Mahé and Juliette Drysdale are very laid-back people. Usually.
While the pair are as relaxed and easy-going as ever when the Weekly visits their idyllic Cambridge farm to meet the newest addition to their family, 10-week-old Boston John Alexander, there are unmistakable signs of chaos.
Mahé’s latest Halberg award, which he won only weeks ago, is lying on daughter Brontë’s play table, having been seized by the toddler almost immediately and is now referred to by the two-year-old as “my man”.
Some of Brontë’s artwork adorns the dining room wall, while a mixture of baby paraphernalia and toys lie scattered on the lounge floor. According to the proud parents, when it comes to having your second baby, the numbers just don’t seem to add up.
“One plus one does not equal two,” a wide-eyed Mahé (38) tells us. “It’s more like five!”
Olympic hero Mahé and his wife, bronze-medal rower Juliette (34), admit their usually unflappable attitudes have taken a bit of a beating, but still they are delighted to introduce their not-so-wee boy, who was welcomed in early January weighing a very healthy 4.85kg (10 pounds, seven ounces).
“Yep, he’s a big boy,” laughs Juliette. “He’s a little bruiser.”
“He’s very cruisy,” adds Mahé, looking down at Boston, who is now blissfully snoring in his arms. “He’s definitely not high-maintenance. As you can see, he sleeps a lot!”
His entry into the world, however, wasn’t the smoothest. Just as Juliette couldn’t deliver a 4.6kg [10 pound three ounce] Brontë naturally, she was forced to have an emergency caesarean with Boston after her labour stopped progressing.
“I wanted to try and have him naturally,” she says. “I tried for a very long time, but it became clear the labour wouldn’t go any further. I’m sure his size had something to do with it.”
After 20 hours of labour, another C-section was needed.
“I just wanted a healthy baby and at that point, I just wanted to meet him or her. We didn’t know the gender. We wanted to be surprised,” she explains.
Finally, at 7.43am on January 9, exactly a week early – “Thank God,” Juliette laughs. “Imagine how big he could have been if he’d been in there another week!” – Mahé and Juliette met their son.
“Seeing him for the first time, that was a pretty awesome feeling,” Mahé recalls. “Obviously, it’s a little hard with a caesarean; he basically got popped up over the screen so we could say hi.”
It was Mahé who informed his wife they had a boy, holding him up à la The Lion King and cutting the umbilical cord himself.
“I felt pretty excited it was a boy,” he admits. “I think both of us wanted one of each and that’s what we got. But we would have been happy with either. The main thing is that they’re healthy. I fussed over him a little bit and then as soon as I could, I got him back to Juliette.”
After a few hours alone with their new bub, it was time for Boston to meet his big sister, who was brought to Waikato Hospital by her grandparents.
“I couldn’t wait for that moment,” beams Juliette.
“She came in around midday and she was so sweet. She’s really into nappy changing and bottles, so it was always going to go well! She was a little unsure at first, but pretty soon she was calling him ‘My baby’. She loves babies.
“Although,” Juliette adds, frowning slightly, “in the last few days, she’s been saying, ‘Can we change her nappy?’ So she may think he’s a girl at this point. She hasn’t quite got the concept of gender yet!”
The little family are the picture of happiness – although both Mahé and Juliette say the first few weeks of life with two children was “challenging”.
“We didn’t know which way was up,” says Juliette, laughing through a grimace.
Mahé, who is currently on an extended break from rowing, adds, “This time was harder for me personally because I was here! When Brontë was a newborn, I was training, so I had to get a good sleep and Juliette made sure I did.”
“He’s never experienced sleep deprivation before Boston,” grins Juliette. “This was a sharp shock for him.”
To make matters worse, Brontë had a cold, so all four of the Drysdales were experiencing sleepless nights.
“I tried to think of ways to get out of the house,” a slightly sheepish Mahé admits. “But I couldn’t come up with any. When you think of everything Juliette’s done for me over the years, it’s nice to be able to be there for her. I don’t think we left the house for three weeks!”
Juliette nods, “Mahé’s been at home full-time with me. Most people don’t have that. We realise we are really lucky, but we’re also like, how do people do this?”
It took the proud parents almost a week to come up with Boston’s middle names. They’d decided on his first name years previously, with Juliette even having a sign with his name on it for his bedroom door made the same time as Brontë’s.
“Boston was a name we always liked. It’s strong and unique without being too unusual,” explains Juliette.
“You’re always hoping your friends don’t take it before you get the chance to use it!” Mahé laughs. “But we got lucky. And we settled on John Alexander for his middle names. John is Juliette’s dad, and Alexander is my first name inspired by Alexander the Great. I wanted him to be Boston Alexander Drysdale, but that got vetoed because of the initials.”
“That was never going to happen!” exclaims Juliette. “It’s just not the way you start a child’s life.”
Mahé and Juliette say they’ve taken a more relaxed parenting approach with Boston. Brontë, by comparison, had set feeding times and goals when she was six weeks old.
“You know what you’re doing the second time, which makes things a bit easier,” says Mahé. “But in saying that, you do have that two-year-old factor. It takes half an hour just to get out the door if you want to go out.”
Having emerged from the other side of their newborn bubble, celebrating first with a family wedding in Whangarei and then a night out at the Halberg Awards, Mahé and Juliette are enjoying being at home with the kids. Mahé’s already instigated some “man-bonding” time with his son.
“He’ll pick him up and take him to the lounge, and say, ‘Right, we’re watching the cricket. This is what boys do,’” grins Juliette. “It’s really sweet watching them bond and have time together.”
And Brontë is loving being a big sister, after an adjustment period where she realised she was no longer the centre of her parents’ world.
“She’s just great,” says Mahé.
“Seeing them together is awesome. They have cuddles and kisses before he goes to bed. She’s into everything, she loves the dolls and girlie stuff, but we brought her up with trains and trucks as well. And she loves the lawnmower!”
Juliette adds, “She went to her first Ag Day recently. She didn’t really know what was going on, so I helped her lead her lamb.
“Brontë got first prize too!” her mother adds with pride, gesturing to a participation ribbon, the latest in the Drysdale family’s impressive award collection.
As for baby number three? Well, there are a few things to consider first, such as Mahé’s rowing career, which he plans to pick up again after a few more months off.
“We always liked the idea of having three children” Mahé laughs. “But having a boy and a girl certainly takes the pressure off.”
Juliette agrees. “No-one who has a newborn is thinking, ‘Right, let’s have another one!’ It feels like our family is balanced but I don’t think we’d say that’s definitely it.”
In the meantime, however, there’s plenty to keep the pair busy. The kids notwithstanding, there’s also the dogs, Oslo and Dasha, a pet pig Spider and Lambie, who is now a rather large sheep.
“It’s never dull around here, that’s for sure,” Juliette laughs, taking slumbering Boston from his dad’s arms. Mahé grins as he nods in agreement.
“It’s been a great experience, being home with the family. And we’re fortunate having both a full-time mum and a full-time dad here. We’re planning on enjoying it!”