Tim Wilson and wife Rachel’s traumatic ordeal with new baby Wilfred

Hanging glittering baubles on the Christmas tree, wrapping oodles of presents and spending precious time with loved ones. In the lead-up to December 25, Seven Sharp's Tim Wilson and his wife Rachel will be doing all of that and more with their preschool sons Roman and Felix.

But as the Auckland pair count down to Christmas, more than anything else, they're feeling thankful that their new baby Wilfred got through the first torturous months of his life in one piece – and that they did too!

From the moment they tied the knot in 2014, Tim and Rachel planned on having a big family. So in October last year, when they discovered they were expecting baby number three, they went into preparation overdrive.

It meant moving out of their bulging-at-the-seams inner-city Auckland apartment and into a four-bedroom home in the suburbs. And by the time young Wilfred Zeal Wilson came intothe world on June 29, weighing 3.26kg, the Wilsons felt like they were ready for anything. As it turned out, they weren't.

"The first two weeks he was an angel," smiles Rachel, 33, "and we were like, 'Yay, we've got a dream baby.' But then he started having trouble feeding and it got worse and worse until he virtually stopped altogether."

Meet Wilfred Zeal Wilson
Born: June 29, 2018
Weight: 3.26kg

Desperate for answers, the couple sought the advice of a lactation consultant, who diagnosed a tongue and lip tie. After a simple procedure, "we went home and had burgers in celebration", tells Tim, 53. "We thought we'd licked it. But it didn't get better – it got worse."

For weeks on end, the Wilson household was in chaos. Wilfred hardly fed or slept. All day and all night, with help from Tim when he wasn't at work, Rachel held Wilfred in her arms, trying to get him to take even a tiny amount of milk.

None of the medical professionals they consulted had an answer for what was wrong, and they were beside themselves with worry and tiredness. "We didn't even have time to prepare the meals we had in the freezer," recalls Rachel.

Adds Tim, "And Roman and Felix weren't getting the attention they were used to. We were in the middle of a circus."

The exhausted pair muddled through with the help of friends and family, who brought meals, and Rachel's mum Paula Schryvers flew up from Nelson to lend a much-appreciated hand.

Tim – who in addition to his weekday job on Seven Sharp rides the airwaves on Saturdays and Sundays with Tim Roxborough for their Newstalk ZB radio show The Weekend Collective – says he hardly remembers how he got through his workdays while Rachel "did the hardest job of all" at home with the kids.

And when the weeks of torment turned into months, they decided enough was enough – they took Wilfred to Starship.

In hospital, the tot was diagnosed with silent reflux, which hadn't been picked up earlier because unlike normal reflux, he wasn't vomiting. Placed on new medication, Wilfred began to feed and sleep, and at last the Wilson household returned to normal.

"We got our lives back, but it's not like we were suddenly opening champagne and dancing around the room – more like washing dishes and picking up toys," laughs Tim. "But we were happy. It was sheer relief."

Despite his ordeal, Tim says Wilfred's personality shone through. "His nature is really sunny. In Starship, they said, 'This is the happiest miserable baby we've ever seen!'"

Chatting to Woman's Day with five-month-old Wilfred gurgling contentedly on his knee, and Roman, three, and Felix, two, playing together on the sofa, Tim agrees that he and Rachel "have a lot to be grateful for" as Christmas draws near.

Wilfred's illness brought them closer than ever and their faith helped them through.

The former TVNZ New York correspondent converted to Roman Catholicism toward the end of his time in the Big Apple.

"I was supposedly having the time of my life, but in my heart, I just felt meagre," he explains.

"I had noticed a church in Spanish Harlem and thought, 'I'll just go along to mass,' and it was the answer to everything."

Back in Auckland, he met Rachel, who was raised Roman Catholic with her nine siblings, and the pair are excited about celebrating their first Christmas as a family of five with traditions old and new.

As part of teaching Roman and Felix about the Christmas story, Rachel and the boys have spent time in the kitchen making a gingerbread nativity stable complete with figurines of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. It's something she hopes they will continue to do together in years to come.

Christmas Day, meanwhile, will include going to mass and then a family feast, which, laughs Rachel, "will include salmon, champagne, pavlova and chocolate".

"There's a real sense of gratitude in getting through the year after Wolfie," says Tim. "We've been through the valley and we've come through the other side. We are so blessed."

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