Eighteen months after his surprise birth, little Hunter 'couldn't be more loved'

Sam Ashworth and son Hunter, 18 months.
Sam Ashworth and son Hunter, 18 months.  Photo: Supplied

The week of his 21st birthday celebrations, Sam Ashworth became a father to a child neither parent knew existed.

Baby Hunter was born less than two hours after Ashworth took his ex-girlfriend Emily Taane to the hospital with suspected appendicitis.

She had ignored the sharp cramps in her stomach and headed into college in the morning to prepare for upcoming exams. By that afternoon the then 20-year-old had gone home in agony and her flatmates called Ashworth for help.

The psychology student raced her to Dunedin hospital and they waited outside "until the wave of pain had subsided long enough to get her moving", he said.

Emily Taane with her son Hunter as a baby.
Emily Taane with her son Hunter as a baby. Photo: Supplied

Ashworth said it wasn't until he overheard doctors saying they needed to get her up to the maternity suite that he got word of what was actually happening.

Everything happened quickly, and before he was off the phone to their families in the emergency department corridor, Ashworth was a father.

It was overwhelming for the pair, with the emotion of becoming a new parent coupled with the fear of what was to come.

After five days in the hospital, 'Baby Bear' left for Taane's parents' Invercargill home, and the pair's lives changed forever.

The first challenge was what to call him. Most parents have months to scan baby name websites while agonising over the perfect name, but the new parents decided in just a few days to call the cheeky little boy Hunter, after a doll Taane had loved as a toddler.

From then on, it was a learning curve for the duo, who had been best friends since high school but who had split up after conceiving Hunter.

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Most people had been supportive, but there was still judgement that made it more difficult for the pair come to terms with their new situation.

"You can see their disbelief that we were either lying or in denial of the pregnancy," Ashworth said.

It was a real shock for the pair, as Taane only realised retrospectively that she'd had any signs of pregnancy. She had also actually lost weight over the previous nine months.

One in every 2455 births occur before the woman realises she is pregnant, at odds three times more common than triplets.

Emily and Sam Ashworth with Hunter at Ashworth's university graduation this month.
Emily and Sam Ashworth with Hunter at Ashworth's university graduation this month. Photo: Supplied

Taane continues to study applied science full-time so government support is available, as well as the income from Ashworth's part-time job, but it is still hard to make ends meet.

Both their parents have provided a lot of help, but they wanted to do it as much as possible on their own.

Ashworth continued to study in Dunedin until he graduated and drove the two-hour commute to Invercargill most weekends, where Taane now lives with her parents.

"Everyone always says you can do everything you used to but the reality is you can't," he said.

Although the distance was hard, Ashworth said he had "been there for all his milestones and his face lights up when he sees me, which is a reward in itself".

One year on, the co-parents celebrated Hunter's first birthday with a Mickey Mouse cake baked by his dad.

Ashworth said, "I don't think that little boy could really be more loved."