TVNZ reporter Ali Pugh reveals she delivered her own baby: ‘The midwife couldn’t make it in time’

Ali Pugh is a great believer in knowing your body, understanding your limits and trusting your instincts. So when it became clear that the 1 News reporter and former Breakfast host’s adorable newborn daughter Jemima Goldie was coming, ready or not, she felt nothing but calm and confident.

“In the end, the midwife couldn’t make it in time, so I delivered her myself!” the 35-year-old laughs, the sheer beauty of that extraordinary moment clearly still sinking in.

Ali – who also home-birthed her older daughters Theadora, now five, and Heidi, two – says she and husband Jo Barus had always planned on having Jemima at home too.

“I’m absolutely not against hospitals or anything like that,” Christchurch-based Ali is quick to point out, “but home has always felt like the safest place for me. It’s worked really well with each of our births and it’s really nice not having to transport yourself somewhere else while you’re in pain.”

Jemima’s arrival began ordinarily enough. Ali spent a busy day with her girls and was ferrying her eldest to swimming when she felt the first pangs of labour. “So I got home and began trying to get all my ducks in a row – get the kids dinner, get them into bed – so I could have my baby.”

As she took a moment to lie with Heidi and settle her to sleep, Ali’s contractions were suddenly so intensely painful, she needed to get up and brace against the wall.

“I went downstairs and said to my husband, ‘Call the midwife – this baby is coming!’ Then Jo started filling the pool for a water birth, which actually takes ages because the temperature has to be a stable 37 degrees. We had a hose running from the tap and an old-fashioned Zip boiling away – I think he used every jug in the house!”

While Ali breathed through her rapidly intensifying contractions, she had a very strong sensation that she needed to push.

“Instinct takes over and I remember feeling super calm,” she says in wonder. “I could sense my body was ready for this and that my baby was lined up, preparing to birth. So the second it was deep enough for my body to be immersed, I climbed into the pool and, two minutes later, Jemima was born.”

Her midwife arrived shortly afterward to find Ali lying in the pool, baby on her chest, and dad Jo tending to them both.

“Jo takes his home-birthing role very seriously,” Ali smiles. “He gets very focused on setting the pool up and getting everything we need organised. But at one point during the labour, I remember telling him, ‘Hey, I think you need to stop for a minute and tell me that I’m doing well!’ You do need that moral support when you’re birthing a baby.”

Beautiful Jemima is, says Ali, more like a Pugh than a Barus – fair-skinned and blue-eyed – and her name is an extremely special nod to the wonderful uncle she will never meet.

“We lost my older brother Jeremy almost 10 years ago,” Ali says quietly. “It’s still very difficult for me to talk about, but we used to call him Jem, so Jemima’s name is a little tribute to him.”

As for her middle name Goldie? “There’s no incredible backstory. We just really love it.”

While most new mums struggle with sleep deprivation and low energy, for Ali, having a newborn has been a blessed relief. That’s because during the later stages of her pregnancy, she suffered from a medical condition called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy – or PUPPP for short. It’s an itchy sensation that covered her entire body and was only resolved when Jemima was born.

“Honestly, those final weeks were taxing,” Ali recalls. “Having PUPPP kept me up all night – it felt like ants were crawling all over my skin. I’d be having multiple cold showers and trying to distract myself by watching movies all night because I just couldn’t sleep. It was quite debilitating.

“So, actually, I’ve been getting far more rest since having Jemima than before I had her!”

Thea – who’s recently started school – and Heidi are delightfully doting when it comes to their little sister, adds Ali. She explains how, the morning after Jemima’s birth, the older girls came to meet her and were entranced.

“They woke about 7am, came up the stairs and just couldn’t believe she was here! They lay next to her, stroking her little head, with Heidi – who doesn’t have many words just yet – saying, ‘Mama! Baby!’ over and over again.

“After about 10 minutes, Thea looked at me and said, ‘Mum, this is a long dream!’ She really thought she was in a dream state. I’ve actually captured it on video and we watch it back all the time. It was so, so sweet!”

Jemima is, says Ali, already proving to be a very happy little girl. “She lights up and laughs when the other two get home from school and kindy. But with a third baby, they really do need to roll with the punches. They’re there for every school drop-off and pick-up, and they sit through gymnastics and dancing. So your third really doesn’t have the luxury of a set routine. And I think, from that, they learn to be relaxed and easy-going!”

Ali – who job-shares her role at TVNZ’s Christchurch office with fellow reporter and new mum Joy Reid – says she’ll return to work in a few months in a part-time capacity.

Her husband Jo – a talented musician who tours with Dave Dobbyn and works as a handyman when he’s back home in Christchurch – can be flexible with his hours to lend a hand, and Ali says she’s grateful for this time with her girls to watch them grow.

But she dissolves into laughter at the suggestion that theirs is a modern family.

“Quite the opposite! At this early stage, while I’m home and feeding, I’m definitely the one getting the dinner on, and doing laundry and housework.”

There will be no fourth child – Ali’s firm on that.

“No,” she insists. “We’re locked in with three. And for anyone who believes that three are easier than two, that is resoundingly not the case. We’re so much more stretched with three because we’re instantly outnumbered. We often feel like we’re being pulled in 10 directions at the same time!

“But there are wonderful moments too. And I genuinely love raising these little people. My girls are just magic – it’s a real pleasure hanging out with them. And I also love seeing them form their own bonds. They’re going to be friends for life. That’s one of the most special things.”

Three gorgeous girls, a wonderful career in an industry she loves, and Ali’s been able to bring each daughter into the world just the way she wanted to – at home, no stress and in the loving embrace of family.

“I mean, it doesn’t diminish the pain – that’s still a 10 out of 10,” concludes Ali, laughing.

“But when you have a home birth, you commit to knowing that there are no pain relief options and that you absolutely will get through it. I’m happy I’ve been able to deliver the girls the way we had hoped for.”

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