Jodie Rimmer's Magnum Opus - New Zealand Woman's Weekly - 2010 (August 30)
Jodie Rimmer's Magnum Opus
Jodie Rimmer is positively beaming as she leans over her peacefully sleeping baby son Xavier and says, “Here’s my best work.”
Bringing her gorgeous wee boy into the world was probably the toughest assignment the bubbly actress has ever tackled, but it was worth it. The feeling that washed over her when she finally got to hold her child in her arms for the first time greatly surpassed any applause or acclaim she’s ever received.
“Everything else you’ve ever done just pales in comparison,” says Jodie (36), who won best supporting actress at the New Zealand Screen Awards for her role in In My Father’s Den. “Without a doubt, Xavier is my greatest achievement.”
Little Xavier is lying in his cot, deeply asleep and blissfully unaware of the drama surrounding his entrance into the world. Jodie explains how she needed an emergency Caesarean when her labour didn’t go according to plan, and says during the procedure she could still feel a lot of what was going on.
“I don’t want to say it was traumatic – a car crash is traumatic – but it was pretty intense. At one stage I was thinking, ‘How is this all going to end?’”
Fortunately it ended well but there were some scary moments during Xavier’s birth. He showed no inclination of wanting to leave the comfort of his mum’s womb, so at just over 41 weeks pregnant, Jodie and her fiancé Tim Riley went into National Women’s Hospital in Auckland so she could be induced.
“I was absolutely huge,” recalls the actress, who is a petite 1.55m tall. “I went to my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday not long before Xavier was born and when I walked in people’s jaws dropped. I could see other women thinking, ‘You poor thing’. And it was all baby – people said it would be fluid but he was 9lb 14oz (4.5kg).
“Being so little, I wasn’t coping too well. By the end I felt like I was about 80.”
Labour was successfully induced, but after 18 hours Jodie was getting nowhere fast. “I didn’t dilate past 6cm so in the end the decision was finally made to give me an emergency caesarean. By that stage it was a relief.
“But they still had trouble getting him out – he was so big and it was a tricky angle. I did get a bit panic-stricken when I heard the doctor in charge call for back-up.”
Jodie had been given an epidural but says it didn’t numb her 100%. “I could feel a lot of things I wasn’t meant to be feeling. I was going, ‘I felt that… and that’. They looked at the anaesthetist and said, ‘Can you put her under?’
“But I didn’t want a general anaesthetic – I wanted to be awake. I said, ‘I can handle this, let’s just do it.’”
Tim (45) was allowed in the theatre for the Caesarean, but Jodie’s mum Jan and sister Kristen, who’d been supporting her through much of the labour, had to wait outside with Jodie’s dad Bill.
“I’m so glad Tim was there,” says Jodie. “He was amazing throughout the whole process.”
“It was incredible watching Xavier being born,” says Tim, an entertainment lawyer who says he wanted to be a surgeon when he was growing up, so watching the Caesarean didn’t make him queasy.
Jodie will never forget the moment she first saw Xavier. “He was just so alert, with these big, wide eyes. He stared at me and I stared back. Then I sang this lullaby to him that I sang to him while he was in the womb. I’m sure he recognised it.”
Seven months on, Jodie still sings and chats constantly to Xavier. She’s a natural mum, says Tim. “I’d seen her with her nephews so I always knew she would be a great mother, but she’s amazing with him. She puts so much energy into him – lots of talking, reading and singing, and a little bit of craziness.”
Jodie’s loving her new role, and clearly adores her son. “When I come into his room and he looks at me, my heart floods,” she says. “It’s an incredible feeling.”
The first time he was away from her for more than a few minutes, she felt unexpectedly bereft. “Tim’s parents took Xavier off in his buggy for a walk and I suddenly had this strangest feeling of loss. I rang them and said, ‘How are you going? I miss him!’”
Jodie has been spending more time away from Xavier as she’s started working again, but only a few hours at a time. She was one of a rotating cast of actresses appearing in a production of The Vagina Monologues at Auckland’s Basement theatre in August and September.
“I’d been maniacally learning the monologues – I had them on my cell phone and I’d pace the streets with Xavier in his buggy, saying all the lines out loud. It must have looked pretty amusing – this woman walking a baby and talking loudly about vaginas in an American accent.”
As Jodie laughs, there’s a gentle gurgling sound from the next room. Xavier is awake, and he chatters happily to himself until his mum goes and scoops him up.
“Everybody tries to tell you how much having a baby changes your life, but nothing really prepares you for the upheaval,” says Jodie, giving her son a kiss.
“But then nothing prepares you for the incredible love you feel either. It really is the best thing.”
- Donna Fleming