Leslie Leyland Fields: It feels impossible. It honestly feels impossible in the moment that you discover you’re pregnant, that you can go through the next nine to 10 months, that you can, again, pour your life out to another child. It feels so far beyond your ability.
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John Fuller: Well I’m sure there are many who can identify with those feelings, and maybe you know someone who’s pregnant, uh, but they never planned to have another baby. Today on Focus on the Family, we’ll have a really honest conversation about surprise children. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Uh, John, there’s about six million pregnancies each year. Uh, they keep this data and somehow about half, 45%, almost three million, are classified as unplanned.
Jim: And I never knew that.
John: I never knew that.
Jim: I mean, about half of the pregnancies are. Uh, that was my story. My mom had me at 42. I was the oops baby, always introduced, I can remember being four-five years old and my mom saying this is my oops child. I didn’t know why that was special.
Jim: But sometimes it was a little, “Uh, what does that mean?” But it does mean that. This is an accidental pregnancy, one that was unplanned. This wasn’t what we were thinking at the end of our child rearing years.
Jim: And, uh, so often on the broadcast we’re talking about teen moms and what they go through, the decisions they have to make, hopefully in a pro-life context and hopefully parents can help those children make those better choices, et cetera. But we often hear from people who have struggled at the latter end of their childbearing years and they’ve asked us, “Could you cover this sometime?” And we’re gonna do it today.
John: Yeah, there’s a whole other set of challenges and issues and emotions associated with being an older parent and you’re done with diapers and the kids are off in school and you finally get your life back and then, uh oh, I’m pregnant. And there, there’s just a lot there.
Jim: There is, John, and I’m grateful we’re gonna cover the topic today.
John: Well Leslie Leyland Fields is our guest and, uh, she’s been here before with us and we’re so glad to have her back. She’s a former, uh, university professor, an author and and international speaker. And today we’ll be talking about one of her books, uh, that really is quite powerful. It’s called Surprise Child: Finding Hope in Unexpected Pregnancy. And we do have copies of that here at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800-A-FAMILY.
Jim: Leslie, welcome back.
Jim: It’s so good to see you again.
Leslie: I am thrilled to be back.
Jim: Yeah. It’s so fun to have you.
Leslie: It really is. It really is.
Jim: Now, a lot of people, uh, they wouldn’t know this either, but you and your husband, you, uh, fish up in Alaska as your other job, along with everything else you’re doing. It sounds rather exhausting.
Leslie: It, well, some, sometimes it is. I, I really try not to think about it. My life has, has these, all these different compartments but they’re so, they all feed each other.
Jim: I love it. Salmon fisherman, university professor, speaker.
Leslie: Yeah. Now to me it works.
Jim: Do you sleep?
Leslie: No, it works. You know? It all fits together.
Jim: Well the sun doesn’t set up there for a long time, right?
Leslie: Not in the summer. Not in the summer.
Jim: Well it’s good to have you back. Uh, let’s jump into the story. You’re how old when you and your husband find out, oops, we’re pregnant, and what were your emotions?
Leslie: Yeah. I was, I was 42 and I was teaching. I was a English professor at University of Alaska and-
Jim: You, you were an English professor?
Leslie: I was.
Jim: Oh my.
Leslie: Please don’t be quite so shocked at that.
Jim: Okay. Well no, now I’m gonna have to-
John: We’re concerned.
Leslie: Now you’re worried.
Jim: I’ve got to speak a little more clearly and grammatically correctly. Don’t end with an LY. I already blew it.
Leslie: I, check your adverbs there Jim.
Jim: Yeah. My dingling participle? Is that a … I can’t … Anyway, so I always get nervous with a English professor who’s nearby.
Leslie: No, don’t worry.
Jim: Okay. Oh, wonderful.
Leslie: I’m not teaching grammar anymore so I’ve let go of the grammar police.
Jim: But you’re 42?
Jim: And of course you already have four children?
Jim: And what were their ages about that time?
Leslie: Yeah. So the youngest was five and this is the very strong hook. He was just about to enter kindergarten. So that was really exciting because that meant no more, you know, childcare.
Jim: You were feeling relief is ahead?
Leslie: Yes. Yes. Finally.
Jim: You’re gonna have some time to get back to normal?
Leslie: Right. Yes.
Jim: And your, your then five-year-old would be going to school and you’d have three-four hours to do things.
Leslie: He’d be going to school. I, I would have four hours of my own every day to do my work. And so that was the big, you know, relief at the end of this long tunnel. Four children, so they were, um, let’s see, Elijah was five, they were 12 down to five.
