Do you think you’d notice if you were 6 months pregnant? I didn’t. I’ll never forget the moment. I was sitting in a lecture for work, in the far right hand corner of the room, blocked in by the cold of the stone wall on one side and a line of colleagues on the other. The lecture was on Dealing With Death as a Police Officer, not that I took anything from it. I was pre-occupied with a feeling in my stomach – I can acutely remember spending the three hours arguing with myself in my head as to what medical phenomenon it could be, appendicitis was what I settled on. There was no pain at all, but my stomach jaunting. Every so often it felt like my entire abdomen was shifting to the left, a dull slight movement, but it was enough to have me claiming an illness. At no point though, did I ever consider I could be pregnant. How many times have you read these ‘I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant’ stories before? An unbeknown pregnancy, contractions mistaken for cramp and a crowning baby in the shopping centre toilet. Whilst my experience is not quite as extreme, I managed to spend the first 6 months of my pregnancy completely unaware, leaving myself less than 15 weeks to prepare for the baby I’d never even been trying for. Prior to my own experience, whenever I read these stories I couldn’t help but think these girls were just ignoring the obvious, the signs staring them right in the face, I mean, how could you not know you were pregnant? Surely you would notice growing another human inside of you… Truth be told, looking back now, there were signs, but when your not looking for them, and with big changes in my life happening alongside, I attributed none to a pregnancy. I had an excuse for everything, and not for one minute did I think they’d add up to what they did.
In April of last year, I undertook my 13 week training course for the police, it involved living away from home Monday-Friday, under a regimented timetable and the pressure of bi-weekly exams and various fitness tests throughout. It was a culture shock to say the least; I’d waited the month prior for my start date, so the most significant accomplishment of my days was completing more than 6 episodes of one series in a single sitting, now, I was expected to eat, sleep, and learn on the clock. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but everything was regimented and the days were long, and before long I was absolutely exhausted. While the other trainees spent the nights in the pub, or having any sort of a social life, I often found myself asleep by 9pm. This wasn’t anything groundbreaking, my days started at 5am, so I went to bed early – falling asleep during lectures was just a minor inconvenience. I lived on caffeine, and with every 10 minute break we had morning and afternoon, I’d throw back coffee like no tomorrow, and I’d permanently have a bottle of ice cold water on my desk. It kept me awake, and whenever my eyes felt heavy, concentrating on drinking gave me a focus point. This extra liquid meant I was peeing 24/7 – quite literally, 24/7. It was a Catch 22, but ultimately unavoidable.
On top of the lectures and our exams, we were expected to stay fit throughout – we’d passed initial fitness tests to get our jobs, and none were secure unless we passed the series of tests throughout. They were easy though. I was fit. I’d trained in the gym five days a week or so for years, I liked weights, and although I hated running, completing 2 miles in the given time limit was a walk in the park. I started off strong, but despite continuing to exercise daily on top of the additional sessions we were given, my fitness wasn’t improving. It wasn’t getting worse, but I was tired, I wasn’t moving anywhere very quickly. In the first 6 weeks or so, I’d gone from 39 press ups in a minute to 42. I wasn’t getting significantly better, stronger or faster, and that was frustrating. I was slightly obsessive over weighing myself, and daily weigh-ins confirmed what I already knew deep down. The food at Police College was shit. I wasn’t gaining weight, but I wasn’t losing it, despite trying to. I was exercising, I was only given three meals a day as it was, I wasn’t losing any weight because what they were giving me wasn’t good enough – there was little veg, no protein, and a lot of bread. I wasn’t losing weight, because of the bread. I had also been using birth control for years prior to this, I’d always been on the pill, so it was never a question of whether or not I could be pregnant. I’d gotten a few periods here and there, all light, nothing substantial – but that was not a surprise. My periods had never been regular, the reality was that I was lucky if I got it for two months in a row consistently. No one, not even me, questioned the possibility of a pregnancy, because there just wasn’t one.
It all came to a head in June. I’d booked a holiday with my boyfriend, and being like every other girl in the world, I had grand plans for stepping on to the beach looking like I’d walked straight off of Women’s Fitness’ magazine. I wanted to look good and feel confident, so started hitting the gym twice a day – once at 5am before the work day started, once at 7pm once we got off. My weight fluctuated, but after two weeks of eating nothing but eggs, chicken and rice, I gained a pound, and my stress levels were off the charts. It sounds odd, being stressed over weight gain – but I’m a very strategic person, and if I want to lose weight, I’ll do it, so putting the calculated effort I had in and seeing no results was frustrating. I was stressed as it was, and this made it worse. I was tired, stressed at the prospect of exams as an adult, and now I wasn’t losing weight, so it’s safe to say I was temperamental, over emotional and fairly highly strung.
