Emma Brown had never planned on having a big family. In fact, she didn’t want kids at all.
When the now 31-year-old, from Enfield, North London, first started dating at 17, she decided to have the 99 per cent effective contraceptive injection to ensure she didn’t fall pregnant at a young age.
It was the start of her body’s ongoing battle with different methods of contraception, which her body won, and she now has four children – Sofie, 12, Sarah, 11, Stevie, 5, and one-year-old baby Reginald – to prove it.
Emma says that her experience with contraception has now left her too scared to have sex because she’s scared of having a fifth child – despite being sterilised .
She reveals that she was careful as a teenager because she had grand plans.
‘I enjoyed my social life way too much, and dreamed of a having a great career and travelling the world,’ says Emma.
After meeting meeting 18-year-old HGV driver Leigh in a nightclub in 2004 when she was just 17, she decided to not leave things to chance and got the contraceptive jab.
However, after returning from a girls’ holiday to the Greek island of Kos, less than a year into her relationship with Leigh, she began feeling ill.
‘She explains: ‘At first, I put it down to drinking too much and not getting enough sleep.
‘But when I started being sick and getting stomach cramps, I thought there was something seriously wrong. I’d also put on weight, but I didn’t put two and two together.’
Her doctor did a pregnancy test and she was told she was six months pregnant. Denial kicked in and Emma went straight back to her job as a nurse in a care home.
The pregnancy didn’t show until Emma was just a month from her due date and even then, the denial continued. ‘If anyone tried to broach the subject at work, I’d just walk off.’
Her boyfriend Leigh, on the other hand, was delighted. On March 5th 2005, baby Sofie was born at 11.49pm.
Emma says: ‘It was love at first sight. Sofie was perfect! I’d never felt happiness like it.’
Despite being besotted with her new baby, at 19, spoke to her doctor who recommended she went on the pill.
She was very careful to never miss one: the last thing she wanted was another baby.
But when Sofie was just over a year old, in April 2006, Emma started feeling sick one day: she knew instantly she was pregnant.
The sickness passed within a day but her first scan, she discovered, once again, that she was almost six months pregnant!
She hadn’t had any periods since before Sofie’s birth due to the hormones in the contraceptive injection and afterwards taking the pill had meant her periods hadn’t returned. As with her first pregnancy, the pregnancy didn’t show – she was as slim as ever.
Her doctor was shocked because Emma had no bump and no feelings of being pregnant apart from that one bout of sickness. She underwent a series of tests to try and find out why the contraception she’d been using had totally stopped her periods, but they just concluded that this is one of the side-effects of the injection and The Pill.
Emma wasn’t happy about the pregnancy: the timing was bad, as her relationship with Leigh was falling apart.
‘The night I went into labour – July 30th 2006 –my dad dropped Leigh and I at the hospital. I told the midwife I was about to give birth but she didn’t believe me as I didn’t appear to be in too much pain and I’d only just arrived at the hospital, and left the room. Minutes later, 6lbs 10oz Sarah entered the world!’ The labour had, once again, been less than an hour in length.
Having two kids was a struggle for Emma, now 20. But she soon got a job as a nurse and managed to make ends meet.
But within a year of Sarah’s birth, Emma and Leigh split up.
‘It was clear that Leigh wasn’t ready to settle down. He was just too young. He’s always been a great dad though and sees the girls regularly.’
At the end of 2010, after a few years as a single mum, Emma, who has recently been made redundant from her job as a staffing manager at Tottenham Hotspur FC, met 24-year-old soldier Adam.
He was living in Pirbright barracks in Guildford and was recently back from Afghanistan.
There was an instant attraction between the couple, but because Emma had no desire to have any more children, she made herself doubly safe by taking The Pill and using condoms.
The relationship between Emma and Adam quickly became serious. Despite not living together, they discussed marriage, but before anything could be arranged and just four months into their relationship, Emma found herself pregnant again.
‘We were shocked I was pregnant,’ says Emma, ‘but once we’d got past that, we were both happy.’
Stevie – another baby girl – was born on January 22nd 2012 and, while both proud parents were over the moon at her arrival, Emma decided that enough was enough.
‘After Stevie was born, I went straight to my GP and begged to be sterilised but my doctor thought that at 25 I was too young and persuaded me to have a coil fitted.
She suggested the copper coil as opposed to the one that released hormones as we were starting to wonder whether the hormones I’d been taking were somehow making me MORE fertile. I trusted the doctor when she said this type of contraceptive could be the one for me.’
The IUD (coil) served her well until March last year, when she discovered it had failed her and she was pregnant again!
‘This time, I wasn’t very surprised as my periods (which had started up again after I had Stevie – had come back and were stopped when I fell pregnant, but I was starting to realise that no contraception could stop me from getting pregnant. Adam was amazed but put the pregnancy down to him having super-sperm rather than me being super-fertile – and baby Reginald arrived a month premature on October 19th 2016.
‘It was great having a little boy after having three girls: little Reginald made my gang complete.’
Sadly, Emma and Adam grew apart after Reginald’s birth. ‘Adam’s still young and wanted to carry on doing the stuff that young blokes do, but I felt more mature, being a mum of four with loads of responsibilities. He’s a good dad though – he sees the kids all the time and we’re still friends.’
After Reginald was born, Emma’s doctor – who actually said ‘oh s**t!’ after reading through my medical history – finally agreed for her to be sterilised and she had the op in April this year.
‘The doctor was as shocked as I was. She said she’d never seen this happen before. It’s not ideal, being sterilised so young, but I don’t have much choice.’
‘My doctor stressed to me that no contraception is 100 per cent effective and that, although it’s extremely rare, some women do seem to be able to get pregnant regardless of the type of contraception they use.’
‘There’s actually a zero chance of me getting pregnant at the moment,’ says a now-single Emma. ‘I’m actually too scared to have sex now, so I’m just not bothering. It’s just not worth the stress.’
But if she meets someone new and gets over her anxiety, will this last resort method work for Emma?
‘My doctor says that even with sterilisation, there’s a 1 in 200 chance of getting pregnant. Knowing my luck, I’ll be that 0.05%! All I can say is ‘watch this space’!’
Fertility expert Dr. Geetha Venkat of The Harley Street Fertility Clinic says: ‘For someone to be as fertile as Emma is rare but for four different types of contraception to fail for one person is something I’ve not seen or heard of before.
‘There are no actual medical statistics for this happening, but I would say the chances are at least one in a million.
‘The fact Emma started having babies so young could have had something to do with it – as women are more fertile when they’re younger – but it isn’t a medical condition, just a rarity.’