Doctors told me I would never have children — then I became pregnant

Hattie Gladwell
·8 min read
Image via Getty Images.
Image via Getty Images.

I was 20 when I was told I’d never be able to have children.

In January 2015, I underwent extensive, emergency surgery to remove my large bowel after I had become seriously ill. I had been unknowingly living with ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, which caused my bowel to perforate. I had been 20 minutes from death when the surgery took place, and I was told that my large intestine was heavily diseased.

It was an incredibly traumatic time, and I was given a stoma bag for 10 months, which was difficult to come to terms with. I joined support groups and met other people with stoma bags, and even formed some good friendships. But when I was given the option to have the stoma reversed, I took it.

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I underwent another surgery where the end of my small bowel was joined to my rectum, which allowed me to use the toilet “like normal.” The surgery went well and I haven’t had to have another operation since, but when I think back to that year, all I feel is trauma. It was the most horrendous time of my life - and not just because of the near death experience and invasive surgeries.

One of the hardest moments during that time came after my second surgery when I was told I wouldn’t be able to have children. I remember sitting down with my surgeon during a checkup appointment when he told me that due to the amount of scar tissue around my pelvic area, I wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally.

Image via Getty Images.
Image via Getty Images.

I just sat there in silence. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I was only 20; I wasn’t ready for children at the time. But I knew that I wanted them someday - and it felt as though had that dream had been ripped away from me right there and then.

I knew this was the moment to ask questions, but I felt frozen. I didn’t know how to process the thoughts that were running through my head.

The only words I could muster were, “Never?”

My body was shaking as my surgeon told me that I may be able to have children through in vitro fertilization (IVF), but that most people don’t become pregnant until their second or third round.

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I left the appointment that day not knowing how to feel or how to think. But when I got home, I started to feel something: Anger.

I was angry at my body. I felt like it had failed me. I was angry at the world. Why had all of this happened to me? Hadn’t I been through enough? Was this some sort of sick joke that the world was playing on me?

Image via Getty Images.
Image via Getty Images.

I wanted to scream and shout and curse at the world. But instead of doing that, I just broke down. I started sobbing uncontrollably. I was completely inconsolable. I felt broken. Defeated. I felt like my world had collapsed around me and there was no possible way of building it up again.

That night I cried myself to sleep with my pillow wet from tears. The same thing happened the next night, too, and every night for an entire week. During that time I felt completely numb. That’s the only way I can explain it. It was like my brain couldn’t process everything that had happened to me.

When something awful happens in my life, I have this really unhealthy habit of blocking it out and pretending everything is okay, because it’s easier than allowing myself to feel the pain. And there was a lot of pain to feel at that time.

And that’s what I decided to do.

After days of crying, questioning my future and feeling like a failure, I woke up one morning and told myself everything was fine. That maybe everything was going to be OK. Maybe I didn’t really want children anyway. Maybe the universe was telling me that this was all an opportunity focus on having a big career, instead.

I trained myself to stop feeling the pain, and eventually I convinced myself that I no longer wanted children. I put all of my heartbreak into a little box in the back of my mind and locked it up.

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My relationship at that time quickly turned unhappy. The stress of everything that I went through completely changed our dynamic, but we spent the next three years together, knowing that children would never be in the cards for us. I knew deep down he wanted children, but I chose to ignore it and tried to pretend that everything was OK.

Image via Getty Images.
Image via Getty Images.

By the end of 2018 we had broken up. He had met someone new and I was devastated, but things hadn’t been right for a while and I knew that ultimately, it was the right thing to do.

Four months after my breakup, I began seeing someone new. Six months into my new relationship I became pregnant.

My partner and I had spoken about children as soon as we started dating. He was adamant he didn’t want them, and I felt relieved because I couldn’t give them to him. We were having unprotected sex, but I was having regular periods, and according to my doctor, it was physically impossible for me to have kids.

In August 2019, I was six days late on my period. My periods were often irregular, but usually only by a couple of days. My stomach was cramping and my boobs were sore. I’m not sure what made me do it, but on a whim I asked my partner to go and get a pregnancy test.

I took it straight away, and within five seconds, a big plus sign showed up. I was pregnant.

Image via Getty Images.
Image via Getty Images.

I didn’t know how to feel. I was happy, excited and terrified at the same time. My partner and I had only been together for six months and this wasn’t planned, but none of that mattered. What I was told by doctors would never happen, happened; and I couldn’t believe it.

I took a few days to sink in. I had spent the past four years convincing myself that I was OK with not having children, but suddenly everything had changed.

Although my partner had said that he didn’t wanted children, he completely fell in love with our baby boy during our first scan. We were both so excited and neither of us could believe we had created a human being.

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I bonded quickly with my pregnancy and embraced everything that came with it, although the morning sickness was especially hard. However, I did develop antenatal anxiety. I knew that my pregnancy was such a blessing and that I had to protect it at all costs. I booked multiple private scans because I was constantly scared that something bad was going to happen. I spent the first 12 weeks worrying about having a miscarriage, and the next 12 weeks worrying about pre-term labour before our baby was viable.

It felt like I had been given this gift by accident, and that in some sick unexpected twist of fate, it was going to be taken away from me.

But on April 9, 2020, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy; and I fell in love.

He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I couldn’t believe he was mine. I couldn’t believe that for once the world had been on my side. I couldn’t believe I’d been so lucky and that my surgeon was wrong; I still can’t.

Image via Getty Images.
Image via Getty Images.

Every single day I look at my son and feel lucky. I’ve never experienced such an overwhelming, intense kind of love. I count my blessings every time I look at his gorgeous little face.

Motherhood has been an amazing experience for me so far but I won’t lie and say that it’s all been easy. I still feel anxious, especially since the outbreak of COVID-19 and I still worry that the world is going to take the most precious thing in my life away from me. But I know that I need to remember that these thoughts are just my anxiety speaking.

My son is nine weeks old right now, and he’s doing great. My partner and I have taken parenthood in our stride and we are loving every second of it.

After forcing myself for so long to accept that I’d never become a mom, I still can’t believe it’s happened. I live in disbelief every day. In some ways, that disbelief is a nice feeling, because it’s a reminder that the most incredible thing that could have ever happened to me, has happened.

I became a mom.

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