It was a night in February 2021 that Teagan Brill, a senior at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, knew she couldn’t participate in class. Her stomach hurt badly, so she asked her professor if she could attend with her Zoom camera off.
Early the next morning, she went to use the bathroom, and her stomach cramps were so intense she couldn’t stand up. Immobilized and scared, she called her roommates sleeping upstairs. When they didn't answer, she called 911.
What Teagan didn't realize at the time was that her pain was not a result of stomach cramps. She was having contractions.
Later that morning in the bathroom, while on the phone with the 911 operator, Teagan, 21, gave birth to a baby boy. Having recently shared her experience on TikTok, in a series of videos that have gone viral, Teagan spoke to TODAY Parents about how she had a baby just days after discovering she was pregnant.
"I think I’m giving birth"
Just a week earlier, Teagan said she had texted her then-boyfriend, Mitchell Brill.
“I’m either fat or pregnant,” she wrote.
She took a pregnancy test — positive. Because she and Mitchell were in a long-distance relationship, she determined that she could either be one month or three months pregnant. The couple decided to take the next few days to process the situation, before telling anyone else.
The next week when she felt the stomach pain, Teagan assumed it was due to a miscarriage and explained her situation to the 911 operator. It hurt to try and stand up off the toilet. It hurt to sit there. Everything just hurt.
And suddenly, the pain intensified even more. “Breathe, talk through it, talk to me” the operator said.
Then, Teagan looked down.
“I think I’m giving birth,” she said.
Teagan reached her hand down and pulled a baby out, a boy, whose body briefly touched the toilet water below. All the operator heard next was the screams of a newborn.
What is cryptic pregnancy?
Experts say that Teagan experienced a cryptic pregnancy, a rare situation in which someone does not know they are pregnant for most or all of gestation.
Cryptic pregnancies are rare, said Dr. Christine Greves, an OB-GYN at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, Florida. One study shows that cryptic pregnancy incidence is 1 in 475 at more than 20 weeks and 1 in 2,500 right before delivery.
Teagan didn’t experience any telltale signs of pregnancy and had used forms of contraception. Her menstrual cycle had always been very light, so she witnessed no observable changes in what she thought was her period. She didn’t show in her stomach at all, even at seven and eight months.
Factors behind a cryptic pregnancy can be psychological, in the case of pregnancy denial, and/or physiological. In Teagan’s case, nurses at the hospital told her that her six-foot height likely meant that her son grew up and behind her ribs, preventing her from developing a rounded belly.
Cryptic pregnancies are high risk, Greves said.
“It’s associated with less than optimal outcomes for both the mom and the baby,” Greves said.
The birthing experience is often sudden and outside of a controlled environment. And Teagan, who was newly 21, did what many college seniors do: drink alcohol.
In those few hours after birth, doctors ran many tests, checking for fetal alcohol syndrome or any complications. And Teagan was terrified.
Quickly, doctors reassured her that her baby's facial features, which normally are the first sign of FAS, looked perfect. And they said what Teagan most needed to hear, “It’s not your fault.” Teagan and Mitchell continue to regularly get developmental check ups for their son.
Sharing the news
Once Teagan arrived at the hospital, she called her mom, who lived just 20 minutes away in a nearby town, and gave her two options: "Do you want the good news or the bad news first?"
“Well, you’re a grandma,” Teagan said, starting with the good news. Then, after her mom asked if Teagan was pregnant, she jumped to the bad: “I gave birth this morning,” she said.
At first, her mom went into complete panic, wanting to make sure that Teagan was OK. Then as the shock wore off, Teagan’s mom insisted on being the one to tell Teagan’s father.
“He can’t hear this from you,” her mom said.
While Teagan was on the way to the hospital, her roommate called Mitchell, who was living in Colorado. Upon hearing the news, a shocked Mitchell could only respond, “Yeah, I've got to go to work now.”
Everyone processed the news in their own way. Mitchell’s father went outside and started shoveling snow off the driveway after he found out. One of Teagan’s best friends cried for two months every time she saw the baby, shocked that her best friend was now a mother.
Teagan recalls sitting inside the four walls of her hospital room, holding her baby in the stillness, with reality settling in.
“You’re my miracle,” she remembers thinking. “There’s no way you should be healthy, let alone this healthy and this cute, like you are a miracle.”
Mitchell began processing after seeing his son over FaceTime later that night. The only sound in the room came from Mitchell’s tears, and together, the new parents just watched “baby boy Brill.”
“In that moment, it was just like, ‘This is my family,’” Teagan said.
Mitchell arrived in Michigan two days later to meet his son. Before walking into the room, he remembers feelings nervous. But holding the baby made all the difference.
“It was a big relief to be like, ‘Oh I can hold you,’” Mitchell told TODAY. “‘You are real.’”
Introducing Owen Louis Brill
For Teagan and her roommate, a normal weeknight used to look like sharing a drink, watching a show or having a game night. But after that Tuesday, they spent their time together learning how to change a diaper and brainstorming baby names based on Google searches.
After saying the name “Owen” out loud, the baby had a reaction, twice.
Louis was the clear choice for a middle name. Two months prior, Teagan’s grandfather, Louis, had passed away after contracting COVID-19. During one of the last conversations he had had with Teagan’s cousin, he said: “People die, people are born again, that’s just the circle of life.” Then just a few months later, along came Owen.
Teagan and Mitchell moved into the basement of her parents’ house along with several of Teagan’s siblings. And Teagan finished school. Once a week, she drove into campus with Owen in tow and studied. Because it's such a small town, Owen quickly became a “hometown celebrity,” and everyone wanted to meet him. Her professors showed grace, helping her to just get the necessary assignments done.
When people asked why she didn’t drop out, she would just say: “I’m three months away, like why wouldn’t I finish?”
Teagan graduated in May. Just a few months later, she and Mitchell got married, with Owen playing the part of a mini-usher. Now, one year later, the family lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, going viral on social media for sharing their story.
"I’m not alone"
Owen turned 1 on Feb. 16, just a few days after Teagan, now 22, first posted about her birthing experience on TikTok. The caption reads, “when I randomly had a kid one Tuesday morning senior year of college and put all my friends in therapy forever” set to the trending sound of the lyrics, “major bag alert,” referencing therapists’ potential profits from Teagan and her friends. Now, that video has 2.6 million views and more than 260,000 likes. After many commenters had follow-up questions, Teagan made a "story time" video, recounting her experience to the Internet.
Since sharing her story, several people have contacted Teagan about their own experiences with cryptic pregnancies, reminding her that while she feels her situation was both traumatic and miraculous, she is far from the first to go through it.
“I don’t feel alone, you know?” she said. “It’s crazy, it happens, like people are going through it, too.”