When most people hear that a woman has given birth to a baby she didn’t know she was pregnant with, they’re incredulous that she hadn’t noticed any of the usual pregnancy signs. They say it would be hard to miss the usual symptoms – morning sickness, a growing tummy, the baby moving, skipped periods – and that women who don’t realise they’re expecting are usually in a state of denial and just don’t want to know.
But for Linda Ackley, 44, the signs were all easily confused with other medical conditions – which meant she didn’t know she was pregnant until it was almost time for her to give birth.
“Some people have nine months to prepare [for a baby]. I had hours,” her husband, Mike, 45, told their local newspaper in Jackson, Michigan, earlier this month.
The couple had met at high school and were married soon after, in 1988. They’d both wanted children but as Linda never fell pregnant – despite not using contraception – they believed they were unable to conceive.
Then, in 2011, Linda had a major health scare. Diagnosed with necrotising fasciitis, a bacterial disease that eats away at soft tissue and flesh, she spent a week in a coma and on a ventilator. Some of the damaged muscles in her stomach had to be removed.
Doctors thought she may not make it, but Linda recovered. She remained healthy until February 8, when she visited her doctor complaining of some strange bloating in her stomach.
Worried she had a hernia, the doctor sent Linda for a CT scan. That’s where she was told she was actually 36 weeks pregnant.
A stunned Linda was sent for further tests, where it was revealed she had already carried the baby to full term – and it was time for the delivery.
She says it was lucky Mike was sitting down when she told him the news, and he jokes that he wished someone had taken a photo of his face at the time.
“I was happy and shocked at the same time – and scared,” Mike said, adding that calling the news a surprise “doesn’t even come close”.
Looking back, Linda said, she had blamed the baby’s movements on her twitching and contracting stomach muscles and nerves after her 2011 surgery. Her periods had always been irregular, and she hadn’t noticed any substantial weight gain.
Just hours after learning of her pregnancy, Linda became a mother to baby Kimberly Kay, who weighed a healthy 4.56kg.
The couple have received donations of baby items from friends and family members, and baby Kimberly has been given a t-shirt that reads “Mommy’s little miracle”.
After his wife’s close call of a few years earlier, Mike feels especially lucky.
“First my wife came back to me, and now I have a baby girl,” he said.