NO ROAD TOO FAR
There aren’t many women who travel 460 kilometres to give birth unless they have to, but Kate Bourne is one of them.
“There was absolutely no way I was going to have a baby anywhere else except The Royal Hospital for Women,” says the occupational therapist from Wagga Wagga in south western NSW.
Kate’s deep connection with The Royal stems from the highly sensitive and compassionate way she and her family were treated when she and her husband Grant, also an occupational therapist, lost their first son, Isaac, after being born at 23 weeks. Since then the couple have gone on to have three more children at The Royal, even though they lived in Caringbah in Sydney’s South, 50 minutes’ drive away - and now in Wagga, a five-hour drive away.
“I refuse to have my babies anywhere else - as long as The Royal will have me,” Kate says.
In October 2012 their firstborn son Isaac was born prematurely at 23 weeks and 6 days, in what’s termed “the grey zone” whereby the parents, not the doctors, decide whether to resuscitate a baby after birth.
“We were shocked, in a state of denial. We quickly realised how suddenly things could change. The sound of those machines beeping must be the worst sound in the world.”
When Isaac died 25 days later, they were given a private room in the NICU where they could hold him in their arms for hours, say goodbye, and organise his baptism.
At rock bottom, Kate was referred to the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Department at The Royal. As part of the Department’s Bereavement Service, she met Dr Antonia Shand, and midwife Michele Simpson.
Both were infinitely sensitive to her loss. They gave her space and time to cry, and to talk about Isaac.
As well as acknowledging her grief, they gave her hope that she might be a mother again. They reassured her that there was nothing physically wrong with her.
“I’ll never forget the way Michele would start sentences with: ‘When you fall pregnant again.’ She was confident that I would become a mother again, and that really gave me something to lean on,” Kate says.
And that’s exactly what happened. Four years ago Kate gave birth to a daughter, Alexis, followed by another daughter, Georgia, two years later. “After Georgia, we were planning to move out of Sydney, and I was literally on the operating table having the caesarean asking the doctors, ‘If I have another one, and we’re not in Sydney, can I come back here?”
When she fell pregnant with their third daughter Bronte, she did just that. She and Grant drove up the Hume Highway three times and also flew to Sydney for her check-ups, before driving to Sydney one last time for the caesarean.
“I didn’t care that it was in Randwick. To me, The Royal is the safest place in the world.”
The Royal Hospital for Women is a place of rich and raw emotions. Surely one of the most fraught wards is the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where a battery of miraculous machines - incubators, ventilators, drips and special lights - keep premature babies alive.