'It's not a stroke, it's a baby'

 Photo: Getty Images

It had been a long week at work. I'd been travelling for three days, going to endless meetings and workshops and schmoozing a whole lot of people I didn't know. My brain was tired but I was looking forward to stopping in on my way home from the airport to meet a friend at an inner city pub for a quiet drink or two. Both of us had been super busy and we just wanted a moment to exhale together.

Back home, a week after moving house, my husband was taking care of our two young kids while trying to chip away at the endless box unpacking that inevitably comes from a big family move.

The move had taken its toll on all of us. It had been a tough time, with some legal dramas with our real estate agent, as well as a few extra stresses, but we'd come through it and we were so relieved to be in our new home – even if we were still tired and a bit snippy with each other.

So it was with great relief that I slid into a booth at the pub, a cold beer in my hand, ready to catch up on all the gossip with my girlfriend. But then something strange happened. I couldn't drink more than a couple of sips of beer. I felt a bit sick and a bit dizzy.

My friend ordered me a water, and I waited for this feeling to pass. When I realised it wasn't going to go, I called a taxi to take me home. We'd have to cut the night short, and catch up another time.

But before the taxi could get there, things started to take a turn for the worse. I was so woozy I needed to lie down on the seat (always a great look at a pub!). I felt incredibly nauseous and my left arm started to tingle and go numb. I couldn't feel my left hand.

My friend cancelled the taxi and called an ambulance. It arrived in no time at all and whisked me away to the hospital, which was only a couple of minutes down the road.

With my husband home with the kids, my mother came to be by my side while I went through a raft of tests. Most concerning to the hospital staff was my tingling left arm. They told me they were testing to see if I'd had a mild stroke.

At 38 years old?


"It happens," said the doctor. "It's not common, but your symptoms suggest a possible mild stroke. The good thing is you got here quickly.

"The other thing we'll test you for is pregnancy," she added. I peed in a cup and handed it over, sure I couldn't be pregnant. I was on the pill and I took it religiously every day at the same time.

The doctor disappeared for a while, and my mother joked about the outcome of the tests.

"A stroke or a baby, which one would you prefer?" she laughed.

I'd thought about a third baby but had made no firm plans, and the timing was awful, so I had to think long and hard about which one of those I'd choose.

But I didn't get to choose, because then the doctor reappeared.

"The good news is you haven't had a stroke," she began. And then I knew. She smiled and held up a home pregnancy test.

Baffled, and full of a mix of emotions and fatigue, I burst into tears.

That baby went on to become my daughter, who is now four years old. She loves ballet and dolls and unicorns and the colour pink. And, being the loudest of my three children, she has maintained a knack for the dramatic.

And now I'm really happy it wasn't a stroke.