Accidental Humans

Recently, at the Ottawa Bloggers’ Breakfast *** the talk turned, as breakfast conversation so frequently does, to accidental pregnancies.

The theory was posited that most of us wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the accidental pregnancy. We took a quick survey around our table and, indeed, I believe everyone at the table had begun life in a not entirely planned manner.

We decided right off the bat that the term, “accident” was not a nice way to refer to a human life, so we chose to call ourselves “surprises” instead.

And really, an “accident”  is something completely unforeseen and unexpected whereas pregnancy should be assumed as a distinct possibility if a fertile male and fertile female engage in sexual intercourse without adequate contraceptive protection.

Anyway, a surprise baby can occur in a variety of situations. Sometimes, the surprise is so great and so unmanageable that the surprise child is given up for adoption. And, at the other end of the spectrum, a surprise can occur when a couple intends to have a child sometime and then finds that sometime is actually now.

That’s what happened to me. We’d been planning for a summer baby, which we would start working on right after we got back from our winter vacation.

We spend that winter vacation in Tobago. It’s a small island with not much going on, so after a few weeks we got adventurous and decided to spend a day hiking through the rainforest. Around noon we happened upon a small waterfall. It had been a long, tiring morning. We were hot and sweaty and miles from another human being. So, we cast off our gear and plunged into the water.

Of course we’d packed protection against snakes and protection against bugs and protection against the merciless sun and we even had food and water to protect ourselves against hunger and thirst.  We were well protected for all eventualities — except one. And there we were in a very exotic and romantic place with only SPF 15 and Deet for protection.

We had a winter baby.

My own conception was much more prosaic, but also not quite planned. When my parents were dating, they were both still living with their parents and several siblings each. It wasn’t often they had a house to themselves and when they did, I understand they took full advantage.

Sometimes they only had a few minutes. Like this one time when the two of them were over at my dad’s for Sunday dinner. His brothers were in their rooms doing whatever it is young boys spend so much time doing in their rooms. My mum and dad were helping his mother in the kitchen when she realized she needed more butter and popped out to the shop to fetch some.

In those few minutes, my dad managed to distract my mum from peeling potatoes long enough to impregnate her — with me — right there in my grandmother’s kitchen!


They did manage to get married in plenty of time for me to be born “on the right side of the blanket”… though it was a noticeably skimpy blanket.

So, anyway I thought about doing a poll just to see how many of us were surprises, but the variables are so great that I don’t think a simple button-clicking poll would do it justice. It’s not just a matter of planned or unplanned. We’d have to also know, for instance:

  • Were the biological parents a committed couple or just a couple of horny teenagers who couldn’t figure out how to unroll the condom?
  •  Did the biological parents keep and raise the baby (you) together?
  • Were the biological parents planning on having children together anyway?
  •  Were you the first child, a second/third/fourth/etc unexpected child or maybe a late-in-life surprise?
  •  If you were planned, did everything go exactly according to plan?
  •  Do you even know if you were or were not planned? (Apparently, not everyone has had this discussion with their parents. Maybe you could go and call mom right now and ask. We’ll wait.)

Accompanying anecdotes would also be great.

And how about your own kids? If I had to bet, I would say that for various reasons, our kids, overall, were probably  less of a surprise to us than we were to our parents. At least the conception part.  Every day after that is just one happy and sometimes not-so-happy surprise after another, isn’t it?


*** If you are an Ottawa area blogger and would like to take part in life-affirming conversational topics like this, please send an email to: with a link to your blog and you’ll be added to the mailing list and kept informed of upcoming Ottawa blogger events.


38 responses to “Accidental Humans

  1. I’ll be the exception that proves the rule…

    Both my children were planned. I’m so Type A. I mapped my cycle, took my temperature daily, read books and websites to figure out how to tell when the best time was. I mean, what? Leave it to chance? Yeah, that’s so not me.

    Our first child was conceived quite quickly. Our second took about 8 months.

    From what I can gather, my brothers and I were all planned, too. My parents have often mentioned that after they celebrated their first Christmas, after 6 months as a married couple, they decided they wanted to spend the next Christmas as a family. My brother was born in October of the following year.

    I’m fairly sure my other brother and I were also planned. I know that my mom’s mentioned a few times that she and dad were lucky that whenever they decided they wanted another child, they were fortunate that very soon afterward they were able to conceive.

