You've heard the stories about women who go to the hospital with stomach pains and come back with a baby, and you've probably been like, "How could she not have known?!"
It's not because they're in denial or because they don't know how sex works. Their experiences are a product of what is known as a "cryptic pregnancy"—when a woman doesn't find out she's pregnant until 20 weeks or later—which affects 1 in 450 women.
Women who are undergoing a cryptic pregnancy can be pregnant for months and display few or no symptoms, whether due to pre-existing health conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, perimenopause, lower levels of pregnancy hormones produced by a genetic quirk, or, according to some doctors, simply being too stressed out. One in 2,500 women won't know she is pregnant until she gives birth.
In this week's "Sex Talk Realness," Cosmopolitan.com speaks to one anonymous twentysomething woman who didn't discover she was pregnant until she was seven months along–and who is now the mother of a healthy baby girl.
How old were you when you had a cryptic pregnancy?
And how old are you now?
What else was happening in your life when you found out you were pregnant?
I was not planning to have a baby. In fact, the complete opposite. I was leading a typical Sydney [Australia] lifestyle of someone my age. Needless to say I was very social. I was working on a huge project at the time that was being rolled out globally. I was working 50- to 60-hour weeks if not longer, with 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. international conference calls several times a week. I was not at all prepared for the change that was taking place in my life—unbeknownst to me, as it turned out. I was living in Potts Point in Sydney, which, to give comparison to NYC, would be similar to Soho or Tribeca. It was quite a shock to me and my colleagues who couldn't believe I was seven months pregnant.
I basically had to walk away from everything I had worked on for two years to have enough time to prepare myself for what was coming in two months. It was a very difficult decision to leave work, but I really had no choice. In a "normal" pregnancy, you have time to adjust emotionally, psychologically, and physically. I was told at 16 I wouldn't have children or would have great difficulty. Wrapping my head around having a baby was one thing. But wrapping my head around many surgeries and doctors who said that this would never happen was another thing entirely. It felt like a betrayal, to be honest. At first, it was rather traumatic. Once it sunk in and [I] had a moment to process, that changed very quickly.
How far along were you at the time?
Twenty-six weeks and three days, to be exact.
What, if any, symptoms did you have before that point?
I have stage-five endometriosis and had experienced bloating, nausea, and weight fluctuation on and off for four years throughout some very heavy hormone treatment and numerous surgeries relating to that condition, so nothing new was happening that raised any alarm bells. I hadn't had my period in almost three years, which is most people's first question.
How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?
When I was told I was pregnant, I leant over into a sink and vomited for 30 minutes straight. I couldn't stand and the doctor had to basically carry me to the lift; I was in that much shock. I was feeling so ill; in fact, I was too scared to get into a taxi in case I vomited again, and I walked from the hospital all the way back to my apartment in a trance-like state.
Why do you think you didn't know you were pregnant before?
I often vomited during the night at about 1 a.m. because of my endometriosis. This was happening a little more frequently now that I was pregnant, but nothing that made me think twice about it. And some women will hate me for this but I actually lost a ridiculous amount of weight during my pregnancy (during the last 2.5 months anyway). I was 136 pounds when I found out I was pregnant and 112 pounds when I had my baby.
Were there any medical reasons you weren't showing symptoms?
Stage-five endometriosis. I had four laparoscopies and bowel surgery because of the severity of my case.
How did your doctor treat you when you found out you were pregnant?
It was a shock all around. My gynecologist, who is actually renowned for being one of the best in the city, was certainly taken aback. I was referred to an obstetric practice in the hospital, but my first experience was extremely stressful and very traumatic. My ex and I were no longer together but he came with me to the initial appointment. With my medical background and the fact that the father and I weren't together, the obstetrician basically tried to force an abortion. To be clear, I am not against abortions. But at six months pregnant, you have to still give birth and give the child a funeral, which is not something I was ever going to do. I was very upset and quite disgusted that a doctor would even suggest it.
I was actually really excited when I went in to my first appointment. Within 20 minutes, I was being forced into a very different direction. It was just awful. It all happened so fast, and I was already in shock, I could hardly draw [a] breather even though I wanted to scream, "STOP!" It felt like I was robbed of my first real moment as an excited new mother because of a sexist doctor who was serving the interests of the father of my child and not me.
After that I made a complaint and a female obstetrician took over my appointments and my baby's delivery. She was amazing and the other doctor changed his approach to me after that. He apologized and realized he had made a very bad judgment.
What about family and friends? Your partner?
Knowing my medical background and that I always wanted children, my family has been extremely supportive. My mother has been my rock from day one. I called her as soon as I walked into my front door. After I had walked all the way back from the hospital, I was practically hyperventilating on my bed. She said, "Put the phone down on the bed, get a paper bag, and a glass of wine. Have a sip and breathe, and I'll be here." None of my family lives in Sydney and my mother lives overseas, so that was and is difficult. But my mother has really become my best friend throughout this journey. I couldn't have done it without her.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.