A MUM who miraculously got pregnant after being told by doctors it was impossible faced heartache after discovering she was having twins.
In order to save her life and that of her unborn baby girl, Nicole Freeman and her partner had to come to terms with losing their son.
Prime Features When Nicole Freeman discovered she was pregnant in her 40s she couldn’t believe it after being told by doctors it was impossible
With three sons and being in her 40s, Nicole thought her family was complete.
So in April 2015, when she went into hospital for surgery after years of heavy periods and gynaecological problems she didn’t think twice about the outcome of the op.
The now 43-year-old, a part-time cleaner from Rochester, Kent, had a procedure called endometrial ablation, an operation where the lining of the womb is burned away – and had repair to her bowel and bladder.
She told The Sun Online: “Afterwards they told me I’d never be able to become pregnant again, but I didn’t mind.
Prime Features But Nicole was even more shocked to find she was expecting twins
“By that age I wasn’t intending to add to my family anyway.”
But the operation didn’t work to ease Nicole’s painful symptoms and after going back to her doctor she was booked in to have a hysterectomy to banish her pain for good.
It was while waiting for the op, the mum-of-three started to notice she was exhausted all the time and felt sick in the mornings.
“I remembered those feelings from years ago, when I had my boys” she said.
Prime Features But Nicole’s joy soon turned to heartache after doctors warned she would have to terminate her unborn son to save her life and that of his twin sister
“So I did a pregnancy test. To my amazement it was positive. Despite having no lining to my womb, I was expecting!
“It was such a shock, I didn’t really know how to feel.”
Nicole immediately called her consultant at Medway Maritime Hospital who booked her in for a scan straight away.
Despite having no lining to my womb, I was expecting! It was such a shock, I didn’t really know how to feel
The doctor feared Nicole had suffered an ectopic pregnancy, which can prove very dangerous.
In December 2015, an internal scan confirmed her pregnancy had definitely implanted in Nicole’s womb – and there was yet another surprise.
The scan revealed Nicole was expecting non-identical twins.
“When the sonographer told me and my partner, Paul, that she could see one little girl and one little boy, I felt mixed emotions, all at once,” Nicole told The Sun Online.
Prime Features Due to a past operation to burn away the lining of Nicole’s womb, her unborn son Gabriel didn’t have enough space to grow in the womb, due to the scarring
“Excitement but also fear and anxiety, because it was not a routine pregnancy.”
Then came the heartbreaking warning from doctors.
Because of Nicole’s previous surgery, carrying on with her pregnancy could be dangerous for her and her babies.
Reluctantly, Nicole and Paul agreed to a full termination.
Prime Features At 18 weeks Nicole had an injection to stop her son Gabriel’s heart, allowing his sister Grace, pictured, the chance to live Prime Features At 27 weeks pregnant, Grace was delivered by emergency C-section
With Christmas approaching, the procedure was booked for January 2016 at King’s College Hospital in South London.
But while waiting for the termination, Nicole was also given an appointment for a routine 12-week pregnancy scan on December 30, 2015.
She recalled: “I was in two minds about whether to go for the scan. I thought it would just upset me.
“But on the other hand, having the scan meant I could get a picture of the babies – something to remember them by.
“So I decided to attend. Thank heavens I did.”
Prime Features Mum Nicole was warned by doctors her pregnancy could kill her, causing her womb to rupture Prime Features Initially doctors first advised Nicole terminate both her twins, but at a 12-week scan they said there was a slight chance her babies could make it so she took the chance
At that appointment Dr Ranjit Akolekar told the couple there was chance the pregnancy could be viable after all.
“It was the news I hadn’t dared hope for,” Nicole said. “I was over the moon.
I had to continue for the rest of my pregnancy, grieving for the baby who’d already died inside me, while still very anxious for the health of my remaining baby
“But Dr Akolekar made clear to me there were no guarantees.”
Nicole’s past surgery left a lot of scarring, along with a wall of tissue running down the middle of her womb.
If she continued with her pregnancy there was a risk Nicole’s womb might rupture and she could bleed heavily.
And nobody could be certain her twins would survive long enough to be delivered safely.
Prime Features Nicole is also mum to three boys, by a past partner, Bradley, 18, Henry, 16, and Finley, 11 Prime Features When Grace was born she weighed just 1lb 14oz, and Nicole had to give birth to her stillborn brother at the same time
Nicole told The Sun Online: “I feared taking the chance of dying and leaving my three sons, who are all from a previous relationship.”
