When Ally Opfer woke up on December 21, 2016, she had no idea she was pregnant – and about to give birth to a Christmas miracle.
“That day started just like any other,” the 26-year-old from Cleveland, US, told Fabulous.
“Grabbing my bag to head out for cheerleading practice – I was a college student and term has ended, but I coached in the holidays – I realised my period was starting. Of course, I wasn’t going to let that stop me! For five hours I threw myself into the handsprings and backflips, thrilled as usual to feel my body fly through the air.”
Back home five hours later, Ally’s cramps were getting worse.
Her mum Theresa found a heating pad and pain killers – which didn’t help – and Ally went to bed.
“I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep,” she said. “It was weird, I’d never suffered from bad periods before. And these pains were really bad.”
The next day, December 22, the pain was still there, and now Ally had also lost her appetite.
Still, determined to carry on as normal, when her dad David needed help moving a couch she ignored the waves of agony and grabbed one end.
Eventually, 40 hours after the pain began, Ally agreed with her mum and dad that something was really wrong.
“I could barely stand, couldn’t eat and I could see on their faces that they were extremely worried,” she said.
“I didn’t dream I was pregnant. Yes, my periods had been irregular, but they’d always been like that. I hadn’t gained any weight, felt tired or had any odd movements. My stomach was flat. There was no way I was having a baby. Still, because the pain came in waves, I agreed to take a pregnancy test, just to be sure. It was negative but the pain was now agonising. I said, ‘Okay, something is really wrong. Even if the pain stops and I say I’m fine – we’re still going to the hospital!’”
The car journey was terrible, each twist and turn making the contractions worse. Ally staggered into hospital, screaming in pain.
“Taking my vitals, they found my blood pressure was dangerously high, and my white blood cell count was elevated – meaning I had an infection,” she said.
“The doctor also examined my abdomen and said that they felt a ‘small mass’.”
Doctors told Ally she had kidney stones and wheeled her into the ultrasound room to find out more.
“I could see on the sonographer’s face that something was terribly wrong,” she said.
“Suddenly I was petrified. The doctor had said I had a mass. Was it cancer? Was I dying?”
Ally was trying to mentally prepare herself for the worst when the room suddenly filled up with medical staff. That’s when the doctor asked if she’d ever been pregnant before.
“As soon as I said ‘no’ he replied, ‘Well, it looks like you’re about 38 weeks pregnant. You’re in full-blown labour. We have to get you up to delivery right now, you’re going to have a baby.’ They said I had extremely bad pre-eclampsia,” she said.
“That my blood pressure was so high that I was on the verge of having a stroke. If I’d waited even a few minutes later to come to hospital, I could have died. I went into complete shock. My stomach was flat, how could there be a baby in there? My mind was whirling as the contractions came thick and fast.”
Face white and in floods of tears, Ally was rushed into the lift. As the doors closed, the reality of what was happening started to sink in.
“I hadn’t had any scans or taken any vitamins,” she said. “Just days before I’d been jumping around cheerleading. Was this baby okay?”
Doctors reassured her that baby was fine, but it was breech. Ally needed an emergency caesarean.
“Thankfully, mum was by my side the whole time,” she said.
“As we were rushed into surgery, she somehow stayed calm, and I was able to grip her hand through every insane moment. In the operating room I looked at her and said, ‘I don’t know what they’re doing, but there’s no way they’re about to pull out a baby!’ I was still in denial that this was all happening to me.”
A few seconds and a strange tugging sensation later Ally heard a cry.
“That’s when it became real,” she said.
“There was a baby. I couldn’t see them yet – they’d been taken to be weighted and checked. But I was a mum. All I could think was, ‘Oh my god, did I just give birth?’ I asked, ‘What is it?’ and heard I’d just had a boy. A son. Another shock. This was the first boy born into our family in 43 years!”
New grandma Theresa rushed over to take photos and videos, and showed them to Ally, who couldn’t believe this wide-eyed, beautiful boy was truly hers. Then, finally, he was in her arms.
“Born on December 23 he was seven pounds, eight ounces and it felt amazing to hold and kiss him for the first time,” she said.
“To look down and think ‘Wow, I’m a mum now. This tiny little baby is really mine!’ I take after my mum in the sense that I absolutely love babies and kids, and always wanted to be a mum. I was so excited to have him.”
Baby on her chest, Ally was wheeled back to her room, to introduce her son to his new grandpa.
As Ally held her miracle baby tight, the shockwaves were about to spread. Ally’s two older sisters – along with every other relative – had no idea what had just happened. Phones rang and texts pinged with the incredible news.
“My older sister Katie (who) worked two-and-a-half hours away was the first to arrive but soon everyone was there. Everyone was in complete shock, and immediately in love,” she said.
Nurses appeared with baby name books.
“One of my sisters said, ‘I like the name Oliver’ and I said ‘Wait, me too!’” she said. “So, I started calling him Oliver to see if it would fit, and decided it was perfect. His middle name is David, after my dad.”
On Christmas Day, two days after Oliver was born, the news went onto social media.
“My friends thought it was a joke,” she said. “My best friend didn’t believe me until I sent her pictures of me, Oliver, and my medical bracelet!”
Family came with Christmas dinner and gifts, and Ally enjoyed the most wonderful – and strange – Christmas Day of her life.
“Oliver is now four, adventurous smart and so much fun. He’s made me the happiest mum in the world, and every Christmas is special because of him,” she said.
“But holding him in my arms that first Christmas was life changing. He was the best Christmas gift that I didn’t know I needed. Oliver was a true Christmas miracle.”
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission