Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Unexpected Pregnancies Can Bring Unexpected Joy

DEAR ABBY: I am writing to respond to "Old Mama in Washington State" (June 1), whose pregnancy at 40 is unwelcome to her husband and two teens. My parents had a "bonus baby" when they were in their early 40s. I was 17 and my brother was 13 when we found out. It was hard for us to accept at first. I was grossed out by the idea of my parents having sex, and I was afraid people would think the baby was mine after she was born.

All our worries disappeared when we first laid eyes on our baby sister. I love her to death, and she is lucky to have my brother as her protector. It was a good thing that we were nearly 18 years apart, because I got the benefits of a sister without having to share a room! Now, at 12, she's a fabulous friend to my 8-year-old and will soon be big enough to baby-sit the 4-year-old and the baby.

I'm sure "Mama's" family will become more accepting over time. When they see that baby, they'll know their family is finally complete. -- PROUD BIG SISTER IN CHICAGO

DEAR BIG SISTER: Thank you for writing. I received a mountain of mail in response to that letter. Readers were enthusiastic in expressing their firsthand experiences being families with unexpected pregnancies. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I was pregnant with twins at 45 and my then-l8-year-old daughter was furious with me, going as far as banning me from her high school graduation. It hurt, and I agonized over the decision, but in the end I waddled in anyway. I'm so glad I did.

Fast-forward: The twins are almost 3 now, and they worship their older sister and brother, and the feeling is mutual. As soon as "Mama's" husband sees the baby, I'm sure he'll be over the moon as well. Yes, the future looks exhausting, but it's well worth it. This time around you'll have so much more patience and wisdom -- and you'll pick your battles more wisely. -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

DEAR ABBY: I have to agree with "Mama's" family. Pregnant at 40 is not a miracle, and she's deluded to think so. I was born when my mother was 42. I'm 16 years younger than my oldest sibling, and all my cousins are older.

It is hard growing up with no siblings to play with and no cousins to really talk to because they're all in high school and don't want a "kid" tagging along. I felt unwanted most of my childhood.

It gets better for a while, but then you watch your parents age and die. I didn't have the kind of relationship with my grandparents that my siblings did. And because I was born so many years behind everyone, I missed out on most of the fun family times.

Please tell "Mama" not to take it personally, to be sure her new addition is paid attention to and assured that he/she is much loved and wanted. -- UNEXPECTED SURPRISE IN TEXAS

DEAR ABBY: I was 42, with children ages 12 and 17, when we were surprised by an unplanned pregnancy. We were concerned, of course, with the statistics for a complicated pregnancy, so we had the testing done and trusted that everything would be OK. My pregnancy and delivery were the best of all three, and my little girl has been a blessing to everyone.

She's now 13, and living with a teenager when you're in your 50s is a surefire way to stave off dementia. You have to stay on your toes, and we thank God that he chose to send us one last bundle of joy.

"Mama," don't let the resentment of your family steal your happiness. They will either have a change of heart or not, but that baby will be loved, because she has a mom with a lot of experience. -- ANOTHER OLD MOM IN RICHMOND

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)