Nine-month-old Soren Huia Utting-Moa might just be the happiest baby on the planet. His blue eyes sparkle on our photo shoot and he pokes his tongue out, giggling uncontrollably.
His mum, former Campbell Live reporter Natasha Utting, sighs. “He’s so happy that he had to have three sets of passport pictures taken before we got a non-smiley one. We had to go to three different chemists! We tried and tried, but nothing would stop him smiling.”
Taming Soren’s strawberry-blond mane as she sets the tot, who was conceived via a sperm donor, down before his favourite Baby Einstein play frame, Natasha, 39, can’t help grinning either.
“Two years ago, I could never have imagined being this happy – and now I’m sat here with the two loves of my life,” tells the producer of TV3’s current-affairs show 3D.
The other love is award-winning musician Anika Moa, who shares custody of her three-year-old twin boys Barry and Taane with her ex-wife, circus performer Azaria Universe. Theirs is a happy “blended rainbow” family, but the singer says it wasn’t all plain sailing when they came together.
In the deep
“The first few days were hard,” confesses Anika, 35. “We all just moved in and I just said to the boys, ‘This is Natasha. She is Mama’s girlfriend and ... here we go!’ It was totally daunting introducing a new parent figure from zero to hero.
“Barry has quite a jealous streak. He doesn’t like sharing, plus it’s hard enough with their parents not being together. They struggled with having another person telling them what to do.”
Nearly nine months on, though, Anika smiles, “It’s all going really well. I’m Brad Pitt and Natasha’s Angelina.”
The turning point came a few months ago when Taane, who suffers from asthma, was in Auckland’s Starship hospital for three days, leaving Natasha and Barry to bond.
“Natasha’s a really good step-parent to the boys and they love her,” says Anika proudly as she coos to her musical son, who’s now wiggling along to tunes from Anika’s baby album Songs for Bubbas. “He takes after Mama,” she grins.
The smitten songbird – who recently released a critically acclaimed fifth studio album, Queen at the Table – was by Natasha’s side when he was born on October 5, 2014.
“He gave a big, healthy cry and I cut the cord,” says Anika.
“I didn’t get to do that with Barry and Taane because there was too much going on. It felt awesome. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. I filmed the whole thing and took photos throughout. It was absolutely filthy and disgusting but amazing at the same time. We’ve watched it together – it’s our dirty movie!”
Named after Natasha’s Danish great-great-great-grandfather, Soren’s nicknames are So-So, Soz and Fatty. Laughing, Anika wonders, “Will he get a complex if we keep calling him Fatty?”
“He weighed 3.5kg, bang on 50th percentile when he was born,” says Natasha. “He was such a little, little baby and now look how giant he is! He weighs well over 10kg. He’s now in the 99th percentile. The doctors call him the baby that grows like a mushroom."
The couple had both ended long-term relationships when they met through mutual friends at a Beyoncé concert last year. “You didn’t say a single word to me that night,” recalls Anika.
“I was too awestruck,” Natasha confesses. “I had the biggest crush on you.”
But the path to true love didn’t run smoothly. They had a couple of fun dates, but while Natasha was “instantly smitten”, newly single Anika wasn’t ready to settle down.
“I was dating lots of women,” the singer laughs. “I was hurting. I was trying to heal by sowing my wild oats.”
When Anika moved from Auckland back to her hometown of Christchurch, the pair were hundreds of kilometres away. But although physically further apart, they grew closer over the phone, with Natasha confiding in Anika about her fast-fading dreams of motherhood.
Natasha remembers, “The doctors said my fertility results were that of a 41-year-old, so they said, ‘You’ve got one year left.’ I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to have to do it by myself.’ It was scary, but fortune favours the brave. If you don’t take a risk, you’ll never know how incredible things might be.”
She wanted the donor to be someone who would be known to the child and, after a couple of false starts with potential candidates, a 23-year-old gay friend agreed.
“We just clicked,” Natasha says. “I knew it was him. He’s very good-looking, very bright, athletic and really kind. He just fit the bill. I thought, ‘Why would he do it for me? He doesn’t know me very well. There’s nothing in it for him.’ But he said yes immediately. He’s a very political feminist and he fundamentally believes that these kinds of families should be enabled.”
Gift of life
After a few months of talking it through, they gave the process a try. “I sat in my car outside his house,” recalls Natasha. “It was nerve-wracking! He came out with a pottle and off I went. I thought, ‘This self- insemination will never work in a million years!’
“I had friends who tried IVF for years, so I was sceptical, but I happened to get pregnant first time – at nearly 40. I was actually on the phone to Anika with my legs against the wall the day Soren was conceived.”
It was also during the early stages of her pregnancy that she and Anika finally became a couple. “Natasha wooed me with her witty words over texts and emails,” smiles Anika. “It was a slow-burner, like my best albums.”
“We’ve kind of done things the opposite way round – or backwards!” muses Natasha. “Anika moved back to Auckland and had nowhere to live, and I was staying with friends, so we just decided to move in – sink or swim! We seem really different on the outside, but we are also really similar. I think we both love ...”
“Big breasts!” jokes Anika.
“I was going to say watching telly in bed, chilling out and being at home,” giggles Natasha. “We’ve got a similar sense of humour, and a love of food and wine.”
They both agreed on Soren’s middle name Huia. “Soren’s part Maori and the huia was a sacred Maori bird that’s now extinct. It means ‘treasure’ and he is very treasured.”
Natasha recently returned to work full-time, so Anika’s been the at-home mum. But Natasha’s sister has stepped in as a nanny as the singer’s workload has crept up.
Anika’s sense of humour has seen her front the popular online series Face-to-Face, where she interviews stars such as Stan Walker and The Bachelor NZ’s Arthur Green in her offbeat style.
She’s also just finished filming Maori TV’s Songs from the Inside, where musicians collaborate with prisoners. This series was based in her home city of Christchurch and Anika insists, “It’s the best season yet.”
Despite being a busy mum, Anika’s still got her heart set on giving birth. “There might be more to come,” she warns.
“I definitely want a baby. It’s just my luck that I met someone who was already knocked up.
“But it’s OK because I’ve got a beautiful donor lined up,” she jokes with a wicked grin.
“You might’ve heard of him – the Bachelor!”