It's a beautiful spring day when the Weekly meets Amelia Reid-Meredith and her husband Shadon in their Auckland home. Rudi, 14 months, has awoken, slowly evolving from sleepy-baby mode to full-on star of the show. Eight-year-old Arlo will be home from school soon and the family's four-year-old vizsla, Blue, is racing happily around the garden.
Rudi is a happy, boisterous boy, squealing in delight as he toddles, rather unstably, between adults, endeavouring to grasp everything in sight, from his apple slice to everyone's mobile phones.
After Arlo, there was no strategic plan for when the time was right for number two. "We'd been talking about it because we wanted a sibling for Arlo," explains Samoan-born Shadon, 37.
"As an actress, it can be a hard decision to take time out, but lockdown put everything in perspective," adds former Shortland Street star Amelia, 37. "We'd been joking about wanting a Fire sign, as Shadon is Air, I'm Earth and Arlo's Water. We talked loosely about when I'd be ovulating – and it happened. We sort of manifested him!"
The family has moved several times since Arlo's birth. They lived in Nelson for nine months after Amelia's beloved mum Robyn died after a battle with bowel cancer in May 2017, then moved to Orātia for another couple of years. They planned to move to Sydney in 2020, but Covid put paid to that. After two years on Waiheke Island, the pair finally settled in Auckland in May 2021, when Amelia was seven months pregnant with Rudi.
"He was very active when I was pregnant," she recalls. "He'd always kick at night, which is funny because he still never sleeps!
"In Wellington, Shadon and I were putting on Waiting, a one-man show Shadon wrote and performed, and I directed. Then we moved here and when I was about 37 weeks pregnant, I decided I wanted to paint this wall pink…"
Laughs Shadon, "That's perfectly normal – Amelia painted when Arlo was due too. It's her form of nesting."
Amelia continues, "I'd just finished the painting and came down the ladder on the evening of the 23rd. I went to the bathroom and realised, 'Gosh, I'm having this baby tomorrow!'"
The pair hoped for a home birth, but because Rudi was almost two weeks early, not everything was ready, although luckily Arlo was home, having returned from a trip away to see his cousins. The paint paraphernalia in the living room was quickly replaced with a birthing pool. Shadon went for some grocery essentials at 3pm and Amelia called the midwife, who told her to get out of the bath and call again in 30 minutes if things picked up.
"I hadn't wanted to call too early," shares Amelia. "I was happy. I could feel the contractions, but I was still talking. There was pain, but the worst pain I've ever been through is losing Mum. For the whole labour, I was in this weird Zen space, knowing the pain was because something good was coming.
"Arlo was posterior, so his birth hurt a lot, so when the midwife asked if I had pain in my back, I said no because it didn't feel the same as last time. Looking back, I think I was probably sending the wrong message!"
Although Amelia's contractions were regular, she wasn't too worried that the midwife hadn't arrived. But within 20 minutes, it was clear things were happening – fast. "It was surreal," says Shadon. "I was panicking deep down, but trying to keep it together for Amelia, so I spoke calmly to help her through what she had to do."
Another call to the midwife showed she was on her way – but Rudi wasn't waiting. "It was crazy," laughs Amelia. "I got in the bath and Shadon said, 'That's the head. Wow!' I was so freaked out, I shut my legs, which in hindsight was a stupid thing to do. But Shadon was so calm and so clear.
"With just me, Shadon and Arlo in the room, I went to a very different place. I became completely focused – it was like I was in this weird vortex of nothingness while it was happening. I felt my late cousin George, my mum and Shadon's nana were all there with us. It was the most magical moment."
While Amelia's recollection of the birth is almost idyllic, Shadon was feeling very differently. "I didn't really know what to do!" he laughs. "I did what I could, which was trust my gut and what Amelia was feeling. I was aware this was a life-and-death situation, and I didn't want to lose Amelia or the baby. I figured I could go with it or I could just faint!"
