How could anyone miss those telltale signs of nausea and exhaustion? Well, if you’re not expecting to be, erm, expecting, it’s easier than you think…
Siobhan Mooney, 23, a sales assistant, lives in Bebington. She is mum to Alfie, 21 months
‘One morning, I woke up feeling sick with a dull ache in my back, and I assumed I’d picked up the stomach bug going around at work. As the day went on, the ache in my back got worse. I live with my parents, and when I got home my mum suggested a bath and an early night.
As she’s a nurse, I took her advice, tucked myself up at 7.30pm and went to sleep. At 11pm, I was woken by a sharp pain in my tummy and scrambled to the bathroom, thinking I needed the loo. For the next few hours, I writhed around in bed, switching sides to get comfortable. I felt clammy, breathless and almost in tears with the pain. I couldn’t understand what was wrong.
'When I opened my eyes I heard a faint, gasping sound'
Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with pressure in my abdomen and what I thought was the urge to pass wind. I instinctively had the impulse to push with all my might and then everything went blank. The next thing I remember is opening my eyes and hearing a faint, gasping sound.
Looking down, I saw the silhouette of a tiny baby lying between my legs, partially covered by my nightie. Terror flooded through me and I screamed for my mum. As she rushed in and switched on the bedside light, I was too scared to look. Hearing my mum’s startled cry and seeing her rubbing the tiny body left me in no doubt – I’d just given birth!
I couldn’t understand it. I’d had a pregnancy scare months earlier when I was with my ex-boyfriend and my period had been late. I’d taken a test, but it had come back negative and then my period came. Now I realised it must have been wrong.
Thankfully, Mum went into nursing mode, shouting for my dad to call an ambulance, before wrapping the baby in a towel. I was boiling hot and dizzy, so when mum offered to put the baby on my chest, I refused as I felt too ill. “The baby’s breathing fine but my daughter’s not OK,” I heard Mum telling the 999 operator. I was silent, and completely in shock.
Minutes later, the paramedics arrived, cut the cord and wrapped the baby in a blanket. I was told he was a boy, but I couldn’t take it all in. I delivered the placenta in the ambulance, but all I kept worrying about was the fact that no one was going to believe I hadn’t known I was pregnant.
'I kept asking if my baby was healthy, terrified I’d damaged him'
When I placed my hand on my stomach, I couldn’t believe there’d been a baby in there. I’d assumed that switching from bar work to a desk job was why I’d put on some weight. I’d had no other signs of pregnancy. I kept asking if my baby was healthy, terrified I’d damaged him. Over the last few months, I’d been eating sushi and drinking wine. But paramedics assured me he seemed fine, just a little small at 5lb 1oz.
At the hospital I was treated for pre-eclampsia (a condition that affects some pregnant women, usually in the later stages of pregnancy or soon after giving birth, which can be dangerous if undetected), which had sent my blood pressure rocketing. After a couple of hours, I was well enough to hold my baby boy, who I named Alfie. Looking at him, a rush of love flooded through me.
Alfie and I stayed in hospital for five days, giving me time to come to terms with it all. I rang my ex-boyfriend and he came straight to the ward. Mum rushed out to buy baby gear and I called my boss to explain I needed maternity leave. I was living at home, so there was always someone around to help in the early days. And my ex has been fully supportive ever since.
Looking back, it was amazing to think I was capable of delivering a baby like that. The doctors say my body must have taken over, giving birth even though I’d passed out. Sometimes I look at Alfie and wonder where he even came from, but I’ll always be grateful he’s here.’
What The Expert Says
‘If you become a parent with little warning, a counsellor can help you adjust,’ says psychologist Sandra Wheatley.
Build up a support network
‘Surround yourself with non-judgemental, sympathetic friends and family, and be open to their input,’ says Sandra.
‘Admit that you missed the signs of being pregnant and it was a huge surprise. Being honest will be a relief and you won’t have to pretend to anyone.’