As she lay in her hospital bed there was no doubt in Donna Cordingley’s mind that she was making the right decision.
With five children, including eight-month-old twins, she knew she needed to be sterilised.
But after the pre-operation tests, doctors told her it was out of the question… because Donna was already five months pregnant, and yet again with twins.
In an astonishing 50,000 to one chance, Donna and her husband David had conceived two sets of twins in less than a year.
And while having more children had been the one thing Donna hadn’t wanted, the mum of five had no option but to continue with the pregnancy and just six days before she would celebrate her eldest set of twins’s first birthday, 40-year-old Donna gave birth to her second set.
She says: “I don’t think there are words to describe how utterly stunned I was.
The first set of twins was a complete shock to the system and took some getting used to, but to go on and have a second set 11 months later, was absolutely life changing.”
The rare and unexpected surprise arrivals have brought Donna and her husband David’s brood up to seven kids now aged between two and 21.
“I’ve gone from being able to have a life of my own again as my older children were becoming more independent, to literally not having a single waking minute to myself.
‘There are days when I don’t even have time to get dressed or eat a single thing as I’m running from one child to another trying to ensure they all have everything they need and aren’t getting up to mischief.
The couple, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, already had three children, Thomas, now 21, William, 18, and 15-year-old Hannah, when Donna discovered she was pregnant again in December 2010.
Thinking she was suffering from gall stones, she had gone to see her GP.
“I’d been feeling very bloated and having tummy cramps.
“I’d suffered with gall stones in the past and thought they had come back.
“My doctor sent me for a scan later that day.|
But as Donna lay on the bed the sonographer announced: “Here’s baby number one, and here’s baby number two.
“They both look very healthy.”
“I was absolutely speechless,” says Donna.
“It had never once occurred to me that I could be pregnant.
“But the doctor explained I was 24 weeks.”
David, who has a twin sister, says: “I thought our nappy changing days were long behind us.
“We were just beginning to get our lives back.”
In June 2011, Donna had an emergency caesarean section at Barnsley District General Hospital, after a scan revealed one of the twins was breech and in distress.
It was discovered Olivia, who weighed 5lb 6oz, had half of tiny James’s placenta.
He weighed just 3lbs and was rushed straight off to the neo-natal unit to be monitored.
Fortunately both babies were fine and within two weeks, Donna was able to take them home.
“They were adorable and despite being a huge shock, I loved being a new mum again.”
Still, Donna was adamant she must now be sterilised.
She says: “I’d asked the surgeon to do it straight after I’d given birth but he wouldn’t due to the scar tissue, so when Olivia and James were eight months old, I was booked in for the operation.”
Then during a routine pre-op scan came the life-changing news another set of twins was on the way.
In June 2012, Donna gave birth prematurely to Isabella, weighing 3lb 3oz, followed by George, who weighed 3lb 4oz.
“They were both absolutely beautiful,” says Donna.
At their peak, the children were going through 210 nappies a week, meaning by the time they are all potty trained, they will have used an astronomical 22,000.
“The staff at our local supermarket know us all really well now and are very understanding when the kids start pulling tins off shelves or running around the aisles.
But Donna, who unsurprisingly is now a full time mum, and David, who helps at his dad’s transport business, say they wouldn’t swap their babies for the world.