Finding out you’re pregnant is an exciting yet overwhelming time, but when you have eight (or so) months to plan, it gives you time to get your head around your new role as a mum. But what about if you only found out you were pregnant a few months, weeks or even just hours before you gave birth?
That’s what happened to Danielle Hague, 26, Denise Dearing, 42, and Chloe Wood, 25. Despite all knowing they wanted to be mums in the future, they all found out they were pregnant when they were least expecting it.
“There were a lot of tears and confusion when we found out,” says Danielle, from Bristol, who found out in January she was nearly six months pregnant with a daughter, who is due on 10 May 2018. “My boyfriend Josh was in disbelief. It was the only thing we spoke about for two or three days before it finally sank in.”
Danielle had been on the contraceptive injection, which she had every three months, for two years. When she went for her regular appointment in January 2018, the nurse did a routine pregnancy test and it came back positive. Danielle says she has found no explanation as to why her pregnancy test at her previous injection appointment - three months before - came back negative, but it must have been a false negative.
The only symptom she can recall that she missed was that her breasts got bigger at what would have been the beginning of the pregnancy, but she had assumed it was a side effect of the injection.
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Similarly, Chloe also experienced no early pregnancy symptoms aside from her breasts getting bigger. In contrast to Danielle, she only found out she was pregnant while in labour, after initially believing the excruciating pain she was feeling was her appendix.
It was Easter 2011 and Chloe, who was 18 at the time, was on holiday in Cornwall with friends. Just days into the break, she felt the pain - “I’d never felt pain like it” - and spent all day in bed. She took painkillers and headed down to the beach to try to enjoy the holiday, but ended up calling an ambulance in the early hours of the morning. “I was in labour, the paramedic told me I was about to give birth,” says Chloe. “I was terrified, but in a strange way, excited.”
She had no reason to believe she was pregnant - she had periods and experienced no cravings or sickness. She put her breasts getting bigger down to the fact she had gained weight, which was not surprising for her as her weight often fluctuated.
Denise was also unaware of any pregnancy symptoms she had, although her story is very different. She was diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer in August 2001, aged 27. She had a trachelectomy, which involved the removal of her cervix - but not her womb - with the aim of preserving her fertility, and was told it might prove harder for her to get pregnant and, if she did, she’d need stitches to stop her miscarrying.
Denise and her partner started trying for children in 2002. She had IVF in 2011, but it was intensely painful for her, so they only tried once. Over the years, Denise had other problems stopping her conceive, including ovarian cysts and endometriosis. She and her husband looked into adoption and were approved as adopters in February 2015. It was during this process Denise unexpectedly found out she was pregnant at a routine internal scan to investigate a cyst.
Denise was used to having irregular periods and pains due to her gynaecological problems, so never expected pregnancy would be on the cards.
“I was chatting to the nurse about our adoption stuff while the doctor was doing the scan and he said: ‘Do you know there is a child here?’” Denise says. “I didn’t take it in at all, the nurse said: ‘Did you hear what he just said? You’re pregnant’. She had never seen someone’s face looked so shocked!” Denise was told during that appointment she was having a boy, and she was roughly four and half months along. “They sat me down in the waiting room until I stopped shaking before they let me drive home,” she says. “I was on my own because I’d thought it was just a routine appointment.”
When she went home and her husband asked her how she got on, Denise replied: “Well, I’m four months pregnant and it’s a boy”. She says he sat there “gobsmacked and open-mouthed” before the tears started rolling down his face. “He gave me a massive hug,” she says. “He was in shock just like me and couldn’t believe it. I told him the full story of the scan and we just hugged each other.”
Finding out they were pregnant meant a massive upheaval for all three mums, albeit one they were happy to make. Denise had to be signed off work as she was high risk and was told to rest in bed as much as possible. It was too late for her to have any stitches to prevent miscarriage, but she carried her son, George, until 39 weeks, when he was born on 7 June 2016. “It hit me like a ton of bricks,” she says. “I had no idea what I was doing and they left some of the placenta behind, which meant I was back in hospital soon after with a bad infection.”
The family had a few complications as George had pyloric stenosis [a condition in infants where they have problems with digestion], but Denise says after his operation, he was like a different baby. “He is truly our little miracle,” she adds.
Chloe originally struggled to adjust to parenthood. Upon finding out she was in labour, she felt “gobsmacked, petrified, and completely alone”. She gave birth to her baby girl, Mia, shortly after going into hospital: “She had the finest dark hair and the most beautiful features, she was like a little doll. I held her in my arms and wept, I think it was a mix of fear and joy. She was mine, I had made her, and I didn’t even know. 48 hours earlier I was a normal teenage girl, now I was a mother.
“At first I struggled adjusting to becoming a mum, I really did struggle. But eventually we found a rhythm and my mum was amazing. I’ll never know why I showed no symptoms of pregnancy, why I never had a bump or felt my baby move inside me.”
In the days and weeks that followed, Chloe was supported by her grandparents, her mum and her step-dad, who all rallied around to ensure she had everything she needed. Despite finding the first few weeks difficult, eventually she managed to adjust. “Now, I know my daughter is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” she says. “She is now nearly seven years old and she makes me smile every single day. I’ve since had a little boy - Theo - who was born in May 2013.”
Danielle, who is still pregnant, has tried to focus on the positives of becoming a mum for the first time - despite being a worrier by nature. A mere few months ago, she and Josh discussed plans to emigrate to Australia. Now, they spend their evenings looking up the benefits of baby massage and breastfeeding. “The first part of pregnancy can be full of anxiety and questions,” she says. “I’m lucky to have got to this point without putting any extra stress on myself or our little girl. Everyone talks about this ‘bond’ and they aren’t lying. Whether you find out right away or at the last minute, the moment you’re told you’re going to have a baby, they become number one.”
Now, Danielle and Josh can’t wait to meet their little girl, “I can honestly say I wouldn’t feel as happy and confident in becoming a mum if I didn’t have the support of Josh,” she says. “I am most looking forward to seeing her learn things. And being the person teaching her things. I can’t wait to read with her and take her swimming. I’m also definitely looking forward to filming her first time tasting a lemon! I love those YouTube videos.”
Read more about Wood’s journey as a mum on her blog, Just The Three Of Us.