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Jodi Brown pregnant after heartbreaking netball injury

It’s proving to be a life-changing year for former Silver Fern Jodi and her family – in more ways than one.
Jodi Brown

Devastation, anger, surprise, happiness – in the last few weeks, former Silver Fern Jodi Brown has been through it all.

Even now as she poses for the Weekly’s photographer and tenderly cradles her tiny four-month baby bump, shifting her weight gingerly from her injured knee that has only just come out of a brace, the former Silver Fern still doesn’t know what to feel.

Since we last caught up with Jodi (35), a mere three months ago, her life has been thrown into chaos and everything has changed in ways no one, least of all Jodi, could have imagined – and her surprise baby is only the tip of the iceberg!

“Well, where do I start?” a smiling, if a little overwhelmed, Jodi asks. “It’s definitely been an interesting time!”

The year 2016 was supposed to be Jodi’s netball swansong. The 61-test veteran had retired from the Ferns last year and planned for one last season at the Central Pulse before hanging up her bib for good – until a devastating and hideously painful injury in a pre-season tournament in Sydney swiftly ended her entire career.

“I saw the collision coming, so I braced myself,” remembers Jodi. “But then I thought it wasn’t going to be as bad as I thought, so I turned and tried to pass the ball. We collided and as that happened, my body turned, but the bottom of my leg decided to stay where it was.”

What resulted was a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), as well as a tear of her medial cruciate ligament (MCL) in her knee. The damage was catastrophic.

“I knew as soon as I hit the ground that this was it,” says Jodi. “Pretty much everything in my knee is wrecked – it basically split apart and then popped back together again. Gutted was an understatement, definitely.”

Jodi, who is mum to daughters Kiana (7) and Aria (5), is no stranger to cruel injuries. In 2006, a day before the start of the Commonwealth Games, she ruptured the ACL in her other knee.

The soon-to-be family of five (from left): Markham, Aria, Jodi and Kiana.

“It was actually 10 years and three days since the first knee that I did in the second,” Jodi says woefully. “So I knew the process with an ACL – they operate on it. What I couldn’t get my head around is that you can’t operate on the MCL. They had to wait for that to heal before going in to fix the ACL, which basically doubles the recovery time. I knew for sure my career was over then. I just didn’t want to accept it.”

With her knee three times the usual size, Jodi – helped by rival club Canterbury Tactix, who were flying back to Christchurch from Sydney – made the long and painful journey back home to Dunedin.

At 1.85m tall, Jodi travelled rueing the fact you can’t sit in an emergency exit row if you’re on crutches.

In a family of girls, Markham says he’d love it if the baby was a boy.

Once she’d returned home and doctors had confirmed her worst fears, a devastated Jodi announced her premature retirement.

“The hard thing that I still can’t understand is that it all got taken away from me with no warning,” she tells sadly.

“That’s the cruel thing – you feel like you’ve been robbed. With other injuries, you might get a sign – a twinge in your back, a sore ankle – but ACLs don’t give you a sign. That’s it and you’re done, and all of your decisions are made for you.

“But,” she continues with a sigh and a small smile, “for 18 years, netball has been my life. I’ve got a lot to thank it for and I don’t have any complaints at all. I just hate that it’s ended like this, rather than on my own terms. I was really enjoying playing for the Pulse. But my body said otherwise, in more ways than one!”

Kiana and little sister Aria are excited for the baby, but have to wait and see if it’s a boy or a girl.

Indeed, only two days before her career-ending injury, Jodi had received some very unexpected news – she was expecting her third child.

“I was having to sneakily tell the physios and the doctors that I couldn’t have scans or drugs,” Jodi explains, “so that added to the drama as well!”

It hadn’t occurred to Jodi that she might be pregnant until her rather observant husband Markham (45) raised the possibility.

“I just thought I was tired!” Jodi laughs. “The travel schedule was pretty intense and I’d been training so hard, so I thought it was that. But Markham asked me, ‘Do you think you might be pregnant?’ I said, ‘No way!’”

“I don’t know why I thought that,” Markham adds. “She was just a bit different.”

So off they trotted to the pharmacy for a test and to their astonishment, it was positive.

“To be honest, I was a little bit shocked!” Jodi tells. “It’s not like we were ruling it out, but we weren’t expecting it either. I feel a bit awful saying this because I have so many friends who struggle to get pregnant, but I can tell you the exact night it happened! And here I am – we did it once and now I’m pregnant.”

Now halfway through her pregnancy, Jodi admits it took a few weeks for her to get excited about welcoming her third baby as she was trying to get her head around her injury.

“I was around 15 weeks when I could fully appreciate the fact I was pregnant,” the statuesque brunette divulges. “There were so many thoughts swirling through my head in those first few weeks.

“And what is a little bit sad for me is that I jumped to the worst conclusions first – shock and guilt because I thought I was going to have to let my team down – and then the knee happened anyway.”

Of course, big sisters Kiana and Aria are excited to welcome a new sibling, with Aria jumping around the lounge shouting, “Baby!” at the top of her lungs.

“She wasn’t quite so sure when we told her,” Jodi grins. “But she understood straight away. We waited until I was 12 weeks along to tell them, and we gave them a picture of the ultrasound and wrote them a wee note, saying that this was their new brother or sister.

“Kiana didn’t quite get it – she asked if it was Aria or her. Aria just stared at me and goes, ‘Are you actually having a baby?’ And then Kiana clicked a few minutes later, and there was a lot of jumping around and screaming.”

Markham is excited too and says he’d love it if the baby was a boy.

“It’s the last-ditch attempt for a son! There’s only one boy on his side, so the girl genes are pretty strong,” Jodi laughs. “It would be nice for him, though. He was more excited than me in the beginning, if I’m honest.”

Still, the couple haven’t decided yet whether or not they want to find out the gender, with Jodi wondering if it’s a good idea.

“I mean, the bottom line is, you just want a healthy baby, right? We’ll be happy with whatever.”

The surprise addition to the family also means Jodi and Markham are searching for a new house, with their cosy Dunedin cottage now too small for their growing brood.

And, annoyingly, they’ll have to get a whole new haul of baby paraphernalia after giving all of theirs away last year.

“There are a lot of things that have to happen before October!” Jodi says.

“It’s kind of been like a silver lining. Doing my knee wrecked my life, but having this baby at the end of it will be a nice little present.”

Words: Kelly Bertrand

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