My 19-year-old son looked a bit troubled when he picked up a book from my reading stack. “Uh...[long pause]...why are you reading a book on unexpected pregnancy?” he asked. I quickly put his mind at ease that no, he was not going to be getting a new baby brother or sister. The book he picked up was Suprise Child: Finding Hope in Unexpected Pregnancy. I’m reading it because it is the latest book by my amazing writing advisor, Leslie Leyland Fields. I’ve been so grateful to be under the tutelage of Fields this past year in my graduate program at Seattle Pacific. She writes beautifully from a rich pool of wisdom and experience and has been so generous in sharing what she knows of the craft.
Fields is the mother of six children, the last two being unexpected pregnancies in her early and mid forties. Surprise Child is an honest look at the difficulty of these pregnancies, as well as the hope and joy that emerged from them. The book, published by Waterbrook Press, contains not only her stories of unplanned pregnancy, however, but the stories of nearly forty women whom she interviewed.
I’ve now finished reading Surprise Child and found encouragement transferrable to issues even outside of pregnancy. In this passage she writes about carrying on with being pregnant in the midst of other simultaneous difficulties:
Each of us wanted calm, an orderly life, an uncomplicated pregnancy. Wasn’t it enough that we were making room for another child without all the rest, all the other crises and disruptions? Weren’t we giving away enough already? I don’t know if anyone can answer the why of this, why some are asked to carry so much. But every woman I know and met kept going, kept getting up in the morning, kept dressing and eating and growing her baby as she walked through each day.
Carrying on is like the paradox of birth itself--the bearing down each day with a ferocity you didn’t know you possessed, and with it also the letting go, suspending full knowledge, full sight, full understanding of all that is happening. This is sometimes simply a walk by faith: faith that there is a higher purpose than you can see at the moment, faith that the Maker of all life has not made a mistake, no matter what you’re feeling, faith that the One who called you to this work will suppy what you need. And it is a walk by knowledge--this even more sure than faith--that in carrying this child you are giving her or him the chance to be. Without being what else matters?
Do you see the immensity of what you are doing? Carry on.
Do you see how that passage could apply to each of us at some time or another, regardless of pregnancy? Even so, she is telling her story and the stories of these other women to offer hope to women in the midst of an unexpected pregnancy. In addition to the book’s main text, Fields also offers reader’s guides for individuals/groups or couples, as well as a resource section. Additional resources may be found on the book's website.
In addition to teaching in the MFA program at Seattle Pacific University, Fields also teaches creative writing at the University of Alaska. In the summertime, she works with her family in commercial salmon fishing. Other books by Leslie Leyland Fields include Surviving the Island of Grace, Out on the Deep Blue, The Entangling Net, and The Water Under Fish. Check out her website at www.leslie-leyland-fields.com.