BOSTON, MASS. (WCVB) - Katherine Kropas hadn't missed a day of work in two years, but the strange and sudden pain in her stomach and back Tuesday morning was so bad she called in sick and got a ride to the hospital,the Patriot Ledger reported.
For hours, the 23-year-old Weymouth woman waited for answers in a hospital hallway as the pain got worse, until finally late that night a team of doctors came to her with stunning news: She was pregnant and, incredibly, ready to give birth. An hour later, Kropas was holding her daughter in her arms.
"She's perfectly healthy," Katherine's father, Richard Kropas, said the next morning, still sounding dazed. "I've never seen a more healthy baby."
For Katherine, who goes by "Katie" and works as a catering supervisor at Gennaro's Eatery in Quincy, there was no morning sickness or other clues that she might have been pregnant over the last nine months. A few days ago she noticed that her ankles were swollen, but she figured it was the 50 hours a week she'd been spending on her feet during the busy holiday catering season.
On Wednesday morning, just 12 hours after her 10-pound baby, Ellie, arrived unexpected into the world, a tired and dazed Kropas sat surrounded by family in South Shore Hospital's maternity ward and contemplated the drastically new direction her life had taken. She appeared unfazed by it.
"It'll be fun," she said. "I'll have lots of help."
As incredible as it may seem that someone could fail to notice a pregnancy for nine months -– and even Katherine's mother, Karen, said she used to laugh at those kinds of stories on TV -– studies suggest it happens more often than commonly thought. One frequently cited study conducted in Berlin in the mid 1990s found that women were three times more likely to go into labor without knowing they were pregnant than to give birth to triplets, which happens about once in a thousand births.
Ben Hamar, the doctor at South Shore Hospital who delivered the Kropas baby, said there's a range of things that can hide a women's pregnancy from her, including body size and irregular menstruation. He said South Shore Hospital, which sees about 3,500 births a year, usually has a "couple" of cases each year where a mother learns of her pregnancy only weeks or days before the birth.
These "surprise deliveries" can be complicated for doctors who prefer to follow a woman's pregnancy from the beginning, but there was no indication Wednesday that baby girl Kropas was anything other than a healthy baby. The new mother's most immediate concern was choosing a name for her daughter, who was being kept in the intensive care unit as a precaution.
The baby's birth at 11:06 p.m. Tuesday capped a lightening-fast hour of joy and panic for Kropas's parents, who were at their house in Weymouth Landing when their daughter's boyfriend, Dan Keefe, called from the hospital. Richard was watching TV when he heard his wife screaming. "I almost fell out of the chair," he said.
The parents rushed to the hospital to join Keefe, who works in the kitchen at Gennaro's and has been dating Katherine for about 2 1/2 years. They arrived just in time to be there for their birth of their first grandchild. The baby girl was delivered by Caesarean section and weighed in at 10 pounds 2 ounces.
Though Kropas hadn't settled on a name yet, she said she was considering "Ellie" after the grandmother who drove her to the hospital with what she thought was only a stomach ache. She was also trying to figure out how to break the news on Facebook that she had suddenly become a mother. "I will eventually," she said. "I just don't know how to phrase it yet."
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