pregnancy

At 36, Annique's mother looked at her and said, "I'm scared you're going to die".

“Totally, utterly, emotionally, physically, mentally exhausted.”

This is how Annique, 36, feels, after two decades of dealing with her reproductive health. But despite 19 years of agony, Annique still manged to defeat the odds and have three healthy babies.

“Amongst everything…they are my three blessings,” Annique told Mamamia.

The NSW mum is still at a loss to explain how her body could have fought against her for most of her life, and yet still bring three beautiful children into the world.

Speaking of children, check out our first date with Sean Szeps, a father of two. He co-hosts ‘The Baby Bubble’. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

Annique’s terrifying journey began at age 17 when doctors discovered a dermoid tumour in her right ovary after years of complaining about horrific period pain. It had hair, teeth and bone fragments in it.

“It even had specks of liver particles and a few brain cells in it,” Annique told Mamamia. “I felt as though something very inferior was growing in me. [I thought] why does this happen, was I supposed to be a twin? Am I even meant to be female?”

She was never really given any answers to these questions, but she does remember how it felt; “It made me feel less feminine,” she admitted.

Annique was told once it was removed she’d be OK, and for two years she was. But then she started to get excruciating ovulation pain on the 14th of every month that left her bedridden.

“I couldn’t even touch my stomach it was that bad,” she said.

Annique Fabien
Annique and her three children. Image: supplied.
ADVERTISEMENT

At 21, Annique ended up in emergency with a 12cm cyst on her left ovary, which was part removed in surgery.

"Your right ovary will take over and produce the right amount of oestrogen" the doctor assured her afterwards. She was told she wouldn't have any trouble falling pregnant.

And she didn't, two years later at the age of 24 she fell pregnant. But she did so under extraordinary circumstances.

While four weeks pregnant (unbeknown to herself or the doctor) she had a 6cm cyst removed. This one had actually leaked into her ovary.

"How that tiny fetus wasn't affected, is still an absolute miracle," said Annique. "There was certainly an over stimulation in my ovary which was dysfunctional. It was so dysfunctional that it was producing all of these crazy things, but it also enabled me to fall pregnant. The irony..."

When she went in for a followup after her surgery, the doctor told her her hCG levels were high and that she likely had cancer. Nope, just turned out - she was pregnant.

Her son went to full term despite an over stimulated uterus which gave her Braxton Hicks contractions from 15 weeks. She was hospitalised from the second trimester because her pelvic bone had separated. As for labour, it went for three days, and she had to have 55 stitches.

Her body and her baby also didn't agree with the epidural and both nearly had heart failure.

After birth, Annique's bladder stopped working for 12 weeks. Her husband had to cathetise her six times a day. Her bowel also stopped working, and Annique had to have regular 'extractions' of faeces.

She also got mastitis so badly she was hospitalised for three weeks. Annique remembers the medication to fix her left her feeling like she was being electrocuted for 24 hours.

"My body just seems to reject everything and shut down," said Annique, of her experience. "I fell into a deep depression, I used to go to church a lot and just beg to be given a break" she told Mamamia.

"Take the bad out of me and put the goodness back in," she remembers sobbing to the nuns. "I felt like I had the devil inside me. I couldn't understand why I was being punished - it just wouldn't stop, my body kept reacting."

ADVERTISEMENT
Annique and son
Annique with her son. Image: supplied.

Annique's health issues were so bad, and with a newborn to look after, both she and her husband had to give up their jobs.

"I started to think, my life wouldn't be very long... my body just couldn't cope with anything. So I wanted to have another baby," she told Mamamia.

Eighteen months after Noah was born, she was pregnant again. This time, "it went relatively smoothly apart from a small tumour found in my liver," said Annique. She was told it was benign and was caused by being anaemic and losing so much blood in her first pregnancy.

She knew what to avoid this time - no natural labour and no breastfeeding.

Annique then decided to have a third child, and fell pregnant with a little girl.

Eight weeks in, another cyst was found on her ovary and she had surgery to remove it. Her baby survived.

After the birth of her children, Annique had six more cysts removed. She has had so many surgeries, the skin tissue from where they operate started to 'stick' to her insides. She could feel when it hit her bladder, or bowel and it left her in excruciating pain.

For a fresh start after years of pain, Annique moved her young family out of Sydney to a small seaside town a few hours north.

"A lifestyle change... I thought maybe my body will like the water up here, out out of the rat race. I just needed to get away," she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

But the cysts followed her up north, and she woke up from yet another surgery without an ovary or her Fallopian tubes. She wasn't warned that would happen, but the surgeon told her they had to - her ovary was wrapped around her tubes and the adhesion from her other surgeries was also entwined.

"As dysfunctional as that ovary was - I had held onto it as having given me my babies, and doing something right. I had hoped it would eventually bring my body back to normality," she said.

Annique was once again left with the crushing feeling she'd had aged 17 of being less 'feminine.'

Eight months after the ovary removal, Annique's hair started to fall out, she got brain fog, and bled for four months straight.

"I looked like a zombie or a corpse," Annique said of that time. It was her mum that told her to ignore the doctor's calls of 'just take some iron tablets' and sent her to hospital telling her: "Annique, I'm scared you're going to die."

"I had to have an iron transfusion in emergency, I was told if my ferritin levels dropped one more point I'd be in intensive care."

annique sick
Annique's mum took one look at her, and said "I'm scared you're going to die."

Eventually, Annique was diagnosed with the 'cousin' of endometriosis - adenomyosis. She was told it meant she'd basically bleed out until menopause.

She was told to get a hysterectomy, which she did, without giving it much thought. "Let's do it tomorrow," her husband had said at the time. The doctor agreed.

She wishes she got a second opinion.

Annique is now in peri-menopause, aged 36. She has lost 70 per cent of her hair. The memory loss gets worse by the day. She is also now a single mother to her three children.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We didn't survive," a devastated Annique said on the toll her health has had on her marriage.

She's seen doctor after doctor, dozens of them. She can't work out what to do next. No one can help. She's also just recently had another growth discovered on what's left of the half an ovary she still has. She has been advised to get rid of the speck of ovary she has left. It will mean instant menopause.

"I feel so inhuman to be honest, it's hard," Annique candidly told Mamamia.

"I know my body won't cope [going through menopause]. It hasn't with anything...except childbirth."

"The most incredible thing about all of this... when I needed it to perform and save my babies, it did. But it wasn't able to save me... I don't know what my future is, I don't know how long I'll live. But I was able to produce three healthy children. My body at least did something right."

Annique has found solace in Lifeline through the hard times, and she urges others finding it tough to reach out to them.

Do you know a good hormone specialist or wig maker in NSW?  Let Annique know in the comments below.

If this article has been triggering for you, please contact your general practitioner or in Australia, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

Calling mums with bubs and mums to be. Take our super fun survey now to win $100!

MMSurvey
00:00 / ???