  2. We intended to have kids…, just a little bit of a surprise that the first one came along almost exactly 9 months after we decided to get married. The second one was born 34 years ago today, as planned, 9 months after I got back from a three month submarine patrol in the North Atlantic.

  3. Oddly enough, Dad always said I was planned and Mom always said I was a surprise. Timewise, It looks like I was conceived on my brother’s third birthday, so I imagine Dad thinking, “Wow, he’s three already!?!? It’s time to make a little brother for him.” Oh, so in THAT respect I was a surprise to Dad, because I was not a little brother. I was supposed to be named Jason Aaron. But since I was not a guy, that didn’t happen.

  4. As far as I know I was planned.

    Both my daughter and my son were planned. Unfortunately for us they were both conceived on the night we decided to start with a new baby.

  5. I was most definately not planned.. My parents had moved from England about 4 months before I was concieved. Apparantly the conversation about my mother being pregnant went something like this:

    Dad – “I quit my job this afternoon.”
    Mum – “Great… We’re having anoughter child.”

  6. My brother was desperate for a baby sister and the story goes that he was always told “we can’t afford a baby”. So after 9 long years of waiting, he was finally told his wish was to come true. “Can we afford it?”, he asked. When told yes, “we must be rich!” was his answer. I was a bit of a surprise to everyone!

  7. Planned. My father was a naval officer in WWII, in a corvette in the North Atlantic. Life expectancy low. My mother wanted ‘somthing of him in case he didn’t come back’.
    My kids? – One’ forgot the birth control in the heat of the moment.; the other one, planned’.
    But its a very good thing to be able to plan and not very long in the scheme of things that women have been able to do so. My father in law was one of thirteen children.

  8. Mary Lynn – Well aren’t you all just as organized as all get out! And super-fertile, too. Keep a close eye on your daughter when she reaches maturity.

    Mike – So, you’re telling me you celebrated your engagement in high style!!

    Geewits – Maybe your Dad snuck it to your mom while she was sleeping – hence the surprise on her part? Aaron’s a good name. Jasons we already have way too many of. So it’s a good thing you turned out to be a girl.

    Seas – Boy, you and Mary Lynn’s family are extradordinarily productive. Like I said to her, I would watch my daughter carefully when she gets older if I were you.

    MG – I think that was on an episode of The Simpson’s, too, wasn’t it? In any case they seem to have managed to feed you and stuff so you made it to adulthood. Did Dad go crawling back for his job or get another one?

    Violetsky – I hope your brother appreciates you every single day of his life.

    Mary – Boy I don’t get that. Your husband gets killed and you’re happy to be alone and pregnant? In them days? I assume Dad came back safe and sound. Do you think there’s something special about “heat of the moment” babies? Or “lust” babies as we used to call them as opposed to the carefully planned babies? You have one of each so you’re in a good position to do the comparison.

  9. Grace was born Feb 20, Edie was born Feb 21, our wedding anniversary is May 20 – the math isn’t difficult. Kind of a boring story, but kinda romantic too.

  10. I fall into the category of being the “surprise” for my parents. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood why there were no wedding pictures of my mother below the waist. Apparently grandmother had issued a warning prior that no pictures below the waist were to be taken. And when she spoke everyone listened. Apparently she did not want any historical evidence of the bad thing that her precious daughter had done, and the poor job she had made in raising her. Yip that’s how she looked at it. I guess my being born 6 months later didn’t make that one easy to figure out.
    Now my mother faired out a lot better than my aunt who became pregnant at 18 and had no “suitor” so to speak waiting to marry her. Her moment of weakness cost her 6 months hidden upstiars when people came to visit, and ended with her being shipped away to have her son and put him up for adoption. Who many years later she was fortunate enough to reunite with.
    As for me? My oldest son who is now 25 was well planned. We were so excited when he came along because our first pregnanct ended in miscarriage. It was all wonderful. Now my second son who arrived ten years later was a total, I mean total surprise. By this time I was divorced and enjoying the company of a guy who was okay but not someone I had any intention of planning my life with, but wouldn’t you just know it. Pregnant!! I couldn’t believe it. After years of trying with my husband I was told I couldn’t have more children yet, here I am pregnant. I cried myself to sleep many nights thinking how could I be so stupid, beat myself up over and over. Pondered my options endlessly, and then went on to have the most loving, precious and wonderful son. He is who is now 16 and my baby that I love dearly. I think I’ll love him more when he is through the “I know everything stage”. I say all this to say there may be some truth to something my grandmother would often say, and XUP you have heard me say this before, “Everything happens just as God ordered”. Whether it happened peeling potatoes, under a waterfall in Tobago (which by the way is pretty damn cool), or in a moment of weakness, it is just as it should be.

