ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

HIV took hope away – my baby brought it back

Updated on June 30, 2016

Holding her newborn daughter in her arms, Sarah Watson finally allowed herself to believe it was true. After a gruelling 28-hour labour, she was a mum. Tearfully, she handed baby Tahlia over to her husband, Mat, for a cuddle. "We did it," he beamed.

Sarah, from Guildford, Surrey, was holding the healthy baby she never thought she'd have.

In 1993, aged 17, she was infected with HIV by her then boyfriend, Dave*. It was only when she accidentally fell pregnant that a blood test revealed she had the virus. Unbeknown to Sarah, her 'perfect' boyfriend had been using drugs and sharing needles.

"My world fell apart. I was told to terminate my pregnancy because I would either infect my baby or die young and leave my child an orphan," she says.

"I know I should have left Dave, but I felt no one else would understand. HIV was such a shameful thing to have - at least we'd be together."

At the time, doctors told Sarah she was likely to develop full-blown Aids within 10 years, which would ultimately prove to be fatal. They explained there were drugs available to prolong her life, but they had potentially lethal side effects including liver failure and hepatitis. She refused them.

Her parents and younger sister were incredibly supportive, but Sarah had already given up. Spending her days in bed, she stopped looking after herself and her weight plummeted. Eventually she was hospitalised with severe breathing difficulties.

"I had pneumonia and because my immune system was so weak, doctors told my mum I was unlikely to survive," Sarah says. "I was in so much pain - I could hardly breathe or talk. But it finally triggered something inside me - a fight to live."

Slowly, Sarah began to recover and she left hospital a month later. She split with Dave and moved into a flat. When she was strong enough, she did admin work for a window company; when she was sick, she stayed with her parents.

She developed eczema on her arms, and people gossiped that she'd been injecting drugs, which had given her HIV. But Sarah ignored them. There were more important things on her mind.

"If I was going to die, I wanted to cram in as much as possible," Sarah says. "There was so much to live for. I travelled abroad - India, Tunisia, even Australia. I also stopped feeling so angry towards Dave."

For the next seven years, Sarah admits there were tough times, but she was determined to fill her life with positive experiences while she still could. She even started dating again. Although she was nervous about telling potential new boyfriends about her condition, it never scared them away.


"I was always honest with boyfriends before having sex," Sarah explains. "I told them I was HIV-positive, and that as long as we used a condom, they'd be safe. Maybe I was lucky, but I never had a negative reaction."

Sarah was constantly monitored by doctors, but still refused to take medication, believing the risks far outweighed the benefits. It wasn't until the age of 24 that she had a change of heart. By then she was plagued with infections, so she agreed to start taking antiretroviral drugs - which help the immune system recover and had by this point been developed to have fewer side effects. And the treatment was successful. After seven years of being too ill to work, Sarah was strong enough to get a job as a residential care officer, working with troubled youngsters in Woking. She also began voluntary work, going into schools to talk about HIV.

Then, in 2003, Sarah returned to Tunisia for a holiday. While she was there, she met Mat, a car mechanic.

"We spent hours talking by the pool. I really liked him," Sarah smiles. "When I mentioned I spoke in schools, he was curious. So I told him I was HIV-positive - but Mat just asked lots of questions. He wanted to be educated, not to judge.

"He made me feel attractive and interesting. For the rest of the holiday, he grilled me for every piece of information I had. I must have reassured him because by the end of the holiday, we were dating."

For the first year, the couple had a long-distance relationship - Mat lived in Watford, 50 miles away. Then Mat sold his home and moved into Sarah's flat.

And three years after they met, Mat proposed while on holiday in Kenya. In August 2007, they got married in front of 70 guests at a church in Weybridge, Surrey.

"When I was diagnosed, I didn't see a future - but there I was, in love and married. My medication was great and I had every chance at a long healthy life. The only thing missing was a baby," she says.

Sarah talked to her doctors about getting pregnant without endangering Mat, 36, or the baby. She was prescribed special medication to reduce the odds of passing the virus on to an unborn baby through the womb. The doctors explained she could self-inseminate with Mat's sperm, and the baby would only have a one per cent chance of contracting the virus inside her. So the couple decided to go ahead.

"We had to collect Mat's sperm in a pot and then I put it inside me with a syringe," Sarah says. "It wasn't how I'd imagined making a baby, but it was worth it."

After 18 months, Sarah finally fell pregnant. "It felt like a miracle," she beams.

On March 16 this year, the couple's daughter Tahlia was born, weighing 7lb 10oz.

"When I held Tahlia in my arms I was overwhelmed," Sarah says. "Mat and I both burst into tears. Sarah couldn't breastfeed because the virus might have passed on through her milk. As a precaution, Tahlia was given antiretroviral medication for a month, which made her very sick. But blood taken from Tahlia at birth tested negative for HIV and another test three months later was also clear.

"I was so relieved," says Sarah. "I knew there was only a small chance she would be affected, but I was still worried."

"Tahlia is the most precious gift," Sarah says. "And I'm feeling good. Doctors tell me I'll live until I'm 60. I have my baby girl and a wonderful husband. I feel truly blessed."

HIV: THE FACTS

  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) destroys the body's immune system.
  • HIV can be passed on by having sex without a condom, sharing infected needles, or from an HIV-positive mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
  • It's estimated that around 80,000 people are living with HIV in the UK.
  • About 30 per cent of people in the UK with HIV do not know they are infected.
  • In 2015, women accounted for 37 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV due to a rise in the number of heterosexual people infected.
  • Over 18,000 people with HIV have died since the early '80s.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)