Pregnancy & Birth

From pregnancy joy to losing their home: Antonia Prebble and Dan Musgrove’s rollercoaster few months

''We feel lucky it didn't happen after the baby was born," says Dan. "But at the same time, we were looking forward to bringing the baby back to what we'd visualised as our family home."

It was late last year, just weeks after she’d moved into her dream home with her new fiancé, that Antonia Prebble started to feel “subtly different, like I was in a slightly altered state”.

Sitting around the kitchen table with her husband-to-be, her Westside co-star Dan Musgrove, the actress said, “I think I might be pregnant.”

Smiling, Antonia tells Woman’s Day, “It was just a feeling, but Dan thought I might be too. Apparently, I was a bit more mellow than normal!”

Excitedly, she ran off to the bathroom to do a pregnancy test, but the result was inconclusive. Antonia, 34, explains, “If it’s positive, two parallel lines should show up and if it’s negative, just one. We got one line and then a perpendicular line right through it, which should’ve been impossible.”

Dan, 36, continues, “She came running out of the bathroom, going, ‘I’m pregnant, I’m pregnant!’ and I just jumped in the air, I was so happy. But then that second line disappeared and she was like, ‘Sorry, hang on, I’m not.'”

Still convinced she was expecting, Antonia took another test, but not even the first line came up this time. However, both their instincts were proved right when that precious extra line turned up on a third test later that day.

Now in her second trimester, Antonia smiles, “Having children was something I had always imagined would be part of my life, but until recently, it always felt like it was far off in the future. Then suddenly, for both of us, it felt right. We were engaged, planning a future together and talking about starting a family. We were elated.”

But that excitement was tempered when Antonia started feeling very ill as she hit the six-week mark. “Morning sickness?!” she laughs darkly. “I was fine in the mornings, but I’d get progressively worse every day from about 3pm.

“I felt like I’d been poisoned and I could only really eat carbs – toast, rice, pasta and burgers. I had one anxious night hosting The Project when I was worried I might vomit on live television, but luckily that didn’t happen. It was challenging.”

However, it was nothing compared to what lay ahead. Early one morning, just a few weeks after the nausea set in, Antonia was pottering around their Auckland home when she heard a really loud banging on the door.

She remembers, “I thought it was just an aggressive courier, but it was a passer-by saying our garage was on fire. It was the craziest, most unexpected thing, but sure enough, there was smoke billowing out of the garage, which is connected to our house. I literally had to say to Dan, ‘You need to get out of bed – the house is on fire!'”

The actor continues, “What a way to wake up! Suddenly it was all on. I threw on some clothes, grabbed both our laptops and then went out on the street to join our neighbours watching the fire spread.”

Antonia adds, “It was surreal. We were filled with adrenaline, which I think stopped me from feeling particularly sad. I remember thinking that on the scale of life crises, after someone you love getting badly hurt or passing away, your house burning down is generally considered one of the worst things that can happen.

“And I thought, ‘Yeah, this is awful, but we’re going to be alright.’ I recognised the difference between a tragedy and just a really unfortunate event. We lost some precious memories, including a whole bunch of press clippings I’d been keeping since I was 12, which was upsetting, but no-one was hurt, which really is the only thing that matters.”

Nodding, Dan says, “Knowing we’re going to have a child has shifted our priorities. We feel lucky it didn’t happen after the baby was born. But at the same time, we were looking forward to bringing the baby back to what we’d visualised as our family home.”

Though firefighters were quick to arrive, knocking a hole in the ceiling above the lounge so they could put out the fire, the house was uninhabitable. The probable cause? A fluorescent light that wasn’t even turned on had spontaneously exploded.

Fortunately, generous offers for places to stay came rolling in from friends and family, but packing up their lives and moving around from house to house on a weekly basis, not to mention dealing with the insurance process and building consent issues, has been tough, especially with Antonia feeling so ill.