Leslie: And then, um, yeah, I, I remember not feeling well, feeling exhausted and going to the drug store and picking up that pregnancy test. And I, I remember clearly just standing there looking at that double line. And it, it was like, “No. No. God, this can’t be happening.”
Jim: Yeah. And so you’re taking the test. I can’t imagine. I mean again, this is something my mother went through obviously and …
Leslie: Yeah, right about the same age.
Jim: Yeah, 42. Same age.
Leslie: Is that, 42, yeah.
Jim: So with that, I mean when you see that positive stripe, what went through your heart? What were your first emotions? Were you happy?
Leslie: No, no. That’s no. I, I, I was shocked because we were using birth control and we, we were done. We had given away all our baby stuff. We were onto the next chapter of life.
Leslie: And so the thought of starting over … And I had all those fears, I mean in those first few minutes you are crushed with all of these fears and anxieties, and you’re literally thinking 30 years ahead.
Leslie: I mean I’m literally in those first few moments figuring out, okay, how old am I gonna be when this child graduates from high school? I’m gonna be in my 60s. What? And, and that means I probably can’t retire, and that means, you know, I’m already projecting 30 years ahead in those first five minutes. And all …
Jim: So you’re already feeling like a failed mom before you even have this child?
Leslie: I am. I’m, uh, yeah. And then I, I feel like a bad mother already because I’m already, like I’m resenting this child. I don’t want this child.
Leslie: I’m having all of those negative emotions. And you know, the, I had never experienced those emotions before because my other four children were prayed for, were desired, wanted, uh, pursued, planned.
Jim: Oh yeah. Uh, Leslie, let me ask the question I feel like I’m hearing back through the microphones, is you know, as a Christian woman, someone who puts their faith in Christ, um, some women would be saying, “Why? Why would you be saying that? Why?” You know, God’s blessed you with this child. And I, I appreciate your vulnerability because I think many Christian women, and I’ll speak just to that audience. Now, I know there are non-Christians listening. I hope you receive Christ and those good blessings come your way. But, uh, that honesty is so refreshing. Let’s start with God, then we’ll move to your husband. We’ll keep it in that order. What was that talk like with God? What was he speaking into your heart? What were you wrestling with him about and how did he settle you down?
Jim: Or did he?
Leslie: Were you, you’re just looking straight into my heart into exactly what happened. I did wrestle with God immediately. You know, all of those fears and anxieties, I am aware that God is with me right now in this moment and I’m, I’m complaining. I’m lamenting. I’m saying all these things to him, and, and yet, there’s also this very clear sense that, oh my goodness God, what are you doing? It’s not what have we done. It’s not what mistake have we made. It’s God. What are you doing here? And even as I said that, I even had a sense of what the answer was. You know, I was teaching full-time. I had four young children. I was so kind of busy and crazy and exhausted. And you know, in some tiny part of my heart, there was a sense of relief of knowing, “Okay God. This is what you want.”
Leslie: “This is what you want right now.”
Jim: How long was that process though? I mean, was that the first moments?
Leslie: It was the first moment and it didn’t necessarily stay with me the whole part of the journey.
Jim: Oh, your emotions got in the way?
Leslie: Oh, pregnant women don’t have any of those.
Jim: Yeah. So we’ll get to your husband’s response in a second here.
Leslie: Yeah. Yeah.
Jim: But, uh, that maybe a good opportunity. How did your husband react? What, I mean, he had to be shocked as well.
Leslie: He was. He was. And it was, the news was hard for him as well. You know, we’re both Christians. We’ve both given our lives to God. We both want to follow God and be obedient to God, but this was not our plan.
Leslie: And we both saw all the long-term consequences of it. And it was concerning to my husband, um, because he, he felt very clearly the, the financial, um, repercussions of that.
Leslie: And he was thinking, “Wow. This probably means we can’t retire when we were hoping to retire.” And so we both shared … And, and, I’m so glad, this sounds strange, but I’m so glad that my husband was as anxious as I was because we could really share our fears together.
Leslie: Um, and some husbands might respond beautifully and say, “Oh honey. It’s okay. You know, God’s got this. We’re gonna be fine.” But my husband could join me in that hard place, in, in that dark place.
Jim: Yeah. Well I think we have adequately painted that pain you were in in that moment emotionally and what you’re anticipating physically. And at that point, you were contemplating the giving up of that late career. But a year later your child, the unplanned one, is about a year old and what happens next?
Leslie: Well, I did not give up my teaching career. I decided, “All right God. I have this wonderful baby Abraham who everyone in my family just absolutely fell in love with him.” But I-
Jim: That happens with the oops baby.
