Charlotte Rietveld survives a Plunket visit and searches for a cure for iron disease.

We are now a family of five. Edward Laurence Rietveld eventually joined us in early August, 11 days overdue, weighing in at a commendable 9lb 8oz. While there’s little we sheilas like more than a lengthy labour story, I’ll spare you fellas the details. Needless to say, I am lucky not to find myself in the cull mob with an extra tag in my ear – assisted delivery and maternal age damning the draft despite a highly mitigating condition score. In sharp contrast to Number 2 child’s snowstorm home-birth, after almost two days in labour it was off to hospital for Number 3, where I could be heard telling anyone who would listen that I wanted drugs and a c-section

Despite the discomfort, with local body elections looming I felt it my civic duty to test our health system for any signs of corruption. One minute into meeting my new bff, Joel the anaesthetist, I gave him repeated promises that regardless of gender I would name the baby after him in exchange for the c-section and drug-deal. Let me assure you of free and fair elections; I was granted only the drugs. I felt it fair to reward Joel with just the E vowel.

Since then we’ve been excused from scanning and shearing for the not-so-quiet life of settling in with three children under four. Carnage has reigned, with a two and three year old alternating between running riot and ‘helping’ Mum. Last week, having hastily left the groceries at the front door to sit down for a Plunket visit, Lucy and Ralph decided to pitch in. No sooner had the Plunket nurse asked the customary “And you’re eating well and drinking plenty?” than they entered, proudly brandishing items from said groceries. Round one set the mortifying standard – Lucy carrying an excellent combination of sauvignon and chocolate biscuits, while Ralph had made a vaguely more discerning selection of tonic and Pringles. The parade continued in abysmal standard with barely a carrot in sight, while Plunket notes were furiously scribbled. These recordings were accompanied by occasional sighs (surely attributable to the beautiful baby?), leaving me expecting an uplift from social services ever since.

It’s fair to say the daily liveweight gain has been progressing well. The two older children spent months in the store pens but Big Ted, as he is affectionately known, looks set for a direct draft to the fats. As Plunket notes will attest, he’s clearly been on an outstanding pasture mix.

So focused have I been on growth rates that I failed to notice my husband had got distracted. Iron disease was once again whispering sweet nothings and sure enough, he had found a new love. I have always considered it fortunate that ‘love’, according to Vince, invokes large amounts of bodywork, rusting with age and all in need of a touch-up. But ever since this particular new love has arrived, dubiously presented as a ‘family wagon’ for me, I am less sure. Running the risk of alluring trade-ins is starting to look less dangerous than having a husband with an eye for out-of-condition older models. Rest assured I can hold my own. Normally disinterested in such attractions, I have decided a second son is deserving of a visit to a lovely man, Mr M Hill. I’m told he’s always keen to meet the ladies, even rough rural ones. Anyone waving a wayward husband’s credit card is welcome.

With the rural way of life increasingly under a scalding spotlight, it’s hard to imagine what sort of future awaits Edward. While I am convinced the agricultural sector will fight it out to rise again, stronger and more efficient from this latest set of regulations, it’s tempting to encourage him towards other occupations. I believe jewelers and anaesthetists do all right with the ladies.