An Unplanned Life

It seems that the most important decisions I have made in my life were made without any planning, and were for the most part made out of necessity. The first—and most significant—of these was actually one that was made for us:  becoming parents. The impact of this life-altering news did more than just turn us into an instant family, it changed everything we knew about our lives.

It was early August 1999, and I had just come home from Istanbul to finalize a few of the details for our wedding—confirming the band, securing a photographer, choosing the food, sending out invitations . . . My then-fiancée was to fly out in mid-September, marry me, and together we would head back to Istanbul at the beginning of October. This was the plan. A few days after arriving at my mother’s, at 8:02 pm on August 17th a devastating earthquake struck Istanbul. It was a magnitude 7.6, and it brought destruction to much of the city I loved, killing approximately 30,000 people and injuring even more. I spent the next seven hours methodically dialing and re-dialing my fiancée’s cell phone, only to have it go straight to voicemail. My mother sat with me all night, taking turns pressing redial, supporting me as I struggled through a flood of emotions. There were so many thoughts ripping through my mind, but the one that struck me without warning—the one that came straight out of an inner part of myself—was “What would I do without him? How could I raise a baby all by myself?” This thought frightened me not just because I feared something terrible had happened to him, but because I didn’t actually know I was pregnant. Although I was about ten days late, I hadn’t taken a test, but instead had dismissed the lateness as being caused by a change in location and the stress of planning the wedding. I finally got through to him some time in the morning—he was in a city outside of Istanbul—and although he had felt the earthquake, he was safe and I no longer had reason to worry.

Once the relief of knowing that he was not in any danger had passed, I found myself in a complete daze, unable to think about anything at all. That is until another ten days had passed—and I was really late—that knew I had to take a test. It was positive. This single, monumental event brought about the next significant change in our lives—we moved from Turkey to the United States. This decision was made over the phone, in a brief conversation between the two of us, one that involved only limited details—pack up the apartment, put things in storage, bring me my clothes. The list of things that we didn’t discuss was much longer: how to find jobs, where to live, how to start over.

So, without any plan in place, we found ourselves living in New Jersey, pregnant, without jobs, and initially even without a home of our own. The strangest thing, however, was that throughout all of this, I had the persistent feeling that everything was going to be okay. It may have just been the pregnancy hormones, but this feeling of optimism helped me get through a very challenging period in our lives. In time, we found an apartment, I found a job, and as soon as the INS approved my husband’s immigrant status, he starting working. When our daughter was born in April 2000, I knew all of our “choices” in life were worth it. She gave my life a new sense of purpose. For the next six months, each morning I woke up feeling the excitement of Christmas as I crept into her room to find this amazing gift staring up at me from her crib.  My life was now filled with the wonder I had for this tiny, helpless creature. During this time, I didn’t work, so we had just enough money to pay our rent and bills, and yet we were content with all we had.

This period of time taught me a lot about life and what it means to make plans. Although on a daily-basis I am most definitely a “planner”—my family would probably even accuse me of micro-managing at times—I also know what it means to take risks, to have trust in the power of change. My advice to my daughter is to never fear change, even when it seems to be bigger than you can handle. Life is full of things that come at us without warning, so it is important to be strong in the face of these challenges—to have faith in yourself—and to know that you will be better off on the other side of it.

Published by Erin Rehill

A few years ago, my then eight-year-old daughter told me that she wished I could write down all the things I told her so that she wouldn’t forget them when she got older. In that moment, my daughter gave me such a sense of validation, something I hadn’t really experienced in that way. As parents, we don’t often receive confirmation from our children that we are doing a good job, or that we even know what we are talking about. Since that time, I’ve started to pay more attention to the things I tell her, often thinking to myself “Will she remember this when she is older?” So, this is for her, my words of advice to be read, thought about, laughed at, and maybe even used, when she is older.

Join the Conversation


  1. What’s the saying: life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans? On a recent post I reflected on how those plans had changed with me, and so had my priorities. I think the fact that you guys were practical, quick-thinking, and proactive means you are awesome parents b/c that’s what it takes to have be a family. You have to roll with the punches and keep moving forward.

    Beautiful post.

  2. Hi Erin – I’m over from SITS. I can relate to your story…minus the earthquake and a change of location to Sweden! What I know for sure – having started over from scratch and taking a leap of faith only because it felt right in my core – it DOES work out. Have a look at my own short story here:
    and here:

    Love the idea of your blog being a book for your daughter.

    1. Thank you! Your comment is very much appreciated. It’s so great to get visits and comments from new people! I’ll be sure to check out your blog.

    1. Thank you! It’s so great to get feedback, and to know that I am connecting with readers. Thanks for taking the time to read it, and leave a comment.

  3. I can so relate to this, having had my oldest daughter at the age of 19. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog. I’ll be following yours too! 🙂

  4. I think it’s good to be a planner but great to be open to change. I tend to over plan to the point of micro-managing our hectic family life. But when life throws us a big change and we’ve had to move homes or change jobs, I always go with the flow. Change is good, as they say. Good lesson for your daughter!

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: