Imagine this: You’re in your mid- to late-40s and you’re experiencing missed periods, hot flashes, weight gain, night sweats, irritability and other symptoms that pretty much make you feel like hot garbage. You would likely assume menopause had arrived, much like 47-year old Massachusetts woman Judy Brown did. Yet she and husband Jason were in for the shock of their lives when Judy went to the hospital for severe stomach pains only to find out the source of them was… a baby. One hour after being told she was pregnant, Mrs. Brown delivered her first child, a healthy 8 pound, 2 ounce girl named Carolyn Rose.
Go ahead, pick your jaw up off the floor. There’s no way someone can be pregnant and not know it, right? Or in a case like this, one might jump to conclusions, assuming that drug abuse, serial delusions, or morbid obesity must explain the mother or those around her not noticing she’s pregnant. Yet this condition, known as Denied Pregnancy, surprisingly occurs more often than people think: as many as 1 in 475 women go into labor completely oblivious to a person growing inside them. When it happens it’s something like a perfect storm: symptoms aren’t as obvious, it wasn’t expected, tests can come back negative, and it may seem an impossibility due to health conditions or age. In Judy’s case, she thought all her symptoms – down to carrying more weight suspiciously around her middle – were due to entering the next stage of her life.
Denied Pregnancy is even common enough that a television series on TLC, “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” had enough material to span four lengthy seasons, from 2008 – 2011. It’s a highly entertaining show: it combines interviews with the actual mothers and their friends and family (who all staunchly affirm the pregnancy was a shock) with dramatized recreations. Thankfully most frequently the babies are born safely in the hospital; there are the occasional toilet deliveries, however, with 911 operators instructing shocked mothers to first retrieve the babies from the toilet. It’s television gold.
Still calling bullshit? I hear you. For most women pregnancy is an all-consuming event, both mentally and physically. Even the more “minor” symptoms of heartburn, ligament pain, hourly visits to the potty or the impassioned desire for salty snacks point to pregnancy as the obvious culprit. Then – for the love of it all – how does a “Denied Pregnancy” sufferer explain what’s happening when she starts feeling a kicking and rolling inside her grotesquely rotund belly due to a human being readjusting its position in there? Gas only goes so far as an explanation.
Becoming a parent is hard enough when you’re reasonably young and have prepared for months, let alone when you’re a bit older than average and not expecting it. Come to think of it, irrespective of circumstance, parenting is pretty much just always hard. So regardless of the unbelievable way little Carolyn Rose Brown came to be, here’s a toast to her and the new parents: good luck; you’re going to need it.