Doctors said I was too fat to conceive. Then my nana had a dream and something incredible happened…
By Leanne Railton, 30, from County Durham
I shifted uneasily in my seat and looked up to face the doctor. ‘So you’re saying I’ll never have a baby?’ I whispered.
The GP met my gaze and said solemnly: ‘I’m sorry, Leanne. You have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, it means you’re very unlikely to conceive.
‘It’s because of your weight. That’s the reason you’re experiencing fertility issues.’ Her words hit like heavy punches.
I’d struggled with my weight ever since I was 12, when I started spending my pocket money on bags of sweets and slabs of chocolate.
My weight rose steadily throughout my teens until, in my early twenties, I hit 23 stone and stopped weighing myself. I just didn’t want to know.
But for as long as I’d struggled with my size, I’d harboured a dream to become a mother. I think I became broody aged eight.
I’m one of seven siblings and four are under the age of ten, so I’ve been surrounded by babies from a young age.
I always knew I wanted to be a mummy, but now my baby dream had been shattered. The doctor explained that if I lost nine stone, I could think about fertility treatment but I simply gave up.
I had too high a mountain to climb, it felt hopeless. Instead of inspiring me to shed the pounds, I ditched my baby dream and told myself motherhood just wasn’t meant for me.
‘I’m lucky to have so many children in my life already,’ I tried to tell myself.
After that, I hit self-destruct, gorging on anything and everything. I’d order takeaways every night, my favourite being pizza, chips and cheese.
And after a night out drinking, I’d always end the night in the chippy. I wouldn’t just order one meal off the menu either, I’d go all out.
My eating became almost obsessive. All of a sudden, I’d realise I’d scoffed five chocolate bars in one day. But I don’t even remember eating them, my mind raced, as I found the wrappers in the bin.
Once I realised I’d had a bad day, I thought I might as well blow it and bought tubs of Pringles and more bars of chocolate.
Clothes shopping became a nightmare but I was in denial. ‘That’s weird, I’m not a size 26,’ I said, examining my reflection in the changing room.
But there was no denying the tent-like top strained over my flabby frame. Then, as my weight ballooned, the size 26 clothes became a size 32.
They don’t make sizes any bigger than that, I thought. What am I going to do?
I took my mobile phone out and tapped out a text message to my nana. ‘I’m going to lose weight,’ I wrote. ‘I’m really going to do it this time.’
I’d always been close to my nana. She had a wicked sense of humour and always had a kind word of advice to offer.
‘You go for it,’ she wrote back. ‘You can do it, I know you can.’
I tried to cut back and managed to lose a few pounds but it did little to shape up my hulking size 32 frame.
Then, in February 2014, the family received some devastating news – Nana had secondary brain cancer.
I was devastated. Nana had beaten breast cancer a couple of years before but now it had returned and it was terminal.
‘They say she has just weeks to live,’ my dad told me sadly. Poor Nana deteriorated rapidly but then one day, when she was on her deathbed, Dad took me to one side.
‘I went to visit Nana today, she had a dream about you,’ he told me. I sat down as he went on. ‘She dreamt you lost a load of weight. She said you were slim, healthy… and bloody gorgeous!’
I was stunned. There was Nana battling for her life and she was worrying about me and my weight issues.
I couldn’t shake what she’d said and even when, seven weeks after her diagnosis, Nana slipped away, her dying words stayed with me…
Slim, healthy… and bloody gorgeous!
I wanted more than anything to become the girl in my nana’s vision and if the last thing I could do to make her proud was to lose weight, then I was going to do it.
First up, I needed to know what I was dealing with. I made an appointment with a lady from the NHS Change For Life scheme and she came round.
‘Just pop on the scales for me,’ she said, pulling out these industrial, extra-strong scales. I was mortified as the needle hovered over 29st 4lbs.
I’d already lost a few pounds too. I simply couldn’t believe I was a morbidly obese 30 stone. After the health worker had left, I burst into tears.
I had a mountain a climb and if it wasn’t for my nana, I would have given up there and then. But her words gave me the strength to carry on.
I ditched the junk food and swapped sugary sauces for meals made from scratch with fresh produce.
I ate lots of chicken, vegetables and swapped my oily fried eggs for scrambled. I even tried walking a bit more.
Over the next nine months, from April 2014 to January 2015, I lost a staggering seven stone. I was so proud of my achievement and was well on my way to Nana’s dream vision but I was terrified of putting the weight back on.
I’d been to a seminar about bariatric surgery and decided that an operation would mean that I’d ditch the weight once and for all.
And so in January 2015, at around 21-and-a-half stone, at Darlington War Memorial Hospital, I went under the knife for a gastric bypass.
I hope to God I wake up… I thought as I was wheeled into theatre. But that was the first nervous moment I’d had. Mainly, I was excited – I couldn’t wait for my new body, for my new life.
The operation was a complete success and the weight continued to fall away rapidly. I was losing a stone a month but when I hit 18 stone, in June 2015, I began to feel queasy.
I wondered if it was a side-effect of the bypass but when I was being sick and I noticed my nipples felt sore, Mum suggested I take a pregnancy test.
‘Come on, Mum. Do you know how many pregnancy tests I’ve taken over the years, only to be disappointed? You know what the doctor said, you know I can’t conceive,’ I told her.
I’d got together with Chris about three months before the surgery and although we’d been using protection we hadn’t been strict about it.
I knew my PCOS and my weight meant that I couldn’t have a baby but when Mum persisted, I decided to take a test, just to be sure.
As I watched the two blue lines appear, I thought I was seeing things. I was pregnant! ‘I don’t believe it!’ I told Mum. ‘It can’t be true, can it?’
I rushed to Asda and bought a couple more tests – both came up positive. I was stunned. After everything I’d been told, and all that disappointment, I was going to be a mummy.
‘Your weight loss has cured your fertility issues but you’re not out of the woods yet,’ a doctor told me. ‘You’re advised not to get pregnant for two years after gastric surgery for a reason. We’ll need to keep a very close eye on you.’
I was terrified my baby was going to be malnourished and when I lost three stone in the first three months of my pregnancy, I desperately willed my unborn son to hang on.
My heart was in my mouth at every appointment, every scan, as I waited to hear bad news but incredibly, my little boy was strong and healthy.
On 18th February 2016, Rocky David was born via emergency C-section after a 22 hour labour. He’s so precious and even now I wake up and wonder if it’s all a dream.
I spent so long thinking I could never have a baby, I almost can’t believe it’s real. Chris and I are no longer together but he’s a great dad to Rocky and helps me out all the time.
I really am so grateful to my nana. She was my inspiration and I owe her everything. It was her dream that brought me mine… a healthy body and a perfect baby.