  11. My oldest brother was a bit of a surprise — he was conceived on my parents’ honeymoon (they wanted kids but I don’t think they’d planned to start quite that quickly). As far as I know, the rest of us were planned. Not in a calculated, “I’m want a summer baby” kind of way but in a “Let’s have another baby”, try to have a baby, have a baby kind of way. They wanted four and had four, reasonably close together.

  12. “Suprise” is to “Accident”

    as “Administrative Professional” is to “Secretary”

    as “Young Offender” is to “Juvenile Delinquent”

    as “Special Needs” is to “Learning-Disabled”

    as “Sex Trade Worker” is to “Prostitute”.

    Whenever we make our language “nicer”, it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling, all over. 🙂

  13. I’m the 3rd of 6 (girls), all born within 8 years, to a Catholic mom and a Catholic dad, still committed and in love 50 years later.

    So. My story could not be more boring.

  14. Planned in the sense that my parents wanted children together. I’m the first of nine born in ten years; born one year and a couple of weeks after the wedding. What took them so long? Kidding.

    Our three daughters were planned and WONDERFUL surprises.

  15. As for unplanned first babies a friend of mine once said,” If you check BDs against wedding dates you find a lot of first children were preemies.
    In my own family of course my mother and father never fooled around before they were married but we do have a surprising baby brother born 9 years after me.

  16. My story is pretty boring. I think I was planned, my parents never said otherwise (although my brother was planned but they were hoping to practice a bit more for him I think! He was a honeymoon pregnancy).

    Both of my girls were planned. I swear I got pregnant the first time my hubs and I ‘tried’. No exciting stories here.

  17. the IUD slipped.
    my parents were at UBC and in a committed relationship. In fact, I understand my dad was in 2 committed relationships. but he did the right thing and stuck around long enough for my brother to be born 3 years later.

    I’ll say my kids were planned. The second was for sure. The oldest was at least thought of and discussed, although the circumstances weren’t exactly what I would have preferred.

  18. But I was raised an a very Catholic Family. Took a bit longer for my sister to get concieved, but we are all planned.

    Though my sister and I used to tell our younger brother he was adopted. Just to mess with him.

    (Siblings can be little shits that way..! 🙂 )

  19. I was sort of planned (Mum said they weren’t trying, but they weren’t *not* trying) and so was my younger sister. My parents were together until I was 12 or so.

    My oldest daughter falls into the category of “planned but early”. I figured that at my advanced age at the time (35) it would take me *ages* to get pregnant, what with fertility declining precipitously after age 30. So I suggested that we not wait until after the wedding, which would probably take a year to plan, to start work on the project. Wouldn’t you know it, two months later the stick turned blue, the wedding was moved forward, and I was very happy that Empire waistlines were ‘in’ for wedding gowns that year. I always tell Leah that she’s in the wedding pictures, right behind Mummy’s bouquet.

    Rae was planned too, and after Leah, we weren’t too surprised that she only took 2 months of trying to conceive. Apparently I don’t follow the average fertility curve.

  20. Meanie – How cute is that?

    Salayna – Who are you? That’s very sad about your mum and aunt — especially the aunt..not that unmarried women who get themselves knocked up are treated really nicely these days. And yes, what are accidents really?

    Louise – I can’t believe how organized everyone’s parents were. Must be something wrong with mine.

    Friar – Meh, I don’t know. I have a very narrow definition of accident. My kid sometimes does stupid things that result in a mess and she thinks she’s absolved if she calls it an “accident”. Most so-called accidents are totally preventable stupidity or carelessness. Real accidents, to me, are unpreventable and unforeeable occurances. But the rest of your list is apt.

    Ellie – Boring, but very sweet.

    Grace – Good grief, your poor mother – 9 in 10 yearss!

    Bandobras – Preemies and lots of “honeymoon babies” – even a few of those here in the comments. Hmmmm

    Betsy – I’d look a little more closely at that so-called “honeymoon” conception.

    Gokalie – Two committed relationships you say! What a stand-up guy. The oldest and the youngest are most often the surprises!

