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Pregnancy & Birth

Shortland Street star Laurel Devenie's perfectly-timed pregnancy

It’s positive news on and off the screen!

By Amy Prebble
When actresses Laurel Devenie and Sally Martin were filming an episode for the 2019 return of Shortland Street, both their characters were pregnant, but there was one key difference.
"We were standing next to each to other with one false belly and one real one!" says Laurel, who is over the moon about the impending arrival of her and partner Matt Keene's baby daughter in May.
Kate – Laurel's Shorty character – lost her partner Mo in last year's gory cliffhanger before finding out she was going to have a baby.
"The crazy thing is, when I found out I was pregnant, they had already written Kate's pregnancy in," says Laurel (35).
"The producer was away for a couple of weeks. I was about to go down and tell the production team my news, but then I got the script that says Kate throws away the Pill. I was like, 'Okay, that works really well!'"
After crossing the world to look for love, Laurel found it with Matt in her Kiwi home town.
The actress admits that four and a half years ago, she had pretty much given up on finding love and starting a family.
"I was single and very aware of it. In New Zealand, there's this point when it's just a bit harder to be single. I got an opportunity to do the Edinburgh Festival with a solo show and I thought, 'I'll just go to London and meet the man of my dreams.'"
Instead, she found London grey and miserable, and eventually decided – while attending a close friend's funeral in the Netherlands – that the UK wasn't the place for her.
"I realised I wanted to be at home in my community and tell New Zealand stories. I was like, 'I'll probably never meet anyone, but that's alright.' So I got back and went up to Whangarei because I had no money and I thought I'd just spend the summer painting people's decks or something."
Fate had other plans. She laid eyes on local web developer Matt (47) at a boat-shed party and quickly became smitten.
"I think I must have met him before, very briefly, but I was quite suddenly going, 'Oh, I'm really attracted to this person.'
I went back to Auckland to do a play, but I texted him. I made attempts, but he spurned them."
She adds with a laugh, "He tells a different story."
"We had actually met a couple of years beforehand," Matt confirms, smiling. "I organised Laurel to speak at a community talk, which was pretty incredible."
Matt decided to give romance with Laurel a try. They finally had dinner together and he ended up travelling down to her theatre production three weekends in a row.
"We both feel like it was the perfect time," Laurel says. "He had been through a separation and I was in a particular space to be ready to be with someone. There was this moment when I said, 'I've got a big crush on you.' And he said, 'I've got a big crush on you too.'"
A couple of months later, Laurel moved up to Whangarei, her home town – and then landed the role of Kate, a nurse in the nation's most famous clinic.
"This dream job that I would never have expected fell out of the sky at the most challenging moment that it could possibly come. Matt was still a priority, so I just had to make it work – I have made it work, which has involved a lot of driving!"
Laurel decided to rent in Auckland and head back to Whangarei at weekends. In another case of art imitating life, Kate's relationship with Mo on Shorty meant she worked closely with his on-screen sons Curtis and Jack – a reflection of her own life with Matt and his children.
"He already has three girls – Kait (22), Sophie (18) and Finn (12) – so having another baby was not something he was expecting before I came along," tells Laurel.But the couple decided to try.
"I'd been to the doctor and she'd said, 'Oh well, you're 35, it's really hard – there's only a 30 per cent chance of pregnancy.' So I immediately thought it would be a long haul. But then I just started to suspect... Matt kept saying, 'I think you're pregnant.' And I was like, 'No, I can't be!'"
It took Laurel two weeks before she did a test, while up late one night in Auckland, and it was positive.
"I couldn't believe it. Then I did another one in the morning and rang Matt. It was just so fast, I wasn't prepared for it."
The loved-up pair are obviously delighted about this next stage in their lives.
"I'm really excited," says Matt. "I can't wait to meet our little girl, and I'm looking forward to Laurel and I being under the same roof once she's born!"

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