process that I needed to go through—that: “Okay, this wasn’t a girl. This was another boy,”—and to prepare my heart for this boy. So, when the baby was born and I held him, I didn’t have to say: “Oh, my goodness! It’s another boy.” I could say, “Here’s the boy that God made for me.”
Dennis: There’s so many issues that a pregnancy later in life impacts. One is when the last one graduates. You had a standard answer for friends, when they come up and say something to you.
Leslie: Yes. Well, this was how I announced my pregnancy to friends—I would say: “I’m pregnant!” and “I’ll be 64 when this baby graduates.” I knew that—I knew everybody would understand all that I was communicating in that. They did, and they do.
Dennis: There’s also the issue of career that this impacts too. You made a tough choice—about loving your work but loving something else more?
Leslie: Yes. I felt very called to what I was doing. I was teaching in a state university; and yet, by the time the sixth pregnancy came along, it was like a Post-It note came drifting down from heaven. On that note, it said: “Resign. Resign your position. Give it up.” That was part of the angst that I felt. I was giving up a job that I felt called to—that I had worked many years toward and gone through a lot of education and all of that to be prepared for that position.
Dennis: It was something you loved doing.
Leslie: I absolutely love doing it. It’s a passion to teach—and to teach about truth, and teach about literature, and writing. It was definitely a passion, but God called me—it was very clear to me God was calling me out of that to be home, to have this baby, and to be there for my children.
Bob: So: “Give up something you love and give up the economic benefit that comes with that; and, by the way, here are a couple of more mouths to feed.”
Leslie: Oh, absolutely; and “Here is another boy.” Our lives are already very complicated because of commercial fishing, and because we move, and because we live in the very northern part of the United States, where there are long, long dark winters / very harsh weather, so it was—the whole package was very difficult for me.
Dennis: I love the quote in your book—you said, "I was leaving the work I loved for the work of loving another."
That takes a lot of courage. Was your husband in this with you?
Leslie: He was very careful to make sure that it was my decision. He didn't want to influence my decision either way. He wanted me to know that he was going to support me, no matter which way I chose. It was so clear to me that it was not even possible—it wasn't even physically possible to continue teaching with six children.
Dennis: But he had to step up, as a result of it.
Leslie: He did. He was fully-supportive of my decision to step down. He knew what that loss meant to me, and I appreciated that. He was very sympathetic and understanding—what that meant—and it put a lot more pressure on him, financially.
Bob: Just kind of an idle curiosity—your two youngest boys—what months were they born in?
Leslie: November and December.
Bob: November and December—so I'm thinking, “At the end of a long, harsh winter”—[Laughter]—the thought came to me—“Okay, it's making sense!” [Laughter]
Dennis: Leslie, you tell a story of a little moment, where you had the privilege of visiting your husband's dad's home—your father-in-law's home. You took your newborn son, Abraham, and put him on DeWitt—is that his name?—
Leslie: That's right.
Dennis: —on DeWitt's chest. DeWitt is 86—or was 86 years of age, at that point—and you had a chance just to witness a very sweet moment.
Leslie: It was a sweet moment, and I do remember that moment. I was very tired, just from caring for five children. I think it was close to the holiday season. We had gone to visit Duncan's parents, who live in Kodiak—so we saw them often.
DeWitt was 86. He had been through just a number of medical emergencies—heart attacks, stroke, cancer—he had been through all of this. Shortly before that visit, he had had a stroke. There were a few doctors who recommended, at the time, that perhaps this was it; and maybe they shouldn't use all the medical technology to keep him alive. We just were not ready to see DeWitt go. We just believed that he could live longer; and so we said: "No, we want—revive him. Keep him—give him whatever care he needs," and so Dewitt was back with us. That was such a joy.
We went to visit him, and DeWitt was sitting in his favorite chair. I had Abraham in my arms. Whenever Dewitt saw Abraham—this precious little baby—his eyes always lit up, even when he couldn't speak / when he couldn't do anything—when he saw Abraham, he would just get this light on his face.
DeWitt was kind of / sort of half asleep in his chair. I held Abraham out to him, and DeWitt's eyes lit up. He was—he still had strength in his arms—and he took Abraham. He laid Abraham down on his chest / down on his belly.
Over the next 10 or 15 minutes, they both went to sleep. Abraham is sleeping on his Grandpa's chest, and both of them—their lips are soft and relaxed. You can see the air blowing out as they breathe—and inhale and exhale. They're sort of snoring very lightly together. As I looked at them, you know, I thought: "Here is DeWitt, who, by human intent, would not be here now. And there is Abraham, who, by human intent, would not be here now."
And there they are together, loving each other—and the rest of us—we're standing around, and we're looking at this, and we are loving them. You know, at that moment, I thought, "Who are we to decide who lives and who dies?"
Dennis: You make a statement, at that point in your book, of a conclusion you came to. You said, "I determined that stretching my body was given to nourish another's soul," and that, by you giving birth, you had nourished DeWitt's life in a very special way.
Leslie, I think you have also nourished and brought some strength to some moms who wondered if anybody could identify with what they were feeling or they are feeling, being pregnant.
I just appreciate you and your authenticity but, also, your commitment to ultimately move beyond circumstances to believe the truth about God, and the truth of His Word, and respond in faith. Thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.
Leslie: Oh, thank you so much for having me.
Bob: You know, there have to be folks, who are listening today, who are either in the circumstance that you were in, when you wrote this book, Leslie, or who know somebody who, in the last month or two, got unexpected news about a baby being born. For them, that news did not bring an immediate sense of joy. It would be helpful, I think, for our listeners to get a copy of your book and maybe pass it on to a friend they know who might be experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and help them walk through the emotions that they may be experiencing with the news that they’re expecting.
We have copies of Leslie Field’s book, which is called Surprise Child. It’s available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll see a link there for the book, Surprise Child, which you can order, online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and request a copy of the book over the phone. So, either go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order; or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
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Leslie: Can I say one more thing?
Bob: Absolutely—go ahead.
Leslie: You know, when women of faith find themselves pregnant, sometimes they think that they don’t have a choice. But women of faith do have a choice. They can receive this child with bitterness, with apathy, with resentment—
—or they can receive this child with joy and with love. That’s the choice that is before us when we find out that we’re pregnant.
Dennis: I want to pray for a woman, who has heard you just say that, and is facing a choice:
Heavenly Father, would You be near each woman, who we’re speaking to right now, with the choices she is facing? May she be a woman of great courage, who embraces the truth of Your Word, Father, and the truth about You. May she do what is right. May she honor You with her life and with her body. In Christ’s name, amen.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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