LIFE

Cheerleading Coach Goes To The Hospital For Painful Cramps, But Doctors Tell Her She’s In Labor

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is the Editor of Original Content at LittleThings. She grew up in upstate New York and Oregon and now lives in Queens, NY. Ileana graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in sociology. After graduating, she attended the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, then worked as in marketing at Oxford University Press. Since transitioning to editorial, she has written for sites like BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Unwritten. She has also worked for local newspapers and magazines in upstate New York. In her free time, you can find Ileana watching Law and Order: SVU, eating ice cream, and spending time with her dog.

On December 21, 2016, Ally Opfer went to her job as a cheerleading coach, just like any other day. She had some minor abdominal pain, but she assumed it was just menstrual cramps. Her period had always been irregular, so she brushed off the pain and went along with her day.

Ally spent the day coaching her high school cheerleaders at a basketball game, then worked five hours at a cheer practice. She was still experiencing cramps, but she didn’t think too much about them.

That night, Ally was completely exhausted from her long day of work, but she couldn’t sleep — her cramps kept her up all night. Ally was surprised that her cramps were so bad, but she continued to chalk it up to her irregular periods.

The next day, her cramps got even worse. She told her family about her pain, and her mom suggested she take some pain medication and try to sleep. Ally even took a pregnancy test just to make sure she wasn’t pregnant — it came back negative, so she tried to go to sleep.

As soon as she got into bed, Ally knew something was seriously wrong. The pain intensified, and she started screaming and crying. At 11:00 p.m., she finally went to the hospital.

Doctors admitted Ally and told her that her pain was probably due to kidney stones. They sent her to get an ultrasound to get a better view of the stones, but the ultrasound tech found something much more surprising: a full-grown baby. Ally was not only pregnant but 10 cm dilated and in active labor.

ally cheerleading

A year after the fateful night, Ally took to Facebook to tell the story in her own words. She wrote:

“I woke up the morning of December 21, 2016 feeling absolutely normal, not knowing what I was about to go through. Just a couple hours later, I started feeling some minor cramping and brushed it off as nothing. It gradually became a little more painful throughout the day and so I figured it was that time of the month for me as I had started bleeding a bit too. I went on with my day as normal and ignored the cramps that seemed to get a little stronger than the last. That day, I had a busy day of coaching. I coached my high school cheerleaders at a basketball game at the Q in downtown Cleveland and then went straight to my 5 hours of coaching allstar cheer practice after, despite being in pain [labor]. That night, the pain got worse. Ibuprofen and heating pads were not working and I was in too much pain to get any sleep despite being exhausted. I stayed up all night curled up in the fetal position wondering why my cramps were getting so bad…I never usually got cramps nearly that bad before.”

empty bed

“The next morning, December 22nd, after my mom woke up, I told her I had some horrible cramps and nothing was helping and that I was up all night in pain. Still just brushing it off as me just being a wimp, I helped my dad move a couch from the basement to the upstairs living room just ignoring what turned out to be some serious contractions. I had no appetite and just hid in my room in pain. My mom came home from work and by then, I was crying in pain and knew something wasn’t quite right. These were way more than menstrual cramps. We tried more pain meds which of course did absolutely nothing. My mom made me dinner and I stood in the kitchen crying and screaming between eat bite I took when a ‘cramp’ would hit. We decided I’d take a pregnancy test just to be sure and it came back negative.”

“Since I was so exhausted and just wanted to sleep, we went upstairs to get me comfortable in bed so I could rest. As soon as I laid down and my mom walked out, I started screaming on the top of my lungs and my dad came rushing upstairs to see what was wrong. The ‘cramp’ passed and they left my room. A few minutes later, there I was screaming in pain. After hours of realizing it hurt even more when I would lay down and the ‘cramps’ were getting more painful and closer together, my mom asked if I wanted to go to the hospital and I refused. I thought for sure they’d just tell me I’m having bad menstrual cramps and to just go home and take ibuprofen. Plus, it was like 11:00 PM at this point and I was way too exhausted to leave the house after not sleeping for nearly 48 hours. Then another ‘cramp’ hit. I looked at my mom and said ‘we need to go. Something is seriously wrong here’ until the cramp was over and I said that I was fine and we didn’t need to go. And then, another hit just a minute later. I knew we really needed to go right then and there if I wanted to make it to the hospital before something happened to me. I was in so much pain and not knowing what was happening, I thought I was seriously going to die. I threw on sweat pants and got in the car (I had to stop multiple times to get through contractions before actually making it to the car).”

