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Episode 338

Kate

When Kate was seven months pregnant with her second son, her husband, Nathan, was injured while playing a game of football. Their whole world turned upside down when doctors informed them that he had fractured his C3 vertebrae and was a quadriplegic. Kate admits that she totally forgot about her pregnancy as soon as she learnt of Nathan’s accident but thankfully his nurses stepped in and coordinated midwifery care for her. The Prince of Wales and Royal Women’s hospitals worked together to ensure Nathan could be with Kate for the birth. It was a fast and joyful birth and for those that have watched the video, it’s an unforgettable glimpse into an incredibly precious experience.

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Image by Alisia Mason, Sydney Birth Stories

When Kate was seven months pregnant with her second son, her husband, Nathan, was injured while playing a game of football. Their whole world turned upside down when doctors informed them that he had fractured his C3 vertebrae and was a quadriplegic. Kate admits that she totally forgot about her pregnancy as soon as she learnt of Nathan’s accident but thankfully his nurses stepped in and coordinated midwifery care for her. The Prince of Wales and Royal Women’s hospitals worked together to ensure Nathan could be with Kate for the birth. It was a fast and joyful birth and for those that have watched the video (here), it’s an unforgettable glimpse into an incredibly precious experience.

Kate and Nathan have a long and expensive road ahead of them so if you have watched their birth film and want to support them, you can do so at their GoFundMe page HERE.

“We were married in January 2020 and on the way to the airport for our honeymoon I felt like I should take a pregnancy test for peace of mind. We couldn’t believe it but it was positive. We were living in the remote Northern Territory and the closest medical centre at Tennant Creek was 2.5 hours away and there were no birthing facilities there. I had to drive about eight hours to birth in Alice Springs but throughout my pregnancy I saw a regular midwife. I was so blessed; I must have been the only pregnant woman in a big radius because I had so much attention and so many appointments, which was lovely. Two weeks out from my due date we made our way to Alice Springs. It was the slowest two weeks of my life, just waiting for labour to start. That was the worst part of the whole pregnancy.

“I was 40+1 when I went into labour. The first sign was really, really strong contractions. It was so intense from the get-go and it was long, like most first labours. I was in labour for about 36 hours in total and it was hell. I had looked up hypnobirth on youtube but to be honest I was quite naive in thinking that women give birth every day and I’d be okay.

“I’d been contracting for 10 hours when I went into hospital and I was 1cm so they sent me home. I went back in hours later and I was 3cm and they could tell I wasn’t really coping. I got in the bath and had the gas and I vomited everywhere. And then I got the epidural and it was the best decision I have ever made, it was amazing. My only regret in Harry’s birth is that the epidural really knocked me; I wasn’t even aware that I’d birthed Harry and I really didn’t like that at all, that feeling that I wasn’t sure what was happening. I’m sure my exhaustion played a part in that.

“I was discharged the next day, mostly because I didn’t want to be in hospital. We went back to the unit in Alice Springs and a few days later we made the journey back home. I was ignorant of the amount of energy a newborn would require and I didn’t take maternity leave because I thought it would all be super simple…but it wasn’t and it was a big shock to the system. I didn’t have any breastfeeding issues which was lucky.

“Last year we moved down to my family’s property which is outside of Boorowa, in the hilltops region of NSW. I knew I wanted two kids close together so Angus’ pregnancy was planned. I found a local GP and my plan was to give birth in Canberra which was the closest big hospital, about 90 minutes from home. Because of covid I had a couple of phone consults and then I met with a midwife once…and then everything changed.

“Nath decided that he wanted to play for the local rugby team, it had always been a goal of his to play with my brother. They headed off to play one day and in that game he was tackled badly and fractured his C3 vertebrae which has left him a quadriplegic.

“My sister-in-law came to see me at home and told me that Nath had been in an accident. I called my brother and I knew then that things were serious. My brother doesn’t usually get choked up but he did, and he told me that they had to resuscitate him. I was told that he was going to be flown to Sydney and that’s when I knew it was serious so I packed a bag and started driving to Sydney.

“I stayed really calm because I didn’t have a choice. I’m not one to get hysterical anyway but once I got to Sydney that’s when everything sunk in. When I first saw him he was in an induced coma and he was completely intubated so the machines were breathing for him. I saw him for a couple of minutes before they were going to operate on his neck. It was bad and horrible, such a shock to the system. It was still just a wait and see so at that point I still had no idea of the severity.

“I was in the waiting area when the surgeon came down to tell me he’d fractured his C3 vertebrae and I had no idea what that meant. He explained that it was at the top of the neck and that it was very serious. Over the coming days I started to get more information about what it would look like going forward. Because he needed to be resuscitated for 16 minutes, the lack of oxygen to the brain is what most of the specialists were concerned about. It was highly unlikely that he wouldn’t be affected in some way, so I’m thankful that he’s as sharp as ever.

“He’s a quadraplegic and he can’t breathe for himself so he needs to be ventilated to breathe. He’s still in ICU at Prince of Wales hospital and that’s where he’ll be till the end of the year.

“I wasn’t worried about going into early labour but everyone else was. To be honest, as soon as Nath got injured my pregnancy didn’t exist. I didn’t have the emotional capacity or the stress capacity to be able to handle the thought of bringing a baby into the chaos. The first few months were hell and I couldn’t fathom giving birth or having a baby. My biggest worry was Nath so I haven’t seen a psychologist but getting him mental health support was my priority.

“The surgeons and doctors kept stressing to me that because he lost oxygen for such a long time, it was highly likely he had significant damage to his brain. That’s all I heard for days and it was my biggest fear. When Nath started to come around he had tubes down his throat so he couldn’t talk, but I could tell he recognised me and I could see his fear. We communicated through our eyes and it sounds cliche but I could tell we understood each other.

“By the time the doctors told him, he was aware because he couldn’t feel his body. The doctors reinforced that there wasn’t going to be a miraculous recovery. Natahn’s biggest worry has been me the whole time. He didn’t speak for the first three months because he had the tubes down his throat. I took Harry in from day 1 because I knew it would help Nath. Kids are so adaptable; Harry would sit on the bed and watch his ipad. Harry doesn’t understand and the hardest part for Nath was when Harry wanted to be picked up and couldn’t understand why Nath couldn’t do it.

“Nath has an incredible team in ICU and a couple of the senior nurses asked me what my birth plan was. They started to reach out to the Royal Women’s to coordinate my care and I’ll be forever grateful because if it was up to me I probably would have given birth in Nathan’s room.

“The night before I had Angus I had very mild cramps. The next morning I continued to feel cramps but I got up as normal and when we got to the hospital my mum told one of the nurses that I was having mild contractions and they organsied for my midwife to come and see me and that’s when I found out I was already 5cm. I went straight to the Royal Women’s and Nath’s team started preparing him for the transfer.

“It was a slice of good news for Nathan, it was a relief that he could be there because it was our biggest fear. My plan was to have an epidural as soon as I got in there, I had no intention of going through the pain that I did with Harry. I was so adamant that I wanted an epidural but my labour was progressing so quickly that I just didn’t have time. And I just didn’t need it.

“Having Nath present was all I needed, it meant the absolute world to me. He was there, telling me what I needed to hear through everything. The nurses involved Nath in the birth so much. Nath stayed in the room for a few hours afterwards and we were both in shock, it was such a rollercoaster and it was just so fast. Nothing went to plan but it was absolutely perfect. I would do Angus’ birth a million times again. It was so empowering and feeling everything, the contractions and pushing, it just felt right. Angus is absolutely identical to Nathan.

“Angus has been a great baby and I think he knew we were at capacity. He’s slotted in so well. I’ll go to the hospital with the boys in the morning but now I don’t go over in the evening. I’m in the process of renovating a new home that we’ve bought, coordinating a care team for Nathan and organising NDIS support which to be honest feels like a fulltime job.”

You can help to support Kate and Nathan through their GoFundMe page HERE.

Topics Discussed

Epidural, Midwifery care, Physiological birth, remote NT, spinal cord injury, Spontaneous labour, vaginal births

Episode Sponsor

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