For a family with a new baby, things seem pretty relaxed at Matt and Ellen Chisholm's house in Omakau in Central Otago.
TV presenter and journalist Matt, 45, sits on the couch grinning as Ellen turns on our Zoom call with one hand while the other holds 5-week-old baby daughter Bree, who is busy breastfeeding.
"We're doing really well," says Ellen, 37, with a huge smile. "We're good mates, Bree and I. She has slept through twice now, so that makes a big difference. Mum's well-rested and has her sanity."
Ellen holds Bree up to the camera and shows a chubby, contented little dark-haired girl, happily fed and satisfied.
It is a dream come true for the couple, with their daughter joining her brothers Bede, 5, and Finn, 3, to complete their family.
But the birth was not such a dream. Living in the idyllic town means that the nearest hospital is Alexandra, some 30km away, but the birthing facility there is unable to give Ellen an epidural and if anything went wrong, she'd be transferred to Dunedin Hospital.
Ellen had a scan on Monday, September 27, which revealed her unborn baby had the umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck.
"I was pretty nervous about that until I found out that it happens to about a third of all babies," tells Ellen. "But it's important you know about it before labour so midwives and doctors can decide the right course of action."
Following the scan, the couple decided they would be induced on Thursday night, with Ellen travelling to Dunedin on the Tuesday in case she went into labour naturally – a high possibility as she was already overdue.
On Thursday, Matt dropped the boys off at Ellen's sister Bridget's house, who lives close by, and made his way to Dunedin to be with his wife.
"Matt arrived at 8pm. But it was very busy at the hospital (it's nine months since New Year's Eve!), so they didn't do the induction until 11.30."
Nothing happened overnight, but by Friday morning Ellen's contractions had started, and she laboured all through the day and into the night before her waters broke on Saturday morning.
"It was all on from that point," she recalls. "Things were getting hot and heavy, and so I had an epidural."
But at 6cm dilated, her labour stalled because Bree was posterior, which means the baby is head-down but facing the abdomen, and she was also too big for her birth canal.
"By the time I went into surgery, I was relieved. I was so tired by that point – I hadn't slept properly since Wednesday night."
Finally, with Matt by her side, and after 40 long hours of contractions and 16 hours of active labour, Bree Pippa Chisholm, weighing 4.03kg, was born at 9.48pm on October 2. After being checked by a paediatrician and wrapped in a blanket, she was passed to her father who "goo-ed and gah-ed" before placing her on Ellen's shoulder.
"After such a long, worrying wait, seeing Bree happy and healthy for the first time would easily be one of the most glorious moments of my life," Matt says with pride.
"But I knew the importance of skin-to-skin contact and told him that I needed to breastfeed her straight away," tells Ellen. "It's really important to do that within the first hour of birth. So even though it was difficult with me lying flat on my back, that's what we did."
A couple of hours later, they were moved from the birthing suite to the ward.
"I kept telling Matt to go to the hotel, but he wouldn't," Ellen adds. "He was absolutely stoked. She was perfectly healthy and he was admiring her so much. He didn't want to leave. He got to touch her before I did, which was very special."
Tells Matt, "Ellen is a positive thinker. So all along she was saying it would all be fine, but I'm more a worst-case scenario person, so it was a bit rough."
"It was a terrible birth," Ellen admits. "But I've kind of forgotten about it now. I was disappointed that I didn't have a natural labour and birth because recovery is faster, but it was completely outside of my control. I've experienced it both ways now. Natural is harder when going through the birth, but for a C-section, the recovery is far harder. You have a baby who needs attention, it's difficult to get up but you have to. You can't drive and can't pick things up. It's very difficult.
"But she's been such a cruisy baby. You hear a lot of people say they've had a terrible labour and then they have a dream baby, and that's definitely the case for us."
They travelled home with their new arrival two days later, much to the delight of Bree's big brothers.