Leslie: It, it, yes, it … And I, we’re gonna talk more about that ’cause that’s, that’s the really important part. Right? Um, so I went back to teaching. I was a crazy woman. I shouldn’t have done that. Um …
Jim: But you’re trying to make it work, juggling all the balls again and …
Leslie: I am trying to make it work. I am trying to make it work.
Leslie: Because I, I feel a strong call to teaching. It’s part of my ministry of serving and loving others.
Leslie: And I’m 43 and I’m not feeling well. And I think, “Hm, maybe it’s because I’m teaching an extra class this semester. Uh, well of course I’m tired.” And, and um, you can already guess the end of the story. I discovered I am pregnant again.
Leslie: I am pregnant again. Abraham is a year old. I still have a baby and I’m pregnant again. This was … I, I mean, I was on the floor with this one.
Jim: So did you ever say to the Lord, “Lord, what did I miss last time that you wanted to teach me this time?”
Leslie: I did.
Jim: Did you ask that question?
Leslie: I did.
Jim: I was only guessing, but that would my first question.
Leslie: No. I did. And you know what I, actually what I recognized was that the Lord was really, was really speaking to me about my priorities and he was … I saw really clearly or I didn’t get it the first time. I went back to teaching and I probably shouldn’t have. It wasn’t the right time to go back to teaching. And I, I knew that God was calling me to step away for a while. I didn’t know how long for. I thought it was forever.
Jim: Yeah. Leslie, one of the things that you mentioned in the book, and, uh, again, this is extremely vulnerable. I appreciate your honesty. But with that second oops baby at 43, you had a thought that crossed your mind. What was it?
Leslie: Yeah. It was, um, you know, and as we’re talking, actually I was 44. I was 44 when I was pregnant, that second pregnancy.
Leslie: I, um, it, it was a really bad time in our lives. We were going through so much upheaval.
Leslie: My husband’s job was in jeopardy. Our house was going through, uh, not just a remodel. It turned out our, most of our house was rotten. It had to be completely rebuilt, so our finances were devastated and I’ve got five children, I’ve got this baby, I’m trying to teach, I’m a wreck. It just was a really, really bad time. And now I’m pregnant.
Leslie: And that added just an unbearable burden and in those moments I suddenly thought, I had this flash like, “Uh, this could go away. I know that this could go away. I could just end this right now before anybody knows. I wouldn’t even have to tell my husband.”
Leslie: And so I had that thought. I had those moments of …
Jim: Where did that go? I mean what happened next? What convinced you not to move that direction? I mean, I think people when they’re honest with themselves and knowing your situation, I mean, of course, as a pro-life organization, as Christians, you know, we always talk about it never being the right solution. But the honesty of having the thought is what I’m really interested in. Obviously you didn’t do it. But I guess why the thought and why you didn’t do it?
Leslie: Yeah. Even within 10 minutes of thinking that though, I mean my soul in turmoil. My mind is turmoil. I am just on the floor before God and I know that this baby, um, isn’t mine. Uh, this child is my body but this his clearly God’s design. I’m not happy about it. I’m angry about it. I don’t know how on earth I’m going to make it through another pregnancy, but I know that this child isn’t mine to get rid of. And I know that God has some kind of purpose and intent through it, and that I was going to have to believe that.
Jim: So Leslie, what I’m hearing, it’s so important, you know, for men and women, but particularly women, because the burden is on them. Um, we can be supportive and we need to be, but that mooring, that anchor that you were attached to your faith in Christ kept you from making that decision I would think, that you recognized this is God’s way and it’s not, it’s not wrong. It’s just inconvenient and terribly disruptive to what I want.
Leslie: Yeah. And at, at the time, and I think every woman experiences this, any woman in an unplanned pregnancy experiences this, it feels impossible. It honestly feels impossible in the moment that you discover you’re pregnant, that you can go through the next nine to 10 months, that you can, again, pour your life out to another child.
Leslie: It feels so far beyond your ability.
Leslie: And the truth is it is. Right. It is beyond your ability. But the Holy Spirit who, who lives inside, it was, was very clear, you know, this child isn’t yours. You don’t get to decide. We, you know …
Jim: That’s an amazing statement to hear and to feel as a believer.
Leslie: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And in some ways it is a relief because you know it’s clear what the step forward is.
Leslie: The step forward is not what am I going to do about this baby? The step forward is okay Lord, help me. Help me through this pregnancy.
Jim: Help me. I love that.
