This story was written by Lindsay Hitchcock, as told to her by Angela Mitchell*.
I was sickeningly shocked when I heard about Michele Kalina, the Pennsylvania woman who killed four of her newborn babies
after getting pregnant as a result of a series of extramarital affairs.
But the question on everyone's lips seems to be: How did she manage to hide all of those pregnancies?! Even from the people closest to her? Wouldn't her husband -- or her daughter -- notice as her stomach grew and grew? How in the world, they keep asking, does a woman hide a pregnancy?
While the outcome of my story isn't nearly as horrific, I personally know how and why you can: Twelve years ago, I was that woman.
I was 26 years old, living and working in San Francisco as a live-in nanny. I spent my days caring for a small, wealthy family, but my nights were spent drinking and partying. I was seeing a guy for about a month when I decided things weren't going so well, so on one particular chilly Monday morning in March I left him a goodbye note, unaware of the life-changing news I would find out later that day.
The night before, he and I had had unprotected sex. I wasn't on birth control, and because we didn't use condoms consistently, I decided to get a morning after pill
. As I stood in line at the pharmacy, it suddenly dawned on me that I could already be pregnant, maybe from one of the other times when we stupidly avoided using any method of contraception. With my mind racing, I bought a test and headed home.
I was relieved when the test looked negative, and walked away heaving a deep sigh. A few minutes later, I went to throw the stick away when I noticed a second thin pink line staring back from the window. Although it was faint, it was definitely there
. I headed straight back to the store and bought 10 more pregnancy tests. All 10 came up positive.
That night I lay on the cold bathroom floor and cried for hours. I couldn't help but think that, now, my whole life as I knew it was on hold.
Whom I Finally Told
I confided in a good friend of mine at first, and with her support, I gathered the courage to tell the guy I'd been seeing -- now the father of my unforeseen child.
You could hear laughter, the sound of billiard balls ricocheting, and background music playing as I broke the news to him outside an Irish bar just two days later.
"I'm with you, no matter what decision you make," he told me.
I was floored by how supportive he was, not to mention happy. Being raised Catholic, I knew abortion was out of the question, and at the time, I hadn't considered adoption. "I want to keep the baby," I told him.
He made a promise to support me.
Over the next few weeks, I kept myself busy by working more than usual and accepting extra babysitting jobs. I bought a copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and educated myself on issues like child support. I wanted to use the time proactively. It was like I had shifted into survival mode overnight, and all that mattered now was being responsible to -- and preparing for -- my new baby.
Then I began to really "feel" pregnant as well. I had some of the usual symptoms, like sore (and bigger) breasts that eventually became painful. I also felt extremely bloated and more exhausted than usual.
Although I began to accept my pregnancy, I wasn't prepared to tell the people close to me. I feared that my parents -- all the way back in my home state of Wyoming -- would convince me to move home, and I didn't want their help. And because they were so traditional, I was afraid they'd never accept my decision, especially since I wasn't in a relationship with the father.
Then there was work. I was also scared that the family I worked for wouldn't understand, or would replace me. I couldn't bear the thought of not only being a single woman with a baby on the way, but also of being without a job or, worse, three months pregnant with nowhere to live.
That was the start of my hidden pregnancy. Even though I was still fairly skinny, I began to hide behind baggier clothes to conceal my growing belly -- I expected that everyone would just assume I was gaining weight, and it seemed to work. I never asked for any extra time off from the family I worked for, and only went to doctor's appointments on days that I was scheduled to be off already. It was a day-to-day decision, really, and as each day passed and no one noticed, my secret grew, along with my child.
Even though my baby's father had promised me he would be involved, he distanced himself from the situation and stopped returning my calls. In fact, I didn't see him again until I was 24 weeks along -- six months pregnant -- on the day I got my ultrasound.
That's also the day I found out I was having a baby girl.
Pregnant and Alone
Have you ever cried tears of joy while also seething with resentment? It was a new combo for me, but that's how I felt when I knocked on his door, with a 4-by-6-inch photo of my unborn daughter in hand.
"I wanted to let you know that it's a girl," I practically spat, thrusting the photo forward as he opened the door.
I stood there waiting for a reaction, but all he did was take the picture and stare at it dumbly, his face barely registering any emotion at all. That's when I realized one of the only other people who knew I was pregnant was in complete denial.
The next few days I rode a roller coaster of my own emotions. Because I was still "in hiding," I felt very much alone. There was no one touching my tummy to see if she would kick, or talking about what we might name her. I wanted my baby's father to care. I broke down in tears several times, but the bouts never lasted long -- I had no one to cry to. At one point, I surprised even myself by considering adoption.
That's when I realized the stress of hiding my pregnancy from everyone was more than I could handle, not to mention that my emerging belly was fast becoming a problem. One morning, during the sixth month, I woke up and it seemed as if I just "popped." I knew I finally had to come clean.
Breaking the Seal
I called my sister first, to confess. The news -- as you might expect -- traveled faster than a Wyoming wildfire. What I didn't expect was the outpouring of positive emotion that followed. My phone would literally not stop ringing. This is what I had always imagined welcoming a baby into the world could be like, and I was surprised and amazed by the support I felt now.
"This could have easily happened to me," family and friends said over and over again. I had feared they would judge me for getting pregnant by a man I wasn't married to -- or even in a relationship with. Instead, all they asked, kindly, was whether he was involved at all.
With them on my side, I finally found the strength to let my employer know. But that didn't mean I wasn't scared to death.
"It's up to you whether you want to keep me around," I said, breaking the news to the mom of my family one day, and I meant every word I said. But my worst fears never materialized. "You seem like a member of the family at this point," she told me, "We wouldn't dream of letting you go."
The weight that was lifted that day far surpassed any I'd gained during the pregnancy. I was so relieved to have it all out in the open. I worked right up until my daughter was born, on Nov. 14, 1998.
When she entered the world that evening, I can honestly say I was happy. She was 9 pounds, 1 ounce, with dark hair and blue eyes. She was beautiful. And she was mine.
Life Ever Since
Brenna's dad wasn't there the night she arrived, but he did show up when she was 1 week old, and he's been involved in her life ever since.
We even tried to date a few times over the years, but it never really worked out. Now, I am close to his family, and he's close to mine. We both finally came to the realization that it's better to get along for her sake.
In hindsight, I can hardly remember what I was so scared about, or why I felt I had to hide my pregnancy for so long. Pregnancy isn't shameful -- it's beautiful. I should have known that I'd have so much support from so many people who cared about me.
Now I look at my daughter, and I'm just thankful that she's here. In fact, it scares me to think that I probably would have gone down a much darker road if she hadn't arrived. When I see how far we've both come, I realize I never had anything to hide. I'm a mom, and I'm proud.
*name has been changed to protect the proud mommy.
Lindsay Hitchcock, a freelance writer, has contributed to Examiner and Bytes of Love. She is completing her first book, a memoir. A Florida native who writes often about dating, sex, relationships and 20-something life, she has been deemed "Orlando's Carrie Bradshaw." Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.