Before the arrival of her beautiful baby girl, TVNZ political editor and first-time mum Jessica Mutch-McKay wasn't too worried about the inevitable sleepless nights that come with a newborn. After years on the political beat, she was used to surviving on just a few hours' sleep and was quietly confident her fast-paced journalism career would have prepared her well for the exhaustion that lay ahead.
But as she cradles her adorable tot at the Wellington home she shares with her husband Iain McKay, Jessica, 35, laughingly admits she was "a little naive" on that front.
In fact, nothing could have prepared her for those initial weeks of parenthood, where night and day blurred into one as she and Iain got to know their little girl Margaux.
"We had no idea what we were in store for," laughs Jessica. "I look back on that first month and it's like our whole world was turned upside down. The sleep deprivation was indescribable, but at the same time you're just amazed by this little person you've given birth to."
The new parents say Margaux is a chilled-out, happy little girl. At nine weeks old, she has recently started smiling and is the apple of her doting folks' eye.
"It's impossible to feel annoyed when she wakes in the night and gives me a big gummy smile," coos Jessica, who suffered from morning sickness virtually the entire way through her pregnancy. "I look at her and my heart just melts."
Little Margaux was born at Wellington Hospital at 6.58pm, one day after her due date. Doctors induced labour after the broadcaster developed pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy illness that can lead to dangerously high blood pressure.
Jessica had a feeling the condition was brewing after becoming increasingly swollen in the face, hands and ankles, and she woke up on October 30 feeling decidedly unwell. After a visit to her obstetrician, she was soon checking into hospital and preparing to meet her baby!
"It was all very calm really," recalls Jessica, who spent the day of her induction "hanging out" in her hospital room with Iain. She jokes, however, that despite the fact their baby was on the way, her hubby, a diplomatic protection officer, had other things on his mind.
"He's a huge baseball fan and it just happened that the World Series final was on that day. So he was half focused on that and half on me," she tells.
It wasn't until the following morning that Jessica's labour ramped up a gear, and an epidural was quickly administered. Another day of waiting followed, and the couple were just about to turn on the 6pm news when doctors decided the baby needed to be born.
"Suddenly things started happening very quickly," says Jessica. "My blood pressure went up and I didn't know it at the time, but the cord was wrapped around Margaux's neck.
"They needed to get her out. Iain was holding my hand and encouraging me to be calm and focused."
Then after just a few pushes, Margaux was here.
"I'll never forget that moment – she was put on my chest and immediately did those little bucking movements with her head as though she was saying, 'Hi, I'm here!'" gushes Jessica, who admits she cried when she laid eyes on her daughter for the first time. "I felt a very instant connection with her."
Iain, 33, agrees it was an unforgettable moment. "It was incredibly special – I remember this huge sense of relief that she was here and OK."
Margaux's name had been chosen months earlier – the French spelling was selected as a nod to their first date four years earlier in Paris, India is the country where Jessica's mum Fiona was born, and Harper is a family name on her dad's side.
"I was lobbying for India as a first name, but Margaux won out in the end and I love it," declares Jessica. "She really suits her name."
Two months in, the little family have found their feet. Says Jessica, "It's like we're riding the horse now, rather than being dragged along behind it!"
While Iain admits at times he's felt a little redundant as all feeding duties fall to Mum, he's been making himself useful by being chief nappy changer and taking over the household duties.
"We decided we didn't want to hibernate or give up our normal life just because we had a baby," he says. "So we've still been going out and having friends over."
They'll be relishing their time together this summer, before Jessica returns to work in February, just in time to cover Waitangi Day.
Iain, who found fame as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's "hipster bodyguard", has taken six months of extended leave to take care of his darling daughter, and they plan to travel with Jessica so she can continue breastfeeding.
"I know how hard Jessica has worked for her career, so I see it as a huge privilege to be able to look after Margaux when she goes back," Iain explains, adding they're both fortunate to have family-friendly employers. And when Iain returns to work later in the year, grandma Fiona will look after Margaux over the three-week election period.
"It's going to be a huge year for us," says Jessica. "But we feel incredibly lucky that we'll be able to keep working as well as being parents. It is a blessing to have her and I'm constantly struck by how lucky we are. She's wonderful."
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