One day, Kerry Clack is certain she’ll hold the baby she so desperately longs for in her arms.
Although the chances of her falling pregnant naturally are next to none, she’s positive that she and husband Chris will be able to start a family of their own.
But at the beginning of this year it was a very different story. In January, she feared she’d never be able to become a mum. She’d always known the fertility problem she’d been diagnosed with when she was just 19 made a natural conception unlikely.
Now a five stone weight problem was also standing in her way.
There was no way the newlyweds could afford to pay for private fertility treatment. Chris’s salary as a pub chef and Kerry’s wages as a senior care assistant simply wouldn’t stretch that far.
Yet Kerry’s obesity problem also meant that she was barred from getting the IVF she so desperately wanted via the NHS.
‘I felt devastated,’ says Kerry with tears in her eyes. ‘I knew I’d met the man of my dreams but the only thing we needed now was a family.
‘I had come to the conclusion that I would never be a mum and thought that was it. I had been told I couldn’t have children. But when I found Chris, the feeling of wanting to have a baby got stronger and stronger.
‘I thought “I’ve got to do everything in my power to try and help the situation”.
‘It was my turn. I thought “I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to try and lose weight”.’
At almost 22 stone, Kerry had a body mass index of 52 – much higher than the NHS guidelines for women having IVF treatment allows.
Her weight had increased over the years and she’d ballooned to wearing size 26 clothes. She had no energy, couldn’t sleep properly and felt drained by her weight.
But until she and Chris decided they wanted a baby, she simply didn’t feel motivated enough to lose weight.
Kerry was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries as a teenager. Like others with the condition, cysts on Kerry’s ovaries stop her from ovulating frequently. The condition can also make it harder for sufferers to lose weight.
‘I was told I’d probably never have children,’ says Kerry. ‘At the same time I lost my father. He was diagnosed with cancer and he passed away. Four years later I lost my mum as well.
‘Food became my comfort. I wasn’t really bothered by my weight, I didn’t have a reason to be.
‘I wasn’t in that frame of mind of thinking about having children. I was still young and grieving. Food became my best friend.’
Instead of eating a balanced and healthy diet, Kerry would eat all the wrong things. She’d find herself eating three square a meals a day – and then a calorie-laden takeaway at 11pm on her way home from work.
Her diet didn’t include fruit or vegetables and instead she relied on comfort food, such as pie and chips, or frozen ready meals.
Knowing that she wouldn’t be able to fall pregnant without some help, Kerry and Chris went to see their doctor who referred them to Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Portsmouth.
The doctor told them he’d put them forward for IVF – but only if 29-year-old Kerry could lose five stone and prove she had her weight under control.
The strict guidelines surrounding who can and can’t have IVF are set by individual health authorities across the country. In Portsmouth, women are told they must have a BMI of under 30 and a diagnosed fertility problem for more than a year.
But Kerry admits that being told she had to lose weight made her angry at first.
‘I thought “Why are all these bigger girls having babies? No-one tells them to lose weight”.
‘I thought “Why have I got to lose weight?” I’ve got friends who are over-weight and they’re having babies so I was angry with the hospital.
‘But then I came away and I realised I want to give a baby the best start in life. If I’m overweight that’s not helping the baby. I think so many people take having children for granted.’
With a new-found determination to get her weight sorted, Kerry joined her local Slimming World group. She began attending the weekly sessions at Paulsgrove Primary School and found the support there invaluable.
Her unhealthy eating habits were replaced, she began to exercise and the pounds started to fall off.
And for the first time in her life, Kerry began to have hope that she’d be able to have a child.
Since January she’s lost an incredible five stone and got her BMI down to around 30.
Her determination to lose weight impressed her doctor who last month told her that she could begin IVF treatment.
‘He said “I can see you’re really trying”,’ says Kerry, from Paulsgrove. ‘He said “There might be complications and risks but if you’re willing to take the risks we’ll start you on the treatment”.
‘That was my main motivation – we want to have a baby. I got the treatment and that started about a month ago.
‘Everything is going to plan so far. Because of the cysts around my ovaries the eggs won’t go down into my fallopian tubes. I’m having drugs for that and we’re in the process of that at the moment.’
She adds: ‘Seven months down the line, things are so much more positive. I’ve got to stay positive because I think I can fall pregnant.
‘If I fall pregnant it will feel like a miracle. It will be a miracle baby. We’ve come this far. I totally believe that it will happen one way or another. It might have to be through IVF but it will all be worth it in the end. All the bad times will work out in the end.
‘If I don’t fall pregnant, I’ll know I will have done everything I can. At the end of all this treatment if they say “Sorry, it’s not working”, at least I can say it’s not our fault, we tried our hardest.’
Kerry now weighs 16 stone 13 pounds and has slimmed down to a size 18. For the first time in years she can buy clothes on the high street. Instead of taking the lift at her workplace, Kerry now runs up the five flights of stairs instead.
And Chris, 28, has also joined the slimming group – losing an incredible 17 pounds in just two weeks.
‘I feel amazing,’ laughs Kerry. ‘I feel absolutely incredible. I’d always see stories about other women losing weight and think “I wish I could do that, I wish it was that easy”.
‘It really is easy. All you have to do is follow the eating plan and do more exercise.’
She adds: ‘I do want to keep going. Losing weight has helped me so much. Everything in my whole life has changed.
‘It’s a lifestyle change rather than a diet. I think I will always eat like this now. I don’t think I’ll ever give up. I’ll keep going until I feel happy with myself. I’m extremely happy with the five stone I’ve lost.’
Kerry Clack’s heart-felt determination to lose weight impressed the slimmers in her group so much that they named her their woman of the year.
The award – voted for by those who also attend the Slimming World group in Paulsgrove – means a lot to Kerry.
She never expected to win but was delighted to hear that her fellow slimmers thought so much of her.
The group’s consultant, Jo Bonsor, put forward Kerry’s name for consideration because she was impressed by how well she’d done in such a short space of time.
And Kerry then had to give a speech to the group, explaining why she wanted to lose weight.
‘My reason was to have a baby and I got very emotional,’ she remembers. ‘I had the whole group in tears. They could see how much it meant to me and how much we wanted this but I never expected to win.’
After putting it out to a vote, Kerry was announced the winner last week.
‘Kerry has gone through so much,’ says Jo. ‘I’m so chuffed for her. I’ve been surprised by how many women have fertility problems because of their weight. It’s something we see quite a lot.’
Kerry adds: ‘Without Chris and Jo and the support of the rest of the group, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.’
Jo runs two Slimming World groups in Paulsgrove. The first meets at 10am on Mondays at St Michael’s Church. There’s also a group at 7pm on Mondays in Paulsgrove Primary School.