None of this was instant – it was over the course of three months, so although reading this you may hone in on my ‘symptoms’ and ask yourself how on earth I didn’t piece together the puzzle, but over the course of time, these were all single entities that were simply one of lives normal struggles. When you start a new, much more pressurized job, would you not be tired? If you were drinking six liters of water daily to keep yourself awake, would you not need to pee all of the time? If you never had regular periods, would you be surprised to have missed one? Had I been around my partner, or my family, day in day out, they may have noticed a difference. My body may have changed slightly, my temperament, my outlook, but I lived away for three months – they each saw me for a day or so per week, it’s no surprise no one could put their finger on it.
After 11 Weeks of training, something changed. It was a Wednesday, midday, we had practical exercises in full uniform, and my trousers were extremely tight. My weight was the same, but my stomach was bloated, I remember staring at myself in the public toilet and wondering what the hell was wrong with me. I didn’t look particularly large, but my stomach felt solid, slightly rounder, and solid. We had a fitness session later that day, and I remember complaining about this growth in my stomach – I had someone else feel it, completely convinced I had appendicitis, or kidney stones, or any other medical abnormality that can occur in your abdomen. I needed to go to a doctor – I was sick, I had to be. Needless to say, I didn’t go to the doctor. I phoned my partner, who has his own condition which affects his abdomen, claiming he’d passed it onto me, still, even at this point I was not pregnant. I was sick. Whilst I was at the college, my nights were short, my days were long but packed. I didn’t have time to obsess over it, at least I didn’t, until the Friday. Which brings me to my lecture, sitting in the corner, with my swollen stomach and my shifting organs. Later that day, I left for my weekend at home – terrified at what was to come, but completely not ready for what it was to be. I can honestly say until this point I hadn’t even thought of a pregnancy, it did not cross my mind, but after leaving my bags at the door, I shouted to no-one in particular that I had to see the doctor, something was going on with my stomach. It was my mum that came first, and without even a seconds thought, she asked me if I could be pregnant.
“No. There’s no way.”
And then I cried.
Something clicked in that moment, and I never even had to do the test to know that this was the only explanation. I done a trusty old Clear Blue, which told me I was 3 weeks+. which was scary enough. Little did I know, I had conceived 26 weeks earlier – I was over 6 months pregnant, with the first two trimesters gone in the wind. I was pregnant, very very pregnant. I had booked a doctors appointment looking for confirmation, but she didn’t even so much as take a urine sample, she felt my stomach once and dated me at over 25 weeks. At least 25 weeks.
My world crashed a little, as I fought to get to grips with the idea of having a baby before the end of the year. I wasn’t sad about having a baby, I was sad about not being ready for that baby. I was starting my new job, I was getting a flat, I was starting my life after university – and suddenly, everything was thrown on it’s head. When people ask me how I felt discovering my pregnancy so late on, there isn’t really a way I can answer it in the way they’d like me to. My pregnancy was the shock, the time factor, that was completely irrelevant whilst I tried to get my head around the idea of bringing a child into my life. In a normal pregnancy, even if it was a complete surprise, there’s 40 weeks there to embrace the change, to get excited and to prepare, I had lost that, instead thrown into the thick of my pregnancy. There’s something to be said for not being able to feel my body change over time: I had no symptoms, very little weight gain, and felt no movement for nearly the entirety of first two trimesters. I didn’t have the opportunity to witness my bump grow day by day, or to feel my baby kick more and more as time progressed, instead, I went to bed one night, I woke up the next morning with a bump that had popped and a kicking baby, and from then on a 100 miles per hour pregnancy.
My late revelation was a blessing in disguise: I hated pregnancy. I truly did, I lost the ability to be as active as I was before, I was now restricted at work, and everything changed. It’s sad to say that you hate pregnancy, as the end result is ultimately the best thing in the world, but as I hadn’t been trying for a child, I wasn’t ready for the changes it would bring. My pregnancy was harrowed with weekends at the pub, constant caffeine, and over exerting myself in the gym: I went into labour terrified as to what may meet me at the end, I couldn’t help but worry that my lifestyle in the first 6 months would have a negative affect on my child, and the late stage of my pregnancy meant that I was not able to be scanned for any abnormalities. It’s a disturbing thought to think that my own choices could have effected the health of my unborn child, and had anything been wrong, I would never have forgiven myself. My pregnancy was over before I knew it, 14 weeks later, I had my son, in a somewhat dream labour, a perfectly healthy baby boy, and he’s been the best thing that has ever happened to me. My pregnancy was a shock, but it was a blessing, and I can now look back in hindsight and kick myself for not piecing everything together just that little bit sooner…