Charlie Kawczynski, 37, a corporate legal assistant, lives in Gloucester with husband Andy and son Nicholas, one and a half.
Goal: To lose 8½st
‘Flicking through a magazine, an article jumped out at me. It was about gastric bypass surgery for people desperate to lose weight. Sounds drastic I know but, at only 5ft 1in and 18st, I’d been trying to lose weight for years. Worst of all, it was stopping me from getting pregnant and having the baby I longed for.
‘You’re too fat to get pregnant,’ doctors had told me. But that article made something click. Setting myself a New Year resolution, I swore, ‘I’m not having another year of being big.’ This time I meant it.
The weight had piled on during my 20s because I had an underactive thyroid, which affected my metabolism and made it difficult to lose weight – although I did have a weakness for chocolate and cans of cola, too. I tried every diet going but never stuck to it or lost more than a few pounds.
For eight years, I’d tried to have a baby with my first husband Dave. Each month I prayed I’d be pregnant, and every time I got my period I’d be devastated. ‘Maybe next month,’ I’d say as Dave cuddled me.
I knew I could get pregnant as at 21 I’d had a son who I’d given up for adoption. I’d come out of a difficult relationship and I couldn’t cope. It was the right thing to do but not a day goes by when I don’t think of him.
Finally, Dave and I went to see a consultant. Digging my nails into my palms, I sat in his office praying for good news. ‘You’re too big,’ he said bluntly. ‘It’s affecting your hormone balance. That’s why you’re not conceiving.’ I felt so humiliated.
Dave and I were due to go for IVF but I couldn’t cope with the disappointment. The stress of trying for a baby was driving us apart. In my heart I knew our marriage was over when I began chatting to Andy on the internet. We started an affair butI knew it was more than a fling. I left Dave and we eventually got divorced.
Five years ago I married Andy, who has two grown-up children. By then I was 16½st and beginning to accept I wouldn’t have a baby. The longing never went away, but I was scared to let myself hope any more.
I was sick of being overweight, though, and when I suggested the gastric bypass, Andy was supportive. ‘We’ll find a way to pay for it,’ he said. Doctors warned me about the risks because of my size, but I’d made up my mind. We remortgaged the house and my stepmum gave me £4,000 towards the surgery, which cost £10,200.
The three-hour operation at the Bupa Hospital in Leeds went well. My stomach was stapled to make a smaller pouch, then the small intestine was cut into two sections and the lower intestine brought up to join into the opening of the new pouch. It restricts the amount you can eat and shortens the intestine, meaning food passes through the body without being properly digested and absorbed. After the operation I was in agony, but it was a success.
For the first six weeks I could only eat puréed food. But now I can eat pretty much what I want, although the portion sizes are a third of what they used to be. If I eat too much it feels like I’m going to burst.
The weight fell off and I dropped down to 9½st in a year. For the first time in ages, I could wear size 12 jeans. I felt so happy.
Four months later, I fell pregnant. I was shocked but ecstatic. Then, at eight weeks, I had bad pains in my pelvis. A scan showed I had an ectopic pregnancy and one of my Fallopian tubes was rupturing. I was rushed into surgery and when I came round, doctors said they’d removed one tube and the other one was blocked so it was highly unlikely I would ever conceive.
It then hit me how much I wanted a child. ‘It just wasn’t meant to be,’ Andy said. ‘Let’s get on with our lives.’ I agreed as I didn’t want the stress of trying to get pregnant to ruin another marriage.
A year later, against all the odds, I was pregnant again. At the 20-week scan, the sonographer said, ‘It’s a boy.’ ‘Look at him wriggling about,’ I said to Andy. It was incredible.
I had a Caesarean as I’d had a difficult birth with my first baby. But the birth was still traumatic – Nicholas was lying on my main vein and both our hearts stopped so we had to be revived. When I finally held him, I felt complete and realised this was what I’d been missing.
Nicholas is 18 months now and the most precious thing in the world to me.
‘Making that New Year’s resolution was the best thing I’ve ever done as it gave me my son.’