When 31-year-old Candace Brown developed severe abdominal pain last weekend, she thought she might have the flu.
Turns out she was in labor, and a few hours later gave birth to a 5-pound, 6-ounce son, David Brown Jr.
“I'm really excited, but totally surprised,” said Brown, who lives with her husband, David, in Bedford. “I sure wasn't expecting this.”
A confluence of several factors conspired to keep her in the dark about her condition. She didn't experience morning sickness, feel the baby move or have any food cravings or contractions.
“My menstrual cycle has been messed up, off and on, ever since I gave birth to my daughter (Harmony) nearly 11 years ago, so the fact that I missed some cycles didn't make me wonder,” she said. “I didn't notice gaining any weight, either. I kept wearing the same clothes I've always worn.”
Brown said she woke up at 6 a.m. Saturday with stabbing stomach pain. She took a bath and the pain subsided enough for her and David to drive into town to do some errands.
“But then the pain came back and got worse and worse — I was hollering every time my husband hit a bump in the road,” she said. “About 12:30 in the afternoon, he drove me straight to (IU Health Bedford Hospital).”
Doctors there determined she was in labor, and transported her by ambulance to St. Vincent Dunn Hospital, where the baby was born via emergency cesarean section.
“The baby was distressed, and I was so stressed I couldn't push,” Brown said. “That's why they had to do the C-section right away.”
At 4:04 p.m., she gave birth to an auburn-haired, blue-eyed son.
“I can't wait to get home,” Brown said Monday from her hospital room. “I think family members are trying to get things for us — like baby clothes and a crib and a changing table.”
So-called “stealth moms” like Brown are more common than you might think. Bloomington obstetrician/gynecologist Lillette Wood, who works for IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians Women's Health, said during her 25 years of practice she has delivered eight babies to women who had no idea they were pregnant until shortly before delivering.
“In some cases, there may have been a bit of denial at play, but I honestly believe they did not know they were pregnant,” she said. “Most of them presented to the student health center or hospital ER complaining of pain and thinking it was a bladder infection or severe constipation.”
Wood said none of the eight women was obese.
“They ranged in age from a 16-year-old who was playing softball with horrible cramps just before coming to the hospital, and the oldest was 38,” she said. “None of them had any learning impairments.”
Wood said after the mothers delivered their babies, they said such things as, “I wondered why I was eating so healthfully and still gaining weight,” or “Now I know why I was having those incredible rumblings in my stomach.”
In recent years, two other local stealth moms have gone public. In the spring of 2009, 23-year-old Shana Hupp was sitting on the toilet, feeling ill. Moments later, the Bloomington woman gave birth to a 7-pound, 3-ounce boy, who slid out of her uterus into the toilet bowl.
Two weeks earlier Hupp had watched a popular TLC show called “I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant” featuring moms who didn't realize they were pregnant until they gave birth.
“I remember thinking to myself, 'How in the world can a woman not realize she's pregnant?'” Hupp said at the time. “Now I'm one of those women.”
Hupp said she and her boyfriend named the baby Jexsen, rejecting Hupp's aunt's playful suggestion that they name him “Johnny.”
“I hadn't had my period for a very long time because of the type of birth control I was using, so that was not a clue,” she said in 2009. “I had gained about 20 pounds over the past 10 months, but I'd gained it all over — not just in my belly. I thought I had just been eating too much junk food.”
Hupp said she never experienced morning sickness; and unlike many expectant moms, she never felt Jexsen moving inside her womb.
“I know it's hard for people to understand, but I really had no idea,” she said.
More recently, in February 2013, Mitchell librarian Jamie Jones went to the hospital with knifing pains in her abdomen. According to reporter Carol Johnson of the Bedford Times-Mail, when the doctor told Jones she was in labor, Jones said, “No, I'm not.”
“Yes, you are,” the doctor insisted.
Hours later she delivered a 7-pound, 3-ounce boy named Logan Matthew Pelfrey at IU Health Bloomington Hospital.
“I didn't gain any weight, but I couldn't lose any weight either,” she told the Times-Mail, describing her pregnancy. “My boyfriend and I decided we were going to lose weight together, and I was getting frustrated because I couldn't lose any weight.”
Jones said she felt no movement in her womb throughout her pregnancy.
“I didn't feel him move much,” she said. “And when I did, I thought it was gas.”