    Friar – Because my daughter has no siblings, I’ve been telling her for yonks that I adopted her from a woman called Yolanda Fischbein — a woman who already had 14 kids and didn’t want to raise another one so she sold her to me. I used to send her birthday cards signed, Love Mrs. Fischbein…. Of course she has always known perfectly well that I’m her mother. We look exactly the same. I’m not that mental. But we’ve had lots of fun with the Fischbeins over the years.

    Alison – You’re a baby-making machine!! Woooot! You go girl! Either that or your husband had particularly strong swimmers. Probably all his mental and physical resources were consumed by his sperm.

  21. I was the result of two horny teenagers that couldn’t unroll a condom. He was the bad boy that my good girl mom was in love with, and predictably, he ditched her immediately when he found out she was in trouble.

    She went in disgrace to the Home for Unwed Mothers, where she met the brother of another girl that was in confinement. She gave me up for adoption and married him. They’re still together.

    Having been an object lesson on unanticipated pregnancy, I knew enough not to mess around with the odds and had myself fixed so there would be no nasty surprises. (Regardless of what anyone else may think about children, they’re all nasty surprises to me.)

  22. I was planned, although was supposed to be a girl, to complete the millionaire’s family, 18 months after my brother was born. He was actually the product of a fourth pregnancy, my Mom having miscarried the first three. She and Dad were married almost five years when my bro was born.
    In fact, during the string of ill-fated pregnancies, my parents applied for adoption. My Dad got the call while my Mom and I were still in the hospital (you had to stay for a week back then, and weren’t kicked out hours after the birth). My Dad declined, and he and Mom often wondered who and where that baby ended up.
    My sister came along three and a half years after me. I just found out a couple weeks ago, in her words, that she was an accident because Mom’s viengar douche didn’t work.
    She was born at the height of Roy Rogers’ and Dale Evans’ popularity, so my brother and I got to name her Dale, instead of Debbie.
    We also used to torture her by telling her she was adopted, and wrecked all the sets of four things that we had — dishes, TV trays, etc.

  23. my mum has always told us we were all planned, and that she had us right when she wanted us. she was the catholic girl who availed herself of birth control.

    the difference between ‘accident’ and ‘surprise’ for me is whether you’d have it that way again in hindsight. there are plenty of little accidents you make in art, say, or music – that turn out so beautiful you just go with it. most of life is about things turning out some way other than what we intended, and how we handle those changes, our flexibility, is far more valuable than our original visions.

  24. We use two different kinds of birth control, so “surprises” shouldn’t be forthcoming between my husband and I.

    I think he’s more worried that I’ll bring another cat or dog home then me getting pregnant. 😉

  25. I don’t know the story of my conception at all; I do know though that I was for sure a surprise; my brother is 8 years older than me, and 5 years before she got pregnant with me, after being ill, my mom was told that she would never have children again. And then… I happened! I really like this story of how I got to be born 🙂

  26. I grew up thinking I was an accident — my mom always referred to me that way. I never liked it — I always felt kind of unwanted in some way.

    Just a couple of years ago I finally told my mom that I didn’t like it when she called me “her accident” — and she admitted that she had planned it. My older sister had some developmental disabilities and my parents decided to wait a while before having another child…but my mother didn’t really want to wait, for fear that they’d chicken out of having more, so she faked the birth control and told my father it was an accident!

    For some reason that made me feel a lot better.

    As for our kids…the oldest and youngest were planned. The middle child was not exactly an accident, but not exactly in the plan. We knew we wanted more kids but we weren’t quite ready to try yet, but one night when I’d been really sick and we were too tired to get out the birth control we made a baby! We thought the chances were very slim since it was very late in my cycle and also, it had taken over a year to get pregnant with the first one.

    That second one just took the one night :).

  27. Susan – Wow, that’s kind of a sad story. Have you met your birth mom? Is that how you know they whole story?

    Bob – Vinegar douche? Did people actually use that for birth control? I thought that was just one of those American Grafitti myths.

    Hallie – I’m pretty sure most parents would do it all again. Those little people really grow on you. (especially when they’ve grown IN you)

    Hannah – You can never be too protected. You should add some spf 15 and Deet to the ritual just to be extra sure.

    Cristina – Hey! Where’ve you been? When are you coming back to Ottawa? That IS a good story of your conception.