Because Rudi was their second baby, Amelia and Shadon weren't frightened when he came out slightly blue, but there was a scary moment when he didn't breathe immediately. "It felt like ages, but in reality, it was probably a few seconds," tells Shadon. The parents breathed a huge sigh of relief when Rudi let out a lusty cry.
Meanwhile, then-seven-year-old Arlo was sitting quietly on the sofa, watching his baby brother being born.
"He was amazing," says Amelia. "I was worried about him. Hearing his mum make sounds like you do when you're giving birth would have been so stressful."
Arlo seemed unfazed while Amelia was giving birth, but had a reaction later that night that Amelia believes was his way of processing the day. "He got up, fainted, then vomited – and then he was fine."
The couple had read about home births and knew not to cut the umbilical cord, so with Rudi still attached, the pair rang the midwife again.
"I said, 'He's here!'" laughs Amelia. "She said. 'Who's here?' And I said, 'Baby.' Then her phone cut out! She drove as fast as she could to get here and stitched me up, because I needed that. And then we all sat around and had a cup of tea."
More help arrived the next day in the form of Amelia's auntie, an ex-Karitane nurse, who had planned to be there for the birth.
"I was so grateful to her," says Amelia. "She stayed for three weeks and stepped into that mum role for me, which was so special. And she was able to help with Arlo, which was amazing."
Even now, the parents are slightly dumbstruck by the speed everything happened. However, these days Rudi isn't giving them time to dwell on it.
"He's a very busy boy," laughs Shadon. "He and Arlo have such different personalities. Arlo is quiet and unassuming. He loves art and being behind the camera – he asked for a camera for his birthday. Rudi is the loud one – he loves being the centre of attention."
While Amelia and Shadon adore Rudi's antics, they're glad the boys came out in the order they did. "It's funny how life works out," reflects Amelia. "I feel so lucky that Arlo was with us in Nelson when I was caring for my mum during her final months. I don't know how we would have coped with Rudi's big personality at that awful time.
"Now we're in Auckland, we're surrounded by amazing family and friends who come and help us, and we have the time and space to pursue our careers and look after our family."
Work-wise, the acting duo have their fingers in many pies. Amelia is busy writing, acting and directing several projects – she's just finished shooting Friends Like Her for Three in Kaikōura and working on the internationally-acclaimed Kiwi TV show The Brokenwood Mysteries. She's also writing a short film and a book about grief, and is doing some on-set coaching for young actors.
Shadon has just finished a feature film called The Paragon, and is about to go on tour for Upu, a Polynesian story that aligns with his Samoan roots. He is also on another completely different journey after quitting alcohol 18 months ago.
"Stopping drinking has completely changed the dynamics of our family," he says quietly. "I wasn't finding much work, there was some family stuff I hadn't properly dealt with and I was getting very depressed. I wasn't binge-drinking, but it was consistent over a long time, and I wanted to be more present for the boys, so I stopped drinking and started therapy."
Shadon's decision has affected more than his state of mind – he now loves running, recently completing a 25km marathon.
"The running came along with stopping drinking, learning from therapy and generally getting my mental health right," he says.
Adds Amelia, "Shadon's transformation has been quite incredible to witness. The changes he's made have caused a massive shift in our lives for good. We are both very aware of how lucky we are. So many people don't have it easy when it comes to having children and giving birth. We count ourselves very fortunate that we have two happy and healthy children."
So, perhaps they might try for a girl next time?
Shadon and Amelia immediately break into laughter, prompting more happy squeals from Rudi.
"Realistically – no, but I don't know," smiles Amelia. "After everything we've been through in the past five years, losing my mum and Shadon's nana, and all the moving around, I'm aware that we have no control over some things. So if it happens, it wouldn't be awful. We aren't planning to by any stretch, but I've given up on planning. Right now, we feel utterly blessed with what we have."
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