How many times have you read a story about a pregnant woman giving birth in, say...an airplane, who claims she had "no idea" she was expecting? If you're like I used to be, you probably shook your head, give it a "Yeah, right!" and moved on.
Recently, a 31-year-old nun in Italy was rushed to the hospital with stomach pains and delivered a healthy, full-term baby boy she named Francesco (Francis), after the pope. While I'm sure he's honored, he's got to be wondering about the real father (I know I am!). The nun simply said, "I did not know. I only felt a stomach pain," wrote Daily Mail. Maybe immaculate conception?
Judging by the comments on the article, most of the readers think she's full of it! Other than the hilarious jokes, the most common question was; "How can any woman be unaware she's pregnant? Seriously." Personally, I don't know about making it to 40 weeks without getting a clue, but as embarrassing as it is, I can admit that I got to 23 weeks—yep, five and a half months—before I realized I was pregnant!
I can explain, really! While carrying my seventh baby, I started showing signs of pre-eclampsia, but test after test ruled it out. At only 24 weeks, I had to stay in the hospital while they tried to figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, they discovered I had kidney and vascular disease, but thankfully the baby was stable. At 37 weeks, I delivered my healthy son, Justin, who was welcomed to the family by his daddy, five big brothers and one big sister. My doctors made it very clear that for my own safety, I couldn't have any more children.
Justin was such a sweet and mellow baby. The only problem I had was with breastfeeding. Because of the kidney disease, I had trouble making enough milk to feed him. By the time he was 2 months old, I ended up using a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS); a feeding tube that attaches to your nipple and a container of formula so baby gets enough nutrition while still breastfeeding. I felt awful, no doubt from my hormones, but he took to it with no problem. After a few months, my breasts hurt so much! I figured his latch was different than I was used to and ignored it.
After having no issues with the SNS for weeks, Justin started to push away from my breast and grumble. From experience, I assumed my cycle was going to start soon. With my other babies, I could actually tell from how they acted and from the smell of the milk. With formula involved, I could only go by Justin's behavior. I waited and waited, but no period, which was fine by me! I didn't think it was a big deal because with breastfeeding there's really no set time for your period to return.
Every day, I would put Justin into the sling, put my toddlers in a stroller and go to the park close to our house. I started getting so tired I could barely make it out the door. I also had horrible gas pains, but I don't think I want to go there! Eventually, I mentioned to my doctor that I was having a lot of nausea, fatigue and bloating. He said they were common side effects from one of my medications and prescribed a nursing-safe anti-nausea drug. I went on my merry way and didn't think anything about it.
Then came the time to figure out what type of birth control I was going to use. My nephrologist (kidney doctor) wanted me to talk to the OB/GYN about having my tubes tied. Laying on the exam table in that most uncomfortable position, I heard a gasp followed by "Oh, Margie" (in that voice your dad used when you brought home a bad report card). I even felt ashamed for a second before I blurted out, "Wait, what? What did I do?" He stood up and said, "You are so pregnant."
After the "you can't have this baby or you'll die" conversation, he sent me straight to the imaging department for an ultrasound. I called my husband to meet me there; both of us were in total shock. We thought we'd been pretty careful; besides, I was breastfeeding full-time! We sat in stunned silence as the measurements were calculated and we were told I was about 23 weeks along and he would be Boy No. 7. Looking back, I think using the SNS and Justin's nibbles of solid foods allowed for me to ovulate.
After going against the medical advice of four doctors, we decided to keep our baby. He was nearly at a viable stage, and I wasn't comfortable with the other option. After making the decision, the biggest obstacle was dealing with our teenagers, who were understandably angry. At 34 weeks, Adam was born via emergency Cesarean due to a placental abruption. As they were knocking me out, I started yelling, "Tie my tubes! Don't forget to tie my tubes!"
When I hear the "I had no idea..." stories now, I sympathize a little more, but I still wonder about making it the full nine months without knowing. I still laugh to myself, a little. My surprise baby, Adam, is 8 years old now and truly my "baby" in every way. I baby him too much, and he eats it up and works it like a pro! Whenever I tell the story of my pregnancy with him, I always give the little preamble: "You know those crazy women who give birth on airplanes?"