    Lynn – Maybe when you tell your middle child about his/her conception you could romanticize it a bit? Sick and too tired to get out the birth control is kind of really sad-sounding. I mean, I’m picturing you in bed all day throwing up and feverish, hair matted, pajamas sweat and vomit stained, bleary-eyed and husband prances in all frisky and you’re too weak and exhausted to even say “no thanks”.

  28. XUP — a very accurate description :). I’ll try to make up something better so she doesn’t grow up scarred!

    Also, re: trivia night — it was a great fear of mine that you and Zoom would be on a team because I know you will totally vanquish us. I tremble in your shadow!

  29. My parents sort of, erm, jumped the gun. They were together, they were planning to stay together but weren’t planning on me (the first child) quite so soon. In fact, what they were planning was to emigrate to Australia. But then I made my presence known, and lo and behold I was born Scottish instead. (Probably a good job. I would not have thrived in Australia. I am so fair skinned I burn under a 40 watt bulb)

  30. Lynn – Zoom isn’t on the team and I’m pretty much the dud on our team. These people are FANTATICS with a capital everything.

    Loth – No, you’re only fair because you were born in Scotland. If you’d been born in the Caribbean you would have been much darker. Ditto Australia. That’s how it works.

  31. I was planned. My parents had intended to wait 5 years before starting a family, and since this was the 50’s, everybody thought that they “couldn’t” have kids. It ended up taking them a bit longer to conceive, and I arrived 7 years after their marriage. Mom said she wasn’t ready to have another kid till I was almost 6, then they had my brother. (I guess I was a handful?)

    As for my DD, she was also very planned. We wanted a baby born in May, June or July, when there were no other birthdays in either of our immediate families. DD was due in June, but took things into her own little hands and was born in May, 4 weeks early. She was very tiny, but healthy, fortunately.

  32. It may seem to be a sad story from what I’ve told you, but it’s absolutely not.

    I met my birth mother about ten years ago, now, and it was as if a central piece of the puzzle that is me was clicked into place. She is my best friend. She is everything I hope I will become. She is my touchstone.

    Meeting her was emotional, as you can guess. I met her parents… my grandparents… and they cried and said they always regretted not keeping me as their own. Grandma said that now she could die happy, now that she knew that I turned out okay and bore no grudges for being given up. How can I bear ill will? My mother was just doing the best thing she could think of, given the situation.

    So yeah. 39 years ago, I made a lot of people unhappy. 10 years ago, we kissed it all better.

  33. Pinklea – Another very, very organized family. I must say, I’ve been surprised by all the planned babies after the blogger’s discussion the other day where everyone was unplanned.

    Susan – I meant it was sad for your birth mom to have to give you up and that your genetic other ditched her when she told him she was pregnant. It’s nice that you all reconnected.

  34. I think… no, I know that it was all for the best. He died not long afterward of a drug OD… best he was gone from her life. The man she ended up marrying is wonderful.

    As to her having to give me up… well, for better or worse, I’d be a different person had she raised me. I’d probably be more compassionate and less tightly-wound, but I also wouldn’t be so ambitious and independent. Everything is a trade-off.

  35. My Mum wanted two kids, a boy and then a girl, separated by two years. She wanted them born in February so she wouldn’t have to be hugely pregnant in the summer and so they would be old enough to take outside when the spring came. My parents were married in June 54, my older sister was born in February 56 and I was born in February 58. The only thing she couldn’t control was the sex of the child. Then, my younger sister was born in July 61, so she was a surprise. Dad wanted to try for a son one more time. Poor Dad.

  36. All of my children were planned as we needed a fertility specialist to help make it happen.

    I couldn’t help but laugh to myself at the term “accidental children”, and I know you explained what you meant and there have been some great comments here, but for some reason I was thinking about those Reese Peanut Butter Cup commercials…

    “Your chocolate’s in my peanut butter!”

    “Hey, your peanut butter’s in my chocolate!!!”

    As if the two lovebirds would say, “hey, how the hell did *that* get in there?”

    Well, duh… mix batter in a bowl and you’re probably going to get a cake.

  37. Susan – True.

    Julia – Well wasn’t that careless of your mom not to organize the sex of her babies a little better? And when she had everything else worked out so well, too. Tsk tsk tsk

    Julie – Yes, there certainly ARE a lot of surprises aren’t there? And it just keeps getting more and more surprising as the years go on!!

    Brett- Ya it’s an accident like your kids playing soccer in the living room and breaking a lamp is an accident.