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Words by Hattie Gladwell, 24
I came out of an unhappy relationship in October 2018. It was a joyless, sexless relationship which left me feeling very unattractive and rejected, and I had no confidence in myself when we finally split after six years.
The break-up was hard; although I knew it would come to an end, I had put so much into the relationship. We had been together since I was 17, it was a huge part of my life, and I was heartbroken to see it come to an end.
I told myself I wouldn't have another relationship for a long time.
But then, a couple of weeks after the breakup, my friends encouraged me to get on Tinder. I'd never used it before, but I knew a lot of people used it for hookups. I wasn't interested in that, and I wasn't interested in a relationship, either, but I decided to download it as I thought it may help me get some confidence back.
Maybe speaking to men again - and receiving compliments, and realising that I wasn't all of the horrible things that I thought I was - would be nice. And it actually was - bar a few creeps who swiftly got unmatched.
I would chat and flirt with my matches, but usually the conversation dried up after a few days. Which was fine, because I wasn't looking for anything. I told myself that I was done with relationships, and that I would focus on my career for at least the next couple of years.
And then I met Louis.
We matched on the app at the beginning of December. There was something different about him compared to my other matches. We both had an interest in music, we both joked about being smokers and pretty unfit people. He was easy to talk to, funny, and had a bluntness about him that I found really attractive. We started speaking more regularly, which ended up leading to phone calls and after two weeks of talking, we met up.
It wasn't really a 'date'. After some Facebook vetting, seeing we had mutual friends and making sure he was a real-life person (you never know with Tinder), I invited him to my flat.
I remember being unusually nervous. My insecurities set in and about an hour before he arrived I was continuously changing my clothes and reapplying my makeup. I was worried he wouldn't find me attractive in person and that he'd be disappointed. But when he turned up, the first thing he did was tell me how much more attractive I was in person, and my worries disappeared.
We spent the night drinking wine and watching films. It was completely natural. It was like we'd known each other for ages. I didn't feel uncomfortable or awkward at all. And that night, we kissed.
We dated for around six weeks. During this time, I wasn't sure whether it was going to go anywhere. To be honest, I'd completely forgotten what it was like to date and how things would even progress into a relationship. Dating etiquette was different to what it was in 2013, and I wondered whether it would be a whirlwind romance before things fizzled out.
But the day after Valentine's day in 2019, we made things official. It was strange updating my Facebook status to a relationship with someone new, but it felt right. I realised then that this is something I really did want, and that I hoped would last. And then, six months later, I got pregnant.
Now, this was crazy, and completely unexpected. Louis and I had both discussed pretty early on that he didn't want children - which was fine, because I had actually been told that, due to extensive abdominal surgery I had had, I wouldn't be able to conceive naturally. But I clearly proved that wrong.
I'd been feeling a bit weird, I was late on my period and my boobs were sore. My periods were usually all over the place so I wasn't too worried, but on a whim I took a pregnancy test, and that big plus sign showed up within seconds.
We were both shocked, and to tell you the truth, we weren't sure what to do at first. It was so early - we had only been together for six months, I was only 23 and Louis was 26.
We told our parents pretty early on and we got the same reaction: we had been together such a short time, what if it didn't work out?
When I'd found out, years earlier, that I 'couldn't have children', I cried myself to sleep for about a week. But then I spent a lot of time convincing myself that maybe it was okay. That perhaps I didn't want them anyway. That I'd just be a career person instead and have a fancy job and a child-less home. But deep down, I was heartbroken.
The pregnancy news took a few weeks to really sink in, but the further along I was getting, the more I thought about it being a 'baby' rather than a 'pregnancy'. I grew quickly attached and I just knew in my heart that it had happened for a reason.
There were a lot of conversations. Like, a lot. But I'd decided that I was keeping my baby, and gave Louis the option to leave. He didn't. He was terrified, though. In fact, he even threw up on a few occasions.
He had never planned to be a dad, he wanted to travel and find his 'forever' career. But as my pregnancy progressed, he grew more and more excited - especially when we found out we were having a boy.
The pregnancy was, for the most part, easy. Unfortunately I developed gestational diabetes and pregnancy induced hypertension later on into it, so I was in the hospital a lot. I then started having reduced movements, which led to me having an early C-Section at 38 weeks and 2 days.
I had my baby boy on 9 April 2020, when we were just a couple of weeks into the UK's lockdown, due to the coronavirus. He came out healthy and weighed 6lbs 11oz. It was pretty scary - everyone was masked up and after the birth, Louis had to leave. I then spent three days alone in the hospital recovering, and he was only allowed to visit once a day for an hour.
But once we were home, our lives changed forever. We both threw ourselves into parenthood, and everything just came naturally to us. We'd been so scared about so much stuff - whether we'd be able to hold him properly, whether we'd be rubbish at changing nappies, whether we wouldn't wake up for the night feeds. But all of that became a distant memory after our first night at home.
We are lucky to have a really easy, chilled baby. And our relationship has only got better. It's really brought me and Louis closer together and we are definitely a family unit. He is a great dad, and I love seeing him smiling at our son. They have such a great bond.
I won't say it's all been completely easy - we are tired a lot of the time and having a baby during lockdown has been quite lonely and isolating, especially as our families haven't been able to hold him. But it's also made me appreciate that family time that most mums usually don't get, where it's just me, my partner and our baby.
I've come to learn that there really isn't a 'right time' to get pregnant, and that it doesn't matter what your plans are. You will know in your heart what you want to do about it. Some couples plan to have kids, others don't, and you won't actually know how you feel until it happens.
And I'd say to other women who are wondering when it's right to have a baby, to not overthink it. Don't worry about the timing, because at the end of the day the timing will never be right. There are always a million reasons to and not to have a child.
The one thing I did when I got pregnant was to go with my heart, not my head. And it's the best thing that ever happened to me.
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