I’ve always been one of those girls who has had my entire life mapped out since I was about 5 years old.
I would graduate college, find my dream job, meet the man of my dreams, marry him in a lavish ceremony, have children a few years later and live happily ever after. At 23 years old, I have done almost all of those things, just not in the order I initially planned.
Around 11 p.m. on January 11 of this year, I was at my neighbor’s house with my boyfriend and my father when I started to experience extreme abdominal pains. Thinking I just had to go to the bathroom, I excused myself and went back to my house, only to experience progressively worse pain as I searched for some explanation for how I was feeling. My mind was reaching in every direction, self-diagnosing everything from appendicitis to ovarian cysts. When I got to the point that the pain was unbearable, I told my family I needed to go to the hospital.
When I arrived at the nearest emergency room, they began to give me pain medications and performed several tests to find a diagnosis. They concluded that I must have kidney stones until a urine test revealed what I thought would be the biggest bombshell of my life — I was pregnant.
I remember my heart pounding out of my chest knowing I now had to tell my family that I, their firstborn child, was going to be a mother myself. The first person I told was my mother. I knew she’d be there for me, like she has been my entire life, and even though I could see the mixture of pain and panic on her face, she made me feel like everything was going to be OK. That is, until I heard some equally scary and devastating news: I was probably about 12 weeks pregnant, and possibly miscarrying, which would explain the pain I was feeling. I was sent to Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh for further testing and to rule out any complications.
My arrival at Magee is somewhat of a blur to me now. I only remember being wheeled in on a stretcher and my boyfriend’s white face as he walked behind me, silent and thankful my father hadn’t decided to kill him upon finding out our news. I was wheeled into a small room, where several nurses and doctors began poking and prodding at me, asking me questions I somehow managed to answer, all the while continuing to fight unbearable pain in my abdomen.
After several minutes, I received what actually turned out to be the biggest bombshell of my life — I was 37 weeks pregnant, and I was in labor.
I immediately went into a panic. What was I supposed to do? How would I breathe? Would I get that epidural thing? Would the baby be OK? How would I afford this? What would my boss say?
Several hours and a lot of stress, panic and pain later, I gave birth to a 6-pound, 15-ounce, healthy little boy at 11:09 a.m. I named him Christian Peter — the middle name after his father, who could have easily run for the hills but who stood by me and supported me through everything with more composure than I could have imagined.
The instant I heard my son cry and saw his crinkled-up little face, I was overwhelmed by a kind of love I didn’t know I could physically feel. Twelve hours earlier, I didn’t even know he existed, but in an instant, he became my entire world.
Almost four months later, I’m adjusting surprisingly well to being a new mom. My employer was very understanding of my crazy predicament and allowed me two months off for maternity leave. Christian is a happy (most of the time), healthy baby boy, and he makes me laugh, smile and love him more every day.
Now I know what everyone must be thinking: How can you go for nine months without realizing you’re pregnant? I’m honestly still trying to figure that out myself. The biggest reason is that I was still experiencing what I thought were monthly periods, and I was taking birth control pills the entire time. I’m also naturally heavyset, so when I started putting on weight, I attributed it to an unhealthy lifestyle and working a sedentary office job with odd hours. I don’t recall feeling any kicking or movement, and I didn’t experience morning sickness or any of the typical aches and pains associated with pregnancy. I guess if you don’t know you’re pregnant, then you don’t notice the symptoms.
I don’t know what the future will hold for our unexpected little family, but I do know that Christian will never be short on love. Our friends and family rose to the occasion and bought us everything we could ever need for a new baby, from clothes and diapers to a brand new crib.
Every morning I wake up and see my son give me an ear-to-ear grin, and I can’t help but know that this is the life God had planned for me all along. It might sound cliché, but I was born to be a mother.
On my first Mother’s Day, I’m going to spend the day thinking about all the amazing blessings I have in my life, especially my own mother, who has been my rock through this entire experience and has already sacrificed so much to make sure that my baby, my boyfriend and I have an amazing life together. This life may not be the one I always imagined, but now, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
/ Leighann McGivern is a copy editor for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and a recent graduate of Kent State University.