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Family

Shortland Street's Laurel Devenie introduces her gorgeous new arrival to the world

Laurel’s TV birth was a dress rehearsal for the real thing.

By Amy Prebble
Shortland Street star Laurel Devenie answers the door with a huge smile and her sleeping six-week-old baby Lyra strapped to her chest.
The actress looks absolutely radiant, despite operating on considerably less sleep than she's used to.
"I'm feeling really good. Right now, I'm full of energy – but wait until 3pm," she says with a laugh.
She credits her family and friends with making her first six weeks of motherhood "a really joyful experience".
"I'm just really loving this, although there are definitely tough times," she confides.
"I'm certainly not saying she's the perfect baby or I'm the perfect mother. It's a big learning curve, but I think I'm just really enjoying the learning curve."
Her partner Matt Keene, who has three daughters from a previous relationship – Kait (22), Sophie (18) and Finn (12) – has switched to working from home so he's on hand to help with nappies and settling Lyra.
"I work in IT and I'm pretty flexible," tells Matt (47). "I love that I can be here to help Laurel. I think people forget that it can be really lonely when it's just you and a baby – especially when the baby is having a meltdown!"
Though it's been 12 years since he was last dad to a newborn, Matt says it all came back pretty quickly.
"From the first time I picked her up, I went straight to the shoulder hold and the gentle pat on the back."
Introducing Lyra Evie Ray Devenie-Keene Born May 23, 2019 Weight 3.75kg
Big sister Finn, who spends half her time with the couple, is also smitten with the new arrival.
"From day one, she's been changing nappies and dressing her," says Matt with a smile. "We call her 'the baby whisperer'. She can just get Lyra to sleep. It's really gorgeous."
Laurel adores being a mum, but her labour wasn't easy.
"I had such a lovely pregnancy that at the antenatal classes, when they were talking about Caesareans and epidurals, I was going, 'Oh well, I won't be having either, so I'm not even going to listen,'" she says sheepishly.
In the end, Lyra was posterior and her head was in a difficult position, so Laurel (35) spent a long time in labour before having an epidural. Then the doctors tried forceps, before finally performing a C-section.
"The surgeon, the anaesthetist and all the nurses and support crew were absolute pros, so we knew we were in good hands. I do remember deliriously trying to compare a Shortland Street surgery to what I was going through though," she says giggling.
Comparing her situation to what goes on in the soap is hardly surprising, as Laurel had to pretend to give birth while 35 weeks pregnant, as her Shorty character nurse Kate.
"I was really lucky that I had just done the antenatal classes, so I was able to go, 'Oh right, so this is early stage and then it will get faster, and then Kate will feel a bit more pain.'
"I think it was more surreal for everybody else, to be honest. Everyone was saying, 'Don't push!' I was like, 'I'm not pushing, don't worry. I'm acting from the neck up.' But I think everyone on set was a little bit concerned I would go into labour."
As it happened, Lyra arrived a week and a half late – just a few weeks before Kate's birth scene aired on TV.
"That was just mental," tells Laurel. "It was bizarre. There was Kate and her baby on the Shorty Instagram, and everyone was like, 'Is that your real baby?'"
Laurel is grateful that a number of her school friends have returned to Whangarei, where she and Matt share a house, to bring up their children.
"One of my friends just had her second child a week before mine. It's just that sharing of knowledge that's so great.
"Another friend turned up with two nappy bags – one for Matt and one for me – a bucket with a lid, and a whole load of nappies and said, 'You're going to need all of these butt rags!' She was right. Such good, practical advice."
Laurel says her friends have been very kind with their support.
"We had this really dreamy week, the first week back home, which was great as the labour had been so intense and I was still quite fragile physically.
Then we had this awful weekend, so I put out the word to my friends – a lot of them have three-year-olds – saying, 'What do I do?' They were like, 'Try a baby massage,' or, 'Try a bath,' and then at the end they all said, 'Also, be prepared for none of this to work!'"
Little Lyra will no doubt be a scene stealer at her parents' upcoming wedding – Matt proposed to Laurel earlier this year.
It's not only their mates who are pitching in – Laurel's mum Gillian (67) and dad, fellow actor Stuart (67), live close by and are absolutely over the moon about becoming grandparents.
"I'm so lucky I've got so much help," Laurel admits.
"My mum has been here every day since the birth, doing the washing, chopping veges for dinner and getting in as many cuddles as she possibly can. I'm an only child, so she's totally stoked to be a grandmother. It's been a long time coming!"
Her dad is busy recording The Wind in the Willows and Dr Doolittle for little Lyra to listen to.
"He's got this great deep voice, which she really likes."
Matt's parents, Brian (79) and Penny (73), are also enjoying a new grandchild. "Dad finds any excuse to come over for a coffee now, which is cool," tells Matt.
"And Mum's literally 400m down the road. She hadn't expected any more grandkids, so Lyra is a total bonus. We rocked up there last week with no gear and Lyra power-chundered on the floor. Mum was laughing because she didn't have any wipes or baby stuff like she used to. She's off now restocking," he chuckles.
Laurel's birthing experience on Shortland Street (with co-stars Michael Galvin, left,
and Reuben Milner) was full of drama – and then her real labour didn't go to plan either!
Laurel and Matt won't just be cuddling Lyra over the coming months – they also have a wedding to plan, after Matt proposed on Laurel's birthday, March 1.
"We went away on a roadie up north, just the two of us, to some of the places that I really love," explains Matt.
'I bought a really beautiful pounamu for Laurel. That was the engagement ring, as opposed to something conventional. It was very... well, it wasn't quite down on one knee... but it was emotional."
His future bride assures the Weekly that she's not pining for a flashy diamond.
"The pounamu is perfect. I always lose rings – I can't be trusted. And, to be honest, I'd rather spend the money on a heat pump or a holiday."
They both like the idea of tying the knot in summer, so the ceremony probably won't be coming up soon. And, like the pounamu, it won't be conventional.
"I just want to have a big party," says Laurel. "For us, the reason to get married is the people coming from far and wide to have a big celebration. We'll be going for a music festival kind of vibe."

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