'Confronting': Emma Freedman talks being a new mum to a premmie baby

Instagram/ Emma Freedman
Instagram/ Emma Freedman 

Emma Freedman was at her final antenatal class with husband Charlie Rundle, when she began to feel a bit "weird". "I told the midwife and she checked me out," Emma tells Essential Baby, adding that they decided to admit her overnight for observation.

Just two hours later, at 34 weeks pregnant, Emma's waters broke. The new mum, however, had no idea she was in labour and was shocked when the nurse said they'd have to take her to delivery. "I thought I was just nervous and had terrible bladder control," she recalls with a laugh. 

William Anthony Rundle burst into the world unexpectedly - seven weeks early. What followed was a month the 31-year-old television presenter calls "brutal" as she and her husband adjusted to life as the parents of a premature baby and not being able to bring their little boy home. 


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"We weren't expecting to have a premmie baby," Emma says, adding that her doctor had predicted that William would be on the bigger side. "When I naturally went into labour we thought 'what does this mean?' " We didn't know at that stage that he'd been ventilated for quite a few days, in ICU or fed by nasogastric tube. We didn't know if there would be developmental problems. We didn't know about any of it. "

Now, with a healthy, thriving, boy, Emma is sharing her story following the release of the Big W Baby Census. Capturing the experience of mums in Australia, the research revealed that one in three found the first six weeks after giving birth to be the hardest phase of their baby's development - something Emma can certainly relate to.

"I was so unsure about what was going on and just in shock," she says of those early weeks in NICU. "I don't mind talking about it because hopefully it helps people out. It does happen and sometimes it can happen really randomly".


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Baby William's speedy arrival meant that for the first ten days when her baby was in ICU at Sydney Children's Hospital, Emma was at the hospital for 12 -15 hours a day. "You think being there with your baby might help," she says, adding that she wanted her little one to be able to smell her and to know she was nearby, even though she couldn't hold him. 

Emma also recalls expressing every three to four hours for a month, something she says we simply don't talk about. "People said, 'well at least you don't have to get up overnight to feed.' But it's actually worse because you have to get up to express and your baby isn't there."

Nine months later, she still hears the beeping of the machines in the NICU. "You learn the tones of the machines," she says. "It does haunt you a bit." Emma recalls telling her husband that she didn't know if she could go back to the same hospital if they have another baby. "But I've softened now," she says. "The likelihood of having another premmie is high.  If it happens again for baby number two, if we're lucky to have another, at least you're prepared. Hopefully it's not as scary and unnerving."


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Emma also quickly realised that the physical and emotional challenges of having a premmie baby was something only those who've been through the same thing can really understand. Fortunately, she was able to turn to her aunt and uncle, who welcomed premmie triplets 18 years ago at 27 weeks for advice and reassurance. "They were unreal to us," she says. "They just got it."

Emma says that those going through something similar should find others who have been there, too. "Reach out to people. Be open and honest about the experience because it's not talked about alot." And while the Fox Sports presenter admits there are parents in "far worse positions than what we've been in' she says having a premmie baby is very confronting. "Don't just think it's nothing. It's like having your first baby but adding 20 other different complications you didn't think you'd have to endure."


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Having returned to work and settled into a new routine, Emma is relishing being a mama. As we talk, her baby chatters away in the background, crawls around, eats leaves and chases after her dog. "He's a mini Charlie," she says, but "he's determined like me." And while the self-confessed "homebody" shares glimpses of her life on social media, she looks to those who keep it real, like Em Rusciano, Phoebe Burgess and Emma Hawkins. It's one tactic the mum has used to avoid succumbing to the pressure that 67 per cent of Aussie mums reported in the Big W Census- to live "instaworthy" lives.

"Most of them are really real about the highs and lows and shit storms in between," she says. "And I think that's great."

For Emma though, the only pressure she feels is to "do the best by Will" as he develops into a cheeky, active boy.

"We watch him and everyday we're like 'Woah! How did you learn to do that buddy!' I really enjoy that," she says.


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You can find Big W's Bub and Me catalogue here.