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Shorty star Kerry-Lee introduces her darling daughter

The actress and her fiancé Jono introduce the gorgeous little girl who’s brought them closer
Pictures: Phillip Castleton

Boy or girl? It’s the question on so many new mums’ lips when they welcome a child, but former Shortland Street star Kerry-Lee Dewing and her fiancé Jono Bayer were so spellbound by bringing daughter Andie Lee Bayer into the world that the baby’s sex didn’t cross their minds!

When their gorgeous daughter, weighing three kilos, was handed to the Australian-based actress, she was simply besotted by the little cutie.

“We forgot to ask the gender,” laughs Kerry-Lee, speaking to Woman’s Day from Sydney after putting Andie, now seven months, down for a nap. “It’s such a surreal moment that we were just speechless, overcome with emotion and so captivated by finally seeing, in the flesh, this perfect tiny human we’d been fantasising about. Then they said, ‘Do you want to know what you had?’ and we were like, ‘Oh, yeah, yes please!’

It’s a darling daughter for Kerry-Lee and Jono – although the overjoyed parents initally forgot to ask!

“We were gobsmacked when they said she was a girl. We were convinced it was a boy, but I always thought Jono would make a great girl dad.”

Kerry-Lee, who turns 35 this week, adds that the couple would have been thrilled either way. She was simply grateful to have a healthy bubba. She’s also thankful to have had a smooth pregnancy and speedy three-hour labour.

Erring on the side of caution, the South African-born star, who portrayed Shorty nurse-turned-serial killer Kylie Brown for eight years before moving to Australia in 2020, opted for induction after a 40-week scan revealed that Andie’s stomach growth had suddenly slowed, indicating a potential placenta issue.

“She probably would have been fine, but you never know for sure and there’s no benefit in risking it at that stage, so hearing the placenta, her nutrient source, may not have been functioning as well as it previously was, we decided to get the ball rolling,” recalls the actress, who also works as a commercial leasing agent. “I’d reached full-term, so we wanted to be safe and get the baby out.”

Kerry-Lee gave birth using gas for pain in the final stages. “I was in agony and could have put my hand up for relief sooner. But, my midwife was tied up elsewhere for over an hour, so I had no idea how far along I was. I’m always holding off taking Panadol because I’m like, ‘It could get worse,’ so it was that mentality. Then the midwife came back and said, ‘You’re nine centimetres!’”

Candles, snake lollies, Jono’s playlist and controlled breathing helped a laser-focused Kerry-Lee through the pain. The same pain that promptly turned to ecstasy as she cuddled Andie. It’s a joyous moment she still struggles to articulate.

“I dug deeper than I’ve ever dug before,” she remembers. “I had a job to do and I was determined to do it. Then they hold up this tiny, wriggly life and how can I ever describe it? It brings me to tears just reliving it now. I don’t think I’ve felt that way before. They popped her on my chest and I was in shock. I was so present, but also pulling myself down from the huge adrenaline high.”

Parents Kerry-Lee and Jono with Andie Lee

Bringing Andie home, the family was out and about from the start. However, Kerry-Lee felt an intense and often-stifling new sense of motherly protectiveness. In week one, the star experienced heightened emotions and senses while taking Andie for walks in the park or to the Westfield Bondi Junction mall near their house.

She recalls, “It felt like cars were driving too fast and horns were blasting too loudly. Eventually, I went, ‘I need to get home to safety.’ There was this internal pull where I just wanted to be in my cave, nurturing and protecting my child.”

Sadly, Kerry-Lee’s fears weren’t completely unfounded – the same Sydney shopping centre was the site of the fatal Bondi stabbings last month. She tells, “Whether it’s needing to get out of the house with your baby on a rainy day or run unnecessary errands, the mall feels like a safe place, so the stabbing was devastating.”

