Sam & Marlow
"He's coming out of his lockdown shell"
When Samantha Hayes' blue-eyed boy Marlow celebrated his first birthday late last month, it was under level 2.5 restrictions, so just nine friends crowded around as dad Jay Blaauw wheeled out the sugar-free smash cake he'd spent hours making.
"It was covered in vanilla yoghurt, which is his favourite, so we hoped he'd want to eat it," smiles Sam, 36. "But he was overwhelmed by all the extra decibels and really perplexed about why everyone was looking at him, so he just kind of squashed it in his hands and flicked it on the floor."
The presents were a bit of a fail too, with Marlow ignoring the actual gifts, instead playing with the wrapping paper. Sam says, "My mum and dad got him a My 1st Smartphone, which makes some noises. It's really irritating, but it's the only thing that keeps him still while we change his nappy, so it's one of our favourite presents!"
The Newshub presenter and 2018 Dancing With The Stars champion describes her son as "pretty laidback", adding, "When we take him to the playground, he's quite reserved and observes what all the other kids are doing. Potentially that's a product of lockdown. Half his life he's only been with me, Jay and our nanny. But he's coming more and more out of his shell."
Marlow cracks up whenever anyone sneezes. "He's the only person in the world right now who finds a sneeze hilarious," laughs Sam, a long-time vegetarian who's proud her son loves tofu. "His third tooth has just come through, so he's pretty slow on that front – and he's just started to walk. He's a lot more efficient crawling, putting his head down and going into turbo mode. He always makes a beeline for the bathroom, where he slams the door shut and pulls all the toilet paper off the roll!"
Janika & Eden
"We're both drama queens!"
Janika ter Ellen refers to motherhood as "my greatest joy", saying, "I'm the mum who shows you photos of my baby you didn't want to see and spends way too much time nibbling gently at his juicy little limbs!"
However, the Prime News presenter – whose smiley son Eden turns one next week – also admits, "It does feel like Groundhog Day at times, like, how many times is this baby going to eat, poo and cry today?! But it's getting better as he gets older. It's more of the fun stuff and less of the really awful crying where you don't know why."
Fortunately, Janika's had her Newshub office buddies to lean on when times were tough. She tells us, "Sam turned up with the biggest vegetarian lasagne I'd ever seen not long after I gave birth. I almost cried. To see a kind, friendly face was one thing, but knowing dinner was sorted for a couple of days too! We talked a lot about our births because they were both very similar in that they hadn't gone to plan and it really helped me begin to process it. I felt safe talking to her."
And as for Mel, Janika says, "Our kids are both extremely active and relentlessly climb everything in sight. Every week when Melissa and I would tell each other what the babies were up to, the other would laugh and say, 'Same!' They're just so similar.
"And Susie has been a goldmine of tips and tricks. She has two gorgeous children, and is incredibly intelligent and organised, so every hiccup I experienced with Eden, she'd already done all the research and road-tested the solutions."
Her gorgeous little guy isn't walking yet, but Janika tells, "He's very good at standing. He goes from a Hindu squat into a stand and then gets a big, goofy grin as he knows it's an achievement.
"He's also very extravagant in his facials. He loves to refuse food and wave at people in a really dramatic way. He's very emotional and feels things quite deeply. He might be a little bit like me in that regard!"
Melissa & Busby
"I'm not sure how I got through!"
Presenting breaking-news bulletins is never easy, but for Melissa Chan-Green, Newshub's live pandemic reports were even trickier because, as a new mum, she was still breastfeeding as the country went into lockdown.
"It was a logistical challenge being on air for three or four hours at a time," she confesses as her cheeky son Busby toddles around the room. "Sam and I had our secret little spots where we could disappear for a bit of pumping. Luckily, there were no real disasters and it all went pretty well, but now I look back on those days, I'm not sure how I got through those bulletins.
"I was so tired and my head was so fuzzy. We went a few months where we'd get a few hours of broken sleep night after night after night. I wasn't thinking straight for a long while there."
Fortunately, after a lengthy battle with colic, wee charmer Busby – who'll celebrate his first birthday with a quiet family picnic late next month – is giving Mel more rest these days.
"It was so hard to see a paediatrician during Covid, so that was tough, but
we got there," she says, squeezing her "super-active" son tight. "Now you're
a good little sleeper, aren't you?!"
Isolation wasn't all bad, though, tells Mel, 37. "We had fun playing games, dressing him up, doing yoga and baking. One night, he was even a DJ for a family Zoom disco. He had his pink toucan top on, sat in his highchair behind the decks and patted away at the music.
"He's got quite an eclectic taste. He likes Nicki Minaj, Jason Derulo, Lewis Capaldi, Snoop Dogg and Lil Nas X, and he sings along to showtunes with his dad. He also gravitates to toy instruments – he loves the shakers and playing the piano, and he can actually get quite a good beat on a drum. That might have to be his first birthday present!"
Susie & Indi
"It's relentless but rewarding"
Already a mum to 4-year-old Arlo, Newshub presenter Susie Nordqvist figured she had motherhood all sorted by the time darling daughter Indi arrived. "I thought I was a pretty good negotiator, crisis management expert and peacemaker before she came along, but boy, have I had to step it up a level!" she laughs.
"It's crazy, relentless and tiring, but also so rewarding and heartwarming to see how much fun Indi and Arlo have together. He's a doting big brother with bucketloads
of patience. It's fortunate as she's a bit of a destroyer who enjoys pulling apart his Lego creations and artworks."
Susie, 37, describes her gorgeous girl – who turns one in a couple of weeks – as "sweet and inquisitive" but adds, "I'm seeing a bit of sass from her too. She's just mastered the art of blowing a whistle, which she's learnt is a great tool for getting her parents' attention. If the whistle isn't nearby, she coughs until we look up, then shoots us a cheeky smile."
The brunette beauty was "quite emotional" about returning to the office after
her maternity leave, however, Susie adds, "Indi's just started waving me off to work in
the morning, which is super-cute, as is being greeted to a gap-toothed grin when I walk in the door at the end of the day."
Having her fellow "Newsmums" around helps too. "We celebrate the milestones and share the struggles. Janika and I spoke about our difficulties breast feeding, and learning to accept it's okay to give your child formula – if it wasn't safe, it wouldn't be on the market. There is so much unnecessary guilt placed on mothers and it's not healthy.
"It's been brilliant having so many people to lean on for support. To know I wasn't the only one dealing with sleepless nights and endless crying in those early days was comforting. It really does take a village and I'm so fortunate to have a pretty awesome one."
- Woman's Day