Five-week-old Marigold Tui Grace Utting-Moa is peacefully sleeping in her cot beside her mums Anika Moa and Natasha Utting, who are both wearing comfortable and very glamorous cotton floral dressing gowns.
The three of them make a peaceful family scene with Anika in her "breastfeeding chair", which she's rarely left since Marigold came into the world, and Natasha sitting relaxed on the floor at her feet. The married couple quite unconsciously hold hands while they talk.
A visitor to their blissed-out home would have no inkling that just weeks before they were involved in a high-stress, emergency Caesarean birth which only Marigold will be able to forget.
"We were three weeks away from her birth date and I had a sense something wasn't quite right at the beginning of the week," recalls Anika.
"I had been out for my baby shower dinner, and I just felt really icky and weird."
At a check-up the Wednesday before the birth, the doctor said Marigold's weight had dropped and Anika's placenta was drying up. "I couldn't feel anything physically, but I felt it in my wairua [soul]," she says.
Anika was told the baby needed to come out and soon. "I was so overwhelmed that I just said, 'We can't have a baby because we're going away for the weekend,' which was so ridiculous," tells Anika.
"But Natasha wasn't with me because she was at work and I just felt like I needed to have her involved in this decision. The doctor looked at me like I was mad and told me I really needed to get the baby out to make sure she's safe."
Anika agreed to have Marigold induced that coming Sunday, "which was great because it meant I could fly my mum and my best friend Nicky [Claridge] up from Christchurch for the birth.
"But I also had to reconcile myself that my hopes of a natural birth were not going to plan. It was pretty scary, but I just had to dig deep and tell myself I'd be having this baby soon."
On the Sunday, Anika was induced using a balloon to help dilate the cervix and prepare for the birth.
"I was in labour for about 11 hours, and it was all going beautifully and slowly, but then they decided to break my waters to hurry things along, and that's when trouble hit," explains Anika.
Marigold's heartbeat dropped immediately, and Anika and Natasha were rushed to the delivery suite and told they might need to do a C-section.
Natasha tells, "We had two hours of drama where every time her heart rate dropped, they'd hit the emergency button and the room filled up with all these doctors and nurses all gowned up. I'd think, where did they come from? Were they just waiting in the walls? Then they'd disappear as soon as she was OK."
However, Anika was having "excruciatingly painful" contractions and every time she contracted, Marigold's heart rate went down. Finally, she was given an epidural and the Caesarean went ahead.
Natasha recalls, "When we got into theatre, they said she would be here in 10 minutes, so we felt a bit better knowing we were in a safe environment. And with the pain relief, Anika managed a few smiles, so the drama of the last day calmed down a bit. But it was really scary and intense, and I just wanted to cry, but I had to be strong and hold it together for Anika. I just kept thinking, 'Show no fear, suck it up!'"
Meanwhile, Anika was cut off from the birth by a screen and kept looking at Natasha to read what was going on.
She says, "You know when you're on a plane and there's turbulence, and you look straight at the air hostess to see if she's showing fear. But Natasha was great, she didn't look at all frightened."
Marigold arrived into the world on February 18 at 1.14pm – a special date for Anika and Natasha as it was their second wedding anniversary. She weighed 3.1kg and Natasha held her first, then cut the cord.
"I was so relieved to hear her crying," says Natasha. "And when I took her over to the only man in the room, the paediatrician, he said the best thing he could say: 'You don't really need me here because she's perfect.'"
"I was crying and crying and crying," tells Anika. "I wanted to know if she had all 10 fingers and was she beautiful like me!"
And she is. Anika proudly shows pictures of her mum and herself as babies, and points out the similarities in looks with tiny Marigold – down to her little dimples.
Anika was grateful to have her mum Bernadette Campbell up for the birth because she was so reassuring and kind. "Mum's got six kids, so she knows what is what and it meant so much to me having her with me," she says.
After the birth, Marigold met her three brothers, seven-year-old twins Barry and Taane, and four-year-old Soren. She was also visited by her donor father, who is also Soren's dad.
"The twins were going to be there for the birth if it went smoothly, but in the end, they couldn't be there with all the drama," tells Anika.
"But when they met her, they were very taken with her, and Soren was so gentle and amazed."
Marigold's name was decided very early on in the pregnancy and has a unique story. Anika has talked to Woman's Day before about her hormonal shifts in early pregnancy and how difficult she was to live with.
One day Natasha came home from work and was told in no uncertain terms that she did not love Anika or their baby because she hadn't even come up with a name for their unborn child.
"So," smiles Natasha, "I took that very seriously and made it my absolute mission to find a name. I love nature, so I looked at botanical baby names for trees and flowers, and I wrote a list."
Continues Anika, "She gave me the list and right away I liked Marigold. The name Tui had always been around ...Soren's middle name is Huia, Barry's is Kowhai and Taane's is Diamond – which isn't at all botanical. But my last name is Moa, so we like the bird theme. And Grace is just a nice old-fashioned name."
After little Marigold's arrival, Anika spent three days at Birthcare Auckland, then went home to the house they had bought late last year and made lovely for their growing family.
"And that's when the crying started," says Anika. "I didn't stop crying for two weeks, but they weren't sad tears – just all different moods."
Natasha shares, "Friends would come around and Anika would be sitting there crying. I had to reassure them that this is what she does."
Anika says she understands a lot of women get really upset that they've had a Caesarean, but she knows she handled it well and she's OK with that.
"Breastfeeding has its challenges as well," she confides. "It's so easy to beat yourself up about it because the milk hasn't come in or you haven't got the hang of it quickly. But everything takes time and you've just got to go easy on yourself. I've now got enough milk to spare, so if anyone wants some extra, just get in touch!"
Anika sits in her special chair most of the day feeding, expressing and being looked after by Natasha, who says she serves her beloved breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and sometimes another breakfast.
When Woman's Day visited, Natasha was due to head back to her job at TVNZ as the supervising producer for current affairs show Seven Sharp, which meant some adjustments – but she's glad she took a month's maternity leave to bond with Marigold.
"I've tried to spend a lot of time just sitting and getting to know her, and being present, but at the moment, it's pretty much constant washing and feeding.
"When I first held her, I was struck by how she felt female, a different energy from the boys and somehow softer. I know that is a cliché and I don't want to define her, but there is a gentle softness around her which felt very different to me. And she is very expressive."
Natasha gives Marigold her last feed so Anika can get an early night before feeding their baby a few times in the night. The newborn is a good sleeper so far, often down for three hours at a time – and mostly in the lounge, surrounded by her whanau.
Last year, Anika finished her second season of the very successful TVNZ OnDemand series Anika Moa Unleashed and she's also working on a third album of her popular Songs for Bubbas series.
"I need her to be around sound so that she can get used to being in a recording studio with me or at gigs," explains Anika.
Marigold makes a tiny little cry in her sleep and both her mothers instinctively reach out to rock her bassinet. Natasha turns on a music box, which plays sounds of the sea.
"It soothes her and me," smiles Anika, reaching out to hold Natasha's hand again.
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