Real Stories: Weight loss surgery and fertility

Choosing to undergo weight loss surgery is a big decision. And if you’re considering a surgical weight loss procedure, you probably have lots of questions. Even if you’ve already talked to your doctor, there’s still nothing quite like hearing about the experience from someone who has actually had it. That’s why we asked Gia Graddy, who had weight loss surgery almost four years ago, to share a little of her story with us. So read on, and find out how surgical weight loss helped give Gia the gift of life—in more ways than one.

Why did you choose Weight Loss Surgery?

I had really struggled with being overweight my entire life. By the time I actually made the decision to have the surgery, I was well over 300 pounds and taking diabetes medication. I also had polycystic ovarian syndrome, arthritis and I was headed for knee replacement surgery. It got to where I could barely even make it up a flight of stairs some days. It really felt like my body was shutting down. I was just so tired all the time, and truly unhappy because of it.

On top of all that, my husband and I had recently made the incredible decision to adopt our first child, which we were so thrilled about—but I couldn’t help but worry how my weight, and all the problems that came with it, would affect my ability to be a good mom. I had no energy to do my job, let alone the energy I knew it would take to be a mom! But I also came to the scary realization that it could be so much more than just a question of my energy level: I thought to myself, “If something doesn’t drastically change, I’m going to die.”

Brookwood Baptist Women's Center, Birmingham AL
Gia and her husband, Joey, before and after surgery.
Which surgical weight loss procedure did you choose? Why did you choose it over the other options?

I had gastric bypass surgery, which was my doctor’s recommendation. I had a great deal of weight to lose and I figured if I was going to take such a big step, I should choose the option that typically yields the greatest results. Plus, I had a friend who chose the gastric bypass surgery many years ago and lost a tremendous amount of weight.

How long did you consider it before making the decision?

I considered having the surgery for a few years before making a final decision. Doctors and a few friends had mentioned it to me, but I had always been scared to pursue it.

What were the immediate effects? What have been the long term effects?

My recovery wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. After a week, I was out and about again! It took about two weeks for the weight to start coming off, but once it did, I was amazed at how fast it began to melt away. And then, the more weight I lost, the more energy I had. I felt healthier, I felt younger—and I felt so much happier. Even now, people comment less on my appearance (although that has obviously changed drastically), and more on how genuinely happy I look. Ultimately, I lost a total of 166 pounds. I no longer take medication for diabetes, my joint pain has lessened greatly, and I have more energy than I’ve had in years.

What about unexpected changes after your surgery? Were there any surprises?

Ha ha, as a matter of fact, yes. One big, beautiful, life-changing surprise. My husband Joey and I had tried to have a baby for years with no luck, even after undergoing fertility treatments. After years of heartbreak, we made the decision to adopt a baby, and we were actually going through the adoption process when I had my surgery. Then, one day eight months after my procedure, we got the call we had been waiting for: we found out we had been selected to adopt a baby! We were absolutely over the moon! Finally, after so many years of longing to be parents, we were going to have a baby in our lives.

And then, the very next day, I found out I was pregnant! We couldn’t believe it—literally. I ended up taking three home pregnancy tests because I couldn’t believe the results. I had been warned that weight loss surgery could increase fertility, but it went in one ear and out the other. After all, I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant. It was a miracle! We prayed for God to bless us with a child, and He gave us two babies—five and a half months apart! This was hilarious, overwhelming, and amazing.

Brookwood Baptist Women's Center, Birmingham AL
Gia holding her newborn daughter Scout at Brookwood Baptist, and modeling her wedding dress.
What are some misconceptions about weight loss surgery, and why people choose to undergo it?

Surgery isn’t a “once and for all” fix it to your weight issues. It is a powerful tool to help you jump start healthy living, and a healthier life. Your doctors will give you rules to follow in order to be successful in your initial weight loss, and continuing to maintain it. And this part is absolutely crucial. Simply put: if you don’t follow the rules, you won’t lose the weight.

How important was the support and encouragement you received from your friends, family, and even the medical/surgical staff?

It is very important to have encouragement in this decision, and every step of the way. This type of surgery is a big deal, and the thought of it can be a bit scary. To be honest, my parents and husband were fearful at first. But I had a true peace about it, and an important argument for why the surgery was the best choice for me. Once they understood that, they were on board 100%. The fact that they supported me was a huge factor in helping me achieve this success!

Going into the surgery, how well did you understand what would come after (diet change, exercise, etc.)?

I understood very well, thankfully. Prior to the surgery, I took several classes offered by the hospital that walked me through every step of the surgery, recovery, and the essential lifestyle and diet changes that would occur. I was fully prepared, which is so important when making this decision.

What advice would you give to anyone considering weight loss surgery?

The surgery isn’t for everyone. It’s a big decision, and you must be completely sure before you take that step. For me, it came down to the matter of my quality of life—and ultimately, the matter of life itself. This surgery definitely changed my life, and I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that it probably saved my life. No matter what, it definitely made it possible for me to enjoy my precious life with my husband and my two beautiful children to the fullest, more than I ever could have before.

Brookwood Baptist Women's Center, Birmingham AL
Gia, Joey, daughter Scout, and son Catcher enjoying some family time at the beach.

We just love a story with a happy ending. And Gia’s story made us laugh a little, made us cry a little—and even gasp in surprise and delight a little. What about you? Do you have a surgical weight loss story you want to share? Talk to us on Facebook and share your story!

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