Having a baby during a Mayoral campaign – Emily Leggett’s story
I met Nick Leggett two years after he was elected Porirua Mayor so I officially assumed the Mayoress role when I became his wife in July 2014. We married on a Friday, judged a cat show on the Saturday and headed to the local government conference on the Sunday. Not your average honeymoon build-up. Our first baby is due on our second wedding anniversary in July, right in the middle of Nick’s campaign for Wellington’s mayoralty.
We are both a lot younger than your average Mayor/Mayoress – I’m 31 and Nick is 36 so it’s not common for childbirth to be part of local government politics. Nick is the youngest mayor elected in New Zealand’s history, but I think that's positive. We are probably more relaxed and less formal, which makes us more approachable. We also have a young family so while that can be a strain at times with a busy role, it's important to add a different dynamic and perspective.
I was a little skeptical about Nick’s decision to run for Mayor of Wellington once we had found out we were pregnant as campaigning is very full-on and throwing a new baby into the mix is double the trouble. But we both sat down together and weighed it up. Nick had contributed what he could in Porirua and we knew it was time to move on. The timing isn't great with baby coming along but when is it in life? I’ve realised that bringing a child into the world was just another facet to our ‘new season’.
My doctor diagnosed me with placenta praevia at 17 weeks when I started bleeding a little. It means ‘placenta first’ and that’s because the placenta is in the lower part of a woman’s uterus, which can partly or totally block the birth canal. It occurs in about 0.5% of pregnancies. I’ve got to admit it was a real struggle for me to stay positive because the midwife and specialist both warned us that I might need to be admitted to hospital admission at 32 weeks. I thought that is just not going to be possible because of the mayoral campaign. I did have to make some lifestyle changes once I was diagnosed. I had to be on bed rest, take it easy and not do any exercise, including walking the dog. I still attended events with Nick but just made sure I was close to a seat at all times.
At our 32-week scan we were amazed to see that my placenta had moved up slightly higher. Even the sonographer was surprised. For us, that was massive weight lifted off our shoulders as it meant I didn’t need to go into hospital, which was a miracle because that was the week we were moving house.
My advice to women out there with placenta praevia: it really is a waiting game to see if it’ll move by 36 weeks. There isn’t much you can do but try and be positive until then, rest-up and surround yourself with supportive people. I didn’t know anything about placenta praevia until I was diagnosed, but the midwife and specialist provided lots of information, links to look at and support and I felt I was in capable hands if anything was to have happened that wasn’t ideal.
Shifting our home from Porirua to Wellington only eight weeks before my due date was quite a challenge, but I'm glad we got to settle somewhere before the baby arrived. Within days of deciding to move, we had a tenant and a moving out date, but no place to live! We finally found a place four days before the move-out date (and ironically, it was in the same suburb as fellow Wellington mayoral candidate Justin Lester).
My first child, Madi, was born in 2005 at Wellington Hospital and raised in Porirua. She was two weeks overdue and I had to be induced twice because she was so comfortable and wasn’t ready to come into the world. After a night in Wellington hospital due to a small haemorrhage, I was transferred out to Kenepuru where I spent four amazing days bonding with her and learning all the ins and outs of early motherhood. It was great to have the nurses and midwives on call as I was a young, vulnerable mother. My mother and sister were also an incredible source of strength during this time. I was in my first year of studying a Bachelor of Design (Interior Architecture) when I fell pregnant at 19, but I continued part-time to finish my degree. It took an extra two years to complete and I remember often taking Madi with me to lectures. She would just sleep in the pram while I studied. My family often looked after her when I did the crazy all nighters - creative degrees require tortured all nighters! Madi is now 11 going on 18. She’s quick, funny and everything in between, and lives with us full time.
I think the role of Mayoress is a lot less formal than in days gone by, but it's a huge privilege to be a face for and represent, a community. It's a special role because you get to go to a lot of events and meet people. Regardless of being pregnant, I still enjoyed going out to functions and got to pick and choose what I attended. Dressing up is good for the soul and sometimes you need to do that, but sometimes you just want to lie on the couch and watch mindless TV. I was able to wear some of my non- pregnancy clothes, but bought a few new pregnancy clothes to wear for mayoral events, and plenty of friends loaned me pregnancy clothes too. As my pregnancy progressed, I couldn't wear heels for too long and when I was ready to go home, I was ready! Tiredness hit me quite by surprise. I was lucky I worked from home for that very reason. When I needed to sleep, I just took a nap, which was great in the early months when I was very sick. My advice for all expectant mothers would be to sleep whenever you feel tired, get regular massages and facials if budget allows, always go to the shop with lipstick on and make sure you set time-out for special dates alone with your husband and children.
At 32 weeks, the baby was low-lying so we were told by our obstetrician that if things didn’t change I would have to have a c-section. I continued to have scans every week from then and two weeks before my due date I was told I would have to have an elective C-section due to the baby having an ‘unreliable lie’ as he was changing between being breach and transverse; I also had quite a big blood clot they were concerned about. I was booked in for Thursday 7 July, which just so happened to be the day after Nick’s official campaign launch in Wellington, which I attended. It was all very surreal at the campaign launch, knowing that in less than 24 hours I would be holding my baby boy and Nick’s first child in my arms. Just before 11am on Thursday 7 July, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Tāne Frederick Pita Leggett, weighing 7 pounds 6 oz. It really was an incredible moment for us all.
Despite being a mayoral candidate, Nick was up doing late-night shifts to help me out. We had wonderful support from family and friends, plus we had Madi and my father, who has lived with us since my mum passed away two years ago, to pick up the load if needed. By Election Day (October 8), our baby son will be about three months old. Hopefully, he will witness his father becoming Wellington’s youngest mayor, even though he won’t remember it!
Emily's daughter Madi, Nick, baby Tāne, and Emily Leggett.