My husband and I got married young (like, infancy) and after a little over a year we decided to start growing our family. We wanted to have at least three or four kids, so being able to start trying while we were still only in our mid-twenties was exciting and ideal. In high school and college I had some problems with intense cramping and ovarian cysts, so I was on birth control for all of my teen and young adult life and knew I would need to let my body adjust to an uncontrolled cycle.
After a few months of irregularity and missed periods with no pregnancy, I decided to go see my OB. He asked if I was pregnant, which I was not, and prescribed a round of hormones to try to kick start my cycle. After another month with no cycle and no positive test, I went back again. Again they asked if I was pregnant, again the answer was no, and they switched up my hormones and told me to give it one more month. Anyone trying for a baby knows how long a month can feel, so when I still hadn’t had a regular period I was disappointed, frustrated, and concerned.
I had taken for granted that being in my early twenties would make getting pregnant a breeze…what if I had been wrong?
At my follow up appointment, the nurse told me to strip from the waist down and wait for the doctor. I remember sitting half-dressed on that cold exam table, my hands folded in my lap, as he explained to me that he wanted to do an internal ultrasound to get a better idea of what was going on. He used the medical analogy of looking for a “zebra;” doctors are often told in medical school that “when you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras,” meaning that most times the diagnosis will be the most likely, not the unusual and rare. But, he continued, sometimes you just need to rule out the zebra so you can continue treatment without worry. In my case, the zebra was a uterine tumor that might be messing with my hormones. As I lay back on the table I felt tears in the corners of my eyes. I was 24 years old; what if rather than labor and delivery, I was going to be preparing for surgery and treatment? The room was quiet as he started the exam…until he began to laugh.
“Well,” he said, turning the screen toward me, “it’s not a tumor. The reason you can’t get pregnant…is because you already are.”
And there on the screen was a little lima bean with a blinking, thumping center. My heart flip-flopped and the tears that had been hovering fell freely as I saw my baby for the first time. I had run the gamut of emotions in about five minutes, going from anxiety and fear, to relief and joy, and I was grateful when my doctor squeezed my hand and let me hear the heartbeat. I was 11 weeks, almost through my first trimester without even having known I was expecting. After those first few negative pregnancy tests, we had all just assumed I wasn’t pregnant and no one had thought to test again; we must have barely missed the window for a positive result.
After the relief and shock wore off, I switched back to worry as I remembered the high impact dance classes I had taught, the wine tasting I had been to, and medicines I might have taken. But my doctor reassured me that the baby looked strong and healthy, and encouraged me to relax and celebrate.
Unfortunately, my husband had been unable to accompany me to my appointment because of a day full of meetings. I called his cell phone over and over again as I left the OB’s office clutching the printout of the ultrasound photos until he answered with an exasperated “WHAT?” All of my thoughts of surprising him with a tiny pair of shoes or gift wrapping a custom onesie flew out the window as I blurted out “I was already pregnant!” I still feel a little guilty that I dropped the news on him with so little pomp and circumstance, leaving him to go back to a work meeting while I called my mom and sisters and friends, but the relief was too great and the joy was too large to keep inside.