By Leah Fox
A stunning woman who was born with no uterus told her boyfriend that she couldn’t have children on their first date.
Lauren Cliffe, 25, had always wanted to be a mum, but at 16 she received the devastating diagnosis of the rare condition MRKH, a congenital disorder which means she was born without a womb.
Years later, after Lauren spent time backpacking around Australia and accepting her rare condition, she bumped into an acquaintance from school, Charlie Pauly, 29, and their romance blossomed.
On their first date, the pair began asking each other questions to get to know each other better, and the topic of children came up – when Lauren blurted that she couldn’t have children.
Now, the couple of four years, who run a popular travel blog together, want to raise awareness of MRKH and say in that moment on their first date, they fell in love.
Lauren, from Peterborough, who is sharing her experiences for the first time, said: “Growing up, I was always very maternal and I couldn’t wait to start my period like every other girl.
“I was always putting cushions under my top pretending I was pregnant and all I ever wanted was to have a family – it’s all I visioned in my future.
“But finding out I couldn’t have children at 16 was a real kick in the teeth.
“When I met Charlie in 2016, it was a couple of years after I’d finally accepted myself for having my condition.
“My brother always hung around with his brother so we knew of each other but we didn’t talk at the time.
“We bumped into each other in our local shopping centre and got talking after figuring out we had a lot in common, and began to spend more time with each other.
“On our first date we walked around our local reservoir – we’re both quite deep people and were asking each other questions from the start..
“Charlie said he volunteered in an orphanage in Cambodia when travelling and when we got onto the topic of marriage and kids, he said that he wanted to adopt and my eyes lit up.
“He was wondering why I was so happy about that and I said that I also wanted to adopt but he knew there was something more behind it.
“He asked more questions and I just blurted out that I can’t have kids.
“He was so accepting of it and really lovely – that made me fall for him a little bit more!”
At 15, Lauren decided to go to the doctors when she realised she hadn’t got her period yet, but they suggested she could just be a late bloomer.
A year later, she went back with the same issue and was referred for an ultrasound and blood tests, and eventually diagnosed with MRKH in 2010.
Lauren said: “When I was having the ultrasound, the nurse seemed so confused.
“It was hard to take in at the beginning and I just kept it to myself.
“I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders. I felt so out of place in my own body. I was a stranger in my own skin.
“If a girl asked me to borrow a tampon I’d get embarrassed and flustered – I felt like I couldn’t just say that I didn’t have a tampon, it was really hard to deal with.
“People in college used to ask what pill I was on and it put me under a lot of pressure trying to know all the answers when I hadn’t taken a pill or used a tampon because I didn’t have periods.”
But soon after finishing school, Lauren found passion in travelling, and eventually came to accept herself for who she was.
By the time she met Charlie, she felt like there was nothing to hide, and admitted she couldn’t have children on their first ever date.
Four years strong, the couple now have a travel Instagram page – @charlieandlauren_ – with over 200,000 followers, and recently Lauren has spoken out about her condition in hopes of helping other women.
She said: “I had already completely accepted my condition but I still always had it as my little secret because it made me feel unique and special.
“I’d still dread the questions of when I’m going to have a child so releasing it publicly was the second stage of acceptance for me.
“I’d only started learning about MRKH a few months ago by joining groups – I learnt so much more about it and I was so interested in the condition which made me want to share the knowledge.
“I feel so happy that by explaining that I have MRKH that more people know what it is.”
Lauren and Charlie now hope to adopt a child in the future and want to continue spreading awareness of MRKH.
She added: “It’s such a private subject because we feel as females that we were born to reproduce and that’s our mission in life but it’s so important to get the word out that this does happen to some women.
“I’ve decided I want to be open about this, because every year, another girl gets dealt with this hand, and I want her to know that she doesn’t have to navigate this life alone.”
You can follow Charlie & Lauren’s journey here:
Travel blog: www.wanderersandwarriors.com