Embracing unexpected motherhood

At 24, I was planning my first ever overseas trip and motherhood was not even on my radar! Our son turns 10 next month. When I think of my life ten years ago, I am truly astounded by how completely motherhood changed me.

An unexpected surprise

Ten years ago, I was having the time of my life! My parents had surprised me with a plane ticket to Germany for the world-famous Oktoberfest. I was super excited! I saved up for the trip for months and looked forward to staying with my German bestie’s family. The two of us planned to discover all sorts of beer and mischief for two whole weeks!

When the time finally came, I boarded a plane by myself and started my adventure. The next two weeks flew by! My holiday consisted of travelling with my friend, Stephanie to Austria, exploring Bavaria, drinking copious amounts of beer and dancing on tables to live folk music. It was fabulous!


Ashley and I had been dating for four years at that point and he was really missing me. I barely had time for a quick online chat before dashing off to the next thing. In hindsight, I’m so glad I’d made the most of that experience not knowing it would my last solo trip ever!

The first signs of pregnancy

While I was enjoying my trip, I noticed some really odd things started happening to my body. My wonderful host family insisted I dress like a local and have own dirndl to wear to the Oktoberfest. When I had my fitting, we had to let out the waist by a few inches and size up the bodice. I sized up but mentally resolved to go on a very strict diet the minute I got back home.

Another time, Stephanie’s elderly grandparents invited me over for a traditional German meal of pork rind. They traveled by train out of the city of Munich to the best butcher in Dachau for the best pork.

They cooked this for hours to get the rind dark and crispy. It was served with traditional cucumber salad.

I was so very embarrassed when I sat down at the table and had to immediately excuse myself and run for the bathroom. The rest of that afternoon was spent with me asking many probing questions about the war in an effort to distract everyone.  It was all I could do to push my crispy pork rind around my plate and eat all the cucumber salad on the table. After they’d gone to such great lengths to prepare this delicacy for me!

Pregnancy or an undiscovered European illness

When the time came to fly back home, I felt seriously ill. I thought I might have picked up that one European bug nobody had discovered until now (so no vaccine). I secretly worried about taking it across borders. I made a doctors appointment for my lunch hour on my first day back at work.

As part of my checkup, the doctor also requested a urine sample. I was chatting away about my trip and had just burst into folk song when she squealed with ill-concealed glee and shouted, “Guess what! Not only are you pregnant, you’re VERY pregnant. Congratulations you’re going to be a mother!

A what?

I did a quick mental calculation and realized that she was actually not stark raving mad. I’d packed tampons for my trip and they were still neatly sealed at the bottom of my unpacked suitcase. I’d missed my period! Maybe even missed one before this too? I immediately asked if the baby was OK. I confessed about the beer and she laughed and assured me that everything would be fine as it’s still early days but ruled out any beer festivals for the next few months!

Ashley was not as caught off guard as I was. He was all like; “well of course we’ll have a boy. We’ll need to find our own place and move all our stuff and, and … and … and” which only annoyed me because hormones. I hadn’t even thought that far ahead yet. I was going to be a mom. Whaaaaaaat? I was still trying to accept the loss of my social life, shoe splurges and panicking because I had no clue how to do stuff for a baby.

I also worried about my parents. They were so excited to have me travel more. I was still living at home and had just started the second job of my career. My mom was a single mom for most of my childhood but I couldn’t predict how she would react.

My parents were not on board

My parents were appalled! Although I was already old enough to be independent, I was unmarried and a baby ruined all their expectations of me. I was supposed to be travelling more and working hard at my career. They were bitterly disappointed and unhappy. In comparison, Ashley’s parents were absolutely over the moon that they were getting a grandchild.

Ashley and I are both the eldest children in our family so this was a first grandchild on both sides. My mother was so disappointed in me she didn’t speak to me for a long time. I longed to share my pregnancy journey with her but sadly our relationship only deteriorated throughout.

Then I became a mother

Ashley and I had managed to sort out everything with a lot of help from friends and family. We moved into our own place and got settled. Finally the big day arrived! Joshua was born on a quiet overcast morning at Karl Bremer Hospital.

Interesting fact: every day since the day he was born, Joshua’a birthday kicks off the first real storm of Winter!

On our junior salaries, Ashley and I were earning peanuts back then. To save money, we booked a private room in a state hospital and brought all my doctors there for delivery. This worked out cheaper than having them deliver at a private hospital. I don’t regret my decision for a moment because the nurses were very good to me.

We had decided on a no hospital-visitor policy because we wanted to be alone with our baby. It took all of 24 hours for us to change our minds and call in the new grannies.

What motherhood feels like

It was only when Joshua was born that I felt it. Motherhood.

I looked at this precious tiny human with tiny hands and tiny feet and I was completely smitten. No words can describe how full my heart felt. My pregnancy was such a busy time of doctors appointments, moving, scans, preparing for the baby, etc. Added to that I read loads of books on how to be a mother.

All of that was forgotten the minute I laid eyes on my baby. Without explanation, I also understood why my mom was so freaked out about my unplanned pregnancy. My baby was only a few hours old yet I already felt a protectiveness and a world of expectation of him.

Anthea O'Neill

That night, two mothers became grandmothers. It was quite comical watching them fawn over our son. I just lay there and observed them as they politely complimented each other on their achievements of bringing such clever kids into the world who could make a baby like this. Like good sports albeit very reluctantly, they passed him to one another.

Ashley’s grandmother also came. After studying our baby for a few minutes she declared him a fine baby. He had the asymmetrical shaped eyes that were typical of “their side of the family“. They counted his ten toes and ten fingers and my mom was quick to point out at least double the amount of features that are typical of “our side of the family“.

