While the humid heat has driven many Kiwis to madness over the last week, with mornings spent recounting tales of sticky, sleepless nights, there is one person who isn’t complaining.
Despite the fact she’s six months pregnant – and with twins, no less – Jenny-May Clarkson (41) says she’s just so happy right now and as long as she can try to keep her feet cool while she’s propped up by a sea of pillows each night, she’s fine.
“I’ve got nothing to gripe about, to be honest,” she says in her typical down-to-earth fashion. “I’m feeling pretty good. The twins are good, so I’m good.”
Sure, being heavily pregnant during a heatwave may not be ideal timing, but otherwise, hers is a story in which everything really has fallen into place of late. It’s hard to believe that this time last year, Jenny-May was single, with motherhood something she very much hoped for, yet wasn’t counting on happening.
But next week marks one year since she walked into a Ponsonby bar and laid eyes on Dean Clarkson (40). Since then, it’s been one heck of a journey, with many incredible blessings – and a few hiccups – along the way, and there’s perhaps no one who knows that better than her close mate Stacey Morrison.
As one of her best friends, Stacey’s been along for the ride, weathering Jenny-May’s ups and downs and hoping for the best for the woman she considers family.
“Whanau isn’t necessarily who you’re blood related to,” smiles Stacey (42), looking over at Jenny-May. “It’s who you choose to be in your whanau, and Jenny-May and I – we’re whanau.”
So when the TVNZ sports presenter called Stacey to say she’d met someone special, an overjoyed Stacey jumped into excited action – although admittedly it went a little pear-shaped at first.
“I said, ‘What’s his last name? I’ll look him up on Facebook –I’m really good at stalking people on there.’ Well, apparently not, because a little while later, I got a notification saying, ‘Dean Clarkson has accepted your friend request.’ Aargh! I’d accidentally hit ‘add friend’ while I was snooping around!”
Jenny-May says Dean had laughed, knowing exactly what Stacey was up to. She grins as she describes her mate as “the bossy one” in the friendship, but someone she trusts implicitly.
With Stacey fronting a new series of Whanau Living – taking the time slot left open by Good Morning – Jenny-May put forward the idea of sharing her pregnancy with the viewers. So a segment on the show follows Stacey and Jenny-May as they navigate her pregnancy – from visiting midwives, learning about nutrition and exercise, right through to the baby shower Stacey is helping to host next month.
For Jenny-May, it was an easy decision to get involved.
“I’m learning – I’m a first-time mum, and I’m lucky that I have friends like Stace who’ve been there before and can help guide me through, but there’s a lot to learn! Covering the different things we have on the show through my pregnancy has been valuable information, not just for me I’m sure, but for other mums-to-be.”
And Jenny-May is not holding back. In her first episode, she speaks candidly about her weight. She put around 10kg onto her 70kg frame within the first four to five months of her pregnancy, and wondered whether that was okay. Jenny-May says that she wanted to be honest and open.
“I like to keep things real and being able to share this with women who’ve been there, are going through it, or one day will be, is something I wanted to do.”
The pregnancy is going smoothly and Jenny-May has been in robust health. She is continuing to enjoy her work, despite the very publicly aired negative feelings of one TVNZ viewer.
Dean is also doing well, says Jenny-May, and his daughters, Libby-Jane (10) and Leah (8), are very excited about meeting their new siblings. “They might not be so keen when the babies turn up and don’t stop crying!”
Equally beside herself with excitement is Stacey, who says one of the most memorable episodes to film so far was visiting the midwife and hearing the babies’ heartbeats for the first time.
“I was an absolute mess,” admits Stacey. “Oh, gosh, now I’m going to cry again! It’s just that they’re so wanted and they’re so loved, and I didn’t know that they were ever going to be,” Stacey says through tears.
“I really felt Jenny-May’s loneliness and I used to worry about her. I know being on your own isn’t the worst thing, but I also knew she would make a great mum and it’s what she deserved. Every baby should be wanted – and they should all be as wanted as Jenny-May’s are.”
“Vanita, I think you’re the one who’s really wanted right now!” quips Jenny-May, calling on their make-up artist to step in with tissues for them both, and a much-needed touch-up.
“It was such an intimate thing for you to share with everyone, Jenny-May,” says Stacey. “It’s how she is, though. She’s a very generous – Jenny-rous! – person, and a very practical person. But I know she sometimes says, ‘Yep, got it, it’s done’, and underneath can have emotions boiling away.”
Blinking back more tears, Stacey says that just in case children of her own were not in Jenny-May’s future, she had a “back-up clause,” and appointed her friend godmother of her youngest daughter, Maiana (3).
“I hoped that it would get her in the child vibe and it might all start happening. But if it didn’t, we knew it would be a way of securing her place in our whanau, and that she would have a baby special to her, no matter what. I could see her yearning to be a mother and she has a really lovely, special relationship with Maiana.”
Their friendship goes back about 13 years, when Jenny-May got hold of Stacey’s number to call and ask her advice about doing Celebrity Treasure Island, a reality show in which Stacey had come runner-up the year previously.
“Stace said, ‘It’s fun, you just run around the island and stuff.’ I was at the peak of my sports playing days, so I was like, ‘Cool, fun, I’ll do it’, but then my series was full of models so we just did crab racing and a bunch of boring stuff!” she says as Stacey cracks up laughing.
Since then, their friendship has gone from strength to strength, particularly as their paths crossed more frequently for work and also when they mourned the death of a mutual friend. Stacey and her husband Scotty also helped Jenny-May when she decided to learn Maori.
“She wanted to know everything yesterday,” teases Stacey. “So she’d come over every week to practice and play with the kids.”
Stacey was one of the very first people Jenny-May and Dean told about their pregnancy. Still in shock after taking the test very early in the morning, Jenny-May took a photo of the positive pregnancy test and fired it through to her.
“Straight away, my phone rang and it was Stacey, just losing the plot,” she laughs.
“I was making breakfast,” explains Stacey, “I looked at my phone and was like, ‘What? WHAT?!’ So I called and screamed down the phone at her. Rather than being her evil twin, I’m like Jenny-May’s emotional twin. She’s so practical and I’m all emotion. So I was sobbing and screaming down the phone, ‘You’re having a baaaby!!’ and all this stuff. And she was just saying, ‘Yes. I know. Yes. It appears so.’”
With a wedding still in the works, Stacey became more involved in the planning. “I was pretty laid-back,” Jenny-May tells. “For my flowers, I was just going to go to the dairy and get some gerberas and tie twine or something around them.” Stacey interjects, “I said, ‘Not on my shift, lady, you’re not!’ So she says, ‘Why not?!’ And I said, ‘Um, because it’s not 1991.’”
“Stacey was amazing,” laughs Jenny-May. “She organised so much of it. And it was important to Dean and I that she and Scotty were there standing next to us, along with two close mates of Dean’s, and to have these people who had been on our journey and seen us get to this point.”
Now Stacey is very much looking forward to meeting the newest two members of their whanau.
“I think the universe only gives twins to people who can handle it, and Jenny-May is definitely someone who is able to handle this. I think she’ll be an amazing mum. She already is.”
WHANAU LIVING Season Three, Weekdays at 9am on TV ONE.
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