When Carolyn Keep (née Taylor) looks at her baby bump, she does so with awe and gratitude. The baby boy she's carrying is very much wanted – but he was in no way expected.
The pregnancy was a 40th birthday surprise beyond the TV presenter's wildest dreams because four years ago, she was told she was infertile.
"I couldn't get pregnant naturally and I didn't have enough eggs of my own to get pregnant by IVF, so my sister donated her eggs and we were lucky to get four little embryos, which we planned to use early next year – then this little guy jumped the gun!" Carolyn says, still visibly surprised by the news.
And the baby has come at just the right time in her four-year marriage to 40-year-old Wes Keep, a specialist in robotic surgery.
"Our marriage hasn't been a straight line," she explains candidly. "Wes and I actually separated for a while last year, to work out what we wanted from life. We are both romantic people and we got married early on in our relationship, then when the real stuff hit the fan, like finding out we couldn't have children, it could have gone either way."
This year, they chose to give it another go and the now-happy couple see this baby as confirmation they've made the right decision.
"It really is a choice some days to stay in that team of marriage and I'm so glad we chose to jump back in," Carolyn smiles. "Wes is amazing and I consider myself incredibly lucky. This news has really solidified that things are on the right track and I'm feeling very grateful. I reckon little mate decided, 'Right, you guys are going to be OK, so I'm ready to jump on board now and be a part of this family!'"
When the former What Now presenter and Dancing With The Stars darling took the pregnancy test on her 40th birthday, she and Wes thought it must be a mistake.
"I walked into the lounge and showed Wes the test, and he said, 'How old is that? It's probably just a faulty stick,' and I said, 'Yeah, of course!' So we bought more and had four positives in a row! We were just sitting on the couch in absolute shock. We didn't want to let ourselves get excited because we were like, 'Surely not!'"
Carolyn can't be certain why she was able to conceive against the odds, but she says lockdown may have had something to do with it.
"The IVF places are saying that lots of people have become pregnant naturally this year. I think there must be something in that lockdown level-off. Wes and I were both working from home, and it was a blessing to have that routine – to get your job done and then have no social demands on you outside of work. I actually loved it."
The Auckland-based MC and style influencer (check her out on Instagram: @carolyntaylor_) now realises how much stress her infertility diagnosis caused her.
She explains, "I didn't realise I was struggling with it as much as I was. I felt I'd had a role stripped away from me, and it made me really upset and resentful. I was 36 at the time and it came as such a shock because we were in those early days as newlyweds where everything was just awesome. A baby was the natural next step."
Now halfway through her pregnancy, with all the signs of a healthy baby boy on the way, Carolyn – who does communications and marketing for the Parnell Business Association – has let herself relax and look forward to becoming a mum.
"That first three months were nerve wracking, as they are for everyone. We were managing the fear that something could go wrong with letting ourselves get really ecstatic."
The couple kept the news in the family until they reached the 12-week mark, but the joy it brought to their immediate family was enough to keep them going until they could share the news with friends.
They didn't have to wait long to tell Carolyn's dad Robert, who was in their lockdown bubble. He and husband Jason Thompson live just across the street, and have been helping with the renovation of Carolyn and Wes' home.
"We called Dad and Jason, and said, 'We've just got something to run past you about the garage,' then we set the scans up on the computer. Jason said, 'What are we looking at?' and I replied, 'That's in my tummy – it's a baby!' Dad just cried."
Carolyn's pregnancy journey has been a family affair. When her younger sister Joanna, a Wellington-based musician, heard Carolyn needed help, she immediately offered to donate her eggs, telling her big sis, "It's not something I'd consider not doing – I know you've always wanted kids."
Tearing up at the memory, Carolyn says, "I'm so grateful for what she went through for me. I get quite emotional even talking about it."
IVF remains an option for Carolyn and Wes should they want more children. "The beauty of the situation is we can choose. Even if this is a miraculous conception, we still have our little embryos. Joanna doesn't want kids and it was always going to be a very special way for both daughters to play a part in providing a grandchild for our family."
When she reflects on 2020, Carolyn says it's been the year of family. As well as their surprise baby news, the couple have renovated their Waterview home and celebrated the wedding of Carolyn's beloved father Robert to Jason, his partner of 16 years, at Auckland's Castaway Resort.
"There were so many people who I didn't know," says Carolyn. "It was so weird to be reminded that your parents have a life outside of you. He's so popular – Castaway said it was the biggest wedding that they'd ever hosted!"
Carolyn, who is presenting a travel show to be released on Choice TV next year, was born in Waterview. Having a baby there feels like coming full circle. "My grandfather invested a lot in the area and so we still have lots of family bouncing around the suburb in houses that have been passed down in my family."
The renovation on her home, owned by Robert, is almost complete. "Inside is done and then outside will be another project altogether. Wes is such a handyman – the money we've saved from him being able to do work on this house is phenomenal."
The baby room is still being used as storage, a characteristically relaxed decision by the pair. "We're very excited, but we're proud that we haven't fussed. We've decided to do everything either borrowed or secondhand for the baby. The baby doesn't care how much money his pram costs, and as long as it is functional and safe, we're happy. We've started a stockpile of stuff from family and friends, so in the new year, we'll know what we need to still get."
There was no lavish gender-reveal party, but Carolyn says the news the baby is a boy is grand in itself.
"Now I'm surrounded by wonderful men! Wes is going to be such a great dad – he's a legend. Now we just have to not kill each other while we are trying to raise a baby," she jokes.
"Seriously, though, I'm very grateful for how things have landed – 2020's been so hard for so many people and it's been a massive year of change, but I've been in the blessed position of surprising, happy change."
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