Embracing my motherhood

Since then our family has grown to include our daughter. Although my second pregnancy was planned and welcomed like the first was not, the feelings when she was born were the same. Even more strongly after having a daughter!

I want Alexandra to experience everything that I can imagine for her. I want the very best for her as I believe the best to be. And therein lies the problem. I see that now.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve seen many other women go through unplanned pregnancies. Sometimes with all the same family drama, feelings of disappointment and pressure that I went through with my first pregnancy. Some women have no support at all and feel like their lives have taken a wrong turn. It hasn’t.

A child is a gift

No matter what the circumstances around the birth of your baby, you are amazing simply because have been given the gift of a child. You are now responsible for shaping a person’s life!

Motherhood is not a mistake, it’s not an inconvenience, it’s not an accident nor a punishment. Your child will fill your life with joy and be a blessing to everyone.

Children are a gift from the Lord, an inheritance from Him (Psalm 127:3).

I know a couple who found a baby in a basket on their doorstep one rainy night. They were a married, childless couple and I don’t know if they ever had plans to have any children.

Finding the baby that night was definitely unexpected but that night my friend became a mother. Even after the baby became a ward of the state she had a mother’s heart and was smitten. She knew he was a gift. The baby has just turned eight and is their adopted son. They named him Moses (after the biblical Moses who was found in a basket). Her journey into motherhood was unplanned and unexpected but now they are blessed by their son.

This Mother’s Day we want to embrace mothers

On Mothers Day, I don’t expect grand gestures or expensive gifts. Instead, I cherish the drawings, cards and misshapen clay figurines that little hands have made me. I relish the peanut butter toast proudly served with a glass of water and a whole lemon in it. I sniff the crumbled, handpicked flowers from outside and say how they’re my favorite. I feel cherished.

Anthea's Project Life

I want every new mother to feel cherished on Mother’s Day. That’s why I’ve joined this wonderful campaign by an organization called Cape Town Embrace called the Mother’s Day Connect.Mothers Day Connect

Mother’s Day Connect 2017

Mother’s Day Connect is an opportunity for you to gather your mothers, granny’s, sisters and friends to celebrate new mums who’s just given birth at public hospitals around the country.

It’s a opportunity to share the joy of Mother’s Day with a fellow mother by honoring her, spending some quality time with her, looking at her baby and just showing her love. Telling her what a fabulous job she’s done and what a gift to the world her baby is. We’d also love to leave a special treat for all the nurses who are working on that day, forfeiting time with their own families to help others.

Together, we could ensure that every woman who gives birth on Mother’s Day is told that she is wonderful and strong, and that her baby is a gift to our world. This isn’t about grand gestures or education. There are no super-heroes. This is about acknowledgement. “I see you. I see your baby. Thanks for your sacrifice, Mama, and Happy Mother’s Day.”

We are asking moms specifically in Cape Town, Joburg and Durban to give 1 hour of their day on Mother’s Day to simply sit with a new mom 1 woman to another and make her feel less alone and let her know that she is not alone in this overwhelming moment.

Imagine women gathering at every public birthing facility with the sole purpose of reclaiming Mother’s Day as a day for ALL mothers, starting with our country’s newest moms. Imagine a day of respectful celebration and gentle affirmation and the heavenly scent of a brand new baby.


Thank you for reading this post. If you enjoyed it hen please take a moment to share it on any social media button below. Please comment below to say hi or if you would like to join me on Mother’s Day for one hour at our nearest hospital. I would so love to have you!



Anthea O'Neill is a wife and proud mom of three. She is front-end web developer, blogger and a self-proclaimed glitter & yarn addict. Anthea's Project Life is a blog for the modern mom.

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  1. […] few weeks ago I wrote a post about why I was getting involved in the #MothersDayConnect, hosted by Cape Town Embrace. It […]

  2. Rozanne says:

    Beautiful story. Thank you…needed a reminder that I am not alone. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Rozanne. My kids are now 6 and 9 and I can promise you that they are the apple of everyone’s eye! Motherhood can be very isolating so it really helps to talk with other moms. Even the ones you meet online 😉

  3. This is such a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing your journey into motherhood <3

    1. Thank you Jonelle and thanks so much for sharing it!

  4. Stephanie says:

    Wow! Such an awesome, inspiring way to share your experience. I love the whole concept of mother-to-mother sharing on Mother’s day. While I may not be a mother, I was once the nurse delivering a baby or caring for a baby and I remember their (mom’s) experiences, often not great. The need to share a positive experience or inspire a new mom is so great in our communities today. Thank you to all involved and trust it will be successful.

    1. Dear Stephanie, thank you x100 for your comment and encouragement! I am very passionate about this campaign and so looking forward to this experience on Mother’s Day!

  5. Margaret says:

    Beautifully written. You are one special mommy

    1. Thank You! And you too!

  6. Pamela says:

    What a beautiful blog. This brought me to tears of the memories, good and bad. I experienced motherhood twice. Once with my own precious children and then again as a grandmother. Nothing compares to the feeling of seeing your baby one day having her own baby……………….nothing……………..nothing compares…………impossible to put into words …………… a feeling only grandmothers will know………………

    1. Thank you Mommy. I hope I have that grandmother experience much later in life, like when the kids are in their forties and have done everything I want them to do first 😀

  7. Jackie Williams says:

    You beautifully captured one of the most rewarding life experiences, that of becoming a mother no matter the circumstances and of cause if possible even more rewarding being a grandparent. Thank for our beautiful grandkids, you are a wonderful mother.

    1. Thank you very much, Mom

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