John: And maybe you can relate to the dilemma that our guest Leslie Leyland Fields, uh, faced with her unexpected pregnancies. Maybe you have a similar struggle or a crisis in your family that you just don’t know how to deal with. Uh, please know that we’re here to help. Focus on the Family has a team of caring Christian counselors and we’re just a phone call away. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459, where you can find out more at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. When you get in touch, be sure to check out Leslie’s wonderful book Surprise Child: Finding Hope in Unexpected Pregnancy.
Jim: Leslie, I love your honesty because I know the struggle is real for many women, choosing between a career or a child, it’s tough. Which is most important? Where are your priorities? But you know, in the end, I think it’s obvious.
Leslie: It is obvious and it’s what is most important right now. And so after that second pregnancy, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I’m walking away from teaching. I am not, I’m not going back.
Leslie: And there was a bit of relief in that clarity. Like, you know, you get up in the morning and we, we want to do God’s will. That day, we want live out God’s will. God, what do you have for me today? So every morning that I got up with this child inside of me, I knew what God’s will for me was that day.
Leslie: To love this child that I was carrying, to care for this child and to care for the children that God had given me and the husband that God had given me.
Jim: Yeah. Leslie, you know, so much our culture is screaming the opposite direction right now, and, and feminist groups will say, “You can’t have both. You know, you can’t have a baby and have a career and the better choice is the career because you deserve it,” and this is what women’s rights, it’s what it’s all about is exercising that choice of career over a child. It’s devastating. I think it’s so anthelical to the heart of a woman, that it does tear them apart, even those people that support choice in that way. What do you say to that young woman, that 25-year-old, that 28-year-old who, you know, is having that choice today?
Leslie: I think that the voices in our culture put us in a false dilemma. I don’t think it’s an either-or and we have to see that we have a lifetime ahead of us. When I stepped out of teaching at 45 and I happily and willingly said goodbye to my career, and I thought that was it. Well, interestingly, God literally hand delivered to me another teaching job two years later, but I could teach from home.
Leslie: It was a part-time job that I could teach from home. And it was in a graduate program and it was exactly used all of my education, my abilities and my gifts. I’m now 63 and God has so prospered my career and my calling beyond my wildest expectations. And I thought at 45, that’s it. I’m done. I’m not gonna be a professional anymore. But God had other plans for that as well.
Jim: Yeah. And it’s so amazing, and I think God smiles when we show faithfulness toward him. That’s what he’s looking for, will you trust me. And when we do, man, I think the Lord just responds with that blessing, whatever it might be. Just peace in your heart, you know, and I think that believer has that, uh, relationship with Christ available to them. Leslie, let me, uh, capture our conversation because I think it paints that picture so clearly. You’re on a flight with, overhearing some women. What, this really is typical, right. So what happened?
Leslie: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so I was, um, I was pregnant. This is my second pregnancy. I’m, uh, flying off to a conference and I hear these two women just a couple of rows behind me and they’re talking about potty training. And they’re talking really loudly about all the details of their, of their, their toddler’s potty training. And I remember sitting there thinking, I was just feeling so embarrassed, um, for them and embarrassed for womankind, that, that …
Jim: Well that’s good. Embarrassed for them.
Jim: I thought you were gonna go the other way.
Leslie: No. No.
Jim: You felt embarrassed for yourself?
Leslie: Uh, no.
Jim: I like that.
Leslie: I, I … Yes. I felt embarrassed for all women that, you know, here the, like this, two women are together. They’re obviously really good friends and like this is, this is what they’re talking about together on a plane so loudly that everybody can hear? And, and I realized in my mind, I, you know, there was this judgment and this, um, kind of again, a, a prioritizing like I was more important because I was heading off to a conference, you know, and they’re discussing potty training. And that’s that voice of the culture sneaking in that says, “Raising children is not nearly as important as going to speak at a conference.”
Leslie: And, and I recognized later that those voices are such a lie. Um, those voices that say, “What we’re doing is hard work of loving and kids and changing their diapers and feeling them in the highchair and carrying them in the backpack and cleaning toilets.” All this is, this is beautiful work in the kingdom of God.
Jim: And it’s brief.
Leslie: It’s brief.
Jim: And those are brief things that pop up, the big chores.
Leslie: Yeah. Yes. Yes. And when you’re, when you’re the woman in the midst of that, you know, it feels like it goes on forever, but it doesn’t.
Leslie: So I’m really here at the other end to say that time is going to zoom by.
