If you’ve read my blog before you will know I am 1) a mother and 2) have struggled with my weight all my adult life. What you may not realise is that I have something in my life that touches both of these subjects. This is my story.
In 2010, we’d been married nearly two years and happily living in Swansea with no intentions of having children yet. One day, I went to the doctors about a cough and whilst I was there also asked whether a 32 year old should still be getting acne. I say still; as it happens I didn’t actually start getting acne til I was in my 20’s. Anyway the doctor looked at me and said “erm, have you ever been diagnosed with PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome)?” My heart sank. I hadn’t but a friend had and I knew what it meant, or could mean. Poly Cystic Ovaries are the most common endocrine condition, and one of the leading causes of fertility problems, in women. It can lead to all sorts of health problems, including weight gain and associated metabolic complications, such as diabetes etc. If you’re really interested you can find out more about it here.
The doctor immediately booked me in for blood tests and an ultrasound, during which the sonographer told me I definitely had the tell tale ‘string of pearl’ cysts in both ovaries. Just like that. I left the hospital in a daze, not really sure what it meant for me. When I next saw the doctor, she told me my blood tests indicated I was not ovulating, at all, and that it was unlikely I would be able to conceive without some ‘medical intervention’.
My world fell inwards just a tiny bit. You don’t grow up thinking you will ever have problems conceiving. In fact you are bombarded with messages about how easy it is (condom anyone?). Being a mum was just something I knew I would be really good at (in the way women without children assume they will be 😉 ). It’s fair to say I was just a bit heartbroken, without really knowing what the diagnosis would actually mean for me. For us.
So I did what any good 21st Century gal would do in this situation. I got on the internet and did some research. I learnt that a woman with PCOS processes sugars differently to a woman without, meaning I could eat the same as someone without PCOS, but my body would store more fat than hers. Brilliant! I was advised to follow a low GI, low fat, low sugar diet. Which I roundly ignored. As we had no plans for children yet I pushed all thoughts of it, roughly, to the back of my mind. And had some more cake.
It was only after we moved back to Surrey in 2011, that we decided I should start to look into what this meant for me, for my health and for our future. What kind of medical intervention were we talking about here? I made an appointment to see my new doctor to talk about going on a drug called Metformin, primarily used to help with the metabolism but can also help with a lack of ovulation. In the meantime I suggested to Ben that we stop using contraception just so we could say we had. A week later, I woke up in the night with the most appalling metallic taste in my mouth. It didn’t go away over the next few days, so I Googled it. All that came back was pregnancy, pregnancy, pregnancy. But that couldn’t be the case. Could it?
I couldn’t shake the thought from my mind. So I bought a pregnancy test, more to put the thought to bed than anything. I honestly can’t make it clear enough now much I expected that stick to say Not Pregnant. Had I expected it to say anything else I would have involved Ben, or at least told him! As it happened I got home from work, peed on a stick in our ensuite and casually glanced at it while I washed my hands. I can’t tell you just how much (or how loud!) I screamed when I saw the word Pregnant, staring up at me from the edge of the sink. I remember running into the bedroom, falling to my knees and begging and begging (who or what I’m not sure) for this to be true. I remember crying (at the top of my voice!) “please let this work out”.
And, as you know, it was and it did. All I ever wanted was a baby boy with blonde hair. I got everything I asked for. His conception was so much easier than it should have been according to the medical profession, and whilst carrying him wasn’t always straightforward, despite my high BMI, no real harm came to either of us. And while I know every baby is a tiny miracle, I really feel like he’s mine. A medical marvel as Ben calls him. And I’m so grateful for him, every day.
After I won the Greatest Loser Award at SW last March, I had to complete a questionnaire about the changes I’d experienced since losing weight. Aside from the obvious, it made me think about my body’s capacity to cope. I realised how badly I’d previously treated my body. I fuelled it with crap, I never considered it’s welfare, I hated it’s failings and yet it quietly went about providing a safe and strong home for my baby. It carried him full term and bought him into the world. I guess it’s as stubborn as I am when being told it can’t do something!
I still have PCOS. There is no cure. Only proper management can reduce the symptoms. Good food, exercise, a bit of TLC. I’m indebted to my body for giving me my son. I can only try and express my gratitude with these small gifts. Every day.