While they probably won’t be able to move back into their home before the baby arrives, things are looking up, with the pair set to shift into a more permanent rental property this week and Antonia’s nausea finally clearing up after Christmas.

“It’s a new year, new me!” she laughs. “I’m about 90 per cent back to normal, but in saying that, I had a huge vomit on the side of Mt Eden the other day, which was fun. There were a lot of people riding past on scooters, so if any of them are reading this – I was pregnant, not drunk!”

Antonia and Dan first met in a lecture about the history of theatre at Victoria University in 2002. She can’t remember it, but the actor recalls, “I recognised her from The Tribe and we had a brief chat. She was very studious, pleasant and interesting, which she still is today.”

When Dan moved from Wellington to Auckland in 2007, the pair started moving in the same circles as part of the city’s small acting community, but they were still “distant friends” when they began filming Westside in 2015, Antonia starring as spiky matriarch Rita West and Dan as career criminal Lefty Munroe.

The fact their characters hated each other meant they didn’t share many scenes together and never grew close until late 2016, while filming the third season of the hit Three series, when both stars found themselves single.

Antonia confesses, “All of a sudden, we just started looking at each other differently. I’ve never had a friendship that’s turned into a relationship, so I was a bit confused and taken aback, but things developed quite organically.”

And soon things were getting serious. The actress admits, “Imagining a future with Dan, there was a rightness about it. He looks after me, and he’s got a really good analytical, creative brain, which I respect and admire. He’s a fun person to be with, but that’s underpinned with solid values and lots of kindness.”

And as for Dan? Beaming, he adds, “Antonia’s just an incredibly vibrant, fiercely intelligent spirit who makes me want to participate more in the world. She devours life and it’s contagious. I could never really visualise getting married before, but very quickly, I realised that I wanted to share what we had with other people.”

When the couple took a romantic trip to Tasmania last June, Antonia had a “bit of an inkling” Dan might propose, but she knew he wanted to ask her parents before popping the question and since she was sure that hadn’t happened, she put the thought out of her head.

The actress recalls, “We were in Hobart, at the top of Mt Wellington, which is special as I’m from Wellington. We were chatting away, then out of nowhere, he gets down on one knee and says, ‘Hey, babe, will you marry me?’ There was no lead-up at all, so I just burst out laughing. I’d warned him I’m very difficult to surprise because I know our schedules inside out, but he nailed it.”

Unknown to Antonia, before their holiday, Dan had swapped a “really long gym session” for a whirlwind trip to Wellington to talk to her parents and he’d secretly had a vintage-look diamond ring designed with jewellers Naveya & Sloane.

The actor laughs, “I’d gone to great lengths with the organisation and I was so concerned with trying to surprise her, maybe I didn’t set the scene as much as I could’ve, but when she finally said yes, it was fantastic.”

This week, the pair are back on set filming the fifth season of Westside, with the wardrobe department prepared with several sizes of each of Antonia’s costumes to accommodate her growing baby bump.

She says, “I’ve been working with a lot of the crew for over a decade, since the Outrageous Fortune days, so it’s a really lovely, supportive environment. Everyone is really happy for us.”

Although she’s given birth five times on screen, Antonia is quick to admit those performances have in no way prepared her for the real thing. “It still feels quite surreal,” she confesses. “Every time we have a scan, I’m like, ‘Woah, there’s an actual baby in there!’ I still find it hard to believe that I’m going to be a parent soon.

“But I’m excited for a totally new chapter and Dan’s going to be such an amazing, involved father. Given the nature of our careers, we don’t know who’s going to be the primary caregiver, but we’ll go with the flow. I can’t wait.”

Smiling, Dan agrees, “We both come from really tight-knit families and that’s been the source of some of our best memories, so I can’t wait to build on those memories ourselves. Antonia is going to be all over motherhood and will be a fantastic influence on a little person’s life. It’ll be fun working through the challenges together.”

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