just so in love with them."
Settling in for their Woman's Day shoot, The Block NZ: Villa Wars stars Cat and Jeremy Hill are thrilled to introduce the latest and best addition to their New Plymouth family home – their new baby Sullivan Hayes Hill.
"I know we're biased, but we think he's really cute," says Jeremy, 36, smiling down at his five-month-old son, who they call Sully for short.
"We locked his name in a while ago," adds Cat, 34. "There were a few that we liked, but because I'm a kindy teacher, in the three years it took us to conceive, a kid would always come through class with the name we'd picked and ruin it! Luckily, we both really liked Sully and I haven't come across any others yet!"
Originally from Arrowtown, Cat was born with a condition called balanced translocation, which affects the genetic material in her reproductive cells, leading to a high risk of problems during pregnancy.
This meant that the Block fan favourites, who got married in 2018, underwent three years of gruelling IVF to start their family – including months of painful injections, invasive procedures to harvest eggs and an anaesthetic that caused Cat to have a violent allergic reaction. And then there was the emotional toll of multiple pregnancies that didn't last.
But in the end, the Taranaki couple managed to create two embryos – one of which became Sully, born on the 22nd of December in 2021.
"We were trying to have him before Christmas, which we did – just!" chuckles Jeremy, who works as a senior designer at a business agency.
"Being an IVF baby, they don't let you go over your due date too much – they book an induction," explains Cat. "Leading up to it, I was quite nervous about the birth and how it was going to go. But by the 39-week mark, I was so over it. I was excited when the day came. I was just so ready to have him out!"
While Cat and Jeremy didn't have a birth plan, neither expected Cat's labour to become so intense so quickly. Twenty minutes after her second dose of the medicated gel doctors use to induce labour, Cat's waters broke, and the contractions came thick and fast.
"It'd been six and a half hours of really intense contractions every two minutes, and I had only dilated three centimetres," the new mum recalls. "I knew four was considered active labour and if I had been at seven or eight, I would havejust been able to push through the birth. But that wasn't happening."
An epidural allowed an exhausted Cat to rest a little, but she continued to labour throughout the night, while a nervous Jeremy supported as best he could.
"I was giving both our mums a running commentary because they were both at our place wondering what was going on," he recalls. "Every time Cat had a contraction, that would change Sully's heart rate and the doctors weren't happy about it."
The idea of a C-section was proposed and initially Cat wasn't keen. She confesses, "I really wanted to keep trying to push the baby out because I'd come this far. I was like, 'I'm not gonna be labouring for 24 hours and then end up having a C-section!' I felt like I'd be a failure.
"It's a weird thing. When you're in that state, you kind of forget that there's a baby there – you're just in this zone of pain. I forgot what I was doing it for. But our obstetrician Eddie was really gentle. He put the baby first and he told us the safest way to get Sully out was to do a C-section. I'm really grateful now that he made that call."
While Cat was taken into surgery, Jeremy had a nerve-wracking wait before he was allowed into theatre. He admits, "I was just sitting there, waiting and I hadn't slept all night. I felt pretty hollow and all these things were racing through my mind. I told myself, 'It's modern medicine – everything's bound to go right,' but these scary thoughts were creeping in."
Cat continues, "The C-section was a strange experience – the curtain went up so I couldn't see and all of a sudden I could feel people rummaging around in my insides! There was a lot of discomfort and pressure, but it wasn't really painful. Then they pulled Sully out and he started screaming! That was the first time I cried throughout the whole thing. Suddenly I remembered what all this had been for.
"It was very strange holding him. I've held many, many babies before, but this was my baby! Hearing him cry, smelling him and seeing him was overwhelming – all while processing everything I'd just gone through with the 24 hours of labour and a stomach surgery."
For Jeremy, his first proud-dad moment came a little later.
"It all sunk in when we got out of the operating room and made it back onto the ward," he grins. "Sitting there about to call all our friends and family to say that Sully had arrived, and he and Cat were both doing well, made it real. It was an amazing feeling. I was so proud of both of them."
With their baby safely delivered, the Hills have been adjusting to life as a family of four – including Sully's big brother, George the cavoodle!
"George is the best – I totally trust him around Sully," smiles Cat. "We make sure we give George the same amount of attention – and he still has the number-one spot in the bed!"
The new mum has enjoyed taking her first few months slowly, getting to know the baby she and Jeremy worked so hard to bring into the world.
"Sully is the best thing," gushes Cat. "We feel so lucky that he's ours. He's low-key cheeky, with the cutest little side smile. Jerm gets the best chuckles out of him! Watching him grow and develop makes it very easy to forget everything we went through."
As hard as their journey to parenthood was, Cat and Jeremy are keen to do it all over again as soon as they're able. The couple have one more embryo in reserve and intend to try for another pregnancy when Cat's fully recovered.
"With having a C-section, we have to wait a minimum of two years to let the scar heal," tells Cat. "But that works for us – we wouldn't want to any sooner."
Looking back on the long and heartbreaking road that led them to their dream family, the Hills say they have no regrets.
Cat confesses, "There were definitely times throughout where I thought, 'I can't keep doing this,' but I would do it over and over again because once your baby's here, it changes everything – you're
just so in love with them."
just so in love with them."
Jeremy adds, "Now we have Sully, all the difficulties were worth it."
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