"They were old enough to know what was happening with the pregnancy and so had been excited for months," says Matt. "Now Finn especially is quite obsessed, so we have to be vigilant when he's around her."
When it comes to their chosen name, Ellen says it was inspired by US TV series Desperate Housewives. When it first came out in 2004, she loved the character Bree Van de Kamp, played by Marcia Cross.
"I thought it was such a cool name," she says. "And then when I looked into it, I learned it was a shortened version of Bridget, my sister's name, so it was an extra reason to call her that."
It is, of course, also the name of Matt's Celebrity Treasure Island co-host Bree Tomasel. "They have a great relationship," tells Ellen. "If she hadn't been such a cool person, we may have changed our minds!"
When Matt shared their intention to name their baby Bree with his co-host, she thought he was joking.
"He said it was a name they'd always liked and I hadn't turned them off it, which is the greatest compliment ever," Bree laughs. "We both had a big cry. She's the cutest baby ever and she's going to grow up a country kid down on the farm, just like me."
"I think Big Bree has a special connection to Little Bree," shares Ellen, adding that they'd recently received a matching hat and booties for their baby from Bree.
Meanwhile, the couple are enjoying the early days with their baby daughter much more than their previous births, largely because they are now living in rural Central Otago, a move they made in December 2019.
"Living down here in the country with Bree, we feel much more at home," tells Matt. "It's a really beautiful place, I'm not working anywhere near as hard as I have in the past and I'm around quite a lot, which is good for all of us."
Together for eight years and married for nearly six, Matt and Ellen's son Bede arrived while Matt was working as the host of Survivor NZ and was filming in Nicaragua. He didn't see his firstborn until he got home three days after the birth.
His second son Finn was born just after he'd returned from filming the second season of Survivor NZ in Thailand and he had started working on the current affairs show Sunday.
At that time, Matt was burnt out, exhausted and suffering from depression. He's talked openly about this earlier this year in the Weekly and in his new book Imposter, as well as in the documentary Man Enough.
Ellen, who is on maternity leave from her PR job for maternity activewear company Cadenshae, has also talked of her post-natal depression after Bede was born and how she works hard to keep her mental health on track. The couple say they prioritise exercise – Ellen loves to do the very popular Move It Mama classes online.
"I also keep a look out for my triggers and I now know what to do If I start to feel a bit wobbly," says Ellen.
Matt says he talks to Ellen the minute he is feeling overwhelmed. "I just say to her, 'Far out, I've got so much stuff coming at me at the moment', so the first thing I do is share the fact that I'm crumbling on the inside and she says, 'Go for a run, write your lists, it will all be okay, you've been here before.'"
"Basically, it's me that keeps him well," Ellen laughs. But both say they also rely on friends and family for support, which is much easier to access now they're in the south. Ellen explains, "My mum and dad live two minutes away, and my sister is literally two doors down. Matt's mum isn't far away, and we have lots of friends and family in Dunedin and Invercargill. We've made some awesome friends with the locals here, too. We've already made some close connections with people. It's our place to be."
The couple are looking forward to seeing their boys enjoy a rural childhood. Matt says they are still quite attached to their mum, so not that keen on getting out on the farm with him, but he occasionally puts them in the ute and takes them with him.
"When they get there, they love it and Bede will say, 'Daddy, this is the best day ever', then I'll look around and both of them will be nude swimming in the water trough, then they're putting their dry clothes in the water trough and I have to take them both home nude like
I'm the leader of some sort of naturist camp.
"And Bree and Ellen have such a good thing going that I sometimes forget we have a baby in the house. But when I do remember she's here, I go and get some delicious smiles – which are like a drug!"
With both from a farming background, they are thrilled to be able to live the lifestyle they are. "We both wanted to give our children the rural life we had," enthuses Ellen. "And we are. I'm just looking forward to seeing Matt raising a girl and doing braids and things like that!"
-NZ Women's Weekly