For a family with a new baby, things seem pretty relaxed at Matt and Ellen Chisholm’s house in Omakau in Central Otago.
TV presenter and journalist Matt, 45, sits on the couch grinning as Ellen turns on our Zoom call with one hand while the other holds fi veweek-old baby daughter Bree, who is busy breastfeeding.
“We’re doing really well,” says Ellen, 37, with a huge smile. “We’re good mates, Bree and I. She has slept through twice now, so that makes a big difference. Mum’s well rested and has her sanity.”
Ellen holds Bree up to the camera and shows a chubby, contented little dark-haired girl, happily fed and satisfi ed.
It is a dream come true for the couple, with their daughter joining her brothers Bede, fi ve, and three-year-old Finn to complete their family.
But the birth was not such a dream. Living in the idyllic town means that the nearest hospital is Alexandra, some 30km away, but the birthing facility there is unable to give Ellen an epidural and if anything went wrong, she’d be transferred to Dunedin Hospital.
Ellen had a scan on Monday, September 27, which revealed her unborn baby had the umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck.
“I was pretty nervous about that until I found out that it happens to about a third of all babies,” tells Ellen. “But it’s important you know about it before labour so midwives and doctors can decide the right course of action.”
Following the scan, the couple decided they would be induced on Thursday night, with Ellen travelling to Dunedin on the Tuesday in case she went into labour naturally – a high possibility as she was already overdue.
On Thursday, Matt dropped the boys offat Ellen’s sister Bridget’s house, who lives close by, and made his way to Dunedin to be with his wife.
“Matt arrived at 8pm. But it was very busy at the hospital (it’s nine months since New Year’s Eve!), so they didn’t do the induction until 11.30.”
Nothing happened overnight, but by Friday morning Ellen’s contractions had started, and she laboured all through the day and into the night before her waters broke on Saturday morning.
“It was all on from that point,” she recalls. “Things were getting hot and heavy, and so I had an epidural.
But at 6cm dilated, her labour stalled because Bree was posterior, which means the baby is head-down but facing the abdomen, and she was also too big for her birth canal.
“By the time I went into surgery, I was relieved. I was so tired by that point – I hadn’t slept properly since Wednesday night.”
Finally, with Matt by her side, and after 40 long hours of contractions and 16 hours of active labour, Bree Pippa Chisholm, weighing 4.03kg, was born at 9.48pm on October 2. After being checked by a paediatrician and wrapped in a blanket, she was passed to her father who “goo-ed and gah-ed” before placing her on Ellen’s shoulder.
“After such a long, worrying wait, seeing Bree happy and healthy for the fi rst time would easily be one of the most glorious moments of my life,” Matt says with pride.
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