With a peach fuzz of hair, big blue eyes and a mouth just like his mum’s, he’s undoubtedly the best birthday gift Simmone Jade Mackinnon has ever been given.
The former McLeod’s Daughters star is besotted with her beautiful baby Madigan James Mackinnon, who made a dramatic entrance on the very same day she was born – March 19.
‘The hospital told me they’d never had another baby arrive on his mother’s birthday, induced or not,’ laughs Simmone, who frankly admits she wasn’t so sure it was a good idea at first. Now, however, the proud new mum says happily: ‘I think it’s really special. He’s another Piscean, a little fishy like me…
‘A couple of friends sang Happy Birthday to both of us on the day, which was kind of cute, just as long as they don’t forget me over the next few years!
‘The most precious thing in the world is that first handmade birthday present from your child. That’s the only reason I’m being selfish, I want those gifts too. I guess in years to come it’s up to my family to tell him it’s important that Mummy gets a card as well.’
Glowing with joy as Madigan – already nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ – snuggles in her arms at home on NSW’s tropical north coast, Simmone confesses she’d been ‘clucky forever’ before unexpectedly falling pregnant at the age of 36.
Although she and the baby’s father were no longer together, there was never the slightest doubt that she would keep the child and raise it by herself, with loving support from both families.
But the 2009 Gold and Silver Logie nominee, who became a household name as McLeod’s free-spirited Stevie Hall, didn’t realise quite how soon her life would be turned ‘topsy-turvy’ by a potentially dangerous medical condition.
‘I went from gloating about my wonderful pregnancy to suddenly discovering that I’d developed gestational diabetes at around 30 weeks,’ she says, her expressive face still reflecting the shock she felt.
‘I went in for the tests thinking I’d be fine – although I was that bit older, my diet was good, I was fit and I certainly wasn’t overweight – but I failed miserably.
‘It really put the fear in me but it shouldn’t have. Diabetes is quite easy to cope with, I know that now. But I was so worried I was damaging my baby, it was a really horrible time.
‘I was very distressed for the last couple of months, just not knowing what my body was doing to this little person inside me…’
At first former dancer Simmone tried to control her condition through diet, but eventually had to inject herself with ever-increasing doses of insulin morning and night.
‘And seriously, I ended up checking my blood levels about six times a day, because I was so panicked.’
She needn’t have worried. When her tiny boy was eventually induced to arrive at the ‘fantastic’ Coffs Harbour Base Hospital, he was fighting fit – 52cm long and weighing 3.8kg – following a ‘freight train’ two-hour labour.
‘It all happened so fast,’ smiles Simmone, who delivered her precious bundle in the bath at 9.55am, with the baby’s father and other family members around her.
‘I had a cute little Victoria’s Secret pantsuit that I thought I could wear down to the birthing suite and a cute little Victoria’s Secret bikini in the event of
a water birth…
‘What was I thinking? A bikini of all things, and a Victoria’s Secret one at that! Silly, just silly! I never had time to get changed and by the end I was naked, I just didn’t care.’
The pain, Simmone recalls, was excruciating.
‘It was so instant and so full-on. It was such a shock to be slammed with it from nothing. There’s no book that can describe it.
‘And the sounds that came out of me! Honestly, I don’t know how those Scientologists manage silent birth! There was no way on earth I could not have made a noise. Nature takes over and you just do what you have to.
‘Once I got in the bath it was lovely. It didn’t take away the pain but it definitely helped. I had happy gas as well, and I sucked on that like there was no tomorrow. That’s probably why I told the midwife: “I love you, Julie!”
‘It was extraordinary. I just loved the whole business. It’s like life has just begun for me and I appreciate it so much more. It just was a beautiful moment in time, with both families there to welcome Madigan into the world.’
From the start Simmone was convinced she would have a boy, and picked out names accordingly.
‘I did a bit of research on the net. You certainly don’t want to be calling your baby “dog doo doo” in Swahili; a name that’s going to come back and haunt them.
‘But I really liked Madigan,’ explains the 37-year-old self-styled gypsy. ‘It’s an Irish surname, but years ago there was also a movie called Willow, in which Val Kilmer played Madmartigan, which inspired me. He was great in it, and I just thought Madigan Mackinnon sounded really cool.
‘And then James is his middle name, which is also his father’s surname, so that works both ways. It’s beautiful.’
The little guy has ‘his daddy’s dimpled chin’ in addition to Simmone’s mouth and head shape. And somewhat to his mother’s regret, he seems to have inherited her personality.
‘Oooooh, he could have my temper, I believe,’ she chuckles, stressing that she simply couldn’t cope without the help of her parents Annette and Ian, younger sister Kym and eight-year-old niece Rayne, who live close by.
‘You wouldn’t call Madigan chilled right now. He’s not one of those babies you can put down and walk away from. He cries and he gets mad. He’s had a couple
of four-day benders, when there’s nothing I can do except cuddle him and walk with him and you don’t sleep and it’s hard, like a torture chamber.
‘But then he smiles. It makes it all worthwhile,’ says Simmone, who returns to TV to co-host the Nine Network’s Random Acts of Kindness later this year.
‘I thought becoming a mother was going to be something easy, like caring for puppies! I’d have this little thing and give it lots of love and it would give me lots of love. I had no idea how difficult it would be – but I wouldn’t change it in a heartbeat.’
By: Jenny Brown
Photos: Nigel Wright