red mustang

“That car ride was the WORST car ride and seemed to be the slowest car ride ever. We originally were going to go all the way to Hillcrest near Cleveland (a 40 minute drive), but thankfully my mom decided to go to UH Geauga which was a smaller, closer hospital. I sat in the passenger seat of my dad’s tiny little Mustang with one hand pressing on the roof of the car and the other on the window just screaming in pain while my mom somehow remained calm and kept driving. If you know the area, you know the road has winding hills and turns near Punderson which seemed to make my ‘cramps’ so much worse. We finally pulled up to the ER and I jumped out of the car, walked through the doors up to the check in counter and screamed as I desperately tried to write my name on the sign in sheet. The lady at the check in desk asked me what my symptoms were as I was trying my very best to not scream as loud as I could. That ER was very quiet until I walked in and I’m sure I scared everyone else who was there waiting to be taken back.”

emergency room

“I sat in the corner away from everyone else screaming as my mom walked through the doors after parking and they immediately took me back ahead of everyone else as I obviously had something serious going on. They probably had seen plenty of women in labor and knew what was really going on with me. Obviously, I did not.

“I remember the nurse holding me and helping me walk back to the room they took me to as I was going through another ‘cramp’. She sat me down on the bed and asked all the basic questions they do when you go to the hospital and took my vitals. My blood pressure was of course through the roof and they decided to do some blood work. The nurse was very sweet and made me feel comfortable about being in their care despite how much excruciating pain I was in. They got me started on an IV and gave me morphine for the pain which of course gave me no relief as well as magnesium sulfate to keep me from seizing. At this point, I had symptoms of labor but we had told them I took a pregnancy test and it came back negative and I obviously didn’t look pregnant so there was just no way I was pregnant. The nurse wanted my mom to keep track of my ‘cramps’ to see how long they lasted and how far apart they were…you know, because they seemed like contractions. Then, my nurse and doctor came back in and said my white blood cell count was high meaning I had some sort of infection. It seems like I have kidney stones. The nurse calmed our nerves and told us it seemed more like kidney stones rather than labor which to us, was good news. We weren’t ready for a baby.”

hospital bed

“The doctor examined my abdomen and found exactly what I had found: he felt a hard lump on one side of my stomach. He told me if it was kidney stones, that I may need emergency surgery to remove it asap. So, he sent me for an ultrasound to see what that mass was that he felt. Of course all of us, including the doctor, were expecting to see kidney stones on the ultrasound.

“As my hospital bed was wheeled in to the ultrasound room, another ‘cramp’ hit and the poor ultrasound technician looked so concerned as I laid there screaming in pain. After the ‘cramp’ was over, she started the ultrasound. She of course is not allowed to say anything to me about what she’s seeing. The doctor is the only person who can tell me what they found. So as she’s doing the ultrasound, suddenly her jaw drops and she asked ‘are you pregnant?’ And I of course replied with ‘NO!’.

“She continued the ultrasound and her facial expression looked very concerned and just astounded. You could tell something was up and that she had found something. In my head, I was thinking the worst as I laid there watching her do the ultrasound: cancer. The mass we felt on my abdomen was cancer. I was dying.”

ultrasound

“As we know, it obviously wasn’t cancer luckily. But as they wheeled me back to my room and the doctor went over my ultrasound, the nurse came back in and was talking to me and trying to keep me calm as I went through my excruciating ‘cramps’. Then, all of a sudden, not only did my doctor come flying in the room, but so did literally 10 other people who I had yet to see that night. As all these doctors and nurses filled my room, I was preparing myself for the worst news possible, that I was dying. There were so many doctors and nurses in my room all with a sense of urgency that I knew whatever was happening to me was very serious.

