Polly’s de­liv­ery suite hell

I nearly lost my girls!

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - CONTENTS -

Polly Gille­spie de­scribes 2017 as a year of two halves. At the be­gin­ning, our Woman’sDay colum­nist and her ex-hus­band Grant Kereama left their long­stand­ing ra­dio gig on The Hits.

With no reg­u­lar in­come, the mother-of-three strug­gled to pay the bills for her in­ner-city Welling­ton apart­ment and an old fam­ily home where her el­derly mum lived.

But by July, life was look­ing up. The ra­dio dream team were back on the air­waves on More FM and Rova, Polly had her chil­dren, her beau Tim and their menagerie of pets hap­pily liv­ing un­der one roof in Is­land Bay, and to top it all off, her daugh­ter Kather­ine, 23, was due to give birth to her first grand­child.

In­deed, when Woman’sDay ar­rives at Polly’s abode, the brand-new “Mini” – her cho­sen name in­stead of Grandma – couldn’t look more con­tent as she and Kather­ine dote on Roseanna, try­ing to coax a smile out of their blue-eyed cherub. “It’s her lat­est trick,” beams one very proud Polly.

But on Au­gust 26, the day Kather­ine was be­ing in­duced, Polly’s new­found hap­pi­ness was very nearly taken from her.

After nine hours of labour, calm turned to catas­tro­phe when com­pli­ca­tions arose that put Kather­ine and her baby’s life in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy. With­out a mo­ment’s no­tice, the ex­pec­tant mum was whisked away for an emer­gency “crash” Cae­sarean sec­tion un­der a gen­eral anaes­thetic, leav­ing a dis­traught Polly ag­o­nis­ing over whether she’d ever see them alive again.

“I was ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fied,” tells Polly. “I had no idea what was go­ing on. I didn’t know if Kather­ine was go­ing to die or if the baby was go­ing to make it. I’ve never felt fear like it.”

Just min­utes ear­lier, while Kather­ine’s part­ner Larry Roth had stepped out for a cup of tea, the mother-daugh­ter duo were laugh­ing and be­ing silly, but sud­denly the mid­wife sounded an alarm which sent the birthing suite into chaos.

Polly re­calls, “All of a sud­den, there were flash­ing lights and a dozen nurses, mid­wives and doc­tors stormed into the room,

put­ting on their scrubs and masks as they sprinted by. There were peo­ple yelling, ‘Do you con­sent to us giv­ing Kather­ine a gen­eral anaes­thetic? Do you con­sent to this, to that?’ Kather­ine’s look­ing at me, ask­ing, ‘Mum, what’s go­ing on?’

“As calmly as I could, I kept say­ing, ‘Ev­ery­thing’s fine. This is com­pletely stan­dard – ev­ery­thing’s go­ing to be OK,’ but as she got wheeled out of sight on her way to the­atre, I col­lapsed into the mid­wife’s arms. It didn’t feel like real life. It was like be­ing in an episode of

“Had it been un­der any other cir­cum­stances, it would have been

in­cred­i­ble to watch. But by the time Larry got back, he walked into an empty room and me bawl­ing my eyes out.”

Polly re­alised that a crash C-sec­tion was no stan­dard oc­cur­rence. “I knew what was hap­pen­ing to Kather­ine was com­pletely not nor­mal. I’d had an emer­gency Cae­sarean and it didn’t look any­thing like this. I was calm for her, but pan­ick­ing in­side!”

The hos­pi­tal staff told Polly the emer­gency pro­ce­dure is so rare that only one in 300 women na­tion­wide will re­quire one each year. They prac­tise dummy runs twice a year to be pre­pared.

Kather­ine’s heart had been set on a calm, re­laxed birth with her mum and boyfriend of two years at her side, but when Roseanna man­aged to squash her um­bil­i­cal cord, cut­ting off her blood sup­ply and caus­ing her heart rate to plum­met, doc­tors had no choice but to op­er­ate on the spot. It took seven min­utes from sound­ing the alarm to Roseanna’s birth at 7.30pm.

“Mum re­mem­bers it bet­ter than me,” tells Kather­ine. “I was in shock as it all hap­pened so quickly. I do re­call be­ing re­ally scared at first, but when the doc­tors told me they were go­ing to put me to sleep, I felt so much bet­ter – the thought of be­ing cut open while my baby was be­ing pulled out of me freaked me out.

“When I woke up, Larry was there. I wasn’t al­lowed to see Rosie yet, but he and Mum had taken heaps of photos. I wanted to cud­dle her so much, but just to be able to see her and know she was OK was enough – ev­ery­thing about her was per­fect.”