As she continues adjusting to motherhood, Kerry-Lee – who moved to Australia to explore new opportunities and challenge herself after Shorty – says it’s been tough not having family support, especially when assets manager Jono is at work. The early days could be overwhelming as she grappled with hormones still running rampant while navigating parenting for the first time amid a wave of unsolicited advice.

Kerry-Lee and co-star Ben Mitchell acting as Kylie and TK on Shortland Street
Clever Mum! As Shorty’s Kylie with TK (Ben Mitchell).

“It definitely gets easier,” says Kerry-Lee. “She’s crawling now – fast! – and I’m more confident in her. But it’s hard not having the people who have an implicit love for my baby, like my besotted mum, nearby to hand her to.

“I don’t think enough people are open about what a roller-coaster becoming a mum is. I absolutely adore being a mother, but it’s crazy how I thought I was at capacity before, with all life’s supposed stresses and time pressures.

“Then I had a child and suddenly realised how self-serving all that was. I found that extra bandwidth I didn’t realise I had. Amid the evening routine, Jono and I were wondering last night, ‘What did we do with ourselves before we were consumed with giving the best to this little human every waking moment?’”

Mum holding a beautifully dressed in pink Andie Lee

Kerry-Lee describes 37-year-old Jono as a dedicated, supportive and gentle dad. Becoming parents has further bonded the pair, who met through their mums in 2018.

“We’ve got this incredible little project together,” smiles Kerry-Lee. “She’s given our relationship a different dimension. Jono’s so much more than my other half now. It’s so beautiful when he gets home from work – Andie hears Dad’s voice and gets the biggest smile. Then he gets all the laughs. She’s probably over me by the end of the day!”

For seven-month-old Andie, laughing, big chats, crawling and climbing are all part of the fun. Kerry-Lee giggles as she recalls a recent baby sensory class where most of the other little ones were quietly observing their surroundings. while Andie raced around on all fours trying to get her hands on her Kiwi buzzy-bee toy.

“I have my work cut out for me!” laughs the actress, adding that while she loves Sydney’s parks, beaches and public transport, her New Zealand ties remain strong, especially after the family spent seven weeks in Aotearoa over summer.

Parents Kerry-Lee and Jono with Andie Lee
An audience with Andie! “We’ve got this incredible little project together,” says Kerry-Lee.

Andie bonded with loved ones, had her first Christmas, road-tripped around NZ, did plenty of swimming and had a playdate with Isla – daughter of Kerry-Lee’s Shorty co-star Rebekah Randell – who was born three days before her.

Bringing Andie back home felt “amazing”, says Kerry-Lee.

“It was like, ‘Look at this little prize I won. Look what I created!’ There’s so much love there for her. I had moments of wondering if I was depriving her of that love, but there’s still time. We were back at Easter and already have our next trip booked, and our families visit often. The grandparents can’t get enough of her.”

Kerry-Lee, who moved to NZ with her mum Pam at 13, also hopes to take Andie and Jono to visit Cape Town.

“I did most of my schooling and career endeavours in New Zealand. It’s home, but South Africa’s also home in a different way,” she says. “There’s something deep in my blood that binds me to that country. It gives me a special fire in my belly. We’re tossing up plans to go, but it’s a long flight.”

Baby Andie Lee Bayer sitting on a bed on her own!
Andie Lee Bayer was born on October 12, 2023, weighing 3kg.

Meanwhile, Kerry-Lee obtained her real estate licence while pregnant, so she’ll return to work as a broker and also plans to do more acting. But as she soaks up motherhood, she feels no urgency.

“I’m always going to want to stand on my own two feet and have a successful career. At the moment though, there’s a shift in priority. I don’t feel as gung-ho about my career. I think that’s natural and, in time, I’ll feel a greater desire to flex those muscles again.

“I’m a qualified broker now and during lockdown, I also did a certificate in fitness, which is exciting. But I’m still passionate about acting, so it’s not the end of the road on that front for me either. I’m grateful to be in a position where I have options.”

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