Most new mums have months to prepare for the birth of their baby – Nikki Ayling had a few days. She tells SARAH FOSTER how her weight problem hid her pregnancy and why it was the wake-up call she needed.
Even as a teenager, Nikki Ayling had got so used to being overweight that she hardly noticed the extra pounds creeping on day-by-day.
She’d struggled with her size all her life and, although family and friends had spotted a noticeable increase, Nikki thought nothing of it.
Just 18 at the time, she was already struggling to cope with the news that her dad Kenny had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
But there was a more obvious explanation for her blooming waistline. Nikki was pregnant – and by the time she found out she’d already sailed passed her due date.
Any kicks and movements her baby made had been masked by her size and she’d suffered no nausea or other physical signs.
In the end it was her mum Bev who pushed her to do a pregnancy test and the result left the whole family stunned.
‘My mum had noticed that my stomach had changed shape and my feet had swelled,’ explains Nikki, now 21.
‘I eventually did the test on July 7. I went up to my room to do it and just burst into tears. I thought my dad was going to kill me but he was amazing.
‘I went to the midwife on July 10 and she told me my due date was July 9. Tyler came out on the 20th. ‘Luckily, he was 11 days late so I had 13 days to get ready. It was just a case of “There’s nothing I can do, I’ve got to get on with it”.’
Nikki, from Cosham, had avoided getting on the scales for years but estimates she must have weighed more than 16 stone when she gave birth to Tyler.
‘The weight had been creeping on slowly and then there was the stress of finding out about my dad,’ says Nikki.
‘So many people said “We assumed you were just getting bigger”. They thought I was just putting on weight.
‘I didn’t have any sickness or cravings, there were no signs at all, I didn’t feel anything, there was nothing there to give away that he’d decided to come into the world.
‘So many people said “How could you not know?”
‘When you’re that little bit bigger you just don’t notice these things.’
She adds: ‘Once I got the crying over with I thought “What can I do?” These things happen for a reason, it’s part of life. I love children, I would have done it differently but I wouldn’t change what’s happened for the world.’
As soon as she found out she was expecting, Nikki was rushed into hospital for a scan. She’d missed out on all the normal health checks mums-to-be and their babies normally receive and was worried about whether Tyler would be okay.
‘I’d eaten all the wrong things, I’d been clubbing, I’d celebrated my 18th birthday and had the cervical cancer jab which you’re not meant to have when you’re pregnant.
‘The first thing that entered my head was “Is he going to be alright?” But he was perfect, there’s not one thing wrong with him.’
Like Lance Bombardier Lynette Pearce, the Thorney Barracks-based soldier who gave birth at Afghanistan’s Camp Bastion last month, Nikki faced lots of questions from people who couldn’t believe she hadn’t known she was pregnant.
Many are even more surprised when they learn that Tyler weighed in at a bonny eight pound 13 ounces when he was born.
‘He was a big baby, it’s not like he was a little five pounder,’ admits Nikki.
‘But everyone is different, every pregnancy is different and that’s how it happens to people.
‘That soldier was out in Afghanistan fighting, it does happen to people.’
For Nikki, Tyler’s unexpected arrival changed her life in so many ways and prompted her to finally do something about her weight.
It was the wake-up call she needed. Just six months after his birth she joined a slimming club and faced up to how much she weighed.
By now her weight had crept up to 19 stone and Nikki was horrified.
For Tyler’s sake she vowed to turn the situation around and with the help of her local Slimming World group, she’s since lost six-and-a-half stone.
‘I didn’t want Tyler to have the fat mum at the school gates,’ says Nikki, who now weighs a healthy 12 stone eight pounds.
‘I didn’t want to be the fat mummy. Kids do get picked on with the fat mum jokes and I couldn’t have him bullied.’
Her love of sugary sweets and calorific treats had seen her weight soar steadily since she was in her teens.
At her largest she lived in stretchy leggings and baggy jumpers because she didn’t want to admit to herself that she needed to wear size 24 clothes.
And she was unhappy about how she looked and the cruel comments that she received from strangers who passed her in the street.
By cutting down on full-fat fizzy drinks, chocolate bars, crisps and take-aways she managed to lose a stone after a year of going to the slimming club.
And in January 2011 she says something clicked in her head, allowing her to shed five-and-a-half stone more.
Now a trim size 12-14, Nikki’s proud of what she’s achieved and the good example she can now set for Tyler.
She’s curbed her snacking habits, no longer finds herself constantly reaching for the biscuits and stocks up on fruit and plenty of vegetables instead.
‘Having Tyler was the thing that changed everything,’ says Nikki. ‘I wouldn’t have had such a massive push without him.
‘He needs his mummy. To wake up and see his smiling face, hear him say “I love you mummy” and know that I’m healthy means everything.’
Nikki’s average food intake before weight loss
Breakfast – between two and four slices of toasted white bread with butter and chocolate spread
Snack – bag of crisps and sweets
Lunch – sausage roll and chips, sweets and full-fat fizzy drinks
Snack – chocolate bars, biscuits, crisps, sandwiches
Dinner – large portion of spaghetti Bolognese or cottage pie
Average food intake after weight loss
Breakfast – fruit and yoghurt
Lunch – jacket potato, beans and cheese but no butter
Snack – fruit
Dinner – Roast potatoes using Fry-lite, mixed vegetables, slice of meat and gravy
Nikki Ayling was so inspired by the help she received during her weight-loss journey that she’s decided to do the same for others.
From this week she’s taken over the running of her own Slimming World groups after being accepted as a consultant.
At 9.30am and 11.30am on Mondays she’ll be at St Michael’s and All Angels Church in Paulsgrove and at 5.30pm and 7.15pm on Mondays she’ll be at Paulsgrove Primary School.
‘I never thought I would be the one helping people to lose weight,’ she adds.
‘I was the big person. Losing weight is a big issue in people’s lives. If it wasn’t for people helping me I wouldn’t be where I am. Now I want to do that for other people.’