MANY of us will have heard the stories of ‘cryptic pregnancies’ — the phenomenon whereby women do not become consciously aware of their pregnancy until the last weeks of gestation, or in some cases until they give birth.
While rare, it’s completely possible for someone to be unaware they are pregnant until they go into labour.
Here, we talk to three Cork women who have experienced ‘cryptic pregnancies’, also known as ‘stealth pregnancies’.
Knocknaheeney native Emma Healy was seven months into her pregnancy when she realised she was expecting her daughter, Brooke.
The nail technician had been lying in bed watching RTÉ’s hit series Love/Hate when she could feel something kick in her stomach.
“I remember the morning very well, I was relaxing watching TV. My grandmother was out on the landing hoovering and I felt something move in my stomach,” Emma recalled.
“I pulled back the covers and I saw my stomach raise on one side. I called my nan and told her to look. She told me to go straight to the doctor.”
Worried and in a frenzy, Emma rushed to the doctors as soon as she could. On arrival at the GP’s surgery, she took a pregnancy test straight away.
“I was panicking at this point, the nurse did two tests and, yes, both were positive. I was in shock because I really had no idea.
“I was then told a baby doesn’t move at the start of a pregnancy so I began to panic again because at this point I didn’t know how long I was gone.
“My doctor then came in and examined me and said he could feel the shape of the baby while pressing in my stomach,” she explained
Soon after, Emma went to Cork University Maternity Hospital for an emergency scan as medics were unsure of how long she had left of the pregnancy. They found she only had two month to go!
Despite being overwhelmed with the prospect of welcoming a child into the world in a matter of weeks, Emma says it was the best news she has ever received
“Everything at this point was so over-whelming I didn’t know how I was feeling. Myself and Brook’s dad had gone in for the scan to be told I was seven months pregnant, I couldn’t believe it.
“I was shocked, but shocked in a good way. I was over the moon. It was honestly one of the greatest moments I’ll always remember.”
Whilst the first seven months was plain sailing for the mum of one, Emma says her experience of giving birth was a little less straightforward.
“I felt no sickness as such, until the end of my pregnancy. I suffered with high blood pressure, so I was at high risk and also I had protein in my urine and pre-eclampsia.
“I was kept in hospital a week before my due date as my blood pressure was dangerously high.
“It wasn’t long before doctors came to the decision to induce me for my own safety.
Emma adds: “In the end, everything happened so quickly — just like my pregnancy. We had no time and it only took me seven minutes to push her out! This has to be one of the fastest pregnancies and fastest deliveries ever.
“I didn’t even have the benefits of the anaesthetic, but I still will say it didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would. It was one of the greatest moments,” she said.
Emma’s daughter Brooke is now seven years old and attends Sundays Well Girls National School. Taking after mum, she’s never far from a sliotar and wears her St Vincent’s club jersey. with pride.
Proud mum Emma, says the two of them are the best of buddies.
“She’s growing up to be my best friend and her character is something else. I hope she never changes. She makes everyone laugh and I love that about her.
“She is 100% my saving grace. I wouldn’t change her for the world,” she said.
Being pregnant and not knowing it is one thing, but imagine finding out you’re pregnant at 15 and just about to sit your Junior Cert.
Well, that’s exactly what happened to Shellie Buckley and her pregnancy with son, James.
Mallow native Shellie was 30 weeks into her pregnancy when she realised she was expecting. She had an anterior placenta so was unable to feel any kicks for most of the pregnancy.
“My body was in such denial, my period stayed and I didn’t grow a bump. I just gained a little weight,” recalled Shellie.
“One night I was at home watching TV in my room and all of a sudden I started to feel kicks.
“I texted my friends to tell them my suspicions. Sure, they thought I was being stupid, saying if I was pregnant I wouldn’t be feeling kicks already.
“Turns out I was 30 weeks gone. It was terrifying as I was only 15 with my Junior Cert a few weeks away.
“I was only a size six, but I went up to an eight. I didn’t have any bump at all until a few days after I confirmed the pregnancy and it was all of a sudden there and very round,” Shellie explains.
With no other major symptoms, she carried on as normal studying and even sat her Junior Certificate exams.
At the 25-week mark of her pregnancy, she had fainted at school and was brought to the doctors — but they didn’t detect that she may have been pregnant.
With no complex issues throughout her nine months, Shellie’s labour also came easy. She says: “It was about six hours of active labour and ten minutes pushing. James was born a very healthy 7lbs 7oz.
“The staff in CUMH were so lovely, calm and reassuring. They kept me comfortable at all times and I took all the pain relief.”
Her son James is now nine years old and happily attending Newmarket Boys National School.
Big brother to two younger siblings, Shellie says James has the patience of a saint and a heart of gold.
“He’s always thinking of other people’s feelings and does the best he can to make everyone around him happy. Everyone he meets always comments on what a lovely, mannerly child he is.”
Whilst getting pregnant in her teens was not in her plans, proud mum Shellie says it made her the woman she is today.
“I’ve heard over the years that motherhood isn’t for the weak because it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but motherhood took a weak little girl heading in the wrong direction and made me the strong woman I am today.
“Having my own mother as a guide and a role model is why I can be very proud of where my children and I have got today,” she said.
With no more than five weeks’ notice to get organised before she welcomed her second daughter into the world, Linda Raymond says she got the shock of her life when she realised she was expecting.
The Ballyphehane native, who is mum to two girls, Lily, 7, and Harlow, 2, decided to get a pregnancy test at her local chemist as a precautionary measure just over seven years ago.
Not in her wildest dreams did she think she would see two blue lines appear after using it.
“I was at home one day and I just felt weird and felt a bit sick,” Linda recalled.
“Something was telling me to get a pregnancy test. I always had irregular periods so I thought nothing of it. I remember doing the test and sat in the bathroom for about 20 minutes.
“I came out and told my partner to sit down so I could tell him the news. We were very shocked but excited.
“The test read 3-plus weeks, so I thought I was only a couple of weeks gone. It was around 8pm, my partner rang his sister to get another test, just to confirm it, and it did,” she explains.
Linda then went on to make an appointment with the doctor and got her blood pressure checked. Thankfully, everything was OK and there were no issues.
She then proceeded to an appointment at CUMH for further check-ups. On this visit, she was in for another huge shock when she was informed of her current situation.
“The doctor called me in to lie down on the bed for a check up, and she felt around my tummy, and I will never forget it for as long as I live — she turned around and said ‘Girl, if I was you I’d go and pack your bags, you’re nearly due, your 36 weeks pregnant!’
“My jaw nearly hit the floor. I had five weeks to organise everything before Lily arrived,” Linda said.
The 28-year-old mum-of-two says she’s very grateful for friends and family who helped her get everything together at the time.
Seven years later, Lily is happily attending Bunscoil Chríost Rí, Turners Cross.
While she’s not learning online, she’s either singing or dancing or else watching her favourite Tik Toc stars,” she says.
Proud mum Linda says Lily and her younger sister Harlow are the greatest blessings in the world.
“I literally can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have children. It’s the best feeling in the world to hear someone call you mam. I wouldn’t change a hair on their heads.
The bond we have is something else. They’re both growing up so fast, I don’t know where the years went. Every day is a blessing,” she said.