The news that Lisa Burt, who was desperate to be a mum, was unlikely to ever fall pregnant naturally, was a shock
Lisa Burt was starting to get worried. She had been trying unsuccessfully for a baby for more than a year, so she went to her doctor who ordered tests to find out why.
But when the the results came back, they brought a double bombshell.
The news that Lisa, who was desperate to be a mum, was unlikely to ever fall pregnant naturally, was a big enough shock on its own… but then came the reason why.
At the age of just 25, she was told she was going through early menopause – which she discovered later could have started when she was just 17.
And while doctors were concerned about the immediate implications for her health, Lisa was more devastated by the knowledge her body had stopped producing eggs, meaning her baby dreams were over.
She was told in no uncertain terms that she would be unable to conceive naturally and immediately put on to a course of hormone replacement therapy.
In a daze, Lisa struggled to accept that her baby quest was over.
But, against all the odds, it wasn’t.
And now, to the astonishment of doctors, she is the proud mother of naturally conceived Liam, three.
And she even hopes she might get pregnant again – despite still being menopausal.
Lisa, now 31 and a health care assistant, explains: “When I went for the tests I just thought that at worst my body was being a bit slow and they’d prescribe me fertility drugs to make it happen a bit quicker.
“When they told me I was going through the menopause I went into shock. I was sure they must have had my results mixed up with an older lady. How could I be going through the menopause, I was only 25?
“I looked over at my partner and saw tears in his eyes and realised what it meant – that we would never be able to have kids. I was utterly devastated.”
Cruelly, Lisa had always dreamed of having a large family of at least three or four children. She’d met Dominic Lowe, now 31, at a party in 2002 when they were both 21.
They hit it off and soon into their relationship they decided to have a family together.
Lisa explains: “We knew straight away it was serious and I made no secret of wanting lots of kids, but we decided to be sensible and wait until we were in a good position to do so.”
That time came three years later when Lisa, from Corfe Mullen, Dorset, was 24. “I had been taking the Pill so we made the decision to come off it and expected things to happen quickly,” she says.
Confident in the knowledge she would be pregnant soon, Lisa even allowed herself to dream about what sex her child would be and started picking names.
She says: “I was even thinking about what kind of labour I would have.” But each month brought fresh disappointment and after a year of trying Lisa decided to talk to her GP.
When he asked her about her cycle she told him her periods had always been irregular and he arranged blood tests. Days later the results were back and showed Lisa’s hormone levels were lower than expected. A little anxious, the couple thought it wouldn’t take much to sort out.
But the truth was far worse. After hospital tests, their consultant broke the news that Lisa was one of a small percentage of women to start the menopause early.
He explained that’s why her periods had always been so light and estimated the changes may have started when she was just 17.
“There was a lot of crying and talking,” she says. “It was like our whole future had been ripped away. I was mourning for the life I thought I would have – full of kids. I felt like I was letting Dom down, too.”
Lisa was sent for further tests to check her bone density because menopausal women are at a higher risk of osteoporosis. “I wasn’t even thinking about any of that,” she says. “All I could think about was not ever falling pregnant.”
It was explained their only real hope lay in egg donation. “In sheer panic I sat my younger sister down and asked if she would consider donating her eggs,” remembers Lisa. “I cried when she said she would and paid for us to see a private fertility expert.
“They gave us lots of different scenarios to consider, – for example, what if she gave me some eggs and was then unable to fall pregnant?
“It made me realise it wasn’t something we could rush into. My sister was only 20 and I didn’t want to pressure her.”
But as the weeks passed, depression set in. “Everywhere I looked there seemed to be pregnant women and babies,” recalls Lisa. “Dom was brilliant but it was tough.”
Then out of the blue in November 2007 a friend who knew of their plight called to tell them about a local alternative therapist who had developed a technique to help women struggling to conceive. He gave Lisa his number.
She says: “I’ve never really believed in anything like that. Dom pointed out we had nothing to lose. I remember snapping back and saying nothing could stop me from going through the menopause but in the end I agreed to give it a go.”
Lisa contacted Reef Steele, a former reflexologist, and made an appointment. Reef explained that he would try to alter the way she thought about pregnancy in the hope her body would follow suit.
He said mental blocks and being told it was impossible were having a physical impact on her and he told her to visualise herself conceiving, being pregnant and finally giving birth. “After the session I felt hugely relaxed,” remembers Lisa, who did exercises Reef taught her at home.
“I’d really enjoyed it and left feeling positive for the first time in ages. I didn’t think I would get pregnant, but I felt better.”
Seven months later, in July 2008, Dom took Lisa away with friends on a much-needed holiday. “He could see I was exhausted mentally and he wanted me to have fun. We had a great time,” she says.
Back home unpacking Lisa complained to Dom, a roofer, that her tummy looked bloated. She says: “I put it down to the side effects of the HRT. I also thought I might be constipated after rubbish on holiday.”
But lying in bed the next morning looking at her swollen stomach, Dom asked the big question.
“When he put his hand on my tummy and asked if I could be pregnant, I was shocked,” she recalls. “I told him not to be silly. But the more I looked at it, the more I started to wonder.” They dashed to the supermarket to buy a test and Lisa used it in the shop toilets. “I was shaking when the line turned blue,” says Lisa. “I walked out and held it up in front of Dom, I couldn’t even speak.
“People were rushing around with their shopping trollies and we were just standing there, rooted to the floor with shock.”
Fearing it might be a mistake Lisa bought a second test and the couple took it outside to wait for the result
“We were too scared to look, but the line was there. Dom was over the moon but I was just bewildered.”
Lisa saw her GP. “I lay down and he started examining me. Then he gave me the biggest smile and said ‘Congratulations’,” she says.
But there was still one more shock in store for Lisa. He estimated she was already five months pregnant.
She says: “I listened to the baby’s heart and tears rolled down my face. I rang Dom crying and laughing like a crazy woman to tell him that not only was I pregnant, but that our baby was nearly due.
“I did the dates and realised it happened just two months after seeing Reef. I emailed him to let him know. I was so grateful.”
Lisa stopped taking HRT and just 16 weeks later in December 2008 gave birth to Liam. “Holding him for the first time was the best moment of my life,” she says.
After the birth, Lisa was put back on HRT and she says that if she and Dom decide to try for another baby she’ll be making an appointment with Reef.
“I don’t know what he did, but I felt instantly better and a few months later I was pregnant after being told it was impossible. However it happened, I’m so lucky it did.”