I’m steering through the heavy rain in the predawn, listening to radio news, when an item nearly takes me off the road: Woman didn’t know she was pregnant until she gave birth.
They even included sound bites from the 911 call in which the dispatcher and the mother discuss cleaning up the infant to clear airways and tie off the umbilical cord. The dad swears it was a huge surprise to everyone. (Side note: They already have three other children.)
I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it.
I realize some women may not know they are pregnant during the first trimester. I questioned this at one time, but I’ve talked to a few women personally about this who explained to me how this might happen. Some women have medical issues or physical situations that might obscure pregnancy symptoms.
But not for nine months. Not three trimesters. This is hard to digest. Impossible to swallow. Even though the medical community says it can happen.
I’ve been pregnant. I’m one of those hyper-sensitive types who knew I was pregnant in the first month. I just knew. Something was different. Physically and mentally, I felt a huge shift. I knew before I knew.
By the time my pregnancy was apparent, there was no denying it to anyone, certainly not myself. You might be able to attribute extra pounds to a bad diet. Blame those first butterfly flutters in your abdomen on gas. But by the eighth month, when the fetus is kicking and nearly threatening to tear apart your internal organs, not all the beans in Whole Foods could produce that kind of gas.
Unless a woman is somehow isolated from society, denied an education or access to any form of information, she knows. At least, she knows something. Even if she thinks she has a massive tumor, eventually it will become obvious to anyone with whom she shares a bed or bathroom. Eventually you might get a bit freaked out about what’s happening to your body and say something.
Unless it’s a group denial.
Prove me wrong on this. But I believe any woman who claims a baby popped out of her clear out of the blue is lying or in a state of denial so deep there are psychological underpinnings.
Why am I driving off the road on this one?
Years ago I covered a preliminary hearing in which the defendant, a college-student who lived at home, hid her pregnancy, gave birth in the family bathroom, wrapped up the newborn and tossed it out the bathroom window into a snowdrift. She was caught by her father who heard “suspicious noises” coming from the bathroom. Soon after, the father saw her walking away from the house with a plastic shopping bag in hand.
Police were called; they intercepted the young woman. Last I heard the baby (who’d now be a teenager) survived. What came out in court, the family’s story, was that no one knew she was pregnant. It came as a shock to everyone. Their story was hard to believe, but they stood by it.
Mental illness? Overwhelming fear of consequences and judgment? It’s anyone’s guess the reasons for concealment. This isn’t a new story. Concealment of pregnancy isn’t uncommon in teen pregnancies or in places around the world where the consequences are dire. But ignorance of it in a first-world nation? By a woman who has three children already?
As the mother of a teen daughter, the possibility of a pregnancy, along with many other pitfalls of the teen years, crouches in the darker corners of my mind. I’m not saying I suspect anything, but the mothers of these girls are always quoted as saying: “We had no idea this was happening.”