Pregnancy & Birth

Janika ter Ellen’s bumpy start to motherhood: ‘It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced’

Newshub reporter Janika is refreshingly honest about the struggles that came with new parenthood but she says despite the challenges, it's all been worth it.
Woman's Day

For most parents, a baby’s first smile is a precious moment. But for broadcaster Janika ter Ellen and her rugby reporter husband Ross Karl, their sweet boy Eden’s gummy grins mean so much more after a turbulent start to life.

While it’s blissfully calm at the family’s Auckland home now, Janika is refreshingly honest about the struggles that came with new parenthood. Feeding problems meant their wee boy was often unhappy and unsettled, and long days and nights were spent trying to get enough milk into him.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced,” tells the Newshub reporter and Prime News weekend presenter. “That incredible force of love was always there, but I’d still spend entire days crying because I was so on edge. I was exhausted and overwhelmed.”

So it’s understandable then that the doting duo take such delight in making Eden smile now that they’re out the other side.

“We must look ridiculous because we’re constantly singing, dancing and jumping around the room, but there really is nothing better than when he smiles,” says Janika, 33.

A simple surgical procedure meant Janika and husband Ross had a happy baby on their hands.

“It just melts our hearts. We’re so grateful to have a happy, healthy baby now.”

Little Eden arrived on October 21 after a difficult pregnancy for Janika, who had to take more than a month off work due to severe morning sickness.

And with her due date falling slap bang in the middle of the Rugby World Cup, the couple also had to contend with the fact Newshub journalist Ross, 37, was due to fly to Japan for the final few weeks of her pregnancy.

“As a rugby reporter, he’d been building up to it for four years, so it was important to both of us that he went,” Janika explains.

The couple agreed Ross would go for the first few weeks, return for Eden’s birth, then fly back to Japan for the final games.

“Looking back, that was a really stupid idea,” she laughs. “We’d been quite relaxed about it until the day he left and we were both a blubbing mess. I didn’t want him to go, he didn’t want to go… it just felt all wrong.”

Eden Karl ter Ellen

Born: October 21, 2019

Weight: 4.14kg

Fortunately, Ross arrived home in plenty of time for the birth of his son.

In fact, little Eden kept the couple waiting till a week after his October 15 due date, with contractions starting during the night of October 20. Janika laboured at home till the next afternoon, before heading to hospital with Ross and her midwife at her side.

“I was a blur of pain,” she recalls.

“I remember saying to Ross, ‘Is this normal? It can’t possibly be meant to be like this!'”

While Janika had hoped for a natural birth, her labour stopped progressing and doctors decided that a Caesarean was the only option. “I was a little disappointed, but I was running out of steam and I just wanted to see him and know that he was OK,” she tells.

The couple say they’ll never forget the moment their boy was born, with his loud screams reassuring them he was here and healthy.

“I went over to say ‘hello’ and he was making the most primal noise I’d ever heard,” shares Ross, who starts a new role at Sky this month.

“But as soon as I put my hand on him and said ‘hello’, he stopped crying. He looked me right in the eyes and we had this instant connection. I started crying because it was like, ‘Wow, that’s my son and I’m his dad, and here we are doing life together.'”

Janika was similarly emotional. “I couldn’t move my arms on the operating table, so they put him up to my face and I just bawled and bawled, huge heaving sobs. I was so relieved and so grateful and so happy. He was perfect.”

They chose the name Eden simply because they like it – not because of Eden Park, as one friend thought it might be! And the decision to give him Janika’s last name was surprisingly simple.

“There are hardly any ter Ellens left in New Zealand, and Janika really didn’t want it to die out,” says Ross, who was happy to have Karl represented as a middle name.

“We talked about it a lot and mulled it over for a long time, and eventually we just thought, ‘Why not?’ I know I’m his dad and he’s my son – it really doesn’t matter whose last name he has.”

The first hours and days of Eden’s life are still a bit of a blur for the new parents, with Janika losing a lot of blood and breastfeeding becoming increasingly difficult.

On the third night in hospital, Janika remembers a midwife taking Eden away because he’d been screaming for hours, and asking if it would be OK to give him formula.

“I was like, ‘Yes, finally, someone please feed my baby!’ But another midwife came along and said ‘no’. Ross and I couldn’t believe it. We made such a fuss that eventually she agreed and after that Eden slept soundly for hours. It was amazing.”

After returning home, Eden was still struggling to feed, and Janika was becoming more and more desperate.

“Each time I had to breastfeed, it was miserable,” she admits. “It was agony and there just wasn’t enough milk for him.”

With their baby barely sleeping – and not keen on going in a buggy or car seat either – the decision was quickly made that Ross wouldn’t go back to Japan.

“It was like the apocalypse – he couldn’t leave,” recalls a panicked Janika.

And unlike most Kiwis, Janika was delighted when the All Blacks were knocked out of the tournament after losing the semi-final to England. “I love the All Blacks, but I was stoked,” she laughs. “It made it that much easier for Ross to stay home, and Mediaworks [his boss] was so understanding.”

After seeing lactation consultants, Eden had a procedure to fix his tongue tie and his relieved parents say he’s now thriving on a combination of breast and bottle-feeding. The little one’s recently started to enjoy walks in the front pack, so Janika is loving getting out of the house again too!

“It’s really fun hanging out with him now,” gushes Janika. “We’re loving it.”

And she’s making the most of every precious moment with her boy before returning to work in March. Despite the challenges, there’s no doubt that Eden has brought new meaning to life for the couple, who wed in 2016.

“The highs are higher than we ever could’ve imagined. We feel so incredibly lucky to have him,” tells Janika.

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