Katrina’s brood comes in all shapes and sizes – and it’s perfect!
Here, Katrina Bootsma, 39, tells the story in her own words.
T￼ubes and wires snaked from the premmie baby I was tending to.
Just then, a dad walked into the neonatal ward.
‘Who’s our nurse?’ he asked his wife. ‘Katrina,’ she said, gesturing in my direction.
Looking over, his brow creased in confusion. I was standing right there, but his eyes had just skimmed over me!
Do I jump up and down? I wondered.
See, I have a type of dwarfism called achondroplasia – I’m only 127cm tall.
‘Hi,’ I smiled, giving the dad a wave.
Like me, my husband Dave was the first little person in his family.
It’s caused by a genetic mutation, so both our parents were average sized – and my younger brother, Iain, soars above me at six foot plus! But my mum, Fiona, and dad, Len, never wrapped me in cotton wool.
I want that for our kids, I decided.
Dave and I had been married for three years when we welcomed our gorgeous little girl, Charlotte.
She’s perfect, I thought.
She also had achondroplasia – but Dave and I knew there was no reason to fear for her future. We’d both had great lives and so could she.
Having cared for babies every day at work, motherhood came easily.
Some things were tricky though. As my arms were shorter, I had to prop Charlotte up on a pillow to feed her. And, unlike most mums I saw, I couldn’t swing her capsule in one hand – I had to clasp it with both.
Our little girl was nearly two when we had a precious son, Joel. It was a bit of a mouthful for Charlotte, who lovingly nicknamed her little brother ‘Gool’.
But, sadly, our boy had inherited both mine and Dave’s dwarfism genes, resulting in double dominant syndrome– which is usually fatal. We’d known there was a chance, but nothing could have prepared us.
Charlotte was healthy, why wouldn’t he be okay? we’d thought.
Tiny Joel couldn’t breathe for himself and he passed away with us by his side at just six weeks old.
It was heartbreaking. So when I fell pregnant again soon after, Dave and I decided to have genetic testing done. We found out our third bub would be little too, but he’d be perfectly healthy.
Noah came along when Charlotte was three – and he turned into the sassiest toddler. Then, we were blessed with another surprise – we were expecting another baby boy!
Awaiting the genetic test results, our geneticist called.
‘Things are okay,’ she began. She sounded a bit hesitant though.
‘Did you want to know if things were… different?’ she asked.
‘Oh my goodness!’ I gasped. ‘He’s not little, is he?’
I was right! Dave and I were lost for words.
‘He’s going to be bigger than us!’ we marvelled.
Elijah arrived in April 2013.
While at 2.8 kilos, he only weighed a little more at birth than our other bubs, he grew much faster.
Within no time, Elijah was crawling and dragging himself up onto the stools the rest of us used to reach things up high.
Outside, Elijah was the majority, but in our house he was the minority and we never made a big deal of it.
‘That’s just how you’re made,’ Dave and I explained to the kids.
It took Charlotte, then 10, and Noah, seven, a bit by surprise when their little brother overtook them last year, aged five. Still, they’ve taken it in their stride.
When we’re out and about, our family causes quite a stir.
I’ve learned to brush off the laughter, stares and strangers whipping out cameras to take a snap. But it’s hard to stomach when it’s your children.
It’s fine to be curious, but we’d much rather people just come and say hello.
Every day, I feel so blessed for our incredible brood – cheeky Noah, empathetic Charlotte and charming Elijah.
I used to be able to rest my chin on the latter’s head. Now six, he’s up to my nose!
Next year, I have no doubt he’ll be beyond that. My seven-year-old will be taller than me! I think.
‘Oh Elijah, I love my mummy snuggles,’ I said recently, squeezing him tight. ‘When you’re taller than me are you still going to give me mummy cuddles?’
‘Yes!’ my sweet boy said.
No matter how big Elijah grows, he’ll always be our baby.
Katrina is president of Little People of New Zealand, a not-for-profit that provides support for people living with dwarfism. Visit lpnz.org.nz.
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