Birth Diaries: 'I Only Knew I Was Pregnant 10 Weeks Before Giving Birth'

"I’d had bigger bloats after a Pizza Hut buffet."

In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Lex Barber, 31, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email amy.packham@huffpost.com.

I never expected to have children, so you can imagine the sheer and utter shock I experienced when I found out I was pregnant – six months gone.

We’d returned from a three-day beer festival – yes, really – in Scotland when I decided I ought to see my GP because I didn’t feel myself. I was a bit bloated and struggled going to the loo. When I say ‘a bit bloated’, I don’t mean ‘bulging at the seams with a pregnant stomach’. I literally mean I had some light bloating and I was a size 8 at the time, so it wasn’t much more than a full belly after a big meal. I’d had bigger bloats after a Pizza Hut buffet. But it concerned me.

I don’t see the same doctor every time I go to my GP – instead snapping up an appointment with whoever I can. I was assigned to a locum doctor and toddled off into his office to moan about my lack of toilet activity. As any sexually-active female will say, tell a doctor you’ve broken your finger and, nine times out of 10, they’ll ask if you could be pregnant.

But this doctor looked at my notes, mentioned me being on the pill, undertook a full abdominal examination and informed me I had a blockage in my digestive system. I was prescribed a month’s worth of industrial-strength laxatives and told that if in 24-hours my shit-uation hadn’t resolved itself, to go to hospital.

[Read More: ‘My daughter’s head came out as I stood on our front door step’]

LexBarber

The next morning, as my significant other left for work, he mentioned that my top was wet. It looked like my boobs were leaking, he said. I, of course, immediately told him he was being stupid and waved him out of the door. I had obviously just dipped my boobs in coffee. Accidentally. Without realising. As soon as he left the house, I googled it. This fruitful search told me that either I was pregnant or I had a cancerous tumour requiring immediate attention.

I ran to Boots for opening time and bought two pregnancy tests, then rushed back and did them both. Two positives. Shit. I Whatsapped my partner, who came home to calm me down – which was no mean feat, trust me. We returned to the GP that evening, and I demanded a new test. The doctor nodded that I was, indeed, pregnant. A sonographer later confirmed I was 24 weeks gone.

I felt pretty awful that I’d drunk while unknowingly pregnant, and of course I stopped when I found out. It did present an extra risk factor in my pregnancy – and something people loved to remind me of (ugh) – so it added on a lot of pressure to an already stressful situation.

I was terrified – and while I wasn’t planning on having a child, I imagine it’s just as daunting for women who have spent their whole lives wishing for one. I had no idea where to turn, what to do or who to talk to. But I was one of the lucky ones. The community midwife team swept me up over a weekend to counsel me daily before arranging a scan to confirm that I was having a happy, healthy little boy. They didn’t raise an eyebrow at my likely-ridiculous questions and did nothing but make me feel like a princess throughout those early days.

[Read More: What it’s like to find out you’re pregnant only a few months or hours before you give birth]

When I told people I was pregnant, someone told me not to worry about the birth. Even if I didn’t know what to do, my body did and would do it for me, they said. I found that really helpful and had faith that with good midwives and doctors around me, I’d be absolutely fine.

The next few weeks flew by, and I didn’t even have time to panic or overly plan – which in hindsight was probably a good thing. My partner and I quickly organised all that we could so we were ready for our new arrival, and talked a lot to reassure each other and try to agree what kind of parents we would be. I didn’t have time to do antenatal classes, but read a couple of books that weren’t completely terrifying (The Unmumsy Mum, I’m looking at you).

Not only did I find out I was expecting months down the line, I also went into labour early. I had just tucked myself in bed one evening when I felt water between the sheets. I was only 35 weeks, so assumed things were just getting a bit cramped in there – to the disadvantage of my bladder. Only, when I went to the loo, I couldn’t stop peeing.

I had in my head throughout my (short) pregnancy that I desperately didn’t want to be an overly-fussed pregzilla who ran to the hospital every week with a different ailment. I’d already been a problem case and didn’t want anyone to think I couldn’t cope. I know now this is ridiculous, but, I waited 20 minutes before I phoned the hospital. You know… to be sure I was in labour before going in.

Thankfully, the midwives at the delivery suite were fantastic and confirmed I’d managed to miss the signs of going into labour, and was already dilated.

I was in labour for 17 hours in total, spanning three midwives, an epidural surrounded by medical students, an induction, some sleep, breakfast and lots of chats with consultants, anaesthetists and students.

Of course it hurt. I threw up, I cried, and I pushed constantly because I had no idea what “push when you feel the need to” really meant. Even with a lot of drugs, it felt like a burning pain and the desperate need to go to the toilet (ironic, given the earlier misdiagnosis). I found relief in the knowledge that, as I’d been told earlier, my body knew what to do – even if I didn’t.

I gave birth naturally – albeit under the influence of every drug I was offered – to Ramsay, who weighed 5lbs. He was healthy and happy and gave out the scream I’d craved to hear, nice and loudly, right away.

Giving birth was the most empowering and important experience of my life – and I still carry a huge sense of achievement for having managed it. It wasn’t as horrifying as I had expected (everyone loves to share a horror story with you when pregnant, don’t they?) and although a little ahead of schedule, it was a roaring success.

My birth advice?

I can’t stress enough how if you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t put off phoning the hospital like I did. Call them, take their advice, and head in if they’d like to check you over. You should prioritise your little one, not your nerves.

As told to Amy Packham.

Lex Barber blogs about her parenting journey on her blog eatweepmumrepeat.com.