On screen, TVNZ newsreader Melissa Stokes has been her usual bright-eyed self, smiling and serene as she broadcasts to the nation.
However, behind the scenes it’s a different story.
The mother of one is expecting her second child – but her current pregnancy is taking quite a toll. Not only has she suffered morning sickness and extreme fatigue, she’s also had two nasty stomach bugs, including one that landed her in hospital.
“I thought the second time around would be easier, but I’ve found this pregnancy pretty tough,” admits Melissa (35), watching as her energetic 22-month-old son Hugo zooms his toy cars around the kitchen floor by her feet.
“I knew this time I would probably be more tired, because I’ve got a toddler to look after, but I have felt jet-lagged.”
Then there was the morning sickness. In the first three months, other than going to work to front TV One bulletins, Melissa says she didn’t leave the house, “except to go to McDonald’s drive-thru”.
Ever philosophical, the six-and-a-half months pregnant Melissa is well aware her symptoms are part and parcel of pregnancy – and she’s adjusted her priorities accordingly.
“You have to get through it all as best you can. My home is a mess and I’m always behind with things, but that’s just what happens. And I know that other people have things a whole lot worse than me.”
What she didn’t expect was ending up severely ill not once, but twice, thanks to stomach bugs. “Hugo had one and I thought I had managed to escape it, but I was at work one day when I suddenly felt extremely ill and had to go home. My husband [TVNZ cameraman Dave Pierce] was away in the UK, but I’m lucky to have my mum and dad close by and they were able to help out.
“I couldn’t keep anything down and ended up in hospital on a drip for 24 hours because I was dehydrated. It was not very nice, but at least there was no real concern for the baby,” says Melissa, who was 16 weeks pregnant at the time.
Then, just a few weeks ago, she was in San Francisco with a group of girlfriends for a good pal’s wedding, when another tummy bug struck.
“I had to leave the hen’s night, and the doctor who came to the hotel ended up putting me on a drip again, due to mild dehydration.”
But Melissa, who now says she’s feeling great, was able to attend the wedding. While she was in San Francisco, the final race of the America’s Cup was held, and she says it felt strange being in the same city as the event, but not a part of the TV coverage. She was previously in Valencia to report on our last attempt to take the Cup in 2007.
“I would have loved to have been involved, but things are different now,” says Melissa.
The former Europe correspondent says she will always be a news junkie, and misses chasing the big stories. But now she’s a mum, part-time presenting is a better fit. “Live TV still gives you that adrenaline rush, and I just feel so fortunate that I can do that and still spend a lot of time with Hugo.”
He’s a lively little boy who is fascinated by trucks and cars and keen to play outside as much as he can.
“As well as being boisterous, Hugo is also really sweet and gives me kisses and cuddles constantly, which always makes my day.”
“He’s at the age now where he is really becoming a little person in his own right, and it’s so fascinating watching how he develops.”
Dave and Melissa (37) have talked to Hugo about the new baby, but they’re not sure if he understands what’s about to happen. “He is in for a shock when the baby arrives – his world is going to change a lot.
“I did feel a little sad for Hugo when I learned I was pregnant, because he is still so little and not going to have all of our attention any more. But hopefully he and the baby will be close, and I think it is going to be double the fun for us.”
Melissa has resisted the temptation to find out the sex of the baby.
“I would love a little girl, but I also think it would be lovely to have a boy who will be close in age to Hugo. But I’m just going to have to wait and see!”
Pictures: Caren Davis • Makeup: Krisztina MoriCZ • Styling: Claudia Renford • Melissa wears repertoire dress and necklace, ezibuy shoes. Hugo wears pumpkin patch shirt and cotton on kids jeans.