When I felt a flurry of alien movement in my stomach last year, movement which felt peculiar and unlike anything I’d experienced before, my first thought wasn’t pregnancy. You had to be far along in order to feel a baby kicking, after all. The idea was so implausible that I didn’t allow myself to think it: I’d had no morning sickness, no sore breasts, no baby bump, and I’d felt as energetic as my usual self for months.
After consideration and clouded conversations with myself, I took a pregnancy test at work the next morning, just to settle my doubts. To my utter astonishment and disbelief, I was faced with what claimed to be a positive test.
I returned to my desk in a state of pure confusion. I’d been on birth control for years, and never contemplated that the choice to fall pregnant would be taken away from me. I thought everyone made the decision and went through each week with excitement, finding out the sex, choosing a name, all in their own time. I had never imagined a child would be almost thrust into my arms, my immediate responsibility. More urgently, at 23 years old I didn’t feel even remotely prepared to birth, let alone raise, another human. I was in unequivocal shock, and those ripples of movement in my stomach were only growing more frequent.
A doctor confirmed my pregnancy the next day. And not only that – after performing an ultrasound, they confirmed that my baby was at seven months gestation. 30 weeks. My third trimester.
“As a teenager, I always imagined the moment I found out I was expecting. I never dreamt I would find out, alone in a doctor’s office, that I was seven months along.”
I kicked the bed out of indignation, and struggled to breathe. As a teenager, I always imagined the moment I found out I was expecting. I’d jump for joy and call family members, revelling in the news. I never dreamt I would find out, alone in a doctor’s office, that I was seven months along – and that I had just two months to prepare for becoming a mum.
I had what’s known medically as a ‘cryptic pregnancy’, where a woman doesn’t know she’s pregnant for 20 weeks or beyond. Some women only find out when they give birth. The way your brain reacts to this kind of news is inexplicable – I was bombarded with a multitude of emotions, could’ve even been dreaming as far as I knew, found myself speechless for the first time in my life. I realised there were trivial moments that I dismissed, where my body was trying to tell me I was pregnant: I’d fainted on the tube for no apparent reason; I’d had a small patch leak out of my nipple the month before I found out; and I’d taken a day off work because I felt drained, back in what I now knew was my first trimester.
But none of those pointers ever led me towards pregnancy. I questioned my own ignorance: how could I be a good mother if I didn’t even know I was carrying my daughter? How would I cope as a young mother with a full-time job? Would I even connect with my unborn child?
My first instinct was to call my mum, who was just as stunned – at the time I was living with her and my three sisters, and no one had even thought for a moment that I looked pregnant. Her reassurance was the only thing that kept me going as reality sank in as I began to come to terms with the path chosen for me. “You can do this,” she said over and over as I stared blankly at her. “I can’t”, I remember replying.
But, as I’ve come to learn, mothers are always right.
What transpired over the following two months was existential. Without even realising, I fell completely head over heels in love with the baby I was carrying. People around me said I was ‘born to be a mother’ – something I’d never said about myself, yet now felt myself embodying. My partner and I actively looked forward to every scan; our family and friends celebrated every milestone; and we felt electrified with every kick as we picked out a name, a cot, a pram. I even found myself eager for labour.
Still, those two months were fleeting. We squeezed nine months into two, partially feeling robbed of the beautiful moments you’re ‘meant’ to cherish so deeply along the way, but mostly on autopilot. All we knew was that we had to bring this baby girl into a world full of stability, love and ease. She couldn’t be met by parents who were panicked, ungrateful.
My daughter was so strong-willed, she overcame the minuscule chances of conception and hid herself in my womb for 30 weeks, waiting for us to find her. I changed my perception from feeling sad I didn’t get a choice in this, to realising that she chose us. How could I do anything but honour her choice?
“Your baby will guide you. Your bond will grow to be unbreakable. And your instinct to protect them will override any ounce of fear.”
When she was born, we felt complete – a feeling I hadn’t expected. I was so sure on that first day that this was an ’inconvenience’, but how wrong I was: it was our biggest blessing.
Though it wasn’t planned, and though it took us on a path we never expected, I’d say to any woman who goes through an experience similar to mine that it will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. Your baby will guide you. Your bond will grow to be unbreakable. And your instinct to protect them will override any ounce of fear.
I thank my daughter every day for giving me the chance to raise her, and I am eternally proud to call myself a mother.
Daisy Leigh is a PR executive and mother to Savannah. Follow her on Instagram at @daisyaleigh
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