Jud Arthur's birth story

Jud Arthur has an interesting combination of talents. He played professional rugby in Italy and in his homeland of New Zealand, played state level basketball and represented New Zealand in show jumping. Whilst recuperating from the knee injury that ended his sporting career, Jud rekindled his passion for singing and in particular, opera. After some amateur musical society roles and without any formal training, Jud won the lead role of Angelotti in a New Zealand Opera production of Tosca. He is now one of Australia’s leading bass-baritones, working for Opera Australia and other professional opera companies here and across the Tasman, performing in productions such as Madame Butterfly, Aida, La Boheme, The Mikado, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Miserables and Carmen. Jud has worked as a fashion model and a butcher and has competed in bodybuilding competitions. He is also a qualified horse farrier, shoeing horses between opera performances. Together with his wife Nicky, an author and a yoga and meditation instructor, Jud has two young daughters, Lucia and Millijana. According to Jud, his girls have brought out his softer side.

Nicky and I met at the rugby. We were married about ten months after we first met and competed in pairs competitions in bodybuilding. I was ready to settle down when I met Nicky. Three years later, we had Lucia.

When Lucia was born I was performing in Wellington. Nicky and I had planned for a natural birth and had done a lot of preparation together with meditation, relaxation and visualisations. Nicky had some tapes that we worked through. She programmed her body to handle the pain and I was able to use those techniques to talk her through and keep her calm with deep breathing exercises and visualisations. We practised this during the pregnancy.

It’s hard for a guy to really feel like he’s doing much that’s useful during the labour. I think that just being there is supportive. I would have done anything to make sure I didn’t miss the birth.

Nicky was so calm and brave. She was fantastic. I had confidence in her that she could handle it. I knew she’d be able to do it. She’s a very positive person with a lot of determination.

It was one of the best experiences of my life seeing that wee head crowning and coming out. It was just amazing. It was exhilarating and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face! I was on cloud nine and was going around saying, ‘I’ve just had a baby! A beautiful baby girl!’

Lucia was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. We didn’t know whether we were having a boy or a girl and it was a wonderful surprise, although I didn’t even think to look for her gender in the moments after she was born. This beautiful baby had arrived and I was just so taken with that. It wasn’t until the midwife said, ‘You have a beautiful baby girl,’ that I thought, ‘Oh, wow!’

Lucia’s birth was only about seven hours long. It was so straightforward and Nicky did such a great job. After the birth I went across the road to the deli and bought her salmon sandwiches, soft cheeses and some of the other things that she hadn’t been allowed to eat while she was pregnant. She wolfed it down!

We took life with a newborn in our stride, I think. Nicky’s mum came up for the first week to help out and give Nic some emotional support. Nic is a very capable woman. She thinks that being a mother doesn’t come naturally to her, but I think she’s a great mother. Only a few weeks later, we moved to Australia.

Three years after Lucia was born we had Millijana. Hers was a different story. We had just bought our house in Sydney and I had signed on to perform a season of The Magic Flute for Opera Australia in Melbourne. We decided to induce the labour so that we could have Millijana two weeks before her due date and then pack up and move down to Melbourne in time for the season to start. 

I was flying backwards and forwards, performing in Melbourne and coming back to Sydney to look after my horse-shoeing clients in the weeks before the birth. Moving house on top of having a baby was pretty stressful. Nicky handled things well, but this was a challenging time.

Nicky’s body wasn’t ready for the labour and Millijana wasn’t ready to be born either. The baby was distressed but Nic wasn’t dilating. About four hours after the induction, the doctor said we should have a Caesarean. We felt like he knew what he was doing. 

I had a good look at what was going on during the surgery. I grew up on a farm and I’ve worked in the chain as a butcher, so blood and guts don’t bother me, but this was my wife and baby so it was quite overwhelming. It was almost like an out of body experience.

God help us if men had to go through childbirth.

Nic recovered fantastically from the Caesarean. A lot of women struggle but Nic is very fit. She’s an unstoppable force! Two weeks later she was back into it and we made the move to Melbourne a couple of weeks after that.

 

That is one thing I would do differently. We should have told the opera company that I would be late and then let Nicky give birth in her own time.

 

Having children has added a lot of depth and meaning to my life. I’m responsible for these children for life and that’s a big deal. It has changed my outlook. Being a father has also helped me characterise fathers a lot better in my opera roles!

 

I went into fatherhood thinking I would have a hard-line approach to discipline: that I would be able to lay down the law and that the kids would obey. It doesn’t work like that. You have to be good at listening to your kids. They love it when you listen to them, even from a very young age. I didn’t do that early on and it used to frustrate the hell out of Lucia. I could have been a bit softer.

 

I didn’t have a father, it was just me and my mum growing up. I was a spoilt little bugger and I had to get over that, but I didn’t want my kids to be spoilt like I was. Without a father figure, I didn’t have a role model for how a father should behave. I just had to think on my feet and learn as I went. I just had to be me: soft but firm. They’re both very loving wee girls and we’re very blessed.

Copyright Lucy Bloom. This story first appeared in Cheers to Childbirth, the first edition. Pure Publishing 2010.

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