Every woman goes through moments of anxiety during pregnancy. But for All Black great Josh Kronfeld’s partner Bronwyn Illingworth, carrying her second child has brought back painful memories of the birth of her son Cassius (3) who was deprived of oxygen in the womb, which led to him developing cerebral palsy.
The possibility of something going wrong again was almost too much for Bronwyn, and she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as she and Josh’s excitement at welcoming their new baby became peppered with uncertainty.
“It was a tough time,” says Josh. “I just thought, ‘Oh my god, I don’t know if I can handle this all over again,’” recalls Bronwyn, who didn’t want to relive the stress of not knowing if her baby was going to survive.
“What if something’s wrong with this baby too? With Cassius, one minute I was 10 days overdue, the next they knew something was wrong and I was being put under a general anaesthetic to give birth. It was quite traumatic.”
Cassius’ cerebral palsy means his physical movement can be more limited than other children his age. “It’s like his body fights him,” says Josh. “He’s constantly fighting to do things, and it doesn’t register to him that he struggles to keep up.”
Although Cassius is now thriving, Josh and Bronwyn (both 41) couldn’t escape thoughts of another difficult birth with their second baby. “I had a moment around the 19-to 20-week scan,” says Bronwyn.
“With Cassius, that was when we were told he was perfectly healthy, and this time around we’ve been told the same thing. That freaked me out, because Cassius ended up not being fine and I ended up having PTSS for a bit.”
It was months before Bronwyn was feeling positive about her second pregnancy – and it took Josh’s help. “With these situations, it’s always unknown what the outcome will be,” Josh says. “The doctors can’t tell you yay or nay that everything’s going to be all right, but we just need to be proactive going forward.”
“I’m okay with everything now,” adds Bronwyn. “Josh just said, ‘Look hon, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we can deal with whatever comes our way.’”
Since then, there’s been no looking back. With their worries firmly in check, Josh and Bronwyn are excitedly awaiting the birth – and so is Cassius. “He’s really cute,” grins Bronwyn. “This morning he said, ‘I love you, brother,’ when he was stroking my tummy. Then he said, ‘Now I miss you. Time to come out!’”
Just like his dad, who fronts Choice TV’s Brunch with April Ieremia, Cassius is full of energy and loves being on the go. “We fully believe that what he went through at birth is why he’s such a neat little man,” Josh says as he retrieves Cassius from the deck, where he’s managed to water every plant within reach.
“He’s got this great personality because of it. But where he’s got to and all of his abilities is because of lots of hard work.”
Hard work, according to Bronwyn, that’s mostly down to Josh. “He pushed and pushed Cassius,” she says. “The doctors told us we should be exposing him to as many different sensory things as possible before he turned three. Josh was a stay-at-home dad, and he put the biggest time and effort into Cassius’ development. He [Cassius] really stays engaged with everything now.”
That also includes helping to pick a name for his new sibling. “Cassius, what do you want to call your brother?” Josh asks. “Bro!” comes the reply. What the name will be is undecided. “We’re seriously struggling this time,” Bronwyn says. Josh is adamant this baby will be the completion of his and Bronwyn’s family.
“My mum and dad gave us all a wonderful childhood, but they were always on the bones of their ass. By having two, it makes it easier to provide that.”
“And I’m no spring chicken,” laughs Bronwyn. “I’m done. It gets harder. And heavier!”