Pregnancy & Birth

Kiwi baby whisperer Sharlene Poole shares her joy at being pregnant with a second child

New Zealand's baby whisperer is about to become a mother-of-two.

By Karyn Henger
Bauer Studio
Sharlene Poole feels like she's just given birth - and in a way the Kiwi postnatal adviser (known simply as The Baby Whisperer) has - because anyone who's ever written a book, or imagined trying to write a book, will understand how much effort goes into its creation.
Keep On Whispering – a guide to parenting your child through the toddler and preschool years from 12 months to five years, due out in February 2020 – is now with her publishers and she's thankful for having more time to herself again, because she has an actual birth to prepare for.
Sharlene is pregnant with her second child.
Due in mid-to-late June, this baby will be a younger brother or sister – Sharlene has not found out the gender – for her 22-month-old son, George.
She had always wanted children but didn't have a partner, and realised in her late thirties that it had to be "now or never".
She told Now to Love at the time ,"I've had clients over the last 10 years who have had a sperm donor baby and I've seen them do it - and none of them have had the experience [with babies] that I've had.
"And then there was my step great-grandmother, who didn't have children… She used to be on my case the whole time: 'What are you doing? Why have you not got a man? You've got to have a child.'
"She had married my great grandfather when she was 40 and in those days it wasn't appropriate to have a baby when you were 40. But she told me it was her biggest regret.
"I was 37 when she died. I was sitting in her house when I thought to myself, 'I have to be proactive'.
"So I went on the [sperm donor] waiting list... and just as well I did because it took two years to get to the top of the waiting list."
George Francis Poole was born by caesarean section on July 14, 2017.
Sharlene is due with her second child in mid-to-late June. Image: Bauer Studio
This time round Sharlene has a partner, and her pregnancy came as a surprise.
She's excited about becoming a mum-of-two, and "thrilled" that George will have a sibling.
"When I'd made the decision to have George I did have a little element of guilt sitting on my shoulder of choosing to have a baby and not be able to have a sibling, because I knew I wouldn't be able to afford to have two on my own.
"Having been the youngest of four children and having siblings, this is a wonderful thing to be able to do for George."
Of course, the pregnancy has meant she has had to change her plans. Sharlene had originally intended to open up her Raglan home as a retreat for new mothers and babies as she guided the mums on how to care for their babies.
Now the spare room, which she had only just finished decorating, is not so spare. And, of course, this time there will be another parent to factor in to decisions made around the baby.
Sharlene is reluctant to reveal any more about her partner, preferring to keep that part of her life private.
Sharlene with her son, George
As we catch up with Sharlene in Auckland city after a day of presenting seminars for new mothers, she looks vibrant and glowing, but tired.
"This pregnancy has definitely been very different to George's," she confides.
"With George's pregnancy I was very fit, I had lots of time to exercise. Now I'm 42, I have a toddler and in the middle of it all I decided to write a book."
She says she "feels 42" - tireder, heavier and with less energy to spare.
In her first trimester she was plagued with headaches and nausea and in her second she suffered from pelvic pain. Now her baby is in the breech position (meaning her baby is feet-down instead of head-down in her pelvis), so three times a day she's hanging herself upside down off her couch to try and "spin this baby around".
Sharlene is still often asked by women what it's like to have a baby by donor sperm and whether she'd recommend it - and she tells them straight:
"The reality is you need to be financially secure and have the right support. If I didn't know what to do with babies, the past 21 months would have been very different for me," she warns.
"You've got to think about how you're going to pay your bills, if the baby gets sick what are you going to do? You've got lawns to mow, a house to run, and that's what's been really hard for me, having to run a whole house on my own, pay the mortgage, pay the rates and still be the mother I want to be.
"When I started George in home-based care - just a few hours a week when he was 10 months old - I dropped him off and one of the other children had a runny nose. I suddenly went 'oh no, I've got clients booked in the coming weeks. If he gets sick I can't work.' I'm self-employed, I don't get holiday pay, I don't get sick pay, I can't then pay my bills and it really panicked me.
"All of these realities start popping up, and the self-employed thing is really hard... It has also been a logistical struggle because my mum lives two hours away."
Sharlene's mum has been a blessing to her, stepping in to care for George whenever she can while Sharlene works.
"But it hasn't been easy. It's more the mental stress of paying the bills and meeting his needs, which everyone has, but it's just at a different level when you're the main breadwinner and self-employed."
Sharlene has still managed to be the mother she has wanted to be for George. She takes solace in gardening - which she's discovered George loves too - and getting out in the fresh air with George to take long walks on the beach.
She is hopeful that this time round will be easier, saying her new baby's father will be an "incredible father".
"I'm excited, and the baby's father is excited. Having another baby is something that I hadn't thought was going to be possible."