When I think back to 2017, when I married a stranger on TV on the very first season of Married At First Sight NZ, it seems so crazy.
Meeting my husband and soulmate Brett Renall, 39, was the greatest gift and our lives have changed so much since then – and the changes just keep coming!
In the past year, I got pregnant, we sold our house and bought a farm, and now we have a baby. I'm exhausted just thinking about it, although that could be the lack of sleep… But it's all worth it for Vienna. I don't even know what my life was like before she came along. She's everything to us!
People have been asking us ever since MAFS when we were going to start a family, but we'd always said we'd wait until I turned 30, which happened in April last year. It was August when I found out I was pregnant.
I was sitting at home in Lincoln, watching the men's shotput at the Olympics, and I just had this random feeling, so I decided to do a test, which turned out to be positive.
I'd had these big, elaborate plans for how I was going to break the news to Brett, but my brain shut down and I didn't know what to do, so I just put the test in an empty box with a bit of paper saying, 'Hi, Dad!'
Then I just sat on the couch for two hours, trying to process it. When Brett came home, I didn't know how to get him to open the box, so I was like, "Your mum dropped this package off for you."
He opened it and was so confused. When the penny finally dropped, he was yahooing around the house!
We were both so excited.
We wanted a little family so badly and we know it's not guaranteed for everyone. Every baby is a miracle in their own right and we felt so lucky that life had unfurled this way for us.
Well, I felt lucky until about a week later, when the morning sickness started. I was so sick, I could hardly leave the bed. Man, it was bad! It was so awful that Brett couldn't cook in the house at all. I couldn't stomach the smell when he opened the oven or even the cupboards. I just sat in bed eating porridge or cornflakes.
Luckily, we were in lockdown, so I was working from home and it was easy to hide the pregnancy. But it was when we were selling our house and trying to buy the new one, so there was a lot of moving around.
Brett actually grew up on the land we bought. It was just around the corner from us and it has 10 acres, so it's more a lifestyle block than a farm, but Brett still calls himself a farmer!
He wanted some extra space to run his business, Woodpecker Signs, and we wanted room for the kids to run around on, so it's perfect. We can't see a single house from where we are. We just love it.
But it was a horrible time to move. I really wanted to help Brett, but I couldn't. I was lying in bed, feeling like everything was unravelling all around me, while Brett was scrubbing all the walls of the house, then going to the supermarket to buy me white bread or ice blocks.
Fortunately, the sickness and lockdown both eventually ended, but we were still being careful, so I only really left the house to go to the gym. It was like an out-of-body experience. It felt so crazy that there was someone inside of me and I could feel them kicking!
Vienna arrived on April the 9th, but she took her time. I'd been up all night with a horrible toothache and so I went to the dentist. I was thinking, 'The worst thing that could happen to me would be if I went into labour tonight.'
That night, of course, I started feeling these pains, which were so bad, I threw myself on the floor. But I was like, 'Surely the baby isn't coming now!' I still had a week and a half to go, and everyone says your first baby is always late.
They lasted all night and in the morning, Brett was like, 'Angel, it's the baby coming!' I was like, 'No, it's not.' I still had a list of things I wanted to do before the baby arrived, like finish the nursery and go for a hair appointment, but by that stage, the pain was every 15 minutes, so I called my midwife, who said, 'I'm pretty sure you're in labour.'
The plan was to have a waterbirth at home, so Brett set up the pool and put on some music while I was in bed. But by 5am, nothing had happened, so the midwife came back around. She said I was only 2.5cm dilated and that the baby would be there by 2pm, so just to chill out until then.
But by the time 2pm rolled around, nothing had changed. I was still feeling safe as my midwife was amazing, but I was exhausted because I'd already been up that extra night with the toothache.
Eventually, at 5pm, the midwife rang and said to go down the road to Lincoln Maternity Hospital, where they made sure everything was alright. She wasn't stuck and they figured she'd be with us by 2am, which is apparently when most babies like to be born.
But at that stage, we were coming up to 50 hours and we were struggling to stay positive. That night was tough, but finally the contractions got to every four minutes. At around 5am, the midwife rang us to see how we were getting on and we were like, 'Well, it's been three days now!', so she said to go to hospital.
We'd wanted a home birth, but by then I was so stuffed, I wasn't worried. We'd given up counting how long I'd been in labour – we were breaking records!
When we arrived at Christchurch Hospital, it all started happening. They broke my waters and gave me an epidural, which felt like being in Fiji! But because my uterus was tired from contracting the whole time, I was struggling to push. A bit of her head would come out, then it would go back up again. But finally she arrived and Brett managed to cut the cord, even though he's not great with blood and guts.
Having Vienna in my arms for the first time was unforgettable. I was looking at this baby who had been inside me and Brett was crying. The midwife told me I should talk to her, so I was telling her all about her dad, our farm, our lives and how we'd been waiting for her.
We had a long list of names, but Vienna wasn't on there until the month before she came, when I had this dream about the name – coincidentally, Brett's grandma is called Florence, which isn't too far away from Vienna. Her middle name is Joan after my grandma and Brett likes the nickname VJ, so it felt perfect.
The first few days at home were tricky. Everyone talks about the birth, but hardly anyone talks about how hard and sore breastfeeding is. When I came home from hospital, I was wincing on the bed in pain, but we've got the hang of it now and it's all good.
Although I did spend a lot of time crying after that. It felt like a form of baby blues, but it wasn't like I was really down. No matter what happened, I'd just look at Brett, burst into tears and tell him that I loved him. I was overjoyed, but my hormones were all over the place.
It's so super-precious seeing Brett as a dad. He's sick of me talking about it, but there's nothing like it. When we go away with families, Brett's always the one who rallies the kids together and they all love him, so I've always imagined him being a dad and now my dream's become a reality. I'm telling Brett she'll be a tough wee girl and that she'll grow up to be a rugby player!
In the meantime, she's still discovering her personality, but she seems like she's going to be cheeky and if she's anything like her parents, she'll be loud, outgoing and value her friends a lot. She definitely looks like a mix between us and she's super-smiley too.
She loves our dog Cashew, which is pretty damn cute. Cashew was really clingy throughout my pregnancy and when we brought Vienna home, she was like, 'What the heck's going on?' But she knows she's an important part of our family and now she's the protective big sister. She always wants to be near Vienna and make sure she's OK.
I don't recognise my life now Vienna's come along. It's all about celebrating the small achievements, like when she does a poo – honestly, I've never talked about poos so much in my life! And then the other night, we tried to go out for dinner for the first time and she had a wee meltdown in the car. It's so funny how easy some stuff used to be and now it's a big, exhausting event!
But having Vienna is the greatest joy – the only thing better is seeing her with Brett.
Becoming parents has made us even stronger as we have to work together, tagging in and out. It's a team sport and we now have a common goal, which is doing the best we can for Vienna. We've both devoted our whole lives to her."
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