Jim: Well, and I think Leslie, the, the difficulty I struggle with when I look at the broader culture today, and, and you see the denigrating of motherhood, but the next generation comes through mothers. I mean, dads are wild cards. I know we got our issues and our problems. But if we lose the heart of women for their children, we’re doomed.
Leslie: We are. There is no future. There’s no future of the planet.
Jim: And it feels like we’re getting closer to that.
Leslie: Yeah. Yeah.
Jim: And, you know, it is. The next generation comes through the love and physically through a woman.
Jim: And, uh, it breaks my heart that young women particularly are not seeing the value of that.
Leslie: We think that when we’re pregnant and, you know, we’re about to birth this child and we’re gonna spend, you know, pour out our, our lives for this child, we think that our life is going to shrink. We see a career as a big life, a life that’s out there. It’s a public life everybody can see and everybody values that. And we think that having a child suddenly confines us to the home and that it’s a small life.
Leslie: And I have found the opposite to be true, that my life has grown and expanded. I have become smarter and wiser and deeper of a human being because of my children.
Leslie: Every one of my children has grown and stretched and made my life bigger.
Jim: That’s the reward. And you know, uh, that scripture John 10:10, the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you would have life and life more abundantly. And even, you know, with your honesty, you said it, you had that moment where the thief almost got his desires. But you slammed the door and now your two children have life and they have a purpose and they have a future and they, I know, have life more abundantly because of the home they’re being raised in. How old are they now?
Leslie: They’re about to turn 18 and 20.
Jim: Oh I love it.
Leslie: 18 and 20. It’s, but they’re still my, you know …
Jim: Oh yeah.
Leslie: I mean, they’re, they’re grown up.
Jim: Yeah. They’re special.
Leslie: They’re special. They are. And you know, these unplanned babies end up being special because I think, because you have to fight harder for them.
Leslie: You pray more. You cry more. You cling to God more. And they end up being more.
Jim: I’ll add, just for the first borns and the middle borns, we’re all special.
Leslie: You are. And, and my other four children. Right. Please.
Jim: So don’t, don’t write us.
Leslie: Please. All my other children.
Jim: But God loves you is the point you’re making.
Jim: Leslie, this has been awesome. Thank you for coming all the way down from Alaska and that wonderland up there to spend time with us to talk about what God has shown you, and your great book, Surprise Child: Finding Hope in Unexpected Pregnancy. This is a book for most women and I’m sure many boyfriends and husbands too. Um, but the girl who’s 16-17, um, that young woman, you know, 27-30, and then maybe, especially, that 40 something who’s having that oops baby. Thanks for being with us.
Leslie: Oh, I’m so glad to be here. Thank you.
John: And as we said earlier, uh, be sure to reach out to us if we can offer our counseling services to you or, uh, other resources. We do, of course, recommend Leslie’s book. It is, uh, full of great stories and encouragement. And we’ve got that at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: And John , let me just remind everybody, like we often do, if you can make a gift to partner with us in the ministry, uh, we’ll send you a copy of Leslie’s book for a gift of any amount, just to help us. Let’s continue to help women make, uh, the Godly choice when it comes to their pregnancies and, uh, the babies that they carry into this new life. And, uh, also, uh, option ultrasound.
Jim: What a great program that is here at Focus on the Family.
Jim: We have been doing this for 16 years. We’ve saved almost a half a million babies. It’s $60 a baby. Man, it makes me teary eyes thinking about it. We have the metrics. We know what we’re doing in this regard, working with these crisis pregnancy centers around the country who are in the trenches every day. Support them if you can. Look them up in the phone book if you have a Christian, uh, pregnancy center near you. Volunteer time, volunteer your resources, help them because they are helping women each and every day make that right choice for life. And what we do is come alongside and provide that ultrasound machine so that they could provide a picture of their baby. And 54% of abortion minded women, abortion minded women, that go into those clinics for a free ultrasound will choose life. You hear God saying, “Do it?”
Jim: I hope so. $60.
John: Yeah. That can really make such a difference. Uh, donate online or give us a call to learn more about how together we’re helping save pre-born babies every day through option ultrasound. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. And online, once more, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And this reminder as you, uh, contribute to the work here, we’ll say thank you by sending a copy of Leslie’s book, Surprise Child. Coming up tomorrow, encouragement, uh, for you to be a bold witness for Christ in your everyday life.
Jason Benham: See, Satan knows that how you see yourself will determine how you behave yourself. So if he can convince you as a believer that you’re not a full-time minister, that you’re just an insurance salesman or you’re just a real estate guy or you’re just a stay-at-home mom, or whatever, and he can convince of that, then that’s how you’re gonna act.