The term ‘superwoman’ is very much overused these days, but I actually know someone who the term accurately describes. Ann-Maree has a husband and four kids, a professional career, and also manages to serve as treasurer on our school P&C as well as volunteering for pretty much everything going. She is one of those quiet achievers who makes a huge difference to the world with her energy and enthusiasm. As soon as Ann-Maree told me the story about how her youngest son came to be, I knew that other people would be as amazed by it as I was, and I was so pleased that she agreed to share it here as part of the Fertility Friday series.
My story about fertility is a little different. In 2015, I was a proud mum to three wonderful children aged 14, 12 and 7. I was in my early 40’s and happily married and the last thing on my mind was having another baby. For a few years, my husband had said we should have another and my son always said that he wanted a baby brother, but I always said that there was no chance that I was having anymore.
In February 2015, I became very ill with constant vomiting and bloating. I went to my doctor who did a few tests which were positive for the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. Apparently stomach ulcers can cause bloating as well as sickness, so it made sense. The doctor prescribed some very strong antibiotics which involved taking eight antibiotic tablets a day for seven days. The doctor told me that they would knock me flat and sure enough they did. The first day I vomited so much I couldn’t get out of bed. Over the next few days I continued to be bedridden and my children sat beside my bed with a bucket they named Chucky. Everywhere I went they made me take my new friend Chucky with me. After the seven days I started to feel better but still had the bloating and certain foods made me sick. After a few weeks I went back to my doctor as I still wasn’t well. My doctor decided to send me for a gastroscopy. The gastroscopy showed the ulcer-related bacteria was still present, so I was prescribed the same antibiotics again, which meant another seven days of taking eight tablets per day.
At that point we decided as a family to go on a holiday to the coast to help the children get over me being so sick. We went to Aussie World and I rode the roller coaster, the Plunge and the Octopus several times. I was still feeling sick but I was determined that the holiday was going to be the best fun for my children. When we came home from the coast I had a check-up with the doctor – I was still feeling tired so the doctor did a blood test to check to see whether I was anaemic. Sure enough I was anaemic, and had also lost a lot of weight.The doctor couldn’t understand why I was anaemic and started checking other things. She examined me, firstly pressing on my stomach and then she got the Doppler ultrasound and put that my stomach. I nearly fell off the examination table when I heard what sounded like a heartbeat coming from my stomach.
The doctor worked out that I could possibly be around 16 weeks pregnant, but could not confirm it. As you can imagine I was in a complete state of shock. I hadn’t had a period in approximately four months, but I was on thyroid medication so it was not uncommon for me to go months without a period. I went home after having another blood test and showed my husband the referral to the obstetrician. My husband was as utterly shocked as I was.
Fortunately, due to my age and the potentially advanced stage of my pregnancy, I was able to get an appointment very quickly, but I still had to go all weekend without knowing if I was pregnant or not. I remember driving my two older children to Brisbane to their Dad’s for the weekend, and shedding a lot of tears behind my sunglasses. I didn’t want to tell them until I knew whether it was true or not. I cried all weekend, not because I was sad about the baby but because it was such a complete shock. We had sold all of our baby things, our car was not big enough, I had my career and I hadn’t planned for this to happen.
That Monday I went to the obstetrician (he was the same doctor that delivered my seven-year old) but had to see another obstetrician before I saw mine. This doctor made me feel like a bad teenager that didn’t know anything. He asked my husband and I whether we knew about contraception. I asked him if he knew how old I was, and he told me I should know better! As if I wasn’t struggling with the shock of being told I was pregnant, I was now also being chastised for falling pregnant. Finally, I got to see my obstetrician and he did a scan straight away.
He told me that I wasn’t 16 weeks pregnant. I was actually 22 weeks pregnant, and at that first scan I also found out the sex of my baby.
It took me about a week to tell my older children that they were going to have a baby in the house. My eldest was stunned and my 12- and seven-year old both cried. 12-year old decided that she didn’t want another sibling as she already had two. They were excited but very unsure. I then went to tell my mother about me being pregnant. She was stunned but she was glad that I didn’t tell her that I had cancer, as that is what she thought my announcement was going to be. I have a really close bond with my mum so I cried and cried on her shoulder.
I think I cried for about a month after finding out I was pregnant, the whole time my mum kept telling me everything was going to be ok, but we lived with a very real fear knowing that the two courses of strong antibiotics, roller coaster rides and the food that I had been eating may have damaged my baby in some way. The pregnancy continued without any major hassles and eventually the tears stopped and I started to accept that this baby was going to be born. Everybody kept telling me that this baby was coming for a reason, but I was still trying to work out what that was!
At 38 weeks pregnant and on the 28th August 2015 with my husband beside me, I delivered a healthy and happy 8lb 8oz baby boy. He was perfect and there were no disabilities or any problems with him associated with not knowing I was pregnant for the first 22 weeks. After three days in hospital we took him home and just over a year later, we can’t imagine life without him. The older children absolutely adore him – even the 12-year-old, she decided a day before he was born that she was looking forward to having him in the family!
He is now a happy, delightful one year old and a central part of our family. Isn’t he the cutest stomach ulcer you’ve ever seen?