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Renee Wright’s beautiful baby chaos

The TVNZ weather presenter's bonny new baby girl was a surprise in more ways than one.
Renee Wright baby

“Beautiful chaos” is the best way of describing Renee Wright’s life as a mother of three. As her six-week-old baby curls blissfully into her chest, the TV One weather presenter says this is the most amazing time for her, but also one of the more challenging.

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“It’s been a bit of a blur to be honest,” she admits. “I think I’m still in that newborn fug.”

Right now, the new addition to Renee’s family looks 100 per cent adorable. Baby Arabella has brown hair tipped with blonde, and when she’s not gurgling and smiling at all those around her, she is snuggled up drowsily against her mum.

“She is absolutely wonderful,” confirms Renee (35). “But we suspect she may be part possum because she seems to be nocturnal. And she’s got a good set of lungs for such a little one, so I think she may be an opera singer some day.”

Arabella Valentina was a surprise baby – Renee and husband Charlie Waide hadn’t intended to add to their family again quite so soon. She also surprised her mum and dad by arriving in the world two weeks early.

Renee was scheduled to be on screen presenting the weather that coming weekend – instead, she woke in the early hours of the Friday morning with a stinging sensation she suspected was a contraction. Her previous births, with Leo (4) and two-year-old Giselle, or Gigi as she is known, happened lightning fast, so she didn’t waste any time.

“I rang the doctor, woke up Charlie and called my parents to come over,” recalls Renee.

Her dad Warren wasn’t so convinced.

“Dad walked in, took one look and said, ‘You’re not in labour.’ Then he told me I’d have the baby around 2pm.”

Sure enough, Renee got to North Shore Hospital, climbed in the birthing bath and nothing much happened. At midday, her obstetrician broke her waters and at 1.44pm an alert and noisy Arabella made her big entry.

“So my dad was pretty much on the money,” Renee smiles. “He was certain it was going to be a girl too, so he must have some sort of baby intuition.”

Unfortunately, the third time didn’t prove to be such a charm as far as labour was concerned.

“This birth was much more painful than the others,” says Renee. “I think I must have been running on adrenaline before. This time it took a while, so I was psyching myself up. You kind of go out of your body a little because it’s so painful, but just when I thought I couldn’t take any more, she arrived.”

Charlie was right beside her, holding her hand, and Renee’s mum Marian was there too. Relaxing afterwards in post-natal unit Birthcare gave Renee some quiet moments to bond with her new daughter – although visits from Arabella’s older siblings tended to shake things up.

“Those two are so full-on,” laughs Renee. “They’re in that phase where they’re always wrestling and running round. So to have this little bundle in my arms is lovely. With all your children, you crave everything about them – their smell, the weight of their bodies. And at Arabella’s age, they’re so snuggly. Apart from the sleep deprivation, this is one of my favourite times – you’ve got so much to look forward to, getting to know this little person.”

To choose a name, Renee cast her mind back to her great-grandmother.

“Growing up, I was hooked on her name – Isabella – and thought that would be nice for my own child some day. But there was a phase where it became very popular and I like slightly different names. So that was when we came up with Arabella. I’m not sure yet how it will be shortened, but Leo has already started calling her Bella.

“He and Gigi are so in love with her,” she adds. “They kiss and cuddle, sing songs and make her artworks. It’s very sweet, although it borders on smothering at times. I feel like I’m constantly telling them to back off the baby!”

Renee has already returned to her job at TVNZ, although working only at weekends means she gets the best of both worlds – a job she loves and an entire week to spend with her babies. What she doesn’t enjoy quite so much is sitting in her dressing room expressing milk.

“But then, if I’m honest, I find it really hard to breastfeed,” says Renee. “It’s not an overly enjoyable experience for me because I tend to get mastitis, but I do it because I can. And once you’ve breastfed one for 14 months, you feel that mother’s guilt to do the same for the next one.”

Renee suspected a bout of mastitis was on the way after breastfeeding Arabella, but it turned out the little girl had a condition called ankyloglossia (also known as tongue-tie).

This is where a band of tissue tethers the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, affecting its mobility. If left untreated, it can create issues not only with feeding but also, later on, with speech. Renee was aware of the problem because Leo had quite a severe case and needed surgery when he was a year old.

“With Arabella, it was much finer but she also had a lip tie [where the upper lip is tethered to the gum]. It’s best to fix it when they’re younger so I had to take her to a surgeon who numbed and snipped it, which was quite awful.”

Fortunately, it healed quickly and Arabella has been otherwise healthy and happy. Renee, however, is still getting used to the reality of having three children under five.

In her exclusive Weekly photoshoot, the family looks glossy and perfect, but Renee’s refreshingly open about how messy things can get behind the scenes, saying sometimes she wonders how other mothers of three seem to manage so effortlessly.

“For me, it’s full-on and I don’t think you can really prepare yourself for that – you just have to roll with it. These first couple of months with a newborn are about putting your head down and trying to get some kind of daytime routine. That helps you feel sane, like you’ve got things under control.”

Her days are crazy from the get-go, although Renee is lucky to have her mum Marian arrive most mornings, coffee in hand, ready to help out.

“If it wasn’t for my mum, I think I’d be rocking in the corner.”

Renee shares a story about Marian realising her daughter wasn’t managing to eat dinner and bringing her a piece of salmon. She was looking forward to it but just as it was cooked, something blew up with the kids and, rushing to find out what the problem was, Renee dropped her dinner on the ground.

“That sums up my life right now,” she says. “The fish on the floor and everyone screaming!”

Last weekend, when Renee was finally feeling as if she was on top of things, her phone rang and she heard Charlie telling her not to panic.

“As soon as someone says that to you, you panic,” she points out. It turned out that Charlie was at the A&E with Leo, who had landed badly while playing on the trampoline with his dad and had a suspected broken leg. By that evening, it had been confirmed that it was fractured beneath the knee.

“Just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier, something else happens,” says Renee ruefully. “Now poor Leo is in a cast up to his hip for the next four weeks. I really don’t know how I’m going to entertain such a lively boy and keep him still for all that time.”

Still, Renee is pragmatic, pointing out that you sign up for a certain amount of insanity when you start a family.

“It’s just this time in my life. It feels like a marathon when you’re in it, but I expect that when you look back, it’s like the time has flown by. And the kids are the sunshine of my life. All of them are at such a nice stage.

“Leo is getting ready to go to school and he’s excited about that. He’s such a happy little boy and very caring. Gigi is really funny, and that’s coming out more and more. And we’re all getting to know Arabella. So I’m really enjoying all of them.

“I have always wanted three children. I feel so lucky and blessed.”

Words: Nicky Pellegrino

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