“Then, the doctor said these words to me: ‘have you ever been pregnant before?’ I of course said ‘no’ very confused. He said ‘well, it looks like you’re about 38 weeks pregnant and 10cm dilated. You are in full blown labor and we need to get you upstairs to labor & delivery now!!!’

“WHAT. HOW. NOT POSSIBLE.

“I went into shock. I was not ready to have a baby. I couldn’t have a baby. My face went white and I started crying and screaming. I. Was. Terrified.”

“There were so many people in my room. There were even paramedics in there who had nothing to do with my case and one even said ‘you should be on that show, I didn’t know I was pregnant!’ Obviously I didn’t find that very funny and wondered why he was even in my room in the first place. I don’t blame them though…they all just wanted to see my reaction to the doctor telling me I was pregnant and in labor.

“As they wheeled me upstairs, I had many more contractions. Let me tell you, labor pain is no joke. I was screaming and trying to be as calm as possible. Once I was up in my Labor & delivery room, the nurses reminded me that I was in labor and needed to be as calm as possible for the sake of the baby. Then it dawned on us…is the baby okay?! Does it even have a heartbeat?? I had absolutely no prenatal care for 9 months. I was just tumbling and doing back handsprings 5 days ago. Was I going to have a still birth? The nurses said ‘yep the baby is completely fine! Everything looks great!’ Unbelievable. It was the best news I had received all night. My baby was just fine.”

hospital bed

“However, I was not. My blood pressure was through the roof and they told me they had to put me on magnesium sulfate to keep me from seizing and that I was on the verge of having a stroke. They told me if I had waited any longer to come to the ER, I would have died. I was very sick. A lot sicker than I knew.

“My mom had to make the call to my dad to get to the hospital ASAP because I was having a baby. I don’t know how that conversation went as I was obviously very busy trying to get through contractions. Then, my dad walked through my hospital room doors.

“They strapped a fetal monitor on me and the doctor examined me to see where the baby’s head was. The baby was coming. Unfortunately, the baby was breech and I had such horrible preeclampsia that they told me they had to do an emergency c section right away. They had called the doctor (who is now my OB) and said that she was on her way. I signed the consent forms and they prepped me for surgery. They couldn’t get me back fast enough.”

surgeon

“As they wheeled me down the hall, they threw on a cap over my hair and all of a sudden I was being wheeled into the operating room and all I heard was ‘entered the OR at [whatever time it was]’ and I knew it was serious, I was having surgery. A contraction hit right as they needed me to get onto the OR table so we waited for it to pass, I got over on to the table and they talked me through what was going to happen with my spinal and getting the anesthesia. I was terrified to get a needle in my back, but knew I just needed to do what they said. Another contraction hit so we waited it out and then I hunched over as I sat on the table and they inserted my spinal. Another contraction hit and as the anesthesia flowed into my body, all the pain was suddenly taken away and I had never felt better. After being in labor for a whopping 42 hours, I was finally free of that excruciating labor pain. I felt so good. I gave my doctors and nurses a smile and was as ready as I could possibly be.

“My mom came in to the OR and sat next to me and held my hand. I kept telling her there was no way they were going to pull a baby out of me. It just wasn’t possible. I still hadn’t accepted the fact that I was having a baby. The whole time, I was just laying there on the OR table in denial. They couldn’t possibly be pulling a baby out of me. There’s no way I was actually pregnant. It just couldn’t be real. I could feel some tugging and pulling, but no pain. My body was shaking a bit as I laid there from them pulling and cutting me open. It was such an odd feeling being awake during surgery and being able to feel like people were just touching my belly and tugging a little.”

c-section

“Then, they told me it was time to remove the baby and that I’d feel some pressure. As I waited for them to tell me the baby was out it felt like forever. Then, I heard ‘time of birth 3:31am’ and my mom and I looked at each other and were just saying ‘cry. Please cry. Please start crying little baby’ so we knew the baby was okay and healthy. He finally started crying and so did we. That’s when it finally hit me that I was actually in labor and I had just given birth. I laid there crying (happy tears) and was in shock listening to my baby’s cry. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him. Then we realized they hadn’t told us the gender! So we asked and they said it was a baby boy! My family is a family full of girls. We haven’t had a boy born into the family since my uncle was born. It had been 43 years since a boy was born in to the family. The Opfer name was going to be passed along after all!

