Natalie loves children.
She’s been teaching them for over a decade, working at a small primary school in the suburbs of Adelaide.
Everyday she sees her students’ mothers drop them off, pick them up, and since 28-years-old she was trying to become one.
Getting pregnant was a struggle, as her womb was “riddled with endometriosis” but after years of trying she had a baby boy, Jon-Luc.
And – more than anything – she wanted a little brother or sister for him.
As the years passed, and the struggle got tougher, she turned to Dr Li, an acupuncturist and miracle worker for hopeful mothers, apparently.
Natalie’s ankles, wrists and stomach were routinely pricked with needles, and half way through her second round of treatment she was staring down at a big, fat positive sign on a pregnancy stick.
It was a miracle.
But 18 weeks later – in the middle of the night – Natalie’s pregnancy glow, and all the joy associated with it, came crashing down in a heap.
She awoke to a gush of fluid leaving her.
Natalie’s amniotic membrane had just ruptured and she had started contracting.
Amniorrhexis is what the doctors call it and these same doctors were telling Natalie they’d 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.”
If her child wasn’t stillborn – which was unlikely – it would probably have a birth defect.
“I was thinking ‘Great.. it was so hard to get pregnant in the first place,’” says Natalie.
Three weeks later, still in hospital – after refusing to give birth if there was still a heartbeat – Natalie’s fluids were building up again.
The doctors couldn’t find the hole in the membrane, and they couldn’t believe she hadn’t gone into labour in those first 24 hours. And that little heartbeat was still there.
Natalie was sent home on strict conditions; ‘lay flat on you 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 absolutely no housework. No visitors, either.’
So for four months, Natalie lay in bed. Her legs ached, cramped, and were restless. She had her blood taken every three days, and steroids injections. Those ones hurt.
Her mother and mother-in-law took turns staying at the house with her while her husband worked.
She had to stop teaching.
Jon-Luc couldn’t go to kindergym anymore because the risk of infection he could bring back into their home was too high. Especially as it was around the time Swine Flu was rife.
If Natalie got an infection the doctors would force her to abort her child to avoid her own death. The risk of the latter deemed too high.
So what on earth does a pregnant bedridden woman do – for months on end – when she can’t have visitors?
“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,’
“I think because I love my first son so much and it was so hard to get pregnant and being a teacher as well, you obviously love kids.”
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.
At 34 weeks the doctors would deliver the 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 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 was five pounds, eight ounces.
“And I’m five foot two,” laughs Natalie. “He was huge!”
“I called him William, because of William the Conqueror. I like the name William anyhow. I’ve taught beautiful Williams in the past.”
William had no birth defects, other than a slight hint of ‘club foot’ which a few physiotherapy appointments sorted out.
He’s five-years-old now, and loves AFL.
“He can remember football scores from two years ago, because he barracks for Carlton. You say ‘What was the score when Carlton played Hawthorn in Round 22?’ He’s like ‘Hmm, 72 onto 34.’ And he can group count in sixes,” says Natalie.
“His teacher mentioned he’s amazing at maths.”
While there’s no doubt little William will be finding the odds in algebraic equations soon, they obviously don’t apply to him. Because he beats them.