In January, we hear from hundreds of guests about their special family Christmas break at Center Parcs – it’s a pretty great way to come back to work. But this year one story was quite unlike the rest. Ten days after the birth of their first baby, we caught up with new dad Rory Smith to see how he, Mum and Baby were getting on after their very eventful Christmas break. We can report that they are “really tired but very, very happy.”
Here’s their incredible story…
“My family have been coming to Center Parcs Longleat Forest every Christmas since 1994 (apart from 2007 when we were in Australia). Each year we book it well in advance. There’s me and my wife, Helen, my parents, Jill and Richard, my brothers, Rupert and Theo, and this year Helen’s mum, Kathy, came too. And of course, our King Charles spaniel, Lottie.
We all squeeze in together so it’s a very merry but quite manic Christmas!
For 2015, we were due to arrive on 23rd December and stay until 30th, for our 21st family Christmas in the forest. We found out Helen was pregnant in the spring of 2015, and that our due date was 18th December. Rather than cancel our break, we decided to wait and see what happened.
So we prepared like most slightly nervous first-time expectant parents do. Everything was planned for Helen to give birth at our local hospital in Kent.
Then 18th December came and went. Baby Smith was running late. The next couple of days went the same way with no sign of baby arriving. Meanwhile our family break was getting closer.
We talked it over and thought, “We know this place so well and we really don’t want to miss our break if we can help it. We’ve been every year; it’s like a home away from home. Let’s at least ring them and talk it through to see if it’s sensible – or even possible – for us still to go.”
On 20th December we called Longleat Forest and spoke to Kate in the Medical Centre. She was fantastic – so supportive and informative, she reassured us that they could make arrangements if the baby came during our break.
Off to Center Parcs
So on the morning of 23rd December we packed up the car with everything Helen and I would need for a week at Center Parcs. Then we added everything we needed to have a baby – a pram, clothes, toys – we pretty much packed the whole nursery in there.
The journey from our home in Kent to Longleat Forest was tense. It took three and a half hours to get there and Helen could have gone into labour at any time. But once we arrived, the stress melted away.
We went straight to the Medical Centre to meet Kate, who had a packet of information ready for us with the details of Salisbury hospital and the best way to get there. She also gave us what I called our ‘bat phone’ – an emergency phone that would work on low signal and had the number for Security on speed dial. She said, “If anything happens, call the hospital straight away then dial ‘1’ – the team will be right there to get you out of the Village.”
That really put us as ease and we went about our break as normal. Well, as normal as possible when one of you is 40 weeks pregnant… It wasn’t quite High Ropes Challenge and riding the Rapids! We went on lots of long walks around the lake and through the trails. We’ve been coming for 20 years so we don’t tend to do lots of activities anyway, our breaks are more about scenic walks and great meals out and being together.
The big day
Christmas morning arrived and we had our traditional family Christmas breakfast, opened presents and went for a walk. Lunch was around 3pm, and that’s when it finally happened. Helen went into labour.
I rang the hospital and hit speed dial on the bat phone. Security were at our door in two minutes. They were great – efficiently loaded up the car and reassured us that we were in safe hands. Though I think the sight of my very heavily pregnant wife in early labour holding a bucket was a bit more than they’re used to…
They whisked us off the Village to our own car and we drove to hospital. Ten hours later, at 3.15am on Boxing day, Baby Reuben arrived. While Helen rested, I spent the day and night making trips between the hospital and the Village, ferrying family (who had been anxiously waiting back in the Lodge) over for a visit. The next day, Helen, Baby Reuben and I returned to the Village for the rest of our break. More leisurely walks through the forest – this time, pushing a pram.
We couldn’t be happier that Reuben was born during our Center Parcs break. It feels like the perfect way to bring a new generation into our family Christmas tradition.
My siblings and I grew up coming to Center Parcs, and now my baby son will too. Plus, he’ll have his birthday there every year. We’ll have to come up with some special new traditions for that!
We’ve already booked our Christmas 2016 break at Longleat Forest. With an almost-one-year-old in tow, I expect it will be even busier and crazier than usual. Although this year, Helen and Baby Reuben and I have our own little Lodge for three.”
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