“My mom went over to my baby and took pictures and videos while they cleaned him up and weighed him and everything and then brought her phone over to show me what he looked like. I was amazed. Still in shock that that was my baby. I was so happy. Then they brought him over to me while they sewed me up. My mom held him while I reached over and touched him and kissed him and talked to him.”

ally baby

“I was all stitched up and ready to leave the OR and go back to my room to recover where my dad was waiting for us. They set my baby boy on my chest as they wheeled me out of the OR and to my room. I was shaking so bad from the anesthesia (which is normal) that I was scared of him laying on my chest. Then we got to my room and my dad got to meet him too. My parents had called all my family members to tell them I was having a baby (it was the middle of the night so they were all woken up by this news). Of course they were all confused by it since no one, including myself, knew that I was pregnant. My sister was working the night shift at her hospital where she is a nurse in Columbus and drove up to Cleveland to be with us. She eventually made it and we continued to try calling my other sister who had her phone on silent and wouldn’t get our messages until later when she woke up for work.

“After everyone woke up, my whole extended family came to the hospital to meet our miracle baby…all of them just as shocked as we were. Then we realized we needed to come up with a name for him! The nurses brought in a ton of baby name books but it was just overwhelming. My sisters, my mom, and I all threw out our favorite baby boy names and after about 12 hours, I decided on Oliver and signed the birth certificate. I knew I wanted to have his middle name be after my father. Welcome to the world, Oliver David Opfer. My whole family was filled with joy to have this unexpected, magical gift. He’s my parents’ first grandbaby. He’s the most amazing Christmas gift I could ever receive.”

oliver david

“Oliver David Opfer was born on December 23, 2016 at 3:31 am.

“The next day, on Christmas Eve, we needed to get a car seat so we’d be prepared to go home. We had absolutely nothing for our new baby. We sent my dad, sister, and brother-in-law to the store to find a car seat for baby Oliver. Through FaceTime, I picked one out. Luckily, other family members and close friends also went shopping to get Oliver some clothes, diapers, and all the essentials. I had so much help and support. It was truly amazing.

“I finally texted my close friends and family on Christmas Eve to announce to them the crazy news. My very best friend didn’t believe me until I showed her pictures of the two of us and even my hospital bracelet. I don’t blame her…it was the surprise of a lifetime!

“On Christmas Day, two days later, I finally announced on social media the arrival of our unexpected bundle of joy. The overwhelming response of love and support meant the world to me and still does. So many people reached out to me and offered to get Oliver and I all the baby stuff we’d need as we had nothing. I’ll forever be thankful for everything everyone has done for us. It was truly amazing.”

oliver christmas

“The doctors and nurses came in and we thought we were going home. Unfortunately, I was so sick, and Oliver had some jaundice, so we had to stay in the hospital longer. We celebrated Christmas in the hospital. My family brought Christmas dinner along with some presents to the hospital and we all ate dinner and opened gifts in my hospital room. They even brought enough for the nurses who had to give up their Christmas to work! It was the most special Christmas ever.

“We were finally discharged on December 26th and it was time to go home. I was so excited to take Oliver and show him his home and adapt to my new life. I had so much help from all my family members. It’s an adjustment becoming a new mom and an even bigger adjustment when you aren’t expecting it.

“Thank you to everyone who has reached out and supported us through this journey. It means more than you’ll ever know. I’m so thankful for all of you for your love and support throughout this first year of Oliver’s life. He’s the happiest little guy and I couldn’t do it without everyone’s help. Thank you all so much! Oliver and I love you.”

ally oliver

Oliver is now a happy and healthy 2-year-old. His family absolutely adores him, and they’ll always have an incredible story to tell about how he entered the world.