Erin Simpson and Zac Franich on baby Harrison’s blissful first year

Despite sleep deprivation and a surgery scare, the Bachelor star and broadcaster couldn’t be happier on Harrison’s first birthday

With a champion surf lifesaver for a dad, it’s no surprise that Zac Franich and Erin Simpson’s little boy Harrison is something of a water baby. Bathtime is his favourite part of the day and trips to the beach never fail to delight him.

And when it came to his christening ceremony – held at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland, the same place Zac and Erin tied the knot, on his first birthday on 10 June – Harrison made it perfectly clear just where he wanted to be.

Harrison loved his water playdate!

“Most babies scream when they get near the holy water, but Harrison screamed when we took him away from it!” laughs Erin, catching up with Woman’s Day after the special celebration. “If he’d had his way, he would’ve splashed around in that big bowl of water all day long.”

It’s been an unforgettable 12 months for influencer and broadcaster Erin, 41, and her husband, The Bachelor NZ star Zac, 34. Reflecting on their little man’s first year, the besotted parents, who married in 2019, say having a child has made them feel like a real family and they love it.

Their olive-skinned, brown-eyed baby is just days away from taking his first steps, and Erin and Zac love seeing him grow and develop. He might still wake at all hours of the night, but his adorable smile and cheeky nature make the hard work and sleep deprivation worth it.

“Having a baby in your forties has its pros and cons, but being a mum later in life is the best decision I ever made,” says Erin, who admits she didn’t feel particularly maternal before welcoming Harrison a year ago.

“I’ve been so surprised by that natural instinct and bond that came the minute he arrived. And now he’s a little older, he’s just so much fun. He’s learning different tricks and babbling away. His personality is shining through.”

Zac adds, “I love seeing what fascinates him and what holds his attention. He’s a really cool little dude.”

Both agree the hardest part of parenting has been the lack of sleep. At one, Harrison is still awake a lot in the night, often starting his day at 2am.

“Everyone says the first year goes so fast, but I haven’t found that, simply because the days are so long,” says Erin, who covers the night shift. “I can see why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I’ve felt like I’ve been going mad at times.”

Another challenge came a few months ago, when Harrison failed a hearing test. Doctors discovered fluid blocking his eustachian tube, so he had grommets inserted under a general anaesthetic.

“Nothing can prepare you for your baby having surgery,” tells Erin. “But he came through it like a champ and the difference in his hearing is amazing. The moment he woke up, someone coughed on the other side of the room and he whipped around to see. It was incredible seeing the difference straight away.”

Erin and Zac think their boy would be an amazing big brother.

With the couple both working, they manage the juggle with help from a nanny, who has flexible hours that fit around Zac and Erin’s many commitments. They also have a close-knit family who love Harrison as much as they do.

Erin says, “Even though no one lives very close, they still come and visit on the weekends, and we’ve had so much help and support. My online community is amazing too – so many people love Harrison.”

Celebrating with the christening on his first birthday, followed by a hedgehog-themed party at their Auckland home, felt like a wonderful way to mark Harrison’s first year of life. It was also a belated nod to Erin’s 40th birthday, which fell four days after Harrison was born.

“It was so nice to get everyone together and celebrate everything that’s happened,” says Erin. “Zac is from a big Catholic family, so the christening is an important tradition for them. Harrison wore the christening gown that’s been passed down and worn by all the generations. It felt pretty special.”

Harrison wore his dad’s christening gown.

The party was also a chance to christen their new deck, which was recently built by Zac’s brother Jed, with help from Erin and Zac’s dads. Erin’s sister Anna made the birthday cake, there were custom-made hedgehog chocolates and lollipops, and a giant Harry the Hedgehog mascot was borrowed from the Blue Light charity.

“It really was the best day, and a wonderful chance to celebrate Harrison and how happy he makes us,” tells Zac.

Erin says becoming a mum has rid her of any anxiety, giving her a clear sense of purpose and joy. While the couple would love to have a little sibling for Harrison, for now, they’re happy focusing on their little boy.

Erin says, “I’m 41 now, so I’m running out of time a bit. If it happens, it would be the biggest blessing, but really, we’re just so grateful for Harrison. The anxiety and loneliness I used to feel is gone because you just can’t feel negative when he’s around. I’ve never been so happy.”

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