Polly felt the same rush of re­lief in the neona­tal unit, where she met her grand­daugh­ter, who at a bonny 4.5kg “looked big enough to eat all the other ba­bies there”, she laughs. “I took one look at that chub­by­cheeked lit­tle cherub and fell in­stantly in love. She was hav­ing trou­ble breath­ing at first, but was do­ing well and Kather­ine was safe too. I can’t tell you how lucky and how grate­ful I felt. It could’ve been a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story.”


After five days in hos­pi­tal, as Roseanna gained strength and Kather­ine re­cov­ered from surgery, the fam­ily-of-three re­turned home to the granny flat they share at Polly’s place.

“It’s more like my com­mune,” says Polly, who also shares sons Tom, 24, and Mc­Gre­gor, 19, with Grant. “We have me and Tim liv­ing here, my youngest boy and his girl­friend Liv, a nurse, who of­ten stays. There’s Kather­ine, Larry and now lit­tle Rosie. We have our dog Scrum­bles, their dog Toast and kit­ten Valentina, and my mother’s cat Barack Obama. Mum’s now liv­ing in a gorgeous flat that she loves. It’s brand-new and per­fect for her, and she has such a busy so­cial life.

“It’s not how I imag­ined my life would be, with a baby in the house again, but it’s just so lovely. I adore this place. I know it needs heaps of work, but it’s filled with all the things that truly mat­ter. This lifestyle seems to be be­com­ing the norm,” she adds, “es­pe­cially in places like Auck­land and Welling­ton, where it’s so ex­pen­sive to rent. Ev­ery­one ends up com­ing back home.”

While a bustling house means more mouths to feed, enough wash­ing to sink a small ship and count­less fights over the TV re­mote, Polly wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“Kather­ine’s nat­u­rally a won­der­ful mum. She has such an enor­mous heart and way with Rosie. I love watch­ing them to­gether – they’re in­sep­a­ra­ble.

“It’s nice to be Mini too. I’m burst­ing with this won­der­ful un­con­di­tional love that lacks a bit of re­spon­si­bil­ity. When you have ba­bies, es­pe­cially your first one, there’s a cer­tain amount of fear in­volved and you feel like your only job in life is to raise that baby. I re­mem­ber that feel­ing after my first baby, when it felt like my world had tipped on its axis. One of the best things about hav­ing Kather­ine so close is I’m there for all the good mummy times and the tough mummy times.

“At one stage, Kather­ine’s Cae­sarean got an in­fec­tion, she had mas­ti­tis, her boobs hurt, she could hardly walk and she sat in my room cry­ing, ‘I can’t do this.’ I just re­mem­ber say­ing, ‘Yes, you can. We can.’”

In­deed, the young mum in­sists she couldn’t have sur­vived the first two months of moth­er­hood with­out Polly and Roseanna’s koro Grant, who mar­ried his new part­ner Lisa in Septem­ber.

“I don’t know how peo­ple do it with­out their mums,” says Kather­ine, who has re­lied heav­ily on the ex­tra help since her boyfriend re­turned to his job as a chef. “Rosie’s blessed with two mum­mies! Mum’s my go-to for ev­ery­thing par­ent­ing – feed­ing, sleep­ing, rou­tine. My surgery means I can barely lift, but Mum’s in­sisted on clean­ing and cook­ing, so I hardly have to lift a fin­ger.

“As for Dad, don’t even get me started on him. Ev­ery time I go around there, he doesn’t let any­one hold her ex­cept him. He wouldn’t let my step­mum have a cud­dle – he’ll be more pro­tec­tive than Larry.”

While par­ent­ing has had its chal­lenges, Kather­ine says hav­ing Roseanna has brought the young lovebirds closer. “Our world re­volves around her now,” she says. “It’s def­i­nitely a lit­tle weird to be Mum and Dad, and it’s easy to get frus­trated with each other at times, but when you have a lit­tle baby to care for, it’s also re­ally easy to get over the lit­tle things and focus on the big­ger pic­ture.

“I al­ways thought I’d go to univer­sity and have a proper job be­fore I had a baby, but now my focus is Rosie and mak­ing sure she grows up know­ing she’s loved and adored, and ca­pa­ble of con­quer­ing the world,” says Kather­ine. “And if we have a re­la­tion­ship that even comes close to what Mum and I have, then I’ll know I’ve done some­thing right.”

In the midst of be­ing over­whelmed with re­lief and so hugely grate­ful that Kather­ine and lit­tle Rosie were safe and well, Polly fell “in­stantly in love” with her adorable grand­daugh­ter.

“C’mon dar­ling, Mini wants a cud­dle!” Proud Polly just can’t get enough of sweet Rosie.

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