Balancing her two-year-old son Hugo on one hip and tending to eight-week-old Freddie with her other hand, all while avoiding the minefield of toy trucks on the floor of her Auckland home, Melissa Stokes laughs when others call her a natural mum. “Really?” says the TVNZ news presenter with a smile. “I guess I’m just used to the juggling.”
Now a mother of two, after she and her husband Dave Pierce welcomed Frederick Canham Pierce on January 15, Melissa (35) can’t quite believe she has two sons.
“I say, ‘the children’ now, and that’s pretty weird,” she muses, but almost bursts with pride as she shows off her bundle of joy.
“He’s awesome,” Melissa says with a smile, running her hands through Freddie’s impressive tuft of hair. “He’s very relaxed and a bit serious, but he’s just starting to smile. We absolutely adore him.”
Freddie completes the Stokes-Pierce family after a pregnancy that the award-winning journalist describes as difficult. “I mean, it wasn’t as bad as some people’s, but I just felt so much older this time.
“I’m not very good at being sick, and I felt tired all the time. People say you go through a real superwoman stage in your second trimester, and I did with Hugo, but not with Freddie.”
After suffering two stomach bugs – one that landed her in hospital on a drip – Melissa was “very ready” for Freddie’s entrance into the world, which was thankfully drama-free.
“That part was actually easier,” she says. “I would almost say it was a doddle. My doctors were worried he was getting a bit big for me, so I was induced a week early. It was only a two-and-a-half hour labour.”
Freddie was born at 7pm at Auckland Hospital, weighing exactly the same as his big brother – 3.45kg (7lb 6oz).
“He looked exactly like Hugo did when he was born,” smiles Melissa. “I knew he was a boy before they showed me the region! Dave was chuffed.”
It took Melissa and Dave (38) a week to name their son.
“He kind of reminded me of a little imp – and Freddie’s an impish name that goes well with Hugo. And if he’s ever Prime Minister or knighted or something, he can use Frederick,” Melissa jokes.
“Canham is the last name of Dave’s grandmother, whom he’s really close to, so that was a natural middle name.”
But while Freddie has changed her life, he’s by no means running the show in the household – that job remains firmly with Hugo.
“I feel for Freddie, because it seems like all we’re ever doing is telling him, ‘hold on, Freddie’, ‘sorry Freddie’, because we’re off chasing Hugo,” says Melissa.
On cue, Hugo tears out the front door and stands transfixed at the curb, watching a recycling truck pick up wheelie bins. “Truck go boom!” he exclaims.
“Monday is bin day, so we spend the entire morning on the curb waiting for the trucks,” says Melissa over her shoulder as she runs out the door after him. “Together, they can be a handful. The other day, I was with Freddie, and I turned around and saw Hugo had emptied the whole bottle of dishwashing liquid into his paddling pool!”
Though she was initially worried about Hugo’s reaction to his little brother, Melissa says she was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the boys bonded.
“The first time Hugo saw Freddie was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen,” she remembers. “He walked up to Freddie with this little smile and gave him a hug."
Melissa admits it’s been harder than she thought to parent two boys, especially when Dave, a TVNZ cameraman, is away working.
“If there’s a full day on my own, by 4pm I’m thinking, ‘Time for some adult company.’ When Dave’s working and I have to do that last dinner and bath stretch by myself, that’s hard. But I’m lucky I have my mum and Dave’s mum around the corner.”
And Melissa, a news junkie accustomed to the fast-paced world of current affairs, wasn’t prepared for the sometimes overwhelming loneliness mums can feel at home with their kids.
“I adore them, but it’s nice to get out for a little bit. Dave’s really good at knowing when I need 20 minutes to myself, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
“This time’s been harder than when I was at home with just Hugo. But I wouldn’t trade the time with my kids for anything. We have two amazing, healthy boys. I’m a very happy mum.”
In saying that, Melissa is also looking forward to returning to presenting the news at Easter. “It’s a busy life, but it’s a great life,” she says.