Seven years ago, when I was in my 20s living with my mom and my sister, I woke up one morning and came downstairs to find that the house was empty, which was weird because my mom would fall asleep as soon as the sun went down and my sister only left her room once a month for special occasions, like showering, so it was unlikely that they had both decided to go out partying and got caught in a Hangover situation.
I tried calling and texting them both, but there was no answer. So there I was, searching for my passport because clearly they had been kidnapped by Russian criminals and I didn’t have Liam Neeson’s number, when my mom finally called me. “We’re in the hospital”, she said.
“What? What happened?” I asked.
My heart sank. I didn’t understand what was going on. What had happened that was so terrible that my mom had decided to rush my sister to the hospital in the middle of the night? Did she have food poisoning? Did her appendix explode? Did she cut her own bangs?
The moment I stepped into the hospital’s waiting room my mom came up to me and said “Your sister is in labor”, with a look of disbelief on her face that you only see when kids learn the truth about Santa, or grownups learn about taxes.
It was true, she was having a baby, which is usually a joyous occasion, except for the minor detail that she wasn’t pregnant.
“Mom, wait, I can’t talk right now, I’m dreaming and I need to wake up”, were the exact words that came out of my mouth, which was clearly my brain trying to understand how my sister had gone through nine months of pregnancy in the 12 hours since we were watching TV on the couch the night before, and why it was taking so long for Ashton Kutcher to jump out from behind a plant. (For those of you under the age of 30, that’s a reference to an MTV show from the early 2000s called Punk’d, where comedy actor Ashton Kutcher would trick celebrities into thinking they were having the worst day of their lives by slightly scratching their Ferraris).
It was true, my sister was pregnant and didn’t know it. I know it’s hard to believe, I’ve been pregnant myself since then and every month I would ask myself “How could she not have felt the baby move?”, “How do you not notice your belly is growing?”, “Why are there Oreo crumbs in my bra?” And to this day, I have no definitive answers.
In her defense, I lived with her for the entirety of her phantom pregnancy and I didn’t notice it either. She had no symptoms: no belly, no cravings, no nausea, no uncontrollable urges to buy tiny clothes and watch HGTV while eating cake; nothing.
As the doctor later explained, the baby was positioned sideways, so my sister’s body grew wider towards her sides making her look like a rectangle, unlike us regular pregnant women who look more like a Toyota minivan. On top of that, there was virtually no amniotic fluid in her uterus, so the baby was vacuum-sealed like you do to vegetables for them to last longer so you can throw them out after three weeks instead of two. This also explained why she didn’t move much, and why she came out so fresh and plump.
So there was my sister, confused, scared and in a great deal of pain, about to do one of the hardest things a woman’s body can go through next to taking off a sweaty sports bra, and all we could do was stand outside her room and wait. I’ll never forget her moaning and suffering. Everyone on that floor was shocked and nobody understood why there was so much screaming. Was a woman getting skinned alive? Did a man have a slight fever? It was brutal.
A few hours later, a miracle happened. We met this beautiful, healthy, surprisingly average-sized baby girl, who had MacGyvered herself into the world, hiding in plain sight like a secret agent or whatever your husband says he can’t find today, and changed our lives forever.
Now she’s a beautiful 7-year-old girl living in France with my parents, who already speaks Spanish, English and French; and who fought so hard to be born she will forever be a survivor, mastering her studies, doing humanitarian work, becoming CEO of her own company and applying fake lashes without crying.
And in 20 years when she’s getting married she’ll invite three of her mom’s ex boyfriends to find out who her real father is as we all dance to an ABBA song, so we have that to look forward to.
Carolina is a journalist, translator and the creator of Am I The Adult Now?, a blog about her attempts at balancing motherhood, work and family, and keeping all the crazy on the inside, like a lady.