A chef who put her bloating down to a gluten intolerance was astonished to discover she was actually 33 weeks pregnant – after taking a test in a supermarket toilet.
On the contraceptive pill for a decade, babies were the furthest thing from Sita Meena Arulampalam's mind when her doctor told her she probably had a food intolerance.
But Sita, 33, of Colchester, Essex, took a pregnancy test anyway on a pal's advice on June 2 2017 – her partner Tony Dance's birthday – saying:
“I'd gone to Tesco really early while he was still asleep to get him some doughnuts, and thought I may as well get a test while I was there."
Sita at Christmas whilst unknowingly pregnant (PA Real Life/Collect)
“I took it in their toilets and, right away, it flashed up saying I was pregnant."
“I couldn't believe it – I'd had no bump, no morning sickness, no symptoms at all."
Further investigations showed she must have conceived in late 2016 – just nine weeks into her relationship with fellow chef Tony, 37.
Sita and Bobbi (PA Real Life/Collect)
“Being in such a new relationship, we hadn't been trying for a baby and I didn't know how Tony would react."
“I put the test in a gift bag and gave it to him back home."
“At first, he thought I was joking, but once the shock passed, he said it was the best birthday present he's ever had."
Tony and Bobbi (PA Real Life/Collect)
Sita, who had taken the pill for a decade without any problems, experienced none of the typical pregnancy symptoms as her baby grew silently inside her.
She even bled, making her think she was having periods – since discovering she was experiencing implantation bleeding, which occurs as the egg is fertilized and can often be mistaken for the menstrual cycle.
Then, last spring, after noticing slight bloating – especially after meals – she saw her GP.
Bobbi (PA Real Life/Collect)
“I thought it was just after I'd eaten a lot of carbs, so I went to the doctor and was told it could be a gluten intolerance," Sita recalled.
“I mentioned it in passing to a friend of mine, who has four children, and she said, 'I know this sounds weird, but maybe take a pregnancy test.'"
“I said, 'I would know if I was pregnant.' I was so sure I couldn't be."
But, her friend's words nagging at her, around two weeks later on Tony's birthday, Sita took a precautionary test – only for it to turn out positive.
Absorbing the shock news, she then worried about her lifestyle during the months when she had not known she was expecting.
“Before I knew I was pregnant, Tony and I had been on loads of nights out. Sometimes, we wouldn't get in until about 3am and would have been doing shots. Other times, I'd have a couple of drinks with my colleagues after a stressful shift."
Sita's 35 week scan (PA Real Life/Collect)
“Obviously, if I'd known since day one, I'd never have done any of that. My first thought was, 'Is my baby going to be okay?'"
“It was so scary, as I'd been drinking this whole time and I hated to think it may have affected my child."
The following day, Sita saw her doctor, who confirmed that not only was she expecting – but she was 33 weeks into her pregnancy.
Sita eating oysters at a food festival before she knew she was pregnant (PA Real Life/Collect)
“My GP told me that it's not uncommon for women to go into labour from around the 32 week mark. She essentially said I needed to get prepared quickly."
“Tony and I started panicking then. Our baby could come any day and we were nowhere near ready."
“All of a sudden, we had so much to do."
Sita, pictured here whilst unknowingly pregnant (PA Real Life/Collect)
After Sita and Tony broke the news to their friends and family, everybody rallied round to help them prepare for parenthood.
Her friend drove them to a huge Mothercare store, where they splurged around $2,284 in a day on essentials, while Tony spent Father's Day 2017 transforming their spare room into a nursery, while pals and relatives with children donated hand-me-down items.
“We're so incredibly lucky to have had that support. Everyone was amazing," said Sita. “It was so funny. Once everyone knew, my bump seemed to spring from nowhere at around 34 weeks. It was like my baby had wanted to be a secret, but now that secret was out, he made his grand appearance."
Sita and Tony would go on nights out before they knew she was pregnant (PA Real Life/Collect)
Worryingly, at around 35 weeks, Sita, who is also epileptic, was admitted to hospital with sharp stomach pains.
She was not in labor, but she had a seizure on the ward and had to be admitted overnight.
“There was a scary moment when they couldn't rouse me," she said. “Tony was my absolute rock and stayed with me the entire time. It must've been terrifying for him to see all those doctors and nurses swarm around. Thankfully, they managed to wake me up by doing chest compressions."
Then, on 10 July 2017, when she was 37 weeks pregnant, Sita and Tony had planned to have a picnic in the park and to watch Wimbledon together.
But, as the morning wore on, she began experiencing labor-like pains.
At first, she was told they were probably just Braxton Hicks – 'fake contractions,' when the womb tightens and relaxes.
Bobbi at six months old (PA Real Life/Collect)
But, as the pain increased, she was advised to go to Colchester General Hospital.
“I was screaming in the car all the way there. The pain was so intense," she said. “When we got there, my waters broke and they said I was already 1.9 inches dilated."
Sita discovered she was pregnant with Bobbi on partner Tony's birthday (PA Real Life/Collect)
After 15 minutes of pushing, Sita and Tony's son, who they named Bobbi, arrived into the world perfectly healthy, weighing 7lb 2oz.
Recalling the first time she held him, she continued:
“Tony and I both cried. A little over four weeks before, we'd had no idea he even existed."
“Then, suddenly, this tiny little baby was here in my arms."
Sita and her son Bobbi (PA Real Life/Collect)
Since giving birth, doctors have told Sita that the position of her placenta most likely masked her bump.
Now looking ahead to Bobbi's first birthday, she is sharing her story to show that all pregnancies can be different.
Sita, Tony and Bobbi (PA Real Life/Collect)
“There are so many different symptoms of pregnancy. We're often taught that morning sickness is one of the first signs, so if you've not been pregnant before, you're almost waiting for that," she said. “But it never came for me. I'd say to other women not to hold out for the more obvious symptoms, and that if you've noticed a change in you, always consider that it may be down to pregnancy."
“I never dreamed this would happen to me. I get so many people saying, 'Surely you must've known. How can you not realize?' The honest answer is I don't know. I just genuinely had no symptoms, which is something I'm still trying to make sense of."
“It's crazy, but looking back on old photos where I was unknowingly pregnant, you really couldn't tell. Even now, I see Bobbi toddling around the house and think how wonderful, but surreal, it is that he's my son."
A version of this article originally appeared on Press Association.