So here we go again, another headline story, another woman giving birth without even knowing she was pregnant.
Jennifer Scollin woke up with excruciating stomach pains, and only realised they were labour pains when her water broke. She then gave birth in an ambulance in the driveway of her home to a 4.16kg baby she didn’t know she was carrying.
What’s even more bizarre is that the baby was her second child, so she had actually been through a pregnancy before.
“How could you not know you have this little thing inside you, week after week?” Scollin later told CBS.
The mind just BOGGLES.
I know this happens. I have read enough stories. I have even seen the American documentary ‘I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant’, about several – not one, not even two, but several – women who have given birth at full term without having any idea they were carrying a child. And according to one article, up to one in 2500 women don’t know they are pregnant until they actually go into labour.
But how can this happen? In what parallel universe is it possible to miss the fact that you are growing another human being inside your womb? I have had three babies and let me tell you, the symptoms of pregnancy are about as subtle as having a refrigerator full of turkeys fall on your head. You can’t miss them.
Okay, so some women continue to get their periods all through their pregnancy, so they genuinely miss that most obvious of signs. But what about the hideous nausea that threatens to destroy your will to live in the first trimester? This is not minor queasiness. It’s not ‘Oh perhaps it’s something I ate’. It is overwhelming, violent, whimpering-in-despair sickness. It’s pretty hard to not notice when you are lying on the floor moaning, or heaving uselessly over a toilet bowl at ten in the morning.
Of course, not every woman experiences morning sickness (and the ones who don’t really better appreciate how lucky they are). However, there is also the exhaustion of the first 12 weeks to contend with. I read once that the body of a pregnant woman in rest works harder than the body of a non-pregnant woman when mountain climbing, and this certainly felt valid to me. I also remember being so overcome with exhaustion that I was found face down in a pile of my own drool by my boss one first trimester afternoon, which, again, was a symptom that was hard to miss.
Still, let’s say that you miss the nausea, and you somehow fail to notice the exhaustion. Well, what about the 15 pound - that's about 7kg - weight gain? Babies weigh at least a few pounds, and combined with the placenta and amniotic fluid they can weigh quite a lot indeed. This is why pregnant women’s stomachs tend to stick out in front of them so that they can’t see their own feet. Even the ‘neatest’ pregnant tummy protrudes a little. Do these oblivious women not look in the mirror? Do they only ever wear elasticised pants? Or do they put the weight gain down to an overconsumption of calories that just happen to migrate almost entirely to the centre of the abdomen??
For argument’s sake, let’s accept that they really did miss the nausea, the sleepiness and the weight gain. That still leaves a full grown baby wriggling in their womb to consider. Wombs are not very big places and babies get very cramped inside there. And they move around. They kick and they turn. They get the hiccups and they shift positions. I had nights where I was kept awake by the party going on beneath my navel. How anyone could not notice that there is an alien being having a swimming lesson right inside their uterus is so bizarre I cannot comprehend it.
Still, it happens. It happened to Jennifer Scollin and it has happened to many other women, too. And in a way I envy them, I truly do - I would have loved to go through my pregnancies not feeling like a sick, exhausted, bloated whale with a hyped-up octopus living inside her.