Sam Wallace is cradling one of his adorable newborn daughters and talking about the challenges of having identical twins.
"The only way I can tell that this is Cosette is that she's a little bit bigger than Sienna, she has a rounder face and, oh..."
He looks from the babe in his arms to her sister, who is being cuddled by her mum, Sam's fiancee Sarah Bowman. "Umm, no, that's Cosette, this is Sienna," he corrects himself. "Hey, it's hard! They're identical!"
Radio host Sam admits that telling the tiny 7-week-old girls apart is tricky unless they are together.
"If they are both in front of me, it is easier because of the difference in size," tells the doting dad. "Sienna is smaller and her features are more dainty. Cosette is a bit more rounded. Although it is getting harder now that Sienna is starting to catch up to Cosette. It was much more obvious when they were first born. But if I've just got one and someone asks which one it is, half the time I have no idea."
And he's not alone. Sarah also often has to compare her two wee girls to distinguish them from each other. But she's hit on a clever solution so that they will be able to tell them apart in photos in the future – she tries to make sure Sienna is always on the left and Cosette is on the right.
In fact, the only one who has no problem knowing Sienna from Cosette is their big brother Brando, 2.
"Brando always knows exactly which one is which, without fail," says Sam, 40. "I'll be holding one of them and say, 'Which one is this?' and he'll tell me straight away. It's really helpful!"
And, admits Sam, these days he needs all the help he can get. Life with newborn twins and a toddler is full-on. The girls need to be fed every three to four hours, and the whole process takes about two and a half hours. "So that doesn't leave very long before you have to start all over again. Sarah often carries the middle-of-the-night feed so I can string a few hours together because I have to get up at 4.30am for work.
"Sometimes she only gets half an hour's sleep before she is up again. I don't know how she does it – she's amazing."
On one occasion, they tried to get the babies settled at 3am, but it was 11am before they both went down to sleep. "That was full-on," recalls Sam, who says he's averaging three to five hours sleep a night.
"Sometimes they wake up screaming at the same time and then it's carnage," adds Sarah, who is topping up breast-feeding with formula. "I can't successfully tandem feed them both at the moment, but it will be easier once they can latch on better. And you can't burp two babies at once."
The devoted parents say they are very grateful to have great support from both sets of parents and Sam's sister Amy, who chip in to assist with the babies and also with Brando.
And while they may be worn out much of the time, they find the new additions to their family simply delightful.
"They're such a gift," shares Sam. "When we went in for the C-section, I remember thinking, 'Please God, give me two healthy little girls and I will not ask for anything else.' We feel so lucky that we've got them and yes it is hard at the moment, but that is superseded by the amazing moments."
Sam, who presents Coast's breakfast show with Toni Street and Jason Reeves, hasn't taken any paternity leave since the girls arrived, but reckons his job is like having time off.
"I go to work to have a holiday and I come home to work," he grins. "It means I can come home recharged. When you work with Toni and Jason, they add energy to your life, and radio is so much fun, it's easy to do. It's after the show that you crash. I drive home thinking, 'Right, now I have to gear up for the real work!'"
In fact, it was Sam's colleagues who got to reveal the gender to the expectant couple! Sworn to secrecy, Toni and Jason decorated the nursery accordingly, transforming a spare room in their Auckland home into a haven of soft grey and cream with pink highlights.
"The door was kept locked for a week while they were in there – and we didn't find out what we were having until they'd finished," tells Sam. "They did a great job."
The couple found out they were having twins at an early scan. Sarah recalls, "I said to the sonographer that I felt twice as sick as I did when I was pregnant with Brando and she said, 'That's why – you've got two in there.'"
"It was a bit of a shock," says Sam. "I had to go for a walk."
The pregnancy was healthy, but towards the end it became clear that one twin was growing faster than the other.
Sarah says, "I was always going to have an elective Caesarean at about 37 weeks, but our obstetrician was a bit concerned about the variance in their weights, so she decided to get them out earlier."
The girls were born at 36 weeks, arriving on January 21 – Sarah's 38th birthday.
"It was so lovely having them on my birthday – the best gift ever," she smiles. "We are going to have such wonderful birthdays together. We are going to be able to do girly things – I'm really looking forward to that!"
Sienna, weighing 2.1kg, and Cosette, 2.4kg, were so tiny, "we were scared to hold them at first", confides Sarah. There were a few tense moments in the early days when Sienna's weight dropped to 1.85kg.
"That was a bit alarming," says Sam. "She'd been about 20 per cent behind her sister in the womb, because Cosette was getting more of the food, then when her weight dropped after she was born, they gave her a feeding tube. That gave her the chance to rest and get food in. Sienna really bounced back and now she has this real vigour on the nipple and the bottle – she shrugs her little shoulders and attacks it."
Sam can already see the differences in his daughters' personalities. "Sienna has this steely determination to catch up to her sister and is a real little battler, whereas Cosette is a cruiser. She just floats through. You can even see it with the little looks in their eyes."
Despite the fact they knew for most of the pregnancy that they were having girls, it took Sam and Sarah a month to decide on names after they were born. They chose Sienna fairly easily, but it took a while to come up with Cosette.
"We both loved Coco, but we wanted it to be a shortened version of a name, so we looked at all sorts of things, from Chloe to Colette," says Sarah. "It was taking us ages, so we decided to set aside a weekend and just get on with it. We couldn't keep calling them #T1 and #T2, or Big One and Little One."
When they heard Cosette – the name of one of the characters in the musical Les Miserables – they both loved it.
Sam is looking forward to seeing if his girls grow up with the traits he's already spotted in them at an early age and says when it comes to raising daughters, he doesn't think he will be too overprotective.
"We hope to have two little girls who can make smart decisions and we want to be able to leave things in their capable hands. We'll see how that plays out!"
Sienna and Cosette are likely to have their big brother looking out for them. Brando is a doting sibling who loves giving his little sisters cuddles.
"He's pretty good around them, although often it is cuddle, cuddle, kiss, kiss, poke in the eye," jokes Sam, adding that his son seems to be adjusting well to the upheaval in the household since the twins arrived. "Sometimes we do get, 'Put them away now', as if he thinks we can pack them away like his toys."
Sam and Sarah prepared Brando by reading him stories about having younger siblings and giving him twin baby dolls to play with. They make sure to spend one-on-one time with him and thanks to family support have been able to get away to the park with him.
"It's really important to have that time with him and he's so much fun," tells Sarah.
Sam loves being a hands-on dad and as the photoshoot with the Weekly gets under way, he's upstairs with Brando, keeping his energetic youngster occupied. Then he shows up to sheepishly inform Sarah that when he closed his eyes "for just a moment", Brando managed to get the lid off a bottle of household cleaner and dump the contents on the carpet.
"I think we're going to have a white spot," the Celebrity Treasure Island winner observes.
"That's okay," says a chilled Sarah. "While we're confessing, I dropped a bottle of nail polish on the bathroom floor this morning and it went everywhere, including on your shorts."
When she shows Sam a video on her phone of red polish splattered across the room, his response is, "It looks like a murder scene," followed by, "At least you filmed it, that's the main thing!"
He adds, "I really don't care. Your priorities change when you have kids. You start to think about what is important and what isn't. You don't worry about the small stuff. It feels like life kind of begins in some respects when you have kids."
And he certainly never suffers from FOMO (fear of missing out), declaring, "I don't want to be at the pub, I don't want to be at festivals. It feels like home is the only place I want to be, with my family."
• Tune in to The Coast Breakfast with Jase, Toni, and Sam from 6-9am weekdays.