You know when your kids become friends with someone at school that you’re bound to end up spending some time with their parents.
Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes not so much. I have been lucky enough to grow my own network of friends from the families my sons have introduced me to. As it turns out, generally the kids my boys connect with were raised by grown-ups that I really like.
So I wasn’t surprised to discover at a recent playdate for my youngest that his friend’s mum and I had plenty to talk about. Very fresh to each other we shared quick and brief highlights of our motherhood journey and decorating houses. As you do.
Not long after I returned home, I received an unexpected text from my new friend sharing a link to her birth story. I read it and couldn’t believe her experience. It just goes to show that you never know what’s going on behind someone’s smile!
It’s an incredible story and to see her and her boys, you would not know that she had endured such a traumatic time. She had no idea that I was an editor of an online parenting hub so she was pleasantly surprised when I asked if I could share her story with our community.
Getting pregnant was a struggle for Natalie, as she is one of many women whose womb was “riddled with endometriosis” but after years of trying she had a beautiful baby boy, Jon-Luc.
Of course, now that she had a son Natalie really wanted a little brother or sister for him but as the years passed, and the struggle got tougher, she decided to turn to Dr Li, a local acupuncturist and apparent miracle worker for hopeful mothers.
Dr Li’s treatment meant that Natalie’s ankles, wrists and stomach were regularly pricked with needles, and then half way through her second round of treatment she got the sign she was hoping for. A positive pregnancy test stick.
It really was a miracle!
But then 18 weeks later Natalie awoke to a gush of fluid leaving her in the middle of the night. Her amniotic membrane had ruptured [ie, her waters broke!] and she had started contracting.
The doctors told Natalie that the condition was called amniorrhexis, also known as Preterm, Premature Rupture of Membranes [PPROM] and they had never seen a baby younger than 24 weeks old survive it.
“There’s less than a one per cent chance your baby is going to survive,” said the head of paediatrics in the High-Risk Pregnancy Unit Natalie was now in.
“And even though [we] usually don’t believe in abortion, in this case, we think for your health you need to have an abortion. You need to deliver the baby.”
She was told that if her baby survived it would probably have a birth defect.
“I was thinking ‘Great… it was so hard to get pregnant in the first place,’” says Natalie.
And she wasn’t prepared to give up without a fight.
So she refused to give birth and three weeks later, still in hospital, Natalie’s fluids were building up again.
And that little heartbeat was still there.
The doctors couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t find the hole in the membrane and were amazed she hadn’t gone into labour in those first 24 hours which is typical of this condition.
Natalie was discharged from the hospital on strict conditions; ‘lay flat on your back and have someone with you at all times, as you could go into labour any time. Get up only to go to the toilet and do absolutely no housework. No visitors, either.’
So for four months, Natalie lay in bed while her mother and mother-in-law took turns staying at the house with her while her husband worked.
Her legs ached, cramped, and were restless. She was on antibiotics, had her blood taken every three days and had painful steroid injections.
She had to stop teaching and little Jon-Luc couldn’t go to kinder gym anymore because the risk of infection he may bring back into their home was too high.
If Natalie got an infection, due to the hole in the membrane, the doctors would force her to abort her child to avoid her own, likely death.
“I watched a lot of Oprah,” laughs Natalie.
She read a lot of pregnancy books and blogs, too.
“The internet is a bad thing sometimes because you would just always look things up and worry. I was worried. And my husband would say, leave it alone. Stop it, stop it,” says Natalie.
“I’d wonder, ‘Will it be stillborn? Will it be okay? But there was just something in me saying ‘Don’t Abort,’
Once she passed the 24 weeks mark, Natalie no longer needed someone at the house with her, and she could sit outside and have a cup of tea.
The plan was that at 34 weeks the doctors would deliver her baby. If she didn’t go into labour first.
“At 33 weeks, I woke up one night gushing with fluids. I would often gush with fluids, losing it all, then it would replenish, I’d lose it all again, then it would all replenish,” says Natalie.
“You’d smell it. It had an awful smell. Sort of like a sweet, sickening smell.”
But this time the doctors induced her straight away. And soon she was crowning.
“Two pushes and the midwife delivered the baby. He was blue,” recalls Natalie.
“But then two cries and he was okay. And they couldn’t believe that he was breathing on his own.”
William Louis, named after William the Conqueror, was five pounds, eight ounces. Natalie is TINY so that’s a pretty impressive baby!
Not only was he big, but William also had no birth defects other than a slight hint of ‘club foot’ which a few physiotherapy appointments sorted out.
Natalie’s miracle baby is five years old now, loves AFL and is a little maths whiz.
“He can remember football scores from two years ago and he can group count in sixes,” says Natalie.
And he was totally worth it!
Amniorrhexis or Preterm, Premature Rupture of Membranes [PPROM] is a spontaneous rupture of the membranes [waters breaking] before the onset of labour prior to 37 weeks gestation. It complicates 2-4% of pregnancies.
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