Rebecca Oldham, 25, Central Coast, NSW
My eyelids felt heavy as doctors rushed around. Staring across the operating room, I spotted my partner, James, 31. 'What's going on?' I asked as he grabbed my hand. My mind felt foggy as I tried to focus. 'I don't know how to tell you this...' he began.
I'd arrived at the hospital a few hours earlier, suffering from chest pains. As a hairdresser and busy mum to Hayley, one, I was always on my feet. But that day at work I developed a headache and felt terrible.
Figuring it was because I had my period, I went home to get some rest but a few hours later I woke as strong pains shot through my chest. Waking James, I tried not to panic. 'I need to go to hospital,' I told him.
James' mum looked after Hayley while he raced me to the emergency department where I was admitted. Doctors did a full examination and ran tests, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong. 'We're going to do an ultrasound,' one told me, explaining that I might be haemorrhaging. But as the results came through the doctors were puzzled. There didn't seem to be anything wrong.
What was happening to me? By now, the pain had spread into my abdomen and doctors decided to operate to find out more. 'We may have to remove your ovaries,' I was warned. It was possible a problem with my ovaries or fallopian tubes was causing the pain.
I felt a stab of devastation. I'd hoped to maybe give Hayley a sibling one day. If I was sterilised that would never happen. But I knew I had little choice if I wanted to see her grow up. 'Do whatever you have to,' I said before being wheeled into surgery. I had no idea I was about to get the shock of my life.
Waking a few hours later, I was confused to see James. That's when he revealed something incredible.'They found a baby,' he said, explaining that when the doctors had gone to operate, they'd found a baby lodged in the amniotic sac behind my ribs.
'I can't be pregnant,' I stammered. 'I would have felt it.' It didn't make sense. When I was expecting Hayley, I put on almost 30 kilos and had a huge bump. I'd also felt every single kick and movement as she grew.
For the last nine months, I'd been getting my period and stayed at 75 kilos. Bursting into tears, I felt completely overwhelmed. How could so many tests miss this?Questions swirled in my mind as doctors explained the baby was stuck in a very tight spot, meaning they needed to act fast to deliver my bub.
They'd made the decision to wake me for the surgery so I had time to digest the news. With only a few minutes to spare, I rang my mum, Cheryl, who was racing to the hospital.
'I can't do this,' I wept.
'You have to,' she said. 'You have a baby who needs you.'
Before I knew it, I was being prepped for delivery. While it's normal with caesarean births for a curtain to block your view of the operation, doctors decided it was important for me to see what was going on. After all, if I didn't see it with my own eyes, I wouldn't believe it.
My head was still spinning as I heard a loud, healthy cry. 'It's a boy!' I was told. My son weighed in at 4.3 kilos. I was in absolute disbelief. How had I been carrying around a full-size baby without knowing it?
As he was whisked away for testing, I caught a glimpse of his gorgeous little nose. He looked just like James.
A few hours later, I was wheeled into the ward to see my little man. It felt so surreal. We decided to name him James, after his dad. Doctors explained that while it isn't common, it is possible for women to continue their period and gain little weight during pregnancy.
The next day, we brought Hayley in to meet her surprise brother. I was apprehensive about how she might react, but she was over the moon. 'Hello bubby,' she kept saying, stroking his head.
I struggled to breastfeed, but nurses explained this was because I hadn't had time to mentally prepare. We had also given away all of Hayley's baby equipment, but family and friends rallied around and bought supplies.
Adapting to having a new baby took some time. I'd wake to crying and think for a brief moment it was Hayley! But one year on, James is doing well. With a cheeky smile and an infectious giggle, he's such a happy baby.
While the way James came into the world wasn't at all conventional, I can't imagine life without him. He's the best surprise I've ever had!
First published in that's life! Issue 16, 2015 cover date 23 April, 2015