Pregnancy & Birth

Casketeers stars Francis and Kaiora Tipene introduce their beautiful baby boy

Francis and Kaiora’s tiny bundle caused a big fuss when he arrived five weeks early. It's the fifth boy for the proud parents, who aren't done with yet and are still holding out for a little girl.

By Megan McChesney
They're New Zealand's – and possibly the planet's – first star funeral directors.
But it was a birth, not a death, that had Francis and Kaiora Tipene jumping through hoops recently.
On December 12, the stars of TVNZ 1's hit series The Casketeers thought they had all the time in the world before their baby arrived.
The new addition was due in five weeks, on January 15. But their little bundle had other plans.
"My waters broke and I thought, 'OK, we're going to have the baby today,'" laughs Kaiora. "He held off until the next day, then it was a matter of, 'Coming, ready or not!'"
As the couple, both 35, chat with Woman's Day in their funeral parlour, which has become a heart-warmingly familiar place for fans of their show, baby Francis Anthony Tipene gurgles contentedly in Kaiora's arms, unaware of the commotion he caused.
First and foremost were the health concerns related to their wee boy being born early. But there was also the fact that December 13 is already chock-full on the Tipene family calendar – it's the birthday of both dad Francis and their son Moronai!
For medical reasons, Kaiora has had Caesareans for all of her children and before being wheeled into theatre, her husband managed to scoot home to give 11-year-old Moronai a quick birthday celebration before rushing back to hospital for the birth.
"Moronai told me, 'All I want for my birthday is my baby brother,' and I said, 'But it's your day, son. You already have to share it with me.' He said, 'Dad, please can we have the baby on my birthday?' And I was like, 'Yip!' The truth is, I couldn't help it anyway!"
Soon after welcoming "laidback" baby Francis into the world, Kaiora was back home with Nikora, 13, Moronai, Mikae, five, and Mihaka, four, plus Francis' son from a previous relationship, Haimona, 17.
After dropping 43kg, Francis is now a trim 89kg – and loving his new wardrobe!
Baby Francis weighed a tiny 2.03kg but was perfectly healthy and, like his brothers before him, his early days have been spent bringing joy to the staff and clients at Tipene Funerals in Auckland.
"A baby in a funeral home is something else," says Francis. "When we have grieving families here, we bring him along and it's a form of healing. That's not why we have kids, but it's a good side effect!"
Tuning into season two last month, fans of the gently humorous show couldn't help but notice that proudly pie-loving Francis is suddenly looking trim, taut and terrific.
After years of "feeling unhealthy" and tipping the scales at 132kg, he'd tried "all the diets going, from Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers to the Lemon Detox", without success.
In March last year, he took his doctor's advice to have a gastric-sleeve operation. During the procedure, the size of his stomach was drastically reduced and he has since lost a massive 43kg, now weighing in at a svelte 89kg.
Baby Francis joins brothers (from left) Moronai, Nikora, Mikae and Mihaka.
With a wardrobe of fresh suits and a new zest for life, Francis bounces up the stairs instead of taking the lift and enjoys bike rides with his kids.
"I love being able to stand next to my wife now because she's so beautiful and has always looked amazing, and sometimes I was like, 'I don't feel the same.' There was a bit of insecurity," he confesses.
Kaiora teases her husband about the amount of time he now takes to get ready in the morning, but she says, "I've always told him, I love him whatever size he is."
Neither, however, is taking the life-changing results of the operation for granted.
"The surgery is one part of it," says Francis. "But retaining the weight loss is the hardest. My wife has said to me, 'We've got to change what we eat or you'll be back at square one,' and she's right."
"We've started reducing the amount of sweets and fast foods in the house," continues Kaiora, "and increasing the amount of fresh fruit and veg. The kids love it – although at first, they were like, 'Where's the fizzy?'"
Of all their children, the pair say just one of their sons, young Mikae, is showing signs of following in his parents' footsteps.
"He sometimes plays funerals," laughs Francis, "and once the school rang us up, saying, 'Your son's drawing coffins!' We had to explain that we're funeral directors."
The couple tell how before baby Francis was on the way, several kuia started giving them unsolicited advice on how to have a girl. Says Francis, "Like conceiving at certain times of the year under certain moonlight and wearing tight undies!"
It hasn't worked yet, but Kaiora says, "This isn't my last baby. I'm grateful for all my boys and I will have a princess one day."

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