But Dr Akolekar told the couple it was possible Nicole could carry to at least 24 weeks, when the babies would have a chance.
The mum-of-three said: “If I wanted the pregnancy to continue, he was willing to monitor me closely.
“If there was any chance of keeping my babies, I wanted to take it.
“So I cancelled the termination and ran the risk – and it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever taken!”
But, Nicole’s emotional roller coaster was not over yet.
Prime Features Baby Grace was delivered early after scans showed she had developed a swelling on her head
Over the coming weeks, doctors discovered Nicole’s surgery and the resulting scarring had left her baby boy with too little room to develop and grow properly.
Nicole was advised to terminate her son and warned she would lose both babies if she didn’t make the heartbreaking call.
At 18 weeks pregnant, Nicole had a foetal reduction procedure – an injection to stop her son Gabriel’s heart and end his life.
Doing so meant she was giving his sister Grace a chance to survive.
“I knew it was the right thing to do, but it was very hard, emotionally,” she recalled.
“I had to continue for the rest of my pregnancy, grieving for the baby who’d already died inside me, while still very anxious for the health of my remaining baby.”
Prime Features Grace was 13 weeks premature when she was born, and had to be wrapped in a plastic bag to keep her warm Prime Features Grace pictured at three weeks old, left, and then again at ten weeks, right
“After that, I went for weekly scans. It was so hard seeing one twin getting smaller and smaller, in comparison to the other twin.”
Then, when she was 27 weeks pregnant, Nicole developed tummy pains and began bleeding heavily.
More tests revealed the healthy baby had developed a swelling on her head caused by pressure inside the womb, and had to be delivered straight away.
On April 15 2016, Nicole gave birth by emergency C-section to Grace, who was 13 weeks premature and weighed 1lbs 14oz, along with her stillborn brother Gabriel.
Nicole said: “Seeing Grace for the first time was frightening. She was tiny, so little that I was afraid to kiss her because I didn’t know where to put my lips.
“Her skin was so thin, the blood vessels underneath showed through. Seeing her so frail, it seemed hard to imagine she could survive.
Prime Features Despite her ordeal, Nicole said she would go through it all again
“Then she was popped into a plastic bag to keep her warm, and whisked off off to the special care baby unit.”
Gabriel was cremated by the hospital and his ashes returned to his parents.
Grace spent the next three months in the unit at Medway Maritime Hospital where she faced crises including infections and a bleed on her brain.
Grace is definitely a miracle baby. I went through a lot to have her, but I’d definitely go through it all again
But somehow the tiny scrapper kept fighting, surviving every setback.
She was well enough to leave hospital in July 2016, a few days before the twins’ due date.
More than a year on, at 17 months old, Grace is a happy, smiley baby.
The swelling on her head dispersed, and the scoliosis (twisted spine) she was born with has now straightened out.
Prime Features Nicole describes her daughter as a ‘miracle baby’ and said her big brothers adore her
She has learned to crawl and is speaking her first words. The pretty tot appears to be reaching all her milestones – her only known health problem is kidney stones, which will be treated when she’s old enough.
Although her parents’ relationship ended under the strain of everything they’d been through, they remain on good terms, and Paul sees his daughter regularly.
Now Nicole is a single mum to Grace, along with her sons Bradley, now 18, Henry, 16, and Finley, 11.
Since her pregnancy, her gynaecology problems have returned, and she was booked for a hysterectomy in September.
Nicole said: “Grace is definitely a miracle baby. She is a happy, healthy little girl, very cuddly and affectionate.
“I went through a lot to have her, but I’d definitely go through it all again. Our whole family dotes on her – her big brothers simply adore her.
“I want to tell my story to thank the NHS for everything it did for me. People can be quick to criticise it, but in my case the care I have been given has been just wonderful.
Prime Features Nicole said she wanted to share her story to thank the NHS for everything they did for her, saving her life and that of her daughter’s
“It’s down to Dr Akolekar that she is here with me. I needed one expert to tell me that my pregnancy might be viable, before I dared proceed with it, and he was that person who believed it was possible and gave me courage. How can I ever thank him enough?”
Dr Akolekar said: “Nicole’s pregnancy was high-risk and after a detailed consultation with me, together with her then partner, she deliberated on it for quite some time.
“In spite of the risk of complications, there was a chance she could get a good outcome, but it seemed quite a challenge to be confident of this early on in the pregnancy.
“I am indeed glad for her and wish her and her family the best and many years of happiness ahead.”