February 3 2015 is a day I will never forget. It’s the day I found out not only was I pregnant, but that I was in labour and it was certain I was going to give birth that day.
My name is Megan Bradford, I’m 22 years old, and for nine months I had no idea I was growing a small human inside me.
“How?” “What happened to your period?” “Do you know who the father is?” are all questions I face whenever I tell someone about our unusual situation. However, in the 18 months since my son’s birth I’ve learned so much about myself and motherhood that not even a few little questions from the skeptic on the street can deter me from being the best mother possible.
Before motherhood I was your average 20-something. I was studying a business degree, had a great group of friends, and a part-time retail job. Every day of the week was spent with my friends doing something different; we went to trivia at the pub on Thursdays, drinks after work on Saturday and/or Sunday, midweek adventures all over Melbourne trying out new burger restaurants,and the occasional road trip down the Peninsula. I was fortunate enough to spend two months in Europe drinking, eating and skiing my way around the continent, which I am so incredibly thankful for, as it will be a long time before I get to experience a solo backpacking trip again.
Upon my return to Australia I met a boy named Matt. He was cute and it wasn’t long before we started dating casually — it wasn't really serious. I visited the doctor quite soon after we started dating so we could discuss contraception, leaving the clinic with a script for the pill and permission from the doctor to skip my period whenever I wanted. He said there was no long-term effect if I didn’t want to menstruate, so with his permission every month I would skip the sugar pills therefore skipping that horrible time of the month.
Sometime during our casual courtship, unbeknownst to us, the pill had failed and I fell pregnant. I had quite early pregnancy symptoms - abdominal cramps, and a few small bouts of morning sickness that lasted about two weeks and that was it. I was purposefully missing my period every month, so the first big sign of pregnancy wasn’t even there to begin with.
Feeling a little off one afternoon, I told Matt I might be pregnant and I wanted him to come over so I could take a test — however, it came back negative. So we quashed all thoughts of being pregnant and carried on with our lives. After the initial symptoms died down I had no more warning signs, and all thoughts of pregnancy dissipated. We never discussed it again.
Megan and Theo. Image supplied.
Fast forward a few months to the spring of 2014: it was my 21st and I was roughly seven months pregnant. Even looking back now at the photos taken, I wasn’t showing at all. My 21st was a great night. My parents had travelled from New South Wales to throw me a party and all my friends came to celebrate.
We drank and danced until the early hours of the morning, something I think about now and cringe with regret of what potential damage I could have inflicted to this unborn baby. Moving forward into summer I noticed a slight amount of weight gain of around five kilograms; in particular, my boobs had gone up a whole cup size. I attributed it to being on uni holidays and simply being lazy. I thought my lifestyle was catching up with me.
Early February rolled around and I was spending a few days at Matt’s place. We were living separately and would stay at each other’s houses a few nights a week. One night I experienced incredible pain; it was like a menstrual cramp only much more intense, so I took some Panadol and tried to sleep. Finally around 5am, after all attempts to ignore the discomfort failed, I woke Matt up. After a brief discussion of whether I needed an ambulance we decided it wasn’t that serious, but we should probably head to emergency to figure it out.
We arrived at the Sandringham Hospital just before 6am. By 7am they had taken a urine sample and a doctor with a worried look on his face emerged into the curtained-off hospital bed.
“We think you might be pregnant.”
Our faces dropped. It was less than ideal, and certainly not something we wanted to deal with, but we wanted to do whatever we had to so this pregnancy would just “go away” so our lives could carry on as normal.
The doctor produced a small ultrasound machine, running it all over my stomach listening for something. Eventually he muttered something to one of the triage nurses, “I think that’s a heartbeat; no that’s not hers, it's too fast.” More colour drained from our faces. After a more thorough examination he confirmed I was in labour and was already a few centimeters dilated. He announced, “You’re going to have a baby today”.
The words were final. I was put in an attractive backless gown, hurried into a wheelchair and wheeled up to the birthing suite in the maternity ward.
Eighteen long hours passed. We had conversations with a social worker organising for us to team up with an adoption agency; there was no way I could look after a baby, emotionally or financially. I didn’t even want to entertain the idea of becoming a mother, a young mother at that. It was a stereotype I was so afraid of.
Reactions from our parents varied. They were so shocked; I can’t imagine what they were thinking. I was given nitrous gas to relieve the pain, pethidine, and finally an epidural. After what was physically and emotionally the hardest day of my life, our son Theodore Jack Paolini came into the world at 11:39pm. He was perfectly healthy, a credit to how hard the body works to deliver nutrients and filter toxins from the womb.
In the following days we told our friends and had visitors come to the hospital to meet my baby boy. I was trying very hard to look at it from a clinical perspective and not let myself get attached; after all, we were going to put him up for adoption. We wanted him to have the best life possible, with a family that had the emotional and financial stability to provide for him.
The second hardest day of my life came when I was discharged from hospital. Theodore was placed in temporary foster care and I went home, without the child I had unintentionally grown so fond of.
It took me about a week before deciding I wanted to bring him home. In the time he was in temporary care we grew close with the family who were looking after him. They were doing a fantastic job, selflessly caring for a newborn while looking after other children too. They lived around the corner and opened their home to us, letting us spend hours at a time bathing, feeding and learning about babies. To this day they are a huge part of our lives and look after Theodore during the week while I work and study.
After the decision was made, our parents were so incredibly supportive, and agreed to do whatever it would take to make sure we got on our feet. The week before he came home was a frantic rush to make sure we had all the essentials while organising maternity leave from my job. A family friend generously donated six months' worth of clothes, a change table, bassinet and blankets, while other family members bought odds and ends that we needed like formula, nappies and bottles.
It took us a while to find our groove, but with the support of our friends and family we found our niche in the world of parenting. Luckily for us, because we were the first in our friendship group to have a child Theodore is a bit of a novelty and all of our friends love him dearly. They have been extremely accommodating to our new lives. Our twenties aren’t over and forgotten, our priorities have just shifted. We still travel as much as possible, and the grandparent’s love having Theodore over for a sleepover whenever we need to recuperate and have some “me time”.
There is something to be said for the young parents who opt for early mornings and dirty nappies over nightclubs and partying — the responsibility is huge. Motherhood is a lifelong job you can’t really prepare for. The hours are long, and the training manual is non-existent and every day you have to be prepared for something different. It would have been nice to have some more warning for what we were about to be thrown into, but I wouldn’t change one thing about Theodore. He is my son and the most wonderful thing that happened to me.
Megan appears on tonight’s episode of The Feed at 7.30pm on SBS2, which speaks to surprise mothers who didn’t know they were pregnant. #thefeedsbs